Revolution Never

In the last post we reviewed Isaiah Berlin’s views on the power of a “single, overarching ideal,”

…If you are truly convinced that there is some solution to all human problems, that one can conceive an ideal society which men can reach if only they do what is necessary to attain it, then you and your followers must believe that no price can be too high to pay in order to open the gates of such a paradise [here on earth]

He postulated its corollary, too,

There are men who will kill and maim with a tranquil conscience under the influence of the words and writings of some of those who are certain that they know perfection can be reached [in this life].

In this post, we review a worked example in evidence of such theorems’ absolute truth: the Russian Revolution, Lenin’s philosophy of life, and statue desecration. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to apply the example to their understanding of current and future cultural change in the United States of America.

Liberty Leading the People, Eugène Delacroix, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

We look at essays by Morgan WirthlinGary Saul Morson, and Spencer Klavan, titled, “So You Say You Want a Revolution?”, “Leninthink,” and “They’re Coming for Your Head,”  respectively. Wirthlin describes the events of the Russian revolution in parallel with current events, Morson quotes Lenin while describing his policies, and Klavan illustrates what underlies our current “Wild in the Streets” (rated R) moment.

So You Say You Want a Revolution?

Wirthlin writes that the Russian liberal and socialist left used Marxist tactics to remove Tzar Nicholas II from power in the February 1917 revolution. Then they invited the exiled Bolshevik communist party back to rule Russia with them in a spirit of comradeship. This tiny Bolshevik party used the same tactics against the socialist left, with whom they were allied. In this way, between five to ten thousand radical leftists successfully seized control of Russia, a nation of 97 million people at that time. By 1941, ninety eight percent of the Russian liberal and socialist left were exterminated in purges from the October 1917 revolution onward.

Vladimir Lenin followed Marx’s dictum to “smash” existing institutions, instead of trying to reform them as the socialist left was doing. Lenin had seen that the failed 1848 Paris Commune had tried to reform institutions and was determined to “smash the world of the present” to not repeat their mistakes.

Remarkably, the liberal and socialist left expected a counterrevolution from the right. However, even the right no longer supported the Tzar in large part due to his wife’s obsession with Rasputin. They were stunned when the radical left overthrew them.  

Wirthlin quotes Richard Pipes, historian of Soviet Communism, “Committed radicals fear reform because it deprives them of leverage and establishes the ruling elite more solidly in power: they prefer the most savage repression.” The Bolsheviks acted upon the motto, “the worse the better.” Wirthlin then describes an example of their tactics in detail,

Deliberately building pressure also helped provoke police into retaliation to create evidence of an authoritarian system that radicals hoped would drive public opinion left. The Bolsheviks used what Stalin called a “smokescreen of defenses.” When authorities responded to unlawful activity, it was used as evidence of a crackdown.

Once in the streets, the Bolsheviks borrowed Napoleon’s skirmishing technique: mass recruits are sent first to draw fire and give away enemy positions, then the professional guard is sent to the enemy’s weakest point. Even if they fail, it appears that the masses want change, and repeated demonstrations kept tension high and made everyone believe change was inevitable.

In October 1917, the Bolsheviks told military units in Petrograd a counterrevolution was underway and admonished them not to respond to the provisional government’s orders. The military staff told the Bolsheviks to retract their statement, sent troops to protect the provisional government in the Winter Palace and shut down Pravda. The Bolsheviks used the troop movement and shutdown of Pravda as “evidence” of a “counterrevolution” and put out a call to action to “save the revolution.”

The Bolsheviks pursued a three-year civil war to secure power. They were unable to sway the populace to their cause and chose instead to oppress them using terror. Wirthlin says,

Every institution was systematically uprooted and crushed. Lenin pioneered a one-party state, built on brutality and violence previously unseen in human history, which would be used in communist revolutions all over the world. Once Lenin had used the Left to eliminate the Right, they next were liquidated. By 1941, 98 percent of all Russian socialists had been murdered.

Leninthink

Morson, at the beginning of his essay, sets the stage,

Lenin did more than anyone else to shape the last hundred years. He invented a form of government we have come to call totalitarian, which rejected in principle the idea of any private sphere outside of state control. To establish this power, he invented the one-party state, a term that would previously have seemed self-contradictory since a party was, by definition, a part. An admirer of the French Jacobins, Lenin believed that state power had to be based on sheer terror, and so he also created the terrorist state.

