The Psychology of Destruction in Socialism

I never understood what makes leftists tick – but Roger Scruton in the book Fools, Frauds and Firebrands has certainly tried.  I’ll give you his take on them, and then comment.
RogerScrutonHe says:
Leftists believe, with the Jacobins of the French Revolution, that the goods of this world are unjustly distributed, and that the fault lies not in human nature but in usurpations practised by a dominant class. They define themselves in opposition to established power, the champions of a new order that will rectify the ancient grievance of the oppressed.
Liberty to a leftist might not match the common sense notion of being left alone as much as possible, but rather the notion of release from social constraints.
So that is liberty.  And what is “injustice”?
inequality in whatever sphere – property, leisure, legal privilege, social rank, educational opportunities, or whatever else we might wish for ourselves and our children – is unjust until proven otherwise.
So how will the left solve the injustice that surrounds them? By…
… a comprehensive rearrangement of society, so that privileges, hierarchies, and even the unequal distribution of goods are either overcome or challenged.
There can be much destruction on the way to utopia:
 Everything that does not conform to the egalitarian goal must be pulled down and built again… In this way ‘social justice’ becomes a barely concealed demand for the ‘clean sweep’ of history that revolutionaries have always attempted.
To the new left, which isn’t necessarily Marxist:
 government is the art of seizing and then redistributing the things to which all citizens are supposedly entitled.
It is interesting that when communists got control of a nation’s population, they did not like:
…spiritual callings associated with churches, chapels, synagogues and mosques; schools and professional bodies; private charities, clubs, and societies; Scouts, Guides and village tournaments; football teams, brass bands and orchestras; choirs, theatre-groups and philately groups – in short all the ways in which people associate..
and in fact Kádár, when Minister of the Interior in the 1948 government in Hungary, managed to destroy five thousand such organizations in a single year.  (A moderate leftist comments below this post that when Labour was in power in the U.K. it had no objection to private organizations, and he also says that Socialists are not the same as Marxists.  However, Roger Scruton  has read in depth the writings of various people on the extreme left, and what he reports at least applies to them).
So: (extreme) leftists see society as full of disguises:
… relations of domination express the truth of our social condition, and that the consensual customs, inherited institutions and systems of law that have brought peace to real communities are merely the disguises worn by power.
If you suspect that these beliefs are not arrived at by pure reason, and that there is some kind of emotional rage behind them, Scruton agrees with you:
Behind the impassioned rhetoric of the Communist Manifesto, behind the pseudo-science of Marx’s labour theory of value, and behind the class analysis of human history, lies a single emotional source – resentment of those who control things. This resentment is both rationalized and amplified by the proof that property owners form a ‘class’. [that exploits the proletariat].
He does not think that resentment in their case is just an
impoverished loss of spirit that comes about when people take more pleasure in bringing others down than in raising themselves up.
He says that is the wrong way to look at it.
…when resentment loses the specificity of its target, and becomes directed to society as a whole… In such cases resentment ceases to be a response to another’s unmerited success and becomes instead an existential posture: the posture of the one whom the world has betrayed. Such a person does not seek to negotiate within existing structures, but to gain total power, so as to abolish the structures themselves.
Being a Communist (or for that matter part of any secret ideological organization) is exciting since:
 Clandestine organizations create a band of visiting angels, who will move among ordinary people crowned by a halo that is observable only to themselves.
He adds that utopia provided:
a formula that rewrote every negative as a positive, every destructive act as an act of creation. Utopia issued instructions, implacable, secret but authoritative instructions that ordered you to betray everything and everybody that stood in its way – which meant everything and everybody. The thrill of all this was irresistible to people who were taking revenge on a world that they had refused to inherit.
Now my (the blogger’s) opinion.
The left has been tremendously successful in getting power.  It took over the largest country by land area (the Soviet Union) and the largest country by population (China) and it never loses its fascination for large numbers of “intellectuals”.  The map below shows in red the part of the globe that was Communist before the fall of the Berlin wall:
In the United States as of 2016, the Democrat party has moved far left, and yet many of the 50 states are given up as unwinnable by the Republicans.
.One reason for this is that if your philosophy is redistribution, you can always promise more to the poor, the sick, the old, and the children, the unions and so forth than the competition.
There are also large groups that feel victimized, for instance some blacks feel that racist policemen are shooting blacks for no reason.  (In reality, a police officer is two and a half times more likely to be killed by a black man than a black man is to be killed by a police officer.)
Palestinian activists seek to make an alliance with Black Lives Matter, and their activists claim that there is  “the oppression that continues to target our Black brothers and sisters in nearly every aspect of their lives,” and [we] support the struggle against “a militarized police occupation”.  They pronounce their contempt for the “racist capitalist system” that “systematically pushes” American blacks “to the margins of humanity.”
But our hard left is about more than redistribution or racial politics.  Here is a great example, of the desire to destroy, in the foolish assumption that better arrangements will result:
Two Columbia professors, Richard Cloward and Frances Piven taught that if you flooded the welfare rolls and bankrupted the cities and ultimately the nation, it would foster economic collapse, which would lead to political turmoil so severe that socialism would be accepted as a fix to an out-of-control set of circumstances.
The idea was that if people were starving and the only way to eat was to accept government cheese, rather than starve, the masses would agree to what they would otherwise reject. …
So a seemingly irrational movement has been remarkably attractive to generations of people in all sorts of societies, and very successful at gaining power.  it has also been very destructive.  It reminds me of what Abraham Lincoln said: “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher.”
The leftists want to destroy, in order to bring about a better world, but so far, the destruction is real, but the better world is not.
Scruton, Roger (2015-10-08). Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition. (jeannie DeAngelis on Cloward-Piven) (Black Lives Matter) (Palestinians and Black Lives Matter)

