Category Archive 'Marxism'
23 Apr 2012

Why Marxism?

,

C. Bradley Thompson asks: “Why Marxism?”

“Why do men become communists? And more particularly, why do they become communists despite everything that we know about communism? In the last century, as many as 120 million people were murdered by Marxist-inspired regimes. And yet, certainly in the United States and in Western Europe, we have the remarkable spectacle of virtually an entire intellectual class that has been seduced by the allure of Marx’s ideas… It’s not Marx’s labour theory of value [or] dialectical materialism that has drawn people to his philosophy, and it’s certainly not the interminably boring Das Kapital.”

David Thompson aptly summarizes.

[Bradley C.] Thompson refers to Marx’s “angry, spitting moralism” as a chief enticement and in this longer video he elaborates on its idiocies, referring to the result as “a philosophy of malevolence.” It seems to me one can’t explain the appeal of Marxism without addressing the psychological license that it offers, specifically for coercion and petty malice. It’s a golden ticket for a certain kind of sadist. Why Marxism? Start with rationalised envy and a vindictive desire for power over others, wrap it in a drag of altruism, and then take it from there.

23 Sep 2011

Dropping the Mask

, , , , , , ,

Charles Krauthammer explains the president’s recent tax proposal. This is politics, but it’s not only politics, this is the real Barack Obama.

A most revealing window into our president’s political core: To impose a tax that actually impoverishes our communal bank account (the U.S. Treasury) is ridiculous. It is nothing but punitive. It benefits no one — not the rich, not the poor, not the government. For Obama, however, it brings fairness, which is priceless. …

Obama has actually gone and done it. He’s just proposed a $1.5 trillion tsunami of tax hikes featuring a “Buffett rule” that, although as yet deliberately still fuzzy, clearly includes raising capital gains taxes.

He also insists again upon raising marginal rates on “millionaire” couples making $250,000 or more. But roughly half the income of small businesses (i.e., those filing individual returns) would be hit by this tax increase. Therefore, if we are to believe Obama’s own logic that his proposed business tax credits would increase hiring, then surely this tax hike will reduce small-business hiring.

But what are jobs when fairness is at stake? Fairness trumps growth. Fairness trumps revenue. Fairness trumps economic logic.

Obama himself has said that “you don’t raise taxes in a recession.” Why then would he risk economic damage when facing reelection? Because these proposals have no chance of being enacted, many of them having been rejected by the Democratic-controlled Congress of Obama’s first two years in office.

Moreover, this is not an economic, or jobs, or debt-reduction plan in the first place. This is a campaign manifesto. This is anti-millionaire populism as premise for his reelection. And as such, it is already working.

Obama’s Democratic base is electrified. On the left, the new message is playing to rave reviews. It has rekindled the enthusiasm of his core constituency — the MoveOn, Hollywood liberal, Upper West Side precincts best described years ago by John Updike: “Like most of the neighborhood, she was a fighting liberal, fighting to have her money taken from her.”

Added Updike: “For all her exertions, it never was.” But now with Obama — it will be! Turns out, Obama really was the one they had been waiting for.

That is: the new Obama, today’s soak-the-rich, veto-threatening, self-proclaimed class warrior. Except that the new Obama is really the old Obama — the one who, upon entering office in the middle of a deep economic crisis, and determined not to allow “a serious crisis to go to waste” (to quote his then-chief of staff), exploited the (presumed) malleability of a demoralized and therefore passive citizenry to enact the largest Keynesian stimulus in recorded history, followed by the quasi-nationalization of one-sixth of the economy that is health care.

Considering the political cost — a massive electoral rebuke by an infuriated 2010 electorate — these are the works of a conviction politician, one deeply committed to his own social-democratic vision.

That politician now returns. Obama’s new populism surely is a calculation that his halfhearted feints to the center after the midterm “shellacking” were not only unconvincing but would do him no good anyway with a stagnant economy, 9 percent unemployment and a staggering $4 trillion of new debt.

