Usually, when you encounter an item with no definitive price tag, it is because the item is absurdly expensive. When a potential customer is forced to ask for the price, the salesman might gauge his wealth, his gullibility, his willingness to part with his money, and a myriad of other things before settling on what he believes he can get. It also provides an opportunity to sell the customer on the object, rather than merely counting on the item and its price to convince the potential buyer.
In simple terms, forcing another to be open about his wants, and being closed off on your own, gives a man a decided bargaining advantage.
Lately, we’ve seen this at work with Antifa, BLM, #TheResistance, and other assorted left-wing groups. Grievances are produced, from slavery, to the plight of Native Americans, to American foreign adventures in the Middle East. Being honest with ourselves, some of these grievances have at least a historical merit to them. But for such leftist groups, the price for burying the grievance is obfuscated behind buzzwords and jargon. We must dismantle the cisheteropatriarchy, we must check our privilege, we must become a positive advocate for change. Everything from microaggressions to cultural appropriation are cited as examples of these things.
But I ask, what change?
Allow me to step into the shoes of one of Babylon 5’s villains, Mr. Morden, and ask the question: “what do you want?”
Well, leftists? What do you want? What is your price for putting away identity politics and your incessant portrayals of right-wing racism, sexism, homophobia, and islamophobia? These portrayals have silenced some of us, enraged others, and sent many conservatives running for the political closet. And once there, they still voted right-wing. Thus we now have one Donald J. Trump, despite all predictions to the contrary.
Some of us, like the esteemed Francis at Liberty’s Torch,have made peace with the incessant accusations and said something to the effect of “if you think that means I’m a racist then fine, I’m a racist. Now what?” Others, like myself, maintain that the portrayal of racism as the greatest of all evils is a mistake, dredged up because of the relative historical freshness of Nazi evil, and America’s own struggles with slavery. These evils most Americans are familiar with, but judging from the proliferation of Che Guevara t-shirts, the evils of Communism are less well understood.
And so racism becomes the number one evil in America, a sort of 21st century red scare, except there are even fewer to play the part of the reds (and many more actual reds).
All of that is immaterial, however. What is the end goal of the leftist? What does he want? What does his ideal America (or world, for those of a globalist persuasion) look like? Who gets to live there? What becomes of us and others who do not fit this progressive vision of the future?
When asked, leftists are often quite silent on the price. Just today, one explained that I should google the matter (never mind that I’ve exhausted google as a resource for this) because she didn’t want to “perform free emotional labor” on my behalf. Naming the price is now something that, in itself, costs money. Imagine if you asked the salesman what the price of a thing was, and he replied “you have to pay me to find out.”
Like the little psychological trick of decreasing sticker shock with slick salesmanship, the left understands that by hiding the price, they increase the possibility of ripping off some gullible idiot. Namely, us. And it works well enough on some. Enough that the thought of being accused of racism or prejudice is enough to elicit outright fear in many, not just an answer to the question.
Once an accusation of racism is leveled, very little is sufficient to dismiss it. Do you have many friends of the race in question? RationalWiki tells you that this is insufficient (after all, Hitler liked one Jew). You’re still a racist. What if, instead, you married a black woman, loved her and her family, and had a child with her? Well, you’re still a racist, because as some Puppy-kickers explained on Facebook (they have since deleted the posts in question, but I saved a screenshot, and Brad Torgersen can confirm it), black pussy doesn’t mean you aren’t racist. The Puppy-kickers even made this into a t-shirt. This argument was recently resurrected on Twitter by Talib Kweli Greene where he explained that if you marry an Indian woman, you’re still a racist, you just like Indian pussy.
So your friends, family, and relationships are dismissed. The accusation still stands. And remember, you are guilty unless proven innocent. And to prove your innocence, you must embrace leftist politics. That is the only accepted coin. And even by doing that, you would still have to abase yourself thoroughly and completely. Meanwhile, a woman who murdered her own 4 year old son applied to Harvard, and was denied. Naturally, this had something to do with racism, according to Vox.com. Of course it has little or nothing to do with being a convicted murderer of a child.
Ultimately, the choice is this: convert to leftism, or risk being tarred as a racist with no possible way to prove otherwise, because you are guilty until proven innocent, and all evidence except leftist political sentiments will be summarily dismissed as insufficient.
Meanwhile, a reasonable man might be inclined to ask the price of buying this weapon off the left. What would it take for them to put it away?
Their rants and raves on this matter are difficult to parse. Ta-Nehisi Coates penned a long piece in support of reparations, and when I first read it I expected a concrete answer to the question “what do you want?” Instead, we were treated to a historical lecture on the plight of blacks in America. We already knew this. Everybody knows about slavery, Jim Crow, and discrimination against blacks. How can anyone not know? The media has been bombarding us with these things for as long as I’ve been alive. And if the media wasn’t, BLM sure has been making a rather more raw effort at doing so. We get it. These things happened, and blacks got a raw deal.
What I want is a price. What are the demands? What do they really want?
