Marxist and Communist Ideology: Its History and a Warning for Today

Marxist and Communist Ideology: Its History and a Warning for Today

On Wednesday, June 14, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation and Human Events co-hosted an online event during which scholars Jonathan Brent, Flagg Taylor and David Satter discussed the power of Marxist and communist ideology and its impact on the nations that suffered under communist regimes. Despite the obvious failures of their policies these regimes clung stubbornly to their ideology and proceeded with failed plans and policies that resulted in the deaths of millions. Our panelists examined the history of how and why ideology influenced these regimes and explored current events for signs of similar patterns today. Brent Hamachek, Managing Editor of Human Events, moderated the panel discussion.


All right good afternoon and welcome my Name is ken pope and i’m the director of Academic programs for the victims of Communism memorial foundation On behalf of voc And our co-host human events is my Privilege to welcome you to our panel Discussion marxism and communist Ideology it’s history and a warning for Today We have a truly distinguished panel um That will discuss something that we seem To see quite a bit in the media today or More more each day and that’s Conversations about ideology Today we’ll explore the power of marxist And communist ideology Specifically and its impact on the Nations that suffered under those Regimes Our panelists will examine the history How and why ideology influenced those Governments and current events for signs Of similar patterns today To guide our discussion we are very Fortunate to have my friend brent habeck Executive Editor of human events the oldest Conservative platform in the u.s To serve as our moderator Brent is also a business operations Manager for the media outlet Post-millennial he is an opinion writer And author who co-wrote charlie kirk’s

First book Time for a turning point his most Notable publication it was his 2021 Essay understanding and embracing the Role of 21st century american dissident Which received worldwide attention and Led to numerous lectures media Appearances and events centered around The topic his current project is Promoting The common ground campus program for Which he is a co-founder um before i Turn it over to my friend brent one Quick admin note as we go through the Lectures or discussions please use the q A feature at the bottom of your screen To give us questions that you would like To present to the panelists With that said welcome again and brent Over to you Thanks ken it is an absolute privilege To be here and be able to host This event with the victims of communism Foundation uh very briefly human events Ken mentioned has been around since 1944 And back in february of this year i had A chance to sit down with two of the Owners who dated back to the 1960s alan Riskin and tom winter and when i asked Them what was your mission statement When you owned human events they said it Was to fight the cold war and defeat Communism So our roots at human events were

Actually Born in this battle about which we will Discuss today So today’s event the format will be a Little bit like a mini lecture series And a little bit like a mini panel event We have three very distinguished uh Presenters who will each spend about 15 Minutes uh addressing the topic of Ideology and communism from their own Perspective And then when we’re done we’ll have a Bit of a discussion that’ll take some of Your questions some of our questions And my job is the the easiest one to do I get to just simply sit back and listen And facilitate the exchange of Brilliance so i’m going to tell you a Little bit about each of our panelists And to do that i’ve got to put on a pair Of old person reading glasses for anyone Who wants to laugh all i can say is Laugh now your day is coming So We will have first of all we will have Dr jonathan brent who is an academic and An author and a publisher as publisher He is the director of the annals of Communism series which he founded in 1992 He is currently the visiting alger his Professor of history and literature at Bard college and is also the ceo and Executive director of ivo institute for

Jewish research in new york city David sater is a senior fellow at the Hudson institute a fellow of the foreign Policy institute of john hopkins University school of advanced International studies and a long time Observer of russia and the former soviet Union And dr flagg taylor iv I almost said fifth the reading glasses Nearly failed me there doctor Serves on the academic council of the Victims of communism memorial foundation And is an associate professor of Government at skidmore college he holds A phd in an m.a in political science From fordham university and a ba from Kenyon college so welcome gentlemen all Of you it is a pleasure to have you Are we all off mute we’re gonna make Sure And uh so dr jonathan brent i would ask You to uh lead us and kick off the Presentations uh today if you will give Us your your best 15 minutes of uh Elucidation Thank you very much uh brent and thank You ken and thank you to victims of Communism for this invitation I want to begin Uh the discussion With uh what might seem to be a little Um A

Different Approach to the subject of ideology Uh in the sense that i want to look at The way it evolved Uh because it it strikes me that often What we take to be ideology is really How a system In fact operates in practice Uh and we take the justification for Those practices to be the quote-unquote Ideology of the system Ideology is a very slippery idea It presumes that ideas are moving The people And while that is to Certainly it was the aspiration of the Soviet uh system the bolshevik system to Do precisely that uh Stalin Is famous uh for having said that Writers are the engineers of human souls Uh and that the new soviet man Will emerge from Uh The Uh conditions of building socialism in The soviet union And there’s a lot of evidence to believe That he believed this That he believed that ideas That ideology Molded People Alexander yakovlev

Who was the architect of pirate strike Under garbachov a very fine man who i Believe should have won the nobel prize Uh in his memoir Uh And in all of his uh post-soviet Writings uh states uh something very Simple Violence is at the bottom Of the bolshevik system And the and and at the violent At the bottom of the soviet system Violence state violence State violence that was bent on the Annihilation of the individual State violence that was bent on uh the Uh annihilation of freedom uh of every Sort individuality And so on But it wasn’t always that way In fact in literature and revolution That trotsky published before the Revolution He writes that that That the the soviet Uh the the the the world of the Revolution Of the socialist Communist Uh Uh victory Will Witness a tremendous flowering of Culture

A flowering of culture that will rival That of the ancient greeks Of the renaissance That man’s spirit will will rise to Greater heights than those of aristotle And gerta this is what he writes So for him that was not that cultural Profusion was not incompatible With Communist ideology as he understood it And yet There is no question That what trotsky envisioned And lenin as well And marx as well Turned into exactly what jakoblev Described Unbearable violence Unbearable brutality unbearable cruelty Against the individual Against All the things that that we take to be Sacred in our lives Families Relationships Individual aspiration I’ll never forget when after having Started the Project that brent mentioned Uh the analyst of communism i invited The head of the central committee Archive to come To yale university And she saw the operation of yale

