The two most obvious things about 19th and 20th century socialist theory are first that every attempt to apply it over the period has produced an economic, environmental, and human rights disaster; and, second that the vast majority of believers ignore, minimize, or excuse each new failure to double down on the belief.
On the day Justin Trudeau, the liberal/progressive media darling the left managed to have elected as the prime minister of Canada, said he greatly admired communist China's government because it can address environmental issues by dictatorial fiat, the proportion of pollutants in Beijing's air was estimated at 11 times the world health organization's recommended maximum - and two weeks later neither google nor bing searches found a single media personality, blogger, or editorialist who had responded with any mention of this line from Jonah Goldberg's 2008: Liberal Fascism:
[George Bernard] Shaw idolized Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini as the world's great "progressive" leaders because they "did things," unlike the leaders of those "putrefying corpses" called parliamentary democracies. (P. 134)
Similarly, during the first week of September 2018, Mr. Obama made several speeches in which he declared, among other things, that his administration cut annual federal deficits in half (the national debt doubled during his two terms with annual deficits averaging more than twice those under the Bush and Trump administrations); improved job opportunities for middle America (growth never reached 3% during his time in office; over 400,000 manufacturing jobs were lost); and, his administration gave 20 million Americans health insurance (almost all of which were medicaid/medicare entrants while something more than twice that number were forced to replace effective and affordable coverage with higher cost, higher deductible, and often inapplicable policies) - and, each time, his audience applauded loudly and enthusiastically.
Basically, liberals are unable to see reality as it is - and how they react to the reality they imagine exists contradicts their own most cherished beliefs and values.
The question is why? why do people who think themselves highly intelligent and highly rational not only ignore socialism's consistent failure, but feel compelled to imagine successes where there haven't been any?
Marx put a lot of effort into denigrating Christianity, but substitute the state for God and the values governing human interaction are not that different. Jesus was not a communist, but take God out of the picture and most of what passes for the socialist ideal could equally pass as the subset of Christian ideals dealing with the relationships among people.
The differences are in the who and the how of implementation, not the goals or the values. If, to consider a a small but characteristic example, a practicing Christian and a progressive cross a well kept small park near their homes and pass near a trashed pizza box on the grass, the Christian will usually take it to the nearest trash can, while the liberal will usually complain about, and sometimes to, the parks department. Both value the park and both want it kept clean, but one sees making it happen as a personal responsibility, the other feels only a weak need to tell a public servant to take care of it.
This is the deepest contradiction in socialism: socialist morality is drawn from a world view in which humans are seen as equal and every individual is seen as having unalienable rights, but the socialist solution to any problem always involves their own class making rules, invisible public servants enforcing those rules, and the masses obeying them.
Ask almost any liberal/progressive about this and you'll get a hot denial followed by an ad hominem counter-attack: apparently some conservative somewhere doesn't believe in gay marriage or abortion or some other sacred cow and therefore you're a lying dishonest insult to humanity and shut up already.
Notice however that this phenomenon is not about interpretation and too far off scale to be explained by the usual partisan hypocrisy: it's common for the politically involved to say one thing and do another, but the near total unanimity with which the liberal/progressive culture relies on its values to claim moral and intellectual superiority over its perceived enemies while acting against those values at every opportunity suggests a depth of delusion found only among cultists and the criminally insane.
New York's Major de Blasio frequently described himself, for example, as a committed socialist who believes deeply in equality and the rule of law - but saw nothing wrong with having his convoy of Cadillac SUVs ignore numerous speed limits and other traffic safety rules leaving the scene of a speech in which he announced new traffic safety initiatives including reduced speed limits - and the reductio ad absurdum here was real: in Soviet Russia members of the Politbureau not only had strictly reserved lanes, with no speed limits and automatic, on-approach, greens, on all major roads, but routinely had KGB troops clear the roads ahead of their chauffeurs everywhere they went outside central Moscow.
The left's inability to see the hypocrisy is both real and astonishing: thus most liberal/progressives genuinely believe themselves committed to ideals like freedom of speech, freedom of association, and the pursuit of truth through science - but see nothing wrong with leadership demands that Fox News be shut down, that the IRS and FEC be used to cripple or break up tea party support, or that global warming "deniers" be jailed or executed.
Similarly most see themselves as deeply committed to human equality and the rule of law but think nothing of shutting down opposition rallies through violence, joining the modern day brown shirts in Antifa, applauding rascist bigots like Al Sharpton and Louis Farakhan, or hounding people like Micheal Flynn for wrong thinking -all while ignoring obvious criminal malfeasance by people like John Brennan and the Clintons.
