Postmodernism, Part 26: French Revolution Redux

What is postmodernism? Is it a problem?  The following continues a series of posts explaining postmodernism.  It is based on the excellent Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, by Prof. Stephen Hicks.  (Additional support includes 1848: Year of Revolution, by Michael Rapport.)

Previous posts:

Enlightenment and Darkness

Rousseau’s Revolutionary Politics

Right Collectivism

Left Collectivism

Revolutionary Disappointment

Erstwhile

Marxist postmodernism seeks to overthrow modernism.  Modernism’s political philosophy proposes reason, individualism, liberal democracy, and free markets.  Postmodernist philosophy is based on the metaphysical nihilism of (Nazi) Martin Heidegger.

Postmodernism’s radical left politics don’t flow naturally from Heidegger’s subjectivist philosophy.  Instead, their politics flow from twentieth century Marxists’ crisis of faith (in the face of undeniable Marxist catastrophe).  The postmodernists took refuge in the earlier collectivist Rousseau.  Rousseau’s ideas inflamed the French Revolution and Reign of Terror, and culminated in Napoleon’s conquests.

Right Collectivism has roots in the German Counter-Enlightenment (Kant, Herder, Fichte, Hegel).  They gave Rousseau a German twist, including hero worship, state worship, totalitarianism, and dialectical history (plus German supremacy).

marxKarl Marx

Left Collectivism has roots in the German Counter-Enlightenment, romanticism, and early industrial working conditions.  Romanticism valued passion, violence, radicalism, and revolution (morality, not so much).  Deplorable (“third world”) industrial working conditions were (truly) breeding revolution.  The Communists, Marx and Engels, thought this the new normal.  Their “scientific socialism” prophesied a Communist destiny.  In 1847, the Communist League published their Communist Manifesto.

Revolution was imminent.  The Revolutions of 1848 would be a big letdown.  They were driven by hunger (crop failures), nationalism (growing cultural and ethnic identities), and economics (growing industrialization).  The Communist Manifesto resonated little.  Marx and the radicals would be impatient and disappointed.

Revolution of 1830

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again

Before the French Revolution of 1848, came the Revolution of 1830.  The 1830 Revolution began (as French Revolutions often do) with Paris uprisings.  They overthrew conservative King Charles X (the Bourbon nephew of Louis XVI, who had been beheaded in the 1789 Revolution).

France became a constitutional monarchy.  King Louis-Phillipe (of the house Orleans) now sat on the throne.  Louis-Phillipe expanded the vote (but still limited the vote to rich bourgeois).

Revolution’s Parisian supporters (who shed blood in the streets) felt disappointed. “The 1830 Revolution,” wrote French legislator Frederic Bastiat, “promised nothing, but did effect some notable tax relief.” However, he wrote, “in peaceful times, they retract their concessions and march on to new conquests”.  Any tax relief was quickly consumed by higher prices (driven by protectionist tariffs).

louis-phillipeLouis-Phillipe

Louis-Phillipe focused on economic matters that benefited the rich (landowners and the growing bourgeois). He expanded roads and highways.  French industrialism benefited.  The betrayed revolutionaries were angry that the Revolution had been stolen by the rich.

Frustrated, republicans led Paris uprisings again, in 1832 and 1834. Louis-Phillipe violently crushed the revolutions, leaving simmering resentments. Cycles of violence and repression followed.  Attempts were made to assassinate the King.

Radicalism worsened. Radicals plotted revolution and authoritarian rule of their own. They led a failed uprising, in May 1839.  Even with the vote only for the rich, Leftist radicals gained power in the Chamber of Deputies.

Revolution was (again) in the air.  “It will fall, this royalty,” declared revolutionary historian Alphonse de Lamartine, “Be sure of that … And after having had the revolution of freedom and the counter-revolution of glory, you will have the revolution of public conscience and the revolution of contempt.”

February Days

The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that’s all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain’t changed
‘Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war

bastiatFrederic Bastiat

In January 1848, Alexis de Tocqueville felt revolution stirring. “I believe right now we are sleeping on a volcano … the earth is trembling,” he warned the Chamber of Deputies, “The wind of revolution is in the air”.  Bastiat smelled it, too, but cautioned, “Seeking relief through revolution is an illusion.”

In Paris, political outsiders (wanting their share of the spoils) and republicans demanded reform.  In February, protestors marched on the Chamber of Deputies (as they had in 1789, in the run up to the Reign of Terror).  This time, they were pushed back by the National Guards.  Crowds threw stones at the Municipal Guards.  They counterattacked, killing rioters.

guizotFrancois Guizot

Louis-Phillipe was in horror.  To appease the mobs, he sacked his hated Minister Francois Guizot. (When protestors had complained that only the rich could vote, Guizot had arrogantly replied, “Get rich!”)  Sacrificing the despicable Guizot wouldn’t be enough.  (In the 1789 Revolution, appeasement only encouraged worse radicalism.)  A mob marched on Guizot’s lodgings (celebrating his sacking).  Troops panicked and fired on the crowd.  This set off a chain reaction of mob protests, throughout Paris.

