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Kevin Williamson’s latest, “The March of the New American Leninists,” is bracing and eloquent. However, I also find myself disagreeing with it, at least in part.

Kevin writes that many of the chief culprits of our political discontent are Leninists — that is, ideological or political descendants of the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin — whether consciously (as in the case of Steve Bannon) or not. Regardless, their aims are, in his view, functionally revolutionary. And worse yet, they may succeed:

We are in a pre-revolutionary situation because the regime — by which I mean not the Biden administration but the American constitutional order itself and the principal institutions associated with it — is being made to compete for the loyalty of Americans against individual politicians (Donald Trump), particular political organizations and movements (BLM), and less well-defined political tendencies (right-wing identity and left-wing identity). There has always been partisan fanaticism, and there have always been demagogues. When loyalty to a political leader or a political movement supplants loyalty to the regime, the nation grows dangerously close to revolution in proportion to the degree to which such tendencies are general and widespread.

While Kevin does admit certain “reasons for hope” — the endurance of our legal system, Donald Trump’s failure to overturn the 2020 election — he finds ample cause for pessimism. I would like, however, to give him another reason for hope. And it is one that actually proceeds from one of his counsels of despair. He writes:

This being the United States of America, our revolutionary fervor is driven in some non-trivial part by cynical profit-seeking, with media figures as superficially different but fundamentally identical as the daft galaxy of Fox News and MSNBC pundits feverishly working to convince Americans that our society and our institutions are not in need of reform but are in fact so irredeemably corrupt that they must be overthrown. These arguments are made almost purely for commercial purposes — there isn’t a lot of money to be made from sensible conversations about incremental reform — but their influence extends well beyond the balance sheets of their corporate parents. I used to say, with unwarranted confidence, that the real world isn’t Twitter, and Twitter isn’t the real world. That turns out not to be true.

There is plenty of cynicism at work in the media business, but it would be wrong to think that figures such as Tucker Carlson or Rachel Maddow create revolutionary fervor on their own — they are only supplying a preexisting demand in the market. They do not create demand any more than Purdue Pharma or Pornhub do. The ultimate source of the revolutionary fervor is in the people themselves, in the “masses,” as the creaky old Marxists still call them.

If we are to take seriously the Leninist framework, then we should remember that Lenin himself found “the masses” (a condescending term) a frustratingly stubborn lot. In “What Is To Be Done?,” his famous revolutionary tract, Lenin identified this fact as an obstacle to his aims. Writing in 1902 about an earlier outburst of labor unrest in Russia, Lenin claimed that the workers behind it “were not, and could not be, conscious of the irreconcilable antagonism of their interests to the whole of the modern political and social system, i.e., theirs was not yet Social-Democratic consciousness. In this sense, the strikes of the nineties, despite the enormous progress they represented as compared with the ‘revolts’, remained a purely spontaneous movement.” 

The “best” workers could do on their own was to achieve what Lenin called “trade union consciousness, i.e., the conviction that it is necessary to combine in unions, fight the employers, and strive to compel the government to pass necessary labour legislation, etc.” They would, that is, remain mired in false consciousness: the odious Marxist idea, which has since been repurposed all over the political spectrum, that the only reason someone is doing something you don’t like is because he is in hoc to some financial interest that is precluding his ability to agree with you, and that it is up to you to correct the situation.

Such circumstances would not suit Lenin and others of his revolutionary ilk. So the only option, naturally, was for them to intervene. Revolutionary consciousness, as Lenin put it, “would have to be brought . . . from without.” This conveniently demanded the creation of a revolutionary vanguard of people (like Lenin) who could “raise the level of the consciousness of the workers in general” to the point where they were sufficiently educated and prepared to carry out revolution. Able to consult the actual record of Marxist regimes, we can now see that, unsurprisingly, the interests of this revolutionary vanguard would remain paramount throughout the existence of such regimes, as they naturally transition to a dictatorial form of government instead of the state “withering away,” as Marxists predicted.

Kevin writes that today’s Leninists are not creating “revolutionary fervor on their own — they are only supplying a preexisting demand in the market.” There is perhaps more demand for this kind of thing than I am comfortable with. But I think there is a strong case that today’s Leninists view themselves in the same way that those of the past did — i.e., engaged in a supposedly necessary act of consciousness-raising for rubes that, it is reckoned, are incapable of knowing better themselves, and remain stubbornly anti-revolutionary.

In Lenin’s time, this required rejecting not only the possibilities of practical politics (and assassinating such beleaguered figures as Pyotr Stolypin, perhaps the last politician capable of keeping Russia away from the brink), but also the real economic and political progress that was occurring even amid the political chaos and failures of late czarist Russia. In our time, this requires a constant inculcation, from both left and right, that, as Kevin puts it, “our society and our institutions are not in need of reform but are in fact so irredeemably corrupt that they must be overthrown.”

The essence of my disagreement with Kevin comes primarily in two points. First, as I rejected the notion that we are approaching a new Civil War, I also reject the notion that America is “pre-revolutionary.” Perhaps this is overly optimistic, but I think much thinking along these lines percolates rhetorically and through perception, and thus that there is value in rebuffing it in the same way. And for similar reasons, I am not quite as willing to accept Lenin’s would-be heirs as quite the same danger as he was.

Second, I think Kevin’s understanding of Lenin is flawed on its own terms. Lenin may have believed that the “masses” desired revolution on some subconscious level, but he interpreted the fact that they weren’t doing it themselves as evidence that he had to do it for them, not as proof that they didn’t want it. I think we are in a similar situation here, where much of the apparent “demand” for “revolution” (to the extent that it exists) is being peddled by people who have an interest in calling for it.

This gives me reason for optimism. If such people are the problem, then refuting their agitation and pointing out constantly that what many of them ultimately seek, like their predecessors, is simply an elevated role for themselves, are both productive courses of action. And in doing so, one can direct attention to that large group of people communists so condescendingly call the “masses,” and remind them that such voices do not, ultimately, have their interests at heart. I retain enough faith in the American people that I believe them more than capable of rejecting such messages. So much of the “revolutionary” messaging we hear nowadays, in other words, is an elite phenomenon being wielded for elite advantage. In that, I suppose, it truly does have something in common with its predecessor after all.

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Activist U.S. Supreme Court Makes It Official, Were Now The Corporate States of America

Source:The Brad Blog

Activist U.S. Supreme Court Makes It Official, Were Now The Corporate States of America