The Marxist Assault on Western LiberalismPosted: December 20, 2013
Communism is dead; long live Marx! The Soviet Union is gone. Das Kapital is little more than a punch line in academic economics. Dialectical materialism is barely even a thing. Yet Marxism continues to be essential for understanding modern political struggles, because Marxism continues to inform the thought-habits and inclinations of the modern Left.
Let me explain what I mean by thought-habits and inclinations. Do you think a person should be able to follow whatever faith he likes? You probably do. In fact, you probably answered, “Of course!” without even thinking about it. And you most likely answered this way, not because you are a student of John Locke, but because it’s just a habit of mind you’ve imbibed from our generally liberal culture. The farther left you go on the political spectrum, the more and more you find similar habits and instincts that are informed by Marxism. Of course, since we all live together and influence each other in this country, there’s no strict dividing line between American liberals and American Marxists. While Bryan Caplan is clearly a liberal and Cornel West is clearly a Marxist, most people are muddling around with a potpourri of ideas inherited from both sources.
It’s true enough that Marx and his intellectual heirs appropriated a liberal idea, equality (a word that is often used in mutually exclusive ways), but they rejected every single other intellectual and cultural principle of liberalism. For that reason, a Marxist’s egalitarianism is no more “liberal” than a Muslim’s monotheism makes him “Christian.” Marxism’s rejection of liberalism is so thorough that there is a dark, alternative-universe antecedent to each of the founding principles I outlined in my previous article.
- The class. The fundamental unit of Marxian loyalty is not the state! The chief object of a person’s loyalty, love, and allegiance is his or her class. A person with a conscience fully formed by Marxism feels the deep revulsion at the sight of class betrayers. When leftists openly fantasize about defecating in Sarah Palin’s mouth or publish racist cartoons about Condi Rice, they’re not merely engaging in double standards. They are naming and shaming class betrayers. When someone indoctrinated with Marxism sees a woman affirm the high value of her marriage, her husband, and motherhood and repudiate socialist government, he has the same visceral reaction that you or I do when we learn of a woman who murdered her two-year-old so she could have more time to get high, or a man who beats his wife and impregnates his masseuse. The class occupies the same emotional and moral space for the Marxist as the family does for a person civilized in liberalism. Indeed, Marx himself wrote that marriage is oppressive and to be done away with under communism.
- Equalism. The reverse of capitalism is not simply socialism. It is equalism. For example, fascism was a kind of socialism, but it was not equalist at all. Equalism teaches that neither the entrepreneur, the investor, nor the engineer are in any sense better than the line worker, the barista, or the unemployed beach bum, and therefore do not deserve more social respect, more income, or a better livelihood. Equalism is more dogma than theory, as it is easily disproved by even a cursory familiarity with biology or economics. But because of this, obtaining equalist result requires ever-increasing applications of violence, as there is simply no way for Lebron James and yours truly to end up with the same income, the same number of championship rings, the same public accolades, and the same number of interested women without a gun pointed at someone’s head. The killing fields were not an accident of Communism; they were the point.
- Revolutionary justice. Marxists tend to completely reject the rule of law, as it does not produce equal outcomes or serve the interests of “oppressed” classes. Marxists conceive of justice not as the consistent application of comprehensible, moral laws, but as the promotion of oppressed classes and the toppling of the oppressor classes. Whether or not someone is guilty or innocent of a crime is not just irrelevant, it is that Marxists deny the concepts of guilt, innocence, and law. In The Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn related numerous chilling stories of innocent men who were told by the court, “Your guilt or innocence is irrelevant. What matters is whether your conviction will advance the revolution
- Annihilation of the bourgeois. One of the most consistent messages in all of Marxist literature is that the mercantile class and all of its trappings must be thoroughly eradicated from the Earth. Whether this is done via education or bullets is irrelevant. Marxists identify entrepreneurs, traders, and investors, as well as any ideas that promote their activities, as the root source of all unhappiness in the world. Marx tended to only allude to mass murder, but Lenin, Mao, and their followers were not nearly so oblique.
- Revolutionary truth. Marxism rejects the concepts of logic, facts, and reason, arguing instead that all knowledge is merely “socially constructed.” For example, Luce Irigaray’s infamous claim that E=mc^2 is a “sexed equation” because it “privileges the speed of light” is not just a fantastically absurd rejection of science, it is the sort of thing that only crosses someone’s mind from within a generally Marxist framework. For the Marxist, whether or not something should be said or taught is decided by whether or not it promotes the oppressed classes. It is not just that factuality is ignored; it is that the idea of a “fact” is rejected out of hand. The purpose of discourse under the banner of revolutionary truth is not to build a consensus or develop ideas; it is to suss out the enemies of the oppressed and get them to betray themselves with their words. An argument is nothing more than a heresy trial. The purpose of, for example, discussing abortion is not to have a liberal debate; it is to identify the enemies of oppressed women so that they may be destroyed.
- The superiority of the oppressed. Once a class has been identified as oppressed, it can do no wrong. So much as speaking of social pathologies of “oppressed” classes is strictly taboo, to the point that simply citing unflattering statistics about an “oppressed” group’s homicide rate, rape incidence, social views, etc., identifies you as the oppressor enemy. It is so taboo that I admit I’m not linking anything here because my full name is associated with this article. On the flip side, once a class has been identified as oppressors (or “privileged,” in the modern parlance), their interests are morally illegitimate and their social demotion of paramount importance. This is how we end up in the absurd place where a tenured university professor, who enjoys a guaranteed lifetime income, high social respect, and long hours of leisure, can declare herself “oppressed” and another “privileged” if she is a black lesbian and he is a white, male coal mine worker whose wife stayed home until he got laid off. No matter that she makes $75,000 and he’s broke—she’s oppressed and he’s privileged.
- Material determinism. The choices you make are due to little more than outside forces bearing upon you. It is taken for granted that the unfortunate circumstances of an individual belonging to an oppressed class—poverty, unfulfilled ambition, the inability to find a mate—arise purely from the structure of oppression in society; saying otherwise is “victim blaming.” And if a victim class is observed to frequently engage in pathological behavior, so what? That, too, is the fault of the oppressors. Remove the oppression, Marxist theory supposes, and happiness, peace, and harmony will follow. In the end, people cannot be trusted with autonomy because there is no such thing as autonomy; one is either under the control of malevolent oppressors or being guided by the wise hand of benevolent, Marxist planners.
The Marxist project is not one of advancing knowledge; it is one of identifying the power structures of civilization and either taking control of them or destroying them outright. Marxists are firmly entrenched in the legal profession and in the “wordsmith” areas of universities, which feed directly into the major power centers of American society: the education industry, the legal system, the commercial media, and the bureaucracy. This is hardly news. Area studies programs at most universities are overtly Marxist, while sociology, English, and a few other departments promote Marxist teaching to varying degrees. Because Marxism is a wholesale rejection of (rather than a species of) liberalism, and because the privilege-checkers and class-warriors of today reject the very ideas of rational inquiry and individual autonomy, there can be no productive political coalition of libertarians and Marxists.