ESSAY : The Challenge of Marxism


“How is it we allowed the left to control our media,
tech companies, education systems,
entertainment and every aspect of
thought control available?”
Damo Pelham

“The best way to escape this trap is to recognize the movement presently seeking to overthrow liberalism for what it is: an updated version of Marxism. I do not say this to disparage anyone. I say this because it is true. And because recognizing this truth will help us understand what we are facing.” Yoram Hazony

***

SINCE reading this incredible essay, have been incessantly thinking about, and searching for an intro that would give justice. 

Finally found it from, of all places, Twitter. But, not from any verified, or a ‘democratically’ elected representative. Rather, from a genuine bastion of free-speech and equality, whom I heartily follow on Twitter. “Damo Pelham” is his avatar name, common sense, logic and reason, his game. As simple as that. Such simplicity, a sorely missed attribute in today’s hyper-polarised and, deliberately-confusing to you, political discourse. 

Damo tweets: 

“How is it we allowed the left to control our media, tech companies, education systems, entertainment and every aspect of thought control available?”

https://twitter.com/DamoPelham/status/1295942737326268417?s=20

A very good question. One that perhaps requires some serious thought and detail, in order to unpack.

*

A long read. Break it up, if time is pressing. But, do see it through. It is a highly enlightening read, in a time when ‘Enlightenment’ (reason) is being literally and figuratively torched within months, not years or decades. 

Furloughing political intrigue, the following is a masterful piece of writing that will, like it did with me, take you on a really nice journey of how writing to think, and thinking to affect, is done. Perhaps …

Enjoy.

JWS

*

via Quillette :

The Challenge of Marxism

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The Challenge of Marxism – Quillette

I. The collapse of institutional liberalism

For a generation after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, most Americans and Europeans regarded Marxism as an enemy that had been defeated once and for all. But they were wrong. A mere 30 years later, Marxism is back, and making an astonishingly successful bid to seize control of the most important American media companies, universities and schools, major corporations and philanthropic organizations, and even the courts, the government bureaucracy, and some churches. As American cities succumb to rioting, arson, and looting, it appears as though the liberal custodians of many of these institutions—from the New York Times to Princeton University—have despaired of regaining control of them, and are instead adopting a policy of accommodation. That is, they are attempting to appease their Marxist employees by giving in to some of their demands in the hope of not being swept away entirely.

We don’t know what will happen for certain. But based on the experience of recent years, we can venture a pretty good guess. Institutional liberalism lacks the resources to contend with this threat. Liberalism is being expelled from its former strongholds, and the hegemony of liberal ideas, as we have known it since the 1960s, will end. Anti-Marxist liberals are about to find themselves in much the same situation that has characterized conservatives, nationalists, and Christians for some time now: They are about to find themselves in the opposition.

This means that some brave liberals will soon be waging war on the very institutions they so recently controlled. They will try to build up alternative educational and media platforms in the shadow of the prestigious, wealthy, powerful institutions they have lost. Meanwhile, others will continue to work in the mainstream media, universities, tech companies, philanthropies, and government bureaucracy, learning to keep their liberalism to themselves and to let their colleagues believe that they too are Marxists—just as many conservatives learned long ago how to keep their conservatism to themselves and let their colleagues believe they are liberals.

This is the new reality that is emerging. There is blood in the water and the new Marxists will not rest content with their recent victories. In America, they will press their advantage and try to seize the Democratic Party. They will seek to reduce the Republican Party to a weak imitation of their own new ideology, or to ban it outright as a racist organization. And in other democratic countries, they will attempt to imitate their successes in America. No free nation will be spared this trial. So let us not avert our eyes and tell ourselves that this curse isn’t coming for us. Because it is coming for us.

In this essay, I would like to offer some initial remarks about the new Marxist victories in America—about what has happened and what’s likely to happen next.

II. The Marxist framework

Anti-Marxist liberals have labored under numerous disadvantages in the recent struggles to maintain control of liberal organizations. One is that they are often not confident they can use the term “Marxist” in good faith to describe those seeking to overthrow them. This is because their tormentors do not follow the precedent of the Communist Party, the Nazis, and various other political movements that branded themselves using a particular party name and issued an explicit manifesto to define it. Instead, they disorient their opponents by referring to their beliefs with a shifting vocabulary of terms, including “the Left,” “Progressivism,” “Social Justice,” “Anti-Racism,” “Anti-Fascism,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Critical Race Theory,” “Identity Politics,” “Political Correctness,” “Wokeness,” and more. When liberals try to use these terms they often find themselves deplored for not using them correctly, and this itself becomes a weapon in the hands of those who wish to humiliate and ultimately destroy them.

The best way to escape this trap is to recognize the movement presently seeking to overthrow liberalism for what it is: an updated version of Marxism. I do not say this to disparage anyone. I say this because it is true. And because recognizing this truth will help us understand what we are facing.

The new Marxists do not use the technical jargon that was devised by 19th-century Communists. They don’t talk about the bourgeoisie, proletariat, class struggle, alienation of labor, commodity fetishism, and the rest, and in fact they have developed their own jargon tailored to present circumstances in America, Britain, and elsewhere. Nevertheless, their politics are based on Marx’s framework for critiquing liberalism (what Marx calls the “ideology of the bourgeoisie”) and overthrowing it. We can describe Marx’s political framework as follows:

1. Oppressor and oppressed
Marx argues that, as an empirical matter, people invariably form themselves into cohesive groups (he calls them classes), which exploit one another to the extent they are able. A liberal political order is no different in this from any other, and it tends toward two classes, one of which owns and controls pretty much everything (the oppressor); while the other is exploited, and the fruit of its labor appropriated, so that it does not advance and, in fact, remains forever enslaved (the oppressed). In addition, Marx sees the state itself, its laws and its mechanisms of enforcement, as a tool that the oppressor class uses to keep the regime of oppression in place and to assist in carrying out this work.

