(Frontpage) -- To mark the centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution The New York Times has been running a series called “Red Century.” In the spirit of its Pulitzer-Prize winning Moscow correspondent and uber fellow-traveler in the thirties, Walter Duranty, the articles in the main are an exercise in rehabilitation rather than historical evaluation. Given communism’s historically unprecedented and copiously documented record of slaughter, torture, mass imprisonment, brutal occupation, and utter failure to achieve its workers’ paradise of justice and equality, the question why the Times would attempt to mitigate the evil of a totalitarian ideology that led to 100 million dead cries out for an answer.
The first place to look for an explanation is the rise of scientism in the increasingly secularized 19th century. The success of legitimate science in understanding the material world, and turning that knowledge into practical use by creating life-improving technologies, fostered the illusion that human nature and behavior could be similarly understood and improved by the same methods. As Isaiah Berlin described this Enlightenment optimism,
The success of physics seemed to give reason for optimism: once appropriate social laws were discovered, rational organization would take the place of blind improvisation . . . The rational reorganization of society would put an end to spiritual and intellectual confusion, the reign of prejudice and superstition, blind obedience to unexamined dogmas, and the stupidities and cruelties of the oppressive regimes which such intellectual darkness bred and promoted.
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