Turning back the clock of history.
No one ever claimed that 1993's Rising Sun was robbed of an Oscar, but the movie did have its moments, especially one where Harvey Keitel's police lieutenant -- a tightly corked, by-the-book kind of guy who's rattled by the looming Japanese corporate takeover of America (again, this was '93) and the latitude he's ordered to show Japanese nationals living here -- starts to rant: "F*** 'em if they break the law! If that brands me as a reactionary.... What does that mean anyway -- 'reactionary'? Is that a dirty word?" For those familiar with the argot of the political Left, it's an effort to suppress a laugh.
In the most general terms, the reactionary out-Herods the conservative by not only opposing historical change, but actually wanting to reverse it ("to revert to an earlier state" -- Webster's). And to understand why that's such a "dirty" thing to Leftists, we have to be familiar with the underpinnings of Leftism: Marxian historical materialism.
In his letter to Ludwig Kugelmann, Karl Marx insisted that "every child" grasped the reality that if a community ceased working, it would soon perish. He presented this as proof of his fundamental contention that material production to meet basic human needs constitutes the (economic) "structure" -- the foundation -- of society, "on which rise legal and political superstructures.... The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political, and intellectual life process in general." As Engels summarized it:
Just as Darwin discovered the law of evolution of organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of evolution of human history: the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of ideology, that mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, art, science, religion, etc.; that therefore the production of the immediate means of subsistence and consequently the degree of economic development obtained by a given people or during a given epoch form the foundation upon which the state institutions, the legal conceptions, art, and even the ideas on religion of the people concerned have been evolved, and in light of which they must, therefore, be explained, instead of vice versa, as had hitherto been the case.
As Ayn Rand once quipped, this is the notion that the "material tools of production determine men's 'ideological superstructure' (which means: machines create men's thinking, not the other way around)." For those who imagine this a burlesque of the Marxian viewpoint, elsewhere Engels wrote:
[T]he ultimate causes of all social changes and political revolutions ought to be sought, not in the minds of men, in their increasing insight into eternal truth and justice, but in the changes in the mode of production and exchange; they are to be sought not in the philosophy but in the economics of the epoch concerned.
This "mode" develops "itself by the dialectical process of its own 'super-logic' of contradictions" (Rand), which virtually alone turns the gears of history, the mechanics of which men cannot -- and so must not attempt to -- counter. Thus the metaphysic of historical materialism (which Engels applied even to itself, characterizing the ideology-qua-"science" as something that "had to be discovered") begets an amoral "morality" of historical justification. Justice is nothing more than a question of what is "necessary and unavoidable with a given system of production" (Marx). Indeed, "what avails lamentation in the face of historical necessity?" And "in the face of new, higher conditions," the present mode of production -- and every one of its "superstructures" -- "loses its validity and justification" (Engels). Progress -- "revolution" -- emerges as Marxism's categorical imperative; reaction -- "counter-revolution" -- its great evil.
How Marx and Engels themselves understood the application to human events of this historicism (when welded to their ideas of class conflict -- discussed below) was made quite explicit:
The year 1848 first of all brought with it the most terrible chaos ... by setting free for a short time all these different nationalities which ... came into conflict with one another, while within each of these nationalities a struggle went on also between the different classes. But soon order came out of this chaos. The combatants divided into two large camps: the Germans, Poles and Magyars took the side of revolution; the remainder, all the Slavs, except for the Poles, the Rumanians and Transylvanian Saxons, took the side of counter-revolution.
...But at the first victorious uprising of the French proletariat ... the Austrian Germans and Magyars will be set free and wreak a bloody revenge on the Slav barbarians. The general war which will then break out will smash this Slav Sonderbund and wipe out all these petty hidebound nations....
The next world war will result in the disappearance from the face of the earth not only of reactionary classes and dynasties, but also of entire reactionary peoples. And that, too, is a step forward.
This passage, easily mistakable for something culled from Mein Kampf, illustrates a militaristic and genocidal theory that more or less accurately presaged its own future.
As for the suggestion that Marx or Engels hedged here and there, Thomas Sowell reminds us:
What Marx knew or stated in ad hoc ways must be clearly distinguished from what he built into his systematic analysis. It might be possible to assemble a substantial collection of random quotes from his passing remarks, showing that Marx knew about [other factors], but such an exercise would have no significance for Marxian analysis as a system. Marx's arbitrary assumptions ... were built into the very framework and definitions of Marxian economics, in effect making the isolated things that he knew ad hoc "off limits" to his analysis.
The foregoing is the skeleton; the "flesh" begins with Marxism's own quasi-Eden, viz., "primitive communism." A concept the formulators of "scientific socialism" distilled from Lewis H. Morgan's intoxicating (and thoroughly unscientific) romanticization of the "noble savage," this is mankind's primordial historical (i.e., economic) stage. "In these societies," explains Robert Heilbroner,
the class divisions of later civilizations are not to be found. Property is almost nonexistent.... There is almost no formal apparatus of government. Nothing like the state exists. The economic basis of society -- usually hunting or gathering or primitive agriculture -- is seamlessly woven into its social and political functions.
Alas, developing cultures eventually bite the apple of private property rights and the division of labor. Consequently,
human existence loses its unity and wholeness before the division of class domination and over-specialized social function. The working person becomes separated from the product of his own labor. His work, once the very expression and incorporation of his generic being, now confronts him as a thing apart, indeed as a thing that commands him as property. Marx calls this subordination of the worker to the "reified" product of his labor, confronting him as an alien thing, alienation. Although it exists in other kinds of societies, it attains its most complete expression in the regime of capitalism....