2. False consciousness
Marx recognizes that the liberal businessmen, politicians, lawyers, and intellectuals who keep this system in place are unaware that they are the oppressors, and that what they think of as progress has only established new conditions of oppression. Indeed, even the working class may not know that they are exploited and oppressed. This is because they all think in terms of liberal categories (e.g., the individual’s right to freely sell his labor) which obscure the systematic oppression that is taking place. This ignorance of the fact that one is an oppressor or oppressed is called the ruling ideology (Engels later coined the phrase false consciousness to describe it), and it is only overcome when one is awakened to what is happening and learns to recognize reality using true categories.

3. Revolutionary reconstitution of society
Marx suggests that, historically, oppressed classes have materially improved their conditions only through a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large—that is, through the destruction of the oppressor class, and of the social norms and ideas that hold the regime of systematic oppression in place. He even specifies that liberals will supply the oppressed with the tools needed to overthrow them. There is a period of “more or less veiled civil war, raging within existing society, up to the point where that war breaks out into open revolution” and the “violent overthrow” of the liberal oppressors. At this point, the oppressed seize control of the state.

4. Total disappearance of class antagonisms
Marx promises that after the oppressed underclass takes control of the state, the exploitation of individuals by other individuals will be “put to an end” and the antagonism between classes of individuals will totally disappear. How this is to be done is not specified.

Marxist political theories have undergone much development and elaboration over nearly two centuries. The story of how “neo-Marxism” emerged after the First World War in the writings of the Frankfurt School and Antonio Gramsci has been frequently told, and academics will have their hands full for many years to come arguing over how much influence was exerted on various successor movements by Michel Foucault, post-modernism, and more. But for present purposes, this level of detail is not necessary, and I will use the term “Marxist” in a broad sense to refer to any political or intellectual movement that is built upon Marx’s general framework as I’ve just described it. This includes the “Progressive” or “Anti-Racism” movement now advancing toward the conquest of liberalism in America and Britain. This movement uses racialist categories such as whites and people of color to describe the oppressors and the oppressed in our day. But it relies entirely on Marx’s general framework for its critique of liberalism and for its plan of action against the liberal political order. It is simply an updated Marxism.

III. The attraction and power of Marxism

Although many liberals and conservatives say that Marxism is “nothing but a great lie,” this isn’t quite right. Liberal societies have repeatedly proved themselves vulnerable to Marxism, and now we are seeing with our own eyes how the greatest liberal institutions in the world are being handed over to Marxists and their allies. If Marxism is nothing but a great lie, why are liberal societies so vulnerable to it? We must understand the enduring attraction and strength of Marxism. And we will never understand it unless we recognize that Marxism captures certain aspects of the truth that are missing from Enlightenment liberalism.

Which aspects of the truth?

Marx’s principal insight is the recognition that the categories liberals use to construct their theory of political reality (liberty, equality, rights, and consent) are insufficient for understanding the political domain. They are insufficient because the liberal picture of the political world leaves out two phenomena that are, according to Marx, absolutely central to human political experience: The fact that people invariably form cohesive classes or groups; and the fact that these classes or groups invariably oppress or exploit one another, with the state itself functioning as an instrument of the oppressor class.

My liberal friends tend to believe that oppression and exploitation exist only in traditional or authoritarian societies, whereas liberal society is free (or almost free) from all that. But this isn’t true. Marx is right to see that every society consists of cohesive classes or groups, and that political life everywhere is primarily about the power relations among different groups. He is also right that at any given time, one group (or a coalition of groups) dominates the state, and that the laws and policies of the state tend to reflect the interests and ideals of this dominant group. Moreover, Marx is right when he says that the dominant group tends to see its own preferred laws and policies as reflecting “reason” or “nature,” and works to disseminate its way of looking at things throughout society, so that various kinds of injustice and oppression tend to be obscured from view.

For example, despite decades of experimentation with vouchers and charter schools, the dominant form of American liberalism remains strongly committed to the public school system. In most places, this is a monopolistic system that requires children of all backgrounds to receive what is, in effect, an atheistic education stripped clean of references to God or the Bible. Although liberals sincerely believe that this policy is justified by the theory of “separation of church and state,” or by the argument that society needs schools that are “for everyone,” the fact is that these theories justify what really is a system aimed at inculcating their own Enlightenment liberalism. Seen from a conservative perspective, this amounts to a quiet persecution of religious families. Similarly, the pornography industry is nothing but a horrific instrument for exploiting poor women, although it is justified by liberal elites on grounds of “free speech” and other freedoms reserved to “consenting adults.” And in the same way, indiscriminate offshoring of manufacturing capacity is considered to be an expression of property rights by liberal elites, who benefit from cheap Chinese labor at the expense of their own working-class neighbors.

No, Marxist political theory is not simply a great lie. By analyzing society in terms of power relations among classes or groups, we can bring to light important political phenomena to which Enlightenment liberal theories—theories that tend to reduce politics to the individual and his or her private liberties—are systematically blind.

This is the principal reason that Marxist ideas are so attractive. In every society, there will always be plenty of people who have reason to feel they’ve been oppressed or exploited. Some of these claims will be worthy of remedy and some less so. But virtually all of them are susceptible to a Marxist interpretation, which shows how they result from systematic oppression by the dominant classes, and justifies responding with outrage and violence. And those who are troubled by such apparent oppression will frequently find themselves at home among the Marxists.

Of course, liberals have not remained unmoved in the face of criticism based on the reality of group power relations. Measures such as the US Civil Rights Act of 1964 explicitly outlawed discriminatory practices against a variety of classes or groups; and subsequent “Affirmative Action” programs sought to strengthen underprivileged classes through quotas, hiring goals, and other methods. But these efforts have not come close to creating a society free from power relations among classes or groups. If anything, the sense that “the system is rigged” in favor of certain classes or groups at the expense of others has only grown more pronounced.

Despite having had more than 150 years to work on it, liberalism still hasn’t found a way to persuasively address the challenge posed by Marx’s thought.

IV. The flaws that make Marxism fatal

We’ve looked at what Marxist political theory gets right and why it’s such a powerful doctrine. But there are also plenty of problems with the Marxist framework, a number of them fatal.

