The Unwitting Utopians

Socialism is the great bogeyman of the right. It is ineffable and omnipresent, like the devil and demons who can take any form or lie behind any sin or mishap. Capitalism is all that is good and all that is light in this Manichean world view. Capitalism, however, has been undermined and subverted by the seductions and conspiring of socialists. Socialism itself is to be found as an infection spread throughout the capitalist world order. “Crony capitalism,” is a socialist tendency that has marred the perfection of capitalism. Likewise , “corporatism” is socialism, “globalization” is socialism, the financial sector bailouts of the central banks are socialism in action. Free voluntary exchange is stymied by the existence of government and monopolies formed by capitalists suffering under socialism. In short, all observable phenomena of economic life of existing capitalism are almost completely corrupted by socialist tendencies. Capitalism reflects human nature, the Libertarians say, it is the most natural and realistic mode of economic life. When, then, will it prevail over socialism in its myriad forms?

Capitalism therefore is converted into a utopia by Libertarianism, realizable only once the current order — socialism! — has been overthrown. Capitalism is the best of all worlds, but not this world. Though capitalism has enriched millions, billions remain in poverty and want. Though there have been heroes of capitalism, giants such as Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, so many still stand in the way. Great intellectuals have heaped praise on capitalism, geniuses like Friedrich Hayek and Ayn Rand, yet still fallacies of thought abound. There have been triumphs of capitalism; and what positive accomplishment of humanity is not an example? The final victory of capitalism however — world prosperity and harmonious order under the auspice of free market capitalism — has, unfortunately, yet to be secured. The unwitting utopianism of the ideal capitalist society of perfect harmony resembles perhaps nothing more than a caricature of the cooperative commonwealth of socialism by other words. Yet no historical perspective of social revolution educates this yearning in the heart of the unwitting utopian. Libertarian utopianism emerges unconsciously out of every pore. Libertarians end up ideologically in an almost perfect parallel to the strawman of socialism they create in the midst of their anti-socialist hysteria. As much as Libertarians rejoice in the presentation of capitalism as the “best possible world” rather than an outrightly good world there is no denying capitalism is for libertarians the ending point of history and the final stage of man’s progress. The only social existence that could be superior to currently existing capitalism is “purer” capitalism.

The unwitting utopians believe they have hit upon a pure capitalism amid the dreck of the contemporary order. They pretend they can distinguish pure capitalism from corrupted capitalism. Instead they are only performing an act of dull deflection. The dirty reality of capitalism, for all intents and purposes their God, is a product of the temptations of their Devil, socialism. This is because their verbal image of triumphant capitalism jars so violently with the real processes of degenerate capitalism they see every day. The core belief in a pure essence is oftentimes cloaked in a phony and figleaf “realism,” replete with quotes from supposed luminaries like Winston Churchill on the banality of capitalism’s absolute and timeless superiority over any potential alternative.

It is a distinction of the unwitting utopians that they possess no theory of capitalism’s inner necessity or practicality but instead begin with “the individual.” An “individual,” moreover, which is imbued mysteriously with a peculiarly convenient and anachronistic abstract conception of “human nature.” In reality, a stereotype of human nature is the essence of their clumsy commandment-like laws of capitalism. “Supply and Demand,” “the Invisible Hand,” “Trickling Down,” The “Entrepreneur” and the “Free Market” – these are just so many ways of describing through catchphrases an overriding idea of a few beleaguered Great Individuals among many lesser ones.

The sociological approach of the unwitting utopians can only therefore be described as strictly zoological. Their characteristic theoretical criteria of the individual is a phrenological application of the fixed abstraction of human nature they in actuality presuppose. Their characteristic utopia is individualist, hierarchical, anti-humanist and anti-social. Their conception is noless sky high utopian despite any of these shallow and base features that they beg to be taken as a kind of realism if only for their posturing grittiness. Reinforcing the stereotype of a helpless humanity, reiterating the dichotomies of inequality; such are the habits of mind of the unwitting utopians.

Naturally then, any kind of harmony within society is envisioned by these reactionaries as a hierarchy in which the individuals are placed based on their inadequacies in a hierarchical order to best contribute to society as a whole. When capitalist “human nature” is entered into this mix what emerges finally is the dichotomy between ordinary human beings and what has been termed the “superman.” The superman is naturally a capitalist whereas the normal man is at best a beneficiary of the superman. Capitalism is revealed to be the self-affirming outlook of the capitalists themselves.

