Emperors undressed

The Rise of the Ungovernables

2019 marks the thirtieth anniversary of Francis Fukuyama’s seminal essay for the National Interest “The End of History?” Its central hypothesis was that we were witnessing “the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” That looked plausible in 1989, particularly when the Berlin Wall fell just months after the essay’s release. Thirty years later—not so much.

To be fair to Fukuyama, he never suggested that the world had seen the end of geopolitical conflict or that democracies would experience no more of Macmillan’s “events.” Today, he continues to view liberal democracy as the best form of government, but he is less optimistic about its robustness. It’s hard to disagree with him. The Brexit chaos, the Trump presidency, the collapse of support for centrist parties across Europe, and the pervasive rise of populism and nationalism, all point to the growing fragility of liberal democracy.

Why is this happening now? The usual response is to blame it all on the politicians. Leaders like Orban and Trump are subverting the institutions at the heart of liberal democracy. Political parties like Alternative für Deutschland and the National Rally are promoting illiberal and xenophobic policies. If only we had better leaders, democracy would flourish—so goes the argument.

That last sentence is exactly the same excuse Socialists and Communists use for state failures in the Soviet Union, Cuba, Venezuela, Cambodia, North Korea, et. al.. A majority of voters in this country agree with it, even as they are split on policy.

That last sentence describes the danger of the Imperial Presidency – something that connects Obama and Trump (they’re hardly alone, but it became an art form under their tender care).

That last sentence describes voters’ aspirations.  It explains Bernie Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, and Donald Trump.  Not that they all share policy ideas, but that a sufficient number of voters see them as saviors.  This is a terrible way to think about public employees.

The Obamaists and the Trumpists both revere the Man, not the Law.  Their Emperor’s ideas are fully clothed in their own narcissism.

Read the whole article, it presents some good ideas about cultural changes contributing to the problem and the related role of social media.

Collectivism isn’t Right or Left

Jordan B. Peterson Is the Furthest Thing from the Alt-Right

Peterson’s claim that identity politics is “genocidal in its ultimate expression” is no exaggeration. Hitler’s military invasions and death camps were the ultimate expression of the racialist and nationalist identity politics that spiritually drove Nazism. And Stalin’s weaponized famines and “gulag archipelago” were the ultimate expression of the class warfare identity politics that spiritually drove Soviet communism.

Identity politics is necessarily collectivist. Alt-right or Ctl-left, Nazi or Communist: “Nothing outside the state, nothing above the state, everything within the state.”

False choice

Two short articles from Reason and The Weekly Standard:

Authoritarians to the Left and Right
The Nation and the Nazis

Imagine a line with a sliding indicator. On one end is Marxism and Antifa; on the other is Fascism and Alt-Right. Or, call it Black Lives Matter vs Stormfront.

Your job is to slide the indicator along this continuum to your preferred balance between these choices of extreme left and extreme right. Possibly, you choose the center.

What choice are you actually making? The choice of which statist minutiae you prefer.

Sliding the indicator to the center does not minimize your agreement with authoritarian policies. It indicates nothing about how much power you grant the State, that’s a constant. It means the continuum is wrong, so the choice is false.

Here’s the way the political spectrum really works:

Looking at it by group:

Update 2:40PM
See also.
Of Course the Alt-Right Is Against Capitalism

The Right hand knows full well what the Left hand is doing

In an ongoing effort to demonstrate the terms “Right” and “Left” amount to little more than a political taxonomy quibble, I enlist Dr. Stephen Hicks‘ book Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault. Highly recommended. Italics mine.

Counter-Enlightenment politics: Right and Left collectivism

After Rousseau, collectivist political thinking divided into Left and Right versions, both versions drawing inspiration from Rousseau… [M]y purpose in this chapter is to highlight developments in collectivist Right thinking and to show that in its essentials the collectivist Right was pursuing the same broadly anti-liberal-capitalist themes that the collectivist Left was.

