Greatest figures of the 20th century

by Chris Bertram on August 21, 2003

Matthew Yglesias has some reaction to Right-Wing News’s lists of greatest figures of the twentieth century as voted for by right- and left-wing bloggers. My considered view that such lists are inherently silly hasn’t sufficiently stifled my irritation at the omissions. There’s obviously an argument to be had (on Aristotelian lines) about whether a person can both be great and do really bad things, though the further back in time one goes the easier it seems to be to reconcile judgements of greatness with the fact of a historical figure having committed atrocities or other acts of cruelty (e.g. Alexander the Great, Cromwell).

But I was also appalled by the fact that the so-called left-wing bloggers were, for want of a better word, chicken. Their list contained no leading figures from the international communist and socialist movements at all, and yet quite a few of them warrant serious consideration. Jean Jaures, French socialist opponent of war, murdered on the eve of the first world war, for one. And how about Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, again, socialist opponents of the war, murdered by the neo-fascist Freikorps in 1919? I’d even make the case for Lenin and Trotsky. The leftists have voted, safely and reasonably enough, for Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King jr. Fair enough, but I’d have thought Ho Chi Minh and Ben Bella were in with a shout. Yglesias bemoans the absence of theorists other than Orwell (who wasn’t). I concur: why were there no votes for Bertrand Russell (also a campaigner against WW1), Max Weber and Emile Durkeim (20th century figures both) or John Rawls? No doubt the prevalent francophobia meant that the right-wing crowd denied Charles de Gaulle his place. (And don’t get me started on the artists, writers and composers.)

UPDATE: (Thanks CY) There’s a long thread on this at Electrolite.

UPDATE UPDATE: Norman Geras posts the list he voted for and some reflections.



Chris Young 08.21.03 at 1:18 pm

There’s a monstrous thread on this at Patrick Hayden’s which demonstrates that if your name has appeared in print in the last 100 years you’ll be on somebody’s list.

But what the heck, let’s play: Kwame Nkrumah


Patrick Nielsen Hayden 08.21.03 at 1:41 pm

Chris, you don’t know that there were “no votes” for any of these people. All you know is that there weren’t enough for any single one of them to make whatever threshhold Hawkins set for the compiled lists he published. (I don’t remember what it was offhand, but I remember that there was a threshhold.)

That being the case, your “chicken” charge is less than just.


Chris 08.21.03 at 1:53 pm

Point taken, Patrick. But somewhat grudgingly since the last-placed people on the list Hawkins published got only 3 votes each. So I am entitled to conclude that no figure from the socialist or communist movements got more that one or two votes. In the event that all the 23 participant bloggers voted for some such figure but no more than two voted for any one, then my charge of “chicken” would be unfair for each of the 23.


Abiola Lapite 08.21.03 at 3:45 pm

“Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht”

According to what warped world-view could these two communist insurrectionists be considered “great”? Simply being murdered by odious individuals doesn’t make one any less odious oneself.

“But what the heck, let’s play: Kwame Nkrumah”

You’ve got to be joking! If not, your knowledge of Ghanaian history and politics must be superficial indeed. Nkrumah did a hell of a lot to impoverish and destabilize that country.


claude tessier 08.21.03 at 3:48 pm

“So I am entitled to conclude that no figure from the socialist or communist movements got more that one or two votes.”

So they’re ‘chicken’ because they tried to put forward thoughtful answers instead of behaving according to right-wing preconceptions.



Timothy Burke 08.21.03 at 3:53 pm

I call this the Time Magazine “Person of the Year” debate. Without knowing what particular meaning of “great” we’re talking about, we can hardly have a disagreement about the choices of others. So you can’t carp about other people’s lists if you’re not even going to consent to play the game at the outset, and dismiss it preemptively, because it’s not at all clear what the premise of your complaints about people being “chicken” is exactly.

Lists of “great individuals” where great means “moral, ethical or intellectual exemplars”, model humans who we exalt, are one thing. On that list, I wouldn’t put Ho Chi Minh or Lenin or Trotsky or even Rosa Luxumbourg, though being martyred always lifts you up the exemplar peg a bit, especially if it happens before you have a chance to do any real damage yourself to other human beings. Within this sense of great, King Mandela and Gandhi are all reasonable choices.