The progenitor of much of libertarian thought and the frankest proponent of the concept of superman was Friedrich Nietzsche, who used the German word “Ubermenske.” His is an ideology worth exploring as one of the foremost unwitting utopians. Nietzsche had great influence on twentieth century ideological trends and his viewpoints were appropriated by the much ballyhooed utopian reactionary Ayn Rand. Defenders of Nietzsche prefer to translate Ubermenske as “overman.” They also are eager to translate Nietzsche’s phrase “blonde beast” so that it means “lion” and not “Aryan,” which is today considered an unfashionable faux pas on the part of Nietzsche. The clumsy sounding “overman” however almost universally complements the more popular translation of “superman.” What is ascribed by reactionary ideologists of all types to inherent superiority and inherent inferiority is preconditioned by the conceptual detachment of individuals from social processes. This necessarily demands that any conception of a “super” man must be based on a thoroughly anti-social perspective. Nietzsche’s “superman” stands on nothing if not “over” the rest of society.

Nietzsche endorsed the intense struggle between the industrial laboring class of his time and the profiteers of that “gilded age” from the side of the latter group. His hope was that future generations of the privileged and cultured would become conscious enough to realize their latent absolute superiority so that they could institute the rebirth of the master-slave society he admired in histories of Ancient Greece. The pompous brutality which unfolded in the next few decades of German history borrowed ideas from Nietzsche and actively claimed him for the cause of Fascism. It does not take a great deal of speculation, however, to predict confidently that Nietzsche would have as enthusiastically endorsed the rise of the Third Reich as his immediate ideological descendant, the existentialist philosopher Martin Heidegger, did.

The movement of the industrial laboring class in Germany in Nietzsche’s time supported the establishment of an egalitarian society rather than a society where the elite suppose themselves to be supermen because they have made the rest of humanity their slaves. The industrial workers of the late nineteenth century were organized in trade unions and participated in traditions of “working class politics” including varieties of socialism and syndicalism. In Germany in particular the working class participated heavily in the Second Socialist International which had several large political parties in Europe affiliated with the trade union movement.

The main departure of left-wing radical thought during this time and ever since was to first give context to the individual living in society. The individualism of Nietzsche denies the social life of humanity in favor of an ego-centric and metaphysical interpretation of reality. Any egalitarian philosophy understands society by dispensing with all assumptions of inherent superiority and inferiority and in doing so denies all deification of aristocrats, both new and old. From this perspective the poetic misanthropy of Nietzsche and his epigones appears only as cynical wordplay. Nietzsche characterizes the masses as “prey” for his super-human “blonde beast,” the egotistical capitalist. The successors of Nietzsche have recast their deification of bourgeois egotism to appear as a more benign overlord much as the New Testament is said to soften the wrathful image of Jehovah in the Torah. Regardless of this change in emphasis their metaphors deserve similar treatment. Ayn Rand can conceive of a world small enough and petty enough to fit in the palm of a ruthless businessman only because she lived and socialized not in the working class boroughs of New York City and Los Angeles but in downtown Manhattan and Hollywood.

The unwitting utopians stock and trade is the convenient lie. This has always been the case. In 1876, long before the Russian Revolution, for example, the German Socialist Friedrich Sorge wrote:

“Socialists are reproached with every kind of wickedness; of the tendency to do away with property, marriage, family, to pollute everything that is sacred; they have even been accused of arson and murder. And why not? If we look at the originators of these incriminations we are not the least astonished, for they have to defend privileges and monopolies which in reality are in danger, if drawn to the broad daylight and handled by the Socialist. They act according to the old Jesuitic stratagem: invent lies, pollute your enemy in every way you can; something will stick.”

The signature argument of the unwitting utopians is that socialism has “been tried” here or there, in this country or that, by this group or that group, always to “fail,” by some unspoken criteria. So it is, in a twist of bitter irony, that the unwitting utopians gladly agree with the various Stalinist or Stalinesque dictatorships of yesterday and today that those dictatorships have achieved nothing other than socialism, as these regimes claim! Yet in the same breath the unwitting utopians will deny that those dictatorships have achieved democracy or prosperity — universally a claim of those dictatorships. The truth is that the label and aesthetics of a supposed socialism is or was a self-serving national myth, like all claims of such dictatorships. The contradictions the unwitting utopian is tangled into by agreeing with these regimes is of no consequence and is never acknowledged. The theoretical or practical question of the basic scientific criteria of a socialist society is never posed. With what empty caricature socialism can be verbally “defeated” with is what is desired, not understanding. Moreover, for the most part, if any personal, political or national organization on Earth has a significant negative connotation within the narrow confines of received knowledge then a link will be found with socialism. No matter that such organization denied it was ever socialist or even opposed socialism unto the death – socialism is found to be the culprit nonetheless. This can be seen with the unwitting utopians’ pained handling of the history of Nazi Germany, perhaps the most terrible product of the capitalist world to date. Historical context be damned. If it works for the unwitting utopians then the slur meets the single wretched criteria of their truth.

