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The Red Star and the Swastika

I am struggling with the centenary of the Russian Revolution. London is awash with commemorative events and the iconography of socialism is everywhere. Most events, like the art exhibition at the Royal Academy, are thoughtful, measured and interesting. But it's weird to me that the dark symbols of Soviet violence carry no psychological threat for the educated, kindly people standing thoughtfully before them.

The swastika revolts all but a tiny, mad minority of Westerners. Even when we know it to be innocent, as when we see it in the millennia old Eastern religious context from which it was stolen, it evokes a tremor of dread before melting into awkward comedy. Yet the red star of communism is still just a star. And democratic Austria scarcely seems to notice that its national emblem has a hammer and a sickle even though they are now associated with the only human monsters worse than Austria's most famous son.


Nice young people wear T-shirts with CCCP, the Red Star or the leering face of a mass murdering Argentinian psychopath and only a very few of us think less of them for it. Yet we would all be rightly horrified if it were a swastika, an ϟϟ symbol or an Austrian psycho. In any other field our friends on the left would read into this a sign of some deep seated racism.

Milo Yiannopolous, currently nailed metaphorically to Liberty's cross, is the subject of all kinds of slanders but it made me smile to read he was a Nazi because he once wore an Iron Cross — a German (and of course a Christian) symbol. But then I recall reading attacks on Bryan Ferry because he once remarked that Nazi iconography was attractive.

Leni Riefenstahl's movies and Albert Speer's buildings and the mass parades and the flags - just amazing. Really beautiful.

Yes, those SS uniforms were admirably well-tailored. And yes, those attacks were probably written — without a hint of self-awareness — by people wearing Hugo Boss suits. And yes, Ferry whimpered a craven apology rather than be falsely branded evil  

So what is this perverse response to symbology telling us? Challenged, most leftists will accept Stalin or Mao was at least as wicked as Hitler. But whereas Hitler's wickedness speaks to them of the wickedness of his ideology, that of the other totalitarian gentry says nothing of theirs. Mao and Stalin are to Socialism apparently as ISIS is to Islam. They are radical socialism-ists, you might say. And so lefties keep on instinctively favouring the cinematic work of Eisenstein over Riefenstahl and smiling nostalgically rather than cringing before the naive agitprop posters of the Bolsheviks.

It all suggests to me the same barely-concealed truth as their fresh enthusiasm every time some barbarian emerges to promise a new and-this-time-genuine revolution. The socialism of the late Hugo Chavez is proving to have had just the same result as that of Lenin and Mao. It is already clear history will place him in the same ledger. His same old same old Marxism was as destructive as always of lives, prosperity and ethics. Yet the echoes of the enthusiasm of Red Brit notables for Chavez have not yet died down. The flush on their cheeks is a fading remainder of their joyful anticipation that this time, this time it will work. It's certainly not the blush of a shame they should feel but never will.

In their minds these people are as far away as it's possible to be from fascism. That's why they cry "fascist" or "Nazi" at everyone they hate. They are secure in their deluded belief that everyone between them and the horizon truly deserves the name. Their not-so-sneaking admiration for the symbols of the USSR tells us rather that they are fascism's near neighbours — emotionally, ideologically and in terms of their intellectual development.

Historically they are only accidental anti-fascists. Were it not for Hitler's stupidity the Third Reich and the Soviet Union would have ended the Second World War as they began it — as allies. Both socialists and fascists believe in the heroic superiority of the state over the individual. Both despise "bourgeois" ideas of freedom. Both believe that state force applied judiciously to the masses will forge them into New Men and Women. Both prefer violent mastery of an economy to the "disorder" of a free market.

We, the classical liberals, libertarians, free marketeers, Austrian School economists, even (on a good day) the old school Shire Tories are the opposites of fascism. And of communism too. National and International Socialisms, powered respectively by race hatred and class hatred are the heads and tails of the same sinister, despicable coin.

So, if all the Soviet imagery around London right now makes you as uncomfortable as would similar exhibitions of Nazi art and propaganda then you are my ethical brother or sister. If not, remind me not to leave you alone with anyone or anything I value.


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The real Russian revolution wasn't communist at all and had nothing to do with Lenin and co, who were mainly in exile at the time. This was in February 1917, when the non communist opposition rose up and overthrew the Czarist government. A provisional government was set up under Prince Lvov and later Kerensky. This was ousted in October 1917 in what was basically a military style coup by the Bolsheviks in Petrograd. In subsequent elections the Bolsheviks lost - they ignored the result, shut the representative assembly and set up a full blown dictatorship headed by Lenin.


I agree with this reservation. There is plenty of accessible data on the Soviet times if you read Russian. VVP may slant the textbooks for Russian schoolchildren but academics from anywhere in the world can do the research now and publish freely outside Russia. The question is why Western academics don't want to.


A Russian friend made the same point in my presence to a Swiss friend in Moscow. The Swiss gent just raised an eyebrow and said "so that was ok then?" It may take a while for Soviet education to wear off. Sadly VV Putin is not helping that process. As for Western-educated people making the point, there is no excuse at all.


In fairness the RA isn't celebrating. The materials are honestly presented with fair commentary. I'm only really remarking how odd it is that they don't provoke the same revulsion in viewers as their Nazi equivalents. The greatest and most lethal political spin has been the Left's coup of branding fascism as "right wing", thus smearing decent conservatives with, and distancing themselves from, one of Leftism's many great historical disasters.


Two points if I may.
Firstly. Hitler, Stalin. Mao, Pol Pot, Che Guevara, Castro and others are ALL socialists. The difference between Hitler and the others was that he discriminated on the basis of race, the remainder discriminated on the basis of class - perceived or otherwise. All of them are odious. The first three on the list are between them responsible for 100 million deaths. In short, socialism will kill you - it's just a matter of time.

Secondly, Socialism as practiced in the Soviet Union is somehow not perceived as being as bad as the socialism practiced by the Nazis. This is primarily because all the evil works of the Nazis were uncovered and the guilty arraigned in court, testimonies taken, witnesses heard and justice was dished out. The same is not true of the Soviet Union. It's Gulags may not have had the deadly mechanisation of the German concentration camps, but the end results were much the same, and over time even greater. The Russians missed a trick when the Soviet Union came down, they had an ideal opportunity to arraign the guilty. It wasn't done because so many of the guilty were in power.

To me, all symbols of those regimes are odious. I'm disgusted when I see a swastika and equally disgusted when I see a red star or a hammer and sickle. There is absolutely no difference.


Quite. If I must use "my" assets only as directed by the state, then in what sense are they mine? The international socialist / communist approach was rather more honest.

Cynical, moi?

I think the main problem is that so many have been caught up in some form of uninformed romantic public admiration of 'Socialism' in their youth, that they simply can't bring themselves to be honest about what it was (and is), even if they know better now.

The otherwise sound Brendan O'Neil of Spiked is particularly prone to this, with all sorts of self-serving denials of any similarity at all between National Socialism and 'real' Socialism, as supported by him and his fellow Communists back in the day. The main plank of their denial is usually something about private vs. public ownership of companies, as if that makes any real difference as to how most people experienced the regimes or Hitler, Stalin, Mao, or all the others like them...

Bill Sticker

London is celebrating a political philosophy that has murdered more than the Nazi's? A quick chorus of "The world turned upside down" seems in order.

John miller

Reminds me of a comment ages ago over at Tim Worstall's blog.

A Stalin admirer was ranting against the false judgements of history visited upon his hero.

Stalin had not murdered 200 million, nor 20 million, no, the maximum number of murders this nice old boy was guilty of was a mere 2 million and, hey, you can't make an omelette....

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