The first of these is that while Marxism proposes an empirical investigation of the power relations among classes or groups, it simply assumes that wherever one discovers a relationship between a more powerful group and a weaker one, that relation will be one of oppressor and oppressed. This makes it seem as if every hierarchical relationship is just another version of the horrific exploitation of black slaves by Virginia plantation owners before the Civil War. But in most cases, hierarchical relationships are not enslavement. Thus, while it is true that kings have normally been more powerful than their subjects, employers more powerful than their employees, and parents more powerful than their children, these have not necessarily been straightforward relations of oppressor and oppressed. Much more common are mixed relationships, in which both the stronger and the weaker receive certain benefits, and in which both can also point to hardships that must be endured in order to maintain it.

The fact that the Marxist framework presupposes a relationship of oppressor and oppressed leads to the second great difficulty, which is the assumption that every society is so exploitative that it must be heading toward the overthrow of the dominant class or group. But if it is possible for weaker groups to benefit from their position, and not just to be oppressed by it, then we have arrived at the possibility of a conservative society: One in which there is a dominant class or loyalty group (or coalition of groups), which seeks to balance the benefits and the burdens of the existing order so as to avoid actual oppression. In such a case, the overthrow and destruction of the dominant group may not be necessary. Indeed, when considering the likely consequences of a revolutionary reconstitution of society—often including not only civil war, but foreign invasion as the political order collapses—most groups in a conservative society may well prefer to preserve the existing order, or to largely preserve it, rather than to endure Marx’s alternative.

This brings us to the third failing of the Marxist framework. This is the notorious absence of a clear view as to what the underclass, having overthrown its oppressors and seized the state, is supposed to do with its newfound power. Marx is emphatic that once they have control of the state, the oppressed classes will be able to end oppression. But these claims appear to be unfounded. After all, we’ve said that the strength of the Marxist framework lies in its willingness to recognize that power relations do exist among classes and groups in every society, and that these can be oppressive and exploitative in every society. And if this is an empirical fact—as indeed it seems to be—then how will the Marxists who have overthrown liberalism be able use the state to obtain the total abolition of class antagonisms? At this point, Marx’s empiricist posture evaporates, and his framework becomes completely utopian.

When liberals and conservatives talk about Marxism being “nothing but a big lie,” this is what they mean. The Marxist goal of seizing the state and using it to eliminate all oppression is an empty promise. Marx did not know how the state could actually bring this about, and neither have any of his followers. In fact, we now have many historical cases in which Marxists have seized the state: In Russia and Eastern Europe, China, North Korea, and Cambodia, Cuba and Venezuela. But nowhere has the Marxists’ attempt at a “revolutionary reconstitution of society” by the state been anything other than a parade of horrors. In every case, the Marxists themselves form a new class or group, using the power of the state to exploit and oppress other classes in the most extreme ways—up to and including repeated recourse to murdering millions of their own people. Yet for all this, utopia never comes and oppression never ends.

Marxist society, like all other societies, consists of classes and groups arranged in a hierarchical order. But the aim of reconstituting society and the assertion that the state is responsible for achieving this feat makes the Marxist state much more aggressive, and more willing to resort to coercion and bloodshed, than the liberal regime it seeks to replace.

V. The dance of liberalism and Marxism

It is often said that liberalism and Marxism are “opposites,” with liberalism committed to freeing the individual from coercion by the state and Marxism endorsing unlimited coercion in pursuit of a reconstituted society. But what if it turned out that liberalism has a tendency to give way and transfer power to Marxists within a few decades? Far from being the opposite of Marxism, liberalism would merely be a gateway to Marxism.

A compelling analysis of the structural similarities between Enlightenment liberalism and Marxism has been published by the Polish political theorist Ryszard Legutko under the title The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies (2016). A subsequent book by Christopher Caldwell, The Age of Entitlement (2020), has similarly documented the manner in which the American constitutional revolution of the 1960s, whose purpose was to establish the rule of liberalism, has in fact brought about a swift transition to a “Progressive” politics that is, as I’ve said, a version of Marxism. With these accounts in mind, I’d like to propose a way of understanding the core relationship that binds liberalism and Marxism to one another and makes them something other than “opposites.”

Enlightenment liberalism is a rationalist system built on the premise that human beings are, by nature, free and equal. It is further asserted that this truth is “self-evident,” meaning that all of us can recognize it through the exercise of reason alone, without reference to the particular national or religious traditions of our time and place.

But there are difficulties with this system. One of these is that, as it turns out, highly abstract terms such as freedom, equality, and justice cannot be given stable content by means of reason alone. To see this, consider the following problems:

1. If all men are free and equal, how is it that not everyone who wishes to do so may enter the United States and take up residence there?

By reason alone, it can be argued that since all men are free and equal, they should be equally free to take up residence in the United States. This appears straightforward, and any argument to the contrary will have to depend on traditional concepts such as nation, state, territory, border, citizenship, and so on—none of which are self-evident or accessible to reason alone.

2. If all men are free and equal, how is it that not everyone who wants to may register for courses at Princeton University?

By reason alone, it can be argued that if all are free and equal, they should be equally free to register for courses at Princeton on a first come, first served basis. This, too, appears straightforward. Any argument to the contrary will have to depend on traditional concepts such as private property, corporation, freedom of association, education, course of study, merit, and so on. And, again, none of this is self-evident.

3. If all men are free and equal, how can you justify preventing a man who feels he is a woman from competing in a women’s track and field competition in a public school?

By reason alone, it can be said that since all are free and equal, a man who feels he is a woman should be equally free to compete in a women’s track and field competition. Any argument to the contrary will have to depend on traditional concepts of such as man, woman, women’s rights, athletic competition, competition class, fairness, and so on, none of which is accessible to reason alone.

Such examples can be multiplied without end. The truth is that reason alone gets us almost nowhere in settling arguments over what is meant by freedom and equality. So where does the meaning of these terms come from?

I’ve said that every society consists of classes or groups. These stand in various power relations to one another, which find expression in the political, legal, religious, and moral traditions that are handed down by the strongest classes or groups. It is only within the context of these traditions that we come to believe that words like freedom and equality mean one thing and not another, and to develop a “common sense” of how different interests and concerns are to be balanced against one another in actual cases.