The most extreme form of socialism is bolshevist communism, and it provides the most extreme examples. The recruitment cry among the comrades is Liberty! Equality! Brotherhood! but every larger scale communist experiment to date has produced a totalitarian state in which the elites own everything while treating the needs, abilities, and lives of the masses as utterly subservient to their own.
Thus a teenager born outside the namenclatura in a communist state has no right to accumulate property and no right of self determination: he is a known peg to be pounded into a known hole by the state - his future bounded by the position his parents occupy in the hierarchy; his education, breeding potential, and employment predetermined; his replacement already in the state's human resource inventory; and, his total commitment to the glorious leader whose prophetic rants come straight out of the Old Testament enforced at the point of a gun.
The question is why? The history is clear: from Mao's self criticism circles to the ruthless censure of opposing views in the nation's faculty lounges, liberal/progressives shout their allegiance to humanitarian values and the rights of the individual - while acting at every level and every opportunity to weaken the former and remove the latter. So why? are they all just liars? members perhaps of some secret cabal who, with the curtains drawn and the secret handshakes shaken, dream aloud about copying North Korea's death camps or Che Queverra's firing squads while evilly plotting the next incremental reduction in the rights and freedoms of those around them?
The answer requires us to see leftists as cultists whose beliefs have been disconfirmed by reality. Leon Festinger's 1956 study "When Prophecy Fails" both reports on and summarizes the behavior very clearly: the more people commit their public personas to a belief, the farther they will go to avoid contrary information; the more weight they will give confirmatory opinion; and, the more likely they many of them become to force their own further commitment to the belief through proselytization or precipitous, often violent, action.
Basically, when the spaceship doesn't come, the world doesn't end, or the rest of the world fails to fall into line, the cult's more committed believers find ways to ignore the fact that the prophet's ocean front mansion is well stocked with fine wine and former virgins; tell each other lies to support their beliefs, and carry on with a renewed sense of commitment.
What Festinger's research data showed was that the response to disproof among a significant proportion of believers amounts to a limited form of insanity in that the believers seem normal in all other significant ways, but are perfectly willing to join with their captor/leaders in robbing banks (e.g. Patty Hearst), bombing the Pentagon (Bill Ayers), or murdering their own children (Jonestown) to protect beliefs rendered obviously absurd by events.
Thus when sixty million decent Germans voted the national socialist worker's party into power and then buckled down to help the party efficiently process nearly seven million fellow Germans right out of existence, their humanist values didn't change and their other actions seemed pretty normal in the political and economic circumstances of the time: they attended churches, loved their children, honored their parents, went to work, paid their debts - and proudly sent sons, brothers, fathers off to kill Jews, gays, cripples, the retarded, and anyone else whose existence threatened the tenets of national socialism.
Notice, please, that the "national" in NAZI does not refer to the German nation state; it refers to Germans as a people. Here's part of the definition from wikipedia:Nation (from Latin: natio, "people, tribe, kin, genus, class, flock") is a social concept with no uncontroversial definition, but that is most commonly used to designate larger groups or collectives of people with common characteristics attributed to the - including language, traditions, customs (mores), habits (habitus), and ethnicity. A nation, by comparison, is more impersonal, abstract, and overtly political than an ethnic group. It is a cultural-political community that has become conscious of its autonomy, unity, and particular interests.
According to Joseph Stalin: "a nation is not a racial or tribal, but a historically constituted community of people"
Festinger's work was largely motivated by his need to understand what happened to turn normal, decent, people into a national mob bent on killing millions of their fellows - and he succeeded. His analysis of what happens to more deeply committed cult members when core elements of the prophecies the cult is based on are publicly and irrefutably falsified provides the only behavioral model that not only describes what happened in Germany, Russia, China, and hundreds of other places around the world, but allows us to predict the consequences of disconfirmation among the millions of otherwise sane and normal people making up today's progressive movement in the United States and elsewhere.
For that model to actually apply to the broader issue of world socialism over two centuries, however, at least the following five conditions must be met:
- a cult or some other form of social grouping around a key prophecy or prophet must exist or have originally existed;
- that belief or prophecy must inspire action, lead to commitment, and/or, give believers who take, or claim to take, action a means of achieving significant social support;.
- the belief must have been, and continue to be, obviously falsified through change in the real world;.
- at least some core values or beliefs implicit or explicit in the group's dogma must build on values or beliefs already widespread in the community from which members are recruited; and,.
- the most significant leaders over the cult's history must have found ways to maintain leadership roles despite the falsification of the belief in the real world.
Basically, for a cult to survive its initial leadership the people taking over must be able to maintain and grow member commitment while operating in the real world. They must, in other words, be willing and able to leverage the average member's commitment to the falsified prophecy to gain and hold control while not themselves sharing it; and, particularly during periods when they attempt to grow the membership, be able to recruit new people without letting majorities among the new and pre-existing membership understand what they're actually supporting.