In the mode of production of capitalism, class antagonisms are finally simplified to two great opposing camps -- workers and owners, proletarians and capitalists. The class struggle under capitalism thus leads to the possibility of a final victory by the great masses of individuals who will create a "dictatorship of the proletariat" ... [, which] would establish the hegemony of the masses, the domination by the previously dominated.... A terminus of history would be reached in which a classless society would vindicate the long historical struggle.
And so, with this end of history -- and of Marx's deterministic historicism -- we can back up to the beginning. Regarding the invocation of Darwin, one writer, Robert B. Downs, points out that by "tying his class-struggle theory of history to Darwin's theory of evolution, Marx gave his ideas respectability and, at the same time, he believed, made them irrefutable." More soberly, it's a bad analogy that makes for worse science. Darwinian evolution, including ongoing human evolution, is a matter of accident; Marxian evolution, a matter of necessity. The former is open-ended, whereas the latter follows a path to a "terminus," as reflected in Marx's frequent metamorphosis metaphors. (Those who point to traces of accident in Marx are, again, pointing to the ad hoc.)
As intimated above, Marx is better compared to the Bible, as are a host of other such Us-vs.-Them collectivist ideologues who posit a Paradise, a fall from grace, and a redemptive return. Hitler (another gutter appropriator of Darwin) poisoned his soul with the dementia of Lanz von Liebenfels. His Ostara propagated the myth of Nordic ur-humans (complete with electrified organs), who spawned the "lower" races when some of their women copulated with apes and whose blond descendants must now fight these half-beasts to regain racial supremacy. The Black Muslims had a reverse mythology, wherein the first humans were black, until an evil scientist among them ("Mr. Yacub") genetically engineered the white race that would then go on to cruelly dominate the world, a reign that would now be crushed by the Muslims themselves. And most recently, "radical" feminists have limned a history of matriarchal antiquity, its conquest by the Learned Elders of Patriarchy, and its imminent restoration -- by the feminists themselves. (See Cynthia Eller, The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory.)
But the truly intriguing thing here is how Marxism's "terminus" -- Communism, the "[a]bolition of private property" -- is in fact a return to its starting point: the absence of private property under "primitive communism." Marxian "revolution" is not an advance toward an unprecedented stage of history, but a revolving back to the original. And how is that even possible by Marx's own postulates? How can the stone knife and the precision laser both produce the same "superstructure" of collective ownership and uniformity of labor? How is that anything but itself reactionary?
It is the question to ask of everything Marxist -- and of the entire Left.
For instance, do Marxist economics and politics really represent a new stage of social organization? The short answer, as we've just seen, is no. But consider the specific historical context. Downs:
The year 1776 may logically be regarded as the close of one epoch and the beginning of another.... One commentator has characterized the preceding era as "the dark ages of modern times." In England virtually every aspect of economic life was under strict government control. Prices were stabilized, wages and hours of labor fixed, production regulated, and foreign trade, both imports and exports, completely dominated by the state. War was almost always present. National policy dictated a strong army and navy, ... grabbing of colonies throughout the world, and weakening, by fair means or foul, of rival countries.... [P]olitical rights for the masses existed largely in theory rather than in practice.
Centuries-old policy, this controlled economy was eventually even more burdened by the rise of the mercantilists:
In the view of this group, exports were blessings, imports calamities; money should not be permitted to leave the country; a "favorable" balance of trade should always be maintained; wages for labor should be low and hours long; high tariffs must protect home industries; a strong merchant marine was essential; and any measures which aided the mercantilists ipso facto were assumed to benefit the nation as a whole.
What changed all this, of course, was the advent of Adam Smith and free-market liberalism. With the repeal of medieval regulations and mercantilist rules came an era of unprecedented increase in prosperity, population, freedom, peace. And in his revolt against this liberalism (or "capitalism," his coinage) -- and not against feudalism or theocracy or aristocracy, to say nothing of twentieth-century fascism -- Marx, history's first neo-conservative, was advocating nothing less than a revolving back to the ancien régime of the controlled economy. Herein lies his unicum opus and bequest to the Left: the rhetorical inversion of reality -- specifically, the presentation of reaction as "revolution," of the return to a past stage of history as a progression to the "next." Backward is Forward -- the Orwellian prototype.
In contrast to the free-market order it seeks to succeed, Heilbroner acknowledges, the People's State of Marx
will require [vast] authority over economic activity. The huge productive apparatus of contemporary industrial society ... [and t]he nature of the production process itself ... will have to be redesigned, if the work experience of socialism is to differ from that of capitalism. And of course the distribution of income must undergo radical change....
All this requires the use of political command.... [I]t requires the curtailment of the central economic freedom of bourgeois society, namely the right of individuals to own, and therefore to withhold if they wish, the means of production, including their own labor. The full preservation of this bourgeois freedom would place the attainment of socialism at the mercy of property owners who could threaten to deny their services to society [i.e., the socialist government] -- and again I refer to their labor, not just to material resources -- if their terms were not met.
