Arthur Norman spoke on “Lenin and the Russian rev­o­lution” as part of the Soviet Com­munism CCA.| Courtesy 

Best selling his­torian Arthur Norman visited Hillsdale College this week. He spoke on “Lenin and the Russian rev­o­lution,” as part of the Soviet Com­munism Core Con­structive Alter­native. HIs ninth book, “1917: Lenin, Wilson, and the Birth of the New World Dis­order” is due out November 28.


Norman is also the author of the New York Times best­seller “Freedom’s Forge,”  as well as Pulitzer Prize nominee “Ghandi & Churchill,” among other titles.


In an exclusive interview, Norman dis­cussed his his­torical research and what he believes it tells us about our modern political issues.


Q: Why did you choose to be a his­torian?

A: I’ve always been inter­ested in history. I’ve always saw it as a vehicle to not just under­stand the past but also under­stand the present. To under­stand where we are today you have to under­stand how we got here. That’s the historian’s job as far as I’m con­cerned. It’s not to justify, not to condemn, it’s to explain.


Q: Tell me about your newest book.

A: Well it’s a book about a year, 1917. The hun­dredth anniversary is this year. It’s the year in which the book argues we see the birth of world history. It sees it as two events . One is the American entry into World War I. The other one is the Russian rev­o­lution being trans­formed into a bol­shevik rev­o­lution. There are two men behind both of those deci­sions, Woodrow Wilson on one hand and Vladimir Lenin on the other.


It’s a twin biog­raphy about their lives, it’s also about how they were not only dif­ferent but very much alike in that they saw them­selves as actors on the world stage, who could by making two great deci­sions, transform the world for the better. In other words, they saw an oppor­tunity to set humanity on a new path to a new direction, to make humanity better than it was.  


Q: What do you mean in your sub­title by “The Birth of a New World Dis­order”?

A: I mean the con­flict between these two great forces, the United States and Russia which lasts for the next one hundred years. It has been the source of this massive ongoing dis­order. We’re still living through it, that’s why it’s called the birth of a new world dis­order. It’s still evolving, but I think the forces that set it in motion are coming to an end.


Q: How so?

A: I think the moti­vation that drove both men, their utopian belief of the per­fectibility of mankind, the idea that humanity can be made better, that we can arrive through pol­itics to a heaven on earth, is no longer as prevalent in the modern day leaders of the two respective coun­tries.


Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump — both of them are men who do not see the world in terms of a great ide­o­logical struggle: democracy against tyranny or com­munism against impe­ri­alism. They think about their country and how they can make them better.


Q: Are you con­cerned about the rise of mul­ti­cul­tur­alism on the left?


A: I think it springs out of the same idea, the notion of per­fectibility of human beings. If you look beyond the ordinary cul­tural rel­a­tivism, for instance when people say ‘the West has no business judging the rest’ or ‘all cul­tures are equal’, if you look beyond it there is this belief that somehow  the world is moving in a place which all of our dif­fer­ences are going to dis­appear and become one.


I think what you’re seeing today in the world is the opposite. It is more and more the real­ization in the West that what makes us dif­ferent is actually hugely important.


What makes us dif­ferent and dif­ferent from each other is also important for the idea of pre­serving freedom.  That freedom, what Hillsdale calls liberty, doesn’t take place in a vacuum, it takes place in a com­munity of values…


What you’re seeing is an enormous redis­covery of the impor­tance of political com­munity as the basis on which humans are able to enjoy freedom.  That doesn’t mean you have to exclude people of other religion or race — far from it. Com­mu­nities can be very diverse in its sec­ondary attributes but in the primary attributes: Are you a frenchman? Are you an American? Are you a Spaniard? Are you a Catalon? These are proving more and more important ques­tions.