6 thoughts on “The Psychology of Destruction in Socialism

  1. Depends what you mean by “Leftists,” doesn’t it. In the UK we have had many socialist governments, none of which has destroyed organised religion, banned the boy scouts, brass bands or football teams, or done any of the terrible things you are claiming. Indeed, conventionally religious people formed the backbone of the early socialist movement, which preceded the birth of Marxism. If you are talking about Marxism, then I would agree with you. As a voter who supported most labour party candidates prior to Tony Blair’s “New Labour” (which turned out to be indistinguishable from Conservatism), Maybe socialism is stronger in the UK because of resentment against a ruling party that depended more on inherited wealth and status than on individual ability and earned wealth.

    1. If you voted for Labour, then how much of Roger Scruton’s description would you say applies to you? Do you believe the rich in Britain stole from everybody else? Do you mind inequality in society? Do you agree with Mr. Cloward and Ms. Piven that society should be bankrupted to force a needed social revolution? Personally, I would agree that resentment is called for in certain cases of inequality.
      I do not resent Bill Gates and Paul Allen of Microsoft, because they made their wealth by producing something the rest of us want to use.
      I do resent the wealth of George Soros, who made much of his money manipulating currency. (not that I understand exactly what he did). I resent the wealth of what we call “Crony Capitalists”, people who bribe or do favors to government officials in exchange for grants or government business or favorable policies. We have a lot of those, see the book “Crapitalism” by Jason Mattera.
      As for inherited wealth, I realize that land and power was seized by force in early centuries, but I would not get too angry at people who happened to inherit it. They did not commit the crimes that their ancestors did.
      I resent organized crime, which extorts or suffocates legitimate businesses. Organized crime also makes their money on human vices.
      So that is my opinion. What is yours?
      As for inequality, I accept that some people run faster than me, some people think clearer than me, some people are stronger, nicer, braver, more decent than me. And I also accept that in a business environment, some people will do better than I will.
      On the final point, bankrupting society for a better world, I really do not think a better world would be obtained. Of course there is a question – Is Marxism the same as socialism? If not, why are they lumped together as part of the left?

      My brother sent me an article after reading the above – by a New Zealander, Michael Faraday, who was a leftist, and who said this:
      “I was born into a working-class socialist family in New Zealand in 1960. Democratic socialism had been established by popular reforms in the 1930s. By the late ‘50s, almost every working-class child in New Zealand was raised socialist.

      But we didn’t call it socialism. We called it “workers’ rights.” In my family, my older siblings and I were the third generation of socialists. We never chose socialism, we inherited it. In the late ‘60s, the younger middle-class joined us.

      It is especially in the British Commonwealth that millions have been raised by leftists, who were raised by leftists, who were raised by leftists, and so on. Some leftist families have been so for more than a century. They consider themselves leftist royalty.

