Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Commonalities: Today’s “Cultural Marxists” and the Real Marxists of Yore

It seems to me that there are certain parallels between the Marxists of yore (I’m thinking late 20th century) and the “Cultural Marxists” of today. (Many of these “Cultural Marxists” of today are profiled and documented at the site that I recently have mentioned).

To be sure, not all of them are the same, but on the other hand, we see certain commonalities, such as an overt belief in naturalistic atheism; a crafted message/agenda that offers certain but limited resemblance to true things – designed to suck in the ignorant, and from which deviation is a kind of betrayal and is punishable; a pure will-to-power (primarily through the use of governmental power – and the related shrill hatred for Trump that they feel – Trump being the ultimate “anti-Cultural-Marxist” of our day, but even a kind of power derived from shouting someone down on Twitter and destroying – to the extent that they are able – individual lives and careers); and even a willingness in some instances to resort to violence.

It’s easy for these groups to say, “we’re not like the Soviet Marxists; we have good intentions”. Well, that all reminded me of some of the things I’d read back when I was a kid in my late teens.

The following, from Václav Havel, may be considered to be a “worst-case scenario” given who the Cultural Marxists are and what they are doing, but the similarities are there. Havel was a poet and playwright from Czechoslovakia, under the Soviet regime. After the fall of communism, he was elected president of Czechoslovakia (1989-1992) and then president of the Czech Republic (1993-2000) when the country was split into two countries (Czech Republic and Slovakia).

It is from Havel’s “The Power of the Powerless”. This is a brutal but honest description of “Life Within the Soviet Bloc”.

The intention was merely that this work would be distributed and discussed.

“The Power of the Powerless” (October 1978) was originally written (“quickly,” Havel said later) as a discussion piece for a projected join Polish-Czechoslovak volume of essays on the subject of freedom and power. All of the participants were to receive Havel’s essay, and then respond to it in writing on both sides, but only the Czechoslovak side was completed. Meanwhile, in May 1979, some of the Czechoslovak contributors were also members of VONS (the Committee to Defend the Unjustly Prosecuted), including Havel, were arrested, and it was decided to go ahead and “publish” the Czechoslovak contributions separately. (“Open Letters: Selected Writings 1965-1990”, Random House, 1992, pg 125, from the introduction to the essay).

While it was said at the time, “there came a moment when people thought we were crazy” … “Then came the essay by Havel. Reading it gave us the theoretical underpinnings for our activity. It maintained our spirits; we did not give up, and a year later – in August 1980 – it became clear that the party apparatus and the factory management were afraid of us. We mattered. And the rank and file saw us as leaders of the movement” (pg 126).

Our system is most frequently characterized as a dictatorship or, more precisely, as the dictatorship of a political bureaucracy over a society which has undergone economic and social leveling. I am afraid that the term "dictatorship, " regardless of how intelligible it may otherwise be, tends to obscure rather than clarify the real nature of power in this system. We usually associate the term with the notion of a small group of people who take over the government of a given country by force; their power is wielded openly, using the direct instruments of power at their disposal, and they are easily distinguished socially from the majority over whom they rule. One of the essential aspects of this traditional or classical notion of dictatorship is the assumption that it is temporary, ephemeral, lacking historical roots. Its existence seems to be bound up with the lives of those who established it. It is usually local in extent and significance, and regardless of the ideology it utilizes to grant itself legitimacy, its power derives ultimately from the numbers and the armed might of its soldiers and police. The principal threat to its existence is felt to be the possibility that someone better equipped in this sense might appear and overthrow it.

Even this very superficial overview should make it clear that the system in which we live has very little in common with a classical dictatorship. In the first place, our system is not limited in a local, geographical sense; rather, it holds sway over a huge power bloc controlled by one of the two superpowers. And although it quite naturally exhibits a number of local and historical variations, the range of these variations is fundamentally circumscribed by a single, unifying framework throughout the power bloc. Not only is the dictatorship everywhere based on the same principles and structured in the same way (that is, in the way evolved by the ruling super power), but each country has been completely penetrated by a network of manipulatory instruments controlled by the superpower center and totally subordinated to its interests.

Imagine the power of today’s Cultural Marxists if they were to obtain the levers of power granted by the power of the presidency and the US Government. It’s true Obama had such levers of power, and he showed what he’d do with it. But Obama was milquetoast compared to some of today’s Leftists.

In the stalemated world of nuclear parity, of course, that circumstance endows the system with an unprecedented degree of external stability compared with classical dictatorships. Many local crises which, in an isolated state, would lead to a change in the system, can be resolved through direct intervention by the armed forces of the rest of the bloc.

In the second place, if a feature of classical dictatorships is their lack of historical roots (frequently they appear to be no more than historical freaks, the fortuitous consequence of fortuitous social processes or of human and mob tendencies), the same cannot be said so facilely about our system. For even though our dictatorship has long since alienated itself completely from the social movements that give birth to it, the authenticity of these movements (and I am thinking of the proletarian and socialist movements of the nineteenth century) gives it undeniable historicity. These origins provided a solid foundation of sorts on which it could build until it became the utterly new social and political reality it is today, which has become so inextricably a part of the structure of the modern world. A feature of those historical origins was the "correct" understanding of social conflicts in the period from which those original movements emerged. The fact that at the very core of this "correct" understanding there was a genetic disposition toward the monstrous alienation characteristic of its subsequence development is not essential here. And in any case, this element also grew organically from the climate of that time and therefore can be said to have its origin there as well.