If “great” means “incredibly consequential and distinctively individual influence on the general course of events in history”, then the game is completely different. But in that game, given the size of the list the players had to assemble, the notion that Ho Chi Minh even warrants a mention strikes me as odd. If you’ve got to pick a consequential representative of the postwar Non-Aligned Movement or developing world, Nasser, Nehru, or Nyerere (alliteration accidental) all strike me as more monumentally influential, but I don’t know that I’d put any of them up. Jean Jaures? Give me a break. Lenin certainly would go on that list; Trotsky not. Hitler would have to, and so would Stalin, probably. Not many artists or intellectuals belong on it. It’s a different list, and yeah, probably not the most compelling ruleset to bicker about.

If the term great means something sort of uncomfortably perched between the two–people whose influence is far-reaching, significant, and long-lasting and whose work and throught made admirable or at least useful contributions, then sure, Weber belongs. Maybe Durkheim, though space is tight. Orwell, yeah, I think so. How about Gramsci? But again, Ho Chi Minh? What the hell is his lasting, useful, intellectual, cultural or social contribution? Where are the signs of his enduring influence on events, ideas or consciousness?

So I think there’s nothing chicken about omitting Ho Chi Minh from all the lists–or a number of the other figures. I can’t see him on any of them unless the list is about 100 individuals deep–or it’s the 25 most significant socialist and communist figures of the 20th Century. Then, sure, Ho Chi Minh makes the cut.


Chris 08.21.03 at 4:08 pm

“moral, ethical or intellectual exemplars”…

Since so much of the shit (and the blood) of the twentieth century (and right down to the present) is a consequence of the catastrophe of 1914, I’m inclined to give those who stood most firmly against the nationalist hysteria enormous credit. So that’s why I mentioned Luxemburg, Liebknecht and Jaures (and especially the first two).


Chris Young 08.21.03 at 4:21 pm

Abiola – Not actually joking, but pushing it to make a point. Yes, I’m very much aware of the amount of damage Nkrumah did to Ghana. BUT he was the first leader of an independent African state formerly in the British Empire and therefore he is surrounded by a massive and lasting mythology. Like Alexander and Cromwell in Chris’s original comments.

For which reason five will get you fifty that in a hundred years time he will be in all the lists of the “great” when a million more deserving names are footnotes of footnotes and nobody can remember anything he actually did. Isn’t that *really* how “greatness” is constructed?


Abiola Lapite 08.21.03 at 4:30 pm

“I’m inclined to give those who stood most firmly against the nationalist hysteria enormous credit.”

A broken clock can be right twice a day, and just because two agitators for “revolutionary” violence happened to have held the “right” views at a certain brief juncture in time doesn’t mean that they deserve to be thought of as “great.” Their opposition to war certainly didn’t stem from any sort of principled objection to violence in all of its’ possible manifestations.

The truth is that extreme-left-wing agitators like Luxemburg and Liebknecht played a major role in driving the German populace into the arms of the Nazi Party. Marxism/Communism, in all of its’ various guises, is a loathsome, fallacious and thoroughly discredited doctrine, and one can no more be a “great” Communist than one can be a “great” Nazi.


Abiola Lapite 08.21.03 at 4:33 pm

“For which reason five will get you fifty that in a hundred years time he will be in all the lists of the “great” when a million more deserving names are footnotes of footnotes and nobody can remember anything he actually did. Isn’t that really how “greatness” is constructed?”

I see that you have a more sophisticated take on the subject than I’d thought. I’ll take that bit back, given the context you were writing in.


Chris 08.21.03 at 4:45 pm

Abiola, I’m not sure why I’m bothering to reply to you, since I doubt that you are open to argument. But FWIW, it is absurd to suggest that the L&L were not motivated by principle in their opposition to the war, and equally absurd to suggest that the only relevant principle is “opposition to violence in all its forms.” People can and should oppose unjust wars because of their injustice as well as because of their violence.

As for your historical claims, there, I really can’t be bothered.


Timothy Burke 08.21.03 at 5:40 pm

Well, not to go too far off topic, but the question of the German left’s response to Nazism and Weimar and whether the German left (SPD or otherwise) bears any culpability for the fall of Weimar is something that people on the left, German and otherwise, have been debating pretty much since 1939. It’s hardly an evidently irrelevant or historically absurd argument to claim that the the socialist or alternatively “popular front” left in Germany screwed up badly somehow somehow from 1910 onward, particularly from 1919 to 1939.