But what happens if you dispense with those traditions? This, after all, is what Enlightenment liberalism seeks to do. Enlightenment liberals observe that inherited traditions are always flawed or unjust in certain ways, and for this reason they feel justified in setting inherited tradition aside and appealing directly to abstract principles such as freedom and equality. The trouble is, there is no such thing as a society in which everyone is free and equal in all ways. Even in a liberal society, there will always be countless ways in which a given class or group may be unfree or unequal with respect to the others. And since this is so, Marxists will always be able to say that some or all of these instances of unfreedom and inequality are instances of oppression.

Thus the endless dance of liberalism and Marxism, which goes like this:

1. Liberals declare that henceforth all will be free and equal, emphasizing that reason (not tradition) will determine the content of each individual’s rights.

2. Marxists, exercising reason, point to many genuine instances of unfreedom and inequality in society, decrying them as oppression and demanding new rights.

3. Liberals, embarrassed by the presence of unfreedom and inequality after having declared that all would be free and equal, adopt some of the Marxists’ demands for new rights.

4. Return to #1 above and repeat.

Of course, not all liberals give in to the Marxists’ demands—and certainly not on every occasion. Nevertheless, the dance is real. As a generalized view of what happens over time, this picture is accurate, as we’ve seen throughout the democratic world over the last 70 years. Liberals progressively adopt the critical theories of the Marxists over time, whether the subject is God and religion, man and woman, honor and duty, family, nation, or anything else.

A few observations, then, concerning this dance of liberalism and Marxism:

First, notice that the dance is a byproduct of liberalism. It exists because Enlightenment liberalism sets freedom and equality as the standard by which government is to be judged, and describes the individual’s power of reason alone, independent of tradition, as the instrument by which this judgment is to be obtained. In so doing, liberalism creates Marxists. Like the sorcerer’s apprentice, it constantly calls into being individuals who exercise reason, identify instances of unfreedom and inequality in society, and conclude from this that they (or others) are oppressed and that a revolutionary reconstitution of society is necessary to eliminate the oppression. It is telling that this dynamic is already visible during the French Revolution and in the radical regimes in Pennsylvania and other states during the American Revolution. A proto-Marxism was generated by Enlightenment liberalism even before Marx proposed a formal structure for describing it a few decades later.

Second, the dance only moves in one direction. In a liberal society, Marxist criticism brings many liberals to progressively abandon the conceptions of freedom and equality with which they set out, and to adopt new conceptions proposed by Marxists. But the reverse movement—of Marxists toward liberalism—seems terribly weak in comparison. How can this be? If Enlightenment liberalism is true, and its premises are indeed “self-evident” or a “product of reason,” it should be the case that under conditions of freedom, individuals will exercise reason and reach liberal conclusions. Why, then, do liberal societies produce a rapid movement toward Marxist ideas, and not an ever-greater belief in liberalism?

The key to understanding this dynamic is this: Although liberals believe their views are “self-evident” or the “product of reason,” most of the time they are actually relying on inherited conceptions of what freedom and equality are, and inherited norms of how to apply these concepts to real-world cases. In other words, the conflict between liberalism and its Marxist critics is one between a dominant class or group wishing to conserve its traditions (liberals), and a revolutionary group (Marxists) combining criticial reasoning with a willingness to jettison all inherited constraints to overthrow these traditions. But while Marxists know very well that their aim is to destroy the intellectual and cultural traditions that are holding liberalism in place, their liberal opponents for the most part refuse to engage in the kind of conservatism that would be needed to defend their traditions and strengthen them. Indeed, liberals frequently disparage tradition, telling their children and students that all they need is to reason freely and “draw your own conclusions.”

The result is a radical imbalance between Marxists, who consciously work to bring about a conceptual revolution, and liberals whose insistence on “freedom from inherited tradition” provides little or no defense—and indeed, opens the door for precisely the kinds of arguments and tactics that Marxists use against them. This imbalance means that the dance moves only in one direction, and that liberal ideas tend to collapse before Marxist criticism in a matter of decades.

VI. The Marxist endgame and democracy’s end 

Not very long ago, most of us living in free societies knew that Marxism was not compatible with democracy. But with liberal institutions overrun by “Progressives” and “Anti-Racists,” much of what was once obvious about Marxism, and much of what was once obvious about democracy, has been forgotten. It is time to revisit some of these once-obvious truths.

Under democratic government, violent warfare among competing classes and groups is brought to an end and replaced by non-violent rivalry among political parties. This doesn’t mean that power relations among loyalty groups come to an end. It doesn’t mean that injustice and oppression come to an end. It only means that instead of resolving their disagreements through bloodshed, the various groups that make up a given society form themselves into political parties devoted to trying to unseat one another in periodic elections. Under such a system, one party rules for a fixed term, but its rivals know they will get to rule in turn if they can win the next election. It is the possibility of being able to take power and rule the country without widespread killing and destruction that entices all sides to lay down their weapons and take up electoral politics instead.

The most basic thing one needs to know about a democratic regime, then, is this: You need to have at least two legitimate political parties for democracy to work. By a legitimate political party, I mean one that is recognized by its rivals as having a right to rule if it wins an election. For example, a liberal party may grant legitimacy to a conservative party (even though they don’t like them much), and in return this conservative party may grant legitimacy to a liberal party (even though they don’t like them much). Indeed, this is the way most modern democratic nations have been governed.

But legitimacy is one of those traditional political concepts that Marxist criticism is now on the verge of destroying. From the Marxist point of view, our inherited concept of legitimacy is nothing more than an instrument the ruling classes use to perpetuate injustice and oppression. The word legitimacy takes on its true meaning only with reference to the oppressed classes or groups that the Marxist sees as the sole legitimate rulers of the nation. In other words, Marxist political theory confers legitimacy on only one political party—the party of the oppressed, whose aim is the revolutionary reconstitution of society. And this means that the Marxist political framework cannot co-exist with democratic government. Indeed, the entire purpose of democratic government, with its plurality of legitimate parties, is to avoid the violent reconstitution of society that Marxist political theory regards as the only reasonable aim of politics.

