Sunday, August 25, 2013
I have been studying a lot of Soviet ideology stuff lately, and so I bought a book about Bolshevism by a German named Heinrich Härtle. It is a reprint from the University of California Libraries, and I bought it because it was one of the few German-language books I could find on the subject. Having no idea of the contents, I took a small risk on a very inexpensive book.
Well, after reading a fair amount of the book, I started getting a strange vibe about it. After what seemed to be a competent explanation of certain Bolshevik and Marxist beliefs followed by fairly decent criticisms, he would go on to say things like, “This is typical of Jewish intellectuals.” It seemed as if the author was a bit obsessed with race. I looked at the publication date—1944. No way! This book was written by a straight-up Nazi during WWII!
I did some research on the author and it turns out that he was one of the most important intellectual Nazi ideologues. He was member #60,398 of the Nazi Party. In 1928 he joined the Sturmabteilung (Brownshirts), and in 1942 he became a Sturmbannführer in the SA (equivalent to a Major). He played an important role in linking Nietzsche ideologically to National Socialism.
It is fascinating to witness this ideological war between the Nazis and the Communists. Both had one thing in common: They both saw people first and foremost as members of groups rather than as individuals. For the Communists, it was all about in which of the warring classes one found oneself. For the Nazis, it was all about one’s racial identity.
Härtle berates the Marxists for thinking that class identity can produce a true culture. Only racial identity can produce a true culture.
A couple of choice quotations that I have selected:
This one I think has a ring of truth to it: “Since ‘Bolschevism’ doesn’t always sound sufficiently scientific, they increasingly adopted the very learned-appearing name of ‘Dialectical Materialism.’ In the USSR, this name is supposed to play the role that the scholastic philosophy—Thomism—plays in the theology of the churches. Dialectical Materialism became the theology of Marxism, the ruling fundamental concept of research as well as teaching, of the university as well as the academy, of the institutes and the libraries.”
But then things get serious: “Marx displays the following entirely typical Jewish traits: First, the instinct toward economic activity; second, a parasitic-plagiaristic foundation; and third, the destructive and annihilating effect on non-Jewish people.”
Further: “Only the racial investigation solves the final riddles of this unholy development [Marxism]. […] Jewish is the parasitic exploitation of the intellectual achievement of others, and Jewish is the intellectual misrepresentation of original discoveries.”
“When we briefly confront, in the following, the main thesis of his [Marx’s] theory, it is not in order to refute Marx ‘scientifically,’ which presupposes to take him scientifically seriously, but rather to characterize him as a Jewish intellect.”
Saturday, August 17, 2013
Why was Soviet communism so popular among the elites in the West, in spite of its dismal record of ruined economies and murdered masses? J. M. Bochenski argued that it was precisely its dogmatism and confidence in opposition to the relativism and skepticism of the West that attracted many disillusioned Westerners to its creed. It also made appeal to a heroic ethic, in which good inevitably triumphs over evil. These appeals are clearly illustrated in the following passage (that I have attempted to translate as accurately as possible) from Grundlagen des Marxismus-Leninismus from 1960, which was a German translation used in East Germany of the official book published by the Soviet Union, the purpose of which was to lay out the fundamental ideas of Marxism-Leninism. This passage comes from the Introduction:
“While faith in Man and the destiny of civilization lies in a hopeless crisis in the bourgeois ideology of the West, the Marxist-Leninist worldview awakens in us the passion to engage in a noble battle for high social ideals.
Everyone who adopts this worldview will not only be deeply convinced that the cause of the workers is just, but also that the victory of socialism across the entire world is historically necessary. Armed with the worldview of Marxism-Leninism, you become strong, politically steadfast, and principled. You win an unshakeable conviction that gives you the strength to overcome any challenge.
Millions of people across the globe have already drawn the high ideals for their behavior, as well as the necessary energy for their realization, from the inexhaustible well of Marxism-Leninism.
Is it worthy for a modern, thinking person to live without a progressive worldview, or to content himself with the beggar’s soup of inferior pseudo-worldviews?
It is decidedly better to strive for a mastery of the fundamentals of the Marxist-Leninist worldview so that you may develop intellectually and emerge victorious in the battle against the imperialist enemies of humanity.”
The original German:
“Während in der bürgerlichen Ideologie des Westens der Glaube an den Menschen und an das Geschick der Zivilisation in einer hoffnungslosen Krise liegt, weckt die marxistisch-leninistische Weltanschauung in den Menschen das Streben nach edlem Kampf für hohe soziale Ideale.