One legacy of that original "correct" understanding is a third peculiarity that makes our systems different from other modern dictatorships: it commands an incomparably more precise, logically structured, generally comprehensible and, in essence, extremely flexible ideology that, in its elaborateness and completeness, is almost a secularized religion.

Think of the homosexual agenda. Deviations from the “correct” understanding of this are punishable, sometimes severely so.

It offers a ready answer to any question whatsoever; it can scarcely be accepted only in part, and accepting it has profound implications for human life. In an era when metaphysical and existential certainties are in a state of crisis, when people are being uprooted and alienated and are losing their sense of what this world means, this ideology inevitably has a certain hypnotic charm. To wandering humankind [if you accept this agenda] it offers an immediately available home: all one has to do is accept it, and suddenly everything becomes clear once more, life takes on new meaning, and all mysteries, unanswered questions, anxiety, and loneliness vanish. Of course, one pays dearly for this low-rent home: the price is abdication of one’ s own reason, conscience, and responsibility, for an essential aspect of this ideology is the consignment of reason and conscience to a higher authority. The principle involved here is that the center of power is identical with the center of truth. (In our case, the connection with Byzantine theocracy is direct: the highest secular authority is identical with the highest spiritual authority.) It is true of course that, all this aside, ideology no longer has any great influence on people, at least within our bloc (with the possible exception of Russia, where the serf mentality, with its blind, fatalistic respect for rulers and its automatic acceptance of all their claims, is still dominant and combined with a superpower patriotism which traditionally places the interests of empire higher than the interests of humanity). But this is not important, because ideology plays its role in our system very well (an issue to which I will return) precisely because it is what it is.

Fourth, the technique of exercising power in traditional dictatorships contains a necessary element of improvisation.

This is useful for the many times when the “correct” understanding faces its inevitable contradictions.

The mechanisms for wielding power are for the most part not established firmly, and there is considerable room for accident and for the arbitrary and unregulated application of power. Socially, psychologically, and physically, conditions still exist for the expression of some form of opposition. In short, there are many seams on the surface which can split apart before the entire power structure has managed to stabilize. Our system, on the other hand, has been developing in the Soviet Union for over sixty years, and for approximately thirty years in Eastern Europe; moreover, several of its long-established structural features are derived from Czarist absolutism. In terms of the physical aspects of power, this has led to the creation of such intricate and well-developed mechanisms for the direct and indirect manipulation of the entire population that, as a physical power base, it represents something radically new. At the same time, let us not forget that the system is made significantly more effective by state ownership and central direction of all the means of production. This gives the power structure an unprecedented and uncontrollable capacity to invest in itself (in the areas of the bureaucracy and the police, for example) and makes it easier for that structure, as the sole employer, to manipulate the day-to-day existence of all citizens.

Consider that it’s technology firms now that are controlling and manipulating conversations.

Finally, if an atmosphere of revolutionary excitement, heroism, dedication, and boisterous violence on all sides characterizes classical dictatorships, then the last traces of such an atmosphere have vanished from the Soviet bloc. For, some time now this bloc has ceased to be a kind of enclave, isolated from the rest of the developed world and immune to processes occurring in it. To the contrary, the Soviet bloc is an integral part of that larger world, and it shares and shapes the world's destiny. This means in concrete terms that the hierarchy of values existing in the developed countries of the West has, in essence, appeared in our society (the long period of co-existence with the West has only hastened this process)In other words, what we have here is simply another form of the consumer and industrial society, with all its concomitant social, intellectual, and psychological consequences. It is impossible to understand the nature of power in our system properly without taking this into account.

The profound difference between our system-in terms of the nature of power-and what we traditionally understand by dictatorship, a difference I hope is clear even from this quite superficial comparison, has caused me to search for some term appropriate for our system, purely for the purposes of this essay. If I refer to it henceforth as a "post-totalitarian" system, I am fully aware that this is perhaps not the most precise term, but I am unable to think of a better one. I do not wish to imply by the prefix "post" that the system is no longer totalitarian; on the contrary, I mean that it is totalitarian in a way fundamentally different from classical dictatorships, different from totalitarianism as we usually understand it.

The “post-totalitarian” system continued to work, even though it became “a total assault on humans and humans stand against it alone, abandoned and isolated. It is therefore entirely natural that all the "dissident" movements are explicitly defensive movements: they exist to defend human beings and the genuine aims of life against the aims of the system.”

We (Christians) are facing such a post-totalitarian system, in its ideologies, in its methods of control, and in fact, in its power to control conversations.

Havel goes on to talk about how and why certain large portions of the populations acquiesced to “the correct understanding”. And what it would (might) take to break free from such a system.

It can happen and did happen only because there is obviously in modern humanity a certain tendency toward the creation, or at least the toleration, of such a system. There is obviously something in human beings which responds to this system, something they reflect and accommodate, something within them which paralyzes every effort of their better selves to revolt. Human beings are compelled to live within a lie, but they can be compelled to do so only because they are in fact capable of living in this way. Therefore not only does the system alienate humanity, but at the same time alienated humanity supports this system as its own involuntary masterplan, as a degenerate image of its own degeneration, as a record of people's own failure as individuals.

Havel’s answer involved “the rehabilitation of values like trust, openness, responsibility, solidarity, love.”

These, of course, must all be defined in their proper sense, and not in the sense that the Marxists of his era (think 1984) would have defined them. Václav Havel did not love Big Brother.

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