The King deployed troops to clear the streets. National Guards were reluctant to fight the mobs (who had armed themselves).  Some troops retreated to defend the royal palace. Others (in French Revolutionary turncoat fashion) joined with the mobs.  The King escaped the palace, vacated his throne, and escaped to Britain.  (Louis-Phillipe had no wish to share the fate of the beheaded Louis XVI.)  After fierce fighting, insurgents captured the royal palace.  They celebrated, taking turns sitting on the throne.

A provisional government was announced. This would be the short-lived Second Republic.

Radicals demanded the “red flag” as the new national banner.  The republican leader Lamartine rejected their demands.  He tried to tamp down radicalism, fearing another another Reign of Terror.  Once again, the radicals wanted to export revolution (as they had in 1789, leading to the dictatorship of Napoleon).  French paramilitary bands marched off to “liberate” disputed territories (only to face defeat or capture).

June Days

There’s nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Are now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

Leftist Paris radicals had begun organizing themselves as “democratic socialists”. They demanded “a guaranteed right to work”, “an assured minimum for the worker and his family in sickness”, and “the organization of labor” (worker management of wages, hours, and working conditions).  (A century later, Hitler would organize workers this way, ending in forced labor.)

blanc-louisLouis Blanc

Socialist Louis Blanc took charge of the government labor commission. (Blanc was famous for demanding equalization of wages, coining the phrase “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”).  Blanc introduced “National Workshops”, that offered the poor employment in public works projects. (Blanc’s end goal was a system of worker-owned co-operatives.)

Meanwhile, the government had a budget crisis. It raised taxes on property owners (including struggling rural peasants). This pitted urban leftists against struggling rural conservatives. In the elections, conservatives and moderates dominated.

Radical violence broke out (as always). In April, militia fired on a radical leftist insurrection, in Rouen. In May, Paris radicals took to the streets and invaded the National Assembly (in their usual fashion). The government decided that Blanc’s National Workshops were breeding an army of Paris radicals (over one-hundred thousand strong).  In June, the government closed the Workshops, and ordered the unemployed into the army or to public works far from Paris.

french-revolution-1848Paris 1848

Radical violence broke out, again. In Paris, radicals and the unemployed protested in the streets, demanding work.  Thousands marched in the streets, chanting “Bread or lead! Bread or lead!” Karl Marx (who was in Paris, at the time, fomenting German revolution) thought this was a setup (that the Workshops were closed to provoke violence, so that the government could crush the workers).  On June 23, eight thousand protestors gathered at the Bastille, chanting “Liberty or Death!” Insurgents gained control of the streets.

The government had no interest in an another Reign of Terror.  The National Guards attacked.  Bitter fighting ensued. Socialist Louis Blanc pleaded with the government to negotiate with the insurgents. “One doesn’t reason with insurgents, one defeats them!” they replied.  Troops violently crushed the insurgency, arresting their leaders (“social democrats” who demanded that “the worker receives the product of his labor … which is at present taken away from him by the man who provides the capital”).

Alexis de Tocqueville saw the June days as class conflict. “The whole of the working class was engaged in the fight,” he wrote, “the spirit of insurrection circulated from one end to the other of that vast class … like blood in a single body”. The was not a political uprising, he said, “but a class conflict”. Marx agreed, saying, this was “tremendous insurrection in which the first great battle was joined between the two classes … a fight for the preservation or annihilation of the bourgeois order”.

Nevertheless, Marx’s communism resonated little with the French.  France lagged in industrialization (the prerequisite for socialism, according to Marx).  The unemployed wanted work. The poor wanted food and shelter.  Blanc’s utopian socialism offered them dreams.

Marx would die, impatiently waiting for his ideas to bear fruit.

 Commentary

Tocqueville and Marx thought this a class revolution.  Frederic Bastiat contended with Louis Blanc and the radicals.  Blanc and company were (in fact) disciples of Rousseau (who had inspired the Reign of Terror).

Next

Next: Part 27, Bastiat, Rousseau, and Revolution.

Postmodernism, Part 25: Revolutions of 1848

What is postmodernism? Is it a problem?  The following continues a series of posts explaining postmodernism.  It is based on the excellent Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, by Prof. Stephen Hicks.  (Additional support includes 1848: Year of Revolution, by Michael Rapport; Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, by Friedrich Engels.)

Previous posts:

Enlightenment and Darkness

Rousseau’s Revolutionary Politics

Right Collectivism

Left Collectivism

Erstwhile

Marxist postmodernism seeks to overthrow modernism.  Modernism’s political philosophy proposes reason, individualism, liberal democracy, and free markets.  Postmodernist philosophy is based on the metaphysical nihilism of (Nazi) Martin Heidegger.

Postmodernism’s radical left politics don’t flow naturally from Heidegger’s subjectivist philosophy.  Instead, their politics flow from twentieth century Marxists’ crisis of faith (in the face of undeniable Marxist catastrophe).  The postmodernists took refuge in the earlier collectivist Rousseau.  Rousseau’s ideas inflamed the French Revolution and Reign of Terror, and culminated in Napoleon’s conquests.

Right Collectivism has roots in the German Counter-Enlightenment (Kant, Herder, Fichte, Hegel).  They gave Rousseau a German twist, including hero worship, state worship, totalitarianism, and dialectical history (plus German supremacy).

marxKarl Marx

Left Collectivism has roots in the German Counter-Enlightenment, romanticism, and early industrial working conditions.  Romanticism valued passion, violence, radicalism, and revolution (morality, not so much).  Deplorable (“third world”) industrial working conditions were (truly) breeding revolution.  The Communists, Marx and Engels, thought this the new normal.  Their “scientific socialism” prophesied a Communist destiny.  In 1847, the Communist League published their Communist Manifesto.

