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"We admire the development of the peace movement around the world in the last few years. We pray to God to empower all those working against war." - Saddam Hussein, February 2003

Thursday, January 02, 2003  

Newest leading Republican starts by saving lives

SOMETHING TELLS ME the new Senate Majority leader may turn out better than Trent Lott.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 06:19 | Permanent Link |

Labour pseudo-conservatism versus Church socialism

IT IS TESTAMENT to how left-wing the C of E can be and how conservative this government can sometimes be that I now find myself siding with a Labour Home Secretary against the Archbishop of Canterbury. It should be interesting to see David Blunkett's full column when The Spectator is published later today.

Frank Sensenbrenner looks to be a promising new addition to Edge of England's Sword, meanwhile, asking a great question in relation to the ArchBish:

Most adherents can't understand this obsession with radical politics. After all, if Mr Williams has no problem with people's sexual preference, why should he care about marketing in business or politics?

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 05:51 | Permanent Link |

Wednesday, January 01, 2003  

Progress in the polls slowly being made?

THANKS TO IAIN MURRAY for pointing out an interesting piece by William Rees-Mogg on Tory fortunes. Quite simply, opinion polls always seem to exaggerate greatly the extent of the Labour lead, perhaps because Conservatives are more secretive about their preferences and less willing to admit to favouring the unpopular. A new idea of only recording the preferences of those who say they are certain to vote in the next election brings a surprising result to which Rees-Mogg believes IDS should raise a glass of champagne: the two main parties are neck and neck. That the column was written by "Mystic Mogg", who - as Boris Johnson put it - has predicted 12 of the last two recessions, should be a minor health warning, but the polls seem strongly to back him up. I hope he is right.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 19:55 | Permanent Link |

Marxist misery continues

THE ECONOMIST LOOKS AT Karl Marx and his continuing personal influence over a decade after his dream fell apart. The whole article is fantastic and much needed. The right seems to willing to deem Marxism dead and ignore it, leaving the field open for left-wingers to promote the man as a wise and prescient critic of capitalism. Few seem interested in taking on the 'Gulag deniers' who determinedly refuse to admit that Marxist socialism has any meaningful connection to the Leninist, Stalinist, Maoist legacy of mass murder, imperialism and tyranny. The right must continue to make the pragmatic and moral arguments against Marx, for his doctrine will always be destructive and evil.

Perhaps the truest and most striking observation of the column is that the anti-globalist critique of and attack on capitalism continues in exactly the form Marx began his own.

Marxist thinking is also deeply Utopian — another influential trait. The “Communist Manifesto”, despite the title, was not a programme for government: it was a programme for gaining power, or rather for watching knowledgeably as power fell into one's hands. That is, it was a commentary on the defects and dynamics of capitalism. Nowhere in the “Manifesto”, or anywhere else in his writings, did Marx take the trouble to describe how the communism he predicted and advocated would actually work.

He did once say this much: “In communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity...society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have in mind, without ever becoming hunter, herdsman or critic.” Whether cattle would be content to be reared only in the evening, or just as people had in mind, is one of many questions one would wish to see treated at greater length. But this cartoon is almost all Marx ever said about communism in practice. The rest has to be deduced, as an absence of things he deplored about capitalism: inequality, exploitation, alienation, private property and so forth.

It is striking that today's militant critics of globalisation, whether declared Marxists or otherwise, proceed in much the same way. They present no worked-out alternative to the present economic order. Instead, they invoke a Utopia free of environmental stress, social injustice and branded sportswear, harking back to a pre-industrial golden age that did not actually exist. Never is this alternative future given clear shape or offered up for examination.

And anti-globalists have inherited more from Marx besides this. Note the self-righteous anger, the violent rhetoric, the willing resort to actual violence (in response to the “violence” of the other side), the demonisation of big business, the division of the world into exploiters and victims, the contempt for piecemeal reform, the zeal for activism, the impatience with democracy, the disdain for liberal “rights” and “freedoms”, the suspicion of compromise, the presumption of hypocrisy (or childish naivety) in arguments that defend the market order.

Anti-globalism has been aptly described as a secular religion. So is Marxism: a creed complete with prophet, sacred texts and the promise of a heaven shrouded in mystery. Marx was not a scientist, as he claimed. He founded a faith. The economic and political systems he inspired are dead or dying. But his religion is a broad church, and lives on.

Of course, Marxism as an economic ideal really is dead, for as the article points out, it now lacks even the class warfare that would make possible the overthrow of capitalism. Few would seek to justify the Marxist idea that hours of labour rather than demand should determine price now, or fail - as Marx did - to understand that capitalism is a non-zero sum game, where both parties benefit from every voluntary exchange. But socially, culturally, Karl Marx is much more secure. It is indeed a global truth seldom acknowledge that as the left has lost the economics battle, it has seized ever more powerfully to its social and moral arguments, turning so many free countries into politically correct societies where what was once normal and respectable is despised or virtually criminal.

The labour theory of value and the rest of Marx's economic apparatus may be so much intellectual scrap, but many of his assumptions, analytical traits and habits of thought are widespread in western academia and beyond.

The core idea that economic structure determines everything has been especially pernicious. According to this view, the right to private property, for instance, exists only because it serves bourgeois relations of production. The same can be said for every other right or civil liberty one finds in society. The idea that such rights have a deeper moral underpinning is an illusion. Morality itself is an illusion, just another weapon of the ruling class. (As Gyorgy Lukacs put it, “Communist ethics makes it the highest duty to act wickedly...This is the greatest sacrifice revolution asks from us.”) Human agency is null: we are mere dupes of “the system”, until we repudiate it outright.

What goes for ethics also goes for history, literature, the rest of the humanities and the social sciences. The “late Marxist” sees them all, as traditionally understood, not as subjects for disinterested intellectual inquiry but as forms of social control. Never ask what a painter, playwright, architect or philosopher thought he was doing. You know before you even glance at his work what he was really doing: shoring up the ruling class. This mindset has made deep inroads—most notoriously in literary studies, but not just there — in university departments and on campuses across Western Europe and especially in the United States. The result is a withering away not of the state but of opportunities for intelligent conversation and of confidence that young people might receive a decent liberal education.

Karl Marx's ideas led directly to tens of millions being murdered, poverty for even more, a cancerous, continuing attack on the very notion of civilisation and almost to a Third World War. Where it remains, his influence is as malign as ever, and good men should not give up the fight against him just yet.

Posted by Peter Cuthbertson | 19:43 | Permanent Link |
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