I suspect the reason the demands aren’t named is that the sticker shock is likely to be quite mighty. I recall reading some time ago (and I can’t remember where presently, but if any of my readers know, please reply in the comments) that one black leader suggested a one-time payoff of $1 million to each black citizen. That bill would come out to approximately $36 trillion, approximately double the GDP of the United States, and likely an impossible sum. But to be honest, I suspect the left’s real demands would be much more expensive, and involve something much more Marxist than a massive one-time payment. The left would probably want to ensure the racist right-wingers never got to express their racism again, and would need to be actively suppressed. Somebody has to be the kulaks when things go bad, after all.
In the end, it’s just like Barack Obama’s campaign of hope and change. What change? How much will it cost? Hopeful for whom? These are questions the left leaves unanswered. There are never any (accurate) price tags on their merchandise. And so, I’ve no interest in buying.
It’s been a crazy week, dear readers. I’ve overloaded myself with too many contracts again, and they are proving difficult to manage. Ah, but every extra dollar I make shrinks that mortgage balance. Soon I shall dispense with that last, and most mountainous of debts. And, naturally, I’ve been worrying over the troubles of my Texan friends and readers. Don’t misunderstand me, I knew that my Texans friends would survive this thing. They are a resourceful and independent-minded people. But things are going rough for them. Spare a prayer for them, and keep an eye out for your own people out there. They’ll probably need some help rebuilding.
Over the course of this week’s general craziness, I’ve been thinking rather deeply about this sudden upsurge in usage of the word “Nazi.” It’s everywhere. It’s headache-inducing. Without exception, now, I see the word “Nazi” in my social media feeds every single day. Witch hunts are approaching levels unseen since Salem. Flip on the TV, should you dare (I usually don’t), and you’ll see journalists insinuating that some Rightist is a secret Nazi or Klansmen. Many are even rather open with the charges. Some time ago I gave up defending myself against the charge. If a Leftist wants to compare me to them, then there is no reasoning with him.
But it did get me thinking. Why the sudden focus on Nazism? What is the root cause of this obsession?
In short, Nazism has been equated with Evil, and I use the capitalization here for a reason. You see, evil as a word has a rather specific (if sometimes difficult to quantify) definition: “profound immorality, wickedness, and depravity, especially when regarded as a supernatural force.”
But Evil, as conceived by Leftists, means something rather different. Let’s go back to history for a moment to understand why. The Third Reich was one of history’s most blatantly evil regimes. Between genocide, wars of world conquest, and notions of racial superiority, Nazism amassed quite a body count, and did so in a cold, almost industrialized manner. Nazis created what might be regarded as factories for death. Such cold efficiency of murder was new and terrifying, and it scarred the countries who witnessed it forever.
Those who witnessed first-hand the fruits of Nazism were horrified beyond our capacity to fully understand. To them, Nazism was the most pure strain of evil they had ever personally witnessed. Over time, it became synonymous with evil itself. When one conceived of evil, the first thing that came to mind was Nazism. Media of the post-war period reflected this. Nazis were the quintessential villains, both the spiritually evil pagans of Indiana Jones, and the comical drunk chimpanzee baddies of Hogan’s Heroes.
Somewhere along the way, America slowly came to forget that Nazism was merely one strain of evil among many. Soon, most villains were Nazis, even when not explicitly stated as such. In the recent Disney expansion of the Star Wars franchise, we see this illustrated:
Red banners, a shape vaguely reminiscent of the Swastika, the general dressed in black standing in front of throngs of banner-wielding stormtroopers; it is all very Nazi-esque. The Star Wars Empire already drew many parallels with Nazi Germany, but they were amped up to the eleven for The Force Awakens.
Less obvious parallels also exist, and are perhaps more common. In Star Trek: Beyond, we saw the villain as a sort of human supremacist. In something of an ironic twist, the villain was a portrayed by a black man. But the references to Nazi ideals of racial supremacy were obvious to any who cared to look. Star Trek: Into Darkness carried a similar theme, wherein the genetically-engineered Khan considered himself a representative of the superior race, a theme carried over both from The Wrath of Khan, and the original TOS episode, Space Seed.
Racial supremacy as the ultimate evil is an absurdly common theme in Hollywood today. And while that doesn’t bother me, per se (Star Trek II remains my favorite of the original movies), what does bother me is how synonymous evil has become with racial supremacy. Almost as if other forms of evil have been forgotten. Americans have forgotten the evils of censorship, the sort of mind-numbing gaslighting of Nineteen Eighty-Four. They have lost touch with the evil of the French Revolution, of unrestrained collective madness and murder-lust that, unlike Nazism, lacks a clearly defined target. The guillotines just fall, day-after-day, until the piles of skulls reach monstrous proportions. The evils of Stalin and Mao are swept aside. Their constant search for ideological purity (as distinct from Nazism’s focus on racial purity) even managed to exceed the body count of Nazism, which to my reckoning only reaches #3 on the most murderous regime list. They forget the rapine and murder of conquerors since the dawn of time, from Xerxes to Genghis Khan.