Simply put, the Marxist framework and democratic political theory are opposed to one another in principle. A Marxist cannot grant legitimacy to liberal or conservative points of view without giving up the heart of Marxist theory, which is that these points of view are inextricably bound up with systematic injustice and must be overthrown, by violence if necessary. This is why the very idea that a dissenting opinion—one that is not “Progressive” or “Anti-Racist”—could be considered legitimate has disappeared from liberal institutions as Marxists have gained power. At first, liberals capitulated to their Marxist colleagues’ demand that conservative viewpoints be considered illegitimate (because conservatives are “authoritarian” or “fascist”). This was the dynamic that brought about the elimination of conservatives from most of the leading universities and media outlets in America.

But by the summer of 2020, this arrangement had run its course. In the United States, Marxists were now strong enough to demand that liberals fall into line on virtually any issue they considered pressing. In what were recently liberal institutions, a liberal point of view has likewise ceased to be legitimate. This is the meaning of the expulsion of liberal journalists from the New York Times and other news organisations. It is the reason that Woodrow Wilson’s name was removed from buildings at Princeton University, and for similar acts at other universities and schools. These expulsions and renamings are the equivalent of raising a Marxist flag over each university, newspaper, and corporation in turn, as the legitimacy of the old liberalism is revoked.

Until 2016, America sill had two legitimate political parties. But when Donald Trump was elected president, the talk of his being “authoritarian” or “fascist” was used to discredit the traditional liberal point of view, according to which a duly elected president, the candidate chosen by half the public through constitutional procedures, should be accorded legitimacy. Instead a “resistance” was declared, whose purpose was to delegitimize the president, those who worked with him, and those who voted for him.

I know that many liberals believe that this rejection of Trump’s legitimacy was directed only at him, personally. They believe, as a liberal friend wrote to me recently, that when this particular president is removed from office, America will be able to return to normal.

But nothing of the sort is going to happen. The Marxists who have seized control of the means of producing and disseminating ideas in America cannot, without betraying their cause, confer legitimacy on any conservative government. And they cannot grant legitimacy to any form of liberalism that is not supine before them. This means that whatever President Trump’s electoral fortunes, the “resistance” is not going to end. It is just beginning.

With the Marxist conquest of liberal institutions, we have entered a new phase in American history (and, consequently, in the history of all democratic nations). We have entered the phase in which Marxists, having conquered the universities, the media, and major corporations, will seek to apply this model to the conquest of the political arena as a whole.

How will they do this? As in the universities and the media, they will use their presence within liberal institutions to force liberals to break the bonds of mutual legitimacy that bind them to conservatives—and therefore to two-party democracy. They will not demand the delegitimization of just President Trump, but of all conservatives. We’ve already seen this in the efforts to delegitimize the views of Senators Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton, and Tim Scott, as well as the media personality Tucker Carlson and others. Then they will move on to delegitimizing liberals who treat conservative views as legitimate, such as James Bennet, Bari Weiss, and Andrew Sullivan. As was the case in the universities and media, many liberals will accommodate these Marxist tactics in the belief that by delegitimizing conservatives they can appease the Marxists and turn them into strategic allies.

But the Marxists will not be appeased because what they’re after is the conquest of liberalism itself—already happening as they persuade liberals to abandon their traditional two-party conception of political legitimacy, and with it their commitment to a democratic regime. The collapse of the bonds of mutual legitimacy that have tied liberals to conservatives in a democratic system of government will not make the liberals in question Marxists quite yet. But it will make them the supine lackeys of these Marxists, without the power to resist anything that “Progressives” and “Anti-Racists” designate as being important. And it will get them accustomed to the coming one-party regime, in which liberals will have a splendid role to play—if they are willing to give up their liberalism.

I know that many liberals are confused, and that they still suppose there are various alternatives before them. But it isn’t true. At this point, most of the alternatives that existed a few years ago are gone. Liberals will have to choose between two alternatives: either they will submit to the Marxists, and help them bring democracy in America to an end. Or they will assemble a pro-democracy alliance with conservatives. There aren’t any other choices.

 

Yoram Hazony, President of the Herzl Institute in Jerusalem and author of The Virtue of Nationalism, is chairman of the Edmund Burke Foundation. Follow him on Twitter @yhazony.

Feature photo by Clay Banks, Unsplash.

The Challenge of Marxism – Quillette

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LEST WE FORGET : The Gulag Archipelago confirmed the horrors of the Soviet Union and Marxist collectivist ideology


“The greatest and most powerful single indictment of a political regime ever levelled in modern times. One sure to stick in the craw of the Soviet propaganda machine with increasing discomfort until it has done its work.” — George F. Kennan (American diplomat and scholar)

“It is impossible to name a book that had a greater effect on the political and moral consciousness of the late twentieth century.” — David Remnick, New Yorker

“Best Nonfiction Book of the Twentieth Century” — Time magazine

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JORDAN PETERSON’s forward to the abridged version of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s epic The Gulag Archipelago is a literary masterpiece. Lucid, instructive and powerful. Who, having enjoyed the experience of reading it, would doubt Peterson’s claim that “If there was any excuse to be a Marxist in 1917… there is absolutely and ­finally no excuse now.” For history is littered with diabolical examples of national leaders implementing grotesque, murderous means to justify the end, an impossible utopian Marxist mirage.

POSTING this on Climatism, today, as a reminder that the same Marxist, collectivist ideology that enabled a third of Stalin’s Soviet population to be slain, is the same poisonous ideology driving Democrat states and cities across America, to ruin.

THIS is not happening by chance. Solzhenitsyn’s masterpiece about the murderous Soviet forced labor camp system, acclaimed as the defining document that led to the end of Euro-communism and the end of pro-Soviet left-wing parties across Europe,” is required reading for all Russian students.

The Gulag Archipelago, winner of the 1970 Nobel Prize for Literature is suppressed in the West because of the Marxist sympathies of Western academics.