University press and she saw editors Working quietly at their desks And she saw that it was a flourishing Operation and she turned to Me and she said Something i’ll never forget She said how do you get these people to Work What is their motivation for wanting to Work she said i can’t get people to work They have nothing to work for And this of course is one of the most Tragic legacies of that system That destroyed individual initiatives Destroyed the individual ego or or what In a particular Particularly wonderful Uh document from the central committee In 1957 A writer called uh the the greatest Enemy of the soviet state What was that was it america no Was it icbms no What was it It was the bourgeois ego That was The greatest enemy Of the soviet state and that’s why they Had to buy ban dr jean Because at the center of it was So i want to talk a little bit about the Creation of of this So-called ideology Because unless we understand the way it

Formed we can’t really talk about how to Prevent Uh it from reappearing because it will Reappear in other forms it need not Necessarily take the form of bolshevism It could easily take the form of nazi Fascism Or of other Equally Virulent Uh Ideologies It’s important to understand that the Russian revolution was not the product Of this ideology at all The russian revolution was the product Of the total collapse of civil society In the wake of world war one It was the total discrediting Of czarism because of the war The complete destruction Of civil society the paralysis of the Transportation system we today see in Our daily lives what the paralysis of Our transportation system is producing We call it supply chain issues Well in 1917 those supply chain issues Brought the entire Russian Civilization to a halt They could not get goods from the Country to the cities from the cities to The country and back and forth The roads were impassable

Six Million Russians Died As a result of that war Or were maimed and injured As a result of that war It was universally hated At all strata of russian society In 1914 one ruble Bought enough food for 1400 calories Of a normal worker one ruble In 1970 that same ruble bought 168 Calories So the devaluation of their currency Was catastrophic For that society And in the wake of that society The provisional government be the czar Abdicated and the provisional government Was formed Not the bolshevik government the Provisional government and was only Because Of the fact that karensky Tried to Resurrect The russian empire by means of a failed Offensive In the summer of 1970 That lenin finally saw his chance why Because the army didn’t want to fight Anymore And why did it not want to fight part of

It yes was because the bolsheviks were Promising land and peace and a whole Variety of other things that they never Delivered on But they were just exhausted It was an exhausted Country And this exhausted country Was ripe for the taking And there were a lot of different groups That were Going to take it The bolsheviks were not the strongest Power at that time The whites far outnumbered them Furthermore the whites That is to say the monarchists Uh had a uh uh the military class they Had the generals they had the arms And they put up fierce Fierce battles with the bolsheviks But they were disorganized they had no Uh communication one group with the Other And he eventually they lost What they lost the popular Uh Uh vote Because Of the fact that The whites insisted on the restoration Of the empire and the ukrainians didn’t Want that So lenin didn’t seize power because of

His ideology If anything he seized it because of his Slogans Bread and Power to the soviets Peace and land Slogans that that meant nothing at the Time And furthermore Excuse me i have to keep track of this Time Uh Okay Uh and and and otherwise brent will kill Me and it’ll be ugly Um Death would not come it would be a Simple raising of the hand please please Continue this isn’t soviet america just Yet Okay And and and it was because of this chaos That we cannot ever lose sight of The fragility of that society and that Civilization That that lenin just walked in And took over What was it That created The violence Well in 1917 in fact in august and September of 1917 he was just finishing State and revolution one of his major Works and in state and revolution he

Predicts that once the revolution is Accomplished we will be able to get rid Of the police and we’ll be able to get Rid of the military and and people will Spontaneously Wish to cooperate with each other And what did he find In In 1918 Alone there were over 200 peasant Rebellions And what was the consequence of this The consequence of this was a memo that He wrote To a variety of his fellow bolsheviks in Which he says The uprising of the five kulak districts Should be mercilessly suppressed the Interests of the entire revolution Require this now Hang hang without fail no fewer than 100 Known kulaks rich men bloodsuckers Publish their names steal their grain Designate hostages Do it in such a way that for hundreds of Verses around people will see tremble no Shout They are strangling and will strangle to Death the bloodsucker kulaks This is the same man who just A year previously had predicted they Could get rid of the military and the Police What was it

That was motivating this it was Protecting the interests of the Revolution What was protecting the revolution all About it was protecting the interests of The party What was protecting the interests of the Party all about it was about protecting His power And the power of the ruling group And so the ideology that emerges From all of this is an ideology of the Protection of power And we can’t lose sight of that And this is power that can either be Bolshevik or it can be Hitler Fascist Or it can be something else But it is power And the protection of it That is at the root of this And Now You ask well why couldn’t they protect This with democratic means Why couldn’t they come to some other Consensus they could not because the Country had fractured It had fractured into the monarchists Who were in league with the cadets that That of the provisional government it Had fractured with the mensheviks who Were at war with the bolsheviks the

Anarchists who were against everybody The srs and then and today we see this The ukrainian nationalists Who violently opposed All of them in the interests of Promoting a narrow nationalistic agenda In ukraine And they could not come to any agreement They had no means for doing so civil Society had obliterated the means for Doing so And furthermore They had no traditions of liberal Democracy None And so violence becomes the only tool as The historian Um oleg um Uh Uh i’ve forgotten his name but but this This great young uh uh so uh russian Historian club nuke oleg club nuke has Said Violence becomes the only tool they had To solve problems And that was The tool that they employed over and Over and over again you ask well why is The individual ego That which is annihilated in this system Well it wasn’t always that way It really wasn’t But there was something called the Kronstadt rebellion that took place in

1921 At the same time as the tenth party Congress And who Was involved in the kronstadt rebellion They were the red sailors they were Communists they believed in the system And the fact that they revolted in 1921 Against the red army Against the bolsheviks in Moscow showed lenin and all of those Around him how tenuous their grasp of Power was and at exactly that point They pass a resolution That becomes binding For the entirety of the rest of the Scope of the soviet union On the sanctity of the unity of the Party They reject absolutely any dissent Within the party And they talk furthermore about the one Single Most Devilish thing that the system produces They talk about the need to uncover Those Who claim that they’re bolsheviks but They’re really cadets Those who are actually really white Whites But are posing is bolsheviks In other words anyone who disagrees with Us is now no longer a