If there is any alternative to Nazi-esque evil in media and culture, it is Salem-esque Christian totalitarianism, such as The Handmaid’s Tale. At least Nazism was a real evil, a thing which actually did exist, and actually did threaten civilization. The imagined Christian theocracy has never existed outside of isolated villages. Even Salem was not so bad as they portray (though don’t sign me up for 17th century New England, please). No truly threatening Christian theocracy of such a sort ever existed, and only one Christian theocracy ever even managed any kind of real longevity at all, and that was the Byzantine Empire (edit: we may wish to add the Papal States and modern Vatican City to that list as well).
Byzantines, meanwhile, were nothing like The Handmaid’s Tale. Oh, they could be murderous and treacherous, when they wished to be. They killed each other in job lots over iconoclasm, so they were certainly capable of evil (one empress blinded and murdered her own son to take the throne). But Puritans? No. After all, the most famous Byzantine Empress, Theodora, spent her early life as a prostitute before catching the eye of Justinian. It was scandalous, even at the time, but it wasn’t that big of a deal. The sort of woman-hating, frigid, anti-sex Puritans were an exaggeration of an absurdly small minority of a Christians from a very specific time and place. And not even that long of a time, or that big of a place.
Today, we see the two more or less combined. The villains of The Handmaid’s Tale are not dissimilar from Nazis themselves, after all. One of the more bizarre accusations to be leveled against Donald Trump is that he is a Nazi theocrat, as if he is some kind of Puritan Hitler himself. Those who study the rise of Nazism know that Hitler was rather irreligious himself, and had a distaste for Christianity. Like Nietzsche, he regarded it as a religion of weaklings. Hence the almost quasi-pagan feel of Nazism, with its peculiar form of symbol-worship. Either way, the idea of Donald Trump as a theocrat is, itself, rather laughable.
Thing is, Evil, as conceived by the Left is Nazism. Or, more charitably, a combination of Nazism and a fanciful version of Puritanism. In such a way, the evils of Communism and other murderous regimes throughout history are, if not excused, then at least somewhat ignored, because they are not Nazism. The myth of Communism as good intentions that maybe didn’t work out so well in practice continues to hold sway to this day. Nobody believes “real Nazism has never been tried” or “the Nazis were just misguided.” So why are such excuses accepted for Communism?
In this way, the current obsession with Confederate statues is easy to explain. Besides being another two-minutes hate pushed by a complicit media, the Leftists are told that the Confederacy was Evil. And since Evil = Nazism, then the Confederacy must have been run by Nazis. And since the Confederacy was run by Nazis, those who fought for the Confederate side must have also been Nazis, thus Evil. Thus Robert E. Lee was a racial supremacist and a genocidal Nazi (and I’ve had a number of detractors try to argue with me that slavery is the same thing as genocide). Any attempt to explain to them that the Confederacy, despite its various evils, was not Nazi Germany is doomed to failure. Robert E. Lee was literally Hitler, so much so that a sports announcer of Asian descent who shared his name had to be taken off the air to avoid offending people, as if his name had been Adolf Hitler.
Meanwhile Mongolia can erect a 130 foot tall statue of Genghis Khan, who was quite the aficionado of mass murder and world conquest himself, without so much as a peep of protest from anybody. Did people forget his exploits? Or did they just fail to care because Genghis Khan was not a Nazi?
In this way, the Left has come to suspect all Christians of being neo-Puritans, and all white people of being neo-Nazis, because they don’t like Christians and white people (even when, paradoxically, the Leftist is white himself), and the easiest way to justify the hate is to label them as Evil. Evil, of course, is Nazism. Thus, in their quest to be seen as not-Evil, they must constantly virtue-signal how opposite of Nazis they really are. Nazis idolized a self-declared “Aryan race”, which Leftists have conflated with white people in general (hint: Hitler didn’t like the Slavs much more than the Jews), and so the Leftists have taken to hating white people and idolizing non-white people as superior, because it is, in their minds, as far from Nazism as one can possibly get.
A more unbiased observer might think that they have merely traded one form of supremacy for another, but that’s a conversation for another time.
The point is, as humans are occasionally wont to do, Leftists have come to see different as evil, in direct opposition to their claimed love of so-called diversity. And in their mind, their definition of evil is Nazism. Thus, all that is evil is Nazi. If this were a Venn Diagram, evil and Nazi would be the same circle. Puritanism would, perhaps, be a smaller circle entirely within the other two.
When us Rightists point out that Nazis were indeed evil, but we must be wary for other forms of evil, also, they see this as evidence of Nazism. To the Leftist there is no other form of evil. All evils must somehow stem from Nazism. When we say to watch for other evils, likewise, they hear something very different.
We say: “Nazism isn’t the only form of evil, but it is an evil. We should apply the same diligence we use to keep Nazism out of power to other ideologies like Islamism, Communism, and otherwise.”
They hear: “Nazism isn’t the only form of Nazism, but it is Nazism. We should apply the same diligence we use to keep Nazism out of power to other ideologies like the Religion of Peace, the Ideology of Fairness, and otherwise.”
