Leftism's Casual Relationship with the Truth Is Intentional

In The Soviet Tragedy, Martin Malia describes many Soviet citizens feeling great relief at the outbreak of World War II.  These were people less than twenty years removed from devastating wars, so they were unlikely to be naïve to the horrors, yet many welcomed the news of war because, as Malia describes, war provided a coherent, tangible reality again, in contract to the schizophrenic insanity of communism.

The incoherence is everywhere. 

It's difficult to believe, given modern rhetoric, but in the early days of communism, wealth was considered a good thing, and, they argued, communism was superior because it created more of it.  By the mid-1950s, it became impossible to ignore communism's poverty and deprivation, so rather than abandon their revolutionary ideology, the communists completely replaced what had been their fundamental goal.  Yes, capitalism caused wealth, they conceded, but the wealth caused inequality, and inequality, not poverty, was the great evil against which all society's resources must mobilize.

The intellectual bankruptcy is absolutely shameless and calls to mind an observation from the great black conservative Thomas Sowell: "Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it."

Philosophy professor Stephen Hicks's excellent little book Explaining Post-Modernism details the many outrageous ideological pivots the radical left has been forced to make over the years to preserve a revolutionary posture, including even its abandonment of the presumption of truth.

Frank Lentricchia: "Seek not to find the foundation and the conditions of truth but to exercise power for the purpose of social change."

Foucault: "Knowledge is not for knowing: knowledge is for cutting."

Foucault: "Schools serve the same social functions as prisons and mental institutions — to define, classify, control, and regulate people."

Ludwig Wittgenstein: "All propositions of logic say the same thing.  That is, nothing."

Marcuse: "'... absolute annihilation' of the common sense world."

Rorty: "I think that a good Left is a party that always thinks about the future and doesn't care much about our past sins."

If these postmodernists were true nihilists, you might expect them to have various political beliefs, but they were all radical leftists.  Also, you'd think some of them might exercise a shred of self-reflection and turn their nihilistic deconstruction to their own work.  If words are devoid of meaning, then what makes their arguments worthy?  No such questions are asked.

It seems that postmodernism is a torture chamber for ideas and cultures masquerading as scholarship.  It doesn't matter what arguments you make once you're inside.  What matters is which ideas and cultures are sentenced to "deconstruction" and which are held above reproach.

Consider this boast made by a Bolshevik named Yurii Piatakov in 1928 (by other accounts, 1932), a generation before the postmodernists: "ordinary people in general, cannot make an instant change, a turn, amputating their own convictions. ... We are not like other people.  We are a party who make the impossible possible. ... And if the party demands it, if it is necessary or important for the party, we will be able by an act of will to expel from our brains in twenty-four hours ideas we have held for years. ... Yes, I will see black where I thought I saw white, or may still see it, because for me there is no life outside the party or apart from agreement with it."

One of my great fears is that the postmodernists, like the Bolsheviks, are correct in prioritizing power over meaning.  Those who believe in meaning exhaust themselves making arguments to people who do not believe in truth — modernist argument against a post-modernist ideology.  What if a thousand slogans and bad arguments really are superior to fewer logical arguments rooted in evidence and subject to the test of predictive validity?

The multifaceted tangle of logic pointing generally in the direction of class-hatred has something for everybody.  It is unconcerned with contradiction and may even view it as an advantage.  Its radicals have no obligation to defend any one argument; they simply survey their inventories for the words (or even just sounds) that will best defeat their current adversary.  It gives them flexibility.

Orest Subtelny's Ukraine, A History describes Lenin's "willingness to take one step back in order to move socialism forward two steps later — the famous Lenin tango."  Other historians make similar descriptions of the cunning duplicity of Bolshevism.
British writer Theodore Dalrymple offers this shocking rationale: "In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better.  When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity.  To assent to obvious lies is in some small way to become evil oneself.  One's standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed.  A society of emasculated liars is easy to control."  He adds, "I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to."

Perhaps it is also a part of what famous high-level KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov described as "ideological subversion" or "psychological warfare," the goal of which is to "change the perception of reality to such an extent that despite an abundance of information no one is able to come to sensible conclusion in the interests of defending themselves, their families, their community, and their country. ... It's a great brainwashing process which goes very slowly. ... A person who was demoralized is unable to assess true information.  The facts tell nothing to him."

Rooting an ideology in lies also allows you to quickly identify your loyal fanatics who will fight for the movement, untethered even by reality.  This seems to be evidenced by the ridiculous confessions (of things like incest and murder) authored by Romanian prisoners at the Pitesti re-education camp, or the boasting of Bolshevik Yurij Piatakov noted above.  This idea is not new.  Believing something absurd is like a gang initiation ritual.  It is similar to the famous saying of the early Christian theologian Tertullian, who has been called "the founder of Western theology": "I believe in the Trinity because it is absurd."

Lastly, perhaps the explanation is a continuation of communism's all-consuming ambition.  Communism is a jealous god, and you shall have no other gods.  Perhaps reality itself is an affront to the aspirations of communists, and rather than operate within reality, they ultimately strive to conquer it.

For these reasons, we should consider whether the lies and contradictions are not errors that more thoughtful communists might have avoided, but are deliberate strategies and expressions of their ultimate ambition: dominion over reality.

I advise everyone to say things that are true with complete confidence that doing so is moral.  In the words of Saint Thomas Aquinas, "the greatest charity one can do to another is to lead him to the truth." 