And this has echoes in our own day Which perhaps you will Be sensitive to And it is a most dangerous thing i don’t Know uh brent in my afternoon you’re You’re very you were you were You were you were perfect there will be No interrogation no internment okay you You are safe Uh so thank you so much for that uh that Was a terrific way to get started And david i know that you have some Stories and things to share for people That will really bring this home to Follow up Behind Jonathan’s remarks so please if you will Give us your 15 minutes of insight and The floor or the computer screen i guess As it is is yours Uh thank you very much Uh I i take it you can hear me okay Uh You’re fine yes you have good volume Okay okay great okay great well i mean The question of ideology which is the Topic of our our discussion Is uh the most important question when It comes to soviet history and it’s an Important question actually for the Modern world Because ideology was the essence of the Soviet union soviet union was a

Theoretic a theocratic state or at least It had a theocratic structure And the ideology was the false religion The whole System In the soviet union was based On the imposition of a false idea And the false idea was the ideology Marxist Leninist ideology As a tool of domination Was unequaled And as a justification for violence It was unequaled Because it set about To reinterpret all s aspects of given Reality Marxism is more than just a philosophy Although it’s the product of a Philosopher Uh it’s in fact a false religion And an attempt to reinterpret All existing reality And that that interpretation Was characterized by the fact that Unlike The interpretations of reality which Came down to us from the greek Philosophers and the new testament and The new and old testament It presumed the absence Of god The soviet union was the first state in Human history

To be created on the explicitly on the Basis of atheism It was supposedly the expression of a Perfect science and the leaders of the Soviet union Were those who were endowed with the Ability to understand the science and Apply it to all aspects of life Now the science itself Uh Was a false science And it made certain prediction all Science is is empirically very Verifiable Uh You can produce you can make assumptions On the basis of the science And you get predictable results Well the result and the the The science of marxism leninism also Made predictions Among the predictions were the end of Class conflict the end of war unlimited Freedom and unlimited prosperity well None of that happened So in effect the science uh of marxism Leninism Was easily demonstrated to be a false Science And the leaders who were in charge of Interpreting this ideology and imposing It on a helpless population Were faced with a dilemma Because the science was proved to be

False The science was the basis for their rule It was the science that justified their Violence And the science proved to be Bogus And what they did was they simply set About creating reality They compelled an entire nation To act out a false version of reality Of course uh there was no end to class Conflict and there was no end And there was no prosperity but if you Control information and if you can Intimidate people with the help of the Secret police it doesn’t matter you can Pretend as if as if in fact uh the Predictions of the ideology uh are being Re that they are being realized and that The ideology is itself true So Uh An entire system of lies Was imposed on a vast country And in fact it proved to be an Exceptionally Uh effective device of domination Because once you can force people to lie Uh And the way to do that is through Unlimited violence You can break their spirit And end to all resistance And the the soviet population

Was turned Into a into A complete a Complying And and servile Mass of people Who had lost the capacity for individual Judgment and the individual And the and the capacity for Individual moral reasoning They took their view of reality Exclusively From that which was imposed on them by The regime and which the regime Devised From its false religion from its ruling Doctrine from its ideology The ideology uh Was was applied to all aspects of life For example The soviet union was a multinational Country And each of the each of the countries That composed the soviet union had their Own national history But the ideology uh Stated That the logical culmination of the History of the estonians the ukrainians The armenians and all of the other People who comprised the soviet union Was the creation of the communist system This was impossible of course without Falsification

But they didn’t worry about Falsification because anyone who tried To challenge the existing And official version of reality could Simply be repressed It was the same thing with the working Class They Of course did not live In conditions that were comparable to The work To those of workers in the west But that reality could be completely uh Denied and concealed with the help of Violence And the communist party itself Could be Turned into a rigid instrument of Ideological control Which up which had a single uh had a Single Opinion And tolerated no others Because of the regime’s monopoly on Violence And this system The combination of ideology a false Religion And unlimited terror Which could make turn falsehood into Into truth Uh or into something that resembled Truth That could be a substitute for truth and

That could be imposed on people as if it Were the truth Uh That system Was the system of totalitarian Domination that existed in the soviet Union and it was that system That justified the soviet union’s Horrific crimes Because There were no moral limits uh to limit The drive for power of the authorities And they took their Uh ideological as their ideological Beliefs to be higher than Any religion And higher than the moral systems that Are included in any religion Well this system was more or less Invulnerable as long as it was Unchallenged But it led to stagnation A system in which people are controlled On the basis of an of of a false idea in Which they are compelled to act out These false ideas of course cannot be Efficient And could not compete in the long run Economically or militarily with the west This is something that the soviet Leaders came to understand And they began after gorbachev came to Power in 1985 to take steps to dismantle This system

Uh But they chose to try to dismantle it in Their own interest By allowing just enough truthfulness To allow the population To demonstrate at least a minimum of Dynamism and initiative The problem was Tolerating truthful information In the framework of a system That’s based exclusively on lies could Only destabilize the system A division was opened up Between the world of lies And the space that had been created for Truthful information And one or the other had to be destroyed Ultimately it was the system of lies That was destroyed Because As soon as people became exposed to the Truth all the fault lines in the society Began to be exposed People began to realize all the things That they had Had had had been told were in fact not True And Uh And uh Had had been imposed on them In the interests of their rulers Little but they and At the same time the process of

Blasphemous the process of perish dragon Proved impossible to stop Because as more and more people became Uh Supporters of the new freedom The regime had to retreat Terms of its ability To impose repression In 1991 six years after gorbachev came To power there was a last-ditch attempt By communist hardliners to re-impose the Ideology by force But it was already too late there were Too many people Who had experienced truthful information And a degree of freedom and were not Ready to go back To living In a false world Based on an Absurd theory that was imposed by on Them By a small group Of totalitarian leaders and the regime Was overthrown Problem was that after the end of the Soviet union The the the the A real revolution in consciousness did Not take place because communism And living in a world of lies had left Its left its Its traces on people’s psycho psychology Many people had lost the habit of

Thinking in moral terms and lost the Habit of thinking of the individual as The bearer of a conscience When the reforms of russia began There was no realization That the fundamental principles of Communism The idea that the individual counts for Nothing That uh that the only thing that matters Are the objectives of the state that was Not abandoned The economic system was changed And under new conditions And the transition from cap from Socialism or communism To capitalism what was create what was Created was Criminal capitalism and a criminal Regime Which paved the way For a new domination Of russia Of of russians and this also happened to Some extent in other forms of its soviet Republics By Corrupt authoritarian regimes which had As little disregard for the individual As the communist regime Uh from which they they they had emerged So The cur the curse of communist Domination the curse of universal lying

