absolute power, conscience in politics, dictatorship, medieval v modern, origin of modern political terrorism, People's Will, political absolutism, political history, Putin's Game, revolutionaries, Richard Pipes, Russia, terrorism
Pipes, Richard. The Russian Revolution. P. 142. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1990.
Below: bold type added.
The author noted with dismay the effects of radical propaganda on the peasants:
How curiously our speeches, our concepts were interpreted by the peasant mind! . . . their conclusions and comparisons utterly astonished me. “We have it better under the Tsar.” Something struck me in the head, as if a nail had been driven into it . . . . There, I said, are the fruits of propaganda! We do not destroy illusions but reinforce them. We reinforce the old faith of the people in the Tsar.”
The disillusionment with the people pushed the most determined radicals to terrorism. While many of the disappointed Socialists-Revolutionaries abandoned the movement and a handful adopted the doctrines of German Social-Democracy, a dedicated minority formed a secret organization called the People’s Will (Narodnaia Volia). The mission of its thirty full-time members, banded in an Executive Committee, was to fight the tsarist regime by means of systematic terror: on its founding, it passed a “sentence” of death on Alexander II. It was the first political terrorist organization in history and the model for all subsequent organizations of this kind in Russia and elsewhere. Resort to terror was an admission of isolation: as one of the leaders of the People’s Will would later concede, terror
requires neither the support nor the sympathy of the country. It is enough to have one’s convictions, to feel one’s despair, to be determined to perish. The less a country wants revolution, the more naturally will they turn to terror who want, no matter what, to remain revolutionaries, to cling to their cult of revolutionary destruction.
The stated mission of the People’s Will was to assassinate government officials, for the twin goal of demoralizing the government and breaking down the awe in which the masses held the Tsar. In the words of the Executive Committee:
Terrorist activity . . . has as its objective undermining the fascination with the government’s might, providing an uninterrupted demonstration of the possibility of struggling against the government, in this manner lifting the revolutionary spirit of the people and its faith in the success of the cause, and finally, organizing the forces capable of combat.
The ultimate political goal of the People’s Will was the convocation of a National Assembly through which the nation would express its wishes. The People’s Will was a highly centralized organization, the decisions of the Executive Committee being binding on all followers, known as “vassals.” Members were expected to dedicate themselves totally to the revolutionary cause, and if called upon, to sacrifice to it their properties and even their lives.
I have for months spent a good deal of time each day passing along the “Hey, Martha’s” of breaking or recent news, primarily using the BackChannels reader page on Facebook to do it.
That ain’t writing, and even with highlighting and juxtaposing stories (“Related:” appears in the first one or two comments pointing to additional reading), it’s not really opining either. At best, the method shares this blog’s editor’s interests and outlook of the day. Much on the web becomes media passing along other media. With that in mind, both internal reflection and weather — and aesthetic charm — seemed to point toward 19th Century time and the luxury of long reading.
Well, lookee up there — and into the pages wrought by the extraordinary historian Richard Pipes.
Fair advertising and advisement:
Having delved into other of Pipes’ work a short while ago with Russia Under the Old Regime, I felt the present volume its companion – and what a rich companion it is turning out (with 684 pages left to read).
To be fair, one cannot share the whole book, technically, at least, except by recommending it or joining others in classroom or colloquy to discuss it.
As much characterizes a process in democratic and responsible governance in which the general public may follow good advice — buy the book or take it out of the library — but what portion does becomes no longer the “general public” but an enlightened public cleaving away from former peers.
Putin’s game with election hacking favoring our President Trump?
While collusion would seem a possibility that the most determined of ongoing investigations may well dredge up and beat into reality, one might consider the alternative of interpreting Moscow as cynically narcissistic and malign in using methods still related to the “People’s Will” to disparage our noble democracy by seeing elected to head it a bullying businessman and entirely inexperienced politician.
With that interpretation for a base, Moscow (and Tehran) would seem to believe they have figured out how to divide us and undermine our confidence in our democratic integrity and the related institutions and processes that guaranty American justice (truly for all) and robust internal as well as external security. However, now that that possibility may be seen — 🙂 — BackChannels is starting to like this latest in Presidents of the United States of America.
And tackle Putin in his nasty dash back to Russia’s imperial glory and apparent future without the benefit of conscience.
Make America Great Again.