The New Totalitarianism
by Keith Preston
by Keith Preston
of LRC are no doubt familiar with the criticisms of Marxism to be
found within the classical liberal, traditional conservative and
modern libertarian intellectual traditions. However, I
come from another tradition that contains within itself those
thinkers who were among the very first to recognize what the proponents
of authoritarian, statist socialism were up to. Who would the reader
suppose was the author who characterized the Jacobins, Blanquists
and Marxists as those who would "...reconstruct society upon
an imaginary plan, much like the astronomers who for respect for
their calculations would make over the system of the universe..."?1
Ludwig von Mises? Friedrich August von Hayek? Murray Rothbard? No,
it was Pierre-Joseph
Proudhon, the first thinker to ever call himself an anarchist.
Who would one suspect of issuing the following critique of Marxism?
of 'learned socialist', 'scientific socialism'...which continually
appear in the speeches and writings of the followers of ...Marx,
prove that the pseudo-People's State will be nothing but a despotic
control of the population by a new and not at all numerous aristocracy
of real and pseudo scientists. The 'uneducated' people will be totally
relieved of the cares of administration and will be treated as a
regimented herd. A beautiful liberation indeed!"2
of the logical outcome of state-run economies predates the "new
class" theory pioneered by the likes of Max Nomad, George Orwell
and James Burnham by nearly a century. Its author is the renegade
Russian aristocrat and number-one rival of Karl Marx, the classical
anarchist godfather Mikhail Bakunin. And nearly one hundred fifty
years before the venerable Professor Hans Hermann Hoppe published
his thoroughly radical and compelling critique of the modern deification
of "democracy," Proudhon said of the mindset similar to that
exhibited by those whom Lew Rockwell has characterized as "red state
of this ignorance of the primitiveness of their instincts, of the
urgency of their needs, of the impatience of their desires, the
people show a preference toward summary forms of authority. The
thing they are looking for is not legal guarantees, of which they
do not have any idea and whose power they do not understand, they
do not care for intricate mechanisms or for checks and balances
for which, on their own account, they have no use, it is a boss
in whose word they confide, a leader whose intentions are known
to the people and who devotes himself to its interests, that they
are seeking. This chief they provided with limitless authority and
irresistible power. Inclined toward suspicion and calumny, but incapable
of methodical discussion, they believe in nothing definite save
the human will."
"Left to themselves
or led by their tribunes the masses never established anything.
They have their face turned backwards; no tradition is formed among
them; no orderly spirit, no idea which acquires the force of law.
Of politics they understand nothing except the element of intrigue;
of the art of governing, nothing except prodigality and force; of
justice nothing but mere indictment; of liberty, nothing but the
ability to set up idols which are smashed the next morning. The
advent of democracy starts an era of retrogression which will ensure
the death of the nation..."3
an adherent of the classical anarchist outlook for nearly two decades
and a participant, whether directly or peripherally, in the culture
of the radical Left during that time, my own political background
has given me some important insights into what is going on politically
in our country and in Western civilization today.
classical liberals, libertarians, traditionalist conservatives,
classical anarchists and, quite frequently, religious believers
and even dissident socialists have fervently resisted the onslaught
of the greatest evil of modernity, that of the totalitarian state.
Though I am a traditional Bakuninist anarchist and most of those
reading this are likely in the libertarian, paleoconservative, classical
liberal or anarcho-capitalist camps, most of us would no doubt agree
that the state and the concentrated power it represents is among
the gravest threats to human life, liberty, culture and civilization.