Jeder, der sich diese Weltanschauung zu eigen macht, wird nicht nur zutiefst davon überzeugt, daβ die Sache der Arbeiter gerecht ist, sondern auch davon, daβ der Sieg des Sozialismus in der ganzen Welt historisch notwendig ist. Mit der Weltanschauung des Marxismus-Leninismus ausgerüstet, wird der Mensch stark, politisch standhaft und prinzipienfest. Er erwirbt eine unerschütterliche Überzeugung, die ihm die Kraft verleiht, jegliche Prüfungen zu bestehen.
Millionen Menschen auf dem Erdball haben bereits aus dem unerschöpflichen Quell des Marxismus-Leninismus die hohen Ideale ihres Handelns und die für deren Verwirklichung notwendige Energie geschöpft.
Ist es eines modernen, denkenden Menschen würdig, ohne fortschrittliche Weltanschauung zu leben oder sich mit den geistigen Bettelsuppen minderwertiger Pseudoweltanschauungen zu begnügen?
Es ist entschieden besser, sich um die Aneignung der Grundlagen der marxistisch-leninistischen Weltanschauung zu mühen, um geistig zu wachsen und die imperialistischen Menschheitsfeinde im Kampf zu besiegen.”
Friday, August 16, 2013
Ever since I survived leukemia, I've been droppin' the hammer on these freaking motorcycles, smoking pipes, lettin' 'er rip, rip-rock flashin', and eating all kinds of whatever. A close brush with mortality can be so liberating in so many ways. Is riding this bike gonna kill a righteous bro? Eating this, drinking that, and smoking this going to give me cancer? Been there, done that, loser! My date with destiny is fixed, and I've never felt better. Fists in the wind, my friend! Don't you know? We must ride before we die!
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
During my recent trip through Europe, I studied J. M. Bochenski’s Der Sowjet-russische dialektische Materialismus. If you are interested in worldviews in general and Marxism-Leninism in particular, check out my summary here.
For the Soviet Marxist-Leninists, politics was not sufficient. In order for a revolutionary political movement to be successful, it had to have a metaphysic. Although I am on the complete opposite end of the political spectrum as the communists, I agree with them about the following proposition: A metaphysical worldview is of essential importance to live an authentically human life, to have a basis for one’s views, and to provide meaning to one’s life. They were right about all of this. So what was the worldview that they chose?
It is important to emphasize how crucial Dialectical Materialism (DM) was for the Marxist-Leninists. For them, it was essential—one could not truly be a Marxist-Leninist without adopting DM. The Soviet ideologues never ceased to emphasize its importance.
The influences for DM were Hegel (developed the idea of a dialectical movement of history), Feuerbach (took Hegel’s notion of the spiritual nature of reality and flipped it into a material one), Marx (developed the idea of Historical Materialism, in which history has a necessary and inevitable development through time), Engels (developed DM as a metaphysical explanation of Marx’s Historical Materialism), Lenin (developed Engels’ ideas and emphasized the importance of the rejection of God’s existence and religion for the sake of revolution), and the scientific materialism beginning with the French philosophes and carrying through Darwin’s work and the mechanistic materialistic determinists of all stripes.
DM possesses the following traits: It is Realist (affirms the existence of a real world outside our consciousness that in no way depends on consciousness for its reality), Rationalist (the world is theoretically knowable in all of its particulars), Materialist (affirms that matter is the ultimate reality), Evolutionist (accepts Darwin’s theory and affirms that reality is constantly evolving in general), Optimistic (reality is evolving in a positive direction), and Dialectical (the universe evolves through a series of “leaps” to ever higher degrees of reality).
On Materialism: DM affirms that mind depends entirely on matter, but that mind, being a “product” or “process” of matter, is not merely matter. To assert that mind is merely matter is to be a “vulgar materialist” in the eyes of the DMers. Also, there is no afterlife, all human behavior is causally determined (there is no free will), there is no God or Gods, there are no supernatural forces or powers of any kind. The universe is uncreated and infinite in both time and space.
On the Dialectic: Through a process of development, a “thesis” (a particular state of affairs) gives rise to an “anti-thesis” (a “contradicting” state of affairs), and the conflict between the two creates a “synthesis” (a new reality that encompasses the best of both previous states of affairs and brings about a new one). As quantitative developments accumulate, they produce a qualitative “leap” that brings about a previously non-existent state of affairs. Examples of such qualitative developments are life, consciousness, animals, and man. Man is the highest state of metaphysical development in existence, and can therefore be seen as the highest order of being that exists.