There we have it -- forwarding to the socialist future requires only the STOP-REWIND-EJECT of capitalist history, i.e., the "curtailment" of capitalism's economic and political freedoms. Essentially, socialism will be a resurrection of pre-liberalism and one of its most odious institutions. Recall that socialists have always condemned capitalism for its "wage slavery" -- if you don't work, you don't eat. And under socialism ... what? Everyone will be fed, even if no one chooses to work? What happened to the stupefying insight (known to "every child") that such a society would collapse? But socialism will not allow any individuals "to withhold if they wish ... their own labor," much less feed them if they do. The real socialist alternative to "wage slavery" is, not the introduction of "substantive rights" to basic necessities, but the reinstitution of outright chattel slavery -- with the socialists themselves cracking the whip. There is nothing new ("revolutionary") here, nor anything that, again, makes much sense by its own alleged framework. How is something a "bourgeois freedom" if it can be exercised by -- or denied to -- the working class? And what of the conflict between "workers and owners," which is supposedly directing this entire stage of historical evolution? If now human labor also constitutes "property," who isn't a property owner? Even more to the point, if the human body constitutes a "means of production," who isn't property himself? So what is socialism to any man but the real "thing that commands him as property," property that is now owned by the State? And what is the Manifesto's call for the "[a]bolition of private property" but a call for the abolition of private everything? Yet again, any attempt to negotiate the Marxian maze runs smack into a wall of totalitarianism, i.e., the maximization of pre-liberal despotism. And with all of this, "progressive" rhetoric clothes -- obscures -- reactionary policy.
Heilbroner is hardly alone in recognizing Marxism's need to eliminate the "central economic freedom of bourgeois society" -- and its demanumitting nature. That Marxism resubjects men to a "slave state" was noted by Arnold Ruge -- in 1844, with that conclusion becoming more inescapable each year. As Richard Pipes observes:
The concept of compulsory labor was embedded in Marxism. Article 8 of the Communist Manifesto of 1848 called for the "equal liability of all to labor. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture." Obviously, in a regimented economy, without a free commodity market, it made no sense to maintain a free market in labor services.
And the Bolshevik theoretician most influenced by Marx in these matters agreed:
In the era of serfdom it was not so that gendarmes stood over every serf. There were certain economic forms to which the peasant had grown accustomed, which, at the time, he regarded as just.... It is said that compulsory labor is unproductive. This means that the whole socialist economy is doomed to be scrapped, because there is no other way of attaining socialism except through the command allocation of the entire labor force by the economic center.... Forced serf labor did not emerge because of the ill will of the feudal class: it was a progressive phenomenon.
With expositors like Trotsky, socialism doesn't need critics like Hayek. Indeed, it is almost impossible for any honest thinker not to see that Marx was leading mankind on a road back to serfdom, e.g., the classic The Liberal Tradition in America's Louis Hartz, who recognized that of course socialism wasn't the innovation of a proletariat existentially compelled by an almost animistic "mode of production":
Actually socialism is largely an ideological phenomenon, arising out of the principles of [aristocracy] and the revolutionary liberal revolt against them which the old European order inspired. It is not accidental that America which has uniquely lacked a feudal tradition has uniquely lacked also a socialist tradition. The hidden origin of socialist thought everywhere in the West is to be found in the feudal ethos. The ancien régime inspires Rousseau; both inspire Marx.
It was therefore "no accident" that Marxist neo-feudalist theory translated into Communist neo-feudalist practice.
The Russian Revolution was a "revolution" only in the sense that it was a revolt -- against 1905, the "apogee of Russian liberalism" (Pipes). Lenin and his fellow socialists proceeded to turn back the clock on every advance of that liberalism. For instance, in 1716 the Emperor was defined as an "absolute monarch, who is not obligated to answer for his actions in the world but has the power and the authority to govern ... in accord with his desire." Similarly, the (old) Fundamental Laws declared his power "unlimited" and "autocratic." And when the Bolsheviks came to power, they abolished Russia's first democratic assembly ever and established an explicit "dictatorship" that Lenin himself described as "power that is limited by nothing, by no laws, that is restrained by absolutely no rules, that rests directly on coercion." Small wonder that so many across the globe came to refer to the succession of Soviet premiers as the "new Tsars."
Absolute monarchy wasn't the only "old European order" elite restored by the Bolsheviks. They also gave Mother Russia a new hereditary aristocracy: the nomenklatura, who filled the offices necessitated by socialism's "use of political command." To quote one of its members:
[T]he nomenklatura is on another planet.... It's not simply a matter of good cars or apartments. It's the continuous satisfaction of your own whims.... All the little apparatchiks are ready to do everything for you. Your every wish is fulfilled.... You are like a king: just point your finger and it is done.
Ironically, notes Pipes, the nomenklatura soon grew to match the "proportion of service nobles under tsarism in the eighteenth century." (Even more ironically, Heilbroner reveals that the reason why the "distribution of income must undergo radical change" under socialism is to ensure that the "class structure of the old society is not to reappear, perhaps with new occupants, in the new.")
The return of the old in a superficially "new" (e.g., inverted) form -- a paradigm that would ultimately expand beyond Marxism to all Leftism -- was epitomized by the treatment of religion. Whereas conservative Orthodox theocracy predated (and eventually resisted) the liberal concept of Church-State separation, reactionary Bolshevism overthrew it -- and made opinions on the supernatural once again a matter of state coercion. But instead of persecuting all nonbelievers in a specific type of theism, it persecuted all nonbelievers in a specific type of atheism (viz., Marx's "dialectical materialism"). The only "progress" this policy made was on toward different targets. And as a policy, atheocracy would ultimately expand beyond Bolshevism to all Communism.
And what of Russia's laboring masses, notably its peasants?
