Trotskyism by other means

16 11 2010

via the Conservative Blog for Peace

This is in evidence by the most frequent complaint heard at Tea Party rallies, about the war against “American exceptionalism” – how this rather obscure Marxist concept became the religion of the American right is a topic for another day and perhaps another author. My long-time readers may recall my invoking this article, the last ever published by Irving Kristol, which I consider a smoking gun in understanding neoconservatism. He laid out frankly his arriving at the conclusion in the 1950s that European welfare states were unfit to destroy communism and extend the global democratic revolution, and therefore it must be done by some sort of military-industrial complex heavy “democratic capitalism”.


My own worst nightmare for myself is becoming some sort of political neocon. In fact, it may be the real reason why I find myself so a-political in places. (Though I think that I have the sensibility of a European social democrat, if a very particularly left-wing one). The fallen Trotskyist-turned-capitalist-militarist became so disgusted with Stalinism that he wanted it defeated by any means necessary. Max Shachtman, a once collaborator with Trotsky, even backed the U.S. military effort in Vietnam. And it goes without saying that Irving Kristol was once a young Trotskyist himself.

Trotskyism is a theory of extremes, and Trotskyists are often accused of being agent provocateurs, and no better than bratty anarchists in demonstrations. Neoconservatism is in part an intellectual result of such strange ideological fickleness; when rhetoric itself drives theory, and not the other way around. In this case, it proved useful to the ruling class. There is a sort of delicious irony involved in some intellectually sloppy Catholics trying to baptize American exceptionalism in the name of inculturation. Indeed, most spend their time trying to graft an icon of Mammon onto one of God in a rather grotesque portrait.

On swearing

16 11 2010

Put this in the “bet you didn’t know” file: Trotsky was opposed to swearing

Abusive language and swearing are a legacy of slavery, humiliation, and disrespect for human dignity—one’s own and that of other people. This is particularly the case with swearing in Russia. I should like to hear from our philologists, our linguists and experts in folklore, whether they know of such loose, sticky, and low terms of abuse in any other language than Russian. As far as I know, there is nothing, or nearly nothing, of the kind outside Russia. Russian swearing in “the lower depths” was the result of despair, embitterment and, above all, slavery without hope, without escape. The swearing of the upper classes, on the other hand, the swearing that came out of the throats of the gentry, the authorities, was the outcome of class rule, slaveowner’s pride, unshakable power. Proverbs are supposed to contain the wisdom of the masses—Russian proverbs show besides the ignorant and the superstitious mind of the masses and their slavishness. “Abuse does not stick to the collar,” says an old Russian proverb, not only accepting slavery as a fact, but submitting to the humiliation of it. Two streams of Russian abuse—that of the masters, the officials, the police, replete and fatty, and the other, the hungry, desperate, tormented swearing of the masses—have colored the whole of Russian life with despicable patterns of abusive terms. Such was the legacy the revolution received among others from the past.

He also speaks against imprecision in language:

Language is the instrument of thought. Precision and correctness of speech are indispensable conditions of correct and precise thinking. In our country, the working class has come to power for the first time in history. The working class possesses a rich store of work and life experience and a language based on that experience. But our proletariat has not had sufficient schooling in elementary reading and writing, not to speak of literary education. And this is the reason that the now governing working class, which is in itself and by its social nature a powerful safeguard of the integrity and greatness of the Russian language in the future, does not, nevertheless, stand up now with the necessary energy against the intrusion of needless, corrupt, and sometimes hideous new words and expressions. When people say, “a pair of weeks,” “a pair of months” (instead of several weeks, several months), this is stupid and ugly. Instead of enriching the language it impoverishes it: the word “pair” loses in the process its real meaning (in the sense of “a pair of shoes”). Faulty words and expressions have come into use because of the intrusion of mispronounced foreign words. Proletarian speakers, even those who should know better, say, for instance, “incindent” instead of “incident” or they say “instice instead of “instinct” or “legularly” instead of “regularly. Such misspellings were not infrequent also in the past, before the revolution. But now they seem to acquire a sort of right of citizenship.

If anything, this for me is an indictment of the cultural progressivism of the New Left.