The last two of these conditions are rather obviously met by world socialism:
- No one is going to straight facedly argue that modern socialist leaders like Obama, Sanders, Gore, or Warren are anything but complete hypocrites - railing against big banks and other exploiters while growing multi-million dollar bank balances, owning multiple huge homes, traveling in personal jets, and building cults of personality through media power.
Basically what seems to happen within progressive movements is that the very limited power available through the vicious politics of the committee system that's been a feature of world socialism since the French revolution gave them a model for the violent overthrow of perceived oppressors acts as a kind of combination gateway drug and filter in bringing the most psychotic, and thus morally weakest, among them to positions of leadership.
- Socialism is built on Christian values - supporters always talk about equality, humanism, freedom, and the rights of man while the reality that socialists in power attack and limit all of those at every possible opportunity goes unmentioned.
The other three conditions require us to identify the prophet, the prophecy, and its falsification. Given that the values world socialism is built on are generally positive, go back thousands of years, and have developed across multiple forms of social organization we need to look for a fairly recent point of inflection where believer response to an obviously falsified social prophecy redirected the movement's evolution away from good and toward evil - and it can't be just any prophet, it has to be one whose pronouncements of impending doom, while objective nonsense, are nevertheless so deeply believed as to be absolutely unchallengeable in the minds of the members.
In 1776 the American colonists rebelled - and in their declaration of independence announced that humans cannot be owned others, including kings; that individuals have rights; and, that government cannot take those away. Then, in their state and national constitutions they created purely secular governments, owned by the people and responsible to the people, to carry out tasks for the common good of the people.
The new states, and their union, were genuine people's republics - the culmination of 2700 years of gradual political evolution toward a realization of the core values found first in Exodus, then in both the new Testament and Christian socialism: a political statement about the rights of man that Moses, Jesus, Damascus the 1st, and John Locke would all have approved of.
And yet, less than a century later socialist theoreticians including Marx and Engels were using the same values and the same ideas to set the stage for Mao and Pol Pot, for Ho Chi Minh and Castro, for Hugo Chavez and the shining path.
So what changed?
In 1798 Thomas Malthus published An Essay on the Principle of Population. and was immediately mis-understood by the leading thinkers of his time - essentially all of whom rejected nearly everything he said while elevating some of what they imagined he said into unassailable public prophecies of doom.
In reality Malthus was interested in the human economic reaction to resource constraints and eventually came to believe that the market's invisible hand would balance food supplies against population growth - but the popular reading among the intelligentsia then and now has him predicting the end of human civilization as the population grows and resources run out.
Nonsense, of course, but a 1974 attempt by the Club of Rome to rewrite Malthus as the believers read him (The Limits to Growth) became something of a bible for the Obama administration.)
As a social prophet, Thomas Malthus - not as he really was, but as represented by social theorists - fits the requirements: his prophecies came at just the right time and could be mis-understood in just the right way among the self-proclaiming intelligensia both of his time and since to provide the pivot around which world socialist action flipped, and stays flipped, from benign to malignant, from Jesus to Mohammad, from a positive force in human history, to a negative.
The socialist thinkers of the time, particularly German intellectual onanists like Herman Cohen, broadly accepted everything Malthus took as a premise, but equally broadly rejected the man, his analysis, and the conclusions he drew. Thus more than half century later Marx and Engels would both jointly and severally attack Malthus as an elitist, capitalist, class driven, and just plain all-round bad guy - while silently accepting his worst case scenarios as the basis for much of their own thinking.
This should have been a one time thing with the evolution of world socialist thought returning to its historical pattern after the deaths of those disappointed by reality's failure to echo the prophecy and so support the ideas inflicted by people like Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Hegel made way for a resurgence of rationality. It didn't happen because their work continues to be reverentially taught as something of real value in colleges and universities everywhere in the western world - a process that sets each new generation up to produce new Lenins, Pol Pots, Castros, Corbyns, and Bernie babies.
In essence, the 1789 American social model, the culmination of post renaissance thought and at the time the ultimate expression of progressive thinking since the time of Moses, in which only God adjudicates the rights of man and thus, as a practical matter, a society consists of co-operating individuals each responsible for his own choices, became Marxian "scientific" socialism in which all rights are vested in an elite acting for the state through a seventy year, four step, process:
- Darwin, building on something Malthus actually said about the role of markets in social evolution, popularized the idea that natural law enforces the survival of the fittest;
- Nietzsche, imagining normative components into some of Darwin's work, provided the foundations for national (meaning class or racial) socialism by proclaiming the inevitable dominance of the more evolved, and thus their absolute right and racial obligation to seize and control the world's resources, a consequence of natural law;
- Marx, fronting for Engels, advanced national socialism to communism by virtualizing race and nationality to sanctify society's self-declared moral and intellectual elites as a kind of supra-racial grouping of those naturally fitted to lead the state; and,
- the conservative religious objection to Darwin as narrowly construed by his critics gave the socialists a cudgel with which to attack both democracy and Christianity - achieved largely by labelling socialism "scientific" for its opposition to deist creationism.