What links the Right and the Left is a core set of themes: anti-individualism, the need for strong government, the view that religion is a state matter (whether to promote or suppress it), the view that education is a process of socialization, ambivalence about science and technology, and strong themes of group conflict, violence, and war. Left and Right have often divided bitterly over which themes have priority and over how they should be applied. Yet for all of their differences, both the collectivist Left and the collectivist Right have consistently recognized a common enemy: liberal capitalism, with its individualism, its limited government, its separation of church and state, its fairly constant view that education is not primarily a matter of political socialization, and its persistent Whiggish optimism about prospects for peaceful trade and cooperation between members of all nations and groups… While the details are messy the broad point is clear: the collectivist Right and the collectivist Left are united in their major goals and in identifying their major opposition…

By the early twentieth century, accordingly, the dominant issues for most Continental political thinkers were not whether liberal capitalism was a viable option—but rather exactly when it would collapse—and whether Left or Right collectivism had the best claim to being the socialism of the future. The defeat of the collectivist Right in World War II then meant that the Left was on its own to carry the socialist mantle forward. Accordingly, when the Left ran into its own major disasters as the twentieth century progressed, understanding its fundamental commonality with the collectivist Right helps to explain why in its desperation the Left has often adopted “fascistic” tactics…

The rise of National Socialism to political prominence during the 1920s brought the abstract debate to particular focus, as the National Socialists, the Communists, and the Social Democrats all argued variations on the same themes and competed for the votes of the same constituencies.

Right and left are cosmetic distinctions serving to mask the necessities of totalitarianism. Whoever rises to the top of an aspiring collectivist utopia will face the same forced choices. Across time, across cultures and embodied in dozens of fearless leaders, we have irrefutable evidence that collectivist state ideology results in economic disaster and human misery.

Because of the practical and moral failure of Marx’s “scientific socialism,” and since its predictions of economic class warfare have not been realized, the socialists have switched the game to promote victim identity-group warfare.

Right or Left? Wrong question.

RTWT
Socialist Academics Contributed to the Rise of the Third Reich

Indeed they did.

Can anyone offer a single consequential difference between Fascism/Nazism and Communism/Socialism/Marxism?

Specifically, please explain the claim that Nazis are right wing, but Communists are left wing. If you really want to assist me, tell me how Antifa can possibly be anti-Fascist.

Seems to me those various labels just cover minor squabbles among the Totalitarianists. Cosmetic distinctions.

Real communism

Revelations from the Russian Archives

A note from the Library of Congress speaking to the idea that if Lenin had lived the Soviet Union might have achieved its utopian objectives. Telegram from Lenin, August 11, 1918:

Translation of Exposing Imperialist Policies

11-8-18

Send to Penza

To Comrades Kuraev, Bosh, Minkin and other Penza communists

Comrades! The revolt by the five kulak volost’s must be suppressed without mercy. The interest of the entire revolution demands this, because we have now before us our final decisive battle “with the kulaks.” We need to set an example.

  1. You need to hang (hang without fail, so that the public sees) at
      least 100 notorious kulaks, the rich, and the bloodsuckers.
  2. Publish their names.
  3. Take away all of their grain.
  4. Execute the hostages – in accordance with yesterday’s telegram.

This needs to be accomplished in such a way, that people for hundreds of miles around will see, tremble, know and scream out: let’s choke and strangle those blood-sucking kulaks.

P.S. Use your toughest people for this.

TRANSLATOR’S COMMENTS: Lenin uses the derogative term kulach’e in reference to the class of prosperous peasants. A volost’ was a territorial/administrative unit consisting of a few villages and surrounding land.

Here is a discussion of how this document came to be in the Library of Congress.

Sorrowful centenary

One hundred years ago today, an armed insurrection in Petrograd, Russia, marked the beginning of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Seventy-four years later, on December 26, 1991, the Soviet Union was dissolved.

For every one of the 27,077 days in between, at minimum and on average, 739 (up to 2,216 by some estimates) Soviet citizens died at the hands of the Soviet government*. On average, a minimum of 31 (to 92) were killed every hour of each of those days. What drove this twisted disregard for human life? In one word: Marxism. Remembering Communism’s Bloody Century

Karl Marx envisioned a new era of freedom and plenty, and its precondition was destroying the “wage slavery” and exploitation of capitalism. As he and his collaborator Friedrich Engels declared in the Communist Manifesto of 1848, our theory “may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.”

Following Marx’s simple dictum, Soviet industry was owned and managed by the state, and agricultural land was divided into state-run collective farms. All the products of individual labor belonged to the State. All wages were determined by the State.

