Classic Essays

The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Underman (Part 18)

As part of our commitment to the celebration of forgotten classics—i.e., great works of the past which have been intentionally flushed down the memory hole by our Orwellian overlords—National Vanguard is proud to present a condensed edition of Lothrop Stoddard’s pioneering treatise The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Underman, originally published in 1922.

To appreciate the significance of this work, one must understand that in his day Stoddard was a certified member of America’s (now-former) WASP establishment. An old-stock Yankee from Brookline, Massachusetts, Stoddard held a Ph.D. in History from Harvard University and was one of the most prominent intellectuals in the country prior to the Second World War. It is only because of the triumph of Jewish propaganda from that war that racialists like Stoddard have since been relegated to obscurity.

By Lothrop Stoddard


THE RUSSIAN BOLSHEVIK REVOLUTION of November, 1917, is an event whose significance increases with the lapse of time. It is the opening gun of the organized rebellion against civilization. Hitherto the proletarian movement had been either “in the air” or underground. Proletarian dreamers might formulate doctrines; proletarian strategists might plan campaigns; proletarian agitators might rouse wide-spread unrest and incite sporadic violence. Yet all this, though ominous for the future, did not menace society with immediate destruction.

The Bolshevik Revolution, however, produced a radically new situation, not merely for Russia, but also for the whole world. Falling from the clouds and rising from the cellars, the forces of unrest coalesced in open line of battle, provided with a huge base of operations, vast resources, and great material fighting strength. To have acquired at a stroke the mastery of mighty Russia, covering nearly one-sixth of the whole land-surface of the globe and inhabited by fully 150,000,000 human souls, was a material asset of incalculable value. And the moral gains were equally important. “Nothing succeeds like success”; so the triumph of the Russian Bolsheviks set revolutionists everywhere aquiver, firing their blood, inflaming their “will to power,” and nerving their hearts to victory.

The Bolshevik triumph in Russia had, it is true, been won by numerically slender forces, the numbers of convinced Bolsheviks who formed the ruling “Communist Party” numbering only about 500,000 or 600,000 out of a population of 150,000,000. But this was really a powerful stimulant to the “world revolution,” because it proved the ability of a determined, ruthless minority to impose its will upon a disorganized society devoid of capable leaders, and thus encouraged revolutionary minorities everywhere to hope that they might do the same thing — especially with the Russian backing upon which they could henceforth rely. As a matter of fact, Bolshevik revolutions have been tried in many lands since 1917, were actually successful for short periods in Hungary and Bavaria, and are certain to be attempted in the future, since in every part of the world Bolshevik agitation is persistently and insidiously going on.

The Russian Bolshevik Revolution took most of the world by surprise — particularly the orthodox Socialists, heedful of Marx’s prophecy that the revolution would begin in ultra-capitalist countries, and not in economically backward lands like Russia, barely out of the agricultural stage. To those who realize the true nature of social revolution and the special characteristics of Russian life, however, the outbreak of social revolution in Russia rather than in Western countries is precisely what might have been expected. Social revolution, as we have already seen, is not progress but regress; not a step forward to a higher order, but a lurch backward to a lower plane. Therefore, countries like Russia, with veneers of civilization laid thinly over instinctive wildness and refractory barbarism, are peculiarly liable to revolutionary atavism.

Furthermore, we have seen that the Russian Bolshevik Revolution was not a chance happening but the logical outcome of a process of social disintegration and savage resurgence that had long been going on. For more than half a century the “Nihilists” had been busily fanning the smouldering fires of chaos, their methods and aims being alike frankly described by one of their number, Dostoievsky, who wrote fully fifty years ago:

To reduce the villages to confusion, to spread cynicism and scandals, together with complete disbelief in everything and eagerness for something better, and finally by means of fires to reduce the country to desperation! Mankind has to be divided into two unequal parts: nine-tenths have to give up all individuality and become, so to speak, a herd. . . . We will destroy the desire for property; we will make use of drunkenness, slander, spying; we will make use of incredible corruption; we will stifle every genius in his infancy. We will proclaim destruction. There is going to be such an upset as the world has never seen before.

The growing power of the violent subversive elements showed clearly in the course of the Russian Revolution of 1905. That movement was not primarily a social revolution; it was at first a political revolution, directed by the “Intelligentsia” and the liberal bourgeoisie, against the corrupt and despotic Czarist autocracy. No sooner was the Czarist regime shaken, however, than the social revolutionists tried to take over the movement and turn it to their own ends. It is instructive to remember that, in the Social Revolutionary Party Congress of 1903, the extremists had gained control of the party machinery, and were thenceforth known as “Bolsheviki,” [64] dominating the less violent “Menshevik” wing. The leader of this successful coup was none other than Nikolai Lenin. Therefore, when the revolution of 1905 broke out, the social revolutionists, under the leadership of Lenin, were pledged to the most violent action.

