The Irrepressible Rothbard
Essays of Murray N. Rothbard
Edited by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
THE MYSTERY EXPLAINED
An old paleocon friend of mine and I were musing the other day, "why are leftists so hysterically opposed to the reelection of an innocuous president like George Bush?" My friend and I agreed that we hadn't seen such naked media bias since the days of the demonized Joe McCarthy. Why? Is it abortion? Feminism? What?
The first time I had seen left-liberal frenzy at work was growing up in the thirties in New York City. In the late thirties, my leftist family, friends, and neighbors were in a paroxysm of fear and rage over the counterrevolution of Franco and of the looming defeat of the leftist Spanish government in the Spanish Civil War. There abounded denunciations of Franco, and calls for everything from milk to arms to soldiers the volunteer "International Brigade" to defend the Spanish left (dubbed "Loyalists" in the value-loaded term adopted by the New York Times and other Respectables).
Note, these were people who displayed no interest whatever, before or since, in Spanish history, culture, or politics. So why all the bother about Spain? Left-liberal historian Allen Guttmann has even recorded and celebrated this hysteria over Spain in his book, The Wound in the Heart (the title says it all). One time I asked my friend Frank S. Meyer, who had been a top American Communist, about this puzzle. "Why all the emotionalism about Spain, Frank?" Frank shrugged: "We [the Communists] could never figure it out. But we made use of the liberal emotionalism on the issue."
The orthodox explanation of historians is that American leftists were especially sensitive to the "threat of fascism," and that they were frantically pro-Spanish left because they saw the Civil War as a preview of an inevitable World War II. But the problem with that explanation is that, while left-liberals were of course enthusiastically in favor of the "good" World War II against the Axis, they never summoned up quite the same emotionalism, quite the same frenzy, even against Hitler, as they had done against Franco.
To come back to the present: is the abortion issue the key to the mania, to the fear and loathing? Yes and no. Yes, abortion is an important issue to the left, but consider the situation before Roe v. Wade in 1973. While liberals were of course always in favor of abortion rights, it was never a big political issue for them. In the decades before 1973, there were no "abortion rights" marches, no unkempt harridans shrieking, "get your hands off my vagina!" So, what's the key?
I submit that a clue can be found in the mini-hysteria that the American left displayed over the counterrevolution against the leftist Allende regime in Chile, a counterrevolution that put Pinochet in power. The left has still not forgiven or forgotten the Chilean right and the CIA for the coup; Allende is still a beloved martyr on the left and his wife Isobel an icon. Is it because a Commie regime was rolled back? Close, but still no cigar; for the left showed no particular emotion, no great rending of clothes, when the Communist regimes collapsed in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
I submit that The Answer to the mystery is as follows: the left are, in their bones, "progressives," that is, they believe, in Whig or Marxoid fashion, that History consists of an inevitable March Upward into the light, toward and into the Socialist Utopia. They believe in the myth of inevitable progress; that History is on their side. As Social Democrats or Mensheviks, as kissin' or sometimes feuding cousins of the Communists or Bolsheviks, they have a similar, though not the identical ideal goal: A socialist, egalitarian State, run by bureaucrats, intellectuals, technocrats, "therapists," and the New Class in general in collaboration with accredited victim pressure groups striving for "equality." These groups including, blacks, women, gays, Latinos, the disabled, and on and on. They believe that History is marching inevitably toward that goal. A vital part of that goal is the destruction of the traditional, "bourgeois," two-parent, nuclear family, and the bringing up of all children by the State and its New Class of licensed counselors, child-care "givers," and therapists.
The Utopian march of History, goal of the Social Democrats is similar to, but not quite the same as, that of the Communists. To the Commies, the goal was the nationalization of the means of production, the eradication of the capitalist class, and the coming to power of the proletariat. The Social Democrats realize that it is far better for the socialist State to retain the capitalists and a truncated market economy, to be regulated, confined, controlled, and subject to the commands of the State. The Social Democrat goal is not "class war," but a kind of "class harmony," in which the capitalists and the market are forced to work and slave for the good of "society" and of the parasitic State apparatus. The Communists wanted a one-party dictatorship, with all dissenters stamped out or confined to the Gulag. The Social-Democrats far prefer a "soft" dictatorship, what Marcuse called, in another context, "repressive tolerance," with a two-party system where both parties agree on all fundamentals and joust politely over minor issues. ("Should we increase taxes by 5, or by 7, percent this year?") Freedom of speech and press will be tolerated by Social Democrats, but again only within minor and trivial limits. Social Democrats shuddered at the naked brutality of the Gulag; what they prefer is sending dissidents to endure the "soft," "therapeutic" dictatorship of "sensitivity training" and "being educated in the dignity of alternative life-styles." In other words: Brave New World instead of 1984.The "upward march of democracy" rather than the "dictatorship of the proletariat."