Luxumbourg largely looms large for the anti-Stalinist communist and socialist left that doesn’t want to go the route of squishy-soft Western Marxist humanism, the folks who still want to believe in a revolutionary overthrow of capitalism which is contingent and requires organized political effort and organization, but doesn’t lead to Stalinist state socialism. Which is a not immaterial but also not gigantically consequential fraction of the 20th Century left; at the end of the day, that fraction appears to be historically confined to the 20th Century, having lived and died within its confines.


Mark Kleiman 08.21.03 at 5:52 pm

I was one of Hawkins’s “left” voters. I took “greatest” as meaning “greatest force for good;” by that standard, the only communists who might have rated a vote were Mao, Chou, and Deng. If the standard was simple impact, then why not Stalin or Hitler?

I didn’t list any of the communist figures for the same reason I didn’t list any of the fascists: because I’m against tyranny. I’d as soon have voted for Mussolini as for Lenin. As to Ben Bella, most of us didn’t need 9-11 to remind us of our visceral hatred of terrorists and their political directors.

To be left of center in American terms doesn’t imply any sympathy whatever for revolutionary terror or tyranny. So it’s hardly fair to call us “chicken” for not admiring what we despise.


Ophelia Benson 08.21.03 at 5:58 pm

The list certainly is tragically bland, and in places perverse. Truman, Theodore Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter, on a list compiled by leftish bloggers? And Henry Ford for cryin’ out loud who hired goons to beat up labor organizers? Henry Ford is there and Walter Reuther (who was one of the organizers Hank’s goons beat up) is not? Nor Debs, nor Chavez, nor John L. Lewis, just to stay on parochial US territory for the moment. And this is the left?? Sucking up to power and ignoring labor? Oy.


Eric Rescorla 08.21.03 at 6:09 pm

As Timothy points out, we first need to agree on what our terms are. If we’re talking influential, clearly Lenin, Stalin, and Mao all belong–as of course does Hitler. On the other hand, in view of what’s now known about Lenin it’s pretty hard to see putting him on some “heroes of the left” list. Just because Lenin wasn’t as bad as Stalin doesn’t make him not a monster.


Ophelia Benson 08.21.03 at 6:26 pm

And another thing. There’s a Frenzy of Renown, a Cult of Celebrity aspect to the list. Lots of presidents and no legislators, let alone as I said labor leaders, let even more alone thinkers or artists or furriners. Surely a lot more in the way of (US) name recognition than substance or merit.

And a truly bizarre omission is Alexander Fleming. Don’t people realize how many of us wouldn’t even be here if antibiotics hadn’t been developed?


jw mason 08.21.03 at 6:30 pm

We also might want to unpack the other term in this equation, “left bloggers.” From waht I can tell, it’s almost an oxymoron: for whatever reason, the hard left (of which I’m a sympathizer or fellow traveler) doesn’t go in much for blogs. Max Sawicky is about as close as you can get. Mailing lists, websites, but not never blogs. It’s a puzzle.

Go as far right on the political spectrum as you like and there’s a blog for ypou. But the “left” of the blogosphere espouses views that would have been smack in the middle of the US consensus a couple of decades ago. The vehemence of the tone of some of some of those blogs notwithstanding — W. just has that effect on people.

All of which is to say it’s silly to call someone “chicken” for not admiring Lenin or Luxembourg as much as you or might, when they’ve never made any such claim for themselves.


jw mason 08.21.03 at 6:31 pm

Luxemburg, sorry.


Chris 08.21.03 at 6:48 pm

OK. I shouldn’t have made the “chicken” remark. Just being provocative, and Opelia puts it much better.

As for being against tyranny, so were many of the thousands of men and women who found themselves in the socialist and communist movements over the past 100 years. Of course, the right wants to tar them all with the crimes of Stalin, then say Stalin is morally = to Hitler etc etc, just as in the previous century those who campaigned for the rights of man got accused of being accomplices of the guillotine and the great terror. Whether or not they make it into some list or other, many of those individuals deserve our admiration, and shouldn’t be among those we “despise” (Mark).

Tim: in my world the 1914-18 war, and its aftermath (as well as being a vast atrocity in its own right) looms rather larger as a cause of Nazism than ANY mistake made by German leftists.


back40 08.21.03 at 7:05 pm

I’d pay to read Chris and Timothy exploring the issues and events of the 1910-1945 period.