Revolution was imminent.  (It would be a big letdown.)

Revolutions of 1848

In 1848, Europe was swept with revolutions.  These were liberal (democratic republican) revolutions.  Three major drivers were:

  • Hunger,
  • Nationalism, and
  • Economics

These were not Marxist revolutions.  (Marx was impatient and frustrated.)

Europe was dominated by five great powers: Austria, Prussia, Russia, France, and Great Britain.  Great Britain was a constitutional monarchy.  France had a constitutional monarchy (having exiled Napoleon).  These constitutional monarchies denied most people the right to vote.

metternichMetternich

The three other powers (Austria, Prussia, Russia) were absolute monarchies.  Russia (a repressive police state) was ruled by Tsar Nicholas I. (He had already put down a reformist uprising).  Prussia was ruled by King Frederick William IV.  (He had not delivered promised political reforms.)  The sprawling Austrian Empire was ruled by (mentally challenged) Emperor Ferdinand I (“Ferdy the Loony”).  The power behind the throne was the reactionary Chancellor Metternich.

Hunger

People were hungry.  The Potato Famine had killed 1.5 million.  Grain harvests had failed.  Food prices skyrocketed.  There were food riots and hunger marches.

Nationalism

Nationalism was a big driver of the Revolutions of 1848.  The Austrian Empire (Austria, Hungary, Italy, German states) was rife with ethnic tensions and surging nationalism.  For our purposes, nationalism is not the focus, except for the cases of Germany and Italy.

Economics

Continental Europe lagged in industrialization.  Marx’s “scientific socialism” states (as a law of nature) an economic evolution: from agricultural feudalism to petty industry (crafts and trades), then to industrialization (capitalism), then to socialism, then to communism.  In this scheme, the British were ripe for revolution.  Continental Europe should not be (because they lagged in industrialization).

The British were the most industrialized in Europe.  Engels wrote his book about their deplorable working conditions.  (This is what Marxism is based on.)  Marxism states that capitalism inevitably gives rise to deplorable working conditions that inevitably give rise to revolution (socialism, communism, and so on).

Continental Europe was lagging in industrialization.  They were transitioning from petty industry to capitalism.  (The prerequisite deplorable working conditions would not yet exist.)  Craftsmen and workers would organize and fight over economic concerns (their livelihoods) and social reforms.  The Communist Manifesto wouldn’t resonate much.  (Marx and the Communists would be frustrated).

Commentary

Marxists were (and are) always an impatient and frustrated lot.  They would never be patient enough for their “scientific” prediction to unfold.  (If it’s inevitable, what’s the hurry?)  When their “scientific” predictions would fail, they’d never question the “science”.  They would revise their theories, and remain impatient, frustrated, and faithful.  (Then, the self-anointed “political vanguard”, inevitably, tries to give the future a big, hard shove from behind.)

Next

France revolts again.  Next: Part 26, French Revolution Redux.

Postmodernism, Part 24: Communist Manifesto

What is postmodernism? Is it a problem?  The following continues a series of posts explaining postmodernism.  It is based on the excellent Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, by Prof. Stephen Hicks.  (Additional support includes Socialism, by Ludwig von Mises; and Freedom and Organization by Bertrand Russel.)

Previous posts:

Enlightenment and Darkness

Rousseau’s Revolutionary Politics

Right Collectivism

Left Collectivism

Erstwhile

Marxist postmodernism seeks to overthrow modernism.  Modernism’s political philosophy proposes reason, individualism, liberal democracy, and free markets.  Postmodernist philosophy is based on the metaphysical nihilism of (Nazi) Martin Heidegger.

jean-rousseauJean Rousseau

Postmodernism’s radical left politics don’t flow naturally from Heidegger’s subjectivist philosophy.  Postmodernism’s leftist political philosophy is explained by twentieth century Marxists’ crisis of faith in the face of undeniable Marxist catastrophe.  Postmodernists took refuge in an earlier totalitarian collectivist, Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Rousseau’s ideas and Napoleon’s conquests inspired the German Counter-Enlightenment thinkers (Kant, Herder, Fichte, Hegel).  They gave Rousseau a German twist, including hero worship, state worship, totalitarianism, and dialectical history (with German supremacy).

Left Collectivism has roots in romanticism (inspired by Rousseau).  Romanticism was both an aesthetic and a value system.  It valued passion, sympathy, poverty, nature, violence, and radicalism.  It devalued social consequences and conventional morality.  Lord Byron was prototypical.

engelsFriedrich Engels

Left Collectivism has roots in the problems of our industrial past.  Families struggled to survive crowded filthy “third world” slums, malnutrition, epidemics, long hours, unsafe work, misery, crime, societal breakdown, and uncaring government.  Revolution seemed imminent.

Left Collectivism has roots in “utopian socialism”.  Marx and Engels claimed their “scientific socialism” was Gospel.  They scoffed at the “utopian socialist” heretics, such as Robert Owen (the idealist) and Charles Fourier (the absurd French fabulist).

