28 July 2010

67. The Politics Of Bad Faith

The Politics Of Bad Faith: The Radical Assault on America's Future - David Horowitz

David Horowitz was a radical in the 1960s. He had Communist parents while living in NYC. He was raised to be a Marxist and fulfilled all the dreams of his parents. Throughout the radical movements of the 1960s he was side by side with all his Comrades...and later he changed.

Now he spends his time revealing the real plans and thoughts of the leftist-liberals and radical groups hiding their Marxist beliefs behind words like Progressive, Democrat, Liberal, Socialist, Communist or whatever the new designated word of the month is for today.

This book was thorough in its explanations. It also did an excellent job of tying together the Left of today with the beginnings as far back as the French Revolution.
I do not pretend to be anywhere near the level of historical knowledge or real-life experience of Mr. Horowitz. I never will be. I can not do the things he has done in his lifetime. But, I can read about it and I can understand it. His story is fascinating (read Radical Son). His ability to relate the relationship between today’s modern liberals and the radical left based in Marxist theory and thought.

This book is twelve years old. Bill Clinton was still president at the time. George Bush was still a nothing nationally. Barack Obama was at the very beginning of serving as a State Senator in Illinois. He was unknown outside his district. 9/11 was still three years away. The country was enthralled by the Clinton/Lewinski scandal.

Even at that time Mr. Horowitz was writing about the goals of the left...and guess what...he was correct. Twelve years later and the things he wrote of in this book are very obviously the truth. Read it yourself.

I am going to spend some time retyping some sections of the book I found especially interesting and eye-opening. There is no way I am going to be able to relate his understanding of the left or his position in this blog. If you wish to argue his points then do so with him.

I found the following sections to be quite revealing, especially in the context of the book as a whole.

"People who identify with the Left often ask the following question: How is it possible for decent human beings not to be progressive like us? How can they not share our concern for social justice or the better world we are attempting to create? The answers progressives give themselves are the following: Ignorance clouds the understanding of others. Class interest blocks their human compassion. In the eyes of progressives, their opponents are prisoners of a false consciousness that prevents them from recognizing, and thus embracing, human possibility. This false consciousness is rooted in in the self-interest of a ruling class (or gender or race), which is intent on defending a system that secures its privilege. In other words, opposition to progressive agendas grows naturally from selfishness, myopia and greed. To progressives, theirs alone is the vocation of generosity, morality and reason.

Those on the right, who are opponents of the Left, have questions too: How is it possible for progressives to remain so blind to the grim realities their ideas have created? How can they overlook the crimes they have committed against the very poor and oppressed they set out to defend? How can they have learned so little from the history their dreams have engendered?

It is apparent not of the Left that progressives have a false consciousness all their own. They are intoxicated with the perfumes of their own virtue. How being so noble in their own estimation could they not be blind? But this blindness is also the result of insularity, of the very contempt they have for those not gifted with progressive morality and sight. The vast literature of radicalism is to a large extent innocent of serious engagement with opposing ideas. The names, let alone the works, of von Mises, Hayek, Aron, Popper, Oakeshott, Sowell, Strauss, Bloom, Kirk, and other anti-socialist thinkers are virtually unknown on the left and absent from the academic reading lists of the institutions they dominate. The same judgment cannot be made about the political antagonists of the Left who, in part because of the very cultural dominance of the Left, are familiar with the currency of socialist ideas and the intellectual tradition that underpins them."


"In the aftermath of the Nazi Holocaust, no intellectual calling himself progressive would have ignored the link between the racist idea and the "final solution". But no progressive intellectual today will recognize the parallel nexus between the socialist idea and the gulags it produced. To the progressive mind, the idea remains innocent and the Soviet tragedy only a temporary detour from the path of socialist progress. In this view, "actually existing socialism" bears no relation to the socialist promise. The failure of Marxism is dismissed as the result of an intellectual error that progressives have already corrected."


“Without its adherents noticing, the theoretical argument of the Left has been emptied of content by the failures of socialism. For what is the practical meaning of a socialist critique in the absence of a workable socialist model? In fact, there is none. By adopting the impossible standard, it is easy to find fault with any institution or social system under scrutiny. The ideal of social equality, for example, may or may not be admirable. But if social equality cannot be realized in practice, or if the attempts to realize it necessarily creates a totalitarian state, then the idea of such equality can have no significance except as the incitement to destructive agendas.”


It is surprising that discredited Marxism still provides the paradigm for every current radical ideology from feminism to queer theory? Or that the totalitarian attitudes endemic to Marxism are also everywhere in evidence in the academic discourse of the tenured Left? The literary critic Harold Bloom describes in horror the current political trends in the university as “Stalinism without Stalin.” “All of the traits of the Stalinists in the 1930s and 1940s are being repeated…in the universities in the 1990s.”

