Vital Signs

Big Brother Sits for a Portrait

"It is highly desirable that people heading the party movement, be, at last, depicted in powerful Rembrandt colors in all their robust vitality."
—K. Marx

What Khrushchev in his secret speech at the Congress of the Soviet Communist Party called "Stalin's cult of personality" is, in fact, the most common and the most stable component of totalitarianism—the cult of the leader.

It is easy to see why Fascists and National Socialists should embrace the concept of the decisive role of the individual in history, but such a notion seems to contradict the very essence of Marxism, according to which history is shaped by masses divided into classes. Despite this apparent contradiction, however, the deification of leaders lies at the heart of all totalitarian systems. No matter what he is called—Führer, Chairman, Duce, or General Secretary of the Politburo— the leader occupies the place of sacred importance, from which, along a descending line, all other spiritual values are applied. "What values can we throw onto the scales of history? First, the value of our people . . . and second—and I would dare to say, an even greater value—the unique personality of our Führer, Adolf Hitler," declared Heinrich Himmler, reinforcing his words with all the might of the Gestapo. Goebbels' slogan, "Adolf Hitler is Germany, and...

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