Did not disappear with the fall of the Soviet union And the curse of ideological thinking Has since spread out over the whole World to some degree The Communists had their supporters when the Soviet union existed And many of those people knew the Ideology and they were in fact dedicated Members of the communist party we don’t Have that now But the prejudices And the habits Of ideological domination Continue to affect the world And the The malign assumptions of communist Ideology the basic assumption that there Is no higher source of authority which Of course could only come from a Faith in a transcendent point of Reference or in faith in god Does not exist and that the world is Based only on conflict Can be adapted to all of the conflicts That now exist in the united states Uh the conflict So called between racial groups between Sexes Between economic classes it doesn’t Matter that the people who are calling Themselves marxist In the u.s for example do not understand

The ideology and don’t really understand The implications of what they’re saying They take a few random pieces of the Ideology which are particularly Detrimental and use it to justify Whatever uh extreme beliefs they happen To hold And that’s the way it functioned Uh in the soviet union and the way it Tends to function today As uh as a justification for the failure To think Uh as a superficial framework for Thought that is in fact false But requires effort to analyze So as a result the ideology which Enslaved the people of the soviet union For so long and which continues to Plague the people of russia and which is At the root in fact of the cut of the Conflicts which are now going on And the war against ukraine Uh Is also a threat to the west and Requires once Once again That kind of moral awareness That makes it possible to understand What the real roots of our tradition are And how much more valuable they are than Any kind of artificial construct of lies That can be imposed on people with the Help of a false idea Now i don’t know if that’s 15 minutes or

Not i hope it’s just just about on the Nose david it’s very good uh dr taylor You’re gonna have an extraordinary Amount of pressure on you to follow These last two speakers at least from a Time perspective we’ll see how you do on Content but Thank you to the first two gentlemen for Being so uh clear concise and and on Point and on time with your remarks uh Dr taylor the floor is yours for 15 good Minutes before we kick some ideas around Together as a group Great thank you so much thanks to the Voc and ken pope for putting it together And and thanks Thank you brent for uh for moderating It’s also great to be on a panel with uh Two two scholars whose work i admire i Have their books next to me maybe i’ll Bring bring them out in a little bit uh In my time today i want to argue that One can locate the destructive core of Communism precisely in its ideological Nature Communist regimes in this telling are Totalitarian regimes precisely because They’re ideological Many scholars who use the term Totalitarian identify ideology as just One feature among many But but this view In this view ideology really is the Central feature and it’s the reason why

These regimes become Totalitarian I should say that this is by no means a Consensus view or even a particularly Common view today Although early observers of the soviet Project hinted at such a conclusion Without putting it in exactly these Terms give you two examples uh from from Self-identified communists the first uh Is from a french communist name borah Suverin uh who’s a biographer of stalin He wrote this in 1937. he said quote the Ussr is the country of the lie the Absolute lie the integral lie Stalin and his subjects are always lying At every moment under every circumstance And by dent of lying they no longer know That they’re lying And that very so unquote in that very Same year a yugoslav communist called Anton seliga published a book about his Experiences in in russia over the past a Decade before he was expelled The trans friend translating from the French title of that book it’s called The land of the disconcerting lies Published in 37 And later In the 20th century some of the greatest Dissident analysts would also identify This this feature of lying as as the Central central character of communism You could talk about alexander

Solzhenitsyn the great russian novelist The czech dissident playwright botswan Havel turned statesman and the polish Poet cheswave miwosch they all Identified The lie as as having this central role In these in these regimes So to put the matter starkly i agree With the french historian Elaine bessen sohn who writes that the Basic element in communism Or the key element at any rate is Ideology If you understand the one you will Understand the other and if you don’t Understand it basasan wrote you will Understand Nothing Now the principle obstacle in terms of Understanding communism in this way Is is the way that we use the term Ideology today Sometimes we we use the term to mean Something like world view we all kind of Have an ideology then Or we often mean a set of guiding ideas That might be grouped under some term That we that we then designate with an Ism an ism at the end So conservatism liberalism socialism Feminism fascism etc all these are our Ideologies And this is sadly how the matter is Treated in most

Introductory political science Textbooks but i want to suggest that This way of thinking about ideology Obscures fundamental differences between Ideas and regimes and most importantly It obscures the true nature of communism So i’d like to get at the stink the Distinctive nature of ideology Properly understood by looking at Central characteristics of ideological Regimes And i first want to look at the Characteristics From the standpoint of adherent or Believer Then i’ll walk through similar Characteristics but this time from the Perspective of an outside observer And then finally we’ll be in a position To i’ll be in a position to offer Um some definitions of ideology properly Understood So first characteristic of ideology in This distinctive sense it offers a Comprehensive doctrine that applies to Every aspect of one’s life Every aspect it’s supposed to explain Everything So the novelist arthur kessler reports That after adopting marxist leninism Quote the whole universe fell into a Pattern like the stray pieces of a Jigsaw puzzle So it has to have this comprehensive

Character second This ideology so understood has to offer A complete and funnel brick fundamental Break With an unjust and benighted past To adopt the ideology is to join a Movement that Intends to destroy And even negate this past so as as Jonathan mentioned in his presentation The soviets proclaimed quite openly Their intention to create a new Soviet man Right and to do that you had to get rid Of any remnants right of of the previous Um Previous order And so you have to dispose people to you Know to towards hatred towards this past Third Such an ideology is based on a Purportedly scientific understanding of History and its logic david just Mentioned this And this is what marx Proclaims set his understanding of Socialism apart from all of the mid-19th Century in marx’s mind pretenders right Mark said i’m the only one that has this Scientific understanding of socialism And so once you joined the communist Party you affirmed this necessary Movement of history and having that Knowledge would make you part of an