These ironies are reflected in the required texts of Columbia’s Contemporary Civilization course, the nation’s oldest, relatively undeconstructed, liberal-arts curriculum. Columbia’s new canon is an attempt to establish an orthodoxy out of the very intellectual tradition that history has refuted. Only two Nineteenth-Century thinkers are represented in the course who are not socialists- Max Weber and Charles Darwin. For the arbiters of the new canon, it is as if the intellectual tradition of free-market liberalism had ended in the Eighteenth-Century with Madison, Smith and Locke. When the Columbia course enters the Twentieth-Century, no dissent at all is tolerated. The required texts are exclusively by left-wing intellectuals, including Jurgen Habermas and John Rawls, the Communists Antonio Gramsci and Lenin, the Stalinist camp followers Simone De Beauvoir, and the violent racialists Franz Fanon and Malcolm X. The required curriculum is filled out by two second-rate ideologues, Catharine MacKinnon and Cornel West. Even the course’s lone authority on totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, a distinguished intellectual and Social Democrat, was a disciple of Heidigger.

As far as the contemporary academy is concerned, the intellectual tradition that informed the American founding, whose disciples in the Twentieth-Century led the battle against totalitarian ideology and socialist economics- von Mises, Hayek, Aron, Popper, Berlin, Bloom, Friedman, Strauss- provides an unworthy model for America’s future elites. The contemporary academy prefers the paradigms, the avatars, and the fellow travelers of the discredited Left instead.”


“…In the very month the Berlin Wall was being torn down, American radicals were being urged by the editors of The Nation not to be paralyzed by doubts about the socialist future, but “to get on with the job…(The Left) must attack the very foundation of our own system.” To get on with the “job”. In other words to get on with the task of destruction. This is what the radical project is about.


“But just how the dream is to be made available makes all the difference in the world. If it is by removing the barriers to opportunity, so that individuals can rise as a result of their own efforts, then there will be continuity with the freedoms Americans have enjoyed from the founding to the present. But if the dream is to be delivered by political power, by class-, race-, and gender-warfare, and by the forced redistribution or resources between contending social groups, then the outcome can only be another grim experiment in totalitarian futures. The dramatic tension of the American narrative remains, in fact, what it has always been: a tension between democracy understood as limits to government, the liberal polity of a diverse citizenry, and democracy understood as radicals understand it, the righteousness of a guardian state.”


“If I had to label the perspective my experience has given me, I would call it “conservative.” And would mean by that respect for the accumulated wisdom of human traditions; regard for the ordinary realities of human lives; distrust of optimism based on human reason; caution in the face of tragedies past. Conservatism is not the other side of the coin of radicalism and more than skepticism is the mirror of faith. I have not exchanged one ideology for another; I have freed myself from the chains of an idea.”


“The revolutionary Faith rejects the illusion of divine grace and proposes itself as the messianic force. The revolutionary answer to the religious question is the demand to change the conditions that make religion necessary. The revolutionary prophet proclaims a liberation theology: You shall be as gods, creating the conditions of your own redemption.”


“…In Marx’s Communist Manifesto the proletariat is identified as a people in exile like the Jews: “Proletarians have no country…Proletarians of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains.”

The political prelude to the First World War refuted Marx’s proclamation. When war was declared, the socialist parties aligned themselves with their respective nations, proving that proletarians did have a patria and thus more to lose than their chains. Exile was not the real condition of proletarians, but was the real condition of Jews like Marx. Self-excluded from his own community as a religious expatriate, excluded from German society as a Jew, self-excluded again as a socialist revolutionary in bourgeois England, Marx conceived his internationalist dream to solve this riddle. Socialism was the wish to free himself from his personal exile by destroying the very idea of nations, by uniting mankind in a Marxist Zion.”

It is the paradigm of exile that links the fate of the Jews to the radical Left. The same paradigm forges the false bonds between Jewish faith and revolutionary fervor. And it is the paradigm of exile in the Jewish tradition that warns us of the dangers of such messianic hopes- hopes that are Gnostic and apocalyptic, that propose a self-transformation of men into angels, and that promise the establishment of paradise on earth.”


“In the Gnostic messianism of Nathan of Gaza and Shabbtai Zvi, in the antinomian belief in redemption through sin, in the arrogant ambition to transform human nature and remake the world, and in the very self-anointing presumption of a messianic party lies the true ancestry of the revolutionary Left.


“Leftists will object. They do not want to be put in the same political bed with Leninists and Marxists and other totalitarians- especially now that the world has repudiated them. Now these Leftists insist that they are Democratic Socialists (making an assumption that there is a real-world meaning to this self-validating phrase). Or they will call themselves “populists” or “egalitarians,” as though there were some other way than socialist diktat to legislate their agendas.”