Marx and Engels became Communists.  Marx went to Paris (a hotbed of radicals) then Brussels.  Communist groups joined together in the Communist League.  They asked Marx and Engels to write their Manifesto.

Communist Manifesto

“A specter is haunting Europe – the specter of Communism.  All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this specter,” Marx opens.

Marx is referring to the Holy Alliance, including Prussia.  They had been busily stamping out liberal revolutions, and hounding radicals (like Marx).

Prophecy

It is inevitable that capitalism will be replaced by socialism, then communism.  (This is the presupposed destiny of Marx’s dialectic.)

  • Conflict.  History is solely the struggle between oppressors and oppressed (class struggle).
  • Historical materialism.  Society is nothing but the inevitable product of economic facts (production and capital).  This means every human aspect: political, moral, social, artistic, scientific, literary, legal (every thought, concept, institution, or notion).  Society serves the oppressor.
  • Evolution.  Society is the product of a series of revolutions.  Capitalist society evolves, so that two classes remain: bourgeois and proletariat (slaves).
  • Contradiction.  Capitalism sows the seeds of it own destruction.  It is international.  (It uses technology to join the world, under its yoke.)  Its unsustainable business cycles create ever more proletariat.  (Free markets are barbarous.)  Finally, the proletariat rise (and society falls).

Communist theories are not inventions, says Marx.  They reveal the movement of history.  (This is not invention, but revelation.)  The great songwriter and lyricist, John Lennon, will walk us through the rest.

Imagine there’s no countries

Countries inevitably disappear, says Marx.  Communism finishes the job that capitalism started.

  • “The working men have no country,” says Marx, “We cannot take from them what they have not got.”
  • The proletariat must first acquire political supremacy of the nation.
  • National differences “are daily more and more vanishing” under capitalism.
  • “The supremacy of the proletariat will cause them to vanish still faster,” he says.
Nothing to kill or die for

When nations disappear, there will be world peace.

  • Emancipation of the proletariat, Marx says, will end “exploitation of one nation by another”.
  • Then, he says, “the hostility of one nation to another will come to an end”.
And no religion, too

For the proletariat to rise, society must fall, says Marx.   Law, morality and religion are bourgeois prejudices.

  • “The ideas of religious liberty and freedom of conscience” are needed only because of class antagonisms, Marx said.
  • The idea of “eternal truths” (freedom, liberty, justice, morality) disappear when class antagonisms disappear.

In a classless society, there’s no need for false morality (oppression).

Imagine no possessions

“The theory of the Communists may be summed up in a single sentence,” Marx wrote, “Abolition of private property”.

  • The proletariat will “win the battle of democracy”, says Marx.
  • “The proletariat,” he says, “will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie”.  They will put all “production in the hands of the State”.
  • In the beginning, he says, this will require “despotic inroads on the rights of property, and … necessitate further inroads upon the social order”.
  • Communism abolishes only “bourgeois property”.  (Property was always common.)
  • Communism abolishes only “bourgeois freedom” (the freedom to buy and sell).
  • Communism abolishes only “bourgeois individuality” (the power to subjugate others).
  • Communism abolishes only “bourgeois family” (a form of slavery and prostitution).
I wonder if you can

Marx imagines how to abolish private property:

  1. Land confiscation.  Abolish land ownership.
  2. Taxation.  Adopt a heavy progressive income tax.
  3. Abolish inheritance.
  4. Property confiscation.  Confiscate all property of emigrants and rebels.
  5. Central banking.  Centralize all credit in a State bank.
  6. Nationalization.  Nationalize communication and transport.
  7. Central planning.  All manufacturing and agriculture will be centrally planned.
  8. Mandatory labor.  “Establish industrial armies,” Marx wrote, “especially for agriculture”.
  9. Resettlement.  Population will be redistributed according to plan.
  10. Public education.  Education will be social education.
No need for greed or hunger

The “modern laborer”, says Marx, “sinks deeper and deeper” into poverty.  Once the proletariat rises up, property will be redistributed to the “nine-tenths of the population” who have no property.

A brotherhood of man

When class distinctions disappear, Marx said, “we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all”.

  • Public power will lose its political character because (so called) “political power” is class oppression.
  • Proletariat supremacy will disappear because class will disappear.

This is a utopian classless society.  The State disappears, in the “withering away of the state“.

And the world will live as one

Communism is an international movement.  They are not a separate party.  They represent the proletariat, as a whole.

  • They represent the proletariat parties of every country.
  • They push the parties forward because the Communists have the best understanding of the proletarian movement.  (They are the revolutionary vanguard.)

The Manifesto identifies some political allies (various Social-Democrats and Democratic-Socialists).  They target Germany for revolution.  (Marx would be the ideological leader of the German Socialist Party).

Finally, Marx closes in dramatic style:

“The Communists disdain to conceal their views and their aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.

‘Working men of all countries, unite!’”