And today, despite everything, and under their sway — almost three decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the apparent collapse of communism — we are doing everything we can to forget what Solzhenitsyn so clearly demonstrated, to our great and richly deserved peril. Why don’t all our children read The Gulag Archipelago in our high schools, as they now do in Russia?”

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THIS remarkable essay should be compulsory reading in every Australian university and high school. The fact that it isn’t/won’t, speaks volumes about why we are witnessing so much mob violence and anarchy across nearly every major Western ‘democratic’ city, today.

The Gulag Archipelago confirmed the horrors of the Soviet Union

NOVEMBER 16, 2018

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Nobel prize-winning author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

First, you defend your homeland against the Nazis, serving as a twice-decorated soldier on the Eastern front in the criminally ill-prepared Soviet Red Army. Then you’re arrested, humiliated, stripped of your military rank, charged under the auspices of the all-purpose Article 58 with the dissemination of “anti-Soviet propaganda”, and dragged off to Moscow’s infamous Lubyanka prison. There, through the bars of your cell, you watch your beloved country celebrating its victory in the Great Patriotic War. Then you’re sentenced, in absentia, to eight years of hard labour (but you got away easy; it wasn’t so long ­afterwards that people in your ­position were awarded a “tenner” — and then a quarter of a century!). And fate isn’t finished with you yet — not by any means. You develop a deadly cancer in the camp, endure the exile imposed on you after your imprisonment ends, and pass very close to death.

Despite all this, you hold your head high. You refuse to turn against man or God, although you have every reason to do so. You write, instead, secretly, at night, documenting your terrible experiences. You craft a personal memoir — a single day in the labour camps — and, miracle of miracles! The clouds part! The sun shines through! Your book is published, and in your own country! It meets with unparalleled acclaim, nationally and internationally. But the sky darkens, once again, and the sun disappears. The repression ­returns. You become (once again) a “non-person”. The secret police — the dread KGB — seize the manuscript of your next book. It sees the light of day, nonetheless; but only in the West. There your reputation grows beyond the wild­est of imaginings. The Nobel committee itself bestows upon you its highest literary honour.

The Soviet authorities, stripped of their camouflage, are enraged. They order the secret police to poison you. You pass (once again) near death. But you continue to write: driven, solitary, intolerably inspired. Your The Gulag Archipelago documents the absolute and utter corruption of the dogmas and doctrines of your state, your empire, your leaders — and yourself. And then: that is printed, too! Not in your own country but in the West — once again — from copies oh-so-dangerously hidden and smuggled across the borders. And your great book bursts with unparalleled and dreadful force into the still naive and unexpecting literary and intellectual world. You are expelled from the Soviet Union, stripped of your citizenship, forced to take residency in a society both strange to you and resistant, in its own way, to your prophetic words. But the power of your stories and the strength of your morals ­demolish any remaining claims to ethical and philosophical credibility still made by the defenders of the collectivist system that gave rise to all that you witnessed.

Years pass (but not so many, from the perspective of history). Then? Another miracle! The Soviet Union collapses! You return home. Your citizenship is restored. You write and speak in your ­reclaimed homeland until death claims you, in 2008. A year later The Gulag Archipelago is deemed mandatory reading by those ­responsible for establishing the national school curriculum of your home country. Your impossible victory is complete.

The three volumes of The Gulag Archipelago — one continuous, extended scream of outrage — are, paradoxically, brilliant, bitter, disbelieving and infused with awe: awe at the strength characterising the best among us, in the worst of all situations. In that monumental text, published in 1973, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn conducted “an experiment in literary investigation” — a hybrid of journalism, history and biography, ­unlike anything written ­before or since. In 1985 the author bestowed his approval upon ­Edward E. Ericson Jr’s single-­volume abridgement — republished here on the 50th anniversary of the completion of the full three-volume edition and centenary of the author’s birth — and sold 30 million copies in 35 languages. Between the pages of Solzhenitsyn’s book — apart from the documentation of the horrors of the legions of the dead, counted and uncounted, and the masses whose lives were torn asunder — are the innumerable soul-chilling personal stories, carefully preserved, making the tragedy of mass betrayal, torture and death not the mere statistic Stalin so disdainfully described but individual, real and terrible.

It is a matter of pure historical fact that The Gulag Archipelago played a primary role in bringing the Soviet Empire to its knees. ­Although economically unsustainable, ruled in the most corrupt manner imaginable, and reliant on the slavery and enforced deceit of its citizens, the Soviet system managed to stumble forward through far too many decades before being cut to the quick. The courageous leaders of the labour unions in ­Poland, the great Pope John Paul II and the American president ­Ronald Reagan, with his blunt

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Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the day of his release in 1953 after eight years in prison.

insistence that the West faced an evil empire, all played their role in its defeat and collapse. It was Solzhenitsyn, however, whose revelations made it positively shameful to defend not just the Soviet state but the very system of thought that made that state what it was. It was Solzhenitsyn who most crucially made the case that the terrible excesses of communism could not be conveniently blamed on the corruption of the Soviet leadership, the “cult of personality” surrounding Stalin or the failure to put the otherwise stellar and admirable utopian principles of Marxism into proper practice. It was Solzhenitsyn who demonstrated that the death of millions and the devastation of many more were, instead, a direct causal consequence of the philosophy (worse, perhaps: the theology) driving the communist system. The hypothetically egalitarian, universalist doctrines of Karl Marx contained hidden ­within them sufficient hatred, ­resentment, envy and denial of ­individual culpability and respon­sibility to produce nothing but poison and death when manifested in the world.

 

For Marx, man was a member of a class, an economic class, a group — that, and little more — and history nothing but the battleground of classes, of groups. His admirers regarded (continue to ­regard) Marx’s doctrine as one of compassion — moral by definition, virtuous by fiat: “consider the working classes, in all their ­oppression, and work forthrightly to free them”. But hate may well be a stronger and more compelling motivator than love. In consequence, it took no time, in the ­aftermath of the Russian Revolution, for solidarity with the common man and the apparently laudable demand for universal equality to manifest its unarticulated and ever-darkening shadow. First came the most brutal indictment of the “class enemy”. Then came the ever-expanding definition of that enemy, until every single person in the entirety of the state found him or herself at risk of encapsulation within that ­insatiable and devouring net. The verdict, delivered to those deemed at fault, by those who elevated themselves to the simultaneously held positions of judge, jury and executioner? The necessity to eradicate the victimisers, the ­oppressors, in toto, without any consideration whatsoever for ­reactionary niceties — such as ­individual innocence.

