Monday, September 30, 2002

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Far left vs. far right

Brad DeLong has a fascinating post on why commentators tend to treat public figures and thinkers associated with communism with more respect than those associated with fascism. DeLong admits this is true even though some argue that communism was responsible for more loss of life than fascism.

DeLong thinks it's because:

even the Nazis' vision of utopia was ugly. By contrast, it seems to me at least that Russian Communist leaders like Lev Bronstein, Nikita Khrushchev, and Mikhail Gorbachev all had visions of utopia that are very close to those of the rest of us.

Actually, I think that statement says a lot more about DeLong's politics than anything else -- I very rarely hear "If only we could live according to Gorbachev's vision" these days. The year I lived in the former Soviet Union, I never heard any praise for Gorbachev.

I like Tony Judt's answer better: intellectuals are drawn to power. Fascism lasted only a generation and was crushed. Soviet-style communism existed for over seventy years. Communism was on the winning side of World War II. The Soviets were able to stand toe-to-toe with the United States for 45 years during the Cold War. The means were repugnant, but the "successes" were long-lasting enough to register in the mind of many an intellectual.

I'd entertain other possible answers.

UPDATE: Reader responses (and my responses to them) are here.

posted by Dan on 09.30.02 at 03:29 PM