USM Open Source History Text: The World at War: World History 1914-1945

Western Intellectuals and the Seduction of the Soviet State

Supporting Soviet communism was a grave error on the part of many left-leaning intellectuals. Support for Soviet Russia came, by many, to be seen as a sort of devil’s bargain. Those who maintained support for Stalin were accused of looking the other way as millions died in order to claim some sort of philosophical, political, abstract purity. To sacrifice the common people for political ideology—this was the constant refrain from the anti-communist intellectuals in Europe. Leaders among these anti-communist intellectuals were themselves often former communists or communist sympathizers, men like the great British author George Orwell, who captured the twisted logic of totalitarianism in his famous novel 1984 and portrayed communist ideology perverted in his allegorical satire of Stalinist Russia in Animal Farm. Other writers, like the Hungarian Jew Arthur Koestler, whose brilliant portrait of the Stalinist purge trials, Darkness at Noon, sent waves of discontent throughout the European world, especially in 1940 as the world was at war with Hitler, not Stalin, and it seemed naïve to attack the principle enemy of the enemy.

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