"I should like to put it on record that I have never been able to dislike Hitler."
I was remined of the quote above listening to the Ricochet podcast. At one point Peter mentioned that Truman liked Stalin. Orwell wrote the above in 1940 in a review of Mein Kampf. He also pointed out that "he would certainly kill [Hitler] if [he] could get within reach of him" but would "feel no personal animosity." The last paragraph of the review (quoted in full below) contains a remarkable claim about the appeal of totalitarian ideologies. It is one of my favorite passages in all of Orwell's writing. In my course called Dissident Political Thought we discussed Orwell's argument and its potential import for today. I would be eager to hear the thoughts of the Ricochet community.
Also he [Hitler] has grasped the falsity of the hedonistic attitude to life. Nearly all western thought since the last war, certainly all "progressive" thought, has assumed tacitly that human beings desire nothing beyond ease, security and avoidance of pain. In such a view of life there is no room, for instance, for patriotism and the military virtues. The Socialist who finds his children playing with soldiers is usually upset, but he is never able to think of a substitute for the tin soldiers; tin pacifists somehow won't do. Hitler, because in his own joyless mind he feels it with exceptional strength, knows that human beings don't only want comfort, safety, short working-hours, hygiene, birth-control and, in general, common sense; they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flags and loyalty-parades. However they may be as economic theories, Fascism and Nazism are psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life. The same is probably true of Stalin's militarised version of Socialism. All three of the great dictators have enhanced their power by imposing intolerable burdens on their peoples. Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people "I offer you a good time," Hitler has said to them "I offer you struggle, danger and death," and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet. Perhaps later on they will get sick of it and change their minds, as at the end of the last war. After a few years of slaughter and starvation "Greatest happiness of the greatest number" is a good slogan, but at this moment "Better an end with horror than a horror without end" is a winner. Now that we are fighting against the man who coined it, we ought not to underrate its emotional appeal.