Pop Socialism, Circa 2018
by Pedro Blas González (December 2018)
Socialist Realism and Pop Art in the Battlefield, Equipo Crónica, 1969
Pop socialism is on the rise.
Pop socialism is, ironically, not popular with the majority of people in democratic countries. It is rather the creation of cultural Marxist elites, guided by ideas mainly originating in The Frankfurt School, and which are disseminated through the mass media and public and private education by a morally corrupt intelligentsia. This is an artificially created “popular” political movement pressed upon people whose faulty educations make them susceptible to fraudulent theories and ideas. Pop socialism is the clever re-packaging, for a credulous audience, of already proven failed solutions and ideologies. Pop socialism is the modern retelling of the fairy tale that socialism and communism, despite their millions upon millions of casualties, have “never been properly implemented.”
This is a curious development given the all-engulfing sphere of influence in the twentieth-century of that deceitful and vengeful, albeit seductive ideology. This is how low the educational bar has been set in the West. One only has to pay attention to the socialist gurus of The Frankfurt School to realize the corrosive spread of that fiendishly impious ideology throughout all aspects of postmodern life. Yet the ominous ignorance of those who embrace pop socialism is nothing that a little humanities and history education cannot correct.
Make no mistake about it; Marxism has given the world more wars and political persecution than any other social/political ideology. Rudolph Rummel coined the word “democide” to describe persecution by government. As of 2005, he estimated that communist regimes have killed over 148 million people. That number is sure to rise as future documents will surface depicting atrocities in regimes like the former Soviet Union and Soviet bloc nations, China, North Korea and Cuba. Rummel’s book Death by Government and Stéphane Courtois’ The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression are excellent research tools to learn the truth about socialism and communism.
The amount of data, number of declassified documents, economic statistics, etc., that is available today for discerning and honest researchers to study the legacy of socialism and communism is astounding. Why then is pop socialism on the rise with millennials? The ultimate culprit of this game of Russian roulette is systematic ignorance of history. School systems and universities have made it their expressed intention not to educate students about Marxism’s legacy on social/political instability and cultural war in the West.
One of the burned out and tired clichés that is fed to young people today is that true and genuine Marxism—dare we say, noble? —has never been tried. This is what we heard Western communist intellectuals utter after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre—which incidentally was a student-led protest—and also after the collapse of the Soviet Empire in 1991.
This speaks to the strength of Marxism’s chameleon-like dialectic that enables it to re-make itself depending on the social/political situation of any given place and time. Marxism’s polished double-morality—how people who live in communist countries refer to communism’s dialectical contortion act—proves to be ingeniously seductive for unsuspecting and ill-educated young people. The onus of pop socialism’s allure with millennials must be placed on the failure of our educational system to teach history and civics. Two other of the many good books on socialism and communism are Francois Furet’s Lies, Passions & Illusions and Jean-Francois Revel’s Last Exist to Utopia: The Survival of Socialism in a Post-Soviet Era.
Another illusory allurement of the re-packaged pop socialism that is being hustled to millennials takes the form of so-called democratic socialism, an alleged form of socialism that is to exist within democratic nations. While socialist countries like Sweden tax the people with the highest income most, they also understand the state needs to safeguard the income of private business, therefore placing the highest taxation on consumption, which hurts the poor most.
The question remains: If socialism re-distributes wealth—that means that it must take from some people, industries and institutions in order to award it to others—what does socialism actually create? How much re-distribution is enough? What chosen clan will the state award the looted wealth to? And, who will be in charge of re-distribution of wealth? A bloated and vengeful bureaucracy. That’s who. People who have lived in communist and socialist countries can attest to the all-consuming, mega-special interest bureaucracy, which must grow exponentially in order to feed itself, and which answers to no one.
Socialism, we have now had well over one-hundred years to verify and document, is a parasitic powerplay that is totalitarian by design. Socialism exploits man’s inherent capacity for envy and resentment. Concerning this aspect of human nature, Marx was brilliant in realizing that envy and resentment are potent human emotions that can be effectively manipulated to fuel what he conceived as perpetual class struggle. For Marxism, envy and resentment are gifts that keep on giving.
Most importantly, pop socialism is not a political/economic program but rather a temper tantrum, the behavior disorder of dysfunctional people. Because life is distasteful and burdensome to its adherents, pop socialism must promote a world where mother state will assuage all of man’s shortcomings, inadequacies and fears—and the list, to judge from pop socialism’s laundry list of complaints—is depressingly long. In the process, the failure of socialism’s central planning destroys incentive, while creating tyranny and poverty.
While in office from January 20, 2009 to January 20, 2017, the democratically elected socialist leader, Barack Obama, raised the American national debt from $10.626 trillion to $19.947 trillion. Socialist initiatives balloon national debt, while free riding on the incentive, imagination and existential ambition that fuel entrepreneurship. Venezuela is the latest casualty in socialist experimentation.
Curiously, pop socialism’s lamentable schema is to teach young people to gripe against free will itself. This is why pop socialism is not a grassroots proletariat movement of the “people.” Pop socialism has nothing to do with the working man or the improvement of the human condition. On the contrary, pop socialism is financed by millionaire and billionaire pop leftists, and a resentful and power-hungry intelligentsia.