Elect right you would you would feel Like you were a special possessor of This scientific knowledge And this is why uh the main character Rubeshoff who’s the pro protagonist of Kessler’s novel darkness at noon In that great book he can’t stomach Leaving the party Because he he understands that leaving The party would seem to leave him Outside of history altogether it would Kind of be you know the equivalent of Leaving the party would be um something Like self annihilation right and this is Why So many people had such trouble Extricating themselves from the world of Ideology once they once they entered Into it Fourth characteristic uh the ideology is Characterized um by an extreme inner Logicality Uh this is what hannah arendt the great Philosopher german emigre called the Murderous alphabet of ideological Thinking if you accept a then you must Accept b Then c right jonathan alluded to this in His presentation right if you accept the Proletariat is the universal class then You must accept that the party is the Entity to rule in its name Then the party then you must accept that The party has the best interest of the

Proletariat at heart Then enemies of the party are the Enemies of the proletariat right all the Way all the way down the line And and And so the the party tolerates no Lack of clarity or no doubt Right once you enter into that inner Inner logicality Um seliga the yugoslav communist that i Mentioned earlier in his in his book He mentioned something like this when He’s talking about doubt he he says Quote in those conditions all leaning Towards doubt disappeared Those who at the outset had expressed Their doubts in the end mounted the Platform to excuse themselves for having Misunderstood Right no no no doubts permitted And then finally the fifth Characteristic of an ideology in this Sense The adoption of the ideology and i think This is important to remember i’m not Sure it’s been emphasized yet by either Of the previous Speakers it offered fraternity or at Least it was supposed to offer a kind of Deep sense of fraternity right one Participated in the collective movement That was freighted With meeting and it led to a kind of Self-forgetting

Where one’s personal trouble seemed Insignificant right and one’s identity Becomes fused with this movement that is Supposed to bring an end to all Suffering and all alienation right so That that fraternity however Um However much it failed afterwards to Create that that was the promise and i Think it probably succeeded to an extent At least initially in giving people that That sense of belonging Um so that those are the characteristics From the standpoint again from an Adherent or a believer Now i think it’s helpful to kind of look At the characteristics from someone Who’s standing on the outside right Who’s not um not necessarily a true Believer So the first characteristic from the Outside The the theoretical elaboration of the Ideology requires a specific application The other way to put this would be that An ideology in this sense collapses the Space Between theory and practice and the Party becomes the center Of both Right and so once once the principles Are there the practice is is obvious or Should be obvious to everyone so the Party tries to obfuscate that there’s

Any space between Theory and practice um Hovel writes about this in the following Ways he suggests that The communist party is dedicated to Perpetuation of a pseudo-reality And it has to paper that pseudo-reality Over the reality that people experience With their eyes and ears And so that pseudo reality comes to have A greater weight in howell’s telling Than reality as such And so hobble goes so far as to say that The significance of phenomena no longer Derived from the phenomena themselves But from their locus as concepts in the Ideological con context Howell says reality does not shape Theory But rather the reverse Its theory itself ritual itself That’s what seems to make the decisions That affects people and that’s why People experience this ideology is very Alienating right it’s the opposite of What marx had had predicted it doesn’t Solve the alienation problem it actually Makes it worse Um second Characteristic from this observer Standpoint is the foundation of the Legitimacy of the party its reach and Its power must be total at least in Intention

Because if the ideology can be Questioned Then the The party’s reason for being can also be Questioned right either the party has Knowledge that’s supposed to lead us Into this glorious future or it doesn’t And so the party can acknowledge no Limits to its knowledge and acknowledge No dissent and this is why um The the so-called leading role of the Party Could never be forsaken even by the the People who who wanted to reform the Party someone like alexander dubchak in The in the former czechoslovakia right He wanted to change Change things for the better but even Dukechek would would not forsake the Leading role of the party Third characteristic the party strives For to achieve a kind of perfect Perfectly unified society But it does it through perfect Fragmentation right so all autonomous Social institutions Need to be broken up and recreated with Ideological conforty conformity in mind So there are no social institutions not Even the family That is allowed to to have a An integrity Or a logic of its own society is treated As amorphous matter to be shaped and

Disciplined by the party Fourth communism has a utopian or what i Would call perfectionist Character It seeks some absolute union of all good Things Or all values Here i quote the the hungarian Philosopher arel kolnai He wrote perfectionism does not mean Loving or desiring the good or some Value too fervently It means loving the good arbitrarily Under its most perfectionist aspect As if it must represent an all-good World a togetherness and finished Harmony of good things and so the Perfectionist mind seeks the convergence Of good as the result of some necessary Movement of history so if we realize Perfect equality Then we’ll also have perfect justice an End to alienation right and all these Other good things but it’s a completely Arbitrary evaluation and positing right Of these of these values And then finally um the last Characteristic from the standpoint of an Observer David kind of finished his Uh his remarks with this with this point But individuals in an ideological regime Are freed from the notion of individual Responsibility

Or moral agency in the sense that you Um you sort of turf that responsibility To the ideology into the party right in Sort of normal moral life where we Identify goods and bads And we take the goods of others as our Own good when we do when we do good for Others Living in an ideological regime means That this very routine and normal Process of moral agency Is always Displaced By the ideology at least in part i mean People live a normal life in some sense Because they seek refuge from the Pseudo-reality around them but once they Go out in public right and it turns out You don’t know who you can trust right They they have to mouth these these Platitudes and and play the game that The party wants them Wants them to play and as david points Out that turns up that turns um turns Out to have a pretty Um pretty important kind of secondary Effects Down the road right um the the way that Cheswav miwosch puts this is that Everyone in a communist world is is sort Of forced to become an actor But after a while it’s very difficult to Differentiate The

The kind of public self the act herself You send out into the world and then the Private self right those those two cells Kind of bleed and mix and mix together And and so Moral agency is is something that Degenerates in in these regimes And so Um maybe that’s a good place to to end i Think i’m almost at 15 minutes i have a Few more remarks but maybe i can get to Those in in in questions i think i’ll Stop there brent Wonderful very nicely done so Everything’s moving slowly or slowly Perfectly so far uh i don’t know where i Got the word slowly so uh that doesn’t Make a lot of sense anyway so maybe Because now it’s my turn to jump in and Help moderate a discussion i would start By messing it up We’ve got some wonderful questions that Have come in from the audience and they Go along with some of the questions that I wanted to ask anyway for discussion so I’m going to sort of blend them together I want to start with you jonathan and in Your talk you Talked about the notion of ideas and Implying the sense of motion i’m Wondering if and by the way what we’ll Do is i’ll pick each one of you to start A question but then we’ll give all of You a chance to