Collectivization degraded the peasant more than did pre-1861 serfdom, since as a serf he had owned (in practice, if not in theory) his crops and livestock. His new status was that of a slave laborer who received the bare minimum of subsistence: for backbreaking work in 1935 a peasant household earned from the kolkhoz 247 rubles a year, just enough to purchase one pair of shoes.
Admittedly, it's arguable that, in a Russian context, this was not at all "reactionary," i.e., turning the peasant back into a serf, but genuinely evolutionary, i.e., mutating him into a slave. Along those lines, we cannot fail to mention the slave repositories of the Gulag, which also provided much of the "compulsory labor" essential to "attaining socialism."
Finally, what about the most fundamental feature of Communism, which "may be summed up in a single sentence: Abolition of private property"? Did "War Communism," the Bolsheviks' all-out effort to annihilate and supplant every manifestation of capitalism, represent a new, unprecedented stage of economic organization, one born of the ascendancy of the proletariat? Again, Pipes:
State control (though not ownership) of production and distribution of commodities and labor had been introduced by Imperial Germany during World War I. These emergency policies, known as "War Socialism" (Kriegssozialismus), made a great impression on Lenin and his economic adviser, Iurii Larin. The replacement of the free market for commodities with a network of state-run distribution centers was patterned on the ideas of Louis Blanc and the ateliers introduced in France in 1848 under his influence. In spirit, however, War Communism resembled most the patrimonial regime (tiagloe gosudarstvo) of medieval Russia, under which the monarchy treated the entire country, with its inhabitants and resources, as its private domain.
Such was the revolutionary "future" beheld by the admirers of socialism in the West (e.g., Lincoln Steffens, Rexford Tugwell).
And so real was that illusion of the "future" in the eyes of the implementers of socialism, so vital was that conceit to its core justification, that they defined and dehumanized all who lay in their (i.e., History's) way as nothing more than manifestations of "counter-revolution," that magnum crimen. Communist practice thus proceeded decisively to effect the "disappearance" of "reactionary classes" (e.g., liquidation of the kulaks, the Cultural Revolution), "reactionary peoples" (e.g., Soviet starvation of non-Russians, Khmer Rouge atrocities against ethnic Vietnamese), and any and all "reactionary" individuals -- with that chorus of Western fellow travelers praising the savagery as a "step forward," even a Great Leap.
As a counterpart to socialist dictatorship, the West had its own regressive revolt against laissez-faire liberalism: the "social-democratic" welfare-warfare state. One of the most prescient voices on this matter was nineteenth-century English polymath Herbert Spencer, a figure since inanely caricaturized as a dog-eat-dog, let-the-poor-starve "Social Darwinist" (in other words, a pseudo-scientist on par with Marx and Hitler). Spencer recognized that the "new" legislation was merely an excavation of the ancient statutes whose repeal had ushered in the liberal era. The employment restrictions of the Act of 1870? Not at all unlike those of Edward VI. The Seed Supply Act of 1880? Its purpose much the same as similar agrarian laws passed in 1597 and even 1533. The inspection regulations? No different than those under the "law of Edward III." Recent restrictions on alcohol? An echo of the fourteenth century, "when diet as well as dress was restricted." The latest prohibition of gambling? A reflection of "edicts issued by Henry VIII to prevent the lower classes from playing dice, cards, bowls, etc." And what was the "new" Poor Law but "identical in nature with the system of 'make-wages' under the old Poor Law"? Small wonder that Spencer characterized all this, not as a necessary next stage of liberalism, but as a "new form of Toryism."
And yet liberalism was precisely the term that came to designate this reactionary regime. Here Spencer's insight was discounted just as it had been on all other aspects of the resurfacing statism. He believed, relates Roderick T. Long, that
although militant [i.e., pre-liberal] society was destined to give way to industrial [i.e., liberal] society eventually, there would inevitably be temporary reverses and detours along the way. And Spencer believed that the modern world, after a long period of liberalization, was headed into just such a retrograde phase. Observing an increase in "imperialism, re-barbarization, and regimentation," he foresaw this trend's eventual culmination in a "lapse of self-ownership into ownership by the [State]." Like many classical-liberal thinkers at the end of the nineteenth century, Spencer prophetically predicted for the century to come a grim relapse into collectivism and war.
It is nearly inexplicable how the "progressive" intelligentsia remain blind to the fulfillment of these predictions -- and to the errors of Marxism's "empirically false conclusions" (Sowell), excluding, that is, the realization of its militaristic and genocidal impulses (which is but the flip side to Spencer's analysis).
The situation was paralleled across the Great Pond, where a nation virtually born of a revolution against mercantilism began to sire its own mercantilist enterprise. Mythologized as the "Progressive Era," when the Little Man and his (self-anointed) champions rose up to bridle the "economic power" of Big Business, this was actually -- in the phraseology of Gabriel Kolko -- a "triumph of conservatism," wherein the established "business and financial interests" sought to fend off upstart competitors by resorting to reactionary means: government intervention in the economy.