Bochenski identifies the following as praiseworthy in the theory: He appreciates that DM affirms Realism and Rationalism, in contradistinction to the fuzziness of Idealism (the idea that no reality exists outside of consciousness) and the lazy lack of disciplined thought that produces both Relativism (the idea that there are no absolute truths or standards) and Skepticism (the idea that nothing can be known). DM also rejects a categorical Monism (the idea that there is only one kind of thing) by its tweaking of classical Monist Materialism (which does not recognize the existence of mind). He agrees with its claim that our bodies and minds affect each other, and that our environment—including our economic environment—affects the way our minds work, although DM overemphasizes this.
He finds the following to be seriously problematic: DM emphasizes reason and rationality in the metaphysical sphere, but also emphasizes that one must believe DM on the basis of succeeding with a revolutionary political movement, thereby simultaneously emphasizing Pragmatism, the opposite of Rationalism. Also, DM recognizes a series of qualitatively different realities, which is in deep theoretical conflict with its Materialism, which is supposed to assert that only matter exists (this is the fundamental conflict that develops when uniting Materialism with Hegel’s Dialectical Idealism). Finally, although Marxism-Leninism is obsessed with moral obligations (one must serve the proletariat, capitalism is evil, etc.), DM provides no basis for objective ethics in any way, producing an internal conflict between moral demands and the lack of any basis for them. Finally, the Dialectic makes no sense, since true contradictions can’t exist by logical law, and if the “contradictions” are understood in any other way than in the sense of true logical contradictions, then the problem is solved at the expense of making DM’s claims about contradictions trivially and uninterestingly true.
If DM has intellectual problems, why were so many attracted to it? He identifies the following: The moral appeal of Communism leads people to accept whatever metaphysical basis is given to it, since it is Communism’s moral appeal that is really doing the work, rather than any persuasive arguments for DM. Also, DM gives people a sense of meaning in life—by contributing to the forward march of the universe and history, one connects oneself to the movement of the deepest reality of the universe. Additionally, DM appeals to us by virtue of its “heroic ethic”—Man, alone in a godless reality, tragically strives to improve the condition of Humanity in the face of an uncaring universe.
My thoughts on DM: I find DM to be an amazing and creative worldview that understandably appealed to people. I believe that no consistently atheistic and anti-supernatural worldview has ever been more successful in offering humans a story in which their lives could have a transcendental meaning, thereby motivating humans to live with passion and energy. At the same time, I believe that DM is ultimately false, and that that is the ultimate standard by which we should judge it. I am of the opinion that any worldview that categorically rejects any transcendental reality (as DM explicitly does) is going to have an ultimately impossible time of explaining from where absolute moral obligations originate. I am convinced that there are, in fact, such things as absolute moral obligations (a good example being, “Don’t rape children solely for the sake of your own sexual pleasure”). Since DM can’t provide a convincing foundation for such claims, I am forced to reject it. In spite of that, DM is certainly worth studying and reflecting upon, since it offers many thought-provoking ideas that can help a person to come ever closer to the Truth about what the universe is and how it works.
Saturday, July 6, 2013
I see many parallels among the three destructive ideologies that have plagued humanity in the past one hundred years—National Socialism, Communism, and Islamism. I found this book written in 1974 in German by a Polish Dominican philosopher who taught philosophy for many years at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. The book is entitled Marxism-Leninism: Science or Faith and contains incredible insights into the Soviet ideology. What strikes me as I read his book, however, is the commonality between the Marxist-Leninist ideology and the Islamist ideology.
Although, to be sure, one is atheistic and the other fanatically monotheistic, they both share totalitarian impulses and produce enthusiastic and dogmatic foot-soldiers quite readily.
The book does not exist in English, so I have endeavored to practice German by translating it. Here I have translated an extended passage about Marxism-Leninism, which can, in large measure, be applied to Islamists.
One thing that people got wrong with the communists, and they get wrong with the Islamists, is that they think that people can’t really believe this stuff. They think these people think that they are acting from these ideas, but they are really reacting to oppressive conditions, and these crazy ideological ideas are only an indirect way of expressing their frustration with their conditions.