To address it so everybody’s gonna get a Turn as it is Uh ideas are interesting things uh i’m Always struck by the great uh story Attributed to thomas carlisle the Scottish philosopher who was at dinner Party talking about ideas and somebody Was being critical of him for all of his Ideas and He supposedly said well there once was a Man named rousseau who wrote a book About ideas and people laughed and his Next book was bound with their skins so Ideas do have some sort of powerful Place in all this But where do ideas and actions Disconnect when we’re talking about The imposition of communism From my point of view the disconnect is Radical And it’s obvious At the point at which The power Of the ruling party is challenged That’s exactly where it happens it Happens every single time for lenin In 1921 after the kronstadt rebellion Which again I want to emphasize was staged not by Whites not by mensheviks not by Uh capitalists not by monarchists it was Staged by Uh communists who wanted to Retain the communist

Project but they were They were rebelling against bolshevik Tyranny And when he felt challenged in that way They Two things happen One is the resolution on party unity Which is the lever by means Uh by means of which stalin was able to Expel trotsky Expel and and murder uh most of his uh Uh those who challenged him why because They were destroying the unity of the Party And the second was that lenin did Something that Ideologically Made no sense Which was at exactly that same time he Started the new economic policy of Reintroducing capitalism into The soviet union And the new economic policy lasted from 1921 To After his death In 1924 And uh he of course uh gives all kinds Of reasons why this is not a compromise Because he hated compromise with the Capitalists and so on and so forth this Is a strategic retreat Uh a tactical retreat Uh but in fact it is as david was uh uh

Very eloquently saying it was the Beginning of the lies but the lies Actually don’t begin just there they They begin in 1917 1918. When Uh lenin is reacting against kowski The uh arch German socialist And uh he writes He writes in the proletarian revolution And the renegade kowski he writes Everything that was imagined before the War happened Perfectly The whole peasantry the whole of the Peasantry was in favor of the revolution Well we know this was an absolute lie It was an absolute over 200 rebellions Took place in 1918 alone Millions and millions of peasants Rebelled against this But he initiates that lie why Because of ideological reasons no Because His power is challenged and he knows That he will lose power and the Revolution will lose power If he does not create this world of lies And one lie leads to another to another And another and another and another and Before you know it it is as david was Saying The essence of the ideological system

So You see i think that the ideology is in The service of Protecting power and the ideology Changes as the needs of power are Different Uh david this notion of ideas you know Mark said that ideas without action were Were useless and i’m wondering what your Thought is about When is it that the ideas are the cause Of the action and when is it that the Action is excused perhaps by or Justified by the ideas uh because Certainly there’s great disconnect Between Uh this utopic notion and then what we Get in totalitarian countries that do it Under the guise of communism under the Wonderful branding if you will What is your thought about this Disconnect perhaps between Ideas and applications and actions I think we can look at it as a two-stage Process The ideas are used Uh In order to attract the followers And to and to Mass support Uh Under the authority of of a group of Leaders Who then can use those

Supporters and those believers for Whatever purpose Suits The the consolidation and expansion of Their power I mean this is actually inherent in Marxism leninism itself marxism is the False religion Marxism is the Uh false religion Masquerading as a science A perfect science That offered people A glorious future and a break with a Corrupt past Leninism Uh which was attached to marxism Was the means for realizing marxism in a Society or in the world But of course in terms of its content It actually contradicts marxism because Marx held That the That the dynamic force of history was The working class which would take power As a result of the inevitable movement Of history And lenin said that in fact the The the motive power of of of the the The dynamic force of history is a class Of professional revolutionaries the Communist party who in fact are often Not working class and in many cases have Very little concern for the working

Class Uh and who are capable of forcing the Pace of history But in the conflict between it was Alexandria who who told me that Who who jonathan knows very well and who I know very well Uh said that he it took him some time to Realize Uh as he himself emerged from communist Or orthodoxy that lenin was the first Great revisionist A revisionism being the great accusation That the communists the soviet rulers Threw against anyone who tried who tried To disagree with them But the The reality is that Marxism was the Myth uh Leninism was the instrument Uh for using the myth In order to oppress the entire Population Uh and of course when the myth becomes When the myth is convenient When it attracts Millions of supporters when it energizes Them to commit unbelievable atrocities Then the myth is very at that point the Myth is very welcome but when the myth Gets in the way of the ultimate goal of Those who are using the myth Then it can be discarded you can sign a

Pact with hitler You can institute the the new economic Policy and at least temporarily restore Market relations to the countryside Uh you can you can do anything Because you have absolute power and that Power has come to you by your ability to To cloud the minds and manipulate the The the behavior of millions of people Wonderful so um Flag i’d like to uh Turn to you and uh in this notion of Ideas you know you Talked about The ideology and the requirement of Adherence You triggered for me something that i Often use as a distinction When talking about the difference Between philosophy and ideology i’ll Typically say that philosophy requires It be applied And ideology requires it be adhered to Very similar to sort of what you said But you also talked about the the Systemic nature of it and the Completeness of it so i’m wondering if You could uh draw a distinction for People between perhaps A philosophical system and an Ideological one i think hegel sometimes Considered to be the last great full System philosopher of course hegel gave Marx part of his weaponry

But hegel hardly an ideologue i think But it is confusing people use the terms Interchangeably and i don’t think that As you used it you were so i’m wondering If you could help for our audience sort Of give them a working construct to Separate that notion Yeah um So i guess i would start my my Definition of of ideology Uh is a comprehensive Political doctrine that specifies The emergence Of an order of perfect justice And the means that must be employed to Achieve that order So it’s both comprehensive It specifies the the perfect place where We’re meant to go so it has that aspect Of perfectionism utopianism And it has that that character that Specifies the means that have to be Employed Um to get there And and the means themselves then are Defined by that Inner logicality that i emphasize that Collapses the space between Theory and practice and so Um if you put all those elements Together i mean i think that that gives You Um you know that that’s that’s pretty Distinctive right that’s not true of

