Following my talk (see A Love Sonnet to Post-Sixties Modernism, recently posted at http://184.108.40.206/2018/12/12/love-sonnet-post-sixties-modernism/#more-1328), several members of G’s discussion group asked me what I thought was the fons et origo of today’s progressive despotism. Of course, there are any number of explanations for the strange pathology in whose grip the West now finds itself, going back at least as far as Cromwell’s, Rousseau’s, and Robespierre’s revolutionary dreams of creating paradise on earth. What follows is an equally inadequate, though somewhat more recent, answer.
When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, even the career fellow travelers at the New York Times, CNN, CBC, and the Toronto Star (a.k.a Pravda West) were high-fiving one another. After decades of promoting détente, promulgating risible doctrines of moral equivalence, and excoriating Ronald Reagan as a war-mongering simpleton, suddenly–as they wanted us to believe–, they had become anti-communists all. Inevitably, following the Western intelligentsia’s death-bed conversion, nothing really changed. Worse, the romance of revolutionary utopian socialism has only become more intoxicating, with its reductive narrative of victimhood (racism, sexism, homophobia), patriarchal oppression, male rape culture, white privilege, Eurocentrism, colonialist “hegemony”, and class-hatred/envy of the “rich”.
After the 70-year-long cold war against International Communism, the victorious West had a fateful choice. It could have forgiven and forgotten, as we have done; or it could have treated Communism the way it treated—and still treats—Nazism, following its comparatively short-lived reign of terror.
Three quarters of a century on, nonagenarian Nazis are still being hunted in Argentina; Nazism continues to be regarded as the most monumental evil in human history; and to be called a Nazi today—no matter how promiscuously the term is broadcast–results in either incarceration or ostracism. There are holocaust museums in the cities of every Western nation, and every year, dozens of Hollywood and European movies are released about the Nazi atrocity.
But there is nothing remotely commensurate with this universal orgy of revulsion and remorse for the arguably greater moral enormity of Communism. In Russia, China, and Indochina, communist governments murdered 150 million of their own citizens for the crimes of membership in an enemy group—Lenin’s diabolization of the bourgeoisie being the prototype for Hitler’s racial theory—or a defect of ideological zeal. Yet, one would be hard pressed to name a former (or current) communist apologist in the media or the academy who has been publically denounced, repudiated, or shamed. (My own current and longstanding city councilwoman was the leader of the Canadian Communist Party during the Brezhnev era, but has been returned to office every election for the past fifteen years. Would that have been even imaginable had she once served as the head of the Canadian Nazi Party?) On the university campus, T-shirts sporting the image of Che Guevara are more popular than ever. (Can you guess at the fate of a student or professor wearing a Goebbels T shirt?)
Where are the Hollywood films and TV series about the heroic anti-communist underground; the children of bourgeois parents given refuge in the basements of courageous refusenik families, as they are hunted by the Stasi or the NKVD (these, the clichés of so many World War II movies)? Where are the public memorials to the millions of victims exterminated or worked to death in the Gulag and the psychiatric prisons of the Soviet Union, or the re-education camps of China, Cambodia, and Vietnam? Where are the festschrifts exposing the moral depravity at the heart of this totalitarian ideology–as opposed to the evasions, still being offered, according to which Communism in its pure form has never really been tried? (Imagine, again, if someone pontificated on the theme of Nazism’s perversion by Hitler, arguing that in its idealistic, socialist pristinity, it ought to be given another chance.)
Since the West has made no serious effort to confront the brutal primitivism, intellectual incoherence, and moral depravity of socialism as an ideology, or to atone for its own complicity in the crimes against humanity committed in its name, it is little wonder that the fanatical class-warriors of the “Occupy” and “social justice” movements continue to enlist themselves in the current off-gassing of this same demonic Cause.
It is an ancient truism of religion (confirmed by modern psychology) that until a wrong is acknowledged and expiated, no moral or spiritual progress can be made. I assume that unrepentance is a collective as well as an individual poison. I posit this as only one possible explanation for the mystery that, in the post-Soviet world, Western intellectuals have become the useful idiots of yet another “progressive” ideology, with its universal machinery of indoctrination, its totalitarian suppression of dissent, and its naked will to power, all scarcely disguised beneath the current utopian pieties of “equality”, “tolerance”, “diversity”, and “compassion”.