It is nonsensical to them. In their minds, we are defending or excusing Nazism, and attacking belief systems that are good and righteous. Thus we must be thinly-disguised Nazis, and so Evil.
They are so wrapped up in their Nazi obsession, their constant witch hunts, that they fail to see how they are becoming an awful lot like the thing they hate. And they fail to see the absurdity of what actually passes for a Nazi these days.
Let’s get one thing clear: Nazis do not exist anymore. No, not even the Swastika-bearing Stormfronters are proper Nazis. They are more akin to Nazi LARPers, role-playing or reenacting an ideology that died a long time ago. Even if they suddenly multiplied by several orders of magnitude, and became a real threat, their ideology while still being evil, would not be actual Nazism, no matter what they may claim. Their evil is not Nazism. It’s like an absurd parody of Nazism. I mean, come on, Tiki Torches? They are the JV backbench of evil. And if they ever gained any measure of power, they would spend most of their time arguing who was whiter than thou while pretending they didn’t all have fetishes for Asian women.
Make no mistake, they are evil. But, again, evil is not coextensive with Nazism. Even though the Antifas are becoming a lot like the Nazis in some ways, they aren’t really Nazis either, though like the Stormfronters, they are evil. They, too, are a farcical form of evil. Unlike the Stormfronters, they have a measure of funding, media support, and popular support, which may make them a more prominent threat. And they are much larger, as a group. Quantity, of course, has a quality all of its own. Still, my suspicion is that if you put the Stormfronters and Antifas in a gladiator fight to the death, you would need two or three Antifas per Stormfronter to balance out the betting odds. Your mileage may vary.
Point is, Nazis don’t exist. They are dead. Other forms of evil exist, including one that has a sort of nostalgic love for the Nazis, and including another that claims to hate Nazis, but may be rather closer to them than the first group. We need to be vigilant for such evils whenever and wherever they may crop up. But when a man out there calls you a Nazi, he is merely demonstrating his ignorance, his conflation of evil with Nazism alone. He is showing you his utter lack of imagination and the brevity of his historical knowledge. He is also showing you that, for now at least, he is unreachable. You can’t reach him, you can’t convince him of anything, because you aren’t even speaking the same language.
Perhaps one day he will realize something is wrong with his worldview, and you can reach him then. But he has to figure that out for himself, because in his mind, the notion that evils might not be Nazi-related is not only akin to heresy or political wrongthink, it is quite literally not possible to say in his language. His form of NewSpeak does not allow the conception of the thought as anything but a vague category of political incorrectness, and to him this is a warning to stop thinking entirely.
Every good capitalist is on the look out for imbalances in the market, opportunities to earn a profit off of a thing that either the market lacks completely, or current businesses do very inefficiently and ineffectively. You can consider it a form of arbitrage.
Today’s politicians, media talking heads, celebrities and the like are moral capitalists, even though they are economic collectivists. That is to say their morality is a form of arbitrage, always for sale to the highest bidder, where each statement they issue is calculated to profit them personally.
Take Marco Rubio, who today issued a series of tweets condemning Donald Trump for suggesting that the Charlottesville attack, and other similar incidents between Antifa and White Supremacists, was equally the fault of both parties. Donald Trump’s position is that both are hate groups, and both are quick to resort to violence to further their political goals, and that putting them together like that was surely going to stir up violence.
Personally, I think Trump is somewhat understating the case. White supremacists are exceedingly rare, even if they’ve received a shot in the arm from SJWs harping on white people all the time (hint: that tends to manufacture more supremacists, not less). What happened in Virginia may very well represent peak white supremacism, the very most such groups are capable of. Antifa and militant Marxists, meanwhile, enjoy far greater support from media, financiers (oh, the irony), and society-at-large. Antifa dwarfs Klansman and Neo-Nazis. Militant Marxists are, by far, the greater threat currently.
But that being said, Trump did put his finger on the central point: both groups espouse violent ideologies that are incompatible with freedom.
Marco, meanwhile, in his own words, pins 100% of the blame onto the supremacists.
This argument is remarkably similar to Antifa and other Marxist groups saying that mean words justifies violence, that speech they don’t like justifies burning down cities and attacking people. It is okay for them to violently shut down anybody right-of-center on college campuses around the country, but it is not okay for anyone right-of-center to speak.
Marco is on a continuum with the SJWs on this matter. He concedes the central point, that violence is an acceptable response to speech deemed offensive. Yes, in the case of Neo-Nazis and Klansmen, the speech actually is offensive. But it is still speech. Until it isn’t, anyway.
But if you’re a regular reader of The Declination, you already know my position on freedom of speech, and how speech alone does not justify violence.
To be fair, a lot of people are saying this, though, so let’s analyze this a little differently. Why does Marco denounce the white supremacists so readily, yet lets militant Marxists off the hook? As a man of Cuban ancestry, he ought to be very familiar with the depredations and dangers of Marxists. Why is he so willing to assign them 0% of the blame?
