The Lesser Evil: Moral Approaches to Genocide Practices

The Lesser Evil: Moral Approaches to Genocide Practices

The Lesser Evil: Moral Approaches to Genocide Practices

The Lesser Evil: Moral Approaches to Genocide Practices


If communist and Nazi ideologies share common totalitarian ground, judging which is the lesser of the two evils is an invidious task. The editors have deliberately chosen scholars who disagree with one another to address this most fundamental and polemical of 20th century issues.


As the generic introduction to this series explains, these books 'will scrutinise all attempts to totally refashion mankind and society, whether these hailed from the Left or the Right, which, unusually, will receive equal consideration'. Unusually, because, although the history of the twentieth century should not be reduced to a competition between the merely gruesome, it is transparently the case that the crimes of Communism, admirable chronicled in the recent Black Book of Communism and most recently by the journalist Anne Applebaum in her stunning book gulag, have been neglected in favour of what almost amounts to a pathological and unsavoury addiction to the atrocities of Nazism.

This addiction, represented in my own limited acquaintance by the computer programmer who devours every new book on Hitler, the local butcher who watches every Second World War tv documentary, and Oxford political-science colleagues who spend each interview with prospective students discussing Hitler (as opposed to Hobbes, Locke or Burke), the only subject adolescents can talk about with any fluency, is fuelled by the media and Hollywood as well as by scholarship of quasi-industrial proportions.

The imbalance is obvious to both plain and sophisticated people, many of whom, at least in Europe, are growing weary of having the crimes of Nazism perpetually put before their eyes, especially since this is being done in a crudely instrumental and minatory fashion by people who wish to reduce Europe to little more than a graveyard patrolled by allegedly ever larger numbers of antisemites. the usa, by contrast, remains miraculously immune to this contagion. Paradoxically, as Maurice Cowling has remarked, such heavy insinuations may be contributing to the disturbing recrudescence of the very sentiments they ostensibly aim to check.

The reasons for this systematic imbalance include a residual subscription to 'anti-fascist' mythology on the part of some of the liberal-Left as well as former Stalinists; an inability to identify with the sort of people imprisoned

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