October 2, 2014

Socialism: Threat to Freedom

Socialist Flag
Samuel Gregg, Director of Research at the Acton Institute offers an excellent introduction to socialism on a recent interview on EWTN. He discusses the philosophical foundations of socialism including its implicit anthropology and cosmology, as well as its historical record. He draws the necessary distinctions between Gramscian vs Leninist socialism (the cultural means of production vs. the economic means of production) and the implications for the larger culture. He is interviewed by Johnnette S. Benkovic, the Founder and President of Living His Life Abundantly International, a Roman Catholic evangelization ministry.

I have to put it on a separate page because the autostart-off does not work. Open it in a new tab, then post your comments below. You can see the interview here.

Comments

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    Geo Michalopulos says:

    Fr, I believe that Socialism in all its forms is a subset of Progressivism. To show its inherent evil, I’d like to quote one of the founding fathers of Progressivism, President Woodrow Wilson, a man whom we know had profound contempt for the Constitution. One of his animating principles for founding The League of Nations was his belief that Jesus Christ had failed in His mission. I quote:

    “Why has Jesus Christ so far not succeeded in inducing the world to follow his teachings in these matters? It is because He taught the ideal without devising any practical means of attaining it. That is why I am proposing a practical scheme to carry out His aims.”

    Now, leaving aside the fact that Wilson was a devout Christian (Presbyterian), these words should astonish anybody who is of a more traditionalist bent. For one thing, he believes that Christ’s mission was political. Second, that it failed (that is the implication of “not succeeded”). Third, Wilson came to the scene to implement Jesus’ aims, which we must presume were merely political. The arrogance is astonishing.

    (Is it too much to ask how a fallen world can even “progress”?)

    Yet the fact that Wilson was a devout Christian –as were most of the other Progressives–gave important political cover to Liberals since then, allowing them to dilute the mainstream denominations and to aggrandize the power of the state over and above that of the Church and the family. Almost to the point where it is now a god in its own right. Now of course, that the secularists have almost completely won the day, they can dispense with the useful idiots of Christian bent who provided them with the necessary cover. Wilson of course would be appalled, but it’s too late in the day for that.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    I’d say that Progressive ideology* is the child of Socialism. The reason that Socialism has such a hold on people who ought to know better is that the ostensible aims of Socialism are congruent with the moral imperatives of Christianity. That’s one reason why some Orthodox were blind to the coming tyranny in Russia until they were dumped into the Gulags. That’s why too it holds such allure for some Orthodox today. (I side with Sozhenitsyn and Vaclev Havel who taught that the difference between Socialism and Communism is only a matter of degree, and that all Socialist systems if left unchecked slide toward tyranny.)

    The witness of history is clear to anyone with eyes to see. Materialism is corrosive to the human spirit. There is an erosion of morals, character, hope, purpose, drive and other very important constituents of human existence whether it was in the Communist East or the Democratic/Socialist West today. Moreover, the ostensible success of places like Denmark is built on the cultural reserves of earlier generations that are almost spent. It cannot be sustained but for another decade or so.

    Looking deeper (here reading Gramsci is instructive), you see the Socialist utopia is nothing more than a temporalized Christianity where the New Jerusalem is not the heavenly city, but one we craft with our own hands in space and time — a lot like Babel actually. The utopian dream could only have emerged (and enthralled the minds of men — like the Sirens of Ulysses) in a culture shaped by Christianity.

    That Wilson, as a Presbyterian, embraced it (it wouldn’t surprise me if Wilson privately thought God had called him to the task) makes sense in a way. John Calvin, in my opinion, laid the theological ground for the the desacramentalizing of creation; I see him as the godfather of modern secularism. A descramentalized mind is fertile soil for the utopian dreams of social engineers.

    But, as I have mentioned before, I don’t see secularism as a permanent condition; the malady is just too great a cross to bear for most people including non-believers. Hence the lure of Progressivism in our day and age. It has a religious character to it, a sense of noble calling where the suffering “masses” (I detest that term) will be rescued from their travails by the goodwill of their overlords. Modern Progressivism is just Socialism writ large; it seeks control of private economic activity, rewrites cultural norms (manufactures new “rights”), criminalizes thought (“hate speech”), diminishes the value of the individual (abortion, euthanasia) etc. But then ask Orthodox Christians with direct experience of Communism about the new Socialism and compare their answers with Orthodox Christians who grew up in the relative freedom of the West. It’s an eye-opener. The experienced are not fooled.

    *(Think about what Pat. Bartholomew’s support of the Geneva Protocols and his endorsement of the Center for the American Progress really means in this context. European Socialists were well on their way towards centralizing the control of the economies of nation-states under unelected bureaucrats until global warming was exposed as a fraud. The EP sanctioned the effort with the full moral weight of his office. Is the new Hellenism nothing more than the old Socialism? It just might be.)