Therefore, we have reason to value one another. Most of us are instinctively
inclined to associate the totalitarian state with the ideology of
Marxism. Given that the concept of state-directed "command" economies
has fallen into intellectual disrepute in recent decades, some are
inclined to regard Marxism as having been relegated to the garbage
heap of once prevalent but now discarded intellectual frameworks
in the same manner as Zeus worship or the Ptolemaic model of the
universe. Nothing could be further from the truth.
particularly Stalinists, were in their heyday fond of referring
to heretics within their own ranks as "revisionists." Enver
Hoxha's polemics against the "de-Stalinized" Communist parties of
Western Europe in the 1960s and 1970s come to mind. Yet, the branch
of Marxist "revisionism" that should be of the most concern to us
today is that whose roots can be traced to the Frankfurt School
of the 1930s and its subsequent influence on the so-called "New
Left" of the 1960s. Fortunately, LRC's own regular contributor William
Lind has elsewhere summarized the foundations of this system of
thought, thereby saving me the trouble of having to do so. Says
"We call it
'Political Correctness.' The name originated as something of a joke,
literally in a comic strip, and we tend still to think of it as
only half-serious. In fact, itís deadly serious. It is the great
disease of our century, the disease that has left tens of millions
of people dead in Europe, in Russia, in China, indeed around the
world. It is the disease of ideology. PC is not funny. PC is deadly
serious. If we look at it analytically, if we look at it historically,
we quickly find out exactly what it is. Political Correctness is
cultural Marxism. It is Marxism translated from economic into cultural
terms. It is an effort that goes back not to the 1960s and the hippies
and the peace movement, but back to World War I. If we compare the
basic tenets of Political Correctness with classical Marxism the
parallels are very obvious. First of all, both are totalitarian
ideologies. The totalitarian nature of Political Correctness is
revealed nowhere more clearly than on college campuses, many of
which at this point are small ivy covered North Koreas, where the
student or faculty member who dares to cross any of the lines set
up by the gender feminist or the homosexual-rights activists, or
the local black or Hispanic group, or any of the other sainted 'victims'
groups that PC revolves around, quickly find themselves in judicial
trouble. Within the small legal system of the college, they face
formal charges some star-chamber proceeding and punishment.
That is a little look into the future that Political Correctness
intends for the nation as a whole...
Frankfurt School essentially does is draw on both Marx and Freud
in the 1930s to create this theory called Critical Theory. The term
is ingenious because youíre tempted to ask, "What is the theory?"
The theory is to criticize. The theory is that the way to bring
down Western culture and the capitalist order is not to lay down
an alternative. They explicitly refuse to do that. They say it canít
be done, that we canít imagine what a free society would look like
(their definition of a free society). As long as weíre living under
repression the repression of a capitalistic economic order
which creates (in their theory) the Freudian condition, the conditions
that Freud describes in individuals of repression we canít
even imagine it. What Critical Theory is about is simply criticizing.
It calls for the most destructive criticism possible, in every possible
way, designed to bring the current order down. And, of course, when
we hear from the feminists that the whole of society is just out
to get women and so on, that kind of criticism is a derivative of
Critical Theory. It is all coming from the 1930s, not the 1960s...
of Political Correctness would probably not mean too much to us
today except for two subsequent events. The first was the student
rebellion in the mid-1960s, which was driven largely by resistance
to the draft and the Vietnam War. But the student rebels needed
theory of some sort. They couldnít just get out there and say, 'Hell
no we wonít go,' they had to have some theoretical explanation behind
it. Very few of them were interested in wading through Das Kapital.
Classical, economic Marxism is not light, and most of the radicals
of the 60s were not deep. Fortunately for them, and unfortunately
for our country today, and not just in the university, Herbert Marcuse
remained in America when the Frankfurt School relocated back to
Frankfurt after the war. And whereas Mr. Adorno in Germany is appalled
by the student rebellion when it breaks out there when the
student rebels come into Adornoís classroom, he calls the police
and has them arrested Herbert Marcuse, who remained here,
saw the 60s student rebellion as the great chance. He saw the opportunity
to take the work of the Frankfurt School and make it the theory
of the New Left in the United States."
