Sunday, January 01, 2006

Who controls the past controls the future
Who controls the present controls the past

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Friday, May 06, 2005

Eight Easy Steps

How to stay paralyzed by fear of abandonment
How to defer to men in solveable predicaments
How to control someone to be a carbon copy of you
How to have that not work and have them run away from you

How to keep people at arms length and never get too close
How to mistrust the ones you supposedly love the most
How to pretend you're fine and don't need help from anyone
How to feel worthless unless you're serving or helping someone

[Chorus:]
I'll teach you all this in 8 easy steps
A course of a lifetime you'll never forget
I'll show you how to in 8 easy steps
I'll show you how leadership looks when taught by the best

How to hate women when you're supposed to be a feminist
How to play all pious when you're really a hypocrite
How to hate god when you're a player and a spiritualist
How to sabotage your fantasies by fears of success

[Chorus]

I've been doing research for years
I've been practicing my ass off
I've been training my whole life for this moment I swear to you
Culminating just to be this well-versed leader before you

[Chorus]

How to lie to yourself and thereby to everyone else
How to keep smiling when you're thinking of killing yourself
How to numb a la 'holic to avoid going within
How to stay stuck in blue by blaming them for everything

[Chorus]

(By Alanis Morisette)
Would?

Know me broken by my master

teach thee on child of love hereafter

Into the flood again
same old trip it was back then
so I made a big mistake
try to see it once my way

Drifting body it's sole desertion
flying not yet quite the notion

Into the flood again
same old trip it was back then
so I made a big mistake
try to see it once my way

Into the flood again
same old trip it was back then
so I made a big mistake
try to see it once my way

Am I wrong?
have I run too far to get home

Have I gone?
and left you here alone

Am I wrong?
have I run too far to get home, yeah

Have I gone?
and left you here alone

If I would, could you?

(Alice In Chains, 1992)

Monday, May 02, 2005

Liberalism

(The following excerpt comes from the Introduction of The Politics of Bad Faith: The Radical Assault on America’s Future, by David Horowitz (1998).

During the French Revolution the Left created the socialist and communist movements, which proposed to “complete” the transformation the revolution had begun. The efforts of these radicals culminated in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, whose leaders saw themselves as the direct heirs of Robespierre and the Jacobins, and whose goal was an egalitarian state. But now the empires that socialists built have crashed ingloriously to earth. The catastrophe of the Soviet system has ended for all but the most obdurate the idea that a social plan can replace the market and produce abundance, or that government can abolish private property without also abolishing political freedom.

One might conclude from these facts that the Left is now no more than a historical curiosity, and the intellectual tradition that sustained it for two hundred years is at an end. But if history were a rational process, mankind would have learned these lessons long ago, and long ago rejected the socialist fallacies that have caused such epic grief.

It could also be argued that there has never been a true Right in America, a party committed to monarchy, with religious attachments to “blood and soil.” Indeed, as a frontier nation, America has been so future-oriented that, until recently, an American conservatism seemed a contradiction in terms. The contemporary conservative movement only emerged in the 1950s, launching its first presidential bid with the candidacy of Barry Goldwater in 1964. Yet, barely twenty-five years later, the end of Communism had already put the future of this movement in question. Many argued that American conservatism was so much a coalition of convenience -- the marriage of disparate philosophies united only by anti-Communist passion -- that it would not outlive its ideological adversary.

But the Right has survived its triumphs, even as the Left has outlived its defeats. A few years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a leader of intellectual conservatism observed: “There is no ‘after the Cold War’ for me. So far from having ended, my cold war has increased in intensity, as sector after sector of American life has been ruthlessly corrupted by the liberal ethos. It is an ethos that aims simultaneously at political and social collectivism on the one hand, and moral anarchy on the other.”[1] What Irving Kristol refers to in this passage as the “liberal ethos” is really not liberal, but the radical enterprise that now dresses itself up in “liberal” colors. Group collectivism, racial preferences, “substantive equality” and moral relativism are the rallying themes of contemporary liberals. But these have little in common with the liberalism of the pre-Sixties era, or with its classical antecedents. In fact, they make up a radical creed.

Even so, many will contend that today no significant Left exists in America, outside the liberal arts faculties of universities or among the leadership of government unions. They will further claim that the “liberal ethos,” to which Kristol refers, is indeed liberal in its agendas, that it aims at no more than a tempering of free market individualism with social concerns. In this view, the domestic “cold war” is a political chimera, created by the Right to keep its (anti-Communist) faith alive.

It is the argument of this book, that such conclusions are misguided. They confuse a momentary equilibrium in the political balance with the deeper forces that shape an epoch. It is true that the Left is rhetorically in retreat and has adopted more moderate self-descriptions for the moment. But that is hardly the same as surrendering its agendas or vacating the field of battle. It is more like adopting a political camouflage on entering a hostile terrain. In the era when Stalin was conquering Eastern Europe, American Communists were calling themselves “progressives” to avoid the taint that Stalinism had inflicted on them. But this was only a protective coloration. It did not involve the slightest change in their real commitments as Marxist radicals, or in their ultimate goals of overthrowing the American government and subverting its Constitution. Far from signaling the end of an anti-American radicalism, as the movements of the Sixties showed, this metamorphosis of Communists into progressives was just the beginning.

It is also true that many liberals who, despite sharing a common political front with the Left, are not committed to radical agendas. They are pragmatic enough to tack in a conservative direction should the political wind shift. But by the same token they are not anchored to any conservative principles that would hold them on course when the same wind shifts again.

Those who question the existence of a Left are influenced, in large part, by an optical illusion created by a culture that is instinctively protective of the Left and that reflects the long-standing dominion of socialist ideas. In the present post-Communist moment, radicalism is so tainted by its complicity in recent crimes that merely to identify someone as a partisan of the Left would be a damaging accusation. Political bystanders, who may be vaguely sympathetic to leftist ideas or even neutral in the historical debate, will recoil instinctively from the left-wing label as from the stigma of an inquisition. No one wants to be perceived as a “McCarthyist.” As a result, even self-avowed Communists like Angela Davis, are ritually identified as “liberals” unless they themselves choose otherwise. The very idiom “to red bait” shows how ingrained this universal reflex is. There is no comparable term to describe the hostile exposure of loyalties on the Right.

The same protective impulse is manifest in the standards used in public opinion surveys, which are calibrated on scales that range from “liberal” to “conservative” and “ultra-conservative,” but lack the balance of a “Left.” Was the Clinton Administration’s attempt to nationalize one-sixth of the economy inspired by socialist illusions? The question may or may not have an affirmative answer. But in the contemporary American culture it is ill-mannered to ask.

A recent report by Americans for Democratic Action shows that 47 Democratic House members in the 104th Congress voted to the left of Representative Bernie Sanders, who (alone among them) describes himself as a socialist. Even more politicians who identify themselves as liberal, despite the demise of the socialist bloc, seem to think it unjust that some people earn more than others, a presumption that is the core of leftist belief.

As a result of the prevailing cultural gravity, media arbiters regularly mis-apply political labels to both sides of the spectrum. Noam Chomsky, the America-loathing, MIT socialist is routinely described in the press as a “liberal,” while political adversaries like sociologist Charles Murray, who is a libertarian, is normally referred to as “conservative.” In the current cultural lexicon, a liberal is thus no longer one who ascribes to the principles of Madison or Locke, or to the institutions of private property and free markets, but to almost anyone who is not labeled a “conservative.”

In Europe, by contrast, parties described as “liberal” still reflect the classical origins of the term itself and are associated with economic individualism and free markets. One reason is that in Europe there is a standing socialist tradition that goes back more than a hundred years. It would be inconvenient for radical parties with long socialist histories to suddenly adopt the term “liberal” in order to make a cosmetic adjustment to post-Communist reality. In the United States, however, where the entrance of radicals into the political mainstream has been as recent as the 1970s, such a cosmetic re-make is effortless.

For some radicals the term “liberal” is still so distasteful that only the alternatives “progressive” and “populist” are acceptable masks for their real agendas. In 1995, The Nation magazine printed a manifesto titled “Real Populists Please Stand Up,” which read in part:

We are ruled by Big Business and Big Government as its paid hirelings, and we know it...The big corporations and the centi-millionaires and billionaires have taken daily control of our work, our pay, our housing, our health, our pension funds, our bank and savings deposits, our public lands, our airwaves, our elections and our very government....The divine right of kings has been replaced by the divine right of CEOs.[2]

This “populist” vision of America and its ruling class does not differ in any particular from the vision inscribed in the Stalinist tracts published in the 1930s, when the Nation was a promoter of the Soviet dictatorship and a proud participant in its “Popular Front.”

The changes in labeling that have blurred distinctions on the political landscape and obscured the existence of a Left, can be traced to the end of the Sixties and the failure of its radical apocalypse. Twenty years earlier, radicals had marched out of the Democratic Party to protest its anti-Communist foreign policy and formed the Progressive Party to advance their pro-Soviet agendas behind the presidential candidacy of Henry Wallace. Once having stepped outside the Democratic fold, they shed their liberal masks and, in the Sixties, emerged as New Left radicals condemning both parties as shills for the corporate “ruling class.” It was not until the 1972 presidential campaign of former Progressive Party activist George McGovern, that the Left returned to its Democratic base.

In making the transition back to the Democratic fold, radical activists sought to create a fire-wall between themselves and their recent careers as political revolutionaries. Without abandoning their old agendas, they sought to escape the taint their leftism had acquired through its resort to violence and its easy embrace of totalitarian causes. They accomplished this, as they had during the Popular Front of the 1930s, by modifying their rhetoric and enveloping themselves in the less threatening mantles of “liberal,” “progressive” and “populist.”

To acquire even more protective coloration from the political center, socialist radicals coined the term “neo-conservative” to describe those adversaries, who were genuine liberals opposed to an alliance with the Left. Norman Podhoretz, Irving Kristol and other neo-conservative spokesmen have written at length of their efforts to retain the term “liberal” for themselves, and preserve the integrity of the political language. But, despite the indisputable logic of their position, they were unable to withstand the dominant influence of the Left in the culture, and the “neo-conservative” label stuck.