But this is more than a political calculation. It is more than just a pander to his base. It is a pander to himself: Obama is a member of his base. He believes this stuff. It is an easy and comfortable political shift for him, because it’s a shift from a phony centrism back to his social-democratic core, from positioning to authenticity.

The authentic Obama is a leveler, a committed social democrat, a staunch believer in the redistributionist state, a tribune, above all, of “fairness” — understood as government-imposed and government-enforced equality.

That’s why “soak the rich” is not just a campaign slogan to rally the base. It’s a mission, a vocation. It’s why, for all its gratuitous cynicism and demagoguery, Obama’s populist Rose Garden lecture on Monday was delivered with such obvious — and unusual — conviction.

He’s returned to the authenticity of his radical April 2009 “New Foundation” address (at Georgetown University) that openly proclaimed his intent to fundamentally transform America.


In a 2001 NPR, State Senator Barack Obama complains of constitutional constraints on redistributive change.

23 Sep 2011

Stanford Football Fans Respond to Elizabeth Warren’s “Nobody Got Rich On His Own”

, , , , , ,

Liberals are burbling in delight over Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren’s full-throated expression of the left’s soak-the-rich version of the social contract.

Warren said:

I hear all this, you know, ‘Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever. No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody.”

“You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did.

“Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless — keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

——————————

——————————

One of Glen Reynolds’ readers, who signs himself Fog City sent along his own rejoinder to Warren, originally posted in a discussion of her remarks in the Current Events section of a Stanford Football Fan forum:

“You built a factory out there? Good for you,” “Built a factory” is a summary for a lot of work. Put up equity, designed a business, took risk to buy land, get permits, pay property taxes and use taxes and permit fees. Then, bought a bunch of equipment and had it installed …and paid sales taxes. Hired some employees and paid them a bunch of money and paid payroll taxes on top of that. Bought a bunch of raw materials from companies that paid a bunch of salaries and a bunch of taxes. Building a factory is a huge private investment that pays the public a lot of taxes for the right to be built.

“But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for.” Between fuel taxes, license fees, tolls and various taxes on transportation related activities, the roads budget is smaller than the total tax take.

you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; No, you did not educate them. You babysat them for 12 years. Then I hired them, taught them how to be responsible and show up for work, taught them how to communicate in clear sentences, taught them that there are rights and wrongs and (unlike with your schools) wrongs have consequences in the workplace. Then paid for extended education for my employees so they could continue to improve themselves and better add value to what we do around here.

“You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.” Funny, my factory has 24/7 security guards because the last time it was broken into, the police did not even bother to take a report, they just said “call your insurance company”. As for fire? The closest fire department is 10 miles away. My insurance company requires that I have a full wet sprinkler system to qualify for insurance because there is no local fire protection.

“You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.” Well, that is not exactly true. When the AFL-CIO tried to unionize my workforce, they staged three days of noisy protests outside my factory. The police forces just stood around and watched as the protesters intimidated my workers, vandalized their cars and destroyed my property.

You say “we” like the government and society are the same. They aren’t. My company and my community and you politicians are not “we”.

——————————

Another Stanford fan signing himself neodymian60 remarked in disgust:

I’ll weigh in because she could be my next Senator and the Democrats here are scrambling to unseat Scott Brown. Somehow she seems like the perfect insufferable replacement for the insufferable Ted Kennedy.

She has the big 3. Harvard. Lawyer. Academic. Check.

She is shrill, contentious, and condescending as only the elite can be.

While any idiot knows that there can be no market without roads and consumers, she insults everyone’s intelligence by having to explain that to them. And then insults the successful by making it seem as if they have betrayed everyone with their talents. …

I just got a call from the Brown campaign and gave them $110.

——————————

mendicant98:

You built a factory out there? Good for you,” she says. “But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.”

Um – the thing is – those who built the factory and employed the workers generated the revenue that allowed the ctizens to pay for the roads, police etc. It sure as hell wasn’t built by the poor.