What can be concluded in the deepest, most permanent sense, from Solzhenitsyn’s anguished Gulag narrative? First, we learn what is indisputable — what we all should have learned by now (what we have nonetheless failed to learn): that the Left, like the Right, can go too far; that the Left has, in the past, gone much too far. Second, we learn what is far more subtle and difficult — how and why that going too far occurs. We learn, as Solzhenitsyn so profoundly ­insists, that the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And we learn as well that we all are, each of us, simultaneously ­oppressor and ­oppressed. Thus, we come to ­realise that the twin categories of “guilty oppressor” and “justice-seeking victim” can be made endlessly inclusive. This is not least because we all benefit ­unfairly (and are equally victimised) by our thrownness, our ­arbitrary placement in the flow of time. We all ­accrue undeserved and somewhat random privilege from the vagaries of our place of birth, our inequitably distributed talents, our ethnicity, race, culture and sex. We all belong to a group — some group — that has been ­elevated in comparative status, through no ­effort of our own. This is true in some manner, along some dimension of group cat­egory, for every solitary individual, ­except for the single most lowly of all. At some time and in some ­manner we all may in consequence be justly targeted as ­oppressors, and may all, equally, seek justice — or revenge — as ­victims. Even if the initiators of the revolution had, therefore, in their most pure moments, been driven by a holy desire to lift up the downtrodden, was it not ­guaranteed that they would be overtaken by those motivated ­primarily by envy, hate and the ­desire to destroy as the revolution progressed?

Thus the doctrine of group identity inevitably ends with everyone identified as a class enemy, an oppressor; with everyone uncleansibly contaminated by bourgeois privilege, unfairly ­enjoying the benefits bequeathed by the vagaries of history; with everyone prosecuted, without respite, for that corruption and injustice. “No mercy for the oppressor!” And no punishment too severe for the crime of exploitation! Expiation becomes impossible because there is no individual guilt, no individual responsibility, and therefore no manner in which the crime of arbitrary birth can be individually accounted for. And all the ­misery that can be generated as a consequence of such an ­accusation is the true reason for the accusation. When everyone is guilty, all that serves justice is the punishment of everyone; when the guilt extends to the existence of the world’s misery itself, only the fatal punishment will suffice.

It is much more preferable ­instead — and much more likely to preserve us all from metastasising hells — to state forthrightly: “I am indeed thrown arbitrarily into history. I therefore choose to voluntarily shoulder the responsibility of my advantages and the burden of my disadvantages — like every other individual. I am morally bound to pay for my ­advantages with my responsibility. I am morally bound to accept my disadvantages as the price I pay for being. I will therefore strive not to descend into bitterness and then seek vengeance because I have less to my credit and a greater burden to stumble forward with than others.”

Is this not a, or even the, essential point of difference between the West, for all its faults, and the brutal, terrible “egalitarian” systems generated by the pathological communist doctrine? The great and good framers of the American republic were, for ­example, anything but utopian. They took full stock and full measure of ineradicable human imperfection. They held modest goals, derived not least from the profoundly cautious common-law tradition of England. They endeavoured to establish a system the corrupt and ignorant fools we all are could not damage too ­fatally. That’s humility. That’s clear-headed knowledge of the limitations of human machination and good intention.

But the communists, the revolutionaries? They aimed, grandly and admirably, at least in theory, at a much more heavenly vision — and they began their pursuit with the hypothetically straightforward and oh-so-morally-justifiable enforcement of economic equality.

Wealth, however, was not so easily generated. The poor could not so simply become rich. But the riches of those who had anything more than the greatest pauper (no matter how pitiful that “more” was)? That could be “redistributed” — or, at least, destroyed. That’s equality, too. That’s sacrifice, in the name of heaven on earth. And redistribution was not enough — with all its theft, ­betrayal and death. Mere economic engineering was insufficient. What emerged as well was the overarching and truly totalitarian desire to remake man and woman, as such — the longing to restructure the human spirit in the very image of the communist preconceptions. Attributing to themselves this divine ability, this transcendent wisdom — and with unshakeable belief in the glowing but ever-receding future — the newly minted Soviets tortured, thieved, imprisoned, lied and ­betrayed, all the while masking their great evil with virtue. It was Solzhenitsyn and The Gulag Archipelago that tore off the mask, and exposed the feral cowardice, envy, deceit, resentment and hatred for the individual and for existence ­itself that pulsed beneath.

Others had made the attempt. Malcolm Muggeridge reported on the horrors of “dekulakization” — the forced collectivisation of the all-too-recently successful peasantry of the Ukraine and elsewhere that preceded the horrifying famines of the 1930s. In the same decade, and in the following years, George Orwell risked his ideological commitments and his reputation to tell us all what was truly occurring in the Soviet Union in the name of egalitarianism and brotherhood. But it was Solzhenitsyn who truly shamed the radical leftists, forcing them underground (where they have festered and plotted for the last 40 years, failing unforgivably to have learned what all reasonable people should have learned from the cataclysm of the 20th century and its egalitarian utopianism). And today, despite everything, and under their sway — almost three decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the apparent collapse of communism — we are doing everything we can to forget what Solzhenitsyn so clearly demonstrated, to our great and richly deserved peril. Why don’t all our children read The Gulag Archipelago in our high schools, as they now do in Russia? Why don’t our teachers feel compelled to read the book aloud? Did we not win the Cold War? Were the bodies not piled high enough? (How high, then, would be enough?)

