Life, Death, and History That is a brilliant paragraph, Geoff, and I'm not being sarcastic. ... it is a Freudian theorem that each individual neurosis is not static but dynamic. It is a historical process with its own internal logic. Because of the basically unsatisfactory nature of the neurotic compromise, tension between the repressed and repressing factors persists and produces a constant series of new symptom-formations. And the series of symptom-formations is not a shapeless series of mere changes; it exhibits a regressive pattern, which Freud calls the slow return of the repressed, "It is a law of neurotic diseases that these obsessive acts serve the impulse more and more and come nearer and nearer the original and forbidden act." The doctrine of the universal neurosis of mankind, if we take it seriously, therefore compels us to entertain the hypothesis that the pattern of history exhibits a dialectic not hitherto recognized by historians, the dialectic of neurosis. (Brown, 11-12) You are correct that we cannot dismiss the inherent dangers of revolution. We must, indeed, recognize them for what we are. My father, then a Reagan Republican and staunch anti-communist who defined the Reds according to the Cuba episode and Kruschev's amazing speech, used to patiently reiterate two fundamental arguments about what is wrong with communism. Communism, he said, disincentivized labor because why would you do a better job than the worst worker on the line who is getting the same amount of money as you. Yet he believed in trickle-down. And his achilles heel on that was the very same fundamental mistake he accused communists of making. See, he couldn't look at them as people. They were communists. This took me years to figure out because my political and philosophical vocabularies weren't large enough to describe the problem. Just like the first incarnations of communism, my father overlooked the amorphous, omnipresent fact of human nature. It took his business partners rolling on him and forcing him out, and then the bloody accounting scandals on Wall Street that kicked off this century that the world wouldn't end if he admitted Marx was right about a couple things. And he didn't even frame the proposition that way. But until that final collapse of his capitalist faith, he really did believe that businessmen were of a particular, noble archetype. He didn't understand people's increasing disillusionment with growth. People are people. The inherent dangers of revolution apply to all revolutions. Ask Thomas Paine, who was betrayed by two revolutions he helped fuel, and whose cause he attempted to aid. Ask the Boomer capitalists who just watched their precious system go bust. And, yes, ask the communists whose foremost representatives are a repressive state-capitalist institution, a megalomaniac and a bunch of narco-guerillas in South America, and Cuba. How did it come to this? My father also saw a threat in communism because it tread into various parts of life that he found important. Education, health, retirement. He liked to use those examples because they involved money. And, well, money is the center of capitalism. He didn't want state influence on certain parts of his life. But capitalists have done the same thing. Employers contribute to health, education, and retirement, and according to their terms. So instead of the state influencing their decisions, it is concerns of profitability. Perhaps that's fine if my father's former belief in the earnest nobility of proper commerce was something more than a former belief in the earnest nobility of proper commerce. But that faith fell through for him. Human nature. So quick was he to see the inherent danger in what he loathed, he completely overlooked it in the things he sought to love. You're looking at the communist past and seeing it as the only possibility. Yet it is also part of human nature to learn. We don't know what the future of humanity holds. But we do see drift toward a more cohesive collective identity. On the left it's a reason to be cheerful, and we don't have many of those these days. I don't know how closely you pay attention to me in general, but you might in the past have come across other of my remarks about the state of communism. These include the notion that I would like to be the head of the Communist Party in the United States (CPUSA, at present, I believe), in order to dissolve it and open an American call for a new international. Or you might have encountered my suggestion that the revolution must necessarily be organic, and at one point I went so far as to say this would demand it be relatively bloodless. It can't be top-down; that's where Stalin failed and it is where Chavez will fail. People will adopt more communitarian models as the marketplace proscribes various alternatives. Capitalism ultimately runs for its own sake. At some point, "The Economy" becomes effectively more important than the people who comprise it. Exploitation is an inevitable effect of competition in a purely capitalist system. Minimum wage, standardized workday, employer-based health care, child labor laws; all these are responses, demanded by people who felt no other alternative, because the marketplace was driving them into ruin. It is easy, with communism, to demonize the notion of everybody having a place in society. Rhetorically, that kind of exposure might as well just have a sign on it that says, "Kick Me". But we avoid it in the more capitalistic systems because it is important to sell the Straussian myth; if you can frame abject wealth as a cosmic good, you can rule a people with it. The advancement of our current system depends in part on a fiscally-conservative segment of the working class, and it would break the system's political support if those people ever came to genuinely understand that their role in society—because everybody does have a place—is to be silage. Our way of doing things requires exploitation. It depends on an exploited poverty class around the world. That is how we maintain our luxury. Silage. As people decide to claim more and more of the world's benefits for their labor, they will have to figure out how to do that without wrecking the very system that allows those benefits. Communism is inevitable. The old revolutions are over. Even the ones that haven't figured it out yet. We're walking right into it. Marx and Freud, to say the least, are looking better and better as time goes by. Darwin himself is gaining new dimension as humanity progresses. Our living utility transcends our immediate luxury. We will make it somewhere ... someday. Or we won't. But right now the capitalist influence is walking straight toward a communal future. The old revolutions are over. It's not about blaming the right insofar as a right wing exists at all. But recognizing the inherent danger also means recognizing that a revolutionary dictatorial institution that follows a more traditional and conservative political consolidation is bound to encounter some serious problems. And, sure, the watchwords in that one are "dictatorial" and "consolidation", but when applied to a leftist uprising, that means the consolidation occurs to the political right of the revolution itself. Most conservatives would have you believe that liberals fail for reaching too far, for being too idealistic. But history shows, over and over, that the primary failure of liberalism is that it never pushes far enough. Wollstonecraft's argument about dolls is still carrying on today, for heaven's sake. ____________________ Brown, Norman O. Life Against Death. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1959.