She continues: “Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”


Um – again. THEY HAVE ALREADY BEEN DOING THAT. Hey if she questions that – just go to a town that revolved around a factory that went out of business and see how that town is faring. The factory – as it employs the citizens and pays its taxes etc (not to mention all its fees etc under the various regulations/licensing requirements) IS TAKING A HUNK OF THAT AND PAY(ING) IT FORWARD FOR THE NEXT KED WHO COMES ALONG.” Course if the factory shuts down – then that kid loses that opportunity and the town loses a whole lot of revenue.

——————————

Rocky 17 vented:

Elizabeth the Harvard and Rutgers Prof, Head of TARP, lawyer, marxist, head of consumer affairs, candidate for US senate in Mass. friend of Obama, friend of Harry Reid…

If anyone on this board doubts that she is for the social contract that successful people need share their success with those who aren`t successful and have no cause for personal celebration or reward, that she intends that wealth redistribution is necessary and good, that she is not a marxist, you must be Palcal. There is no successful individual except those who have earned it on the backs of others and therefore owe the masses. There are no successful countries except those that earned it on the backs of other countries and therefore owe those countries.

Thus the apology tour at the initial stages of the Obama administration, the rage at successful people, the class warfare rhetoric. She and Obama are two peas in a pod, share the same values and cannot be called anything but Marxist redistributionists. To me, this is the antithetical behavior and value of what made the US exceptional and why the country is headed into the deep morass with policies that slowly and quickly drain the wealth of America over the world.

Gosh, it looks like some Stanford grads must have gone into business and become conservative.

15 Jul 2010

“Worse Than Kagan”

, , , ,

Daniel Henniger, in the Wall Street Journal, argues that Obama’s appointment of Daniel Berwick, aptly headlined by Gregory as: Obama Appoints Marxist to Lead Death Panel, is decidedly worse than the Kagan appointment.

Barack Obama’s incredible “recess appointment” of Dr. Donald Berwick to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is probably the most significant domestic-policy personnel decision in a generation. It is more important to the direction of the country than Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

The court’s decisions are subject to the tempering influence of nine competing minds. Dr. Berwick would direct an agency that has a budget bigger than the Pentagon. Decisions by the CMS shape American medicine.

Dr. Berwick’s ideas on the design and purpose of the U.S. system of medicine aren’t merely about “change.” They would be revolutionary.

One may agree with these views or not, but for the president to tell the American people they have to simply accept this through anything so flaccid as a recess appointment is beyond outrageous. It isn’t acceptable. …

These excerpts are from past speeches and articles by Dr. Berwick:

“I cannot believe that the individual health care consumer can enforce through choice the proper configurations of a system as massive and complex as health care. That is for leaders to do.”

“You cap your health care budget, and you make the political and economic choices you need to make to keep affordability within reach.”

“Please don’t put your faith in market forces. It’s a popular idea: that Adam Smith’s invisible hand would do a better job of designing care than leaders with plans can.”

“Indeed, the Holy Grail of universal coverage in the United States may remain out of reach unless, through rational collective action overriding some individual self-interest, we can reduce per capita costs.”

“It may therefore be necessary to set a legislative target for the growth of spending at 1.5 percentage points below currently projected increases and to grant the federal government the authority to reduce updates in Medicare fees if the target is exceeded.”

“About 8% of GDP is plenty for ‘best known’ care.”

“A progressive policy regime will control and rationalize financing—control supply.”

“The unaided human mind, and the acts of the individual, cannot assure excellence. Health care is a system, and its performance is a systemic property.”

“Health care is a common good—single payer, speaking and buying for the common good.”

“And it’s important also to make health a human right because the main health determinants are not health care but sanitation, nutrition, housing, social justice, employment, and the like.” …

“Young doctors and nurses should emerge from training understanding the values of standardization and the risks of too great an emphasis on individual autonomy.”

Previous Berwick posting.

12 Jul 2010

What Is a “Progressive?”

, , , , , , ,

Gallup polling reveals widespread public uncertainty about the “progressive” political label — a label recently embraced by no less than Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. While Kagan described her political views as “generally progressive” during her Senate confirmation hearings, fewer than half of Americans can say whether “progressive” does (12%) or does not (31%) describe their own views. The majority (54%) are unsure.