The intelligentsia that has assumed the responsibility of assigning pop socialism intellectual respectability bites anyone that does not embrace their here-and-now messianism. Like envy and resentment, they can count on there always being an abundance of students to corrupt through cultural and historical myopia. The leftist elite intelligentsia in the West must be aware that the official Cuban communist government motto for university education is “Universities are for Revolutionaries.”
A False and Dangerous Sense of Security
Post-modern man lives with a false sense of security. Post-modern man is inebriated with the idea of micromanaging human reality, especially through state intervention. Today, this condition has become an elixir for the exploitation of time-proven values such as self-respect, dignity and self-reliance. The outcome of this is political correctness and censorship. Post-modern man’s naiveté regarding human reality and social/political categories is abysmal. This comes at the price of post-modern man’s inability to cultivate metaphysical-existential reflection. That is, to think for oneself. The latter signals the refusal to engage free will. In turn, our incapacity to cultivate existential concerns is a condition that threatens our sense of vital existence. Post-modernity has destroyed man’s capacity for gravitas. Pop socialism has turned the West into a colossal re-education camp.
Postmodern man expects protection from nature and human contingency. Why not? Our age has been for a long time now characterized as an age of positivism. This is the case because Marxism, communism and socialism are examples of the legacy of philosophical materialism and positivism. This is another trap that pop socialism has set for millennials.
The Legacy of Work
As counterpoint to the self-indulgent shortsightedness of pop socialism, let us briefly consider the plight of wretched man in pre-history. Man in pre-history transitioned from being a hunter-gatherer nomad to a settled cultivator of food and breeder of animals. Needless to say, this took a tremendous amount of work. Pre-historic man lived this way for a long time. In their experience of moving about and having to depend on the changing seasons and the migration of animals, it eventually became apparent to them that this was an unpredictable and violent existence. This change of life enabled early man to match his energy output—given they travelled less—with his caloric intake. In other words, man in pre-history began to make life relatively easier by creating conditions that enabled more control over their acquisition of food and shelter. They embraced work out of necessity. They had no other choice. If it is true that these people are the ancestors of modern man, as some anthropologists allege, it is a major miracle that they succeeded in populating the planet.
Settlement, in the form of a new agricultural/animal domesticating life, enabled pre-historic man to become rooted in a permanent place. This meant that pre-historic man needed to pay greater attention to their new surroundings on a consistent basis. This also meant having a stake in what they created with their own hands. Raid, pillaging and warfare were probably not long to follow. Envy and resentment are not the invention of that German misanthrope, Karl Marx. The demands made on pre-historic man by the upkeep of settlement created the cultivation of a form of thought that came about as the result of prescient observation of their living and environmental conditions.
At that point, family life had a greater propensity to expand. The bonds that pre-historic man developed with family and the land meant a greater affinity for life and death. The constant threat of death forced them to reflect on matters that remained out of their control. This may explain pre-historic man’s use of sympathetic magic. The latter being a form of securing good fortune by appealing to deities. Sympathetic magic in pre-history is a sign that man acknowledged his lack of control over human reality. One aspect of early man’s life that is clear to historians today is the brutal living conditions they endured. It is next to impossible for post-modern man to imagine the difficulties that early man faced.
The pendulum has now shifted in the other extreme. Consider that over 400 cities in the world today have a population of over one million people. The availability of electricity and the comforts that people in the modern world enjoy have created a false and dangerous sense of security. Modern life depends on oil, coal, natural gas and electricity, in addition to other natural resources in order to sustain urban life. In short, modern life depends on man’s serious engagement with work.
Our control over the environment, whether flying in comfortable aircrafts, cataract surgery or the safe distribution of food, harbors the illusion that reality is stable, that the human condition has always been like the status quo. Pop socialism is negligent in citing to young people the differences between goods that come from nature and those that originate in human sweat and toil.
We have forgotten that the status quo is not the rule, rather the exception in human history. Just as man in pre-history created and nourished many of the conditions that modern man enjoys, it is impossible to come up from nothing in a socialist nation and make a better, more dignified life for oneself. This is because from its inception socialism is the sworn enemy of ambition and man’s natural capacity to better his lot. Socialism’s coerced equality stifles personal development. This is the resounding testimony of people who have lived in communist and socialist societies. The arrogance and ignorance of pop socialists keeps them from understanding any of this.
Pedro Blas González is Professor of Philosophy at Barry University, Miami Shores, Florida. He earned his doctoral degree in Philosophy at DePaul University in 1995. Dr. González has published extensively on leading Spanish philosophers, such as Ortega y Gasset and Unamuno. His books have included Unamuno: A Lyrical Essay, Ortega’s ‘Revolt of the Masses’ and the Triumph of the New Man, Fragments: Essays in Subjectivity, Individuality and Autonomy and Human Existence as Radical Reality: Ortega’s Philosophy of Subjectivity. He also published a translation and introduction of José Ortega y Gasset’s last work to appear in English, “Medio siglo de Filosofia” (1951) in Philosophy Today Vol. 42 Issue 2 (Summer 1998).
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