It is true of course that since the collapse of the Soviet economies, many “democratic socialists” are eager to concede that markets cannot be so easily discarded without incurring consequences that are unacceptable. On occasion, they even allow themselves to express the thought (previously unthinkable) that perhaps, in the end, “socialism” can only be a term for a more humane form of the capitalist enterprise. Sometimes of late, they have seems willing to claim any reform- the establishment of unions or a minimum wage- as victories for “socialist” ideas. The very minimalism of this position is revealing. There remains something so visceral in their identification with the socialist cause, so passionate in their belief in a remade world, that they are unable to take the honorable course- to admit they were wrong, to give up the radical ghost, and to redefine themselves as advocates of capitalist reform. Instead, they insist (and with the same old smugness) that socialism remains the name of their desire.


“As between the two prescriptions for curing the mischiefs of faction, the conservative takes the path of realism and attempts to control its effects. The radical, by contrast, chooses the course of causes – the very method eschewed by the American Founders because it leads, inexorably, to the destruction of liberty. Throughout the modern era, the radical had defined himself by his determination to remove the root causes of human faction, in order to eliminate suffering and oppression. By contrast, the conservative recognizes the impossibility of such a quest, and is content, instead, to manage the conflicts to contain the effects of evils that are integral to our humanity and cannot be erased. Such accommodation to reality is anathema to the radical spirit.

In the radical impulse to redeem humanity, the conservative recognizes a primal threat to human liberty. The determination to eradicate the causes of social conflict, to make society one and indivisible is nothing less than the totalitarian ambition. The ambition is to change human nature by political means. It is the promise (in Rousseau’s revealing formulation) “to force men to be free.”


“The conservative goal is democratic, but it is also circumspect and modest (and so, deeply unsatisfying to the radical soul). Better to live with some injustices than, by seeking perfect justice, create a world with none. This is the political caution that has been etched in the blood on the historical ledger of the last two hundred years. It is the lesson the Left refuses to learn. It is this refusal that makes radicals the dangerous reactionaries of the postmodern world.”


“To say that conservative attitudes derive from pragmatic considerations is to state an obvious but important fact: what makes conservative principles “conservative” is that they are rooted in and attitude about the past rather than expectations of the future. It is this pragmatic foundation that explains why conservatism can be the common ground of such diverse viewpoints. Conservatives operate from what are often profoundly different philosophical assumptions, and entertain quite divergent expectations about the social future and what it might be.

Indeterminacy about the future does not mean that conservatives are indifferent about social outcomes. They would like to see social arrangements that are relatively more benevolent and measurably more humane. … Unlike radicals, conservatives do not pretend to be able to shape the social future by bending it to their will. They do not offer plans designed to remake human beings by inducing them to act in ways that are dramatically different from how human beings have acted in the past.”


“In contrast to conservatism, liberal and radical ideologies are about desired, and therefore determinate, futures. The first principles of the Left are the principles of constructing a “better world.” The radical future is to be consciously designed by enlightened intelligence. It is a basic characteristic of the progressive outlook that is proposes a sharp break with the experience of the past, and that its visions entail a rejection of existing social contrasts.

Throughout the modern era, progressives have proposed a future in which all society’s members are to be made equal in their economic and social conditions – or, at the very least, in their starting points. This is the future that radicals call “socially just.” Those who share the progressive outlook may differ about the degree of equality that might be achieved in the name of social justice, or the means acceptable for arriving at such a state. (The concession liberals make when they refer to “leveling the playing field,” as opposed to leveling the players, results from their recognition of previous failures.) But the difference between liberals and radicals are confined to degrees in the results desired, and in the means by which these results may be obtained. The goal of achieving “social justice” and of using the state to enforce desired outcomes remains the same. It is this shared utopianism that makes it appropriate to refer to both liberalism and radicalism as ideologies of the Left.


“Since ideologies of the Left derive from commitments to an imagined future, to question them is to provoke a moral rather than empirical response: Are you for or against the equality of human beings? To demur from a commitment to the progressive viewpoint is thus not a failure to agree on relevant facts but an unwillingness to embrace the liberated future. Worse, it is to will the imperfections of the unliberated present. In the current political cant of the Left, it is to be racist, sexist, and classist – a defender of the oppressive status-quo.

That is why not only radicals, but even those that call themselves liberals, are instinctively intolerant toward their conservative opponents. For progressives the future is not a maze of human uncertainty and unintended consequences. It is a moral choice. To achieve the socially just future requires only that enough people decide to bring it to being. Consequently, it is perfectly consistent for progressives to consider themselves morally tolerant and intellectually enlightened while demonizing their opponents as immoral, ignorant and radically evil.”


“While the politics of the Left is derived from assumptions about the liberated future, its partisans are also careful to construct a view of history that validates the claim.”



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