Commentary

The Communist Manifesto plainly states Marxism’s goal: to overthrow society.  It lays out the Marxist themes echoed by the postmodernists:

  • History is conflict between oppressors and the oppressed.
  • Society is oppression, every human aspect: political, moral, social, artistic, scientific, literary, legal (every thought, concept, and institution).
lennon-johnJohn Lennon

John Lennon‘s lovely tune, Imagine, is (indeed) a musical rendition of The Communist Manifesto. “There is no real Communist state in the world,” Lennon said, “You must realize that.”  (This is the usual denial, that true Communism is ideal Communism, never actual Communism.)  “The Socialism I speak about … [is] not the way some daft Russian might do it, or the Chinese might do it,” he said, “That might suit them.” (One doubts that the tens of millions of victims of the Soviets and Maoists thought it “suitable”).  “Us, we should have a nice … British Socialism,” he said.  Lennon didn’t grasp that Marxism is a disaster, across times and cultures.

beatles-taxman

Lennon’s hypocrisy is quite remarkable.  The wealthy Lennon had fled punitive British taxation, settling in the U.S.  This heavily progressive taxation was the product of the socialist Labour Party.  Lennon fled Marxian taxation, then penned an homage to Marx.  (It’s a pretty song, though.)

 Next

Revolution is in the air.  Next: Part 25, Revolutions of 1848.

Postmodernism, Part 23: Marx and Moses

What is postmodernism? Is it a problem?  The following continues a series of posts explaining postmodernism.  It is based on the excellent Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, by Prof. Stephen Hicks.  (Additional support includes Socialism, by Ludwig von Mises; and Freedom and Organization by Bertrand Russel.)

Previous posts:

Enlightenment and Darkness

Rousseau’s Revolutionary Politics

Right Collectivism

Left Collectivism

Erstwhile

Marxist postmodernism seeks to overthrow modernism.  Modernism’s political philosophy proposes reason, individualism, liberal democracy, and free markets.  Postmodernist philosophy is based on the metaphysical nihilism of (Nazi) Martin Heidegger.

jean-rousseauJean Rousseau

Postmodernism’s radical left politics don’t flow naturally from Heidegger’s subjectivist philosophy.  Postmodernism’s leftist political philosophy is explained by twentieth century Marxists’ crisis of faith in the face of undeniable Marxist catastrophe.  Postmodernists took refuge in an earlier totalitarian collectivist, Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Rousseau’s ideas and Napoleon’s conquests inspired the German Counter-Enlightenment thinkers (Kant, Herder, Fichte, Hegel).  They gave Rousseau a German twist, including hero worship, state worship, totalitarianism, and dialectical history (with German supremacy).

Left Collectivism has roots in romanticism (inspired by Rousseau).  Romanticism was both an aesthetic and a value system.  It valued unthinking passion, sympathy, virtuous poverty, idyllic nature, danger, violence, and radicalism.  It devalued social consequences and conventional morality.  Lord Byron was prototypical.

engelsFriedrich Engels

Left Collectivism has roots in the problems of our industrial past.  Families struggled to survive crowded filthy “third world” slums, malnutrition, epidemics, long hours, unsafe work, misery, crime, societal breakdown, and uncaring government.  Revolution seemed imminent.

Left Collectivism has roots in “utopian socialism”.  Marx and Engels claimed their “scientific socialism” was “Gospel”.  (Marx prove to be a jealous and vengeful god.)  They scoffed at the “utopian socialist” heretics, such as Robert Owen (the idealist) and Charles Fourier (the absurd French fabulist).

Unlike Fourier, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were serious fellows.  Revolution was in the air.

Karl Marx
karl-marxKarl Marx

Karl Marx was a deep thinker.  He grew up in the German Rhineland (like Engels).  He was born Jewish, but was raised Protestant.  As a university student, he studied law, philosophy, and the works of Hegel.  (Hegel was dead, by then.)

Marx became one of the Young Hegelians (a group of assorted radicals, who didn’t actually call themselves that).  Their ideas were an eclectic mix of Hegel plus Fichte minus God and country:

  • History is dialectical.  It evolves through contradiction and conflict towards some presupposed destiny.  (The dialectic is a circular argument that presupposes the destiny it claims to prove.)
  • Reason is subjective.  (This is a lazy shortcut refutes any counter-arguments.)
  • Freedom is slavery.  (The universe is evolving towards inevitable destiny.  We have no freedom, but duty to achieve that destiny.)

The Young Hegelians disagreed with Hegel over destiny.  Hegel was a Prussian conservative.  They were radicals, that presupposed different destinies:

  • Hegel presupposed a German Christian destiny.
  • The radicals, not so much.

They generally agreed that religion must go.  They argued over why:

  • Some argued that state power (and all laws) are based on religion. (So, get rid of religion.)
  • Marx argued that the state hides behind religion.  (So, get rid of religion.)  He argued that state power is based on production and capital.

To be fair, they had lots of baggage from medieval days.  There was no “separation of church and state”.  They blamed the church for medieval ignorance.  They blamed the church for medieval evil.  (Church and state had been joined at the hip, and done many terrible things).

Marx Gets Religion
hess-mosesMoses Hess (Zionist)

One Young Hegelian, Moses Hess, mixed Hegelianism with Communism.  He helped convert Marx and Engels to Communism (oops).

Hess later regretted this, saying, “Thus did I spread devastation”. (Hess was a Jewish Zionist.  Marxism and its progeny were disastrous for the Jews – an important idea, later.)

Marx shuffled off to Paris, in 1843.  (Prussian censorship had ended his brief journalism career.)  Paris was (as usual) a hotbed of radicalism.  Socialist ideas were in vogue (Fourier and the retrograde Saint-Simon).

bakunin-mikhailMikhail Bakunin (Anarchist Communist)

In Paris, Marx met Engels (his future pen pal).  Engels (already a Communist) was headed to England (on business, sent by his father).  In England, Engels would write his book on working conditions.