There is moral arbitrage here. When some politician or celebrity denounces Neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and other assorted white supremacists, he is cheered. He is called stunning and brave. He is bashing the fash, taking a brave stand against the most evil ideology of man. In other words, he gets a huge moral bonus in the eyes of the media. It is easy to denounce white supremacists, who probably represent less than a tenth of a percent of the population. And it is profitable to do so, as well.
If it’s cheap and profitable, expect everyone to jump on the bandwagon. The explosion of Nazi denunciations is like the proliferation of those little fidget spinners that cost 10 cents to make and sell for $7.99 in every convenience store from here to Seattle. Everybody wants a slice of that action.
Meanwhile, taking a similar stand against Marxism is expensive. If a politician or celebrity stands up and denounces Marxism as a hateful, murderous ideology that is at least as evil as Nazism, he is often shot down. Real Marxism, of course, has never been tried. Real Marxism is a good theory, a good idea that maybe just hasn’t been implemented quite right. It’s morally true and righteous, and even if it has some problems, surely bashing the fash has to take precedence, right?
Except Marxism has a much higher share of the population. Marxism is celebrated openly on college campuses around the country. Marxists trash cities, riot, commit acts of violence with frightening regularity, and Marco assigns them 0% of the blame, because somewhere, there is an inbred Neo-Nazi off his meds tweeting from his mother’s basement.
Marco obtains a moral profit from denouncing white supremacism. He incurs a moral cost from denouncing Marxism. Playing the moral arbitrage for profit thus demands he pin the blame for political violence on only one participant. Then he is “stunning and brave” in the eyes of the body politic.
Marxists have been doing this as long as I’ve been alive. It is correctly seen as stupid and disgusting to wear an Adolf Hitler t-shirt. Yet somehow Che Guevara t-shirts are absurdly common. The Nazi swastika is correctly seen as a hate symbol, yet the Soviet hammer & sickle is given a pass. It is a historical tragedy that Communism was not discredited with the same vigor as Nazism was.
It is socially cheap to oppose Nazism. It is socially expensive to oppose Communism.
Donald Trump, whatever his other faults, possesses enough moral courage to speak the truth: both groups are hateful. And he paid the price for speaking that truth. Marco Rubio, meanwhile, lacks the stones, even though as descendant of Cubans, he ought to know better than most.
I’m very disappointed in him. I expect this from Democrats who have lacked moral courage as long as I’ve been alive, I even expect it from Republicans who have no history with Marxism. But I do not expect it from a Cuban Republican. Of all people, Marco, YOU should know better. Stop playing the moral arbitrage and speak honestly.
After all, even Donald Trump is showing more honesty and integrity than you are, right now.
Remember when I spoke about the moral high ground? Well today we are witnessing another chunk of Marxist moral authority cracking and falling apart. I’m not sure how much more the Progressive Left can take before it loses all credibility, before the preference cascade sweeps it away, or forces it to resort to outright war.
Marxism’s grip on the moral high ground is slipping. They are weak. The assault must be pressed more vigorously now. Why now? Well, CNN has resorted to blackmailing random meme makers on Reddit and 4chan. Why? Because he created an anti-CNN meme that Donald Trump retweeted on Twitter. Like most tyrants throughout history, the busybodies at CNN can tolerate no dissent, no humor targeted toward them. Complete submission to the moral authority of the Leftist media, and by extension, Marxism itself, is required.
But by bringing the immense power of CNN to bear against a single random meme maker on the Internet, he has exposed the increasing desperation of the Marxists, who in their constant attacks on the Right, are exhausting the moral authority that fuels them. CNN has tried to reclaim their moral authority by saying he was an anti-Semite, a racist, and other such things. But whether true or not (and nobody trusts the media to make those judgments any longer), the thrust of the matter is that CNN has attacked a single individual of no particular importance for daring to make fun of them.
How can they claim the moral high ground if they destroy random people on the Internet?
How can Hillary say she is better than Trump when she steals money from poor black girls in Haiti?
For once in my life, I’m seeing the Right do what it ought to have done all along: fight back and contest the moral high ground. The fact that CNN feels the need to attack small time individuals on the Internet shows their increasing desperation. They know the high ground is slipping from their control.
One way or another, folks, this is coming to a head. In the next few years, we’re going to see who is going to win this thing. Nothing is off the table anymore. All decency has been jettisoned. All mercy extinguished. This is a no-holds-barred fight to the finish. If the media loses the power to commit character assassinations, I’ve no doubt that the Left will increasingly resort to the more literal form. And if it takes all the might of CNN to take down one anonymous guy on the Internet, their power is definitely on the wane.
They deployed everything against Trump and lost.
Isaac Asimov once said in his Foundation novels that violence was the last refuge of the incompetent. For the Left, it is the last weapon they can deploy in order to keep their control over our country, our civilization, and maintain themselves as the arbiters of right & wrong, the ultimate moral authority. They are edging closer to deploying that final weapon, and CNN is the proof.
They have declared war on /pol/ and /r/The_Donald. They may not like where this heading.