The "departure from orthodox laissez faire" is by and large the only part of the myth that was true. Instead of a handful of cephalopod monopolies using their "economic power" to constrict competition, the "dominant tendency in the American economy at the beginning of [the twentieth] century was toward growing competition," which the older corporations could not stop -- without political favoritism, that is. So "it was not the existence of [free-market] monopoly that caused the federal government to intervene in the economy, but the lack of it." The new state regulatory bodies and their decisions were "invariably controlled by leaders of the regulated industry, and directed toward ends they deemed acceptable or desirable ... [mostly] because the regulatory movements were usually initiated by the dominant businesses to be regulated," e.g., the Interstate Commerce Commission and the railroad industry (and over the decades many others, such as the Food and Drug Administration and the pharmaceutical industry, the Securities Exchange Commission and the securities industry, the Federal Communications Commission and the various communication fields, the Civil Aeronautics Board and the airline industry, etc.). In addition, there were the huge subsidies, e.g., money and land to the railroads -- as well as the high protectionist tariffs, since, as the New York Times soon grasped,
so-called Anti-Trust law was passed to deceive the people and to clear the way for the enactment of this ... law relating to the tariff. It was projected in order that the party organs might say to the opponents of tariff extortion and protected combinations, "Behold! We have attacked the Trusts. The Republican party is the enemy of all such rings."
And the Progressive Era's patrimony to the present age? We can assign a contemporary "progressive" -- Ralph Nader -- the task of "restatement of the obvious":
The arms-length relationship which must characterize any democratic government in its dealings with special interest groups has been replaced, and not just by ad hoc wheeling and dealing, which has been observed for generations. What is new is the institutionalized fusion of corporate desires with public bureaucracy -- where the national security is synonymous with the state of Lockheed and Litton, where career roles are interchangeable along the industry-to-government-to-industry shuttle, where corporate risks and losses become taxpayer obligations. For the most part, the large unions do not object to this situation, having become modest co-partners, seeking derivative benefits from the governmental patrons of industry.
One cannot help but wonder if the learned Mr. Nader ever stumbled across Progressive stalwart John Dewey's definition of democracy: "[T]hat form of social organization, extending to all areas and ways of living, in which the powers of individuals shall ... [be] directed" -- by the State. In any case, "Progressivism was," concludes Kolko, "... a movement that operated on the assumption that the general welfare of the community could be best served by satisfying the concrete needs of business" -- a familiar Old World theme. Regress is Progress – an Orwellianism for the New World in the new century.
Business-government collusion wasn't the only European tradition reproduced by the American welfare-warfare state. Their sundry "poor laws" eventually became the basis of our welfare sector, while this former colony's warfare sector "began the twentieth century," states Sowell, "talking of [America's] 'manifest destiny' to be fulfilled by acquiring an empire, including the Philippines, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico" -- with the "son of a czarist official" soon building the Soviet Empire. If there truly ever was any element of "moral equivalence" between the US and the USSR, it was the anti-liberal reaction of neo-mercantilist America and neo-feudalist Russia.
And there, to meet all the Left's theories (Marxist and variant) of history, is our theory of the history of the Left: Wherever a primordial darkness is at last breached by the torch of liberalism, the reactionary Left materializes to snuff that flame. In every incarnation, Leftism is a rejection of the individual and his inalienable rights, a return to tribalism and the club. But it is, as noted earlier, a return of the old in a superficially "new" form. It is a rejection of liberalism that often poses as an advance of liberalism -- with the civil rights and women's movements as contemporary examples.
The former was more than anything a historic revolt against the coercive racism of the State, which now was imposing segregation and not stopping crimes against blacks. The civil rights movement opposed this state discrimination in favor of a political order that judged its citizens, not "by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character" -- not as members of a race, but as individuals. The movement's own libertarian character was somewhat compromised by the attempt to extend this colorblindness from government officials to private employers with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but none of its senatorial proponents imagined that this legislation would backfire by requiring consideration of race -- by both government officials and private employers:
· Hubert Humphrey: "If [anyone] can find in Title VII ... any language which provides that an employer will have to hire on the basis of percentage or quota related to color, race, religion, or national origin, I will start eating the pages one after another, because it is not there."
· Clifford Case and Joseph Clark: The law doesn't compel an employer to "maintain a racial balance in his work force. On the contrary, any deliberate attempt to maintain a racial balance, whatever such a balance may be, would involve a violation of [the law] because maintaining such a balance would require an employer to hire or refuse to hire on the basis of race."
· Harrison Williams: "[T]o hire a Negro solely because he is a Negro is racial discrimination, just as much as a 'white only' employment policy.... Those who say that equality means favoritism do violence to common sense."
And yet today such "violence" ("Reverse racism reverses racism") has become a tributary of the Democratic mainstream, viz., the policy of affirmative action. How? By a shift from liberal individualism to Leftist collectivism, i.e., a shift back to racial consciousness -- with the terms liberal and civil rights coming along for the ride.
While the original liberal supporters of civil rights saw colorblindness as their end, the Leftists who in time commandeered the movement and its terminology had in their sights a very different end, one that necessitated racial consideration as its means. In total opposition, they favored racial "balance" over racial blindness. For the liberals, racism meant any violation of the principle of legal equality between individuals. For the Left, "racism" is any deviation from the blueprint of economic equality between races -- which is precisely the situation of the day, where Leftists denounce as "racist" any alleged "disparity" in any field of human endeavor, positive or negative. If whites are "disproportionately represented" in the professions or the universities -- or if blacks are so in prison -- it is seen as being in itself a manifestation of society's "racism," which is why affirmative action's reverse racism "reverses racism" to achieve "diversity," as the slogans spin it. (At least in the worlds of business and higher education: Leftists have yet to insist upon affirmative action for arrests/convictions.)