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    Geo Michalopulos says:

    Fr, thanks for the clarification. My fear is that when all is said and done, what will the useful idiots within Orthodoxy think when they’re shunted off to the gulags once their usefulness is at an end?

    Your statement about the EP speaking at the Soros-funded Center for American Progress is just one such incident. There are so many others: I’ll never forget the sycophantic paean that Bishop Savvas wrote upon the election of Obama or how the libs at Holy Cross reacted with glee upon the passage of Obamacare. And of course +Demetrius’ disturbing comparison of Obama to Alexander the Great?

    Do these people not think? Do they not know history? What about the Old Testament, in which the Preacher warns us about the fickleness of world leaders? Has Byzantinism degenerated to such an extent that the Phanariote bishops do not know the Gospel?

    Or are have just led such soft existences that they their psyches are just as soft as their physiques? Or is it possible that the Church will be so co-opted and emptied of its prophetic component that they’ll be left alone, left to perform elaborate rituals in elegant robes, their masters knowing that they are not serious men?

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Your point about the limited usefulness of religious men (impostors or real) was a question I kept asking myself when I saw Pat. Bartholomew embrace the Progressive activists. Progressivism is no friend of religion. It can’t be because religion by its very nature affirms the transcendent. It repudiates the materialist myth that the constituents that give human life its meaning and purpose has its source only in man or nature. That’s why Socialist systems are hostile towards religion, and why Communist systems seek to eradicate it.

    Pat. Bartholomew does not appear to understand this. If he did, he would not have lent the moral authority of his office to Progressive causes such as the Geneva Protocols, or endorsed institutions like the Center for American Progress (CAP).

    There were clergy and hierarchs in Eastern Europe who didn’t understand the native hostility of Communism towards religion either when it first emerged. The first time around their acquiescence is easier to understand (I’m not sure if it can be excused however). But now we have the witness of history. Even the simple fact that CAP is Soros funded should have sounded some alarm bells. It appears too that his advisers don’t see past a Newsweek or New York Times analysis of events.

    I wrote an article a while back describing how the native clarity of religion threatens utopian dreamers and why they seek to destroy it. See: The Artist as Vandal: Culture and the desecration of religious symbols.

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    Father,

    regarding this relation between Progressism and Socialism, and many other similar “revolutionary” ideals, I think that the Brazilian philosopher Olavo de Carvalho has uncovered the heart of the dragon with his theory of “revolutionary mentality” or “revolutionary mind”. His theory, in my opinion, explains very convincingly that other phenomena being discussed here of why people who would expectedly oppose progressivism (an expression of the “revolutionary mind”) give it their support.

    Better than trying to paraphrase him, here is an extract of his own explanations about it:

    “The revolutionary mind is not essentially a political phenomenon, but a spiritual and psychological one, though its field of expression and its fundamental instrument is political action.

    To make things easier, I use the expressions “revolutionary mind” and “revolutionary mentality” in order to distinguish between the concrete historical phenomenon, with its varied manifestations, and the essential and permanent characteristic that enables one to grasp its unity throughout time.

    The “revolutionary mentality” is the permanent or transitory state of spirit in which an individual or a group believes himself capable of remodeling the whole society – if not human nature in general – through political action. As an agent or bearer of a better future, he considers himself to be above all judgment by present or past humanity, being accountable only to the “court of History”. But the court of History is, by definition, the very future society that this individual or group claims to represent in the present. So, as future society is only able to bear witness or to judge through this same representative, it is clear that he thus becomes not only the sole sovereign judge of his own acts, but the judge of all past, present and future humanity. Able to accuse and to condemn all laws, institutions, beliefs, values, traditions, actions and works of all epochs without being subject, in his turn, to the judgment of any of them, he lies so much above historical humanity that it would not be inaccurate to call him Superman.

    As the self-glorification of Superman, the revolutionary mentality is totalitarian and genocidal in itself, independently from its ideological content in different circumstances and occasions.

    By refusing himself to be accountable to anything except a hypothetical future of his own invention, and firmly disposed to destroy by cunning or by force every obstacle to the remodeling of the world to his own image and likeness, the revolutionary is the worst enemy of the human species, compared to whom the worst tyrants and conquerors of Antiquity impress us by the modesty of their aims and by a notable circumspection in the use of their means.

    (…)

    Although the different revolutionary ideologies are, all of them, in greater or lesser degree, menacing and wicked, their evil does not rest so much in their specific content or in the strategies to bring it about, as in the very fact of them being revolutionary in the sense defined here.

    Socialism and Nazism are not revolutionary because they propose supremacy of a social class or of a race, but because they turn these goals into principles for a radical remodeling not only of the political order, but of all human life. The evil that they foreshadow becomes universally threatening because they do not present themselves as local answers to momentary situations, but as universal commandments instilled with the authority to remake the world according the mold of a hypothetical future perfection.