When I first
read the transcript of Mr. Lind's lecture, I was reminded of the
following passage from the autobiography of 1960s counterculture
icon Abbie Hoffman, describing the scene at a speech given by Herbert
Marcuse during the late 1960s:
with the exception of Maslow, the teacher who had the greatest impact
on me. I studied with him at Brandeis, and later attended his lectures
at the University of California. In the spring of '67, I saw him
speaking-of all places-at the Fillmore East. There he was, this
statuesque, white-haired seventy-year old European Marxist scholar,
following the Group Image acid-rock band onto the stage, accompanied
by the thunderous foot-stomping cheers of America's most stoned-out,
anti-intellectual generation....Ben Motherfucker, leader of the
Lower East Side's most nefarious street gang, spat on the floor,
raised his fist, and exclaimed, "Dat cat's duh only fuckin' brain
worth listnin' to in de cuntree!"4
this eerie scene resembles nothing quite so much as a sixties counterculture
version of the Nuremberg Rallies. The reader may be wondering what
such an obscure bit of American folk history has to do with contemporary
world politics. To understand the significance of what I have described
here, we need to examine some further developments in American political
Totalitarian Humanism and Liberal-Nazism
of the 1960s were first and foremost proponents of a cultural revolution.
Though theirs might not have been quite so brutal as the "cultural
revolution" going on in China at the same time, it was a cultural
revolution nevertheless. During the First Gulf War of 199091,
I became involved with what passed for an antiwar movement at the
time and I once put the question to a thenmiddle-aged veteran
of the antiwar Left of the sixties, a former member of the Students
for a Democratic Society, of what he thought his generation had
actually achieved, given that the US empire and its imperialist
wars seemed to still be going strong. He reflected on the question
for a moment and then replied that the problem with sixties radicalism
was that it was a cultural movement, primarily involved with questions
of race, gender, ecology, sexuality and the like, and had achieved
great victories in those areas, but had achieved virtually nothing
in the realms of politics, economics or foreign policy. Therefore,
the US empire that emerged during the early Cold War period remained
intact and largely unscathed, in spite of the upheavals of the 1960s.
That is exactly
right. The cultural left of the sixties has since gone on to become
largely the status quo. Many people no doubt wonder whatever happened
to the hippies, the student radicals, the antiwar protestors of
that time. Where are they today? Shouldn't they be more visible
given the similarties of that time to the present time? Dr.
Tomislav Sunic provides a partial answer with this description of
what has since transpired:
the 68ers had cultural power in their hands, controlling the best
universities and spreading their permissive sensibility. Students
were obliged to bow down to the unholy trinity of Marx, Freud, and
Sartre, and the humanities curriculum showed the first signs of
anti-Europeanism. Today, the 68ers (or 'neo-liberals' or social
democrats) have grown up, and they have changed not only their name,
but also their habitat and their discourse. Their time has come:
Now they hold both cultural and political power. From Buenos Aires
to Quai d'Orsay, from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to 10 Downing Street,
they sit in air-conditioned executive offices or in ministerial
cabinets, and they behave as if nothing has changed. Perfectly recycled
in stylish Gucci suits, wearing expensive Bally shoes, sporting
fine mascara, the 68ers pontificate about the global free market.
They have embraced their former foe, capitalist entrepreneurship,
and have added to it the fake humanistic facade of socialist philanthropy...
drawn up a hit list, filled with the names of senile individuals
from distant countries who have been accused of 'war crimes' and
must be extradited to the 68ers' kangaroo courts. Seldom, if ever,
do they acknowledge the millions of victims of communism, documented
recently by Stephane Courtois in Le livre noire du communisme. Nor
do they wish to face their own role in communist genocide. And why
should they? Their decades-long civil disobedience resulted in the
downplaying of communist horror and legitimized the Gulag. While
the 68ers did not play a direct role in Beria's, Yagoda's, or Tito's
ethnic cleansing, they were useful idiots. If today's caviar left
were to open the Pandora's box of the Gulag, Augusto Pinochet would
look like a naughty little scout from boot camp. The best way to
cover up their own murderous past is to sing the hymns of human
rights and to lecture on the metaphysics of permanent economic progress...
and their well-clad cronies are the financial insiders now, speculating
on stocks, never hesitating to transfer megabucks to Luxembourg
via the Cayman Islands or, better yet, to do some hidden wheeling
and dealing on Wall Street. They no longer spout nonsense about
equality and social justice for the Vietcong, Congolese, or Tibetans,
nor do they indulge in academic rantings about socialist utopia.