…Lenin pioneered and Stalin greatly expanded a policy in which arrests were entirely arbitrary: that is true terror. By the time of the Great Terror of 1936–38, millions of entirely innocent people were arrested, often by quota. Literally no one was safe. The Party itself was an especially dangerous place to be, and the NKDV was constantly arresting its own members—a practice that was also true of its predecessor, the Cheka, which Lenin founded almost immediately after the Bolshevik coup.

NKDV interrogators who suspected they were to be arrested often committed suicide since they had no illusions about what arrest entailed. They had practiced exquisite forms of torture and humiliation on prisoners—and on prisoners’ colleagues, friends, and families. “Member of a family of a traitor to the fatherland” was itself a criminal category, and whole camps were set up for wives of “enemies of the people.” Never before had such practices defined a state.

In Lenin’s view, Marx’s greatest contribution was “the dictatorship of the proletariat.” He defined this dictatorship as, “nothing other than power, which is totally unlimited by any laws, totally unrestrained by absolutely any rules, and based directly on force.”

According to Morson, Lenin regarded all human interactions as zero-sum. He says that Lenin’s phrase, “Who Whom” meant, “who dominates whom, who does what to whom, ultimately who annihilates whom.”

Lenin, he says, advocated the most violent solutions in all circumstances. Lenin admonished subordinates for, “not using enough force, for restraining mobs from lynchings, and for hesitating to shoot randomly chosen hostages.”

Soviet ethics incorporated Lenin’s principle of anti-empathy. Morson says, “…Schoolchildren were taught that mercy, kindness, and pity are vices. After all, these feelings might lead one to hesitate [to shoot] a class enemy or denouncing one’s parents.” The concept of “conscience” was replaced by the Marxist-Leninist ideological term: consciousness.

Bolshevik morality, according to Morson, holds that whatever contributes to the movement’s success is moral and anything that hinders it is immoral. Lenin derided principles such as “no crime without law” and “no punishment without a crime.” As he previously said, Lenin defined “dictatorship of the proletariat” as rule based solely on force unconstrained by law. In fact, the Soviet state forbade not using arbitrary power under Lenin and Stalin.

Morson explains,

Soviet parlance distinguished between purely formal law and what was called “the material determination of the crime.” A crime was not an action or omission specified in the formal code, because every “socially dangerous” act (or omission) was automatically criminal. Article 1 of the Civil Code of October 31, 1922 laid down that civil rights “are protected by the law unless they are exercised in contradiction to their social and economic purposes.”

A true revolutionary did not appeal to logic or evidence to determine truth but rather, as Morson quotes Lenin, “blackening an opponent’s mug so well it takes him ages to get it clean again.” Lenin lied without scruple. According to Morson, he told one leader, Karl Radek, “Who told you a historian has to establish the truth? Yes, we are contradicting what we said before…and when it is useful to reverse positions again, we will.”

These attitudes were necessary for Lenin’s construct called “partiinost’,” literally, according to Morson, “Partyness, in the sense of Party-mindedness.”

Partyness means that the true member cares nothing for their family, community, or church. No organization but the Party counted. Morson says, “according to Marxism-Leninism, everything [the Party] did was guaranteed to be correct.”

Coercion is the first principle of Party action. he says, “Changing human nature, producing boundless prosperity, overcoming death itself: all these miracles could be achieved because the Party was the first organization ever to pursue coercion without limits.” This thaumaturgic trust in coercion could not but lead Soviet justice to incorporate perverse forms of torture.

Partyness requires that one truly believe 2 + 2 = 5. Though, Morson says that long time party members do not seem to believe what they profess. The Party takes stances not because it cares about them but because they are useful to the Party. Party loyalty is not to issues or justice, but to the Party itself. Issues were pretexts.

He then points out an interesting phenomenon we see daily in our news. When the true ideology is criticized or inconvenient facts arise, the Party members adopt a specific response. Now-a-days, we call these “talking points.” Morson says that one neither believes nor disbelieves these answers. It is by saying these responses that loyalty is demonstrated. In this way, the members signal to those in the know that they are loyal to the Party. Might we call this “virtue signaling?”

