One hundred years ago, an Italian socialist with astoundingly unruly hair named Antonio Gramsci dreamed up yet another sure-fire way to usher in the global Marxist utopia, coined by Rudi Dutschke as the “long march through the institutions.” I say “another way” because the original belief that we peasants would spontaneously overthrow our oppressors turned out to be a non-starter. The subsequent fashionable theory that the workers’ paradise only needed the small push of a violent takeover to get down the runway and up in the air also appeared to be stuck in second gear. Spoiler alert: socialism only has two speeds; stagnation, and gulag.
Read enough history and the long struggle to unchain the workers of the world begins to remind one of that Bugs Bunny cartoon where Yosemite Sam finds a muzzle-loading musket and plans to blast Bugs with it. Trouble is, Sam’s unclear as to what order the powder, shot, and wadding should be loaded down the barrel. He keeps getting it wrong and the charge goes off in his face each time the ram rod is employed. From a safe distance, Bugs Bunny watches this repeated performance and snickers.
Yosemite Sam never learns from his mistakes, and apparently neither do socialists. No matter how many times the Marxist model blows up in their faces, they keep tweaking the settings to inflict damage upon another nation. The concept that perhaps socialism’s basic assumptions regarding societies and human nature are (to put it mildly), wrong, is steadfastly denied. It could be that such a train of thought turns out to be an express ticket to abandoning socialism.
Marxists are under the illusion that the bulk of people are trapped in an exploitative state. And, if you benefit from this arrangement, you are in fact an evil exploiter, or at best an exploiter’s helper. Maybe “exploiter’s enabler” is a more fashionable term. Any action which upends this system is justified, and boy howdy! how they love to wriggle through that moral loophole to rationalize their deeds. So, you best get with the program right quick. Storm the barricades or suffer the wrath of the proletariat.
Trouble is, socialism is founded upon the basic assumption that people, the masses, are both homogeneous and incapable of figuring out how to run their own lives without the benevolent leadership of an enlightened intelligentsia. The enlightened intelligentsia of course is assumed to be the indoctrinated socialists, trained to shove the Marxist answer into any problem. Another cartoon character typifies that personality type: Wile E. Coyote.
The reality is that people are not all the same. Every single individual in the world has different wants and needs. And each of us is capable of achieving our goals, in spite of obstacles. We can argue about reasonable goals. But there are numerous examples of people succeeding against the odds through sheer determination. Evolution has molded us that way through millennia of trial and error. Or, God created us with those traits. Take your pick, because that is the subject of another essay (dragging a lengthy tail of reader comments no doubt).
I strongly suspect socialists cling to the view of humanity as something which is in dire need of salvation, not because of a rational analysis of history and psychology but because it presents a convenient rationale to cosplay as a savior; others have noted this psychosis. Socialism is a self-reinforcing and morally-justified excuse to seize control of others, without the need for performance reviews. Before you crank up the “what-about” machine to point out the similar behavior of forced conversions to Christianity throughout history, allow me to concede that was wrong as well. I won’t condemn the entirety of Islam for the crimes of fanatical Islamicists. And I won’t tar all of Christianity for the abuses of a limited group of zealots.
Socialists, jihadists, and militant evangelists are likely over-supplied with Yosemite Sams and Wile E. Coyotes, indulging their fantasies and neuroses under ideologies of convenience. Given my druthers, I would leave these paragons of Marxist virtue alone to wander their imaginary worlds at will. However, socialists seem compelled to drag us all to dystopia along with them. Not to mention sticking us with the bill for the trip.
Which brings us back to Signor Gramsci and his guaranteed march to socialism, via a scenic detour through cultural institutions. Gramsci reasoned that proletarian apathy is mainly a matter of lack of proper indoctrination. The remedy is to teach us ignorant peasants about the wondrous benefits of collectivism by slowly infesting and then controlling the institutions of education, government, and media. That accomplished, we would welcome the benevolent rule of Marxists with open arms.
Inherent in this approach is the assumption that people are blank sheets of paper, to be filled with the formulas of approved ideology controlled by cultural institutions. Which is to some extent true, but not completely. Institutions are conveniences, purpose-built devices to accomplish some useful tasks. Schools are supposed to educate, authorities to enforce the law, media to inform and entertain. They work best when the focus is kept on the intended function. Some amount of inefficiency and tomfoolery is tolerable, as long as the job gets done. However, a tipping point is sooner or later reached where the institution has obviously been hijacked. Indoctrination replaces education. Laws are selectively enforced, if at all. Media becomes unpalatable propaganda.
Marx, Lenin, Gramsci were all under the illusion that people are perfectible, moldable into flawless beings; all that is needed is the right sculptor and the proper tools. By the time Stalin, Mao, and Castro came along, progressives had given up on perfection and were happy to settle for power instead. Either perfection or power depend upon people to behave as sheep. Human beings are not sheep. We are closer to wolves. God or evolution made us this way, probably for good reasons.
The supreme irony is that socialists claim to free humanity from oppression. Instead, they have only caused more of it. The most effective answer to oppression yet found is a product of the revolution of 1776, and consists of simply allowing people to run their own darn lives. The socialist tragedies of 1789, 1917, 1922, 1933 1949, 1959, and on and on, have only bred misery by imposing tyranny.
So, we will suffer through the nonsense of Gramsci’s long march through the institutions. As we have suffered through the Wilson’s League of Nations scheme, and FDR’s New Deal administrative state expansion, and Johnson’s Great Society scam, and Nixon’s new three-letter agencies, and Carter’s malaise, and Clinton’s corruption, and Obama’s fundamental transformation, and Biden’s two-tiers of justice. Perhaps some of the hijacked institutions can be saved by replacing rotted timbers, if the foundation is still sound. We will abandon the institutions which are too far gone, and rebuild them anew. Because those organizations are there for our benefit and convenience, not as playthings for the enlightened intelligentsia.
The leftists will never learn from their mistakes. But we should.
Image: Free image, Pixabay license, no attribution required.