Allow me to clear it up for you, fellow Americans.

The Progressive Movement was originally a post-Civil War American political popular movement in favor of statism, regulation, and general (so-called) reform.

The earlier expressions of the Progressive impulse involved the creation of a Civil Service, the gradual expansion of state and federal regulations, the creation of new regulatory bodies, and the licensing of professions. Antitrust legislation, alcohol and drug prohibition, the Income Tax followed.

In recent years, particularly since the West learned of Communist massacres in Cambodia, China crushed demonstrations in favor of democracy in Tiananmen Square, and the Soviet Union fell, persons on the extreme left have become uncomfortable with describing themselves as Marxists or socialists. Radicals never liked being referred to as mere liberals. They despise liberals as dupes, fellow travelers, and useful idiots. And even “liberal,” since the days of Jimmy Carter, has become widely regarded in America as a pejorative and its successful application to someone a potential political liability.

Aspiration to major political office is intrinsically incompatible with describing oneself as a radical or a revolutionary, so the preferred term of art has become “Progressive.”

The progress that progressives are in favor of is directly down the path Friedrich Hayek referred to as “the Road to Serfdom,” toward ever more statism, ever more regulation, ever more redistribution, socialism, and coercion, supposedly resulting in the ultimate triumph of the rule of experts and a world in which the calculative power of human reason will have abolished tragedy, poverty, inequality, all of the ills to which flesh is heir and all the consequences of human vice and folly.

As Edmund Burke observed: “In the groves of their academy, at the end of every vista, you see nothing but the gallows.”

If Americans recognized exactly what Progressives really are, they would not be getting elected to much of anything or confirmed to Supreme Court seats.

01 Jun 2010

Economics and Crime

, , , ,

Times are hard and crime is down. How can that be? Liberals have always understood that crime is produced by economic hardship and deprivation. More government assistance, more redistribution, liberals have consistently argued, are essential. Otherwise, the victims of structural injustice will probably revolt. Yet the most dramatic economic downturn since the Great Depression, though producing plenty of hardship, unemployment, and misery, has failed to produce the crime wave liberal social theory inevitably ought to expect.

Richard Cohen, at the Washington Post, reflects on the situation.

For liberals, this is bad news. …

From 2008 to 2009, violent crime was down 5.5 percent overall and almost 7 percent in big cities. Some of those cities are as linked with crime as gin is with tonic or as John McCain is with political opportunism. In Detroit, for instance, with the auto industry shedding workers, violent crime was down 2.4 percent. In Washington, D.C., murder was down 23.1 percent, rape 19.4 percent and property crime 6 percent. …

[I]t now seems fairly clear that something akin to culture and not economics is the root cause of crime. By and large everyday people do not go into a life of crime because they have been laid off or their home is worth less than their mortgage. They do something else, but whatever it is, it does not generally entail packing heat. Once this becomes an accepted truth, criminals will lose what status they still retain as victims.

24 Apr 2010

Is Obama a Socialist?

, , , ,

Jonah Goldberg addresses in a serious essay the commonly heard debate on whether terms like Marxist and Socialist may be accurately applied to Barack Obama.

[I]s it correct, as an objective matter, to call Obama’s agenda “socialist”? That depends on what one means by socialism. The term has so many associations and has been used to describe so many divergent political and economic approaches that the only meaning sure to garner consensus is an assertive statism applied in the larger cause of “equality,” usually through redistributive economic policies that involve a bias toward taking an intrusive and domineering role in the workings of the private sector. One might also apply another yardstick: an ambivalence, even antipathy, for democracy when democracy proves inconvenient.1 With this understanding as a vague guideline, the answer is certainly, Yes, Obama’s agenda is socialist in a broad sense. The Obama administration may not have planned on seizing the means of automobile production or asserting managerial control over Wall Street. But when faced with the choice, it did both. Obama did explicitly plan on imposing a massive restructuring of one-sixth of the U.S. economy through the use of state fiat—and he is beginning to do precisely that.

