18th March 2012
Bryan Caplan points out that there really is nothing new under the sun.
Historians often act like Lenin’s tyranny was a bolt from the blue: Who would have expected a bunch of socialists to be so bloodthirsty? Admirers of Lenin, in contrast, often paint him as a great innovator – at least as a strategist. A dictatorship of the proletariat run by a vanguard party of bourgeois intellectuals? Only Lenin could have conceived it. When you read 19th-century Russian literature, however, “Leninist” memes clearly predate the birth of Lenin. Contrary to many historians, Lenin’s atrocities were foreseeable. And contrary to Lenin’s admirers, his strategy of atrocity was pure cliche.