Are You a Marxist?
|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.
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.
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.)
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 dont exercise them with forbidden motives. You may hire or refuse to hire whom you please, for example, as long as the persons race or sex isnt your chief consideration.
But since those who discriminate in the forbidden ways arent 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 states business, and that even privacy is something that can exist only by the grace of the states 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.
|Copyright © 2008 by the
Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation.
This column may not be reprinted in print or
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