Lots of things that we describe as Philosophies Um you know ways of thinking about about The world Um The other way to think about it i think Um both david and and jonathan if memory Serves both kind of use these terms The political doctrine Is often described as a secular religion Right and so in exchange for conversion It promises adherence a kind of temporal Salvation That claims to to conform to a cosmic Order that’s been scientifically Um deciphered right Um and so that that idea of temporal Salvation i think gives um gives you a Sense that this is different from most Of the Things that are offered as just Philosophies Um And then finally i would say it’s the Other the other um way to think about it Would be to say a philosophy is a is a Rational inquiry But an ideology is a rational theory That’s no longer in a state of inquiry Right a philosophy is open by its very Nature to Having questions raised about its Character and what what it might mean How how its claims might map on to the

To reality as such but An ideology right It thinks it has it all figured out Right there’s no more discussion there’s No more inquiry It’s now time to to push push um Human action right to bring to bring To bring the world and its character to Match the theory right the idea that i Emphasize with that hobble quote right We need to make the world match up to Our theory And that’s you know that that i think is Makes it very different from most things That are offered as political Philosophies i don’t know if that’s Helps but Wonderfully help help me i hope it Helped the audience So uh david let’s uh let me ask you Start with you and talk about this this God thing So you mentioned in your remarks you Talked about the religious aspect and The soviet union being built Uh specifically on the gnosis notion of Atheism i’m wondering uh so as as we Talk about philosophy i like to tell People i come from a fixed philosophical Marriage i’m half objectivist so my Pronouns are i and me and i’m half Catholic so i feel guilty about my Choice of pronouns So we have uh communism of course with

Atheism at its at its center and yet we Have a great anti-communist in iran with Atheism at her center So speak to the particular notion and Importance of atheism To Communist ideology and why it becomes so Destructive if you will Well you know in religion It’s a question of what is the absolute What is the absolute Uh in Religion God is the the the the criterion for Moral judgment Everything that we call the west Derives ultimately from two Two documents the ten commandments and The Analogy of the cave in plato’s republic In both cases what is involved Is a higher moral order And uh rules for life that derive from a Transcendent source Now that when in a totalitarian ideology There are also rules for life But they don’t derive from a Transcendent source they derive from Society itself For example uh In In the case of marxism they derived from The historical process To a certain extent in nazism it was the

Same And the and the uh the The criterion for for for right or wrong In fact the criterion for the Judgments about reality itself Were the interests Of the in the case of marx in the Interests of the working class in case Of nazi in the interests of the Master race i mean nazism in many cases Was a Was a A somewhat incoherent imitation Based on race Of marxist ideology But to return to marxism Lenin made this absolutely explicit In his speech to the comsol in 1919 he Said that for us right and wrong is not Based on any kind of transcendent Consideration we don’t you know we don’t Believe any of this claptrap about Universal values That a single standard of right and Wrong belongs you know applies to Everyone and you know we as marxists Understand that right and wrong is Determined by the interests of the Revolution and the interests of the Working class anything that’s in the Interest of the working class is right Anything that impedes it is wrong Because the working class is the it Is the the

The moving force of history And meaning is derived from the Historical process now the uh Uh Obviously Uh The In the case of a transcendent Source of authority Uh You know right and wrong becomes uh the Province of an individual conscience But in the case of us of of a Source of authority that’s located in The social process itself And and is interpreted by a supposedly Infallible political leadership there’s No room whatsoever for freedom of Thought And the this happens whenever People in effect ideologize even if the What we’re dealing with is not a Totalitarian ideology The totalitarian ideology you know which We’ve seen in the soviet union and in The communist countries we saw in nazi Germany and so it’s a total attempt To impose lies and ideology on a Population but the Ideologizing tendency you know can Appear even in democratic societies in Groups that have decided they don’t have To think anymore that something is for Example politically correct what does it

Mean to be politically correct it means That something is correct in and of Itself without reference to any higher Authority and without the need of Further discussion now obviously this This phenomenon is as repulsive as it May be does not in the west assume the Proportions That it did in the soviet union or in Nazi germany but it’s a fragment of the Same type of thinking And that’s the important distinction Here The distinction between a transcendent Point of reference Uh and a sense that uh uh that that the Judgments about Morality Ultimately Uh dependent on Uh considerations Which are over and above The passions of society And On the other hand a philosophy that Assumes that society itself has all the Answers And that all you have to do is identify The correct the correct tendency And absolutize its interests and you Have an infallible guide To knowledge and to morality well that’s What happened in the soviet union it Happened in nazi germany and it’s a

Tendency that we you know that that that That needs that that needs to be Controlled in free societies as well Okay Uh so If uh let me turn to you jonathan and Ask if uh With regard to We think about marx’s ideas on Uh god and uh we you know the whole Notion of religion Is the opiate of the masses um we see What has happened in marx’s name over The course of the past century Did marx get anything right Uh i mean he was famous for creating a Forward-looking view of a history that Had not yet happened right just like Rousseau was famous for creating a view Of the past that couldn’t be proven so They were sort of brothers in that sense One gave us a backwards and one gave us A four words Was marx right about anything uh In terms of how he structured his uh Take of what what was to come Oh i think i think he was right Certainly about the uh ultimate Globalization of world markets I think we’re realizing that today he Writes about that quite explicitly in The communist manifesto Um and and uh at a time when Uh

It was difficult to think about the true Globalization Of uh capitalist economy i think i think You got that right i think the Profoundest Thing that he got wrong Was his complete misunderstanding of Human nature Uh You know we can talk as much as we like About the atheism Of the bolsheviks and it’s true But Most of the founding fathers of the United states were deists And they were very light on religion Frankly um some were out and out Agnostics Um And um When in 1922 Uh lenin gives the order to destroy the Churches and seize all the church Valuables It’s very instructive to see how he Justifies this He does not justify it on the basis of Religion is bad it’s the opiate of the Masses we have to destroy religion let’s Murder all the priests and blah blah Blah He justifies it very simply we need Their gold and silver We need to stockpile a fund so that we

