the last judgement

The Stalinist perspective is that of a victor whose final triumph is guaranteed in advance by the ‘ objective necessity of history’; which is why, in spite of the accent on ruptures, leaps, revolutions, his view on past history is evolutionary throughout. History is conceived as the continuous process of replacing old masters with new: each victor played a ‘progressive role’ in his time, then lost his purpose because of unavoidable development: yesterday, it was the capitalist who acted in accordance with the necessity of progress; today, it’s our turn . . . In Stalinist accountancy, ‘objective guilt’ (or contribution) is measured by reference to the laws of historical development – of continuous evolution towards the Supreme Good (Communism). With Benjamin, in contrast, the ‘perspective of the Last Judgement’ is the perspective of those who have paid the price for a series of great historical triumphs; the perspective of those who had to fail, to miss their aim, so that the series of great historical deeds could be accomplished; the perspective of hopes deceived, of all that have left in the text of history nothing but scattered, anonymous, meaningless traces on the margin of deeds whose ‘historical greatness’ was attested to by the ‘objective’ gaze of official historiography.


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