T-squared 08.21.03 at 7:16 pm

What exactly is the meaning of great? Great as in Great Depression? Great War (original name for WWI)?


Norman Geras 08.21.03 at 9:00 pm

Belatedly, Chris, can I just add here that my own entry (posted now at contained three of the figures you name: Luxemburg, Rawls and Trotsky.


james 08.21.03 at 11:20 pm

Correct me if I’m wrong Norm, but wasn’t Trotsky the butcher of Kronstadt? And wasn’t he complicit in Lenin’s crimes?


Abiola Lapite 08.22.03 at 12:09 am

“Abiola, I’m not sure why I’m bothering to reply to you, since I doubt that you are open to argument.

Are you a mind-reader, to know whether or not I am “open to argument?” Or are you simply offended that there are plenty of people in this world who refuse to take it as gospel that communism is anything but an ideology of hatred?

As for your historical claims, there, I really can’t be bothered.”

How wonderful it is to come across such intellectual laziness! A debating opponent who concedes defeat at the first opportunity – what more could one ask for?

I see that I gave you more intellectual credit than was warranted by the facts. You really are a morally obtuse individual. There is simply no good reason whatosoever to doubt that Luxemburg and Liebknecht, had they succeeded with their little “uprising”, would have subsequently instituted a regime any less bloody than all of the other communist tyrannies that have stained the face of this planet.

It strikes me as intellectual dishonesty of the highest order to deny that communism, of the sort preached by Karl Marx, is an inherently violent doctrine. Given the fundamental assumptions of the communist belief system, it is simply ludicrous to deny that violent class hatred lies at the center of Marxian ideology – a point laid out clearly enough by Karl Popper in “The Open Society and its Enemies – Volume 2” (see Chapter 19, “The Social Revolution”).

That communism has led to large-scale murder everywhere it has been tried is in no way an accident of history, but actually dictated by the internal logic of the communist creed. To ask any decent person to hold up its’ standard-bearers as “great” in any way is to commit oneself to a travesty of conventional morality.


Chris 08.22.03 at 12:18 am

Abiola, I don’t take much as “gospel” at all.

If what you believe about Marx and Marxism comes from The Open Society and its Enemies, I’d advise you to read a bit more widely :)


Tom 08.22.03 at 1:25 am

Jean Jaures, OK, but Luxemburg & Liebknicht? Nah; martyrdom doesn’t convey you into greatness; Jim Connelly would come ahead of them, and doesn’t have the equivocations that Luxemburg did “errmmm…I’m rather uncomformtable with what Lenin’s doing, but I’ll support it anyway”.

Ummm, for socialists in the 20th century: Lessee, Bernstein, Jean Jaures, Keir Hardie, Bernard Shaw (barf-inducing stuff he wrote in the 1930s notwithstanding), Clement Atlee, Ernie Bevin (the guy who gave you NATO, folks), Milo Djilas, Willie Brandt, Imre Nagy, Alex Dubcek, Eugene Debs, Norman Thomas, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Olaf Palme, Oscar Wilde (if you count 1900, when he died, in the 20th century), George Orwell, and (continuing in the anti-communist vein) Sidney Hook & Max Schachtman. Ohh, and Albert Einstein was a socialist, also.

(Yes, I’m essentially typing out from Irving Howe’s “Essential Works of Socialism”, now you ask).


Doug Muir 08.22.03 at 7:13 am

I’m still trying to grasp how Lenin and Trotsky fit in here. They’re both directly complicit in the murder of thousands, and indirectly in the death and misery of millions.

I live in a country where you can still see the discolored spots on walls where pictures of Lenin were scraped off. Most people here have a pretty clear idea of just how “great” Lenin was.

In all seriousness, I’d like to hear just how you justify including these two. (I’m assuming that we’re using the “exemplar” rather than the “impact” standard.) How was Lenin morally, ethically, or intellectually “great”?

I suppose you could argue with a straight face that Lenin was a great amoral realist — “There is no morality in politics, there is only expedience, a scoundrel may be useful to us because he is a scoundrel, a lie told often enough becomes the truth,” etc. etc. — and that this constituted greatness of a sort. But somehow I have the feeling that’s not where you’re coming from.