An ironic result of the Left’s success in transforming the lexicon of American politics was that university speech codes and other forms of censorship, in the 1980s, were imposed by people the press identified as “liberals.” The authors of these codes were actually the radicals who had entered the academy following the failure of their revolutionary projects in the 1960s. Nor were their opponents, who rejected the idea of “political correctness,” really the conservative actors in these campus dramas. By the 1980s, the status quo order at American universities was almost everywhere controlled by the Left. The determined reformers of the censoring regimes were their political opponents on the Right.

A key architect of academic speech codes was radical law professor Catharine MacKinnon whose theoretical presumptions were laid out in a crude Marxist text, Towards A Feminist Theory of the State, and amplified in a tract equating pornography with rape, published by Harvard University Press. In her defense of censorship, Professor MacKinnon revealed how campus commissars were self-consciously carrying on a radical tradition that went back to Marx. “The law of equality and the law of freedom of speech are on a collision course in this country,” she announced, expressing the traditional radical disdain for individual rights (free speech) as against group rights (equality). Before the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, she continued, “the Constitution contained no equality guarantee.” As a result, “the constitutional doctrine of free speech has developed without taking equality seriously -- either the problem of social inequality or the mandate of substantive legal equality...[entrenched] in the Fourteenth Amendment.”[3] According to MacKinnon, the task of legal radicals like herself was to make sure that “substantive” equality was enacted into law, and to embed the principle of equal outcomes in the American constitutional framework.

But neither the doctrine of social equality nor MacKinnon’s imaginary “mandate of substantive legal equality” is, in fact, compatible with Madisonian liberalism or with the written Constitution or with the principle of liberty as understood by the American founders. On the contrary, the “law” of freedom and the “law” of equality, were understood by the framers to be fundamentally in conflict with each other -- a conflict that the socialist experiments of the last century have demonstrated with such tragic effect. Whenever a state seeks to enforce “substantive equality” in society, the principles of free speech, property, and individual freedom, inevitably raise insurmountable obstacles to the totalitarian project and are invariably suppressed.

The crypto-Marxist doctrine of “substantive equality,” however, is now not limited to radical feminists posturing as liberal academics. What might be called “Fourteenth Amendment Marxism” is a powerful and growing school of jurisprudence on American law faculties,[4] and has profoundly influenced the direction of liberal legal theory in general. In The Irony of Free Speech, Owen Fiss, a prominent legal scholar at Yale, advocates the soft version of the MacKinnon doctrine and identifies it with “liberal” jurisprudence as such: “Whereas the liberalism of the Nineteenth Century was defined by the claims of individual liberty and resulted in an unequivocal demand for limited government, the liberalism of today embraces the value of equality as well as liberty.” And further: “Today, equality has another place altogether [than it had previously in the American constitutional framework] -- it is one of the center beams of the legal order. It is architectonic.” By this Fiss means that “a truly democratic politics will not be achieved until conditions of equality have been fully satisfied.”[5] This is the classic Marxist view -- the “rights of man” will only be realized in a socialist state. In a typical academic muddle, Fiss proposes to combine the conradictory values, political liberty and equality of condition, ignoring the founders’ explicit recognition of their irresolvable conflict.[6]

More ominous for America’s constitutional future is that the doctrine of Fourteenth Amendment Marxism has become the basic charter of the so-called “civil rights” movement. The presence of the radical agenda in the American mainstream is nowhere more clearly seen than in the battle over the system of racial preferences called “affirmative action.” No other issue goes so directly to the heart of America’s social contract, to the survival of its pluralist enterprise, or to the shape of its political future.

In November 1997, voters in the largest state in the union overwhelmingly passed the “California Civil Rights Initiative,” outlawing government preferences and discrimination by race and gender. Known as Proposition 209, the California Civil Rights Initiative was designed to conform to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting racial segregation. The words of the Initiative are straightforward and simple:

The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.

The opposition to this measure was led by the organizations traditionally identified with civil rights, that had become radicalized in the preceding decades. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Legal Defense Fund of the NAACP, the AFL-CIO and other opponents of the California Civil Rights Initiative formed a roster of organizations that virtually defined the word “liberalism.” When the Initiative passed by a 54% to 45% margin, this liberal coalition appealed to a federal judge for an injunction that would stop its implementation. The Initiative, they maintained, was “unconstitutional.” The chief litigator for the ACLU called it “the most radical restructuring of the political process to the detriment of minorities in the history of this country”[7] -- an indication of just how deep was the division over an understanding of the most basic principle of American pluralism

In their opposition to the California Civil Rights Initiative, the ACLU-NAACP plaintiffs invoked the Fourteenth Amendment. Drawing on the radical law theories of the academic Left, they argued that it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the amendment. If the courts let the initiative stand, they maintained, it would “impose a special burden on minorities.” After hearing the argument, Judge Thelton Henderson granted the injunction. (Henderson had been specifically sought out by the plaintiffs to hear the case because he himself was a former left-wing activist and board member of the ACLU.) In the ACLU-NAACP complaint, and in Henderson’s decision, the radical outlook of the new liberalism could not have been more clearly or more paradoxically expressed: A law banning racial preferences was held to violate the Equal Protection Clause, and was therefore regarded as unconstitutional.

The conservative backers of the California Civil Rights Initiative were also veterans of the 1960s civil rights movement, and they appealed Henderson’s opinion to the Ninth Circuit Court, where a three-member panel reversed his ruling and lifted the injunction. In re-instating the Initiative, the Ninth Circuit found the position of its opponents not only wrong, but incoherent. One could not invoke equal protection of the laws to oppose a law banning racial preferences unless one was in profound disagreement with the constitutional framework itself:

Proposition 209 amends the California Constitution simply to prohibit state discrimination against or preferential treatment to any person on account of race or gender. Plaintiffs charge that this ban on unequal treatment denies members of certain races and one gender equal protection of the laws. If merely stating this alleged equal protection violation does not suffice to refute it, the central tenet of the Equal Protection Clause teeters on the brink of incoherence.[8]

Not daunted even by this harsh judgment, opponents of the California Civil Rights Initiative announced they would appeal the decision and dig in for a long war. In their appeal, they were joined by the U.S. Department of Justice and the president of the United States.[9] The determination to press the disagreement as a matter of constitutional principle emphasized the radical break that had occurred in the American social contract. A principle that had once been a common foundation for nationhood -- equal treatment by the law -- had become a ground of fundamental conflict.

The dispute also reflected the distorted terms of political discourse. A law against racial preferences, drafted to conform to the historic civil rights measures of the 1960s, was now “conservative;” opposition to an anti-discrimination law was now “liberal.”

The heart of the dispute between liberals and conservatives lay in their opposing views of the Fourteenth Amendment. Did the Equal Protection Clause require government to make its citizens substantively equal (the view of the Left), or did it require government to treat its citizens as equals before the law (the view of the Right). This dispute, of course, engages the entire 150-year history of conflict between Marxist movements, disdainful of “bourgeois rights” and the capitalist democracies of the West. Only, the Marxist position is now argued by “liberals.”

In the debate over the Civil Rights Initiative, the “liberal” side had invoked the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment as the grounds for striking down the anti-discrimination statute. The Ninth Circuit called this argument “paradoxical,” as surely it was. The Fourteenth Amendment had been adopted as a protection for Negroes in the post-slavery south who were being stripped by government of their invidividual civil rights under the infamous “Black Codes.” The Fourteenth Amendment was most emphatically not designed, as Catharine MacKinnon and the ACLU-NAACP radicals maintained, to guarantee equality for groups, whether through government-sponsored affirmative action policies or government programs to redistribute wealth. The Fourteenth Amendment was intended to prevent government from discriminating against individuals, especially on the basis of race. To underscore this point, the Ninth Circuit, citing a previous Supreme Court decision, observed:

After all, the ‘goal’ of the Fourteenth Amendment, ‘to which the Nation continues to aspire,’ is ‘a political system in which race no longer matters.’

Of course, not everyone opposing the California Civil Rights Initiative was radical in their perspective. Nor is every supporter of affirmative action inspired by the idea of group rights based on race, gender or class. But the principle of group rights is integral to every claim for affirmative action preferences, and is antithetic to the most fundamental principles of the American founding. It is the very unConstitutional idea of “social justice” between groups that has always been at the heart of the radical project, and that now drives much of the political agenda currently described as “liberal.” It is this idea that lies behind the attack on America’s constitutional framework mounted by “multi-culturalists,” “critical legal theorists,” “critical race advocates,” and activist judges who refer to the authority of a “living constitution” unanchored in any written text. The combination of these forces and their pervasive influence in the institutions of American culture and politics, backed by the American presidency, makes the current radical assault on the American founding both formidable and disturbing.

In establishing the proper terms of this conflict, there remains one final introductory issue, namely, whether the bi-polar distinction Left versus Right is still usefully descriptive. Does this dichotomy accommodate the complexity of views in the contemporary political spectrum? Does the term “Left” really embrace both radicals and liberals, and are libertarians properly associated with the Right?

The answers to these questions, inevitably, are both yes and no. While the terms may not be entirely satisfactory in describing complex individual commitments, they remain indispensable. Left and Right represent distinct and conflicting attitudes towards property, liberty and social equality, which are the axes of contemporary political battles, and define their historical possibilities.

On the Right, it is true, the conflicts between libertarians and conservatives remain in many areas fundamental -- for example, in those cases where conservatives look to the state to defend the institutions of moral order. But the two parties share a common belief in property as the foundation of human liberty, and a common understanding of the inherent conflict between liberty and equality. These inevitability join them in opposition to the Left.

On the Left, the conflicts between radicals and liberals are less fundamental, concerning means rather than ends. Radicals and liberals share a structure of belief that creates a permanent alliance between them. In Destructive Generation, Peter Collier and I attempted to summarize the nature of this alliance in the following formulation: “If the bloodstained reality of the Left is indefensible within the framework provided by liberal principle, its ideals nonetheless seem [to liberals] beyond challenge.” We referred to the passage in Lionel Trilling’s classic novel The Middle of the Journey, where the author makes the same observation:

Certain things were clear between Laskell and Maxim [Trilling’s representative liberal and radical]. It was established that Laskell accepted Maxim’s extreme commitment to the future. It was understood between them that Laskell did not accept all of Maxim’s ideas. At the same time, Laskell did not oppose Maxim’s ideas. One could not oppose them without being illiberal, even reactionary. One would have to have something better to offer and Laskell had nothing better. He could not even imagine what the better ideas would be.[10]

Trilling was referring to ideas like “equality” and “social justice,” which define the aspirations of the Left and set their parameters. While not actually supporting Communism, liberals like Laskell were convinced that “one was morally compromised, turned toward evil and away from good, if one was against it.” In the conviction that radical goals are noble, however problematic the radical means, lie the seeds of liberalism’s historic alliance with -- and protection of -- the anti-liberal Left.