Marx also linked up with Mikhail Bakunin.  Marx and Bakunin were both Communists, but had big disagreements.  (It’s hard to imagine a bunch of bearded radicals agreeing on much, other than a common enemy.) Bakunin and Marx would be bitter rivals (discussed later).

In 1845, Marx got exiled from Paris.  The pesky Prussians were after him, again.  (Marx got exiled, a lot.)  He packed his bags, and shuffled off to Brussels.

In Brussels, Marx spread Communist propaganda.  (In those days, Communist propagandizing paid poorly.  Today, it pays poorly unless you get tenure or a comedy news show.)  Engels bankrolled Marx.  (Marx was almost always broke.  Engels bailed him out, a lot.)

Marx worked with Communist groups (from different countries).  They formed the Communist League.  In 1847, the Communist League got tired of skulking about.  They decided to come out of hiding, and announce themselves to the world.  They asked Marx and Engels to do the writing.

This was the Communist Manifesto.

Commentary

The Manifesto would be the unalterable Gospel of Communism.  It is a prophecy.  It is revealed truth.

It’s key to note that Communism is a prophecy.  It is a prophecy, based on the dialectic.  The dialectic presupposes an inevitable destiny (in this case, the “Workers Paradise”).

Communism is revealed truth (like a religious text).  History reveals itself to Marx and Engels through the dialectic.

This helps explain Communist faith and zealotry.

 Next

Marx and Engels reveal the Communist Gospel.  Next: Part 24, Communist Manifesto.

Postmodernism, Part 17: Hegel – Freedom is Slavery

What is postmodernism? Is it a problem?  The following continues a series of posts explaining postmodernism.  It is based on the excellent Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, by Prof. Stephen Hicks (with support from Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy.)

Previous posts:

Enlightenment and Darkness

Rousseau’s Revolutionary Politics

Right Collectivism

Erstwhile

Marxist postmodernism seeks to overthrow modernism.  Modernism’s political philosophy proposes reason, individualism, liberal democracy, and free markets.  Postmodernist philosophy is based on the metaphysical nihilism of (Nazi) Martin Heidegger.

Postmodernism’s radical left politics don’t flow naturally from Heidegger’s subjectivist philosophy.  Postmodernism’s leftist political philosophy is explained by twentieth century Marxists’ crisis of faith in the face of undeniable Marxist catastrophe.  Postmodernists took refuge in an earlier totalitarian collectivist, Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

jean-rousseauJean Rousseau

Rousseau’s political philosophy features socialism, totalitarianism, and unthinking religious fervor.  He was a Counter-Enlightenment totalitarian collectivist, who damned reason and civilization, sacrificed the individual to the state, called for intolerant state religion, despised political and economic liberalism, and embraced dictatorship.  His ideas inflamed the French Revolution and gave rise to Napoleon.

Napoleon gave Germany an epic case of post-traumatic stress disorder.  Napoleon gained power and trounced Germany.  He ended the Holy Roman Empire, occupied German territories, and imposed foreign values on them.  Germans blamed the Enlightenment for invading the dark forests of deeply rooted German traditions.

German Counter-Enlightenment minds gave Rousseau a German spin.  Kant espoused a sort of feudalistic militarism, where Nature uses human warfare for human progress.  Johann Herder (Kant’s student) disagreed, arguing for multiculturalism, moral relativism, German (not universal) progress, and nationalism.  Johann Fichte (Kant’s student) also disagreed, arguing for Ego (German subjective reality), public education as totalitarian collectivist indoctrination, and German (collective) freedom.

Hegel: Freedom is Slavery

Hegel was the fellow who reinvented reason.  He and Kant had split over how to defend God.  Kant used logic to kill objective reality.  Hegel objected because this denied universal truth.  He wanted it back.  So, Hegel used his dialectic to reinvent reason.  Reason was the universe acting through individuals, with contradictions clashing in a process of cultural evolution.

Hegel decided to give Rousseau the dialectic treatment plus a healthy dose of German idealism.  He was a Rousseau fanboy, but the French Revolution had proved to be weak beer.  To change the world, Rousseau’s collectivist totalitarianism needed a German shot in the arm.

hegelHegel

Hegel (like Rousseau) argued for state religion – in a literal sense.  He claimed that history was progress towards divine perfection (the Absolute Idea).  “God governs the world,” he taught, “the carrying out of his plan is the History of The World”.  The State “is the Divine Idea as it exists on Earth”, he said, “One must worship the state as a terrestrial divinity”.

Hegel (going beyond Rousseau) sacrificed the individual on the altar of his state religion.  “If the state claims life, the individual must surrender it,” he parroted Rousseau. Individuals “are thus sacrificed”, he wrote, “under the category of means to an ulterior end”.

Hegel reinvented freedom (echoing Fichte).  True freedom is the obedience of the law. “Law is the objectivity of Spirit; volition in its true form, ” Hegel taught, “for it obeys itself – it is independent and so free”.  (In other words, freedom is God’s.  God’s laws are the nation’s laws.  Individuals have a duty to God and country, which are one and the same.)