It was in the autumn of 1905, about six months after the beginning of the political revolution, that the Bolsheviki attempted to seize control by proclaiming a “dictatorship of the proletariat,” organized into “Soviets.” The attempt, however, failed; but this abortive coup of the social revolutionists involved the failure of the whole revolutionary movement. Frightened by the spectre of class warfare and social chaos, the political revolutionists cooled, Czarism rallied and re-established its authority. Russia’s hope of a liberal, constitutional government faded away, and Czarism continued in the saddle until the Revolution of March, 1917.

This second revolution was almost an exact replica of the first. At the start it was dominated by political reformers — liberals like Mihukov and Prince Lvov, allied with moderate Socialists like Kerensky. Behind the scenes, however, the Bolsheviki were working. Both their tactics and their leaders [65] were the same as those of 1905, and this time their efforts were crowned with success. In November, 1917, eight months after the outbreak of the Second Russian Revolution, came the Third, or Bolshevik, Revolution, the crushing of both political liberals and moderate Socialists, and the triumph of violent Communism. Russia sank into the hell of class war, bloodshed, terrorism, poverty, cold, disease, and appalling famine in which it has been weltering ever since. Furthermore, “Red Russia” appeared like a baleful meteor on the world’s horizon. The Bolshevik leaders promptly sought to use Russia as a lever for upsetting the whole world and supplemented their national organization by the “Third International,” whose revolutionary tentacles soon stretched to the remotest corners of the earth.

Into a detailed discussion of Bolshevism’s horrors and failures I do not propose to enter. It would fill a book in itself. Suffice it here to say that Bolshevism’s so-called “constructive” aims have failed, as they were bound to fail, for the simple reason that Bolshevism is essentially a destructive, retrogressive movement. To be sure, the economic breakdown in Russia has been so frightful that, in order to avert utter chaos, the Bolshevik leaders have been forced to revive some of the despised “capitalist” methods, such as private trading, the employment of high-salaried experts, and certain forms of private property. They have also attempted to stimulate production by establishing an iron despotism over the workers, forcing the latter to labor virtually as slaves, so that the Bolshevist regime has come to be be known sardonically as a “dictatorship over the proletariat.” Perhaps these measures may save Russia from absolute ruin; perhaps not. Time alone will tell. But even if things now take a turn for the better, this will be due, not to Bolshevism but to a practical repudiation of Bolshevism by its own leaders. It is by its doctrines, and by its acts done in accordance with those doctrines, that Bolshevism must be judged. Let us see, then, what Russian Bolshevism means, in theory and in applied practice.

The fundamental characteristic of Bolshevism is its violence. Of course, this was also a basic element in Syndicalism, but the Bolshevists seem to stress violence even more than their Syndicalist predecessors. Bolshevism calmly assumes wholesale class warfare of the most ferocious character on a world-wide scale for an indefinite period, as a normal phase of its development and as necessary for its success. For example: the American journalist, Arthur Ransome, in his conversations with the Russian Bolshevik leaders, found them contemplating a “period of torment” for the world at large lasting at least fifty years. The class wars which would rage in western Europe and America would be infinitely worse than Russia’s, would annihilate whole populations, and would probably imply the destruction of all culture [66].

The appalling implications of this Bolshevik principle of “permanent violence” have repelled not merely believers in the existing social order, but also many persons not wholly hostile to Bolshevism and even ready to welcome a social revolution of a less destructive character. The “Menshevik” Gregory Zilboorg thus criticises Bolshevism’s “mob-psychology” (and incidentally expounds the Menshevik theory of revolution) in the following lines:

The Bolshevists have an almost religious, almost frantic faith in the masses as such. Dynamic masses are their ideal. But they overlooked, and still overlook, the fact that the masses, even the self-conscious masses, are often transformed into mobs, and the dynamic power of a mob may scarcely be reasoned with . . .

The fallacy in the Bolshevist reasoning lies in including people as well as mob in the term “masses”. The blind faith in the “masses” is a silent but potent indication that they accept the crowd and the crowd-psychology as the most justifiable factors in social life. Such an acceptance implies the further acceptance of two very dangerous factors. The first is that revolution is a blow, a moment of spontaneous destruction. Immediately following this blow there arises the necessity for stabilizing the social forces for a constructive life.

