Thursday, September 08, 2005

American Labor

Not only did American labor contribute more than its share to the downfall of communism, it also proved to be one of the great obstacles to the global advance of socialism in any form. “Ideology is baloney,” George Meany liked to say. Indeed, it could be said that Meany’s very cast of mind was the antithesis of Marxian consciousness. In the dense theoretics of Marxism one learns that the observable universe is mere “superstructure.” Meany, in contrast, believed that things should be expressed plainly and taken at face value. To him, a plumber was a plumber, not a “proletarian.” A worker was a guy trying to squeeze the most he could out of his job and hoping to get a better one. And if he was something more than flesh and blood, as he assuredly was, it was not because he was an embodiment of historical processes, but rather a husband, father, worshiper, patriot, pianist, artist, baseball player.
America’s resistance to socialism had consequences far beyond its own borders. By the late 1970s, some 60 percent of mankind was living under socialist government of the communist, social-democratic or Third World variety. Had America, too, embraced some form of socialism, that idea’s triumph would have been complete. It is not likely to have been undone merely by disappointing economic outcomes such as Tanzania and so many other countries experienced. History is replete with examples of dogged human persistence in practices not validated by their results. The use of bleeding to cure disease, of human sacrifice to appease the gods, of trial by ordeal, of mercantilism or colonialism to generate wealth—all reflected time-honored wisdom that was impervious to experience. Social ist economies yielded little growth, but economic growth has been the exception not the rule throughout history. People are unlikely to relinquish ineffectual practices unless they can envision a better alternative. Just as the remarkable success of East Asia’s four tigers made it harder to explain away the dismal performance of Third World socialist economies, so on a grander scale, the American counter-model undermined socialism’s appeal.
(Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism
(2002: Encounter Books) by Joshua Muravchik :259-261)

I was reading this book on Labor Day and that seemed appropriate. I would note that with a few exceptions like Tony Blair, European socialists tend to hate America, while the American Left tends to align itself with the same Europeans. Now they seem to be focusing on the recent hurrican as an excuse for class and race consciousness and the typical "shame on America" sort of message. I watched the news on PBS over the weekend and they had a panel saying things like, "This is a good way to illustrate the divisions of class and race that exist in America." Is it? I think it is mainly just a catastrophe. Yet most likely if it happened to the middle class we wouldn't have to read a bunch of silly moral preening about definition/judgment by journalists like "looters" vs. "finders" and "refugees" vs. "evacuees." The American Left, such as it is, seems quite interested in false consciousness raising based on Leftist notions of race and class combined with a false sense of shame about the existence of poor people in America. Yet it is doubtful that they feel remorse for sins that they are actually responsible for as individuals. E.g. personal sins of narcissism, divorce, careerism, greed, infidelity or what have you. Perhaps instead of feeling shame about things that they are personally responsible for they want us all to feel shame for things that we are not responsible for. In the way of thinking typical to the Left there is a lack of judgment. Although they seek a lack of judgment they are making judgments, sometimes absurd judgments by shifting from individuals who have distinct reponsibilities to "society," "class," "race" or "government" in which responsibility can more easily be blurred. So the journalist or commentator will come on PBS news and make judgments based on class or race consciousness about how revealing the existence of the poor is, which is to America's shame and so on. Yet although I am an American and I have my own sins, the fact that many poor people exist in New Orleans is not one of them. I feel no shame about that. Even if I were rich, that would have nothing to do with someone in New Orleans being poor. Yet if I felt remorse about things I had done to get rich then I would probably become more socialist to try to hide in the social crowd. I could hide and hopefully have the ancient issue of guilt and redemption shifted to supposed social responsiblity or class responsiblity, things to be remedied by the State, a totalitarian State if necessary.

The Christian...imagines the better future of the human the image of heavenly joy... We, on the other hand, will have this heaven on earth.
--Moses Hess, A Communist Confession of Faith, 1846

The Christian replies that such a goal is impossible. must be admitted that no society will ever be so just, that some method of escape from its cruelties and injustices will not be sought by the pure heart. The devotion of Christianity to the cross is an unconscious glorification of the individual moral ideal. The cross is the symbol of love triumphant in its own integrity, but not triumphant in the world and society. Society, in fact, conspired the cross. Both the state and the church were involved in it, and probably will be so to the end. The man on the cross turned defeat into victory and prophesied the day when love would be triumphant in the world. But the triumph would have to come through the intervention of God. The moral resources of men would not be sufficient to guarantee it. A sentimental generation has destroyed this apocalyptic note in the vision of the Christ. It thinks the kingdom of God is around the corner, while he regarded it as impossible of realisation, except by God’s grace.
(Moral Man & Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics
By Reinhold Niebuhr :81-81)

(Related posts: Perspective and Historical Patterns)

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