The metaphysics of democracy

8 03 2011

The principles of democracy – the sovereignty of the people, universal and equal suffrage, personal liberties – appear, as presented to him, in a halo of moral duty. They are turned from their historical meaning and presented as unalterable and sacred things-in-themselves. This metaphysical fall from grace is not accidental. It is instructive that the late Plekhanov, a merciless enemy of Kantism at the best period of his activity, attempted at the end of his life, when the wave of patriotism had washed over him, to clutch at the straw of the categorical imperative.
Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Trotsky on fascism

16 08 2010

The gigantic growth of National Socialism is an expression of two factors: a deep social crisis, throwing the petty bourgeois masses off balance, and the lack of a revolutionary party that would be regarded by the masses of the people as an acknowledged revolutionary leader. If the communist Party is the party of revolutionary hope, then fascism, as a mass movement, is the party of counter-revolutionary despair. When revolutionary hope embraces the whole proletarian mass, it inevitably pulls behind it on the road of revolution considerable and growing sections of the petty bourgeoisie. Precisely in this sphere the election revealed the opposite picture: counter-revolutionary despair embraced the petty bourgeois mass with such a force that it drew behind it many sections of the proletariat.

-Leon Trotsky, 1932

The average American has a hard time grasping that the rise of fascism only involves the state indirectly. Fascism in and of itself is a movement that begins in the streets, manipulated by the ruling class, but only as an owner can manipulate his bloodthirsty pitbull. Thus, fascism seldom begins with an increase of state power, but with a crisis of state power. There is a point at which the mobs in the street get so caught up in attacking “the enemy” that they unwittingly fall into the hands of a demagogue. That is how fascism happens, not through “health care reform” or the invasion of army troops in the street. The people impose the violence on themselves, and become their own police state.

It is interesting that the rhetorical language of fascism is despair. Despair can take many forms: pining for a simpler time, the “morning in America” moment, a purer racial past, a more homogeneous population. Despair can be more concrete in terms of putting food on the table or a roof over your head. But a major characteristic of fascism is that it has no plan, at least not one it cares to divulge. It only speaks in platitudes, points fingers, and hints at a brighter future to be won by sweat, sacrifice (and blood?). There always seems to be talk of returning to the pristine first principles of the social order, and always, a badgering cry to “throw the bumbs out”.

Any similarity between this and any current political phenomenon, real or imagined, is purely coincidental.

Once more on morality

11 08 2010

A moralizing Philistine’s favorite method is the lumping of reaction’s conduct with that of revolution. He achieves success in this device through recourse to formal analogies. To him czarism and Bolshevism are twins. Twins are likewise discovered in fascism and communism. An inventory is compiled of the common features in Catholicism – or more specifically, Jesuitism – and Bolshevism. Hitler and Mussolini, utilizing from their side exactly the same method, disclose that liberalism, democracy, and Bolshevism represent merely different manifestations of one and the same evil. The conception that Stalinism and Trotskyism are “essentially” one and the same now enjoys the joint approval of liberals, democrats, devout Catholics, idealists, pragmatists, and anarchists. If the Stalinists are unable to adhere to this “People’s Front”, then it is only because they are accidentally occupied with the extermination of Trotskyists.

The fundamental feature of these approchements and similitudes lies in their completely ignoring the material foundation of the various currents, that is, their class nature and by that token their objective historical role. Instead they evaluate and classify different currents according to some external and secondary manifestation, most often according to their relation to one or another abstract principle which for the given classifier has a special professional value. Thus to the Roman pope Freemasons and Darwinists, Marxists and anarchists are twins because all of them sacrilegiously deny the immaculate conception. To Hitler, liberalism and Marxism are twins because they ignore “blood and honor”. To a democrat, fascism and Bolshevism are twins because they do not bow before universal suffrage. And so forth.

Undoubtedly the currents grouped above have certain common features. But the gist of the matter lies in the fact that the evolution of mankind exhausts itself neither by universal suffrage, not by “blood and honor,” nor by the dogma of the immaculate conception. The historical process signifies primarily the class struggle; moreover, different classes in the name of different aims may in certain instances utilize similar means. Essentially it cannot be otherwise. Armies in combat are always more or less symmetrical; were there nothing in common in their methods of struggle they could not inflict blows upon each other…
Read the rest of this entry »