Saturday, April 21, 2018

David Horowitz, The Black Book of the American Left — Volume 9

At Amazon, David Horowitz, The Black Book of the American Left — Volume 9: Ruling Ideas.

When I began the project of describing this movement in the 1980s, the emergence of the left as a mainstream force in Amer­ica’s political life was fairly recent and inadequately understood. Conservatives in particular often failed to appreciate the anti-American animus of the left and its apocalyptic goals. At the same time, conservatives imprudently accepted the left’s deceptive claims to be “liberal” and “progressive,” ascribing to it idealistic intentions that masked its malignant designs. The contents of these volumes were conceived as a corrective to these false and disarming impressions. This is the ninth and final volume of my writings about progressivism, a movement whose goals are the destruc­tion of America’s social contract at home and the defeat of American power abroad.

The primary source of this confusion is the fact that left-wing politics are based on expectations of an imaginary future rather than assessments of a usable past. The left’s primary focus is not on practical improvements based on an analysis of previous prac­tices, or a conception of the limits imposed by human nature, but on changes designed to satisfy the moral prejudices that make up the leftist faith.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the left’s quest for “equality,” which is the organizing principle of its “transformative” propos­als. Equality before the law is a foundational principle of American democracy and its pluralistic community. But this is not the equality proposed by the left, which demands instead an unrealiz­able and destructive equality of outcomes. In the real world human inequalities of talent, intelligence, physical attributes and application are immutable facts of life, which result in inequalities of wealth and power. The seeds of social inequality are planted in the human genome and are nourished by disparate cultures, which include circumstances of birth and upbringing that governments cannot control. Attempts to establish such control have invariably resulted in the most repressive regimes in human history, and in the end have failed to produce either equality or wealth.

The ideal of an egalitarian future is doomed to failure because it is unanchored in any human reality. It is sustained as an ideal because it allows advocates to regard themselves as revolutionary pioneers of a “better world.” It further prompts believers to devalue the present and dismiss the past, which allows them to distance themselves from the destructive results of their social experiments. Thus progressives habitually dismiss the disasters they have engineered, however epic in scope, by attributing the monstrous results to inadvertent “mistakes,” when they were in fact the logical consequences of their Utopian ideas.

When the Soviet socialist system collapsed, progressives cre­ated an artificial distinction between the ideal, which they called “real socialism,” and the disaster, which they called “actually existing socialism.” This allowed them to avoid any recognition of their role in the human catastrophe they had supported and served for generations. Consequently, the experience had no lessons for progressives because in their self-absolving view it wasn’t “real socialism.” This delusion has now been passed to the next genera­tions as a result of the left’s infiltration of America’s educational system and its transformation into a training and recruitment cen­ter for collectivist causes and ideas.

The current term leftists use to describe their Utopian vision of the future is “social justice” rather than communism or socialism.

The new name is part of a familiar process by which the left attempts to shed the disasters of its past. One would be hard-put to distinguish the goals encapsulated by “social justice” from the communist attitudes of previous generations. Like communism, “social justice” is a promise of harmony and redemption. Like communism it describes a future in which inequality, poverty, big­otry and the timeless corruptions of the human spirit are miracu­lously rectified by political parties and the state. Like communism, “social justice” requires for its realization a remake of humanity. Like communism, therefore, it can only be achieved through the destruction of individual freedom, and the thwarting of normal human desires and interests in order to achieve an allegedly greater social good.

The bloody history of progressive experiments during the 20th century should have buried the illusion that human beings can be transformed into creatures radically different from what they have been for the five thousand years in which their actions have been recorded. Human societies are reflections of the human beings who create them, not the other way around. Inequality, bigotry, hypocrisy and greed are elements of a genome that thousands of years of evolution have failed to alter or repair. As a result, progres­sive states dedicated to “social justice” have flooded the earth with the corpses of innocents who stood in their way, and created poverty and misery on an unprecedented scale. Yet the religious fantasy of a liberated future persists to this day among an alarming array of constituencies, and the left’s assault on individual free­dom proceeds as though these historical tragedies had never taken place.

The tenacity of the progressive illusion and its imperviousness to experience are natural effects of its religious nature. The solace provided to believers through hope in a redeemed future is as existentially crucial as a belief in God or in life after death. It makes relinquishing the illusion as devastating as a loss of religious faith. How else explain the persistence of a fantasy that has proven so destructive?

Since the industrial revolution, the progressive illusion has been encouraged by advances in technology that might seem to augur human possibility without limit. Yet to date these advances, however impressive, have not led to dramatic improvements in human behavior — specifically its moral dimensions — let alone the degree of improvement that Utopian visions require. Meanwhile, the same advances have produced new technologies of totalitarian control along with vastly amplified means of destruction that serve to magnify human barbarism and put into question the very survival of civilization.

Half a century ago Friedrich Hayek described “social justice” as a mirage. Hayek observed that there is no entity called “society” to redistribute wealth, or to re-calibrate the social order. There are only individuals belonging to political factions that vie for power and then wield it through their power in the state. “Social jus­tice,” therefore, is necessarily the work of individuals driven by the same greed, prejudice, and habits of deceit that created the injustices progressives propose to repair. In its real-world practice “social justice” is, and can only be, the self-justifying rationale of a new despotism—worse than the old because its first agenda is a war against freedom, in particular the freedom of individuals to resist the social redeemers and their plans.

This was the conclusion I reached forty years ago under the influence of Hayek and the Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski, and why I resolved to devote the second half of my life—and eventually the nine volumes of this work—to analyzing and opposing this destructive cause.
I'm looking forward to reading this volume.