At the most base level, Marxism is conceptualized in abstract terms which in capitalist ideology are used as personal psychological labels, like “religion,” “utopia,” or even a compulsion to attain the absolute and pure abstractions of “absolute control” and “pure power,” i.e. “totalitarianism.” In every case the attributed ideological status is resolved in the psychological, e.g. political “totalitarianism” is only the “totalitarian” side of the human personality run amok. The various actions of the entire gamut of so-called socialists over two centuries and all the ideas and rumors attributed to socialism are transformed without much ado into a single psychological and ideological disorder given banal titles such as “big government.” The more elaborate criticisms of Marxism are based on mere permutations of this outlook. What motivates workers when the government provides everything? What is the price mechanism when a government determines all prices and allocates all resources? This is the self-assured criticism of a group of practiced ignoramuses, who absorb the general assumptions of capitalist ideology and then one-sidedly and superficially cite the experience of the non-socialist Soviet system and the mechanisms of the entirely capitalist European welfare state without understanding them historically. The entire attitude involved in criticism of socialism, real and imagined, is framed from a perspective of a mythical, abstract capitalism and its alleged basis in such simplistic fictions as “small government,” “entrepreneurial” individualism, and “competitiveness.” Socialism and Marxism are attached to this stultifying and genuinely utopian concept as a sort of negative mirror image, just as idealized and removed from reality. “Big government,” “collectivism” “monopoly.”

Capitalism and its eternal truths cannot be to blame for the ills of the world. Instead socialism and its newest rebrandings (collectivism, statism, globalism, for instance) must be blamed for corrupting capitalism’s unquestionable if stalled advance. So the arch-utopian concept of the continuation of ruinous capitalism creeps in through the back door — however catastrophic this continuation promises to be. The buck has been passed.

Never mind that the concept of capitalism as dished out by the unwitting utopians cannot even be falsified by their own criteria. Capitalism cannot ever be proven by anyone to have failed or to have tendencies of failure in any way. It is always some secondary factor that blocks the advance of capitalism; namely, some failure of human nature that creates unpleasantness in what is otherwise a heaven-touched system of human economy.

As the historical apex of humanity, and despite absurd efforts at claiming all of human history retains a certain capitalist complexion, it has been hard to erase the memory that capitalism had a definite starting point. Capitalism as the foremost economic system of humanity was only established in the 17th and 18th centuries and only then began to become predominant throughout the world. If the apex of civilization, one might be tempted to ask exactly how and why it is capitalism is so vulnerable to corruption and hence has failed so miserably to lead to worldwide prosperity, equality and peace. Even if such attributes are lamely denied capitalism by the more rougeish and clever admirers of capitalism, one might ask why capitalism needed to displace the previous systems of economy at all. After all, even if mere human psychology is the basis for all economy, then surely capitalism offered some advantage to civilization over its predecessors?

Perhaps it could be said that the Feudalism of the middle ages was merely corrupted by bad human nature and otherwise had an infinite license on human progress? Such nonsense would never be agreed to today. This, however, was in fact the idea in vogue at the end of the feudal epoch among that era’s reactionaries, that era’s unwitting utopians. Were the bourgeois revolutions even legitimate if society merely perpetuates the same social forms and human nature? It was of course social revolution that ushered in the capitalist era. It is fashionable today, however, to question the French Revolution, for example, the revolution that unquestionably paved the way for capitalism in Europe. So perhaps capitalism had an illegitimate birth or the revolutions were a misunderstanding and can be safely ignored. Capitalism displaced Feudalism as a mere brand rival. Nothing revolutionary about it.

The right to revolution was, in fact, written in the American Declaration of Independence. The American Revolution, perhaps more than the French, has been papered over by a shameful mythology. It has been ripped out of its time period and its humanistic roots and connections with the British and French Revolutions. A radical Social Revolution, it has been falsified into a bogus protest and war against a “nanny state.” The French Revolution has, in contrast, been demonized by several decades of post-modernist historians. If Socialism claims to be nothing more than the extension of the democratic promises of those revolutions, then it is no surprise that the fate of the 17th and 18th century revolutions have been increasing falsification and slander.

Capitalism is revealed as a complete and empty abstraction in the minds of the unwitting utopians. The gap between reality and religion cannot be bridged. Fideism takes over. Those who call, working from the present state of affairs, for a planned and rational solution are called “utopians.” These are the socialists. Those who repeat and repeat again that capitalism is not to blame for its own state of affairs and should not be tampered with at the greatest peril are in deep denial and wish for salvation out of nothing. They propound apoplectically on the dangers and evils of tampering with a failed system rather than acknowledging even once the clear and present dangers of it continuing.

With all the hellfire, brimstone and historical anagrams they can muster the unwitting utopians hurl their rote learned bag of rhetoric at the feet of socialism. What they militate against, however, in the name of combating socialism, is only humanity’s capability to change its social environment. Perceived vicissitudes and inadequacies of human nature transform pure pessimism into an unalloyed good, makes backwardness and exploitation the subject of romanticism and builds a private utopia to wall off the prospect and promise of social revolution.


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