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Quotes

History knows her way

“The Party can never be mistaken,” said Rubashov. “You and I can make a mistake. Not the Party. The Party, comrade, is more than you and I and a thousand others like you and I. The Party is an embodiment of the revolutionary idea in history. History knows no scruples and no hesitation. Inert and unerring, she flows towards her goal. At every bend in her course she leaves the mud which she carries and the corpses of the drowned. History knows her way. She makes no mistakes. He who has not absolute faith in History does not belong in the Party’s ranks.”

Defective saints

His past was the movement, the Party; present and future, too, belonged to the Party, were inseparably bound up with its fate; but his past was identical with it. And it was this past that was suddenly put in question. The Party’s warm, breathing body appeared to him to be covered with sores—festering sores, bleeding stigmata. When and where in history had there ever been such defective saints? Whenever had a good cause been worse represented? If the Party embodied the will of history, then history itself was defective.

The great silent x of history

“Forgive my pompousness,” he went on, “but do you really believe the people are still behind you? It bears you, dumb and resigned, as it bears others in other countries, but there is no response in its depths. The masses have become deaf and dumb again, the great silent x of history, indifferent as the sea carrying the ships. Every passing light is reflected on its surface, but underneath is darkness and silence. A long time ago we stirred up the depths, but that is over. In other words”—he paused and put on his pince-nez—“in those days we made history; now you make politics. That’s the whole difference.”

The only rule of political ethics

“The principle that the end justifies the means is and remains the only rule of political ethics; anything else is just vague chatter and melts away between one’s fingers. . . .”

Two conceptions of human ethics

“There are only two conceptions of human ethics, and they are at opposite poles. One of them is Christian and humane, declares the individual to be sacrosanct, and asserts that the rules of arithmetic are not to be applied to human units. The other starts from the basic principle that a collective aim justifies all means, and not only allows, but demands, that the individual should in every way be subordinated and sacrificed to the community—which may dispose of it as an experimentation rabbit or a sacrificial lamb. The first conception could be called anti-vivisection morality, the second, vivisection morality. Humbugs and dilettantes have always tried to mix the two conceptions; in practice, it is impossible. Whoever is burdened with power and responsibility finds out on the first occasion that he has to choose; and he is fatally driven to the second alternative. Do you know, since the establishment of Christianity as a state religion, a single...

(The entire section is 2,024 words.)