The continuing resonance of this protective attitude can be seen in the durable loyalties inspired by the Alger Hiss-Whittaker Chambers trial in mid-century, an episode that divided the political culture during the early Cold War. The Roosevelt Administration -- the fount of modern American liberalism -- had protected Alger Hiss and -- wittingly or unwittingly -- made it possible for him to function as a Soviet agent and spy. Even after Hiss was proven a traitor, the liberal culture continued to view him as a victim, never the villain of the piece. This attitude of forbearance was extended to the traitor Hiss until the end of his life, after the fall of the Soviet empire, when he was eulogized by liberals -- including news anchors for the major networks -- as a man who suffered at the hands of dark forces, while gamely maintaining his innocence to the end. His antagonist, on the other hand, the disparaged and long forgotten Chambers (Trilling’s model for the character of Gifford Maxim) was never embraced by liberals as the patriot he was, nor viewed as the hero his service merited. This remained so even after his ideas and actions were vindicated by the fall of Communism and the universal acknowledgment of its terrible crimes.

The alliance between liberals and radicals is reflected throughout a culture that in its deep structures supports the world-view of the Left. This influence is so profound as to have entered the language itself, and thus become a habit of mind that is no longer noticed. We speak reflexively of leftists as “progressives,” even though their doctrines are rooted in Nineteenth Century prejudice, and have been refuted by a historical record of unprecedented bloodshed and oppression.

In similar fashion, we casually speak of the “haves” and “have nots,” terms which presume the “social injustice” the Left proposes to redress, while at the same time inflaming the passions of social resentment. Yet, as Friedrich Hayek and others have long pointed out, there is no social entity that divides up society’s wealth or can be said to distribute it unjustly. The very term “social justice” describes a prejudice and incitement of the Left, but only this.[11] In a society of liberal politics and economic markets, it would be more appropriate to speak of the “do’s” and the “do nots,” the “cans” and the “can nots,” the “wills” and the “will nots” -- terms that reflect the undeniable fact of American social mobility -- that individuals can and do make their own destinies, even in circumstances they may not control. Yet, no matter how conservative we may be, we could hardly use these accurate descriptive terms without being simultaneously assaulted by the suspicion that the very usage reflects a mean-spirited attitude on our part which “blames the victim.” Such is the power of the political language. To recognize linguistic gravities like these is another way of recognizing the cultural hegemony of the Left.

It is a hegemony with vast social consequences, some of which will be explored in the observations that follow. But our first task is to understand the nature of the radical project, and why it cannot succeed; and thus the reasons that its challenge to democratic order is so dangerous and destructive.

* * *

The essays in this book explore the trajectory of the radical idea from its origins in the socialist Left to its present incarnation as a movement that calls itself “liberal” and “progressive,” but whose ideological agendas are racial and totalitarian. They also necessarily address the interjection of religious ideas into the political arena, a concern normally directed to the “religious Right.” Observers as disparate as Berdyaev, Niebuhr, Voegelin, Kolakowski and Talmon long ago, however, recognized and explored the religious dimension of the socialism. The ability of the intellectual Left to survive the catastrophe of its Communist enchantments derives from its essentially religious nature, and reminds us that it is this very attitude, impervious to historical experience and resistant to reason, that remains the durable obstacle to political and social progress.

This book is, finally, about what it means to be a conservative in America, to be “Right” in a context where conserving the constitutional foundations means defending a fundamentally liberal framework. It seeks to provide a philosophical underpinning for the contemporary conservative coalition that would be broader and more stable than the one that now exists.

The essays were written during and after the fall of the Marxist empire. Three chapters --“Unnecessary Losses,” “The Road to Nowhere,” and “The Religious Roots of Radicalism” -- are discussed in my autobiography, Radical Son[12], and are intellectual threads of the odyssey it describes. Although the essays are discrete and self-sufficient, they make up a coherent whole, and are intended to be read in the sequence in which they are presented.


THE LEFT AFTER COMMUNISM

Workers of the world…forgive me.

Karl Marx

Graffiti on a statue, Moscow 1991

The monuments have fallen now and the faces are changed. In the graveyards the martyrs have been rehabilitated and everywhere the names have been restored. The Soviet Union, once hailed by progressives everywhere as “one-sixth of mankind on the road to the future,” no longer exists. Leningrad is St. Petersburg again. The radical project to change the world has left behind a world in ruin. In a revolutionary eye-blink, a bloody lifetime has passed into history. Only vacancies memorialize a catastrophe whose human sum can never be reckoned.

In the climactic hours of the Communist fall, someone --- Boris Yeltsin perhaps --- remarked that it was a pity Marxists had not triumphed in a smaller country because “we would not have had to kill so many people to demonstrate that utopia does not work.” What more is there to say? If Communism’s final hour had truly spelled the end of the utopian fantasies that have blighted the modern era, nothing at all. If mankind were really capable of closing the book on this long, sorry episode of human folly and evil, then its painful memory could finally be laid to rest. Only historians would need to trouble their thoughts over its destructive illusions and appalling achievements. But, in fact, these millennial dreams of a brave new world are with us still, and it is increasingly obvious that the most crucial lessons of this history have not been learned. This observation applies most of all to those whose complicity in its calamities were most profound -- the progressive intelligentsia of the democratic West.

An emblem of this failure was the appearance in 1995 of Eric Hobsbawm’s The Age of Extremes, a history of the epoch from the outbreak of the First World War to the end of the Communist empire, which the author refers to as the “short Twentieth Century.”[13] The Age of Extremes is actually the conclusion to a tetralogy of studies that one American reviewer has called a “summa historiae of the modern age,”[14] and which others have showered with copious accolades since its first volume appeared decades ago. This final installment was awarded Canada’s most coveted literary prize and appeared to reviews in America which characterized its author’s perspective as canonical for the time. The jacket blurb by a Rockefeller Foundation executive typically proclaims: “Hobsbawm’s magisterial treatment of the short Twentieth Century, will be the definitive fin-de-siecle work.” A review in the New York Times by Harvard professor Stanley Hoffmann repeats the judgment of the work as “magisterial,”[15] while liberal foreign policy analyst Walter Russell Mead calls it “a magnificent achievement of a very rare and remarkable kind.”[16] The economist Robert Heilbroner could not agree more: “I know of no other account that sheds as much light on what is now behind us, and thereby casts so much illumination on our possible futures.” Hardly less impressed is the historian Eugene Genovese, who reviewed Hobsbawm’s book for The New Republic:

We shall soon be flooded with books that seek to explain this blood-drenched century, but I doubt that we shall get a more penetrating and politically valuable one than Eric Hobsbawm’s The Age of Extremes.[17]

These unrestrained encomiums reveal just how deeply embedded in the liberal culture the Marxist paradigm remains, even after the catastrophes it has produced.

For Eric Hobsbawm is himself an emblem. A member of the British Communist Party during the heyday of Stalinism and for many years after, Hobsbawm is today one of the most honored figures in the academic pantheon. He is so -- make no mistake -- not despite, but because of his deplorable past; because he continues to be an unrepentant (if somewhat chastened) Marxist; because he is a passionate reviler of democratic capitalism, a believer still in thrall to the radical myth. For all Hobsbawm’s attention to the details of industrial, scientific and cultural developments in his text, The Age of Extremes is little more than an ideological tract in behalf of the continuing viability of the socialist faith.

Hobsbawm’s argument goes like this: Even if “progressives” were wrong, they were right. The practical disasters of socialism should not be taken as a refutation of the socialist idea and its utopian premise.[18] The tragedies produced by socialist revolutionaries are not reasons to abandon the quest for “social justice,” or a society based on equality of outcomes and some kind of social plan.

Extravagantly praised by progressive intellectuals for its historical insight, The Age of Extremes is, in fact, a 600-page apologia for the discredited Left, an advocate’s brief for the very project that produced the world of misery under review.

Even more depressing in the way that it reflects our current cultural condition, Hobsbawm’s defense of the socialist idea -- against all the evidence of its bloodstained reality -- is not even original, but repeats an argument first developed by Leon Trotsky during his years of exile, after his fall from grace. According to Trotsky’s thesis, Marxism was a design for industrial countries and failed only because its agendas were inserted into a hostile environment for which they were never intended. The cultural and economic backwardness of Russian society thwarted the best laid plans of the socialist dreamers, and produced the distorted result. This is the source of all subsequent arguments from the left that the “actually existing” socialist societies did not represent “true socialism.” Following Trotsky’s reasoning (but without acknowledging the source), Hobsbawm portrays the Soviet revolution as a forced experiment under unfavorable conditions and thus no test of the ideas that inspired it, or that guided its unhappy results.

In his review of Hobsbawm’s book, Professor Hoffmann actually endorses this tired and faulty Communist logic: “Marx was right....socialism could only work in developed countries...” But, of course, Marx was wrong. Otherwise, why would socialism have failed in East Germany, which was the industrial heart of the German Reich until Marxist planners seized its state, destroyed its work ethic and its economic incentives, and ruined its productive base? Neither Hoffmann nor Hobsbawm even attempt to explain this inconvenient historical fact.[19] Their easy presumption that “Marx was right” about developed countries is unintentionally revealing, since no developed country has ever instituted a successful Marxist “solution.”

During the final years of the Soviet empire, socialist economists like John Kenneth Galbraith touted the “success” of Marxist economies and their alleged “convergence” with those of the West. Now that the dismal failure of these societies has been incontrovertibly established, these intellectuals want to forget ever suggesting that the two might be competitive in the first place. Attempting to retrieve a situation shared by sophisticated spokesmen for the Left, Hobsbawm argues that the very idea of a Soviet competition with the West was only an afterthought. It acquired plausibility and became a weapon in the hands of its enemies, because of capitalism’s weakness during the Great Depression of the inter-war era. In constructing this evasion, Hobsbawm fails to acknowledge the role that Soviet propagandists and Party intellectuals like himself played in fostering this very illusion.