Basically what happened was that the cafe socialists of mid 19th century Germany declared themselves ubermenchen, Malthusian breeders the enemy, and science, in the form of a caricature rendition of Darwinian evolution, their answer to God - and then divided into two camps (menshevik and bolshevik) on how to gain and wield the absolute power they needed to seize the world's resources for themselves.
It's not far forward from Nietzsche to Sieg Heil! or to Lenin's early reliance on a terror apparatus of prison camps and mass killings - Jews, after all, aren't members of the master race and neither were the Chinese women of Nanjing or the nearly 80 million, mostly black, children aborted in the United States since Roe vs. Wade.
For post Malthusian socialists mass death isn't a problem: it's a solution. Seventy or eighty million dead Chinese, is seventy or eighty million fewer mouths to feed - and sixty teenage girls with their throats cut for attending a Christian school in Nigeria? sad, of course; but they were only going to breed anyway.
Scratch any liberal/progressive policy, whether it's cutting food and energy production or favoring gay marriage and abortion, and you'll find it's ultimately a way of forcing population decrease.
Scratch any liberal/progressive psych and you'll find deep rooted anxieties amounting almost to panic because nothing is sustainable: there are too many people, too few resources, and we're all going to die. This is an article of unshakable faith: and it's not just the suburbanite guiltily recycling at many times the environmental cost of making whatever it is new - it's endemic among the real 1%rs, the people who turn selfies imagining themselves understanding Feynman:
In general, we look for a new law by the following process: First we guess it; then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what would be implied if this law that we guessed is right; then we compare the result of the computation to nature, with experiment or experience, compare it directly with observation, to see if it works. If it disagrees with experiment, it is wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It does not make any difference how beautiful your guess is, it does not make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is -if it disagrees with experiment, it is wrong.
while ignoring the fact that every pseudo Malthusian prediction tested to date has turned out to be wrong.
In 1898 William Thomson (aka Lord Kelvin) proclaimed the end of the world due to impending oxygen starvation; in 1948 Marion Hubbert issued the first of his many proclamations about world wide peak oil production; in 1980 Paul Ehrlich, author of an earlier euphonic Malthus mis-reading (The Population Bomb) drew enormous positive publicity by betting that the world would soon exhaust its supply of strategic metals - and sometime in mid March of 2014 Canada's National Post featured the headline: The utter collapse of human civilization will be 'difficult to avoid,' NASA funded study says because republicans are going to consume the planet's resources, leaving the rest of us to starve.
Notice, in this, that all faux Malthusian predictions have an underlying theme: that human economic achievement and therefore human behavior, is grounded in access to resources. Thus everything passing for thought in socialism, whether it's Marx's generalization of national socialism from race to class, Nietzsche adaptation of Darwin's survival of the fittest, Mao's attempt to reinvent the iron age, or Lenin's NEP, is about resources and the allocation of resources - but the behavioral basis for all of that is wrong. In reality the behavior of small groups under survival stress is focused on resources, but human behavior in larger and more secure groups is based specialization and trade: it's the ugh that counts, not the fish, and not the bananas.
Basically, the entire basis for faux Malthusian political economics, and so modern socialism in all its forms, is utter nonsense ultimately based on a misreading of both Malthus and Darwin, and utterly disconfirmed in every test against reality it's ever been exposed to - but the certainty of overcrowding on lifeboat earth underlies the deepest beliefs in the socialist psyche: this is the prophecy that failed, that continues to fail, and is nevertheless an unquestioned and unquestionable article of faith for the political left.
Read any major study of cultist behavior - this Wikipedia article on Disconfirmed expectancy, lists 12 of them (as of June 3rd, 2014) while offering, despite its condescension and pathetic shot at the LDS community, a succinct and almost fair summary of related research - and you'll see the pattern: when the prophecy fails, the cultists doubling down on the belief maintain normal human values except with respect to actions aimed at convincing themselves and others to maintain the falsified belief: in that context they almost immediately sacrifice their own sense of decency in the effort to convince themselves of the truth of their beliefs by continually escalating their commitments to proselytization and the search for new converts through whatever means necessary.