Why, for example, is it still ­acceptable — and in polite company — to profess the philosophy of a communist or, if not that, to at least admire the work of Marx? Why is it still acceptable to regard the Marxist doctrine as essentially accurate in its diagnosis of the ­hypothetical evils of the free-­market, democratic West; to still consider that doctrine “progressive” and fit for the compassionate and proper thinking person? Twenty-five million dead through internal repression in the Soviet Union (according to The Black Book of Communism). Sixty million dead in Mao’s China (and an all-too-likely return to autocratic oppression in that country in the near future). The horrors of Cambodia’s killing fields, with their two million corpses. The barely animate body politic of Cuba, where people struggle even now to feed themselves. Venezuela, where it has now been made illegal to attribute a child’s death in hospital to starvation. No political ­experi­ment has ever been tried so widely, with so many disparate people, in so many different countries (with such different histories) and failed so absolutely and so catastrophically. Is it mere ignorance (albeit of the most inexcusable kind) that allows today’s Marxists to flaunt their continued allegiance — to present it as compassion and care? Or is it, instead, envy of the successful, in near-­infinite proportions? Or something akin to hatred for mankind itself? How much proof do we need? Why do we still avert our eyes from the truth?

Perhaps we simply lack sophistication. Perhaps we just can’t understand. Perhaps our tendency towards compassion is so powerfully necessary in the intimacy of our families and friendships that we cannot contemplate its limitations, its inability to scale and its propensity to mutate into hatred of the oppressor, rather than ­allegiance with the oppressed. Perhaps we cannot comprehend the limitations and dangers of the utopian vision given our definite need to contemplate and to strive for a better tomorrow. We certainly don’t seem to imagine, for example, that the hypothesis of some state of future perfection — for ­example, the truly egalitarian and permanent brotherhood of man — can be used to justify any and all sacrifices whatsoever (the pristine and heavenly end making all conceivable means not only acceptable but morally required). There is simply no price too great to pay in pursuit of the ultimate utopia. (This is particularly true if it is someone else who foots the bill.) And it is clearly the case that we ­require a future towards which to orient ourselves — to provide meaning in our life, psychologically speaking. It is for that reason we see the same need expressed collectively, on a much larger scale, in the Judeo-Christian ­vision of the Promised Land, and the kingdom of heaven on earth. And it is also clearly the case that sacrifice is necessary to bring that desired end state into being. That’s the discovery of the future itself: the necessity to forgo instantaneous gratification in the present, to delay, to bargain with fate so that the future can be better; twinned with the necessity to let go, to burn off, to separate wheat from chaff, and to sacrifice what is presently unworthy, so that tomorrow can be better than today. But limits need to be placed around who or what is deemed dispensable.

Here’s some thoughts — no, some facts. Every social system produces inequality, at present, and every social system has done so, since the beginning of time. The poor have been with us — and will be with us — always. Analysis of the content of individual Paleolithic gravesites provides evidence for the existence of substantive variance in the distribution of ability, privilege and wealth, even in our distant past. The more illustrious of our ancestors were buried with great possessions, hoards of precious metals, weaponry, jewellery and costuming. The majority, however, struggled through their lives and were buried with nothing. Inequality is the iron rule, even among animals, with their intense competition for quality living space and reproductive opportunity — even among plants, and cities — even among the stellar lights that dot the cosmos themselves, where a minority of privileged and oppressive heavenly bodies contain the mass of thousands, millions or even billions of average, dispossessed planets. In equality is the deepest of problems, built into the structure of reality ­itself, and will not be solved by the presumptuous, ideology-inspired retooling of the rare free, stable and productive democracies of the world. The only systems that have produced some modicum of wealth, along with the inevitable inequality and its attendant suffering, are those that evolved in the West, with their roots in the Judeo-Christian tradition; precisely those systems that emphasise above all the essential dignity, divinity and ultimate responsibility of the individual. In consequence, any attempt to attribute the existence of inequality to the functioning of the productive ­institutions we have managed to create and protect so recently in what is still accurately regarded as the free world will hurt those who are weakest and most vulnerable first. The radicals who conflate the activities of the West with the ­oppression of the downtrodden therefore do nothing to aid those whom they purport to prize and plenty to harm them. The claims they make to act under the inspiration of pure compassion must therefore come to be regarded with the deepest suspicion — not least by those who dare to make such claims themselves.

The dangers of the utopian ­vision have been laid bare, even if the reasons those dangers exist have not yet been fully and acceptably articulated. If there was any excuse to be a Marxist in 1917 (and both Dostoevsky and Nietzsche prophesied well before then that there would be hell to pay for that doctrine) there is absolutely and ­finally no excuse now. And we know that mostly because of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and The Gulag Archipelago. Thank heaven for that great author’s outrage, courage and unquenchable thirst for justice and truth. It was Solzhenitsyn who warned us that the catastrophes of the Soviet state were inextricably and causally linked to the deceitful blandishments of the Marxist utopian vision. It was Solzhenitsyn who carefully documented the price paid in suffering for the dreadful communist experiment and who distilled from that suffering the wisdom we must all heed so that such catastrophe does not visit us again. Perhaps we could take from his writing the ­humility that would allow us to understand that our mere good ­intentions are not sufficient to make us good men and women. Perhaps we could come to understand that such intentions are ­instead all too often the consequence of our unpardonable historical ignorance, our utter wilful blindness and our voracious hidden appetite for vengeance, terror and destruction. Perhaps we could come to remember and to learn from the intolerable trials endured by all those who passed through the fiery chambers of the Marxist collectivist ideology. Perhaps we could derive from that remembering and learning the wisdom necessary to take personal responsibility for the suffering and malevolence that still so terribly and unforgivably characterises the world. We have been provided with the means to transform ourselves in due humility by the literary and moral genius of this great Russian author. We should all pray most devoutly to whatever deity guides us implicitly or ­explicitly for the desire and the will to learn from what we have been offered. May God himself eternally fail to forgive us if in the painstakingly revealed aftermath of such bloodshed, torture and anguish we remain stiff-necked, incautious, and unchanged.

© Jordan B. Peterson 2018

Jordan Peterson is a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and author of the bestseller 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. This is an edited extract from the foreword to the new edition of The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, published by Vintage Classics.

The Gulag Archipelago confirmed the horrors of the Soviet Union | The Australian

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