This is the third part of a three-part essay.
In Assignment in Utopia (1937), Eugene Lyons offers what were at the time perhaps the best eye-witness accounts of Stalinism as a state religion. He was UPI's journalist in Moscow during the early years of Stalin's rule (1928-34), which coincided with Stalin's first Five Year Plan, and, despite all we have learned since then, his first-hand observations remain both vivid and strange to this day. Among several websites that I chose at random, for example, all give 1928 -1932 as the official dates of the plan, but none comments on the transformation of five years into four. Lyons literally saw how it happened. In his chapter "Two Plus Two Equals Five," he describes the frenzied proclamations of the arithmetic that would later appear as an instrument of psychological torture in George Orwell's 1984:
Optimism ran amuck. Every new statistical success gave another justification for the coercive policies by which it was achieved. Every setback was another stimulus to the same policies. The slogan "The Five Year Plan in Four Years" was advanced, and the magic symbols "5-in-4" and "2+2=5" were posted and shouted throughout the land... . Under their pseudo-scientific exterior of charts and blueprints the planners were mystics in a trance of ardor.