Leftism: From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse, by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (EvKL)
EvKL offers an examination of three thinkers (well, two thinkers and one movement) that continued and accelerated the move toward radical thought during the nineteenth century, Pierre Joseph Proudhon, Karl Marx, and the Fabian Society. Following is a brief examination of each.
Pierre Joseph Proudhon
Proudhon was certainly an enemy of the omnipotent state, but he was an enemy of many other ideas and realities: some for the good, some not so much.
First, for the good: he certainly made an enemy of Karl Marx. While both had similar ends in mind – the withering away of the state, the end of a concentration of wealth, etc. – they had different means. For Proudhon the means was to be through evolutionary change, where the proper end was discovered. For Marx it was the other way – we saw this way in Lenin and Stalin.
Now for the not so much: Proudhon, while not collectivist was a socialist favoring distribution of income – a mutualist.
He was strongly opposed to economic liberalism because he feared bigness, the concentration of wealth, mammoth enterprises, yet he was equally an enemy of the omnipotent centralized state which figures as the keystone in all leftist thinking.
His ideas were bound to come into conflict with the later socialist ideas of dictatorial and centralizing power.
While EvKL believes that had Proudhon’s methods prevailed, the West might have coped with socialism better, I am not so sure. Ultimately socialism destroys: destroys wealth, destroys community, destroys culture, destroys property, destroys tradition. No society can survive this.
[Marx] wrote a dissertation on Epicurus, whose philosophy has a decidedly materialistic flavor, for the University of Jena which gave him a Ph.D. In Berlin young Marx became strongly influenced by Hegel and his school.
Epicureanism offers gods, but gods that do not in any way concern themselves with the goings-on of this world. What good are irrelevant gods? Yes, I guess that is the point.
…one does not find any preoccupation with ethics in Marx's thinking or writing.
If the gods don’t care, why would Marx? Better yet, if Marx can find gods who do not care, all the better.
Morality, Feuerbach insisted, will never be sustained by religion, but only by an improvement in living conditions-in other words, by "social betterment." This of course is a notion which not only became typically Marxist but which is shared by the American moderate left, if not by American folklore.
Who is this Feuerbach?
Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach (28 July 1804 – 13 September 1872) was a German philosopher and anthropologist best known for his book The Essence of Christianity, which provided a critique of Christianity which strongly influenced generations of later thinkers, including Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Richard Wagner, and Friedrich Nietzsche.
An associate of Left Hegelian circles, Feuerbach advocated liberalism, atheism, and materialism. Many of his philosophical writings offered a critical analysis of religion. His thought was influential in the development of historical materialism, where he is often recognized as a bridge between Hegel and Marx.
Advocating “liberalism, atheism, and materialism.” Sounds like a full-on anthem of many left-libertarians. Returning to EvKL:
After all, the great consolation to so many in this valley of tears is the childlike belief in the automatic character of progress. Here we find the fulfillment of Dostoyevski's prophecy (through the mouth of his "Grand Inquisitor" in The Brothers Karamazov) that the time shall come in which science and the sages will proclaim the nonexistence of criminals and sinners – there are only hungry people.
Progress without God leads to hell.
His financial support came mainly from Engels, whose Calvinist-Pietist family had "paid him out," and from the New York Tribune. Without the dollars and the marks of capitalism, there probably would have been no Socialist and Communist movements.
EvKL doesn’t offer a further clue about this connection to the New York Tribune, but it seems clear that this was during the time when Horace Greeley was publisher:
Greeley sponsored a host of reforms, including pacifism and feminism and especially the ideal of the hard-working free laborer. Greeley demanded reforms to make all citizens free and equal. He envisioned virtuous citizens who would eradicate corruption. He talked endlessly about progress, improvement, and freedom, while calling for harmony between labor and capital. Greeley's editorials promoted social democratic reforms, and were widely reprinted. …In 1852-62, the paper retained Karl Marx as its London-based European correspondent. Friedrich Engels also submitted articles under Marx's by-line.
I could add emphasis to each line in the above, but you get the idea. As God has been fully stamped out of the west by this time, any and all philosophies hold equal weight. Returning to EvKL:
Marx also extolled the bourgeoisie for its anti-feudal, anti-aristocratic trend toward centralization by promotion of "one nation, one government, one law, one national class interest, one customs area." He raves about all these achievements.
Maybe Marx was working for the universalist libertarian law? No, I don’t think so. But when someone shouts “Universalists of the world unite!” which side do you think will win control of government? I know where I will place my money.
Finally, Marxist salvation:
…there is in Marxism a curious eschatological vision, consciously-subconsciously copied from Christianity, an ecstatic waiting for the Second Coming of the Pan-Proletarian Christ…
George Bernard Shaw, Sidney and Beatrice Webb (later Lord and Lady Passfield), and William Morris belonged to it. By 1887 the "Fabian Society" ("Society of the Fabians") had a definite profile. …the society adopted a manner of investigating and promoting Socialist ideas entirely at variance with Continental dogmatism and very much in keeping with the trend toward understatement, compromise, and halfway measures so characteristic of the English
One of the fruits of the most liberal age in Britain. While rejecting orthodox Marxism, they were enthusiastic about the nationalization of the means of production. A distinction without much difference, I know.
Fabians…supplied socialism in Eastern Europe with ample intellectual ammunition. One of the Fabians, J. A. Hobson, together with G. D. H. Cole, an initiator of "Guild Socialism," was the author of Imperialism, published in 1902. This book inspired Lenin to write his pamphlet Imperialism as the Last Stage of Capitalism which came out in I9I5.
Lenin? Do all leftist roads lead to the same place?