What Bochenski argues for communism, I also argue for Islamism: Yes, they really do believe this stuff, and we insult not only reality but those very people themselves by suggesting that we know more than they do about their own motivations. Yes, an Islamist does, in fact, believe that Allah will reward him for his violent martyrdom. He believes it in the marrow of his bones. Not only that—he will believe it even if he is no longer oppressed, lives in a big house, has a great job, has a university education, and the rest of it. Throwing money at Islamists does not kill ideology. Ideology is more powerful than wealth. Just as with communist terrorists, the Islamist terrorists are quite frequently well-educated and, by the standards of history, not particularly oppressed. They are ideologues.
We all seek a transcendental meaning to our lives, except for those few of us who live as animals. National Socialism, Communism, and Islamism give people that meaning, and having such a meaning is, for many people, far more important than material comforts and wealth. I think this is fine, as long as one’s transcendental purpose isn’t murderously evil, of course.
Bochenski was right about communism. Too many are still in denial or ignorance of the destructive and evil nature of communism (as were so many of my professors), just as too many are hopelessly naïve about the power of Islamist ideology (as are so many “intellectuals”).
Bochenski's three numbered points are completely applicable to Islamists in every way--only the examples are different. For example, the first point is effort to spread the ideology. The Soviets printed books in massive numbers, while the Islamists slam the Internet relentlessly. The second point is that one can only explain their behavior by assuming they believe in their ideology for real. Good examples with Islamists would be gruesome, public executions along with behaviors guaranteed to lead to their deaths. The third point is that it nearly impossible to reason them out of their position, which is obviously true in the case of the religious fanaticism of Islamists.
"In closing, we would still like briefly to lay out the meaning of the ideology—Marxism-Leninism—for communism and for the communist countries.
[. . .]
This is evident from the following:
- The communists everywhere are currently making colossal efforts to develop and spread it.
- They act in such a way that one can explain their behavior in no other way than in terms of commitment to Marxism-Leninism.
- The matter is directly visible to anyone who has come into contact with significant communists: They are faithful communists, they believe in Marxism-Leninism as an absolute truth.
That is the first: The communists are making great effort to spread their Marxism-Leninism. Secondly, moreover, they behave in such a way that is explicable in no other way than in terms of their ideology. Two examples are typical here: On the one hand the communists everywhere take care to carry out the collectivization of the farmers with correspondingly catastrophic consequences for the economy. The political sense of these efforts is more than questionable. It alienates the Party from the farmers and economically is downright absurd. Why do they behave this way? Because it is so mandated by Marxism-Leninism.
On the other hand there is in communist countries a war against religion, which is just as politically senseless. In many countries like Hungary and Poland, for example, it would be relatively easy to win over the masses were they to refrain from it. No, they continue recklessly to wage the war, and certainly only because this is prescribed by Marxism-Leninism.
And finally, those who know leading communists know that the doctrine of “de-ideologization”, as one often calls it, is completely unfounded. Many of these men have fought and suffered for this ideology. It has brought them greatness. They believe in it.
Marxism-Leninism is, of course, not the sole factor that determines the course of history in these countries. It is never the case in history that we can explain everything in terms of one force. So, for example, local Russian or Chinese nationalism also plays a role. But communism is still, among other things and above all things, determined by the ideology.
The Communist Party is, in other words, still that which it has always, continuously been: An ideology in action.
It was founded, exists, and acts above all in order to force its ideology, together with its resultant consequences, upon all of humanity.
Perhaps this will change. Some signs are pointing to this. But still today anyone who would like to write off Marxism-Leninism as unimportant is entertaining a dangerous illusion. He is, in many cases, a victim of his wishful thinking. From this we must seriously be warned: It does not correspond to the known facts.
[. . .]
Accordingly, Marxism-Leninism, as a utopian gift of happiness to mankind, is ultimately condemned to failure. The 'when' and 'how' does not hang on the lip service of those who possess incomparably better intellectual armament, but entirely on their will unfailingly to stand up to the challenge of Marxism-Leninism and consequently to adapt their thinking and actions for a permanent conflict with it. That is a matter of conscience."
"Abschlieβend möchten wir noch die Bedeutung der Ideologie—d.h. des Marxismus-Leninismus—für den Kommunismus and für die kommunistischen Länder kurz erörtern.
[. . .]
Das kann man aus folgendem ersehen:
- Machen die Kommunisten überall gerade kolossale Anstrengungen, um ihn zu entwickeln und zu verbreiten.
- Handeln sie öfters so, daβ man ihr Verhalten nicht anders als durch die Treue dem Marxismus-Leninismus gegenüber erklären kann.