Once affirmative action was arbitrarily pronounced the "next step" in the progression of civil rights, any opposition to it could be only a determination to reverse that movement. That's why when Leftists condemn someone as "reactionary," it's not a Strom Thurmond defending Jim Crow, but a Ward Connerly defending Hubert Humphrey. They see no reaction in their own digging up of government racial monitoring, no area of confluence between themselves and the conservators of the Old South. Segregation worked to impose inequality, while affirmative action programs (and reparations and still other proposals) work, we are told, to achieve an opposite "equality" between races -- and doesn't that make all the difference? This is also something Spencer saw coming. The reactionary Leftist, he observed,
who more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able, will continue to protest. Knowing that his aim is popular benefit of some kind, to be achieved in some way, and believing that the [conservative] is, contrariwise, prompted by class-interest and the desire to maintain class-power, he will regard it as palpably absurd to group him as one of the same genus, and will scorn the reasoning used to prove that he belongs to it.
And so the Left sees no racism even in its own exaltation of the race above the individual (i.e., racism's very foundation) because -- by virtue of that exaltation -- there are no individuals. "Racism" can therefore be only some kind of "inequality" between irreducible races, the sole denizens of the "multiculturalist" Weltanschauung, where the "structure" of pigment gives rise to the "superstructures" of culture. Essentially, the Left is bringing to race the same collectivist paradigm it brings to class, which is why its rejection of colorblindness shouldn't be in the least surprising: Collectivism needs collectives. That's why America is not a melting pot but a "salad bowl" – an at-once insipid and ominous image for the revival of racial politics. That's why the legal equality of each individual's civil rights is as "illusory" as the legal equality of each individual's property rights. Leftism no more embraced the birth of racial impartiality than it did that of the market economy, preferring to conjure the twin zombies of racial primacy and racial conflict.
The shift from liberal individualism to leftist collectivism is also what has largely defined contemporary "feminism." Early feminism was so opposed to any sexual "stereotypes" that many worried the movement was committed to complete androgyny. (Remember the controversy over pink-or-blue for babies?) Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique was a clarion repudiation of gender collectivism, a call for sex, like race, to yield to content of character as the new standard of judgment. Appreciating this, Edith Efron, in her review, noted that Friedan "asks why the Nazi view of women [Kinder-Küche-Kirche] received such unanimous support from the 'thinkers' of America -- why it was so readily integrated into modern American culture." Efron answered: "Doctrines which deny mind, independence and individuality are magnetically attractive to Statist 'intellectuals' in all societies; [misogynistic sexism] was totally harmonious with the anti-reason, anti-individualism of modern American [Leftists]." (This history of the Left's fascistic sexism has been understandably expunged from the Left's history of itself.)
Efron presented this as analysis, not prophecy, but the irony is very obvious in light of what was to come. In the 80s, the women's corps of the Left's "Statist 'intellectuals'" seized the term feminism (like civil rights) to label their own doctrines, which did indeed "deny mind, independence and individuality." "Feminism," in the hands of collectivists (who, again, need collectives), was deformed into an ideology that assigns gender the same function that class and race serve in Marxism and Hitlerism, respectively. Very consciously aping the former, these "Second Wave" (AKA "gender" or "difference") feminists posited sexual identity as the "structure" that "engenders" (a jeu de mots that they evidently found endlessly delightful) all "superstructures." But the most strikingly reactionary aspect of all this was not the resurgence of sexism per se, but the resurgence of traditional sexism, e.g., the exact same connection of gender to "rationality" and "emotionalism." The superficially "new" feature -- the factor that makes something Leftist (and "revolutionary" and "progressive") -- was that while the old misogynists considered the former a "masculine" virtue and the latter a "feminine" vice, these misandrists valuated the former as a "phallocentric" evil and the latter as a "feminist" good. This polylogism of feminist sexism is one of the many commonalities with Marxist classism and Nazi racism. Too obviously, no one need fear even a trace of androgyny from these apostles of sexual Manichaeism. (The only gender differences these feminists denied were those that could actually be verified by science, a rival -- and predictably "androcratic" -- authority.)
What made such outrageous bigotry acceptable again was the gender feminists' focus on sex. That is, when male sexuality became "sexism," feminist gender bias ceased to be. This brazen act of legerdemain began with the anti-pornography campaign and tumefied into a state of hostilities where every expression of male sexuality was attacked by some feminists somewhere -- with, true, one exception: nocturnal emission. Feminists were the Sexual Revolution's reactionaries (who, tellingly, dubbed their villains "sexual liberals"). The nostalgic Sheila Jeffreys, for example, applauded Victorian Era writers who "felt sexual intercourse" -- a phenomenon common to pretty much every life form above Hydra -- "to be a humiliating practice because it showed men's dominance more than anything else." Sex, not sexism, oppressed women.