During the Cold War, which Hobsbawm refers to as a “Golden Age” of capitalist development, western economies defied Marxist predictions about ever increasing economic misery and deepening social crisis for reasons Hobsbawm admits he is unable to explain. It was during this expansive era, that the industrial democracies of the West were able to permanently surpass the weaker Soviet system, which failed to overcome its economic underdevelopment. Characteristically, it never occurs to Hobsbawm that Marxism itself might be responsible for this failure.

Like other radicals, Hobsbawm writes as though the real world failures of socialist systems have no implications for socialist critiques of capitalism itself. This denial of the obvious is the intellectual basis for the current survival of the socialist faith, and the revival of radical critiques of the West by the political Left. The practice of radical “criticism” -- which is a total rejection of the social foundations -- is the really destructive dimension of Hobsbawm’s work and of the radical culture his ideas reflect. Like his fellow leftists, Hobsbawm’s new agenda is to suspend disbelief in the socialist future, while extending the socialist indictment of liberal society in the present. In other words: to continue the very assault with which he began his political career seventy years ago, and which led to the monstrous criminalities that followed.

One clear indication of the radical passion that inspires Hobsbawm’s book is the way it portrays the era of Marxist decline. The eighteen-year period from detente to the Soviet collapse (1973-1991) is described in a section of Hobsbawm’s volume called “The Landslide,” as though the collapse was caused by a force of nature. Even more revealingly, the term “Landslide” is one that Hobsbawm applies to both Cold War camps and social systems, as though it described a global phenomenon, encompassing East and West. In reality, the period in question witnessed the destruction of the largest and most oppressive empire in recorded history and the spread of democratic governments and market economies around the globe. Yet, through Hobsbawm’s Marxist lens, the historic victory of freedom appears as no victory at all, but a general social disintegration on both sides of the ideological divide. The final section of The Age of Extremes opens with the following summary judgment: “The history of the twenty years after 1973 is that of a world which lost its bearings and slid into instability and crisis.”[20]

Though in his own life Hobsbawm is one of its privileged beneficiaries, the triumph of western freedom that resulted from this landslide offers him little satisfaction or relief. In the spacious opening created by the Soviet collapse, the socialist historian sees only “a renaissance of barbarism” -- and not just in the post-Communist East, mind you, but in the zone of democracy as well. Socialism has failed but rather than freedom, it is barbarism that has won.

The view that socialism’s collapse should be followed by a resurgence of barbarism is less an observation, however, than an ideological tic. It reprises the famous call issued by the German Marxist Rosa Luxemburg to European leftists in the last days of World War I. At that time, Luxemburg summoned activists to risk everything in the battle to overthrow the democracies of the West, because the choice before them was “socialism or barbarism.” The slogan has been a battle cry for radicals ever since.

If the choice is socialism or barbarism, of course, socialism can still seem attractive to progressives like Hobsbawm. Apocalyptic choice, on the other hand, is endemic to the revolutionary equation because it precludes coming to terms with the existing order or entertaining the possibility of piecemeal adjustments and reforms. The elimination of the middle ground justifies in advance the crimes that revolutionaries intend to commit. Before and afterwards, it excuses them from drawing a balance sheet of the real world consequences of their acts.

Eric Hobsbawm is still a prisoner of his reactionary faith. Capitalism remains, in this perversely unshaken ideological perspective, a doomed system, unable to solve its fundamental “crises” except through a revolutionary triumph of the will. As a result, in Hobsbawm’s narrative, “capitalism” is depicted as a force of evil -- the diablo ex machina of all its tragic turns. In this Manichaean vision, it is democratic America -- not its totalitarian adversary -- that appears responsible for the fifty years’ Cold War. Even the conclusion of that conflict -- the Soviet collapse and the Red Army’s withdrawal from Eastern Europe -- is seen not as a victory for the capitalist West (“We need not take this crusaders’ version of the 1980s seriously,”[21] Hobsbawm dismissively writes) but as a victory made possible by the totalitarian enemy himself.

Thus, along with other leftists, Hobsbawm attributes the end of the Cold War to the sagacious policies of the Kremlin’s last Communist dictator, who “recognized the sinister absurdity of the nuclear arms race” and approached his antagonists with a proposal to end it: “That is why the world owes so enormous a debt to Mikhail Gorbachev, who not only took this initiative but succeeded, single-handed, in convincing the US government and others in the West that he meant what he said.”[22] Gorbachev was able to achieve this near miraculous resolution of the Cold War, according to Hobsbawm, only because the White House -- normally a center of war-mongering paranoia -- was occupied by a simpleton who remained immune from its most malignant influences:

However, let us not underestimate the contribution of President Reagan whose simple-minded idealism broke through the unusually dense screen of ideologists, fanatics, careerists, desperadoes and professional warriors around him to let himself be convinced.[23]

This is a left-wing cartoon of American government that only other intellectuals could credit. What a world of difference between Hobsbawm’s account and the actual gratitude for America’s cold warriors and above all for their leader, Ronald Reagan, that were expressed by the people they liberated from the Soviet yoke. In the aftermath of the Cold War, the multitudes behind the former Iron Curtain regarded Ronald Reagan as their champion, while Hobsbawm’s hero, Gorbachev, became a man forgotten and without a following even in his own country.

Throughout his narrative of the Cold War’s denouement, Hobsbawm remains oblivious to a factor of momentous consequence underlying both the Soviet collapse and the triumph of the West. This factor was the power of private markets to unleash new technologies and to transform the economic world, while socialist planners were unable to do the same. In a 400-page volume that devotes entire chapters to scientific and industrial developments, Hobsbawm mentions the digital computer only in passing and then only in a single isolated sentence. There is not a single reference to Seymour Cray, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Jim Clark, Michael Milken or any of the other Rockefellers and Fords behind the new industrial revolution or -- except negatively -- to the economic and social implications of this epoch-making event.

Hobsbawm first ignores and then denies the liberating potential of the computer-driven revolution, as he does the greatest peacetime expansion in history -- the Reagan boom of the Eighties -- which helped to launch it. Instead, his portrait of America’s economy in the prospering Eighties is one of unrelieved foreboding and social gloom. Like a modern day Luddite, who has learned nothing from two hundred years of industrial innovation, Hobsbawm receives the news of technological progress as a social threat. In Hobsbawm’s doom-ridden scenario, technological progress means only the prospect that jobs will be eliminated -- forever:

The Crisis Decades [1973 to the present] began to shed labor at a spectacular rate, even in plainly expanding industries....The number of workers diminished, relatively, absolutely and, in any case, rapidly. The rising unemployment of these decades was not merely cyclical but structural. The jobs lost in bad times would not come back when times improved: they would never come back.[24]

As this Marxist reactionary returns to the myths of his radical youth, he imagines the capitalist past conjured in those myths to be recurring eternally in the capitalist present: “In the 1980s and early 1990s the capitalist world found itself once again staggering under the burdens of the inter-war years, which the Golden Age appeared to have removed: mass unemployment, severe cyclical slumps, the ever-more spectacular confrontation of homeless beggars and luxurious plenty,...” To this structural dislocation Hobsbawm attributes a “growing culture of hate” and a general social breakdown (including an alleged epidemic of “mass murders”) which cloud the American future.[25] In other words, Marx’s predictions of increasing misery, increasing polarization of rich and poor, increasing crisis -- were right.

But only in the fantasies of an unreconstructed believer in the radical faith. In reality, during the decades of Cold War, the engines of capitalist progress were revolutionizing the lives of ordinary working people on a scale previously inconceivable. Hobsbawm’s “landslide” in the West coincided with economic developments that ushered in the greatest social transformation in human history -- the first time in five thousand years that more than a tiny percentage of the population of any society were able to attain a degree of material well-being. It was, in fact, this dazzling prospect of American progress in the era that stretched from Eisenhower to Reagan that lay at the heart of the demoralization and collapse of socialism’s empire, whose own populations had been condemned to permanent grinding poverty by Marx’s impossible economic schemes. Over the course of Hobsbawm’s somber decades, the consumption of goods and services by the average American family had actually doubled. While less than 10 percent of Americans went to college in 1950, almost 60 percent had done so by 1996. By that time, the poorest fifth of the population was consuming more than the middle fifth in 1955.[26] None of this uplifting reality -- a liberation of the dispossessed that no socialist state ever accomplished -- is allowed to penetrate Hobsbawm’s unrelenting negative vision.

The Age of Extremes -- so readily embraced by the liberal culture -- is little more than an elaborate (and pathetic) defense of the two destructive illusions in whose name the Left has caused so much suffering in the 20th Century: the inherent evil of capitalist society and the humanitarian promise of the socialist future. In the wake of the Soviet disaster, of course, the hope of this socialist future is only tenuously put forward by sophisticated radicals like Hobsbawm. It is the negative assault on democratic capitalism that inspires their unrestrained commitment and that leads their public agenda. In the permanent war of the Left against liberal economy and democratic order, it is understood by the radicals that offense is always the best defense.

But the two sides of the radical argument cannot really be separated. The nihilistic rejection of the present order is necessarily predicated on the dream of a redemptive solution. Otherwise, the argument for rejection is meaningless. Inevitably, in the closing passage of Hobsbawm’s text, the two ideas finally are linked. And they are linked in a manner that is as intellectually extreme as any manifesto by Rosa Luxemburg or Karl Marx:

The forces generated by the techno-scientific economy are now great enough to destroy the human environment, that is to say, the material foundations of human life....We have reached a point of historic crisis....If humanity is to have a recognizable future, it cannot be by prolonging the past or the present. If we try to build the third millennium on that basis we shall fail. And the price of failure, that is to say the alternative to a changed society is darkness.

Capitalist darkness or revolutionary light. Socialism or barbarism. Like the Bourbons of the 19th Century, the reactionaries of the contemporary Left have learned nothing from this history, and they have forgotten nothing either.