Money, Method, and the Market Process – Ludwig von Mises:

In such a socialist universe everything will be planned by the supreme authority and to the individual “comrades” no other sphere of action will be left than unconditional surrender to the will of their masters. The comrades will drudge, but all the yield of their endeavors will be at the disposal of the high authority. Such is the ideal of socialism or communism… The individual comrade will enjoy what the supreme authority assigns to him for his consumption and enjoyment. Everything else, all material factors of production, will be owned by the authority…

If one does not permit individuals to keep as their property the things produced…, one removes any incentive to create such things… Thus the anti-property (i.e., socialist or communist) authors had to construct … a society in which all men are forced to obey unconditionally the orders issued from a central authority…

The irony of using the term “wage slavery” was apparently lost on Marx.

The sine qua non property right is ownership of one’s self, including the right to the product of one’s own labor and the right to one’s own thoughts. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that “abolition of private property” includes rejection of self ownership. Marxist State property necessarily includes individual human beings.

Across time, across cultures and embodied in dozens of leaders, it is precisely from the rejection of private property that the miseries of Marxism, communism and socialism flow.

Directly as a result of Marx’s prescription, ninety-four million, and counting, people died at the hands of their own governments. It is this long and bloody record – of the Soviet, Chinese, Cambodian, North Korean, Vietnamese, Cuban and Venezuelan Marxists – against which capitalism must be measured by anyone who desires to replace it with Marxism.

It is fashionable, in fact it’s the last refuge, for the defenders of Marxism to claim its depradations are due to flawed implementation. “Stalin’s Soviet Union didn’t have real Communism.” “Mao’s China didn’t have real Marxism.” Etc.. How many times do we have to run this sick experiment before the lesson sticks?

Whoever rose to the top in any of these aspiring utopias would have faced the same choices. An ideology that denies self ownership compels substantially similar, abominable decisions, no matter the personal virtue (if such a thing can even be said of anyone who desires such power over others) of the rulers.

It’s not the messengers, it’s the message.

Edit: Soviet death figures modified to account for the range of estimates (20-60 million). 11:50AM

*

  • The Black Book of Communism (20,000,000)
  • Solzhenitsyn, Gulag Archipelago
    Intro to Perennial Classics Edition by Edward Ericson: Solzhenitsyn publicized an estimate of 60 million. 
  • Page 178: citing Kurganov, 66 million lives lost between 1917 and 1959
  • Identitarian Politics: Distinctions without a difference?

    I recommend this Claremont Review of Books discussion of fascism’s origins and the comparison to communism, including points about Black Lives Matter and Antifa. It’s well worth reading the whole thing: Fascism in America?

    But I have some reservations.

    Fascism… first emerged in Italy under Benito Mussolini, then spread to many other corners of Europe and Latin America. It took numerous forms, the most virulent of which was German National Socialism, which can be lumped into the overall fascist phenomenon, but only in certain respects. In others, it must be considered distinctly…

    I think what follows to justify this distinction is hair splitting.

    Mussolini… ultimately found communism’s collectivist obsession with class less satisfying than a collectivist obsession with nation, defined in group terms as the (Italian) people. National socialism offered an extreme version of this view, focused on an elaborate racial theory in which “Aryans” were good, superior, and entitled to rule, while others were inferior… Nazism was virulently anti-Semitic, more so than most other versions of fascism. Altogether, fascism was a politics based on accident of birth and on group membership. Individual identity, not to mention individual worth or individual rights, had no place…

    A difference of looking inward to exalt vs looking outward to vilify. The in-tribe is still the volk. Professor Busch seems to agree;

    It is not difficult to see a number of similarities between fascism and communism. Both… employed violence and intimidation to gain and keep power. Both grounded themselves in a version of collectivist identity politics. Both led in practice to all-powerful dictators supported by cults of personality. Both were enemies of liberty, hostile to the free market, property rights, limited government, and independent civil society. Both saw themselves as “revolutionary” and sought to displace God with a secular religion of totalitarian ideology… Indeed, one might easily conclude that fascism and communism were two versions of the same thing engaged in a bitter family dispute—two overlapping branches of the left wing rather than two opposite things.

    On the merits, I do so conclude. See my post of August 18: Cosmetic Distinctions.