Following the standard script to the letter, these Leftists seized the movement's terminology, claimed its achievements for their own dogmas, and denounced any challenge to these dogmas as an attempt to "reverse" those achievements. Hence the "reactionary" threat came from, not the New Right fundamentalists (who proved faithful pro-censorship, anti-sex partners), but the advocates of the original feminist position -- the "liberal" feminists, as they were (rightfully) called by sideliners. For the usurpers' purposes, it was the feminist part that had to be negated, and in a 1995 Ms. cover story, Susan Faludi, an utter unknown a few years earlier (who, portentously, established her own "feminist" credentials by attacking Betty Friedan), condemned and purged Camille Paglia, Christina Hoff Sommers (Who Stole Feminism?), Rene Denfeld (The New Victorians), Katie Roiphe, and Karen Lehrman, accusing them of being "pod people" trying to infiltrate the women's movement. They were the retrograde embarrassments, not Jeffreys, MacKinnon, Dworkin, Morgan, Daly, French, Bunch, Gilligan, Raymond, Griffin, Leidholdt, Gimbutas, Christ, Stone, Russell, Harding, McIntosh, Rush, Dines, Sonia Johnson, Cheryl Clarke, Budapest, Barry, Person, Jaggar -- or Faludi herself, whose diatribe, with its equal parts puerility and venom, was so lame as to dot every i of Denfeld's depiction of her. Worst, however, was how she wrote as if she could get away with selling the Emperor's new clothes, as if without her no one could tell who had infiltrated whose movement, as if 1975 wasn't within living memory. (This is a reflection of Leftism's centering in academia: Every radiation is configured as propaganda aimed at nineteen-year-olds.)
Leftism's identity as a reaction against liberal modernity has now been all but DNA'd with the rise of postmodernism. As Stephen R. C. Hicks explains:
Postmodernism is born of the marriage of Left politics and skeptical epistemology. As socialist political thought was reaching a crisis in the 1950s, ... [t]he dominance of subjectivist and relativist epistemologies in academic philosophy [then] provided the academic Left with a new tactic. Confronted by harsh evidence and ruthless logic, the far Left had a reply: That is only logic and evidence; logic and evidence are subjective; you cannot really prove anything; feelings are deeper than logic; and our feelings say socialism.... Postmodernism is a response to the crisis in faith of the academic far Left. Its epistemology justifies the leap of faith necessary to continue believing in socialism, and the same epistemology justifies using language not as a vehicle for seeking truth but as a rhetorical weapon in the continuing battle against capitalism.
And so now the Left's targets include liberal individualism and liberal rationalism -- i.e., not just the Enlightenment's concept of freedom, but also its concept of reason.
Postmodernism's origin in socialist fideism gives the lie to the fundamentalist notion of the "tendency of naturalistic rationalism to decay into postmodern irrationalism" (Phillip E. Johnson, the Designer's advocate) -- and points to, once more, that damning testament to the reactionary nature of the Left: its affinity with conservative anti-liberalism.
Even from the beginning, Marx and Engels' critique of capitalism was less revolutionary than repetitive -- of the ideas and sentiments of Disraeli, Carlyle, Coleridge, Cobbett, Oastler, Southey, and Ruskin. As Nathaniel Branden writes:
The [conservatives] dreamed of abolishing the Industrial Revolution. The socialists wished to take it over. Both camps dismissed, or gave only grudging acknowledgment to, the achievements of capitalism; they preferred to eulogize the living conditions of previous ages. Friedrich Engels -- along with Carlyle -- regarded the domestic industries system of the pre-industrial era as the Golden Age of the working classes. The criticisms leveled against capitalism by both camps were remarkably similar: the "dehumanizing" effect of the factory system upon the worker, the "alienation" of man from nature, the "cold impersonality" of the market, the "cruelty" of the law of supply and demand -- and the evil of the pursuit of profit.
These, mind you, were the British conservatives. We'll avoid the too-fine point and not even mention their Continental counterparts.
Despite the calculated disclaimers of some, the fact remains that Leftists have always found in traditionalist and "right-wing" figures inspiration (e.g., Stalin, Ivan the Terrible; Mao, Hitler: "Look at World War II, at Hitler's cruelty. The more cruelty, the more enthusiasm for revolution.") and alliances (e.g., Stalin and Hitler, or on a social-democratic scale, the aforementioned feminist-fundamentalist intercourse). In contemporary matters, David Horowitz (Unholy Alliance) has documented the growing convergence of values and goals between Leftist zealots and Islamic jihadists. And as Walter Olson recounts, postmodernism has now found in conservatism, not merely an enemy-of-my-enemy ally, but a virtual soul mate on the other bank of the Endarkenment. The efficacy of science? Mr. Johnson might be a tad chagrined to learn that postmodernism has come to the same conclusion as religion's premodern irrationalism: "Science must be 'humbled'" (Noretta Koertge), specifically, its objectivity must be challenged in relation to the race/class/gender (or religion, for the anti-Darwinists) of its practitioners. The dignity of the independent man? The individual who defies his assigned tradition/culture, who thinks for himself and acts upon that judgment, is derided as a "self-inventing" and "narcissistic" rebel (by traditionalists), a "sellout," "assimilationist," or "Oreo" (by multiculturalists). The advance of Western civilization? Its spread is seen by both conservatives (e.g., John Gray) and multiculturalists as an assault on the "authentic" tradition and community of non-Western peoples. And of course, the value of Western liberalism? In their rejections of "tolerance," authoritarian conservatives such as Harvey Mansfield and Robert Knight are practically disciples of Herbert Marcuse. Finishing with a flourish, Olson gives us Joseph Bottum, who, after detailing parallels between "radicals" Foucault, Derrida, and Frederic Jameson and medievals Eckhart, Cusa, and St. Bonaventure, concluded: "What believers have in common with postmoderns is a distrust of modern claims to knowledge."