II

The radical idea has not been buried with its hapless victims, nor the fantasy of a world redeemed. Yet, it is this very hope that provides the impetus for atrocity, the golden omelet for which it has seemed reasonable to progressive minds to break so many eggs.

In the aftermath of the Nazi Holocaust, no intellectual calling himself progressive would have ignored the link between the racist idea and the “final solution.” But no progressive intellectual today will recognize the parallel nexus between the socialist idea and the gulags it produced.[27] To the progressive mind, the idea remains innocent and the Soviet tragedy only a temporary detour from the path of socialist progress. In this view, “actually existing socialism” bears no relation to the socialist promise. The failure of Marxism can be dismissed as the result of an intellectual error that progressives have already corrected.

There is a sense, of course, in which even non-socialists might view this entire episode of a failed utopia as an epic mistake. Few intellectual doctrines have been so systematically refuted -- over so many generations -- as the socialist vision of Karl Marx. None has been the cause of so much human misery and suffering. Yet false doctrines of this proportion are not sustained by ignorance alone. Throughout the history of the Marxist faith, there has never been a lack of first-rate intellectuals to validate its “truths,” or to lend reputation and talent to its most malignant agendas: To lie when it was necessary to lie; to believe when it should not have been possible to believe; to justify murder and defend the indefensible.

It will always be a mark of moral and intellectual dishonor for the West that in this historic and protracted encounter with the adversaries of freedom and democracy so many of our most gifted writers, artists, scientists, and intellectuals were more energetically engaged in opposing our own political institutions and the ideas essential to their survival than in questioning either the lethal political doctrines that were designed to destroy them or the elaborate edifice of cultural mendacity that was spawned by the Communist movement for the express purpose of bringing down the democratic societies of the West.[28]

The socialist experiments of the 20th Century ruined the economies of whole continents and destroyed the lives of hundreds of millions, all with the acquiescence and support of intellectuals who thought of themselves as progressive. When the experiments were over, these progressives were faced with an existential choice. On the one hand, they could confront their complicity in socialist crimes and give up the illusion that made them inevitable. In short, they could abandon the Left. Or, like Eric Hobsbawm, they could renew the illusion and get on with their war against the democracies of the West.

In the years following the Communist collapse, the vast majority of progressive intellectuals chose the second course. Perhaps it was too difficult to admit lifelong error and acknowledge the rectitude of one’s hated opponents. Perhaps it meant traumas to the soul for which they were not prepared. In any case, it was easier to avoid than to face unpleasant truth. But this avoidance was possible only through an act of historical denial -- psychologically speaking, a progressive bad faith.

Two principal strategies were employed in the pursuit of this denial. The first was that adopted by Communist die-hards in the former Soviet states, who viewed the collapse of Communism as a failure of those attempting its reform. In their eyes, Communism was not vanquished by a superior system; it was surrendered by its own leaders who lost their revolutionary nerve. A variation of the theme argues that Gorbachev’s reforms were unwisely implemented. The destabilizing political reforms of glasnost should have been attempted only after the economic reforms of perestroika were put in place. This would have left the Communists in control, as in China.

The second, more prevalent, strategy of denial is dependent on a “post-modernist” attitude that accepts the fact of Communist failure while avoiding its implications. This strategy acknowledges the failure of existing socialism, while denying its connection to the radical project. In the words of one Marxist academic: “The nightmare is over, the dream lives on.”[29] As though the nightmare was not also the dream. This form of denial is the path taken by most of the intellectuals who have remained faithful to the progressive idea.

It is easy to see why this should be the strategy of choice. Once the post-modern ellipsis is achieved -- once the connection with history is lost -- the epistemological problem of a progressive faith disappears. One no longer has to trouble oneself about the actual reasons for the Soviet collapse. Or about whether the socialist idea is to blame. To free oneself from the moral consequences of the socialist fate, one has only to suspend belief in the socialist idea. Then one can proceed to the revolt against capitalist society as though nothing of consequence had occurred. As though the Cold War had ended in defeat but no victory. This is the preferred perspective of Hobsbawm’s text and of the post-Communist Left.

It is a posture that was on full display at a June 1990 forum held by the Organization of American Historians (one of innumerable academic associations now controlled by the Left). The topic of the forum was “Who Won the Cold War?” During the discussion, the social critic Christopher Lasch raised the need for second thoughts: “We ought to admit the truth...that the West won the Cold War, even if it does go against the grain, against our political inclinations.” Lasch’s candid admission was dismissed by the leftist academics with outrage and scorn. Observing the proceedings, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post reported that those in attendance “were firm in their view that the revolutions in Eastern Europe had done nothing to vindicate [the West].” Lasch was attacked for justifying a “heroic view of America’s world role.”[30]

The refusal to confront the past meant that leftists could resume their attacks on America and the West without examining the movements and regimes they had supported, and thus without proposing any practical alternative to the societies they continued to reject. The intellectual foundations of this destructive attitude had already been created, in the preceeding decades, in a development that Allan Bloom described as the “Nietzscheanization of the Left”[31] -- the transformation of the progressive faith into a nihilistic creed.

Nihilistic humors have always been present in the radical character. The revolutionary will, by its very nature, involves a passion for destruction alongside its hope of redemption. While the hope is vaguely imagined, however, the agenda of destruction is elaborate and concrete. It was Marx who originally defended this vagueness, claiming that any “blueprint” of the socialist future would be merely “utopian,” and therefore should be avoided. The attitude of the post-Marxist Left is no different. Since the fall of Communism, radical intellectuals have continued their destructive attacks on capitalism, as though the catastrophes they had recently promoted posed no insurmountable problem to such an agenda. “I continue to believe,” wrote a radical academic after the Soviet collapse, “that what you call ‘the socialist fantasy’ can usefully inform a critique of post-modern capitalism without encouraging its fantasists and dreamers to suppose that a brave new order is imminent or even feasible.”[32]

But how could a responsible intellect ignore the destructive implications of such critiques? The socialist critique, after all, is total. It is aimed at the roots of the existing order. To maintain agnosticism about the futures that might replace the reality you intend to destroy may be intellectually convenient, but it is also morally corrupt.

“Critical theory” -- the coy self-description of the ideological Left -- self-consciously defines itself by the totality of its rejection of the existing social order, in the identical fashion of old-style Marxists (Marx himself was a “critical” theorist). The explicit agenda of critical theory is to undermine the credibility and authority of the values and institutions of the status quo in order to prepare its annihilation. The task of undermining communal assumptions and stabilizing faiths is not incidental to the radical critique, but is its corrosive essence. It is what the theory intends. Yet, like the Marxist-Leninists of the past, critical theorists never confront the moral issue posed by their destructive agendas: What can be the rationale for weakening and ultimately destroying a system as liberal as the existing one, if no better has been devised?

Without its adherents noticing, the theoretical argument of the Left has been emptied of meaning by the failures of socialism. For what is the practical meaning of a socialist critique in the absence of a workable socialist model? In fact, there is none. By adopting an impossible standard, it is easy to find fault with any institution or social system under scrutiny. The ideal of socialist equality, for example, may or may not be admirable. But if social equality cannot be realized in practice, or if the attempt to realize it necessarily creates a totalitarian state, then the idea of such equality can have no significance except as an incitement to destructive agendas and acts.

To raise the socialist ideal as a critical standard imposes a burden of responsibility on its proponents that critical theorists refuse to shoulder. If one sets out to destroy a lifeboat because it fails to meet the standards of a luxury yacht, the act of criticism may be perfectly “just,” but the passengers will drown all the same. Similarly, if socialist principles can only be realized in a socialist gulag, even the presumed inequities of the capitalist market are worth the price. If socialist poverty and socialist police states are the practical alternative to capitalist inequality, what justice can there be in destroying capitalist freedoms and the benefits we already enjoy? Without a practical alternative to offer, radical idealism is radical nihilism -- a war of destruction with no objective other than war itself.

While confronting the catastrophe of the radical vision requires moral effort, the nihilistic pose that evades the issue requires no exertion at all. “Post-modern” leftism -- the theoretical expression of this agnostic nihilism -- makes it possible for progressives to keep the radical faith without undertaking a painful inventory of the radical achievement. That is why, for the contemporary Left, it has become the ideology of choice: The post-modern attitude relieves progressives of any obligation to acknowledge their complicity in radical crimes. It makes it possible to preserve one’s political identity, while maintaining the semblance of one’s self-respect. This is what makes nihilism the preferred perspective for Hobsbawm and other intellectuals who want to be faithful to the bankrupt traditions of the Left, while earning moral credit for acknowledging “mistakes.” The post-Communist Left is too shrewd to defend a future that has so comprehensively failed. But it seeks to retrieve its catastrophes by pretending that the failure doesn’t matter.

To the contemporary Left, those who did fail, who actually committed socialist crimes have no relationship to them. The response of the Left to the disasters that its political ideas have produced is the response of nihilism and bad faith.

This bad faith is rationalized by a new generation of academic intellectuals who have opened a Pandora’s box of radical theories that are derivative of Marxism while pretending to transcend it. The edifice of the new “critical” theories is supported by an intellectual posture that pretends to be skeptical and/or relativist about everything except itself (an analytic self-deception that it shares with traditional Marxism).

By the time the progressive gulag collapsed in Russia, the very truth that Stalin and his commissars had worked so hard to suppress by re-writing history and silencing its witnesses had virtually vanished as a concept among progressive intellectuals. French “deconstructionist” ideas about the “aporia” of discourse and the indeterminacy of language, “post-structuralist” and “post-modernist” assaults on the idea of the historical subject, and “anti-foundationalist” and Foucauldian critiques of the objectivity of knowledge -- all of them reducing truth to communal prejudice and convenience of power -- have made the evasions of an entire radical generation seem hardly devious or even hypocritical. More like a convenient wisdom. This intellectual bait-and-switch operation was accomplished largely by grafting Nietzsche onto Marx and turning the “materialist science of history” into a hollow and corrosive cynicism. Eventually it became difficult -- in the smug summation of one left-wing philosopher -- to find “a real live metaphysical prig” on the faculties of American universities; that is, someone who believed in “reality” and “truth.”[33]

Was it mere accident that relativism and its twin, nihilism, should become outlooks of the Left at the precise moment that its ideas were being refuted by historical events? Or was this, rather, the most efficient way to avoid the painful but necessary meanings of its past -- the truth of progressives’ complicity in the most terrible crimes of the century? In retrospect, the deconstructionist “turn” and its doctrinal bedfellows, formed a necessary answer to the radical dilemma: How to avoid the truth of a history that had punctured its utopian illusion, while continuing on with its radical adventure. How to maintain the destructive passions of the radical idea in the face of the failure of its radical project. By dis-establishing the integrity of any and every historical narrative, progressive intellectuals provided themselves with an ingenious (dis)solution.

