Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Socialism is Reactionary


Well, what does “reactionary” mean? The dictionary says “extremely conservative” or “extremely resistant to change or progress”.

Wikipedia offers a different meaning, one with which I was familiar: a movement to return to a real or imaginary past, particularly the way things were thought or done in the past.

It is in this sense that I use the term.

Reinstituting slavery is surely reactionary: slavery existed for most of human existence and was only recently abolished (well, theoretically abolished, at least in the Western world). Reinstituting slavery is a step backwards, a return to the past. Advocating a return to absolute monarchy certainly counts as reactionary. So would returning to aristocratic privilege, mercantile economic policies, feudalism, or tribalism.

How about abandoning agriculture and returning to hunter-gatherer economy with the corresponding social system? That sounds REALLY reactionary, stepping backward eight thousand years.

The prototype Progressive proposes we move backwards
Yet that is what Jean Jacques Rousseau advocated: throwing off the encrustations of civilization and returning to the Eden of the Primitive Savage. Somehow Rousseau or his followers managed to convince the philosophic community that this leap backwards was “progress”. Rousseau, Saint-Simon, and followers advocated returning to the “better”, more “moral” and kinder system of early humanity: Socialism.

Socialists, Leftists, Progressives, or modern liberals still think of themselves as leading the progress of humanity. Humph. Forward to social and economic systems we outgrew thousands of years ago.

Historical progress has advanced the individual
My view of human social progress is the increasing importance of ever-smaller human units – from the troop up to the tribe, up to the ethnic group (or race), up to the nation, then down to the class, down to the extended family, down to the nuclear family, and (most recently) down to the individual person with the recognition that women are people, too. Driving forces are many and, believe it or not, include the teachings of Christ.

Hence one of my guiding principles stated in an earlier post: “Individual human beings are the most important things there are.” An individual human is more important than a family, class, nation, race, community, or any similar abstraction. Any aggregate of humans is simply that: a convenient name for some number of individuals but not a thing that exists in itself.

The Progressive ideal
What did Rousseau (and Socialists) want to return to? The hunter-gatherer society. Collective identity. Subordination of the individual to the group – the group’s plans, needs, goals, desires. Communal ownership and sharing (but only within the local group). Xenophobia: people outside the immediate group were excluded from the communalism and may be deadly enemies. Each individual existing solely for the benefit of the community and expendable if that seemed for the good of the group.

I find it peculiar that Rousseau considered this utter surrender of self – almost the obliteration of the self – as “liberating”. This from the guy who abandoned his own infants to early deaths because they would be an inconvenience to his exalted person.

(Has there ever been an advocate of Socialism who thought he should be sacrificed for the good of the people?)

Twenty-two hundred years earlier, Plato and Aristotle objected to the immoral individualism of contemporary Athenian society, teaching that Greeks should return to earlier social forms Plato and Aristotle considered more moral: essentially that the individual should exist for the benefit of the State and should act, not for his own ends but should take his place for the good of the community.

Plato and Aristotle were frank reactionaries in the 4th century B.C. Rousseau, Saint-Simon, Condorcet, and the other Socialists wanted to return to a social system older than that advocated by Plato.

What can that make Socialists but dreamy reactionaries?

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