Hegel (like Rousseau) endorsed dictatorship (of “world-historical individuals” – like Napoleon).  The dictator “is devoted to One Aim”, he wrote, and “may treat other great, even sacred interests, inconsiderately; conduct which is indeed obnoxious to moral reprehension.”  (The dictator is above morality.)  “But so mighty a form must trample down many an innocent flower”, he said.  (The dictator is above morality and will slaughter innocents to realize God’s plan.)

Hegel (like Fichte) divined that history was culminating in the German people.  The Spirit had developed in three phases: the Orientals, the Greeks, the Romans, and the Germans.  “The German world knows that All are free”, he wrote, “The German spirit is the spirit of the new world.  Its aim is the realization of absolute Truth as the unlimited self determination of freedom”.

Two important takeaways from Hegel are: his dialectic and totalitarian ethnic nationalism.  Both components would be taken up by the Collective Right and the Collective Left.

Commentary

Hegel was profoundly influential.  His ideas (seemingly bizarre, unhinged, even lunatic) would shake the world, killing tens of millions.

Importantly, from a subjectivist philosophical point of view, there is nothing inherently wrong with holocaust and genocide.

Next

Romanticism and industrialization birth Socialism. Next: Part 18, Antichrist.

Postmodernism, Part 16: Fichte’s School of Nationialism

What is postmodernism? Is it a problem?  The following continues a series of posts explaining postmodernism.  It is based on the excellent Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, by Prof. Stephen Hicks (with support from Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy.)

Previous posts:

Enlightenment and Darkness

Rousseau’s Revolutionary Politics

Right Collectivism

Erstwhile

Marxist postmodernism seeks to overthrow modernism.  Modernism’s political philosophy proposes reason, individualism, liberal democracy, and free markets.  Postmodernist philosophy is based on the metaphysical nihilism of (Nazi) Martin Heidegger.

Postmodernism’s radical left politics don’t flow naturally from Heidegger’s subjectivist philosophy.  Postmodernism’s leftist political philosophy is explained by twentieth century Marxists’ crisis of faith in the face of undeniable Marxist catastrophe.  Postmodernists took refuge in an earlier totalitarian collectivist, Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

jean-rousseauJean Rousseau

Rousseau’s political philosophy features socialism, totalitarianism, and unthinking religious fervor.  He was a Counter-Enlightenment totalitarian collectivist, who damned reason and civilization, sacrificed the individual to the state, called for intolerant state religion, despised political and economic liberalism, and embraced dictatorship.  His ideas inflamed the French Revolution and gave rise to Napoleon.

Napoleon gave Germany an epic case of post-traumatic stress disorder.  Napoleon gained power and trounced Germany.  He ended the Holy Roman Empire, occupied German territories, and imposed foreign values on them.  Germans blamed the Enlightenment for invading the dark forests of deeply rooted German traditions.

Kant gave Rousseau’s totalitarian collectivism a German spin: feudalistic militarism.  Life is suffering.  Morality is selfless duty unto death.  Nature uses human warfare for human progress.

Johann Herder (Kant’s student) disagreed with Kant on human progress.  Herder was a romantic who espoused multiculturalism, moral relativism, and German progress (not universal progress, like Kant) .  He was a patriot and nationalist who warned against infectious foreign ideas.  His own nationalism proved contagious.

Napoleon’s foreign occupation set German nationalism aflame.

Fichte’s School of Nationalism

Johann Fichte, was the father of German nationalism.  He (like Herder) was Kant’s student (but parted ways with Kant over ultimate reality).  Fichte espoused public education – for totalitarian collectivist indoctrination.  He called on Germans to reclaim German freedom (against foreign ideas).

Fichte (Kant’s student) parted ways with Kant over ultimate reality.  Kant had trashed the idea of knowing objective reality (leaving only subjective reality).  Fichte trashed ultimate reality, altogether.  He argued that subjective reality (Ego) was ultimate reality.  (Any other “reality” exists only because Ego supposes it.)

johann-fichteJohann Fichte

Fichte was the father of German nationalism.  Ego (Fichte’s subjective ultimate reality) was German.  “To have character and to be a German,” Fichte taught, “undoubtedly mean the same thing”.  (If Ego’s subjective reality is ultimately reality, then this is subjectively “true”).

Fichte espoused public education for collectivist indoctrination.  Rousseau had proposed public education for social indoctrination.  Fichte expanded on this, arguing that education must “mold the Germans into a corporate body” that joins “all its individual members by the same interest”.  He wrote, “Free will is the first mistake of the old system”.  He argued that education should completely destroy freedom of will, and produce unthinking obedience.

Fichte espoused public education for totalitarian indoctrination.  Education should make each of us a “fixed and unchangeable machine,” he said, “a link in the eternal chain of spiritual life in a higher social order” (very medieval).  He taught that education must replace individualism with nationalism and a classless society.

Fichte called on Germans to reclaim German freedom (against foreign ideas).  The Germans “bravely resisted the oncoming world dominion of the Romans,” he said, “Freedom to them meant just this: remaining Germans … with the original spirit of their race”.  To him, freedom is about nations (not individuals).

Commentary

Fichte’s ideas profoundly influenced Germany, nationalists, and collectivists (Left and Right).  Fichte (unlike Herder) was racist and antisemitic.