Utopianism and nihilism, of course, are but two sides of the same intellectual coin. Revolution, as conceived by the secular messianists of the modern Left, is really the vision of a new creation. But the creative work of every revolution begins as a work of destruction, and its creed is the cry of Goethe’s Mephistopheles: “All that exists deserves to perish.”[34] The revolutionary imperative follows: To sever the past from the future, to annihilate what has been for what will be—Aufhebung—to deconstruct, de-structure, de-mystify, dis-solve, demolish, defame, debase, deny; to create out of something, nothing. Nowhere.

And what is the world that is to be denied and destroyed by the contemporary Left, with its deconstructionist agendas, but (once again) the democratic societies of the capitalist West. Is it an accident that the seminal thinkers of the post-modern Left are the 20th Century’s destructive utopians, namely, Communists and Nazis: Heidegger, deMan, Gramsci, Lukacs, Althusser, Benjamin and Foucault? Or that their 19th Century intellectual godfathers are Nietzsche and Marx? “Every anti-liberal argument influential today,” as the political philosopher Stephen Holmes has written, “was vigorously advanced in the writings of European fascists,” including the critique of “its atomistic individualism, its myth of the pre-social individual, its scanting of the organic, its indifference to community,..its belief in the primacy of rights, its flight from ‘the political,’ its decision to give abstract procedures and rules priority over substantive values and commitments, and its hypocritical reliance on the sham of judicial neutrality.”[35]

Or, to cite another authority: “Cultural determinism, the reduction of all social relationships to issues of sheer power; the idea that one’s identity is centered in one’s ethnicity or race; the rejection of the concept of the individual --...all of these ideas are direct echoes of the fascist theorists of the 1930s.”[36] Of course, only the Left could get away with resurrecting the theories of European fascism, while labeling itself “progressive” in the process.

Is it surprising that discredited Marxism still provides the paradigm for every current radical ideology from feminism to queer theory? Or that the totalitarian attitudes endemic to Marxism are also everywhere in evidence in the academic discourse of the tenured Left? The literary critic Harold Bloom describes in horror the current political trends in the university as “Stalinism without Stalin” (“All of the traits of the Stalinists in the 1930s and 1940s are being repeated ... in the universities in the 1990s.”[37])

These ironies are reflected in the required texts of Columbia’s Contemporary Civilization course, the nation’s oldest, relatively undeconstructed, liberal-arts curriculum. Columbia’s new canon is an attempt to establish an orthodoxy out of the very intellectual tradition that history has refuted. Only two 19th Century thinkers are represented in the course who are not socialists -- Max Weber and Charles Darwin. For the arbiters of the new canon, it is as if the intellectual tradition of free-market liberalism had ended in the 18th Century with Madison, Smith and Locke. When the Columbia course enters the 20th Century, no dissent at all is tolerated. The required texts are exclusively by left-wing intellectuals including Jurgen Habermas and John Rawls, the Communists Antonio Gramsci and Lenin, the Stalinist camp-follower Simone Beauvoir, and the violent racialists Franz Fanon and Malcolm X. The required curriculum is filled out by two vulgar ideologues, Catharine MacKinnon and Cornel West.[38] Even the course’s lone authority on totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, a distinguished intellectual with a social-democratic bent, was a disciple of Heidegger’s.[39] As far as the contemporary academy is concerned, the intellectual tradition that informed the American founding and whose disciples in the 20th Century led the battle against totalitarian ideology and socialist economics -- Mises, Hayek, Aron, Popper, Berlin, Bloom, Friedman, Strauss -- provides unworthy models for the America’s future elites. The contemporary academy prefers the paradigms, the avatars, and the fellow-travelers of the discredited Left instead.

This transformation of the curriculum did not happen by accident but was the calculated result of a political assault on the intellectual academy. These attacks ranged from armed intimidation at Cornell in the Sixties, to ugly demonstrations at Stanford in the Eighties. Their common purpose was to politicize the curriculum and infuse it with leftwing agendas. At Stanford, the demonstrators were led by the Reverend Jesse Jackson in a protest against the course in Western Civilization required of all undergradutes, and modeled on Columbia’s core curriculum. Jackson led the demonstrators in a summary chant: “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western Civ has got to go!”

In the wake of these protests, Western Civ -- a course designed to introduce students to the works of Aristotle, Plato, St. Augustine, Dante, Shakespeare and other great figures of Western Culture -- did go. It was replaced by a new curriculum called simply “CIV.” Defenders of the new curriculum attempted to disarm critics by disingenuously claiming that the changes did not mean that Western Civilization would no longer be taught (many original texts in fact remained) but only that previously excluded cultures and readings would now be included. But the claim was disingenuous because the mission of the university had already changed and along with it the way in which even the old canon was taught.

Instead of a course devoted to the great shaping moral and intellectual traditions of the West, the values that have made its culture the fount of modern technology and science, of market economics and democratic politics, the new course was designed to indoctrinate students into the peculiar Marxoid world-view that had come to characterize the academic Left. (One typical new title, for example, was the autobiography of a Maoist spokeswoman for Guatemalan guerrillas, written under the guidance of a Parisian leftist, called I Rigoberta Menchu.[40]) The catalogue description of the CIV course made it clear that its purpose would no longer be to introduce students to the crowning achievements of Western culture, but would inculcate a specific ideological viewpoint. The would teach:

-- the ways in which class and gender shape human life;

-- construction of group identities

--the conflict between freedom and equality. [41]

Instead of being instilled with the values and ideas that have made the West the cradle of global modernity, the students would be drilled in the primary structures of the Left’s discredited worldview. If class and gender “shape human life” (as the course presumes), and if group identities are socially “constructed” (as Marxists maintain) the conflict between freedom and equality can only be resolved by totalitarian and Marxist solutions.[42]

And this is, in fact, the way the CIV course is taught at Stanford. The official course outline for Professor Renato Rosaldo’s “Europe and the Americas” track in the 1988 CIV sequence, for example, reads as follows:

First quarter: The Spanish debate over indigenous rights raises issues around race as well as religion; readings on european enlightenment include Wollstonecraft on question of gender, and Flora Tristan on question of class. Race, gender and class are all thematized in Chungara de Barrios’ autobiography and Anzaldua’s poetic essays. Second quarter: Race is a central focus of materials on the Haitian revolution, and materials from the twentieth century negritude movement which developed in the post-emancipation context of modern ‘scientific’ racism.’ Gender is a central issue in Jamaica Kincaid’s novel ‘Annie John,’ a mother-daughter story. Roumain’s ‘Masters of the Dew’ plays out a class drama around the conflict between traditionalist peasant culture and modern proletarian consciousness. Third quarter: Marx and Weber are essential sources on class; Franz Fanon on race; gender, ethnicity and class are central themes in Rulfo, Menchu, Chavez and Anzaldua.[43]

Clearly this is no longer an introduction to the great enriching themes of Western culture, but a course in the way Marxist categories can be used to define social realities, and construct revolutionary agendas.

Of all the influences on contemporary academic radicals, Martin Heidegger’s may be the most revealing. Heidegger’s influence derives partly from his importance to academic theory generally, but also from the fact that he has directly influenced seminal leftists like Derrida, Foucault and Sartre. As a Nazi, Heidegger’s socialist utopia was national in character, but his response to its implementation in the Third Reich is strikingly reminiscent of Marxist responses to the revealed horrors of the Soviet state. In Heidegger’s postwar refusal to recant his Nazi commitments, he anticipated the denials later employed by American leftists refusing to discard their parallel faith.

The first and most important of these was to reject the possibility that the fate of the actually existing Nazi state reflected in any way on the ideas that created it. In a postwar correspondence with Herbert Marcuse, Heidegger wrote: “Your letter just shows how difficult a dialogue is with people...who evaluate the beginning of the National Socialist movement from the perspective of its end.” Thus did Heidegger seek to sever historical practice from its intellectual foundations, to distance himself from actually existing Nazism, while preserving his fealty to the Nazi ideal. Even after the Holocaust, Heidegger continued to defend this ideal, much as the socialist ideal is still defended by the western Left. In these postures, Heidegger appeared as a kind of German Trotsky, complaining that the Nazi rulers had betrayed “the inner truth and grandeur of National Socialism,”[44] as though that truth were not implicated in the deeds of those who lived by it.

To the believer, the practice that fails is necessarily a “betrayal” of the utopian intentions; it is never a reflection of the idea itself. Thus Samuel Bowles, a Marxist professor at the University of Massachusetts, responded to the news of the Soviet collapse with a bald evasion typical of his radical peers: “Like many other leftist academics, I am frequently asked these days ‘How are you coping with the dethroning of Marxism and the demise of Communism in Eastern Europe?’ I am not alone in responding: ‘It’s the end of a nightmare, not the death of a dream’...” As though the one were not contained in the other.

The second mode of denial favored by western Marxists and Nazis like Heidegger is the doctrine of moral equivalence, which is simply a form of nihilism. This is an attitude that refuses to distinguish between actually existing totalitarian socialisms and the liberal realities of capitalist states. The source of this otherwise inexplicable lacuna is the utopian illusion. For the socialist believer, the defects of socialism are dwarfed by its potential to blossom into human freedom, while the defects of capitalism are magnified by the perception that it stands in the way of the socialist dream.

Because the revolutionary project requires the total condemnation of the present order, extreme or isolated examples of capitalist evils are ritually invoked by radicals as typifying its reality. In an attempt to rationalize his Nazi illusions to Herbert Marcuse, for example, Heidegger made the following appeal:

To the severe and justified reproach that you express “over a regime that has exterminated millions of Jews, that has made terror a norm and that transformed everything connected to the concepts of spirit, freedom, and truth into its opposite,” I can only add that instead of the “Jews” one should put the “East Germans,” and that is even the case for one of the Allied Powers, with the difference that everything that happened since 1945 is known to all the world, while the bloody terror of the Nazis in reality was kept secret from the German people.