Can Uh keep the government going And therefore as he puts it very bluntly When there is cannibalism in the Countryside and and the peasants are Dying And weak and Destitute They’re they are in no position to Oppose us And therefore he gives the order To ransack all the churches In russia And ukraine in particular Why Not out of a marxist principled Uh disdain for religion But because he’s looting the churches Again it comes back to power it comes Back to Power and And uh There’s a very uh Wonderful interview that stalin gives to Sergey eisenstein the famous filmmaker After the war Eisenstein is making a film on uh igor Grozny ivan the terrible And Stalin doesn’t like uh what he’s doing He says you know you’re making him into Hamlet what do you think he is an English banker for goodness sakes Uh ivan the terrible he’s the tsar of

Russia don’t you understand And and he said the only problem with With uh ivan the terrible is that he Would kill one boyar and then he would Run to the monastery Uh and he would uh Seek forgiveness from god he said if he Had killed him all at one time it would Have saved him a lot of trouble He said and then he says to eisenstein a Fantastic thing he said i think god Hindered him in his work it’s a fabulous Thing Stalin says i think god in other words He doesn’t deny god he doesn’t say that God does not exist it’s just that listen God’s work is over here my work is over Here Let god run the universe i’m going to Run The human world And and that’s kind of the way he Thought about things And run it he did and Uh so uh flag as we uh Move uh close in towards the end of our Time available i want to turn to you as A college professor Uh and ask this question that’s come From the audience and it’s always a Question i have as well and it’s been Something that ken and i have kicked Around in conversations How is it that we somehow or other

Approach young people today And convince them That communism is bad When communism is created as we’ve all Talked about here in one way or another As a utopic abstract idea Um and then we we try to point to the Stories that have been shared here with The panel today or by the panel today And they say well that’s not communism We haven’t tried communism yet communism Is great uh this other stuff isn’t isn’t Really it So What do we do to reach them with the Message that i By the way jonathan i love what you said About having human nature wrong my email Says hobbs was right i think if you take Marx’s system and you have hobbs man you Get night of the walking dead So because we seem to get stuck in the Killing part the whole revolution and Fighting thing so flag what do we do how Do we reach young people Uh well i have sort of one quip and then One one more serious answer i mean The quip is the the whole we haven’t Haven’t been uh tried yet Um you know i tried to point out that Communism has has been tried in Um a heck of a lot of places around the World But it kind of turns out the same way

No matter where it’s trying And that’s a kind of remarkable fact That you have to Consider before you Resort to this it’s never been tried bit I mean it’s we’ve we’ve done it in a lot Of different places and Across the globe and the um No matter how good the intentions right The result Is is kind of shockingly similar so as a Kind of social experiment that That should just tell tell you something Um but the more serious answer is is Get them to read You know different accounts of human Nature and the human soul and politics And philosophy and And literature and You know put that alongside Uh you know the account of human nature To the extent that there is one in marx And And then lenin and um you know try to Reason through it and and talk about it Um and then read the great dissidents Read solzhenitsyn and hovel and and new Ocean i mean i could go on and on Jonathan probably has uh and david both Have favorite favorite authors writing Um writing under communist regimes Um And you know these these people have Remarkable accounts of of the variety of

Human experience in the human soul That don’t get expressed under communism Right and and so you i think the Dissident experience is probably the Best place to go So jonathan you wanted to say something Please What i say to my students Is simple It doesn’t work It doesn’t work It doesn’t create wealth And because it doesn’t create wealth They have to steal And because it doesn’t create wealth They have to force people to work And because they have to force people React People rebel And That’s the system It’s a failed system If it worked people would flock to it And that’s interesting It’s interesting isn’t it that we’re Having the same debates that in uh 2022 That aristotle and plato were having Between themselves uh to some extent uh At the academy uh david we’ve got about 60 seconds left would you like to have a Closing thought on uh how to reach young People with the with this message Well i think the most important thing is To to show them the crimes that were

Committed And to and to show the connection Between the ideology and the crimes Because the average person is not a Killer But when he has an ideology he can be Turned into a murderer And the ideology equips people to stop Thinking of individuals and start Thinking of masses And To assume that In the interest of of of this Of this uh Overarching idea any crime is justified Once people understand that connection The appeal of the ideology will be lost Even if you can’t even if it takes more Of an effort to explain to them because Marxism is complicated it takes a very Lucid explanation for people to to Understand what’s involved maybe not Everyone will be able to see that Everyone will be able to see the Connection between ideology and mass Murder because it’s been documented Throughout the 20th century Well on that note on that powerful note We will Thank all of our panel members uh for Joining us today it has been a privilege For me to be able to host the Conversation i certainly hope that at Some point along the way tom winter and

Alan risk and our former owners at human Events uh Watch this broadcast if they weren’t Joining us live and hopefully they’ll See that their legacy at human events uh Continues through this program and Through our relationship with the Victims of communism foundation So thank you for letting me host this Ken it’s been a privilege i want to turn It back over to you for closing remarks All right well just just again thank you To uh first of all to all of our our Panelists jonathan david flagg and brent For For agreeing to moderate our event today Just you know incredible insights uh Like i said i’ve told you you guys Every time i speak to you i learn more Every time we talk so i’ll be calling You again for more input on this stuff That’s really a fascinating topic so if You would like to our viewers if you’d Like to have more information about this Topic then i would highly suggest you Read one of the books from either one of The three gentlemen that were our Panelists today they offer some great Insights and really understand the topic At a granular level there you go And uh i highly recommend doing it A couple other things too if you want to Learn more about the topic of communism Marxism the theory how this all got

Started there’s a couple ways you can do That so We have a we host every year a summer Seminar that flag will be teaching at at Our museum i’m here in dc 18 through 22 July so it’s open to middle school high School teachers um others who are Interested in the topic it’s a hybrid Event so if you want to join via you Know online zoom or live in person or Museum please go to our website you can Register there and join us there Also if you want to learn more about for The people who for the students you know As a former college professor myself That say that we’ll communist try we Have a museum that just opened dedicated To All those 100 million victims of Communism to where it was tried across The world so that like our panelists Were talking about today that’s really Your end product of communism every time It’s been tried a lot of dead people and It’s a sad Criminal legacy that we have this world Has endured for far too long So please come by the museum learn more About it and we will have this webinar Video on our website along with our Co-host human events will be on our site As well to to view and encourage your Friends to take a look at as well so Again

Thanks to again to our panelists for all Those who attended and look forward to Hosting you all again on another webinar Coming up soon thank you thanks everyone Thank you Thank you thank you

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