To my shock, dismay, and grief, a leading Shakespeare scholar recently referred to neo-Marxists in the English departments of our universities. He wasnt criticizing such scholars; on the contrary, he called them men and women of the greatest independence of mind.
Funny how you can exempt yourself from the crimes of Marxism by adding the prefix neo. A neo-Nazi isnt usually regarded as a higher life form than a regular old Nazi, but a neo-Marxist is supposed to be unrelated to the folks who gave the world the gulag, the reeducation camp, and the vast boneyards of Siberia, China, and Cambodia.
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Whats more, the original Marx is being honored with a fancy new edition of The Communist Manifesto, which is now 150 years old.
So Marx is good, and neo-Marxists are good. It was just the people who ruled countries in the name of Marx who were bad, you see. They betrayed Marx Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Pol Pot, and the rest of those brutes.
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Was there anything about Marxs ideas that made them especially susceptible to betrayal? This is the question youre not supposed to ask, because the answer is so obvious. When an idea is betrayed every single time its put into practice, the fault doesnt lie with the practitioners alone.
There has never been a humane communist regime. Marxism is inherently totalitarian. It recognizes no moral limits on the state. Its the most convenient ideology for aspiring tyrants; it also retains its appeal for intellectuals, who have proved equally skillful at rationalizing abuses of power and at exculpating themselves.
If the tyrants had really betrayed Marx, youd expect the true-blue Marxists to be nervously vigilant against pseudo-Marxist despots. But they never are. They are always willing to trust every new ruler who acts in the holy name of Marxism.
The most successful ideology of the 20th century denied any divine element in man or the universe warranting modesty in the state. That meant the end of privacy. People were punished for their thoughts even thoughts they hadnt had yet, but which the Marxist rulers could predict they would have because of their class membership. (Scientific socialism didnt have to wait until they had really committed crimes, not even thought-crimes.)