I take it that the work of construction must begin, not when we have reached a point beyond which we cannot go, but when we have completely changed the social element. As soon as the old codes, as a system, are done with, we must give up destroying and turn to constructing. For this purpose we must gather all our intellectual forces, relying on the masses to help us, but not being guided by them. So that when a revolution puts power into the hands of a group or a class, even dictatorial power, we must immediately begin to solidarize the social forces. The Communist theory omits the necessity for this solidarization, and, therefore, admits of no compromise or co-operation. It creates fundamental principles of a rule by a minority. Government by a minority is dangerous, not because it is opposed to the traditional idea of democracy and the traditional worship of the majority, but because such government necessitates the employment of continuous violent methods and maintaining continuously, in the minds of the masses, a consciousness of danger and the necessity for destruction. And that is the second dangerous factor. Under such a condition the masses are permanent mobs, able only to hate, to fight, and to destroy. [67]

In similar vein, President Masaryk of Czechoslovakia (himself a moderate Socialist) asserts that “The Bolsheviki want revolution at any cost,” and continues:

Lenin considers armed revolution the principal constructive force in social progress: For the Bolsheviki, revolution is a revelation, and for most of them it is literally a fetish. Consequently, to their eyes, revolution is an end in itself . . . . The Bolsheviki did not know, and they never have known, how to work. They know only how to force others to work. They know how to fight, how to kill, and murder, and die, but they are incapable of plodding, productive labor. [68]

It was the terrible “price” of prolonged, world-wide warfare that made the celebrated English thinker, Bertrand Russell, reject Bolshevism, to which he had at first been strongly attracted. “Those who realize the destructiveness of the late war,” he writes,

the devastation and impoverishment, the lowering of the level of civilization throughout vast areas, the general increase of hatred and savagery, the letting loose of bestial instincts which had been curbed during peace — those who realize all this will hesitate to incur inconceivably greater horrors even if they believe firmly that Communism in itself is much to be desired. An economic system cannot be considered apart from the population which is to carry it out; and the population resulting from such a world war as Moscow calmly contemplates would be savage, bloodthirsty and ruthless to an extent that must make any system a mere engine of oppression and cruelty. . . . I am compelled to reject Bolshevism for two reasons: First, because the price mankind must pay to achieve Communism by Bolshevik methods is too terrible; and secondly, because, even after paying the price, I do not believe the result would be what the Bolsheviks profess to desire. [69]

In this connection it is instructive to note that the Russian Bolshevik leaders have never repudiated, or even modified, their fundamental reliance upon violent methods. Lenin’s famous “Twenty-One Points” Manifesto, laying down the terms upon which Socialist groups throughout the world would be admitted to the “Third International,” commands implacable war, open or secret, both against existing society and against all Socialists outside the Communist fold. And Trotzky, in his recent pronouncement significantly entitled, “The Defense of Terrorism,” [70] fiercely justifies all Bolshevik acts and policies as alike necessary and right.

Another of Bolshevism’s fundamental characteristics is its despotism — a despotism not only of the Bolshevist minority over the general population, but also of the Bolshevik leaders over their own followers. Here, again, Bolshevism is merely developing ideas already formulated by Syndicalism. The Syndicalists, abandoning the Marxian deference for “the masses” in general, denied the necessity or desirability for heeding their wishes and considered only the “class-conscious” minority of the proletariat — in plain language, their own crowd. As the French Syndicalist, Lagardelle put it:

The mass, unwieldy and clumsy as it is, must not here speak out its mind.

Furthermore, in carrying out their programme, Syndicalist leaders might rely wholly on force, without even condescending to explanation. In the words of the Syndicalist Brouilhet:

The masses expect to be treated with violence, and not to be persuaded. They always obediently follow when a single man or a clique shows the way. Such is the law of collective psychology.

The Russian Bolshevik leaders evidently had these ideas in mind when they made their successful coup d’etat in November, 1917. Bolshevik theory, as preached to the masses, had hitherto been that the “dictatorship of the proletariat” would be a short transition period ending with the rapid annihilation of the capitalist and bourgeois classes, after which there would be no more “government,” but a fraternal liberty. That the Bolshevik “dictatorship” might last longer than most proletarians expected was, however, hinted at by Lenin himself in a circular issued shortly before the November coup, and entitled, “Shall the Bolsheviks remain in Power?” Here Lenin bluntly states his attitude. Of course, he says, we preached the destruction of the State as long as the State was in possession of our enemies. But why should we destroy the State after having ourselves taken the helm? The State is, to be sure, an organised rule by a privileged minority. Well, let us in our turn substitute our minority for theirs, and let us run the machinery!