- Ist die Sache jedem, der mit bedeutenden Kommunisten in Berührung gekommen ist, direct sichtbar: Sie sind gläubige Kommunisten, sie glauben an den Marxismus-Leninismus als an eine absolute Wahrheit.
Also erstens: Die Kommunisten machen groβe materielle und geistige Anstrengungen, um ihre Philosophie zu entwickeln und zu verbreiten. Ein paar Ziffern: Die Bibliographie der sowjetischen Philosophie, die vom Freiburger Osteurope-Institut veröffentlicht worden ist, umfaβt mehr als zweitausend Namen von aktiven Philosophen. Heute dürften es in der Sowjetunion wohl um die Zwölftausend sein. In Moskau allein gibt es etwa einhundert Ordinarii für Philosophie an den Hochschulen. Die Auflagen der ideologischen Schriften sind geradezu kolossal. So wurden von Lenins Werken bis 1959 301 015 000 Exemplare veröffentlicht. Ähnliches gilt von den anderen kommunistischen Ländern. So hat Jugoslawien, das vor dem letzten Weltkrieg noch keine nennenswerte Philosophie aufzuweisen hatte, eine bedeutende philosophische Schule.
Das ist das eine: Die Kommunisten machen groβe Anstrengungen, um ihren Marxismus-Leninismus zu verbreiten. Auβerdem handeln sie zweitens oft so, daβ dies durch nichts anderes als durch ihre Ideologie erklärbar ist. Zwei Beispiele sind hier bezeichnend: Einerseits pflegen die Kommunisten überall die Vergesellschaftung der Bauern mit geradezu katastrophalen Folgen für die Wirtschaft durchzuführen. Der politische Sinn dieser Bemühung ist mehr als fragwürdig. Sie entfremdet der Partei die Bauern und wirtschaftlich ist sie geradezu widersinnig. Warum handelt man so? Weil es vom Marxismus-Leninismus so gefordert wird.
Andererseits gibt es regelmäβig in den kommunistischen Ländern einen ebenso politisch sinnlosen Kampf gegen die Religion. In manchen Ländern, so z. B. in Ungarn und Polen, wäre es relativ leicht, die Massen zu gewinnen, sähe man davon ab. Nein, man führt den Kampf rücksichtslos weiter. Und zwar nur deshalb, weil dies im Marxismus-Leninismus vorgeschrieben wird.
Und endlich, jene, die führende Kommunisten kennen, wissen, daβ die Lehren von der Entideologisierung, wie man sie oft nennt, jeder Grundlage entbehren. Viele unter diesen Männern haben für diese Ideologie gekämpft und gelitten. Sie hat ihnen Groβes gebracht. Sie glauben an sie.
Natürlich ist der Marxismus-Leninismus nicht der alleinige Faktor, der den Lauf der Geschichte in diesen Ländern bestimmt. In der Geschichte ist es nie so, daβ wir alles durch eine Kraft erklären könnten. So spielt z. B. der locale, russische oder chinesische Nationalismus auch seine Rolle. Aber unter anderem und vor allem ist der Kommunismus immer noch durch die Ideologie bestimmt.
Die Kommunistische Partei ist, in anderen Worten, immer noch das, was sie stets gewesen ist: Eine Ideologie in Aktion.
Sie wurde begründet, besteht und handelt vor allem, um der gesamten Menschheit ihre Ideologie samt ihren Konsequenzen aufzuzwingen.
Vielleicht wird sich dies ändern. Einige Anzeichen deuten darauf hin. Aber noch heute gibt sich jeder, der den Marxismus-Leninismus als unwichtig abschreiben möchte, einer gefährlichen Illusion hin. Er ist in vielen Fällen ein Opfer seines Wunschdenkens. Davor muss ernstlich gewarnt werden: Es entspricht den uns bekannten Tatsachen nicht.
Demnach ist der Marxismus-Leninismus als utopische Menschheitsbeglückung letztlich zum Scheitern verurteilt. Das “Wann” und “Wie” hängt nicht von den Lippenbekenntnissen derjenigen ab, die unvergleichlich bessere geistige Waffen besitzen, sondern das hängt ganz von ihrem Willen ab, sich der Herausforderung des Marxismus-Leninismus ständig zu stellen und ihr Denken und Handeln konsequent auf eine permanente Auseinandersetzung mit ihm einzurichten. Das ist eine Gewissensfrage."