St. Paul and the Communists
that the State or the Government is the embodiment of all that is
good and beneficial and that the individuals are wretched underlings,
exclusively intent upon inflicting harm upon one another and badly
in need of a guardian, is almost unchallenged. It is taboo to question
it in the slightest way. He who proclaims the godliness of the State
and the infallibility of its priests, the bureaucrats, is considered
as an impartial student of the social sciences. All those raising
objections are branded as biased and narrow-minded. The supporters
of the new religion of statolatry are no less fanatical and intolerant
than were the Mohammedan conquerors of Africa and Spain. (Ludwig
von Mises, Planned
This is a comment
on communism in general, on communists in the political establishment,
and on Saul of Tarsus. Let us begin with the last.
It is written
that Saul, a Pharisee, was plagued with the arrogance of Truth.
He could brook no error. And the error that disturbed his soul was
the doctrine of the arisen Messiah. Not only was the doctrine gaining
currency among the lowly proletariat, to whom the promise of salvation
offset the hopelessness of their earthly condition, but even among
his own class, the scholars, there were a number who took to it.
To Saul it was a denial of the Law of Moses which was the
whole Truth and therefore unthinkable. He could do no less
than challenge the "untruth." To this purpose he brought
to bear all the learning and the skill of which he was possessed;
he quoted from the Law to prove it a heresy, employed parable and
logic to denounce its wickedness, and all in all put forth his best
powers of persuasion to scotch its acceptance.
But, so the
story goes, his efforts were of little avail; even his teacher,
a beloved rabbi, was persuaded that the Messiah promised by the
Prophets had really come to Israel, and many learned men declared
the belief permissible. The Messianists multiplied and Saul's heart
grew heavy. When one possessed of the Truth suffers from a heavy
heart he is susceptible to a more dangerous affliction the
craving for power to eradicate error, to cause Truth to triumph
by force. Saul of Tarsus had a bad attack of it.
So, he offered
his services to the High Priest, who had reason enough to fear the
spread of the unauthorized doctrine, and was promptly appointed
The Law-enforcement agent. Henceforth, he need not resort to reason,
but could denounce, arrest and punish, which he proceeded to do
with the zeal of the righteous; and with the help of Temple guards
carefully selected for their capacity of brutality. He was the commissar,
and his department was Truth.
messiah, Lenin was transported in Kaiser Wilhelm's sealed car to
the Promised Land, socialists were not unlike Saul in his precommissar
stage. They were limited to the innocuousness of the ecstatic soapboxer.
One could overlook their air of exaltation and transfiguration,
for their hearts were harmlessly good; their intense interest in
the underdog of society gained them a hearing despite the irrationality
of their aphorisms and shibboleths. Even though their eyes had been
kissed by Karl Marx, they were humble enough to submit his concoction
called "scientific socialism" to the arbitrament of reason;
they were tolerable. Sometimes, as is the case with those who have
taken vows, they would consider you sinful because you refused the
rope of salvation, and even treat you to a parcel of invective.
And always the argument would end up with the threat of brimstone
"comes the revolution" which you would laugh
off with an "amen" because you never expected the revolution.
did come, not in 1918 but in 1933. To be exact, it took fifteen
years for the chrysalis of socialism to emerge into full-fledged
communism. Messiah Lenin had preached the superiority of the lash
over logic, as did Almighty Marx, but the "evolutionary socialists"
clung to their thesis; they were convinced that the glorious dictatorship
of the proletariat would come by way of the mesmerism of "inevitable
historic forces," by which time capitalism would be so debilitated
that a mere push would topple it. For some time after a handful
of coffee-shop intellectuals not an amorphous proletariat
took over the repressive machinery of the czars, the anointed
in this country showed an inclination to argue the merits of their
creed. During those fifteen years, the realism of the lash became
undeniable. By 1933 all pretense of reasonableness was dropped.
Karl Marx was thereafter mentioned but never argued.
the religion of power. To be sure, it has a rationale and even an
ethic; but so had pharaohism, caesarism, the Inquisition, and all
the machines of coercion ever invented by man. It is necessary for
those who compel subservience to clear their road with a moral code
of some kind. In such a religion the self-restraints of "bourgeois
morality" have no place, while heretical indeed is the doctrine
of nonmaterialistic, superpersonal ideals. Being the only true religion
it cannot permit competition from any other "opium." Power
is god enough.
not come, as Marx predicted, as the inevitable replacement of a
collapsed capitalism. It came because of improvements in the techniques
of grabbing power: the machine gun, the radio, the airplane, and,
above all, the art of fiscal robbery. Lenin preached the glory of
toughness; Stalin purged. Mussolini bettered Stalin's fanfare with
castor oil. Hitler added the racial gadget of repression. The "public
good" was invoked by all three.
for the Great Man in America to improve on their techniques by destroying
the meaning of words, by so confusing language that instead of being
a means of communicating ideas it became an instrument for compelling
he dug up and polished the old Roman device of "bread and circuses."
Here was an apostle of power whom the least bloodthirsty socialist
could accept. No bludgeon in his equipment, but the skillful use
of seductive phrases, so dear to the "intellectual," gained
for him the selfsame means of compelling conformity which his crude
European models sought: control of the economy. And with that control
he built a hierarchy a church. He anointed the frustrated
soapboxers and collegiate wordmongers with the scented oil of bureaucracy.
He gave them jobs. He invested them with power. That began in 1933.
And now we
come to the spy hunt, which is, in reality, a heresy trial. What
is it that perturbs the inquisitors? They do not ask the suspects,
do you believe in power? Do you adhere to the idea that the individual
exists only for the glory of the state? Ought not the TVA be extended
to cover the whole country, so that by merely pulling a switch the
state can control all production? Are you against taxes or would
you raise them until they absorbed the entire output of the country?
Are you opposed to the principle of conscription? Do you favor more
"social gains" under the aegis of the bureaucracy? Or
would you advocate the dismantling of the public trough at which
these bureaucrats feed? In short, do you deny power?
might prove embarrassing to the investigators. The answers might
bring out the similarity between their ideas and purposes and those
of the suspected heretics. They too worship power. Under the circumstances,
they limit themselves to one question: Are you or were you a member
of the Communist Party? And this turns out to mean, have you aligned
yourself with the Moscow branch of the church?
the rest of the article
Chodorov (18871966), one of the great libertarians of the
Old Right, was the founder of the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists
and author of such books as The
Income Tax: Root of All Evil. Here he is on "Taxation
Is Robbery." And here
is Rothbard's obituary of Chodorov.
Best of Frank Chodorov