And this is precisely what the Bolsheviks have done. Instead of destroying the State, they have built up one of the most iron despotisms that the world has ever seen, with an autocratic governing clique functioning through a centralized “Red” bureaucracy and relying upon a “Red” army powerful enough to crush all disaffection. No parliamentary opposition, no criticism, is permitted. No book, pamphlet, or newspaper may be printed which disagrees with the Bolshevik Government. Furthermore, there are no signs of any relaxation of this despotic attitude. The recent “concessions” like private trading are purely economic in character; the Bolshevik Government itself has frankly announced that no political concessions will be made, and that absolute power will remain in its hands. The economic concessions are termed merely “temporary” to be revoked as soon as the Russian people has become sufficiently “educated” along Bolshevik lines to make possible the establishment of pure Communism.

Of course, this means that the “dictatorship” is to be indefinitely prolonged. As Lenin himself candidly remarked recently to a visiting delegation of Spanish Socialists:

We never spoke about liberty. We practise the proletariat’s dictatorship in the name of the minority, because the peasant class have not yet become proletarian and are not with us. It will continue until they subject themselves.

But would the dictatorship end even if the whole Russian people should “subject themselves” to Communism? It is highly improbable. On this point Bertrand Russell makes some very acute remarks, the result of his journey to Russia, and keen “sizing-up” of its Bolshevist rulers [71].  Says Mr. Russell:

Advocacy of Communism by those who believe in Bolshevik methods rests upon the assumption that there is no slavery except economic slavery, and that when all goods are held in common there must be perfect liberty. I fear this is a delusion.

There must be administration, there must be officials who control distribution. These men, in a Communist State, are the repositories of power. So long as they control the army, they are able, as in Russia at this moment, to wield despotic power, even if they are a small minority. The fact that there is Communism — to a certain extent — does not mean that there is liberty. If the Communism were more complete it would not necessarily mean more freedom; there would still be certain officials in control of the food-supply, and those officials could govern as they pleased as long as they retained the support of the soldiers. This is not mere theory; it is the patent lesson of the present condition of Russia. The Bolshevik theory is that a small minority are to seize power, and are to hold it until Communism is accepted practically universally, which, they admit, may take a long time. But power is sweet, and few men surrender it voluntarily. It is especially sweet to those who have the habit of it, and the habit becomes most ingrained in those who have governed by bayonets without popular support. Is it not almost inevitable that men placed as the Bolsheviks are placed in Russia (and as they maintain that the Communists must place themselves wherever the social revolution succeeds) will be loath to relinquish their monopoly of power, and will find reasons for remaining until some new revolution ousts them? Would it not be fatally easy for them, without altering the economic structure, to decree large salaries for high government officials, and so reintroduce the old inequalities of wealth? What motive would they have for not doing so? What motive is possible except idealism, love of mankind — non-economic motives of the sort that Bolsheviks decry? The system created by violence and the forcible rule of a minority must necessarily allow of tyranny and exploitation; and if human nature is what Marxists assert it to be, why should the rulers neglect such opportunities of selfish advantage?

It is sheer nonsense to pretend that the rulers of a great empire such as Soviet Russia, when they have become accustomed to power, retain the proletarian psychology, and feel that their class interest is the same as that of the ordinary working man. This is not the case in fact in Russia now, however the truth may be concealed by fine phrases. The government has a class consciousness and a class interest quite distinct from those of the genuine proletarian, who is not to be confounded with the paper proletarian of the Marxian schema. [72]

Thus, in Russia as in social revolutions throughout history, we see emerging the vicious circle of chaos succeeded by despotism. There is the tragedy of social upheavals — the upshot being that the new ruling class is usually inferior to the old, while society has meantime suffered irreparable cultural and racial losses. . .


64. Bolsheviki, translated literally, means “those in the majority.” Their less violent opponents, outvoted at the Congress of 1903, became known as Menshiviki, or “those in the minority.”

65. It is interesting to remember that it was Leon Trotzky who, in the autumn of 1905, tried to engineer the abortive “dictatorship of the proletariat” already described. Although Lenin and Trotzky remained unknown to the world at large until 1917, they had been the leaders of the Russian Bolsheviki for many years previously.

66. Ransome, Russia in 1919, pg. 83-87 (New York, 1919).

67. Zilboorg, The Passing of the Old Order in Europe, pg. 184-186 (New York, 1920).

68. T G. Masaryk, Revolutionary Theory in Europe. Translated in The Living Age, 9 July, 1921.

69. Bertrand Russell, “Bolshevik Theory,” The New Republic, 3 November, 1920.

70. English Translation published in London, 1922.

71. It is interesting to note that Mr. Russell’s remarks on this particular point roused more anger in Bolshevik circles than did any of his other criticisms. The reason is obvious: they hit too much at the heart of things.

72. Russell, op. cit.

* * *

Source: Dissident Millennial

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