Obama has, on numerous occasions, placed himself within the progressive intellectual and political tradition going back to Theodore Roosevelt and running through Franklin Roosevelt. With a few exceptions, the progressive political agenda has always been to argue for piecemeal reforms, not instant transformative change—but reforms that always expand the size, scope, and authority of the state. This approach has numerous benefits. For starters, it’s more realistic tactically. By concentrating on the notion of reform rather than revolution, progressives can work to attract both ideologues of the Left and moderates at the same time. This allows moderates to be seduced by their own rhetoric about the virtues of a specific reform as an end in itself. Meanwhile, more sophisticated ideologues understand that they are supporting a camel’s-nose strategy. In an unguarded moment during the health-care debate in 2009, Representative Barney Frank confessed that he saw the “public option,” the supposedly limited program that would have given the federal government a direct role as an insurer in competition with private insurers, as merely a way station to a single-payer system in which the government is the sole provider of health care. In his September 2009 joint-session address to Congress on health care, President Obama insisted that “I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last.” Six months later, when he got the health-care bill he wanted, he insisted that it was only a critical “first step” to overhauling the system. Arthur Schlesinger Jr. was one of the relatively few self-described moderates who both understood the tactic and supported it. “There seems no inherent obstacle,” Schlesinger wrote in 1947, “to the gradual advance of socialism in the United States through a series of New Deals.”

Goldberg places Obama decidedly outside the Revolutionary Marxist “hot socialism” tradition and firmly in the Fabian tradition of incremental, gradual, “first step” subversion of liberty. Obama adroitly dismisses accuses of his being a socialist as evidence of his opponents’ ideological blindness. He is merely a pragmatist, committed to “solving problems.”

But whether one identifies Obama as a social-ist instead of a socialist, a neosocialist, or merely a progressive, there can be no doubt that Barack Obama’s political agenda is as thoroughly committed to expanding the regulatory authority and share of the economy controlled by government as the Romanovs were to the gathering of the Russian lands.

Denying that you are an ideologue is not the same thing as proving the point. And certainly Obama’s insistence that ideology is something only his critics suffer from is no defense when stacked against the evidence of his actions. The “pragmatic” Obama is only interested in “what works” as long as “what works” involves a significantly expanded role for government. In this sense, Obama is a practitioner of the Third Way, the governing approach most successfully trumpeted by Blair, who claimed to have found a “third way” that rejected the false premises of both Left and Right and thereby located a “smarter” approach to expanding government. The powerful appeal of this idea lies in the fact that it sounds as if its adherents have rejected ideological dogmatism and gone beyond those “false choices.” Thus, a leader can both provide health care to 32 million people and save money, or, as Obama likes to say, “bend the cost curve down.” But in not choosing, Obama is choosing. He is choosing the path of government control, which is what the Third Way inevitably does and is intended to do.

Still, the question remains, What do we call Obama’s “social-ism”? John Judis’s formulation—“liberal socialism”—is perfectly serviceable, and so is “social democracy” or, for that matter, simply “progressivism.” My own, perhaps too playful, suggestion would be neosocialism. …

In many respects, Barack Obama’s neo-socialism is neoconservatism’s mirror image. Openly committed to ending the Reagan era, Obama is a firm believer in the power of government to extend its scope and grasp far deeper into society. In much the same way that neoconservatives accepted a realistic and limited role for the government, Obama tolerates a limited and realistic role for the market: its wealth is necessary for the continuation and expansion of the welfare state and social justice. While neoconservatism erred on the side of trusting the nongovernmental sphere—mediating institutions like markets, civil society, and the family—neosocialism gives the benefit of the doubt to government. Whereas neoconservatism was inherently skeptical of the ability of social planners to repeal the law of unintended consequences, Obama’s ideal is to leave social policy in their hands and to bemoan the interference of the merely political.

