Progressives don't really want the revolution they crave
I wonder if my progressive friends and colleagues would believe me if I told them that a hundred years ago, Soviet prisons were full of good socialists and good Marxists. They too at first cheered on the riots and the revolution.
What today's good progressives don't understand is that professional revolutionaries have a different relationship with an ideology or a cause from the good progressives'. Professional revolutionaries remind me of the joke about the humble villager from abroad visiting the West and taken by friends to a fashion show — runway models and all that. Asked afterward if he enjoyed the show, the visitor shakes his head. He didn't care for it at all. Why? "First they show you the women," he says. "Then they try to sell you the clothes."
The professional revolutionary dangles the ideology. He shows you the cause. But what he wants you to buy is the idea that he — not you, but he and his cronies, they and they alone — should call the shots. And God help you if you should disagree.
A hundred years ago, at Communist Party meetings in Moscow, good party members would suggest that instead of all the decisions being made by the cabal at the highest level, why not allow the workers in the factories and the trade unions to decide what's to be done? After all, the purpose of the proletarian revolution was to benefit the workers, wasn't it? Lenin's answer to those people was "Shut the hell up!" That was one of his answers. Another was "You're under arrest."
Lenin didn't want people to be loyal to the ideology, to be good socialists or Marxists. He wanted them to be personally loyal to him, to the preservation of his regime. That's why it made perfect sense for Soviet jurists to rule that it wasn't necessary for a person to actually commit an offense to be guilty of one. Either you worked to assure the continued ascendance of the Bolsheviks, or your own continued existence became problematic.
I wonder if my progressive friends and colleagues could kill a man simply for disagreeing with them. I'm thinking in particular of one young, ardent colleague who loudly exclaimed that he "hates moderates." I wonder if he could kill a moderate — if he could, for example, kill me. I assume he might have some qualms. Felix Dzerzhinsky would not. Felix Dzerzhinsky was a professional revolutionary who spent a substantial amount of time in tsarist prisons. After the revolution, Lenin prevailed on Felix to organize and direct the Bolshevik secret police, the Cheka. Arguably the most feared man in Moscow, Dzerzhinsky was called "Iron Felix" because he had no compunction about ordering anyone's execution.
Right now, in the heart of our own country, incipient Lenins and Dzerzhinskys are awaiting their opportunity. With any luck, their moment will pass, and we'll never know their names. But if the good progressives get the revolution of their dreams, it will be their rears in the prisons of our homegrown Lenins and Dzerzhinskys, and they'll find themselves looking down the muzzles of the former's machine guns.
There's an old Central Asian saying: "He who would perfume a scorpion, will not thereby escape its sting."
The Marxist revolutionary philosophy is the scorpion. The racial and social justice sloganeering is the perfume. My progressive friends and colleagues are enticed by, excited by, intoxicated by the perfume. I wonder if they have any idea how badly they can be stung.
I commend to them the story of the scorpion and the frog. The scorpion wants to cross a river but can't swim. So he asks a frog to carry him across. Ordinarily, frogs know enough to keep their distance from scorpions. But the frog knows that the scorpion will drown if he harms the frog in transit, so he agrees. Halfway across the stream, the scorpion stings the frog. "Why ever did you do that?" gasps the frog, about to go under and taking the scorpion with him.
"It's my nature," snorts the scorpion. "It's my nature."
Sheldon Bart is the author of Race to the Top of the World: Richard Byrd and the First Flight to the North Pole (Regnery History). He is currently writing a non-fiction book about an American intelligence agent in Bolshevik Russia. A trustee of the Foundation to Illuminate America's Heroes, he is also acting vice president of the American Polar Society.