In Heidegger’s equation the crime of the Holocaust is morally canceled by the mistreatment of East Germans during the liberation of Europe. In similar fashion, leftists in America regularly invoke and conflate the dropping of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima, the lynching of 3,000 Negroes over a hundred year period in the segregationist south, and atrocities committed during the Vietnam War, in order to equate liberal America with totalitarian and racist states. In rationalizing his political loyalty to the Third Reich (despite its “betrayal” of the Nazi ideal), Heidegger anticipated most of the rationalizations the Left would use in defending its sympathies for the Communist bloc. “Russia and America,” he claimed in the 1935 Introduction to Metaphysics, “are both...the same; the same wretched mad rush of unbridled technology and the same unbounded organization of the average human being.” A similar equation came to function as a Cold War formula of the western Left. It was epitomized in the fatuous remark of sometime Maoist, Michel Foucault: “What could politics mean when it was a question of choosing between Stalin’s USSR and Truman’s America?”[45] What indeed!

Where rationalization fails the believer, silence -- the refusal to confront the actual consequences of belief -- is the refuge of last resort. Heidegger’s silence was maintained for the last 40 years of his life. He never attempted to trace the progress of the ideal in its practice, to connect the ideas of national socialism with their actual results. This subterfuge is reprised in the history of the post-Communist Left. No left-wing theorist has seriously confronted the origins of Stalinism in Lenin and Marx, or come to terms with the fact that every successful Marxism resulted in a totalitarian state.

By these intellectual maneuvers radicals have been able to resurrect the utopian vision and the destructive enterprise it engenders. The perfect future is once again invoked to condemn the imperfect present. As Nietzsche said: “idealism kills.” Without the noble utopian idea, the evil practice would not exist.

At the moment of Communist collapse, the bankrupt vision of a Marxist utopia was defended by Sam Bowles with the argument that “Marx wrote almost nothing about socialism or communism.” According to Bowles, the collapse of socialism indicated the need for a lot of “rethinking about socialist economies but little about capitalist economies.”[46] Bowles’ posture became the common attitude of radical intellectuals defending their position. But no critique exists independently of the standard that informs it. Bowles’ defense merely rehashes Heidegger’s contention that Nazism should not be judged from the perspective of its result. The statement manifests a profound ignorance of the nature of Marxism and the intellectual foundations of its anti-capitalist critique: Far from ending with the hypothesis of a socialist solution, Marxism begins with it.[47] The entire edifice of Marx’s indictment of class society depends on the possibility of transcending class society, of replacing capitalism with a planned economy -- the very idea that has now been refuted by historical events.

This is made clear in the opening section of Capital titled the “Fetishism of Commodities,” which contains the most influential statement of Marx’s critique. It provides the conceptual basis not only for Marx’s economic argument, but for all Marxist cultural theories, which are little more than a series of footnotes to the discussion of reification in these pages. “Cultural studies,” the recently created academic field for the exfoliation of Marxist ideas centered in this passage, is now perhaps the last flourishing socialist industry.

In this seminal argument Marx defines capitalism as a “commodity producing society” and asks: “Whence...arises the enigmatical character of labor’s product, so soon as it assumes the form of commodities?” For Marx, the answer is found in private property and the economic market.[48] The commodity form creates the conditions in which labor’s “own social action takes the form of the action of objects, which rule the producers instead of being ruled by them.” It is this fetishism of the object, produced by capital, that allegedly robs mankind of its powers and alienates the producer from the product of his labor. Commodities thus produce the characteristic form of oppression of capitalist societies. How does Marx propose to overcome the servitude caused by the fact that the producers are alienated from their own power? The answer is: by a social plan.

The life-process of society, which is based on the process of material production, does not strip off its mystical veil until it is treated as production by freely associated men, and is consciously regulated by them in accordance with a settled plan.[49]

An association of the producers to plan the economic life of society is Marx’s solution to the riddle of human history. It is also precisely what the vast carnage and human waste of the “Soviet experiment” has proved impossible. The very idea of the Left is bankrupt along with the socialist state.

* * *

But the actual Left refuses to die. Even though the collapse of Communism has produced a momentary caesura in the radical promotion of the socialist faith, there has been no retreat from left-wing theory and -- more importantly still -- no abatement in left-wing attacks on the democracies of the West. In the very month the Berlin Wall was being torn down, American radicals were being urged by the editors of the Nation not to be paralyzed by doubts about the socialist future, but “to get on with job... [The Left] must attack the very foundation of our own system.”[50] To get on with the “job.” In other words to get on with the task of destruction. This is what the radical project is really about.

From the redoubts of its academic stronghold, the Left has been getting on with the task of destruction for nearly three decades. It has systematically winnowed conservative scholars and theories from the academic environment and institutionalized views of America’s history, traditions and political ideals that are as unrelenting in their hostility to American purpose, and their condemnation of American achievement, as any article in The New Masses or Pravda or in the collected tomes of the Little Lenin Library once were.

Consider a representative outburst in a legal text by Robin West, one of the foremost academic feminists, and a professor of constitutional law at Georgetown. In this passage, Professor West expresses her feelings about the Constitution she has been entrusted to teach, as well as the history of the nation it created:

The political history of the United States that culminated and is reflected in the constitutional text is in large measure a history of almost unthinkable brutality toward slaves, genocidal hatred of Native Americans, racist devaluation of nonwhites and nonwhite cultures, sexist devaluation of women, and a less than admirable attitude of submissiveness to the authority of unworthy leaders in all spheres of government and public life. Why should we bind or constrain our political argument, to say nothing of our political choices, by texts produced by this history of ruthlessness; of brutality; and of mindless, infantile, and at times psychotic, numbing wrath?[51]

It is a sober thought that the author of these ludicrous sentiments is representative of a major school of “progressive” jurisprudence in the nation’s elite law faculties.[52]

Through “multicultural” assaults on Western culture, and on the political communities dominated by “white males” which created America’s institutions, the radical work of deconstructing the very idea of American nationality is well advanced. Through the parallel assaults on American society and institutions by academic Marxists, critical race theorists, and radical feminists, the work of replacing the narrative of freedom, which used to inform the national memory, with a saga of cold-blooded conquest and oppression is nearly accomplished. The new American heritage constructed by academic radicals can hardly nourish that “reverence for the sources of our being,” that Santayana once identified with patriotism. Quite the opposite. But, then, this is the very aim of the radical agenda -- to sever those loyalties which would tie America’s emerging elites to their country. Such alienation, which includes the will to abrogate and then rewrite the Constitution, is the essential element without which the agenda of revolution is not possible.

The great majority of those who inhabit the progressive culture would undoubtedly shrink from such baldly expressed anti-American agendas. Yet, these intellectual fellow-travelers are also the willing accomplices of the radicals who advance them. Consider the case of Richard Rorty, one of the nation’s most prominent academic philosophers. The son of a leading American Trotskyist, Rorty describes himself as a “democratic socialist” with a soft spot for the virtues of existing bourgeois rights. As a voice of moderation in the academic Left, Rorty provides an instructive example of the way the totalitarian temptation survives in the heart of the culture, even after Communism’s collapse. Though one of the nation’s leading philosophic skeptic, Rorty is still hooked on the utopian illusion with all its destructive implications.

Shortly after the Soviet debacle, Rorty was attacked in the academic journal Transition for his deviant appreciation of bourgeois virtues. The attack was launched by his own disciple, Harvard professor and self-styled “prophetic thinker,” Cornel West, who expressed his dissatisfaction with Rorty’s “fervent vigilance to preserve the prevailing bourgeois way of life in North Atlantic societies,...”[53]

Instead of defending this liberal commitment, and drawing a sharp line against a radical enemy, Rorty responded with a weak and half-hearted apology: “This fervent vigilance is largely a matter of urging that we hang on to constitutional democracy -- the only institutional aspect of the ‘prevailing bourgeois way of life’ about which I get fervent -- while patriotically striving to keep social protest alive.”[54] For Rorty, America’s constitutional order is only an “aspect” of its existence, without organic relation to (and apparently separable from) its free markets, the institution of private property and the moral framework of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Consequently, the radical assault on the foundations of bourgeois society is seen by Rorty as a form of benign surgery.

Note the extravagant self-deception involved in this trope. As a leftist analyzing capitalist societies, Rorty would never think of viewing political institutions as discrete from economic or social conditions. It is only as a revolutionary contemplating the socialist future that he allows himself to disregard these links. In fact, it is only by severing the connection between property and freedom, that Rorty can think of himself as a “liberal” and at the same time sympathize with an anti-American radical whose agenda is the destruction of liberal society.

Rorty’s posture is that of the classic fellow-traveler who wills the ends of revolution but not the means. Starting from a premise of universal skepticism, Rorty concludes by hoping for the victory of believers in a radical faith. He explains his own pragmatism as “a repudiation of the quest for certainty and foundations, which [Cornel] West has described as ‘the evasion of philosophy,’” but adds: “This evasion is socially useful only if teamed up with prophecies -- fairly concrete prophecies of a utopian social future.”[55] In other words, in the real world, the pragmatic Richard Rorty is willing to surrender his epistemological skepticism to the left-wing zealotry of a Cornel West. The “concrete prophecies” Rorty refers to, of course, are the familiar radical utopias -- the egalitarian futures of Rousseau and Marx: “Suppose that somewhere, someday, the newly-elected government of a large industrialized society decreed that everybody would get the same income, regardless of occupation or disability....That country would become an irresistible example,...Sooner or later the world would be changed.”[56] Indeed it would, as the example of all the Marxist gulags attest.

Rorty’s wish to be “socially useful” is thus a form of the religious desire that the modern temper denies, and that radical messianism exists to satisfy. It is the desire that creates a popular front between Jacobins and liberals in search of the egalitarian Eden. Nothing could demonstrate more clearly how the abiding root of the revolutionary impulse lies not in the frailty of the human intellect, but in the weakness of the human heart.