“I would have loved nothing better than to simply come up with some very elegant, academically approved approach to health care, and didn’t have any kinds of legislative fingerprints on it, and just go ahead and have that passed,” he told CBS’s Katie Couric. “But that’s not how it works in our democracy. Unfortunately, what we end up having to do is to do a lot of negotiations with a lot of different people.”

Whereas Ronald Reagan saw the answers to our problems in the private sphere (“in this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem”), Obama seeks to expand confidence in, and reliance on, government wherever and whenever he can, albeit within the confines of a generally Center-Right nation and the “unfortunate” demands of democracy.

As with Webb’s Fabian socialism, one will never be able to say of Obama’s developing doctrine, “now socialism has arrived.” On the night the House of Representatives passed the health-care bill, Obama said, “This legislation will not fix everything that ails our health care system. But it moves us decisively in the right direction.” Then, speaking specifically of another vote to be taken in the Senate but also cleverly to those not yet satisfied with what had been achieved, he added, “Now, as momentous as this day is, it’s not the end of this journey.”

Under Obama’s neosocialism, that journey will be endless, and no matter how far down the road toward socialism we go, he will always be there to tell the increasingly beleaguered marchers that we have only taken a “critical first step.”

Read the whole thing.

18 Dec 2009

Progressive Anglican Church Lampoons Christmas

, , , , , , , , ,

The Venerable Glynn Cardy, Vicar of St. Matthew-in-the-city an Anglican parish in Aukland, New Zealand, is undoubtedly a happy camper this holiday season, having attracted round the world news coverage to the “Progressive” statement made by the above billboard he erected in his city’s downtown just in time for Christmas.

The Guardian (Manchester, UK) reports that within five hours of the billboard’s appearance, someone actually connected with Christianity was seen attempting to paint over the billboard.

In the characteristically triumphant and self-congratulatory manner of leftists like himself who have infiltrated their way into roles representing a faith they actually despise, Glynn Cardy dismisses conventional Christianity as fundamentalism and its religious message as “mush.”

To make the news at Christmas it seems a priest just needs to question the literalness of a virgin giving birth. Many in society mistakenly think that to challenge literalism is to challenge the norms of Christianity. What progressive interpretations try to do however is remove the supernatural obfuscation and delve into the deeper spiritual truth of this festival.

Christian fundamentalism believes a supernatural male God who lived above sent his sperm into the womb of the virgin Mary. Although there were a series of miraculous events surrounding Jesus’ birth – like wandering stars and angelic choirs – the real miracle was his death and literal resurrection 33 years later. The importance of this literal resurrection is the belief that it was a cosmic transaction whereby the male God embraced humanity only after being satiated by Jesus’ innocent blood.

The Christmas billboard on a local fundamentalist church sums up this thesis. It reads: “Jesus born 2 die 4 u!” His birth was just an h’orderve (sic) before the main Calvary course.

No doubt on Christmas Eve when papers print the messages of Church leaders a few of them will serve up this fundamentalist thesis wrapped in a nice story.

Progressive Christianity believes the Christmas stories are fictitious accounts designed to introduce the radical nature of the adult Jesus. They contrast the Lord and Saviour Caesar with the anomaly of a new ‘lord’ and ‘saviour’ born illegitimate in a squalid barn. At Bethlehem low-life shepherds and heathen travelers are welcome while the powerful and the priests aren’t. The stories introduce the topsy-turvy way of God, where the outsiders are invited in and the insiders ushered out.

Progressive Christianity doesn’t overlook Jesus’ life and rush to his death. Rather it sees the radical hospitality he offered to the poor, the despised, women, children, and the sick, and says: ‘this is the essence of God’. His death was a consequence of the offensive nature of that hospitality and his resurrection a symbolic vindication.

The Christmas billboard outside St Matthew-in-the-City lampoons literalism and invites people to think again about what a miracle is. Is the miracle a male God sending forth his divine sperm, or is the miracle that God is and always has been among the poor?

Mr. Cardy claims to be lampooning literalism, but he is obviously really using a coarse image to mock and deride the central articles of faith of Christianity, as part of an ongoing project in which Christian beliefs are systematically replaced by those of a 19th century heresy called Marxism.