And why should they? Today, the time is ripe for their gross corruption,
veiled, of course, in the incessant rhetoric of multiculturalism.
The 68ers have won: The world belongs to them.
power held today by the former 68ers is being institutionalized
through legal restrictions on freedom of speech, of thought, and
of research. Germany, Belgium, France, and other European countries
have already passed strict laws forbidding young scholars to pursue
open and honest research in certain touchy areas of modem history.
Passages from the German Criminal Code bring to mind the Soviet
comrade Vishinsky: They are not what we expect of a free and democratic
these passages, what I am trying to do is illustrate my core argument.
Simply put, what I am really saying is that now that the radicals
of the sixties have gotten older, greyer and wealthier, they have
gone on to form a new kind of cultural and intellectual establishment,
largely by securing their own dominance within the worlds of academia,
media and entertainment. Further, the end result of this dominance
has been that this new Cultural Left Establishment has formed an
alliance with the older, pre-existing political, economic and military
establishment. What the proponents of the sixties cultural revolution
have, in essence, done is rather than overthrow the US empire, they
have seized control of that empire and are using it for their own
purposes, which may or may not overlap with the interests of the
older establishment. The creeping totalitarianism we see evolving
today is an outgrowth of Marxism, not necessarily in the orthodox
socialist sense, but in the re-application of Marxist theory to
cultural matters, where the 'official victims' of Western civilization
replace the proletariat as the focus of a dualistic struggle for
political power. The emerging ideology of the Western, particularly
American, ruling classes can, I believe, be described as follows:
Imperialism and Empire in the guise of 'human rights', 'democracy',
modernity, universalism, feminism and other leftist shibboleths.
Mercantilism (or 'state-capitalism') under the guise of 'free
- In domestic
policy, what I call 'totalitarian humanism' whereby an all-encompassing
and unaccountable bureaucracy peers into every corner of society
to make sure no one anywhere, anyplace, anytime ever practices
'racism, sexism, homophobia', smoking, 'sex abuse' or other such
- In the
realm of law, a police
state ostensibly designed to protect everyone from terrorism,
guns, gangs or some other bogeyman
of the month.
The kind of
state that proponents of this new ideology envision is one where
the purpose of local government is to enforce leftist orthodoxy
against competing institutions (like families, religions, businesses,
unions, clubs, other associations), the purpose of national government
is to enforce leftism against local communities, and the purpose
of foreign policy is to enforce leftism against "backward"
or "reactionary" traditional societies. If you think I'm
check this out.
the traditional divide of Left and Right, I would regard the core
aspect of contemporary political struggles to be the battle between
those who support the paradigm described above (whose ranks include
most liberals and leftists obviously, but also many so-called "conservatives,"
"libertarians" and others as well) and those who reject
this paradigm, whose ranks amount to a divergent collection of dissidents
from a variety of ideologies.
also be pointed out that the old-guard Marxists, even the Stalinists,
only took their egalitarianism so far. Their professed aims were
limited to the ostensible equality of wealth among the social classes
and, in some instances, political equality of racial and ethnic
groups. They did not nearly go so far as to attack the long list
of "isms," "archies" and "phobias" (for instance, "looksism," "phallocracy""
or "transphobia") so reviled by today's leftoids, nor did they typically
advocate equality of looks, weight, ability, intelligence or even
species (hence, the modern leftist infatuation with concepts ranging
from "grade inflation" to virtual prohibition of so-called "fatty
foods" to giving animals legal rights approximating those of humans).