Also typical is the distinction, in the two Utopias, about the handling of religion. Communists, as fanatical atheists, aimed to stamp out religion altogether. Social Democrats prefer the softer way: to subvert Christianity so that religion will become the Social Democrats' ally. Hence, the shrewd Social-Democrat co-optation of the Christian left: emphasizing modernism among Catholics, and left-pietist evangelicalism among Protestants, the latter aiming to bring about a Kingdom of God on Earth that will be a coercive, egalitarian "community of Love." It is a much shrewder strategy: to join in multi-cultural singing of "We Shall Overcome" rather than murdering priests and nuns and nationalizing churches. We should never forget, however, that the latter was done by the liberals' own beloved Spanish Republican regime, and by its Trotskyite and left-anarchist supporters, with nary a peep of protest by their adoring liberal and social democrat supporters in the United States.
The difference in goals soft vs. hard totalitarianism is also reflected in the marked difference in means and strategies. The Communists, at least in their classic Leninist phase, looked forward to a violent, apocalyptic revolution to destroy the capitalist State and usher in the proletarian dictatorship. The Mensheviks, or Social Democrats, or Neocons, true to their "democratic" ideal, have always been uneasy about revolution, and have much preferred the more gradual "evolution" brought about by democratic elections. The elections are to be primed, of course, by a Gramscian long march in conquest of the nation's cultural and social institutions. Hence, the discrediting of the Gulag and of revolution, and the disappearance of their Bolshevik cousins and competitors, have not been mourned by social democracy. On the contrary, Social Democrats now remain with a monopoly of the "progressive" march of History toward Utopia.
Which brings me back to The Answer about left-liberal hysteria. They become hysterical when they perceive a rollback, or the threat thereof, of the Inevitable March of History. They become hysterical at setbacks, at regressions in that march, regressions which have, of course, been dubbed "reactions." In both the Communist and the Social Democrat worldview, the highest, if "progressive," to be in touch with, on the side of, being the "midwife" of (in Marx's famous term), the inevitable next phase of history. In the same way, the deepest, if not the only, immorality, is to be "reactionary," to be devoted to opposing inevitable progress, or even and at its worst, working to roll back the tide, and to restore the past, "to turn back the clock." That is the worst sin of all, and it calls out all the frenzies, perhaps because any successful rollback would call into question the deepest, most powerfully held "religious" myth of left-liberals: that historical progress toward their Utopia is inevitable. Let reaction occur, let the phases be rolled back, and these people be rolled back, and these people flip out, go into orbit, for then maybe their religion is a false one after all.
We are engaged, in the deepest sense, as Pat Buchanan said in his Houston convention speech, in a "religious war" and not just a cultural one, religious because left-liberalism/social democracy is a passionately held world-view, "religion" in the deepest sense, held on faith: the view that the inevitable goal of history is a perfect world, an egalitarian socialist world, a Kingdom of God on Earth, even if that God is pantheized (as under Hegel and the Romantics) or atheized (as under Marx). It is a religious worldview toward which there must be no quarter; it must be opposed and combated with every fiber of our being.
Who will win this war? No one knows. On which side lies the majority of Americans? It's probably up for grabs. Most Americans are confused, pulled one way and the other, torn between conflicting world views. They can go either way. During his numerous factional battles inside the Marxist movement, Lenin once wrote that there were two battling poles, each in a minority, and in the majority were the confused whom he referred to as The Swamp. Most Americans are confused and constitute The Swamp; they are the terrain over which most of the battles will be fought. And the metaphor is properly military. The looming struggle is far wider and deeper than over indexing the capital gains tax. It is a life-and-death struggle for our very souls, and for the future of America. And now we see why Pat Buchanan drove the liberals into frenzy when he called for a war to "take back our culture, to take back our country"; it was not just the "war," it was the taking back, the trumpet call to become openly and gloriously reactionary.
For left-liberals don't very much mind, in fact they welcome the sort of liberal-conservative cycle that Arthur Schlesinger likes to celebrate: a decade or so of left-liberal "advance," followed by perhaps a decade of consolidation, or slower rate of advance, effected by "conservatives." That indeed has been the much-lauded historical function of "conservative" Republican regimes ever since the 1930s: the function of Eisenhower, of Nixon-Ford, and yes even of Reagan and Bush. It is the prospect of conservatism becoming reactionary, of actually rolling back liberal "gains," that drives them berserk: hence, the hysteria about Franco and Pinochet, hence the lynching of Joe McCarthy (because he was threatening to succeed in rolling back not just Communists but even liberals and Social Democrats) and now the response to at least a perceived threat of conservative Republicans rolling back some of the gains on abortion, feminism, gay "rights," black "rights," and victimology in general.
The war for reaction will require, above all, courage, the guts not to buckle at the all-too-predictable smear response of the media, of the pollsters, and all the rest. Above all, the goal must not be to become beloved by the New York Times and the Respectable Media. That way can only mean more sellout, more defeat.
And above all we need what the left fears above all: An adherence to the military metaphor, to the concept of us vs. them, good guys vs. bad guys, to Taking America Back. We must aim, not only for rolling it all back, not only for saving us from the Leviathan State and nihilist culture, and not only for restoring the Old Republic. For eventually we must drive the wooden stake through the heart of the Enemy, to kill once and for all the monstrous dream of the Perfect Socialized World.
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