Conversely, however, a strict adherent to the ideology might question the leadership’s consistency with or deviation from previous party lines. Morson says that Stalin followed the dictum, “The citizen belongs to the state and must have no other loyalty, not even to the state ideology.”

Anyone was suspect who truly believed the ideology. He quotes sources as saying, “The [great] purge, therefore, was designed to destroy such ideological links as still existed within the party, to convince its members that they had no ideology or loyalty except to the latest orders from on high.” True Leninists do not believe in Leninism.

Morson sums up this understanding as,

The whole point of Leninism is that only a few people must understand what is going on. That was the key insight of his tract What Is to Be Done? Burning Questions of Our Movement. When Leninism is significant, there will always be a spectrum going from those who really understand, to those who just practice the appropriate responses, to those who are entirely innocent.

They’re Coming for Your Head

Klavan explains what destroying statues represents by discussing its historical origins,

Pliny the Younger was a gentleman of means and standing. He ascended the ranks of high Imperial Roman society… Pliny was a careerist. He did everything right. Pliny…had participated in what scholars call a damnatio memoriae, tearing the statues of the old emperors limb from limb.

He said, “How delightful it was to smash to pieces those arrogant faces, to raise our swords against them, to cut them ferociously with our axes, as if blood and pain would follow our blows” (52.4-5).

As if blood and pain would follow. As if by tearing apart the statues of the evil past, Pliny and his fellow loyal subjects could relish the anguish of Rome’s former oppressors, could hear their screams and know that justice had at last been done.

Klavan then states the obvious, only God almighty can execute righteous vengeance and confer eternal mercy and unmerited favor. But the new Marxist vanguard in our midst rejects the God of the Bible. So, he says that they construct a religion of endless self-abasement where their identified “damned” must bend their knee to them, begging for a forgiveness that must never come. The condemned must constantly confess their privilege resulting from their forebear’s misdeeds. The sins of the vanguard and their currently favored groups are expiated upon the heads of the condemned thereby making the vanguard virtuous and “pure.” Unfortunately, the domain of the condemned must expand until no one is left.

He points out that this perversion stems from “a very real and human desire for what our tradition calls suum cuique — the righteous judgment which gives to each what he deserves.” Klavan points out that, as Pliny said, the radicals’ motive is to destroy History and to deface its memory. All of this is done in some misbegotten effort to begin again anew in an Eden of their own making.

However, as Isaiah Berlin had noted,

…The search for a single, overarching ideal because it is the one and only true one for humanity, invariably leads to coercion.

And then to destruction, blood—eggs are broken, but the omelet is not in sight, there is only an infinite number of eggs, human lives, ready for the breaking.

Klavan agrees and says,

The natural endpoint of this…is the guillotine, and worse. The Epistle to the Hebrews [(9:11 – 10:18)] tells us that all human attempts to cleanse the sin of the world are ineffective—that only one Sacrifice can make us clean within.

He concludes that in place of a true sacrifice the current crop of Marxist radicals would overthrow America. He says they want blood for blood via the guillotine and worse.

Conclusion

In case you doubt that anyone could act in these ways, Sergei Nechaev wrote a 1869 pamphlet of instruction, a to-do list, if you will. Morson says that this nineteenth-century terrorist Nechaev wrote that a true revolutionary “has no interests, no habits, no property, not even a name. Everything in him is wholly absorbed by a single, exclusive interest, a single thought, a single passion—the revolution.” Nechaev’s life informed Dostoevsky‘s novel The Possessed.

The radicals of our time are, as Wikipedia accurately defines, filled with hubris which denotes “outrage.” These are actions that violate natural order and which shame and humiliate the victim. And these are done for the pleasure or gratification of the abuser. Ultimately, this is satanic.

Don’t be fooled by any mild “reforms” liberals may propose or enact, true Jacobins want blood and will have it.

Revolution, may it never be (Psalm 71; Matthew 26:52-53, John 18:36.)

Max Frost And The Troopers – Shape Of Things To Come – [original STEREO], Theme to “Wild in the Streets” (rated R,) YouTube, MusicMike’s “Flashback Favorites”, Lyrics

Gift Economy — Review and Commentary by Bernhardt Writer

Michael Horton’s Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World is summarized by the two section headings that divide the book: ‘radical and restless’ and ‘ordinary and content.’ The first section concerns evangelicalism and its contractual foundation. The second, reformed tradition and its covenantal grounding.