    (…)

    That is why it must be stressed that the meaning here given to the term “revolution” is at once more encompassing and more precise than the one generally attributed to it by historiography and by the current social sciences. Many socio-political processes usually called “revolutions” are not actually “revolutionary”, because they do not partake of the revolutionary mentality, they do not aim at the total remodeling of society, culture and the human species, but work only to modify local and momentary situations, ideally for the better.

    (…)

    What truly characterizes the revolutionary movement is that it imposes the authority of a hypothetical future on the judgment of all the human species, present or past. By its very nature, the revolution is totalitarian and universally expansive: there is not a single aspect of human life that it does not intend to submit to its power, there is no region of the world where it does not wish to extend the tentacles of its influence.

    (…)

    Among the confusions that this study allows to elucidate is the one that dominates the concepts of the political “Left” and “Right”. This confusion stems from the fact that these two words are used to designate two orders of entirely different phenomena. On one hand, the Left is the revolution in general and the Right is the counter-revolution. There seemed to be no doubt about this when these terms were used to designate the two wings of the États Généraux in revolutionary France . But later developments led the revolutionary movement itself to appropriate both terms, and to use them to designate its own internal subdivisions.

    (…)

    This retreat of what is admissible as “right-wing” by labeling as such one of the wings of the Left itself, became later a habitual device of the revolutionary process. At the same time, the remaining genuine counter-revolutionaries were often forced to ally themselves with the revolutionary “Right” and to assimilate themselves to it in order to preserve some means of action in the aftermath of the victorious revolution. To complicate things even more, once counter-revolution was excluded from the repertoire of politically admissible ideas, counter-revolutionary resentment continued to exist as a psycho-social phenomenon, and was many times used by the revolutionary Left as a pretext and a rhetorical appeal to win for its cause sectors of the population who, though deeply conservative and traditionalist, revolted against the revolutionary “Right” dominant at that moment.

    (…)

    In the U.S., the term “Right” is used to describe both conservatives in a strict sense, who are viscerally anti-revolutionary, and globalist Republicans, the “right-wing” of world revolution.

    (…)

    It is clear for me that it is only possible to return some objective descriptive power to these terms if we take, as a delimiting line, the revolutionary movement as a whole, and oppose to it the counter-revolutionary Right, even where it does not have political expression and is only a cultural phenomenon.

    The essence of the counter-revolutionary or conservative mentality is the aversion to any project of encompassing transformation, the obstinate refusal to intervening in society as a whole, the quasi-religious respect to regional, spontaneous and long-term political processes, the denial of all authority to the spokesmen of the hypothetical future.

    http://www.olavodecarvalho.org/english/articles/070813dc_en.html

    His theory is further explained at the Laigle’s Forum by Donald Hank:

    http://laiglesforum.com/2008/08/28/olavo-de-carvalho-on-the-revolutionary-mind/

    I think that his theory is fundamental in understanding this phenomena and in giving us the mean to resist and react against the “revolutionary tide”.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Fabio, thank you very much. These are powerful ideas because they are true. I have never heard of Carvalho so thank you for bringing him to my attention.

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      Fabio L Leite says:

      Father,

      You’re welcome. Carvalho lives in Richmond, Virginia now. He moved to the US to protect his family and himself from death threats coming from the Brazilian left. He has experienced their “tolerance” first-hand. He is very accessible also, if you ever want to talk to him.

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, some christians on the left use the old testment laws of the 50 year period to say christians should support socialism. But reading Willliam G Dever’s book on archaeology one finds why Amos and others complained about the wealthy. Jews in anicent Isreali weight out their payments and it was easy to defraud people with the scales they had. Also, the 50 year debt law and kinsmen who help other relatives get their property back tried to prevent property from in the hands of few owners. Some old testment passages seem to point that property was ending in the hands of a certain group of wealthy owners. They lived in a primative agrcultural economy which is different from us. Also, christians before Constantine took care of the poor without the aid of the state and this was a 300 year period.

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, father Jacobse is right, the anabapists took over a town in Munster Germany in the 1500’s and declared it the New Jersusalem. The town then practce communistism and a community of wives until the Lutherans and Catholics drove them out. Actually, among protestants, anabapists tend to favor socialism, Jim Wallis and Emergating church leader Brain Mclaren are anabapists, so anabapistism gave birth to communistism.

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, Satan likes to appear as an angel of light.

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, there was an interesting article on how some orthodox that are extremely enviromentalists may condemned other orthodox to poverty. George Soros and an anti-mining group prevented mines being open up in Romania that were closed after the communists period and the wages would be higher than other jobs available in high unemployment Romania. This was on the eco-imperialists blog n junkscience.com.

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