Alexander Kerensky could have had Lenin shot.
In the history books, there is a certain inevitability about Lenin but when the situation on the ground is examined closely, it is clear that right up until Lenin’s coup he could easily had been disposed of. The Bolsheviks were, indeed, gaining support in Russia after Lenin’s return from exile but that support was concentrated in St Petersburg and Moscow and even in those two power centers their power didn’t amount to majority power. Lenin was not some all-powerful person.
And Kerensky, last head of Russia’s Provisional Government knew what Lenin was up to and, indeed, was urged by people from Right to Left to move against Lenin. But Kerensky was not a ruthless man. His politics, in spite of his later association with the Conservative Hoover Institute, were Left. And he was a true believer! While not himself a Marxist he, like most Left people, had bought the Marxist notion that the ills of society are due to the leadership of the society – that the bad isn’t just part of human nature but is created and fostered by wicked people in power. Kerensky was absolutely convinced that once Tsarism was swept away the natural goodness of the people would shine forth and a just social order would emerge.
And, so, he was simply not a man who believed that he could or should shoot someone. All glory to him for standing by his convictions – but his failure to shoot one, single man, Lenin, ensured the overthrow of Kerensky’s government and the start of a system in Russia which eventually murdered tens of millions. The October Revolution wasn’t a revolution – it was a coup where Lenin and a small number of his followers shoved Kerensky and his people out of their offices in St Petersburg and started to govern. It succeeded because Kerensky’s lack of ruthlessness against the Bolsheviks convinced everyone from Left to Right and he wasn’t the man to stand against the Bolsheviks when they made their move. A bullet in September, a hero’s funeral for Lenin, and the Bolsheviks then fade into history as they squabble endlessly over what to do.
It really is a pity that it came out that way.
And I bring this up because it shows that while tolerance is a good thing – a necessary thing in any free society – as in all things human there are limits. Specifically, one must not tolerate the intolerant.
Lenin was saying from the get-go that his goal was total power for himself and his Bolsheviks and that once they got power they were going to smash everyone else. Hitler said the same sort of things. Mao as well. It has been dogma on the Right that we must extend tolerance to people expressing any idea because if we want to be free we must tolerate everything. This, as it turns out, has been incorrect – and it is wrong on both moral and practical grounds.
On the practical side of it, tolerance of the intolerant merely allowed people like Lenin and Hitler to plot and plan their takeover. It is like allowing an enemy army to arm and train itself in plain sight while you make no effort to hinder it. Just amazingly stupid and I’m rather surprised that we all bought it to one degree or another. But on the moral side of it, it is also wrong to tolerate the intolerant. Look at the mountains of corpses which resulted from people not killing Lenin, Hitler and Mao. Sure, we saved three bullets, but we lost more than a hundred million lives. That book doesn’t balance out.
To be part of a pluralist society the first requirement must be that you pledge to never end pluralism. That there is no individual, race or class which you say is a problem that needs to be destroyed. The assertion must be that everyone who is willing to tolerate is tolerated – but anyone who says that a person, class or race is evil, that person has to go. The Communist saying the Capitalists are evil must be destroyed. The Nazis saying the Jews. The Klansman saying the blacks…the CRT professor saying that white people are inherently racist.
“But Mark (you may say), aren’t you, by saying we must destroy the intolerant, becoming a person who says that an individual, class or race must be destroyed?”
No, I am not. I am not Hitler brooding in his Vienna flophouse about how the Jews kept him out of art school. I am not Lenin raving in Switzerland that he, and he alone, knows what to do and so everyone else must obey or be destroyed. I don’t care what anyone believes – but when a mad dog makes a dash for my trousers, I shoot it.
If we allow these people to live in our society then we are continually at risk of their gaining power and starting to kill their targets. To me, it is not worth the risk. I do believe that the bullet for Lenin is justified. And all anyone has to do to avoid the bullet is say, “hey, I don’t like that group, but as long as they leave me alone, I’ll leave them alone”. We’re not talking a very high bar here for participation in our society – you just can’t be a bloodthirsty maniac raving that if just this one group is destroyed, everything will be great.
It is very important that we learn philosophy and thus develop our theories about why things should be and what we should do. This sort of thing is invaluable in making certain that our actions are based upon thought as far as possible. But we must remember that outside the hard sciences, what we theorize isn’t always a hard and fast rule. In general I as a male will never hit a woman – this is because even though I’m not a particularly large man, I am still a lot stronger physically than almost all women and so it would be simply unfair and cruel for me to hit someone who can’t effectively hit back. On the other hand, if a girl is coming at me with a baseball bat, I’m clocking her.
Our philosophy of freedom places a premium on not censoring thought and speech. We have learned over time that in order to possibly get a good result, people must be able to think and say what they wish because in the free exchange of ideas and facts, we are more likely to find the correct solution – or at least the less bad solution – than when we carefully control thought and speech with a mind towards obtaining a pre-determined choice. That is our theory and, most of the time, it is applicable. But our theory must not interfere with our practical choices. Our theory that the police should try to de-escalate a situation falls flat on its face when there’s a knife-wielding maniac loose.
So, too, with our politics. Broadly tolerant – right up to the time when we find someone who is saying that some person, class or race must be restricted or destroyed in order for good things to happen. That person should be shot at the earliest opportunity…and without even a twinge of guilt that we in some way violated our principal of tolerance. We didn’t – we enforced it in the most efficient manner possible.
As we all know, we’re rather backs to the wall at the moment in politics – mostly because we tolerated the intolerant and, as per usual, now that these intolerant people have gained power, they are seeking to destroy their enemies. But as we seek to gain the power we need to reform our nation back to a sane Republic, we must not lose sight of the necessity of intolerance of the intolerant. We must, that is, do the things necessary to ensure that those who hate individuals, classes and races, are removed permanently from any ability to influence our society.