Enjoy the show, as CNN is rendered impotent, turned into a pale shadow of itself. Their reputation is falling apart. First Russia conspiracies, fake sources, lies… and now targeting individual normals. They are fast running out of weapons. They will be as powerless as Sauron, soon. Nothing more than a foul wind that cannot even hold form or shape.
So in Part 1 of the On Marxism and Morality series, we discussed how Karl Marx used the word slavery as a sort of sleight of hand to imply that any free man who sold his labor was, in fact, a slave. In truth, slavery is a condition wherein you are fundamentally denied choice. The worker can walk away. The worker can go work for someone else. Indeed, the worker can change careers, or obtain capital himself. Many choices exist for him. The slave has none.
But as Francis pointed out, Marx was aware of this objection.
Marx was aware of the objections to his thesis on freedom grounds, so he did what any determined totalitarian would do: he redefined freedom. Freedom, according to Marx, is an absence of tension and conflict, which he maintained can only be achieved when the means of production have been put under control of the workers. A nice little circularity, eh?
Indeed it is. Let us turn to Marxists.org (I don’t want to give them traffic, but feel free to navigate there if you wish) for a suitably Marxian definition of freedom:
Freedom is the right and capacity of people to determine their own actions, in a community which is able to provide for the full development of human potentiality. Freedom may be enjoyed by individuals but only in and through the community.
Notice the qualifier at the end of their definition. In the Marxist world, freedom only exists through the community. This is fundamentally opposed to the Rightist notion of freedom as a natural state. The lone hunter-gatherer is free, in that he can do as he wishes. No one is applying force on him, save the laws of nature, which can neither be altered nor appealed to. The man becomes unfree when force or threat of force is used to compel him to do something.
If I hold a gun to your head and tell you to give me your wallet, that is a momentary state of servitude. It is a violation of freedom.
In the Marxian world, this is not quite accurate, because the community supersedes the individual. A man is a slave unless he is a part of a specific type of (read: Marxist) community. Let’s go further:
Only in community [has each] individual the means of cultivating his gifts in all directions; only in the community, therefore, is personal freedom possible. In the previous substitutes for the community, in the State, etc. personal freedom has existed only for the individuals who developed within the relationships of the ruling class, and only insofar as they were individuals of this class.
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels
The German Ideology
This is actually very revealing. Freedom in the Marxist world speaks of human development. It is freedom from nature, not freedom from fellow man. As I’ve said before, this is a fundamental conflict with various forms of Rightism, which regard man as being free by nature, and only later being tied to bondage. In the Marxist world, man is born a slave unless he is a Marxist, living in a Marxist community. Convenient, isn’t it?
One exception is made: Marxists regard the ruling class as free, but only because it oppresses others. This is a contradiction. How could both Marxists and Oppressors be free, but non-Marxists who don’t oppress anyone categorically be slaves?
Let’s return to the concept Francis spoke of:
Positive Freedom and Negative Freedom:
Negative freedom means the lack of forces which prevent an individual from doing whatever they want; Positive freedom is the capacity of a person to determine the best course of action and the existence of opportunities for them to realise their full potential.
The overwhelmingly dominant tendency in the history of bourgeois society has been to open up negative freedom, by removing feudal and other reactionary constraints on freedom of action. Free trade and wage-labour are the most characteristic bourgeois freedoms which have resulted from this history: free trade being the freedom of a capitalist to make a profit without restriction, and wage-labour being the freedom of a worker from any means of livelihood other than being able to sell their labour power to the highest bidder. Thus this negative bourgeois freedom is a kind of freedom which is real only for those who own the means of production.
Positive freedom has been built up almost exclusively as a result of the struggle of the working class: initially the legislation limiting hours of work, child labour and so on, later the creation of free compulsory education, public health systems, right to form trade unions, and so forth, freedoms which explicitly limit the freedom of the capitalists to exploit workers, but give worker the opportunity to develop as human beings.
We see here that what a Rightist would define as freedom is actually acknowledged in Marxism as “negative freedom.” Marxists admit that “bourgeois society” has opened up negative freedom. But immediately this goes right off the rails. Marxism.org tells us that workers don’t really have this freedom because they don’t have capital, and thus must sell their labor. In this, they treat “labor” as a monolithic block. In reality, labor can be many kinds of things. You could be a plumber, or a writer, or a programmer, or an actor. You could work for a company, or you could be a contractor and work for yourself. Labor is not monolithic. Labor cannot be dismissed as non-free by itself. Only if someone is forcing you to do specific labor can it be called unfree. A slavemaster holds a whip and tells his slave to pick cotton. Slavery. A laborer agrees to work for $10/hour picking cotton. Not slavery. And in any case, the worker may obtain capital if he is unsatisfied with his role.
But then Marxism posits a ‘superior’ form of “positive” freedom, which is, in fact, nothing of the kind. And then Marxists try to explain that there is some kind of tension between all these forces, and only when it goes away and everything is cleared away for you (note: by someone else) are you “free” in any real sense.
