The Left, Then and Now

Monday, February 24, 2020

Over the weekend, I re-read Ayn Rand's 1965 essay, "The Cashing-In: The Student 'Rebellion.'" Paragraph by paragraph, two things kept leaping out at me: (1) It was astounding how many things about the culture Rand was able to essentialize, and (2) how similar our culture is now. (These things explain the trope of Ayn Rand as prophet, and pervade her writing. And yet the new connections one can find never cease to amaze.)

After the polling in Nevada's caucuses over the weekend, I'll share just one example. Regarding the campus protesters of the time, Rand quotes from a survey in Newsweek:

"If they are rebels," the survey continues, "they are rebels without an ideology, and without long-range revolutionary programs. They rally over issues, not philosophies, and seem unable to formulate or sustain a systematized political theory of society, either from the left or right." (Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, p. 242) [bold added]
And then, a bit later, Rand makes her point that the "rebels" aren't rebelling at all:
Image by Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia, license.
The helpless bewilderment on the face of Harry Reasoner, the commentator, when he tried to sum up what he had presented, was an eloquent indication of why the press is unable properly to handle the student rebellion. "Now -- immediacy -- any situation must be solved now," he said incredulously, describing the rebels' attitude, neither praising nor blaming, in the faintly astonished, faintly helpless tone of a man unable to believe that he is seeing savages running loose on the campus of one of America's great universities.

Such are the products of modern philosophy. They are the type of students who are too intelligent not to see the logical consequences of the theories they have been taught -- but not intelligent nor independent enough to see through the theories and reject them.

So they scream their defiance against "The System," not realizing that they are its most consistently docile pupils
, that theirs is a rebellion against the status quo by its archetypes, against the intellectual "Establishment" by its robots who have swallowed every shopworn premise of the "liberals" of the 1930's, including the catch-phrases of altruism, the dedication to "deprived people," to such a safely conventional cause as "the war on poverty." A rebellion that brandishes banners inscribed with bromides is not a very convincing nor very inspiring sight. (249) [bold added]
These passages together remind me of the young crowds of self-proclaimed "democratic socialists" who rally most frequently around the manufactured "issue" of climate change.

Specifically, the following passage from Socialism Sucks!, came to mind. The economist authors attended a socialist conference in the United States and had concluded that most of the youths there did not really understand what socialism really is, and:
A significant number of socialist leaders at this conference, however, did support socialism as we understand the term and would socialize the means of production if given the chance. We fear that they are using social justice causes like abortion, the environment, and immigrant rights to bring more young people into the fold. (loc 1,673)
The parallels continue, and culminate in another striking similarity: The panic of members of the establishment in the face of what they have spent so long bringing about:
These "activists" are so fully, literally, loyally, devastatingly the products of modern philosophy that someone should cry to all the university administrations and faculties: "Brothers, you asked for it!" (Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, p. 246)
The Democratic party establishment and its lackeys in the conventional media don't explicitly operate at the highest levels of philosophical abstraction, but they have played their part, fighting for one anti-freedom cause after another, and lazily repeating whatever the most fashionable intellectual figures say at the moment for decades.

The Democrats are finally getting the straight version of what they have worked for all these years. If that frightens them, perhaps they could spare a thought for the consequences we all will face if Bernie Sanders, their ideal, makes it into office and succeeds.

And that thought experiment is where things really get chilling: All most of these people fear is the Democrats losing the election because what Sanders wants is too obvious for most people to evade. 

-- CAV

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