    Nevertheless, two cardinal theoretical distinctions can be made. Where fascism fixated on race and ethnicity as the basis of collectivism and dehumanization, communism fixated on economic class. Where fascism adopted an explicitly oppositional attitude toward rational discourse, communism purported to be based on scientific principles, even though communists in practice made a mockery of such pretensions.

    As to the first point, one might reasonably note that the difference is based on tribal identity. A group promoting racial privilege is temporarily allied with a group espousing privilege based on class; both wishing to commit the crimes delineated above. The differences between Antifa and Alt-Right, between the KKK and BLM – and between BLM and Antifa – are subtle points of doctrine; boiling down to a dispute over which collective will dominate the other at Statist gunpoint. If Antifa and BLM combine to “fundamentally transform” the United States, we can expect a replay of the Menshevik/Bolshevik, Trotskyite/Stalinist denouement.

    The second point of differentiation is, if one takes the word “rational” seriously, actually not a difference at all. Theoretical, indeed.

    While Antifa openly embraces violence, the Black Lives Matter movement does not. Nevertheless, BLM protests have featured chants calling for violence against police—“pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon”—and several have turned violent in reality, including in Baltimore, St. Paul, Baton Rouge, and Dallas, where a shooter inspired by (though not affiliated with) BLM killed five police officers at the end of a BLM demonstration. Some members of the movement have also been implicated in attempts to silence critical speakers through intimidation and physical force.

    As to the embrace of violence as a difference between BLM and Antifa, “pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon,” seems to me to qualify BLM as a promoter of violence. Maybe I’m missing something, but I doubt this sounds like a rendition of Kumbaya to police officers. Further, Professor Busch goes on to recount the disruption (by the threat of violence) of Heather Mac Donald’s speech (contra BLM orthodoxy) at Claremont. Perhaps too much heavy lifting is being required of the words “openly” and “affiliated.”

    Professor Busch is generally correct in his assessment of Facism/Nazism and Communism, but seems overly concerned about the fine particularities of Statist branding, and too willing to excuse BLM violence compared to Antifa.

    YMMV, and I reiterate my recommendation to read the piece.

    Update 12:20PM Oct 7 17
    FBI terrorism unit says ‘black identity extremists’ pose a violent threat

    This thing is not like the NFL thing

    U.S. Army and West Point both respond about ‘official socialist organizer’ and Army officer Spenser Rapone who is espousing Communism

    Distinct rules have been violated.
    Penalties are clearly spelled out.
    No question it is, at the least, disrespectful.

    Trump hasn’t Tweeted about it.

    Rapone’s next move will have to be applying for gender reassignment surgery, perhaps from Leavenworth.

    Scroll down to the comments at the link for better pictures.

    Von Mises looks at the "left"/"right" split

    I don’t think this invalidates my contention that the differences between Antifa and Alt-Right are cosmetic distinctions, but from a historical perspective, Ludwig von Mises points out differences..

    Mises tosses off an insight that shakes up everything. Here is the mic-drop moment:

    Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, the famous German philosopher, gave rise to two schools —the “left” Hegelians and the “right” Hegelians. Karl Marx was the most important of the “left” Hegelians. The Nazis came from the “right” Hegelians.

    I’ve never seen it put so plainly. In my own education, I was highly educated on the left branch but not the right branch. Over the last two years, coinciding with the rise of a quasi-Nazi movement in Europe and the US, right-Hegelianism has been resurgent. It should be called the other threat to liberty. In other essays, Mises goes into further detail.

    In brief, Hegel’s view of history as having some acting purpose aside from individual human beings bled into an attack on the idea of economics and free markets. Hegel became the most important antiliberal until that moment of time.

    Mises points out that Hegel’s following split into right and left. The right believed that history was driving toward a culminating moment in which all final authority on earth was embodied by the Prussian state and church. The left believed that the culminating moment was more universal and was characterized by the birth of a new man who would live completely differently from anyone else in history. The right Hegelians became the fascists and corporate/theocratic/ conservatives, while the left Hegelians followed socialism straight to Marx and beyond.

    Using that model of understanding, you can literally reconstruct the whole of the intellectual history of politics and society from the early 19th century to the present day. It is rich and pregnant with massive implications for our own time. And, so far as I know, this is the only place he states this observation with such clarity of exposition – again, owing to the informal structure of the venue.

    RTWT