Chris 08.22.03 at 8:43 am

Doug, I’m not all that keen to continue this thread. But FWIW I don’t buy the line that holds Lenin (or Trotsky) responsible for the Stalinist dictatorship. Anne Applebaum, in her recent book on the Gulag (hardly a communist-friendly work) argues that there was a qualitative shift in the nature of the Soviet state in the 1930s, and I’d agree with that. Of course, that doesn’t excuse the actions of both those figures when they were directly in charge. I’m really not sure what I think about the extent to which we should contextualise or plead mitigation for the Kronstadt rising or the war against the Cossacks. But, just as an ad hominem point, it surely makes as much (and as little) sense to make allowances for the imperatives of the moment and the standards of the times in their case as in others. If people want to argue that persons responsible for what we would now call “crimes against humanity” should, ipso facto, be ineligible for a “great figures” list, then I’m happy with that. But note that Winston Churchill, who made the lists of both left and right-wing bloggers (presumably as an exemplar) would also be thereby disqualified. I wouldn’t want to exclude Churchill BTW. Perhaps this all just goes to show how silly such lists are!


Chris 08.22.03 at 8:51 am

Tom, the text of Rosa Luxemburg’s The Russian Revolution is here. After reading it, you may or may not still believe that “errmmm…I’m rather uncomformtable with what Lenin’s doing, but I’ll support it anyway” is a fair summary. FWIW, I never suggested their inclusion on grounds of martydom, but because of their courageous opposition to WW1 from within Wilhelmine Germany.


Doug Muir 08.22.03 at 12:24 pm

Chris, I can understand you not being all that keen to continue this thread. But I do feel compelled to point out that you didn’t remotely answer my question.

I asked how you’d justify including Lenin and Trotsky as “great” figures. You replied that

1) they weren’t responsible for the excesses of Stalinism, and

2) Churchill and other generally respected figures did things just as bad.

Point #1 is IMO highly debatable (counterfactual: try to imagine a liberal Soviet regime emerging after Lenin’s death, under any plausible alternative successor), but let that go for now — I’ll concede it for argument’s stake.

My question still remains: what unique benefits did these two figures confer upon humanity, such that they should be considered morally, ethically or intellectually “great”?

BTW, I think that these lists are silly too… except insofar as they encourage us to do just what this thread is doing. That is, to apply some rigour to our value judgments, which tend to arise out of internal processes that are not rigourous or even rational. That’s IMO a worthwhile exercise.


Chris 08.22.03 at 1:02 pm


I can’t pretend to being able to give an answer to your very reasonable question which satisfies me. But I’ll have a go. You ask

bq. what unique benefits did these two figures confer upon humanity, such that they should be considered morally, ethically or intellectually “great”?

I’m not sure what, for you, amounts to the conferring of a benefit on humanity and it may be your idea of that is sufficiently capacious to include what I have in mind. Someone might ask the same question of Spartacus, or Toussaint L’Ouverture or Babeuf. They might say that since the efforts those individuals made came to naught, they shouldn’t be conceived of as great. Indeed it might be that, given the circumstances of their times, the efforts of Spartacus and Toussaint just inevitably had to come to naught and the projects that they conceived were just unrealizable. Even if that were so, I’d still admire them for what they did and the way in which they have inspired others with the possibility of a social order free of exploitation and oppression. And if that inspiration is a benefit (as you understand it) the question is answered for them at least.

Are the cases of Lenin and Trotsky parallel to the ones I’ve outlined? I’m not sure what to say about that, but I think I can make a better case for Trotsky than for Lenin. Specifically, that when the dream of a more just social order had turned into the nightmare that was the Moscow Trials and the Gulag, and when half the world was repelled by Stalin’s regime and another half actually identified that regime with justice, Trotsky in exile and almost alone (there were others such as the POUM in whose militia Orwell fought), fought against that nightmare.

That doesn’t mean I’m blind to his failings, either personal or political, or that I think that socialism-as-he-conceived it is a realizable ideal. But I’m not going to deny, either, my conviction that he was a heroic (and tragic) figure.

On your counterfactual: even if I couldn’t imagine a “liberal Soviet regime emerging after Lenin’s death, under any plausible alternative successor” (all depends what you mean by “liberal”…) I can imagine many post-Lenin regimes that were a lot less bad than Stalin’s (hard to imagine anything worse). As it happens, the NEP was intellectually quite pluralistic, made extensive use of market mechanisms and so on. Is a NEP-like regime under Bukharin an unimaginable historical possibility?