It’s a bunch of rhetoric about “realizing their full potential.” This word is left undefined. When an artist gets government money to do some sort of modern art project, Marxists eat it up. We’re letting the artist be an artist, they say. He can realize his full potential, they claim. Except there’s a catch. If everyone realized this potential, who would clean toilets and pick up garbage? We’d have an awful lot of bad art, for what incentive is there to improve if you’re going to get the money anyway? And we’d have an awful lot of garbage and dirty toilets, because nobody “realizes their full potential” scrubbing fecal matter. But if nobody scrubs the crap, you get a dysfunctional (and smelly) society.
This is not a new concept. We can go back to the Greeks, and read Aristophanes, and see this central fallacy of Marxism laid bare for us:
“Praxagora: I want all to have a share of everything and all property to be in common; there will no longer be either rich or poor; I shall begin by making land, money, everything that is private property, common to all.
Blepyrus: But who will till the soil?
Praxagora: The slaves.”
Yes. 2,500 years ago, the Greeks understood the central points of Marxism well enough. And it is clear such foolishness was satirized rather heavily. Marxism needs slaves, real ones, not laborers cast as slaves because of political needs. And the people “realizing their full potential”? They will be the Party members, the new political aristocracy, whose coin will be popularity and political power instead of bank balances. They will realize their potential. You won’t.
Fact is, a human’s potential is unknowable by any but God anyway. Even a man himself does not know if there was more he could have done, or better choices he could have made in life. Whatever his pure theoretical potential, he will always fall short of it. Consider also that a man today, possessing machines to serve him, can do far more than a man thousand years ago. We can make more and better goods, grow more food, prevent more disease. Our potential is not some static number that you magically hit and suddenly you’re “free”. It is always changing, never certain, and not fully quantifiable.
Either Marx was aware of this, and didn’t care, or he was too dense to get it. But either way, the Marxist definition of freedom is bullshit. It is, in fact, even less true than the notion that labor is slavery. For at least labor can sometimes look rather similar to slavery in some superficial manner. “Positive freedom” and negative freedom have absolutely nothing in common. Positive freedom is pure bologna, because it’s not freedom at all. As Aristophanes explained for us, it actually implies that at least someone will have to be enslaved.
Many Americans have a near-instinctive loathing for Communism, both the word, and nations and leaders who have put it into practice. How many can articulate why it engenders such disgust?
SJWs and other assorted Marxists use the battle-cry “educate!” The assumption, of course, is that anyone who disagrees with Marxism is either uneducated or, somewhat less charitably, just so stupid as to be unable to grasp its nuances. Marxism, some have claimed, is itself something of a misnomer, for Marx did not expressly construct the ideology. He was, they say, merely a philosopher.
Whatever. Call the ideology whatever you wish, it still remains the same. My own familiarity with the ideology comes from a lifetime of learning from those who lived under it, including my own in-laws. In this, my education in Marxism has been rooted in practicality. What does this ideology produce when its adherents are granted power?
This is how most Americans approach the subject, for we are nothing if not a practical people. You can sell us on a shiny, stylish new car, and claim it is the greatest thing ever invented. But if it breaks down frequently, is expensive to maintain, and generally fails to do the job for which it was purchased, we account it as a shitty car. We treat Communism the same way. One might claim it is more fashionable and trendy, that it is a greater and more moral ideology than our own. But when we see it fail, in every time and place in which it has taken hold… Well, it doesn’t matter how good of a salesman you are, or how many times you say it wasn’t real Communism. The American will look upon it like the worst of lemons on the Buy Here, Pay Here lot.
Our intrepid, plaid-clothed salesman may claim that we are merely uneducated, for the car is loaded with the latest in technological progress, but the American pays him no mind. It’s not as if we haven’t heard that line a dozen times before. But when pressed, the American often has difficulty articulating precisely why views it as a lemon. “It just doesn’t work right,” might be the response. Or perhaps he will say “the sales guy sounded like a weasel, no thanks.”
The claim of uneducated has a ring of truth to it, which is why the dig is often so effective. An American might think “well, you’re right, I don’t know an awful lot about it. I just know it doesn’t work.”
So let’s pry the lid off Marxism a little bit and approach it from an everyman’s perspective, and see what we might find. Let’s dig in and see precisely why it is such a lemon. Where its failures are, and how we’ve come to the point where Marxism, despite being seemingly defeated in the Cold War, has come dangerously close to complete control over most of the Earth.
This will be an ongoing series, where I will select a passage from Marx’s Das Kapital and go over in detail what it means, and how it relates to our current situation. And rather than this being some kind of long-winded sociopolitical scholarly treatment, it will be plain, and written for the layman. There’s enough loaded jargon on Communism festering around on the Internet these days, after all. I’ve no desire to add to that particular landfill.
Here are two quotes for today:
“In reality, the laborer belongs to capital before he has sold himself to capital. His economic bondage is both brought about and concealed by the periodic sale of himself, by his change of masters, and by the oscillation in the market price of labor power. Capitalist production, therefore, under its aspect of a continuous connected process, of a process of reproduction, produces not only commodities, not only surplus value, but it also produces and reproduces the capitalist relation; on the one side the capitalist, on the other the wage-laborer.”