01 Sep 2009

The Scourge of Contemporary Historiography

, , , ,


Eugéne Delacroix (1798-1863), Atilla suivi de ses hordes, foule aux pieds libéralisme, Marxisme, et pacifisme, Bibliothèque, Palais Bourbon, Paris, 1843-47

Edward Luttwak, reviewing in the New Republic Christopher Kelly’s The End of Empire: Attila the Hun and the Fall of Rome, pauses to remark on the problems inherent in the myopic historical perspective regnant in contemporary Academia.

In our day, many historians do not have a problem with Attila or any other “Great Man of History.” They accept the very personal role of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and the rest in shaping history, “bottom-up” history notwithstanding; and so they can accept Attila’s importance as a historical factor as their Marxist predecessors could not. But they have a terrific problem with the Huns, and the reason for this is simple. It is the nullification of military historiography in contemporary academia. “Strategy” exists in a few government or political science departments, but such “strategists” steer clear of military history. The academic consensus that all wars are pointless apparently extends also to the study of their history.

There is almost no place, and almost no prestige, for anyone who wants to research and teach how and why battles and wars were won or lost–that is, military history strictly defined–as opposed to social history, economic history, and some forms of political history, including newly rehabilitated biographical approaches but excluding “kings and battles.” Even research on “presidents and wars” is unwelcome unless there are cognitive or psychological pathologies to be studied. And there is the added impediment that military historiography is an arcane field, requiring serious archival research, often in languages other than English.

While scholarly readers have an insatiable demand for military historiography, and students are very keenly interested in battles and wars, the faculties at our universities prefer to scant both. Appoint a military historian? The eminent Chicago Byzantinist Walter Emil Kaegi has explained why it almost never happens: tactics cannot matter, weapon techniques cannot matter, operational methods cannot matter, theater strategies cannot matter, because wars do not matter–as a subject of their own, rather than as epiphenomenal expressions of other causes and realities. Given the academic consensus that wars are almost entirely decided by social, economic, and political factors, there is simply no room for military history as such.

That makes it impossible to explain why anyone would have been bothered by the arrival of the Huns. …

The days are past when Christianity, poisoning by lead pipes, or any other cause could be invoked to explain the fall of one-half of the Roman Empire while disregarding the survival of the other half, though it was just as Christian or just as poisoned. Only the possibility that a military difference, a difference in strategy between east and west, might have determined the outcome has remained unexplored–until now

23 Jul 2009

Leszek Kolakowski, October 23, 1927 – July 17, 2009

, , , , ,

Polish philosopher and intellectual historian Leszek Kolakowski passed away last Friday in Oxford where he had taught for many years.

Coming of age during the Nazi Occupation, Kolakowski became an autodidact who educated himself via the library of a local nobleman in his native Poland. He was a member of the Communist Party after WWII, obtained a degree at Warsaw, and taught logic and the history of Philosophy.

Though his writings were sometimes suppressed, and despite being denounced for revisionism, he was able to work and teach in Poland until the late 1960s, finally being expelled from the party in 1966 and from his university position in 1968.

He taught at several universities in the West, including Berkeley and Yale, but his permanent home became a senior researcher chair at All Souls College, Oxford.

In the West, Kolakowski became an astute and highly effective critic of Marxism from a Humanist perspective. His Main Currents of Marxism (1978) effectively summarized the history of the bacillus as well as describing the destructive progress of the consequent disease.

After the liberation of his native Poland, Kolakowski was awarded the Order of the White Eagle, and on Monday Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski announced that Kolakowski will be buried in Poland with military honors.

Telegraph published an admiring obituary:

Kolakowski’s primary academic interest was the history of philosophy since the 18th century, and he was the author of more than 30 books which combined history, theoretical analysis and pungent, witty writing. His most influential work was a three-volume history of Marxism – Main Currents of Marxism: Its Rise, Growth and Dissolution (1978), published after he had taken refuge in the West.