In The Soviet Tragedy, Martin Malia describes many Soviet citizens feeling great relief at the outbreak of World War II.  These were people less than twenty years removed from devastating wars, so they were unlikely to be naïve to the horrors, yet many welcomed the news of war because, as Malia describes, war provided a coherent, tangible reality again, in contract to the schizophrenic insanity of communism.

The incoherence is everywhere. 

It's difficult to believe, given modern rhetoric, but in the early days of communism, wealth was considered a good thing, and, they argued, communism was superior because it created more of it.  By the mid-1950s, it became impossible to ignore communism's poverty and deprivation, so rather than abandon their revolutionary ideology, the communists completely replaced what had been their fundamental goal.  Yes, capitalism caused wealth, they conceded, but the wealth caused inequality, and inequality, not poverty, was the great evil against which all society's resources must mobilize.

The intellectual bankruptcy is absolutely shameless and calls to mind an observation from the great black conservative Thomas Sowell: "Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it."

Philosophy professor Stephen Hicks's excellent little book Explaining Post-Modernism details the many outrageous ideological pivots the radical left has been forced to make over the years to preserve a revolutionary posture, including even its abandonment of the presumption of truth.

Frank Lentricchia: "Seek not to find the foundation and the conditions of truth but to exercise power for the purpose of social change."

Foucault: "Knowledge is not for knowing: knowledge is for cutting."

Foucault: "Schools serve the same social functions as prisons and mental institutions — to define, classify, control, and regulate people."

Ludwig Wittgenstein: "All propositions of logic say the same thing.  That is, nothing."

Marcuse: "'... absolute annihilation' of the common sense world."

Rorty: "I think that a good Left is a party that always thinks about the future and doesn't care much about our past sins."

If these postmodernists were true nihilists, you might expect them to have various political beliefs, but they were all radical leftists.  Also, you'd think some of them might exercise a shred of self-reflection and turn their nihilistic deconstruction to their own work.  If words are devoid of meaning, then what makes their arguments worthy?  No such questions are asked.

It seems that postmodernism is a torture chamber for ideas and cultures masquerading as scholarship.  It doesn't matter what arguments you make once you're inside.  What matters is which ideas and cultures are sentenced to "deconstruction" and which are held above reproach.

Consider this boast made by a Bolshevik named Yurii Piatakov in 1928 (by other accounts, 1932), a generation before the postmodernists: "ordinary people in general, cannot make an instant change, a turn, amputating their own convictions. ... We are not like other people.  We are a party who make the impossible possible. ... And if the party demands it, if it is necessary or important for the party, we will be able by an act of will to expel from our brains in twenty-four hours ideas we have held for years. ... Yes, I will see black where I thought I saw white, or may still see it, because for me there is no life outside the party or apart from agreement with it."

One of my great fears is that the postmodernists, like the Bolsheviks, are correct in prioritizing power over meaning.  Those who believe in meaning exhaust themselves making arguments to people who do not believe in truth — modernist argument against a post-modernist ideology.  What if a thousand slogans and bad arguments really are superior to fewer logical arguments rooted in evidence and subject to the test of predictive validity?

The multifaceted tangle of logic pointing generally in the direction of class-hatred has something for everybody.  It is unconcerned with contradiction and may even view it as an advantage.  Its radicals have no obligation to defend any one argument; they simply survey their inventories for the words (or even just sounds) that will best defeat their current adversary.  It gives them flexibility.

Orest Subtelny's Ukraine, A History describes Lenin's "willingness to take one step back in order to move socialism forward two steps later — the famous Lenin tango."  Other historians make similar descriptions of the cunning duplicity of Bolshevism.
British writer Theodore Dalrymple offers this shocking rationale: "In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better.  When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity.  To assent to obvious lies is in some small way to become evil oneself.  One's standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed.  A society of emasculated liars is easy to control."  He adds, "I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to."

Perhaps it is also a part of what famous high-level KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov described as "ideological subversion" or "psychological warfare," the goal of which is to "change the perception of reality to such an extent that despite an abundance of information no one is able to come to sensible conclusion in the interests of defending themselves, their families, their community, and their country. ... It's a great brainwashing process which goes very slowly. ... A person who was demoralized is unable to assess true information.  The facts tell nothing to him."

Rooting an ideology in lies also allows you to quickly identify your loyal fanatics who will fight for the movement, untethered even by reality.  This seems to be evidenced by the ridiculous confessions (of things like incest and murder) authored by Romanian prisoners at the Pitesti re-education camp, or the boasting of Bolshevik Yurij Piatakov noted above.  This idea is not new.  Believing something absurd is like a gang initiation ritual.  It is similar to the famous saying of the early Christian theologian Tertullian, who has been called "the founder of Western theology": "I believe in the Trinity because it is absurd."

Lastly, perhaps the explanation is a continuation of communism's all-consuming ambition.  Communism is a jealous god, and you shall have no other gods.  Perhaps reality itself is an affront to the aspirations of communists, and rather than operate within reality, they ultimately strive to conquer it.

For these reasons, we should consider whether the lies and contradictions are not errors that more thoughtful communists might have avoided, but are deliberate strategies and expressions of their ultimate ambition: dominion over reality.

I advise everyone to say things that are true with complete confidence that doing so is moral.  In the words of Saint Thomas Aquinas, "the greatest charity one can do to another is to lead him to the truth."