― Karl Marx, Das Kapital
“The essential difference between the various economic forms of society, between, for instance, a society based on slave-labour, and one based on wage-labour, lies only in the mode in which this surplus-labour is in each case extracted from the actual producer, the labourer.”
― Karl Marx, Das Kapital
Here Marx is attempting to sell the reader on the notion that workers are slaves, or at least have a relationship fundamentally similar to slaves with their masters. The worker may choose a different a master, says Marx, but he is still in economic bondage. It is still, in his words, a man conducting “the periodic sale of himself.”
In the days of the Industrial Revolution, this undoubtedly appealed to a great many workers. Let’s face it, life in the factory was hellish. They were dirty, dingy, disgusting, and undoubtedly dangerous. The hours were long, and the toil would have felt as close to slavery as anything could be. And then some Socialist agitator would come and explain that he had been granted insight into the ideology of Karl Marx, a man who said that one day they would escape this bondage.
Except the notion of this difficult labor as slavery is incorrect. It is the foundation upon which the rest of Marxism rests. That it is truly unjust for a man to work so. Let’s look at that notion more closely.
What would happen to a man in the stone age who refused to do the equally difficult and dangerous labor of hunting and foraging for food? Naturally, he would die. Was he thus a slave? If so, he would be a slave to Mother Nature. Before the Industrial Revolution, what would a man generally do for work? Most likely, he would be a farmer. Farming (especially back then) was also a hard, risky business. It is telling that people left the farms to go work in the factories, and never thought to go back.
You see, while the relationship between a factory owner and his workers may superficially resemble that of master and slave in some fashion, it really isn’t one. The worker can choose to do whatever he wishes, and whatever someone will pay him to do. He could be a farmer, or a servant, or a factory worker. He can choose who to work for, which is also very powerful.
Periodically, Facebook will fill up with comments about how evil and terrible Walmart is, as a company. They pay very little, it is said, and the work is demanding. Costco, they often claim, is so much better than Walmart in this respect. They pay their workers a living wage, provide healthcare benefits, and so on. The implied question is “why isn’t Walmart as good as Costco?”
That is a question I can answer, for many moons ago I worked at a Costco as a stocker and occasional cashier, when the dotcom bust hit in the early 2000s (no jobs for programmers back then). I would unload trucks, haul pallets around, and otherwise. And sure enough, they paid a great wage. Over $12/hour, and back then, it was good money for that kind of work.
So how was it that Costco could afford this, and Walmart couldn’t? Well, Costco is very picky about who they hire. And their expectations for work were very lofty. They worked me to the bone, let me tell you. And if you didn’t work to the bone, you didn’t last very long. Out of my crop of hires (over 20 new people), after three months I was one of only three still left. Some were fired. Most left on their own accord, because the work was too much for them. Walmart is much more lax about such things. When I go to a Walmart, I often see workers just lounging about, or slowly shuffling from place-to-place without any fanfare. Cashier lanes are much slower, too. You just didn’t see that at Costco. Or not for very long, anyway.
This gives the worker a choice. Go to Costco, where you’ll work very hard, but get paid pretty well to do it. Or slack off a little and make do with the Walmart wages. Otherwise, these Walmart workers would all be knocking on Costco’s doorstep for a job, rather than protesting in the streets, or posting rants on Facebook why Costco is great and Walmart stinks.
Is that really the choice of a slave?
Often times, the political Left will tell you that hard work doesn’t really get you anywhere. You’re exploited, you see, by the greedy Capitalists. But how many of them would really choose the higher-paying, but hard-working Costco job over the easier, lower-paying Walmart one? They want to have their cake and eat it too. Most folks have choices like this in their lives. You can almost always work more or harder, if you really want to. Whether the additional work is worth the payoff is another question entirely, but you do have a choice. And choice is precisely what separates you from slavery. If you take the choice away, i.e. embrace Marxist thought, you might be comfortable (probably only for a little while – see: Venezuela), but your lack of choice means you’ve effectively embraced enslavement.
And all of this presumes that you can’t, in fact, also acquire capital of your own. You can, and many folks do. Then you are no longer just a worker.
This notion of the worker as a slave is one of Marxism’s most important foundations, and it is built upon a lie. It is a lie designed to sound plausible, for after a long day of hauling pallets and paying rent, life can seem rather slave-like. Especially when you see the owner chugging up the hill in his fancy new Benz. But take it from a man who could afford pretty much any Benz he wanted, now, if he was inclined to be stupid with his money: you won’t always be where you are, and you do have a choice.
Nobody ever said that just because you aren’t a slave, life will be easy, full of plenty, and without dangerous, difficult struggles. A hard life doesn’t make you a slave, and an easy life doesn’t mean you aren’t one. Choice, not labor, is what determines your status as a slave or a free man.
I'm a DJ, developer, amateur historian, would-be pundit, and general pain in the ass. I still cannot decide on the wisdom of the Oxford Comma. These are my observations on a civilization in decline, a political system on the verge of collapse, and a people asleep at the wheel as the car turns toward the jersey barrier.