It was a prophetic work, written at a time when Marxism still provided the ideological underpinning for a system that was thought to have an indefinite life expectancy. He provided an objective description of the main ideas and diverse currents of Marxist thinking, but at the same time characterised Marxism as “the greatest fantasy of our century… [which] began in a Promethean humanism and culminated in the monstrous tyranny of Stalin”. …

In an article published in 1975, he observed that the experience of Communism had shown that “the only universal medicine (Marxists) have for social evils – State ownership of the means of production – is not only perfectly compatible with all the disasters of the capitalist world – with exploitation, imperialism, pollution, misery, economic waste, national hatred and national oppression, but it adds to them a series of disasters of its own: inefficiency, lack of economic incentives and above all the unrestricted rule of the omnipresent bureaucracy, a concentration of power never before known in human history”.

Kolakowski was particularly scathing about western apologists for Marxist regimes who suggested that economic progress in communist countries somehow justified a lack of political freedom: “This lack of freedom is presented as though it were a temporary shortage. Reports along these lines give the impression of being unprejudiced. In reality they are not simply false, they are utterly misleading. Not that nothing has changed in these countries, nor that there have been no improvements in economic efficiency, but because political slavery is built into the tissue of society in the Communist countries as its absolute condition of life.” He dismissed the idea of democratic socialism as “contradictory as a fried snowball”, and modern manifestations of Marxism as “merely a repertoire of slogans serving to organise various interests”.

10 Jul 2009

Obama’s Stimulus Scores Key Endorsement

, , , ,


Gennady Zyuganov and friend

Russian Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov sees eye to eye with Barack Obama on economic policy. How totally surprising!

Foreign Policy:

“I said that I had thoroughly studied the U.S. president’s anti-crisis program, that I liked it, as well as that it is socially oriented and primarily aimed at supporting poor people and enhancing the state’s role. I said all this to President Obama.”

30 Jun 2009

We’re a Banana Republic Now, Folks

, , ,

A small Latin American country actually stands up to imminent dictatorship. Its Supreme Court defends the country’s Constitution and its Army enforces the law, removing from office the president who was in the process of overthrowing the Constitution and making himself into a dictator.

Splendid! Democracy and the rule of law triumphs for once in Latin America. But, how does the US Government in the Age of Obama respond?

Barack Obama joins Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, and Daniel Ortega in condemning the removal of the criminal from office. Evidently, democracy for Mr. Obama is a one-way street. Democracy is inviolable with respect to the election of Marxists (like himself), but once in office any winner of a democratic election on the left is perfectly free to declare that the game is over, he will now govern by decree, and no further real elections are required. In future, the democratically-elected Marxist administration will count all the votes, Chicago-style, aided by organized supporters (like ACORN) who will intimidate opponents and register hosts of imaginary voters and the deceased while driving busloads of winos and welfare scum from precinct to precinct to cast ballots early and often. That’s real democracy in action.

Reuters:

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday the coup that ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was illegal and would set a “terrible precedent” of transition by military force unless it was reversed.

“We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the president of Honduras, the democratically elected president there,” Obama told reporters after an Oval Office meeting with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

Zelaya, in office since 2006, was overthrown in a dawn coup on Sunday after he angered the judiciary, Congress and the army by seeking constitutional changes that would allow presidents to seek re-election beyond a four-year term.

The Honduran Congress named an interim president, Roberto Micheletti, and the country’s Supreme Court said it had ordered the army to remove Zelaya. …

Obama said he would work with the Organization of American States and other international institutions to restore Zelaya to power and “see if we can resolve this in a peaceful way.”

Personally, I think the Honduran army made one serious mistake. They exiled the dictator, instead of hailing him before a military tribunal and executing him. Now he will be playing political games from abroad, seeking foreign intervention to restore him to power.

And who knows? Some Marxist regime, Cuba, Venezuela, or the United States, might intervene and return him forcibly to power.

Your are browsing
the Archives of Never Yet Melted in the 'Marxism' Category.








Feeds
Entries (RSS)
Comments (RSS)
Feed Shark