      Leftists hear big numbers and picture Scrooge McDuck’s money bin, not infrastructure, maintenance, specialized equipment, transportation, training, payrolls, etc.

      For leftists, industry has so much money. Businesses make huge profits. The price of everything is too high. The government has billions. They want to keep it all for themselves and their rich friends. So leftists believe that these evil people must be made to spend the money on things the leftists themselves choose.
      Michael ends his article with the left’s biggest “lie”: It is that the Left “cares.” All leftist “caring” has a hidden agenda.”

      So Carl, you have your work cut out for you. What do you think of all this?

      1. Why is socialism lumped together with Marxism? That is exactly what I was questioning. My suspicion is that it allows right wingers, such as those you quote and obviously agree with, to blur what is a very clear distinction. Socialism is a political agent, subject to the usual rules of democracy, and seeking to get voters’ support. Marxism is a totalitarian agent which seeks to impose itself, usually by force of arms, on everyone else. In the UK (I won’t speak for anywhere else) the labour party has often attained power and on the whole attempted to use it for social purposes — e.g. the formation of the NHS, nationalisation of the railways and utilities. These have been in my experience beneficial for people in this country. But Marxist candidates have been rare and I don’t recall any of them being elected. Why voters choose to vote socialist is a complex issue, and I agree that resentment (indeed of the kinds of people you cite) is a factor. But the basic concept, that everybody has the right to a fair share in the wealth of a country, even if they lack the ability to earn large amounts of money, is in my view very reasonable.

  2. Whether government ownership of health care is a good thing is at least debatable, I recently saw an article on whistleblowers in your NHS being ignored or worse, treated like criminals. (see Rachel Alexander’s article at Perhaps every citizen of a country should get a share of the wealth of that country, but we should be aware that wealth can only be produced by hard work. The hard work can be by a miner in a mine, or a business owner in an office, or a doctor in a hospital. And since it is produced by work, then when you say someone else deserves it for simply being a British citizen, then that miner (or business owner or doctor), must take a percentage of his income and give it to someone else.

    There is also the issue of what is seen, and unseen. If the government takes your money, and funds national health care, then you don’t know what would have happened if it had not, and instead medical services were provided the same way that car-repair services are. If the government provides welfare for the poor, you don’t know what would have happened if it had been left to private charities.
    Compassion often has unexpected and undesirable results, especially if it is compassion with other people’s money. One reason that 40 percent of American babies are born to single mothers is that our welfare system makes it a viable economic choice to do that. This leads to all sorts of unhappy results.
    We had a “war on poverty” here, and the “Great Society” programs that were meant to do away with poverty, but we have many blighted, high crime and jobless areas here. It did not work as intended.
    Our schools are government run, and they are producing graduates that are far behind most countries.
    The free market at least has competition, so if you are not satisfied with your school, or your doctor, or your electric service, you can switch. That keeps businesses honest.
    To our south, Mexico does not have a big welfare program. And it does not have our debt either, or rumblings against free trade. So despite the drug cartels there and other problems, factories (and jobs) are flocking to Mexico.
    So we can sit here and feel virtuous that we are providing public monies to our demoralized long-term unemployed, while Mexico gives actual jobs to its unemployed.

    1. I’m in no doubt that the NHS has done a great amount of good. The details: all in employment pay a National Insurance contribution which provides funds for the service. However, with an ageing population, there is a struggle to keep the thing operational. As with all big organisations there are all kinds of problems and whistle blowers play a role in revealing these. Many of the shortcomings are obvious to users anyway. You speak as though a socially based system is less efficient and more fair than a privately run system. This is what Mrs Thatcher claimed when privatising the rail network and the utilities. The reality: the rail system, which was a national service and reasonably priced, has been split between mutiple companies. Each company runs a different set of lines, so there is no way of them competing for your custom — you have to take what you are offered. No surprise that prices have risen astronomically and performance has declined. In theory the power companies are in competition, but in practice any gains you get from switching supplier are soon lost. The Post Office telephones was taken over by British Telecom, a huge monolthic incredibly greedy company, which introduced the original idea of demanding a £5 charge for the honour of paying your bill! And I haven’t mentioned safety matters regarding the trains and water suppliers… If your best example of a successful capitalist economy is Mexico then I dread to think what the others are like. We would never agree on this question.

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