I've been reading Arther Koestler's Darkness at Noon which is set in the Soviet Union during Stalin's purges and mock-trials of the 1930s. The book, while based on Soviet material, was writing about totalitarian regimes in general, which is why the leader (No. 1) can be any dictator, Stalin, Hitler, Franco, Mussolini, Pol Pot, etc. What it all boils down to is that totalitarian regimes have an absolutist logic that reduces any form of doubt or criticism to a simple "either you're with us or against us" notion. If kinks start appearing in the machine, people are told to "stay the course" because inevitably the end will be reached, setbacks are minor details. Sound familiar to anyone? There is a chilling passage in Darkness at Noon where Rubashov, the protagonist of the novel who is arrested for crimes he did not commit, recalls his unwavering beliefs in 'The Party' that has now imprisoned him:
"The Party can never be mistaken... You and I can make a mistake. Not the Party. The Party... is more than you and I and a thousand others like you and I. The Party is the embodiment of the revolutionary idea in history. History knows no scruples and no hesitation. Inert and unerring, she flows towards her goal. At every bend in her course she leaves the mud which she carries and the corpses of the drowned. History knows her way. She makes no mistakes. He who has not absolute faith in History does not belong in the Party's ranks."
Even though the book was written in the 1940s, it has recently been reissued despite being out of print for many years (I noticed the new edition in Barnes & Nobles) and I think it's been put out there to the general public for a reason. It should make readers very uncomfortable with the statements that emerge from the mouths of our world leaders.
I wrote this mostly in response to a post by Todd Swift from his blogzine where he writes about Russia's recent scolding of the United States' military policies. The fact that Russia is now lecturing America is very telling about the topsy-turvy age we live in.
Read Putin attacks 'very dangerous' US from BBC News.