The interesting blog Fenimore Cooper's Daily Excesses points toward an interview with Slavoj Zizek in The Believer that touches on a question of continuing conversation on this site: Why is Nazi Germany (rightly) seen as Evil with a capital E while the Soviet Union, which in the long run killed more people, is sometimes seen as quaint and kitschy, or even worthy of emulation in sort of new and improved way (if only that Stalin hadn't taken over!)?
To put it in simplistic terms, Fascism is relatively easy to explain. … In Stalinism the tragedy is that its origin is some kind of radical emancipatory project. … for me, the key phenomenon to be accounted for in the twentieth century is Stalinism. Because again, Fascism is simple, conservative reaction gone wrong. The true enigma is why Stalinism or communism went wrong.
Zizek, who has been working to revive Lenin as a model for intellectuals, is wrong here and his error helps answer the question above. Stalinism wasn't in any way emancipatory (the fact that he focuses on Stalin rather than Lenin, who got the CCCP ball rolling, is itself a telling elision); and to the extent that it claimed to be, so was Nazism. Both offered utopian visions of society that ultimately (and explicitly) were predicated upon the eradication of whole classes of human beings. If that's emancipation, then I don't want to be free.
Buying into the fiction that if only Lenin–a murderous thug in his own right–or Trotsky (ditto) had stayed in control the Soviet Union would have been A-OK is deluded idealism of a particularly left-wing sort (as is the idea that National Socialism was simply or clearly a product of the "right"). Stalinism and communism went wrong for a host of reasons (including an ignorance of basic economic laws) but the main error that led to the gulags was an unwillingess to buy the basic liberal tenet that human beings are ends in themselves, not means to someone else's ends.