Monday, November 28, 2011

When Romanticism Trumps Reason You Get Radical Chic Catastrophes

Remember the war against Franco,
That’s the kind where each of us belongs
He may have won all the battles
But we had all the good songs!
--Tom Lehrer

By Barry Rubin

The radical is always the more glamorous. People wear Che Guevara tee-shirts. They don’t wear Samuel Gompers, A. Phillip Randolph, Edouard Bernstein, Karl Kautsky, or Jean Jaures tee-shirts, yet those largely forgotten social democratic and labor heroes achieved far more benefit for reform and workers without murdering a lot of people.

Rosa Luxembourg, the nastiest rich spoiled brat in Zamosc, is fondly remembered though her career was a disaster and helped create the conditions that eventually brought about Nazism. Who knows about Frances Perkins, who did far more to help workers and was the first woman ever to be in the cabinet of an American president?

Thus, two things are certain. The extremist has better public relations and the extremist fails. Either he’s defeated, perhaps killed (dying the secular equivalent of the martyr’s death) or gains power, becomes horribly repressive, and messes up society big-time. In modern times, Yasir Arafat has been the king (perhaps I should say sultan) of lost causes, a fact which made him lionized in Europe.

Ah, the romance of the lost cause. Once the province of Irish Republicans, Polish nationalists, and sons or daughters of the Confederacy, the lost cause has an intense emotional appeal. There’s something stirring about defeat. And if you lose, you can’t be one of those evil rulers who actually have to show what your policies can do. At Civil War reenactments there are always more people wanting to be Confederates than Union soldiers. But if the Confederacy had won the Civil War, the ensuing additional decades of slavery would have put a damper on contemporary enthusiasm.

The same applies to the slave labor camps of Joe Stalin, or at least it should. But if the radicals do gain power, Hollywood actors can always go to visit Venezuelan dictators and glory in the man of action with the big mouth and the iron fist as he stamps on his demonized but actually helpless enemies....

All of these reflections come as a result of the open revival of the far left in the West, and especially in America. In recent years, the far left has prospered by pretending to be liberal. All of the dreams in the 1930s about infiltrating liberal organizations and taking over the Democratic Party have now come true.
But that doesn’t seem to be enough as the Occupy movement seeks to bring back the good old days of Stalinism. To hold such a position means that no one ever taught you at university anything about democratic political philosophy or the gaping holes in Marxism, not to mention the record of what Communism did when it was  in power.

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