Doug Muir 08.22.03 at 4:21 pm

Well, kudos for trying, and for acknowledging the difficulty of a satisfactory answer. I don’t really agree with your vision of Trotsky as a tragic hero, but I see where you’re coming from. A debate on the merits of this particular characterization can await a more appropriate time and venue.

Lenin… well, for the record, I personally consider him a monster, albeit a much lesser one than the monster that followed him. No, Stalin was certainly not the inevitable result of Lenin; on the other hand, Stalin would not have been remotely possible without Lenin.

You mentioned Applebaum’s _Gulag_. I haven’t read it yet, but I can’t imagine she fails to point out that the system originated under Lenin. Stalin of course vastly expanded it, but Lenin in turn had vastly expanded it from the (relatively) modest system he inherited from the czars.

As to the counterfactual: IMO Bukharin is probably the least likely successor among the top Bolsheviks. Popular discussion of Lenin’s testament tends to focus on its trashing of Stalin. What gets forgotten is that he was nearly as scathing about all the other plausible successors. Sure, he described Bukharin as the party’s most valuable and best theoretician and the favorite of the whole party. But he then added that Bukharin’s theoretical views could not be regarded as fully Marxist, since Bukharin was “scholastic” and never “fully understood dialectics.” (Adam Ulam once remarked that this
last phrase could best be translated as “He’s no politician.”)

Lenin had been publicly critical of Bukharin on a number of other occasions — try googling for “inert and empty eclecticism”, frex. And Bukharin’s relative lack of political savvy means that, absent Lenin’s active support, he had zero chance of emerging as the heir.

But put that aside. The NEP was probably doomed under any plausible successor — _pace_ Bukharin, it’s pretty clear that Lenin viewed it as a temporary expedient. Collectivization of the peasants, frex, was hardwired into the Bolshevik DNA; private agriculture was viewed as irredeemably “petty bourgeois”. I note in passing that Lenin was just as capable as Stalin of scathing denunciation of the “kulaks”: they were bloodsuckers, had to be ruthlessly crushed, etc. etc.

It’s certainly possible to imagine plausible successors who would have been less bad than Stalin. What’s hard is to imagine plausible successors who wouldn’t have been bad at all.

But we’re now reaching a fairly extreme point of thread drift. So we should probably either start a new post, take it to e-mail, or let it lie for now.


Tom 08.22.03 at 6:37 pm

Chris wrote:
“Tom, the text of Rosa Luxemburg’s The Russian Revolution is here. After reading it, you may or may not still believe that “errmmm…I’m rather uncomformtable with what Lenin’s doing, but I’ll support it anyway” is a fair summary.”

Before posting, I reread the final section (, and I think [minus typos], saying that ““errmmm…I’m rather uncomformtable with what Lenin’s doing, but I’ll support it anyway” is a good two-line summary of her opinion.

(It’s actually somewhat sadder than I’ve protrayed it; she can see the outlines of what’s to come [as she does earlier in the essay], but ends up making, in the last three paragraphs, what were to later become familiar excuses for atrocities under Leninism. Martov & Plekhanov made similar predictions, but they didn’t end with a mealy-mouthed apologism for Lenin).

I’d also say history has shown her to be wrong in her argument with Bernstein.


Martin Wisse 08.22.03 at 11:48 pm

“From what I can tell, it’s almost an oxymoron: for whatever reason, the hard left (of which I’m a sympathizer or fellow traveler) doesn’t go in much for blogs. Max Sawicky is about as close as you can get. Mailing lists, websites, but not never blogs. It’s a puzzle.”

Well, I’m a member of an unrepentent socialist party and believe that capitalism is a shite system that needs replacing sooner rather then later; hard left enough for you?

There are a few others as well: Alister Black of Perspective, a comrade from the SSP, socialist sf writer Ken MacLeod, to name two.

True, there are far less hard left bloggers than there are hard right bloggers; it might just be that leftists go for collective endeavours rather than something as individual as a blog….


Eric Rescorla 08.26.03 at 1:16 am

I’m of course familiar with the “Lenin wasn’t that bad compared to Stalin” line, and I suppose that’s true. Still it’s pretty hard to come away from reading Conquest’s “Harvest of Sorrow” without feeling a little uncomfortable with this line of argument. True, Lenin didn’t engage in quite the same degree of mass terror that Stalin did, but isn’t the Ukrainian famine of 1921 bad enough to known Lenin out of the “great” category unless you’re willing to include Hitler and Stalin as well.

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