Totalitarian Millennialism

Richard Landes

in Heaven on Earth

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199753598
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199897445 | DOI:
Totalitarian Millennialism

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This chapter traces how the dynamics of apocalyptic disappointment, led millennial ideologues (Bakùnin, Lenin, and Trotsky) to turn the politique du pire into coercive purity, setting the stage for a shift from the revolution occurring in the industrial West to the agrarian East. Totalitarianism, in this context, arises from the unintended consequence of an apocalyptic movement that took power, and, with the failure of its expectations of a spontaneous millennium, carved out the “perfect” society from the body politic. The chapter concludes with a discussion of Hannah Arendt's analysis of totalitarianism, the phenomenon of “fellow travelers” as a (post-)apocalyptic phenomenon, and the contribution of apocalyptic paranoia to the spread of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, setting the stage for Hitler's emergence after WWI.

Keywords: Bakùnin; Lenin; Trotsky; Stalin; Bolshevism; Communism; Terror; Totalitarianism; Protocols of the Elders of Zion; Jews; fellow travelers; modernity; Arendt; Hitler

Chapter.  17879 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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