Nor did they advocate ending race and gender oppression by simply
abolishing races and genders. Indeed, the contemporary leftist obsession
with both race and health under the banner of multiculturalism and
the therapeutic state calls to mind the other great totalitarian
ideology of the twentieth century. One shudders to think what will
happen when these elements gain control of a more fully developed
genetic engineering technology and subsequently combine this with
emerging surveillance technologies. An increasing popular concept
in leftist academic circles is the notion of "whiteness" which,
as might be expected, is typically used as a term of opprobrium.
Indeed, one of the more extreme
proponents of "whiteness" theory maintains a website whose masthead
reads "treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity." To understand
the implications of this slogan, one need only remove the term "whiteness"
and replace it with "Jewishness."
and the Breakdown of the State
for the cultural Marxists but quite fortunately for the rest of
humanity, these new proponents of Liberal-Nazism are quite likely
to fail in their endeavors to remake the world in the image of the
sociology department of an American university. Martin Van Creveld's
important scholarship on the history and likely future of the state
indicates that all around the world states are breaking down and
the nation-state system that first arose in Europe during the High
Middles Ages is reaching its geriatric years. I think the best bet
for our political salvation would probably be an alliance of local
and regional secession movements, with each of these maintaining
various cultural, ideological, religious, ethnic or economic sub-tendencies
within themselves. For instance, there can be fundamentalist Christian
enclaves in South Carolina and homosexual enclaves in San Francisco,
'militiaman' enclaves in Texas and Nation of Islam enclaves in the
large cities. The early individualist anarchist and pioneer feminist
de Cleyre regarded philosophical anarchism as the logical extension
of the American tradition of Jeffersonian liberalism and decentralism.
Ms. De Cleyre advocated an "anarchism
without adjectives" whereby society would operate as a collection
of voluntary communities independent of "one size fits all" utopian
pipe dreams for the remaking of mankind. A contemporary left-anarchist,
Sale, continues this tradition. Says Mr. Sale:
"I am convinced,
believe it or not, that secession-by-state where the state is cohesive
(the model is Vermont, where the secessionist movement is the Second
Vermont Republic), or by region where that makes more sense (Southern
California or Cascadia are the models here), is the most fruitful
objective for our political future. Peaceful, orderly, popular,
democratic, and legal secession would enable a wide variety of governments,
amenable to all shades of the anti-authoritarian spectrum, to be
established within a modern political context. Such a wide variety,
as I see it, that if you didnít like the place you were, you could
always find a place you liked."
amusing to observe the irrational hostility I've gotten from Leftists
by arguing for this idea of liberty fostered by decentralized particularism.
Recently, I was booted from a "libertarian" discussion
list owned by a transsexual prostitute for "advocating common action
with racists and reactionaries" which, of course, amounts
to Satan worship in the theology of Leftism. Within the subculture
of the present day radical Left, I am widely regarded as a kind
of "neo-fascist." This is in spite of the fact that the
majority of my political views are to the left of the Green
Party. If Lincoln responded to the efforts of previous secessionists
with an iron fist, one can only imagine the lengths the Totalitarian
Humanists and Liberal-Nazis will go to in order to subjugate those
who would resist being rendered to the status of pawns for their
fulfillment of their psychopathic fantasies.
Relevance of Anarchism to Modern Society; (Minneapolis,
Soil of Liberty, 1979).
Mikhail. Critique of the Marxist Theory of the State. Cited
in "The Heretic's Handbook of Quotations," Charles Bufe,
Editor; (San Francisco: See Sharp Press, 1988), p. 56.
- Cited in
Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Erik von. Liberty
to be a Major Motion Picture. (New York: Perigee Books,
1980), p. 8485.
[send him mail] is a
long-time radical writer and activist from Richmond, Virginia. See
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