Intrinsically linked to freedom and reason is the last element of the triad of values repudiated by the Left: liberal humanism -- i.e., man. The subverted vehicle this time was environmentalism, which had begun with a genuinely benevolent concern: pollution as a threat to man. But lifted by the Rousseauian Left, the term was reapplied to an almost inconceivably malevolent concept: man as a pollutant threat to "the environment" -- that is, to all that is not human. When this "environment" became the summum bonum, man became the measure of all things evil. Accordingly, the advance of human civilization is condemned as a diminution -- as the destruction -- of the "natural" world, of the "wildlife, jungles, and rock formations that the environmentalists hold to be intrinsically valuable" (George Reisman). The "new" environmentalism's slogans speak volumes. "Back to the Pleistocene" evinces reaction against not only the Industrial Revolution but even the Agricultural Revolution (e.g., self-described neo-Luddite John Zerzan: "Agriculture has been and remains a 'catastrophe' at all levels, the one which underpins the entire material and spiritual culture of alienation now destroying us. Liberation is impossible without its dissolution."). And "Earth First!" aptly sums its priorities: the pre-human environment, including all lower life forms ("We Were Here First"), over the emergent Homo sapiens and their impact as such on that environment.
There can no longer be any confusion or evasion: The politics of reaction are the politics of the Left -- so much so that perhaps that as-useless-as-Up term can finally be replaced with Reactionaryism. After all, Left implies that there is an obverse Right, with the two exhausting the political spectrum. In fact, "right-wing" has never been more than the label Leftists slapped on all opponents, practical rivals or ideological antipodes, no matter how dissimilar (e.g., National Socialism and anarcho-capitalism). Yes, of course there are differences among the Reactionaryists, those being how far one wishes to regress: the 50s, the 1750s, the Middle Ages, the Stone Age, or some mythological origin. Those differences are what divides them into the many species. What unites them as a genus is how they reflexively project the status of "reactionary" onto all they come into conflict with.
And they will continue to do so -- as they must. There's an old saw to the effect that while all religions don't need a deity, they do need a devil. And that is the most crucial role that reaction plays for the Left: "The revolution needs the enemy.... The revolution needs for its development its antithesis, which is the counterrevolution" -- Fidel Castro. That is why the Communist regimes continually "discovered" -- and persecuted -- "reactionary" serpents within their Workers’ Paradises. So great was this bogey that many socialists even feared it themselves: While the Mensheviks proclaimed that they "did not belong ... to the admirers of the Bolshevik regime, and [had] always predicted the bankruptcy of its foreign and domestic policies," they nevertheless believed it "essential, above all, to take into account the tragic fact that any violent liquidation of the Bolshevik coup will, at the same time, result inevitably in the liquidation of all the conquests of the Russian Revolution." Surely, comrades, you do not want Jones back?
This fearmongering technique works just as well in today's America. As we've seen, opposition to affirmative action and other "progressive" programs is pointedly framed as an effort to "reverse the progress" of the civil rights movement. And what was the bugbear of Faludi's Backlash but that the Patriarchal Occupational Government was at any moment going to snatch women (just when the Second Wavers were about to smash the glass ceiling for them!) and return them in chains to the kitchen -- that is, unless they immediately gave their support (moral and monetary) to Faludi and those she deemed real feminists? This was, in fact, an especially audacious claim for her to make. Sowell:
One of the great hoaxes of our time is that ["feminism"] has brought great improvements in the representation of women in higher occupations. In reality, women were better represented in many high-level fields half a century ago than today [in 1984]. Back in the 1930s, women received a far higher percentage of the doctoral degrees in mathematics, chemistry, economics and law than in the 1960s. They were far better represented in professional careers in 1940 than 25 years later. What has happened between the 1930s and today was (1) the baby boom and (2) the end of the baby boom....
In some fields, it is still not back to where it was two generations ago. In other fields it is. In a few fields, it is higher. In all fields, ["feminism"] takes the credit.
It is an indication of academia's "progress" that despite (or possibly because of?) the mushrooming of "Womyn's Studies" courses, this well-documented reality remains generally unknown -- indeed, effectively suppressed. It's also a demonstration that it is not merely socialist economics but the Left's very self-identity as the "revolutionary" and "progressive" force in history that cannot be falsified by "logic and evidence."
That perverse self-image itself has actually been one of the most destructive forces in modern times -- that is, beyond the motivation and justification it provided for one dictatorship after another. "When I was growing up," Murray Rothbard once recalled, "I found that the main argument ... was that socialism and communism were inevitable." This metaphysical obliteration of freedom was a greater weapon than anything in any dictatorship's arsenal -- almost. Mao, in what is surely the most horrific example of where Marxism's messianization of the socialist future and concomitant demonization of "reaction" could lead, believed that the atom bomb was a "paper tiger which the U.S. reactionaries use to scare people. It looks terrible, but in fact it isn't." He concluded:
If worst came to worst and half of mankind died, the other half would remain while imperialism [i.e., the U.S. reactionaries] would be razed to the ground and the whole world would become socialist; in a number of years there would be 2,700 million people again and definitely more.
It is numbing to reflect that Mao's authoritarian regime still stands and still maintains its aimed-at-America missiles. It's even further numbing to realize that the agony (e.g., mass famines) that the Chinese people suffered under the socialist economy is so little taught to students in the West, where Leftism/Reactionaryism thrives as a vital paradigm -- for theory and practice. It doesn't even seem to matter much that "scientific socialism" is apparently ancient history, with postmodernism and primitivism the rage. What can one say to the young when they encounter these "new" ideas? The initial temptation might very well be a terse 'Tis new to thee. But they deserve better, and a better answer (by Rand) exists: "[R]eason and morality are the only [tools] that determine the course of history. The collectivists dropped them, because they had no right to carry them. Pick them up -- you have."
Click Here to support Frontpagemag.com.