Sunday, February 27, 2011

Those darn communists
Tom Smith

You want to read this.  

It is a deeply puzzling thing.  The grip, that is, of Marxism on the minds of so many evidently intelligent people.  I think I understand the appeal of Marxism on the brain of the early twenty something, having suffered through it, not to mention my poor father, myself.  (That is, he suffered through my infatuation with Marxism.)  But it goes way beyond that. You have to think that if our planet were ever to be discovered by some moderately ethical star faring race, and they were able to appreciate along with everything else the history of communism and all its acolytes, the case against just sterilizing the muddy ball on which we live would be made considerably weaker.  What an appalling, nasty, weak-minded and heartless batch of insects it makes us look. And even that's unfair to insects -- ant colonies work well at least.  They don't set up little ant gulags.  If the aliens arrive, somebody will have to make sure Hobsbawm STFU.  He merits the dubious distinction of having made scholarship a crime against humanity.

And yet it remains true that your chances of getting hired as an historian by the University of California and most US universities of stature would have to be greater if you were known to believe that Stalin was at bottom engaged in a noble experiment and deserved our qualified admiration, than if you were known to think that Jesus had had a grip on an ethical insight that rose to the supernatural, or even just was really swell.  It baffles one still and among other reactions, how can one not feel, as a human and Californian or whatever, ashamed?  If this is enlightenment, I would hate to see the dark void ruled by lies, hatred, ignorance and lust for power.  

But on the bright side, we did win the Cold War, which was just the long, drawn out end to beating that other and closely related Evil of Hitlerism and its various horrific mutations.  We can whine about how comfortably the Marxists have burrowed into the academy but I doubt we would get much sympathy from, say, the Poles, or the Cambodians, Cubans, Koreans, Chinese, and one could go on.  At least it gives us something to do, being undertakers for history's unmarked grave of forgotten lies.  Just now a ways to go before the lies are forgotten, or so at least one hopes that is all is going on.

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Tom Smith


After spending my entire adult life as an academic, with only a decade to go to retirement, if the Hindus are right about reincarnation, in my next life I plan to be a heroin dealer and work with a better class of people.

Posted by: William Sjostrom | Feb 28, 2011 1:34:09 AM

Having already become entirely sceptical of Christianity, I found it entirely natural to be ditto about Marxism. I must admit that it was easy to believe that Jesus, while somewhat bonkers, was nevertheless at heart a decent chap. That's probably because the young me pictured him as a somewhat heightened version of an ordinary British eccentric. (Come to think of it, have I stumbled on the secret core belief of the Church of England?)

Posted by: dearieme | Feb 28, 2011 2:41:57 AM

The core idea of Marxism (the one that distinguishes it from other strains of socialism) is that Marxists have a unique and superior understanding of history and politics that qualifies them to rule as ruthless, absolute dictators over the rest of the population, the better to guide them to a future utopia fashioned by their (the Marxists') unique and superior insight and judgment. Is the appeal of that idea--especially to academics--really so hard to understand?

Posted by: Dan Simon | Feb 28, 2011 9:28:31 AM

No, Dan, the appeal of that idea by itself is not hard to understand, though to me that makes it repulsive. But the historical record is just so overwhelmingly awful that one would think that would drive away converts.

Posted by: Tom Smith | Feb 28, 2011 9:37:41 AM

Please see:
"an island on the net without a bearded dictator"

Posted by: JMS | Feb 28, 2011 9:52:58 AM

Experience cannot more than momentarily separate us from our instincts, and our instincts are "socialist". A weasel word if ever there was one.

Von Hayek described it this way--The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design. The astonishing fact revealed by economics and biology is that order generated without design can far outstrip plans men consciously contrive.

That is the nature of capitalism under liberty. It is revolutionary, and the socialist are reactionary.

Posted by: james wilson | Feb 28, 2011 11:18:22 AM

"They don't set up little ant gulags."

Well, not gulags, maybe, but some ants do get other ants, of different species, and make them into ant slaves. (I suspect they kill them if they try to get away.) And some do something similar, or even more nasty, to aphids, though I forget what exactly and can't bother to look. It's not that important to the point, but just to say, ants can be pretty nasty creatures.

Posted by: Matt | Feb 28, 2011 4:24:24 PM

Mmm. True. And wasps are positively vile.

Posted by: Tom Smith | Mar 1, 2011 2:28:24 PM

The only clear ideologue I ever had as a professor was a third-way neoliberal and she didn't seem to see that she was an ideologue. She thought the virtues of rapid privatization of the eastern bloc was self evident, and seemed genuinely surprised that the newly liberated voters of the old Warsaw Pact disagree. FWIW, she did tell us in class that when she was a student, the academy was lousy with marxists, but I never saw any. I suspect the new up and comers are all greens.

Maybe academics in the social sciences pick a political brand when they are twentysomethings and spend the next fifty championing it. By my calculations we will have libertarians in the academy until 2060 at least.

Posted by: molly | Mar 1, 2011 8:15:24 PM

All good points but one should distinguish between Marx/Engels and the Lenin/Stalin regime (as, apparently, Hobsbawm did only poorly) When I was in college (early '60s) there was, even among the rather conventional students (like me) a carefully guarded admiration for someone so reckless as to call himself a Marxist. Analogous to a young man I once knew who could uncap beer bottles with his teeth; obviously not a good idea but nevertheless notable and somehow admirable just because of the insane disregard for his own person. I thought myself broad-minded for considering Marxism. That probably happens a lot.

Posted by: Kieth | Mar 3, 2011 2:00:32 PM

I don't think the comunist is that bad. but it is obvious that people that they get into the power. they get corrupted so, everything started from there. the ideology is great but everything else.

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