In today’s Exponential Investor:
- An optimistic message (for once)
- A reminder from history by Konstantin Kisin
- The speed and severity of change is something which humans consistently under-price
Editor’s note: Today we continue our Fortune & Freedom takeover from its editor, Nick Hubble, where he shares his favourite articles from the year.
To read Nick’s work more often, you can sign up to Fortune & Freedom here.
2022 was a rough year for the political cult leading our country. We saw incredible shifts in our society, belief systems, the “facts”, and what’s considered conventional wisdom. And not just in the UK, of course.
We’ve gone from phasing out coal in favour of wind, to felling windmills to get at the coal underneath. Government bonds went from “risk free” to the most dangerous asset to hold. The Covid totalitarians of 2021 asked their victims for amnesty. Inflation humiliated central bankers, who still don’t even know where it came from. Nuclear warmongering is now considered politically correct. And plenty more impossible things before breakfast actually happened.
Now, there’s plenty to dislike about 2023 already. But I’ve got an optimistic message for you today (for once). It’s a reminder of just how radically things can change this year, too.
In November, I interviewed comedian, social commentator and Triggernometry podcast founder and host Konstantin Kisin about his book An Immigrant’s Love Letter to the West. And this section of his book gave me a jarring reminder about the nature of change… and some hope for 2023… sort of.
In 1953, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin died unexpectedly. The nation was stunned. And, by February 1956, his legacy was decimated by his successor Nikita Khrushchev who was desperate to distance himself and the party from Stalin’s crimes.
In a now-famous speech entitled ‘The Personality Cult and its Consequences’, which was given at Moscow’s Great Hall of the Kremlin, Khrushchev denounced Stalin and the gruesome crimes he had committed in the party’s name, including the execution, torture and imprisonment of loyal party members on trumped-up charges.
He also blamed Stalin for mass hunger, foreign policy blunders, huge loss of life and needless German occupation during the Second World War.
Khrushchev’s audience of 1,500 delegates were gobsmacked and sat in total silence. The only audible sound was the occasional gasp or murmur of astonishment as their party secretary hurled numerous charges of wrongdoing against their former leader. Their late figurehead, who had been idolised.
This speech went on for four uninterrupted hours. When it ended there was no applause or standing ovation. There wasn’t even heckling. The audience simply got up and walked away in a deep state of shock. Everything the people had been told over the preceding years was a lie – and the jig was now up.
News of the speech spread rapidly. The foreign media, which was free to report on the incident, ran countless stories about its effect on the Russian psyche. As far as they were concerned, the elephant in the room had been called out – and the Marxist vision that ruled Russia was in pieces.
A few weeks later, in an unprecedented move, the party bosses called for measures ‘for removing wholly and entirely the personality cult … in every aspect of party, governmental and ideological activity’. Many Stalinists went into a state of denial, refusing to be mugged by reality. But they couldn’t stem the flow of change: thousands of political prisoners were liberated and, internationally, many left-wing intellectuals were forced to confront the truth of Marxism.
Swathes of Communist Party members left in disgust, vowing never to return, and several foreign communist leaders severed ties with the Soviet Union.
Such a dramatic turn of events was deeply upsetting for many people, especially those who had operated on the frontline of Stalin’s lie, including government officials and gulag guards. Many of the latter were so consumed by a sense of betrayal that they blew their own brains out with their service weapons – my grandmother knew of three men in her small town who did this. The shame of how they’d acted under socialism’s spell literally caused their own suicide.
Why? Because, in a moment of realisation, they knew that they’d been manipulated into becoming useful idiots. They’d become the monsters they thought they were fighting against, which is always how it goes. They’d been groomed into dehumanising others and abusing them in support of their own ideology. They knew that they’d been naïve and gullible – but they’d also become killers and captors.
And for what? There was no promised land. No “thank yous”. No recognised duty. The political ideology they’d sacrificed so much for had given them nothing in return. It had used them, then ghosted them. And when the regime collapsed, they were forced to live with the spectre of what they’d done.
Not only to other human beings, but also the way they’d contributed to society’s degradation. It almost literally killed them.
If you enjoyed that reminder from history as much as I did, don’t forget to get a copy of Konstantin Kisin’s book An Immigrant’s Love Letter to the West here, or in your book store. It’s full of other remarkable insights about our state of play in the West.
But for today, let’s focus on this one: the speed and severity of change is something which humans consistently under-price. “Under-price” being finance lingo for “fail to appreciate the probability and impact of”.
A great deal of investor returns can come from realising that the seemingly impossible can occur faster than you can consider it to be even plausible.
Each year, we learn this fact. And each year, we forget it again.
But don’t worry, it’s my job to remind you, all year long…
Editor, Fortune & Freedom