For radicals, it is not socialism, but only the language of socialism that is finally dead. To be reborn the Left had only to rename itself in terms that did not carry the memories of insurmountable defeat, to appropriate a past that could still be victorious. This task is already well under way. In the wake of the Communist collapse, radicals have sought to distance themselves from their support for foreign utopias that failed and to revive the Marxist chimera as an American dream: “The grand social narrative of American life,” two leftists argued in the Los Angeles Times, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall “is what we might call the Drama of Democracy: a messianic, at times apocalyptic, struggle to secure a world where all people will be free, equal, independent and without want.”[57] In this way the utopian fantasy that has filled the world with so much suffering and unhappiness in our time is revived as a patriotic, “populist” vision. “The dramatic tension [in America’s social narrative],” these radicals write, “arises from the struggle to make this ‘American Dream’ available to everyone.”

But just how the dream is to be made available makes all the difference in the world. If it is by removing the barriers to opportunity, so that individuals can rise as a result of their own efforts, then there will be continuity with the freedoms Americans have enjoyed from the founding to the present. But if the dream is to be delivered by political power, by class-, race-, and gender-warfare, and by the forced redistribution of resources between contending social groups, then the outcome can only be another grim experiment in totalitarian futures. The dramatic tension of the American narrative remains, in fact, what it has always been: a tension between democracy understood as limits to government, the liberal polity of a diverse citizenry, and democracy understood as radicals understand it, the righteousness of a guardian state.



[1] Irving Kristol, Neo-Conservatism, NY 1995 p.486 For a survey of this ethos, Cf. Robert H. Bork, Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline, NY 1996

[2] Quoted in “Texas Observer No More” (a profile of Ronnie Dugger) Los Angeles Times, May 18, 1997

[3] Catharine MacKinnon, Only Words, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1993 p.71

[4] For example, see Robin West, Progressive Constitutionalism, Duke University Press 1994; Minda, Post-Modern Legal Movements, NY 1995 pp. 169 et seq; Kimberle Crenshaw, et al, Critical Race Theory, NY 1995; and Daniel A. Farber and Suzanna Sherry, Beyond All Reason: The Radical Assault on Truth and Law, Oxford 1997

[5] Owen Fiss, The Irony of Free Speech, Harvard 1996, pp. 9, 12 “I am troubled by the attempt by Professor MacKinnon and others to work their way out of this conflict in ultimate values by defining liberty (in the form of free speech) out of the equation.”

[6] See discussion below, pp. 174 et seq

[7] Los Angeles Times, December 17, 1996

[8] Opinion, US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Nos. 97-1530, 9715031; DC No. CV-96-4024-TEH, Filed April 8, 1997. At one point in the conflict, Judith Winston, the Education Department’s general counsel, made the following Orwellian remark to the Los Angeles Times: “Particular race-neutral criteria [such as tests] can have a discriminatory effect.” According to the Times’ reporter, she was referring to the fact that “minority students as a group tend to score lower on standardized exams.” Even this was incorrect, unless the minority was meant to exclude Asians and other minorities (Jews, etc.) who scored very well. Los Angeles Times, July 26, 1997

[9] Subsequently, the Ninth Circuit refused to review the issue en banc, and it was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court where the plaintiffs were joined by liberal Harvard law professors Laurence Tribe and Kathleen Sullivan. The Supreme Court also refused to review the case.

[10] Peter Collier and David Horowitz, Destructive Generation, 2nd ed. NY 1996, p. 362; Cf. also the comment of veteran leftist Stanley Aronowitz: “As the old Jules Feiffer cartoon goes, since liberals borrow their ideas from the left, when the left has no ideas neither do the liberals.” Stanley Aronowitz, “Are They The Only Ones With New Ideas?: Why We Need A New Progressive Politics,” Social Policy Vol. 27, No. 1, Fall 1996 Allowing for its arrogance, the statement can be said to reflect a consensus that extends across the political spectrum.

[11] See Friedrich Hayek, The Mirage of Social Justice, and discussion below, Chapter 6.

[12] “Unnecessary Losses” was originally titled “Letter to A Political Friend,” and is a chapter in Destructive Generation. “The Road to Nowhere” was printed in a modified and shortened version in Commentary, December 1990, under the title “Socialism: Guilty As Charged.” “The Religious Roots of Radicalism” was first delivered in 1990 as a talk to the Pacific Jewish Center in Santa Monica under the title “The Fate of the Jews and the Radical Left.”

[13] Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes, NY 1995

[14] Joseph F. Keppler, Seattle Times, April 16,1995

[15] The New York Times, February 19, 1955

[16] The Los Angeles Times, February 26, 1955

[17] Eugene D. Genovese, “The Squandered Century, The New Republic, April 17, 1995

[18] E.g., “The failure of Soviet socialism does not reflect on the possibility of other kinds of socialism.” Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes, p. 498

[19] Similarly, North Korea was the industrial base of Korea until the advent of its marxist regime. Yet South Korea, starting from an economic base lower than pre-socialist Cuba’s, but thriving under capitalist incentives became in four decades a first world industrial power, surpassing the Soviet Union itself.

[20] Hobsbawm, op. cit., p.403

[21] Hobsbawm, op. cit., p.249

[22] Ibid.

[23] Hobsbawm, op. cit., p. 250

[24] Hobsbawm, op. cit., p. 413

[25] Hobsbawm, op. cit., p. 416

[26] Cf. The review essay by Fareed Zakaria in The New Republic, January 22, 1996.

[27] “We are still left with that (now) unforgivable fact that some of the most socially concerned, hopeful-for-the-future, dedicated souls connived at the crimes in the Communist world, by refusing to recognise them and, then, by refusing to acknowledge them openly. Not ten, or a hundred, or a thousand, but many thousands, millions, all over the world. And this attitude -- reluctance to criticise the Soviet Union, the great alma mater – goes on now and is shown by the way Hitler is put in the position of chief criminal of our times, whereas Stalin, a thousand times worse – and Hitler admired Stalin, quite properly seeing himself as a mere infant in crime compared to his great exemplar – is still handled gently in the imaginations of people on the left.” Doris Lessing, Walking in the Shade, NY 1997, p. 262

[28] Hilton Kramer, “The Counter-Revolution Abroad, The Cultural Revolution at Home,” The New Criterion, September 1991

[29] University of Massachusetts Professor Sam Bowles, quoted in The Wall Street Journal, November 25, 1991

[30] E. J. Dionne, “‘Who Won the Cold War?’ New left Historians Debate the Cold War,” The Washington Post, June 12, 1990

[31] The Closing of the American Mind, NY 19??

[32] Private communication from Robert Boyers, editor of Salmagundi, November 18, 1991. Boyers was explaining his reasons for rejecting “The Road to Nowhere” (included in this volume) for his publication.

[33] Richard Rorty, cited in Gertrude Himmelfarb, “Tradition and Creativity in the Writing of History,” First Things, November 1992.

[34] Cited by Marx in The Eighteenth Brummaire. Marx & Engels, Selected Writings, Vol. I, Moscow 1962, p.252

[35] Stephen Holmes, “The Permanent Structure of Antiliberal Thought,” in Liberalism and the Moral Life, Ed. Nancy L. Rosenblum, Harvard 1989: “[Fascist theorists] excoriated liberalism for its atomistic individualism, its myth of the presocial individual, its scanting of the organic, its indifference to community, its denial that man belongs to a larger whole, its belief in the primacy of rights, its flight from ‘the political,’ its uncritical embrace of economic categories,...” Ibid.

[36] Gene Veith, Modern Fascism, Concordia, St. Louis 1993, p. 12

[37] Harold Bloom, “Authority and Originality” in Mark Edmundson, ed. Wild Orchids and Trotsky, NY Penguin 1993 p.213 Or cf. Catharine MacKinnon’s description of her own intellectual process as an exercise in applying Marxism to gender issues, in Towards A Feminist Theory of the State.

[38] David Denby, Great Books, NY 1996 p. 24

[39] This is not to deny that the intellectual tradition of the Left has generated many critics of totalitarianism, like Arendt and Habermas on the above list. But they are not critics of the intellectual tradition whose paradigms produced these totalitarian results. One has only to compare On the Origins of Totalitarianism with Hayek’s Road to Serfdom to appreciate the difference.

[40] For examples of such claims, see Gerald Graff, Beyond the Culture Wars and Lawrence Levine, The Opening of the American Mind

[41] Stanford University catalogue, 1997. The catalogue includes two other categories “cross-cultural encounters” and “the impact of technology.”

[42] Cf. David Sacks and Peter Thiel, The Diversity Myth: Multiculturalism and the Politics of Intolerance at Stanford, Oakland 1995. Sacks and Thiel were Stanford students who took this required course.

[43] Ibid. p. 20n.20

[44] Victor Farias, Heidegger and Nazism, Phila. 1989, p. 191. Cf. also pp. 4-5, 220, 227, 253, 298.

[45] Cited in Roger Kimball, The New Criterion

[46] Samuel Bowles, The Wall Street Journal, November 25, 1991

[47] Cf. Leszek Kolakowski, Main Currents of Marxism, Vol. I, p. :

[48] “The character of having value, when once impressed upon products, obtains fixity only by reason of their acting and re-acting upon each other as quantities of value. These quantities vary continually, independently of the will, foresight and action of the producers.” Capital, Vol. I. Moscow, 1961 p. 75

[49] Ibid. p. 80

[50] The Nation, December 11, 1989

[51] Robin West, Progressive Constitutionalism: Reconstructing the Fourteenth Amendment, Duke University Press 1994, pp. 17-18 West is a professor at the University of Georgetown Law Center. Cf. Farber and Sherry, op. cit.

[52] By her own account this would include critical legal studies, feminist legal studies, critical race studies and Marxist legal studies.

[53] Quoted in Richard Rorty, “The Professor and the Prophet,” Transition # 52, 1991

[54] Ibid.

[55] Ibid.

[56]Richard Rorty, “Unger, Castoriadis, and the Romance of a National Future” (1988), cited in Richard Posner, Problems of Jurisprudence, 1991, pp. 384-5

[57] “American Dream At A Turning Point,” LosAngeles Times 9/15/91 Jeffrey C. Alexander, chairman of the sociology department at UCLA, and Stephen Jay Sherwood.