FGF E-Package The Reactionary Utopian March 4, 2008 ARE YOU A MARXIST? by Joe Sobran To my shock, dismay, and grief, a leading Shakespeare scholar recently referred to "neo-Marxists" in the English departments of our universities. He wasn't 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 isn't 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. What's 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. Was there anything about Marx's ideas that made them especially susceptible to "betrayal"? This is the question you're not supposed to ask, because the answer is so obvious. When an idea is "betrayed" every single time it's put into practice, the fault doesn't 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. It's 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, you'd 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 hadn't had yet, but which the Marxist rulers could predict they would have because of their class membership. ("Scientific" socialism didn't have to wait until they had really committed crimes, not even thought-crimes.) There are few avowed Marxists left, and not many "neo-Marxists." But the Marxist style has left its mark on the liberal political culture of the West, especially in the area of "civil rights." The peculiarity of "civil rights" and associated legislation ("hate crimes," for instance) is that they criminalize motives, as opposed to actions. The oddity of these laws lies in this. You have the traditional rights of property and association, provided you don't exercise them with forbidden motives. You may hire or refuse to hire whom you please, for example, as long as the person's race or sex isn't your chief consideration. But since those who "discriminate" in the forbidden ways aren't likely to admit their real motives, the state can only judge their motives by results, which means statistical patterns. By the same token, the only way to prevent accusations of "discrimination" is to make sure you hire a safe number of "women and minorities," even if you have to pass over some white males you judge more suitable on the merits. In other words, the only way to avoid a charge of discrimination is to discriminate. Conservatives who think you can have "civil rights" without "quotas" are deluding themselves. Such "civil rights" are essentially different from civil rights in the old sense, because, far from being limitations on the state, they authorize new state powers of intrusion. Sooner or later, they must both rely on quotas as evidence and prescribe them as "remedies." We are indebted to Marx for the general assumption that everything is the state's business, and that even privacy is something that can exist only by the grace of the state's rather suspicious permission. An idea has really triumphed when people are no longer aware that there is any alternative to it. Like the Moliere character who finds he has been speaking prose for 40 years without knowing it, many of our politicians have been practicing Marxism all their lives without realizing it. [This column was originally published by Universal Press Syndicate April 28, 1998.] ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Read this column on-line at "http://www.sobran.com/columns/2008/080304.shtml". Copyright (c) 2008 by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, P.O. Box 270, Vienna, VA 22183. All rights reserved. If you forward this column, please send the entire page. Joe Sobran is an author and a syndicated columnist. 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