Two points stood out to me. First, how God gives gifts to His people who, in turn, give them to those inside and outside the faith through good works. Horton submits that our common labors such as: employee, employer, wife, mother, father, husband, etc. are part of the means by which to share with others God’s gifts to us. Horton calls this God’s covenantal ‘gift economy.’

He says that giving gifts back to God in ‘our service to Him’ is giving them in a direction He did not intend. These gifts are to be given to our neighbors for His glory.

The second point is that elders of the local church should, in their spiritual oversight responsibility, meet with members often to listen to, instruct, and, if necessary, correct them. The word that caught my attention was often. How much more attentive, representative, and corrective they could be if they did this in all the churches.

I also noted that Horton didn’t outline any specific program of evangelism. He emphasized the image of a garden where one plants, another waters, but God gives the growth. If we are giving God’s gifts to us to our neighbors then opportunities to share the gospel, in sincere friendship, will open for us.

Christmas Gifts

Christmas Gifts, 25 December 2003, Kelvin Kay, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Quo Vadis III

We here at Mandated Memoranda Publishing have just released book four to our advanced copy readers. Yes, this is actually book three, but we missed our Christmas deadline, ergo, book four. The title is A Digital Carol. From the protean blurb with which we’ve been toying:

This is a tale from our childhoods retold in modern language and forms. The story’s goal is not to inspire a more joyous holiday or a more generous giving spirit, but to question the very premise of our existence. We are too late into the dark night of the soul for anything but drastic measures.

We purchased the imagery for the cover and hope to post the blurb and quarter scale cover image on the MM books tab soon. We plan to use the same editing service that we used for Tragic Wonders to better effect this time. If we get a good review (who knows), then we’ll splurge on professional promotion.

Apropos of nothing more than sympathy for the Ukrainian people, here’s Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Year 2013 – Second place finisher:

National park Holy Mountains, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine

National park “Sviati Hory” (Holy Mountains), Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine – Attribution: Balkhovitin (License: CC BY-SA 3.0)

Meanwhile, as folks eagerly purchase in app gaming benefits, we scour the interwebs everyday researching for our next two books. Book three is titled Who Shall Be God and book five is China Dream.

Some of the books we plan to read for WSBG are:

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion—Jonathan Haidt

The Servile Mind: How Democracy Erodes the Moral Life—Kenneth Minogue

The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class—Fred Siegel

Liberty: Rethinking an Imperiled Ideal—Glenn Tinder

The Three Languages of Politics—Arnold Kling

Some articles that have impressed us are:

Progressives Against Progress—Fred Siegel (City Journal, 2010)

Can We Be Good Without God—Glenn Tinder (Atlantic, 1989)

The False Equation of Atheism and Intellectual Sophistication—Emma Green (Atlantic, 2014)

Bigger Than Phil—Adam Gopnik (The New Yorker, 2014)

Keeping the Faith in My Doubt—John Horgan (NY Times, 2004)

I don’t think I’m giving too much away when I quote Tinder from his Atlantic article:

Tocqueville suggested approvingly that Christianity tends to make a people “circumspect and undecided.” with “its impulses…checked and its works unfinished.” This expresses well the spirit of reform inherent in Christian faith. Christianity is radical, but it is also hesitant. This is partly, of course, because Christianity restrains our self-assurance. Efforts at social transformation must always encounter unforeseen complexities, difficulties, limits, and tragedies. Caution is in order. But Christian hesitancy has deeper grounds than prudence and more compelling motives than wariness of practical blunders. Hesitation expresses a consciousness of the mystery of being and the dignity of every person. It provides a moment for consulting destiny. Recent decades have seen heroic political commitments in behalf of social reform, but hesitation has been evident mainly in the service of self-interest. Christian faith, however, suggests that hesitation should have a part in our most conscientious deeds. It is a formality that is fitting when we cross the frontier between meditation and action. And like all significant formalities, it is a mark of respect—for God and for the creatures with whom we share the earth.

Is our program this year a tad ambitious? You betcha. Worse still, we hope to write about these and other sources in the coming weeks and months.