In unfettered subjectivist philosophy, anything goes.  Nothing flows naturally from subjectivist philosophy – not individualism, not collectivism, not nationalism, not racism.  Subjectivist philosophy is entirely subjective (truth, morality, everything).  That is the context of Fichte’s racism, antisemitism, totalitarianism, everything.  (To the subjectivist, why not?)

Next

Collectivists turn “freedom” into slavery.  Next: Part 17, Hegel – Freedom is Slavery.

Postmodernism, Part 15: Herder’s Volksgeist

What is postmodernism? Is it a problem?  The following continues a series of posts explaining postmodernism.  It is based on the excellent Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, by Prof. Stephen Hicks (with support from Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy.)

Previous posts:

Enlightenment and Darkness

Rousseau’s Revolutionary Politics

Right Collectivism

Erstwhile

Marxist postmodernism seeks to overthrow modernism.  Modernism’s political philosophy proposes reason, individualism, liberal democracy, and free markets.  Postmodernist philosophy is based on the metaphysical nihilism of (Nazi) Martin Heidegger.

Postmodernism’s radical left politics don’t flow naturally from Heidegger’s subjectivist philosophy.  Postmodernism’s leftist political philosophy is explained by twentieth century Marxists’ crisis of faith in the face of undeniable Marxist catastrophe.  Postmodernists took refuge in an earlier totalitarian collectivist, Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

jean-rousseauJean Rousseau

Rousseau’s political philosophy features socialism, totalitarianism, and unthinking religious fervor.  Rousseau’s Counter-Enlightenment was the polar opposite of Enlightenment thinking and values.  He was a totalitarian collectivist, who damned reason and civilization, sacrificed the individual to the state, called for intolerant state religion, despised political and economic liberalism, and embraced dictatorship.

Napoleon gave Germany an epic case of post-traumatic stress disorder.  Rousseau’s ideas inflamed the French Revolution and Reign of Terror.  Napoleon gained power and trounced Germany.  He ended the Holy Roman Empire, occupied German territories, and imposed foreign values on them.  Germans blamed the Enlightenment for invading the dark forests of deeply rooted German traditions.

Kant gave Rousseau’s totalitarian collectivism a German spin: feudalistic militarism.  Life is suffering.  (We deserve it.  So, get over it.)  Morality is selfless duty unto death.  (So, unthinkingly obey your masters.)  Life is cheap.  (So, make death count.)  Human progress is warfare until judgment day.  (The dark forest of Kant’s German traditions had such deep roots they seemingly reached back to pagan Germanic warrior cults.)

Napoleon’s foreign invasions were setting the brooding German Counter-Enlightenment thinkers on fire.

Sturm and Drang

Enlightenment scientific rationalism sparked a passionate reaction against logic and reason.  This is why Rousseau’s passions so inflamed the German Counter-Enlightenment thinkers (hence, Kant).  In the arts, Rousseau inspired the passionate Romantic movement.  Philosophy and the arts entwined in fierce embrace.

The Romantic movement began with the German Sturm and Drang (“storm and drive”).  It included philosophy, music, and literature.  Its proponents included Wagner,  the composers Haydn and Mozart, and the legendary Goethe (who had been up close and personal with the French Revolution and Napoleon’s invading troops).  Sturm and Drang elevated, nature, youth (dying young), violent emotion, and the humble.

Rousseau and Sturm and Drang inspired many Counter-Enlightenment thinkers (who influenced the collectivist Right) and Romantic thinkers (who influenced the collectivist Left).

Herder’s Volksgeist

Johann Herder (the “German Rousseau”) discovered multiculturalism, moral relativism, and the German Volksgeist (the national spirit).  He was Kant’s student (but left Kant for being too reasonable).  Herder was a multiculturalist and moral relativist.  He warned against infecting German culture with diseased foreign ideas.

Herder studied under Kant but became a disciple of Johann Hamann (Kant’s friend and colleague).  Hamann and Kant both distrusted the Enlightenment and reason.  However, Hamann thought Kant’s subjectivism was still too cozy with reason.  Herder followed Hamann in abandoning reason.

herderJohann Herder

Herder discovered the German Volksgeist (national spirit).  Kant thought Nature’s grand plan used warfare for universal human progress.  Herder rejected the idea of universal human progress.  What mattered (to him) was German progress.

Herder was a multiculturalist and moral relativist.  Each Volk (people) has its own distinct culture, morality, and destiny.  So, there’s no such thing as universal progress because there’s no universal yardstick.  (Each culture has its own yardstick.)

Herder warned against infecting German culture with foreign ideas (in a nonjudgmental way).  When we “start dwelling on wishful dreams of foreign lands,” he taught us, we’re just asking for trouble: “symptoms of disease, of flatulence, of unhealthy opulence, of approaching death!”  Foreign ideas (the Enlightenment, etc.) were like a disease that threatened to sicken and kill the Germans.

Herder was a patriotic German nationalist.  He was not a racist.

Commentary

Herder greatly influenced the German arts.  His writings helped inspire the Sturm and Drang movement.  His studies of German language and myths, in search of deeper meanings, would influence many others.

Just as romanticism would inspire totalitarian collectivism, Herder’s ideas would be borrowed and twisted to terrible ends (as Herder had feared).

Next

Germans continue brewing the Collectivist Right.  Next: Part 16, Fichte’s School of Nationalism.