On being free or having free stuff 1

Karl Popper and Friedrich Hayek were two great 20th century thinkers who argued for freedom. They differed on one point: Popper held freedom to be in itself the highest value; Hayek thought freedom is valuable, indeed essential, because it enables innovation.

Innovation comes from the minds of individuals. A government controlled society in which the individual’s only – and enforced – duty is to serve the collective, does not allow origination. The organized mass is sterile. It cannot invent. That’s why it’s wrong to call socialism, communism, any shade of leftism,”progressive”. A socialist society cannot advance. It can only stagnate.

That’s why Communist China has had to steal new ideas and devices from countries in which free thought and its expression are permitted.

What many people who live in countries that are still comparatively free find attractive about socialism is that it promises “free stuff”. Vote the socialists into power and you will get free school, free health care, free housing, free strawberries with free cream. Well, okay, maybe not the cream. And maybe also not the strawberries. And maybe you will have to share a house. And the health panel will decide whether you may live or must die. And what you’ll be taught will be adherence to doctrine not search for truth. But still – it will all be free. At the time it is dispensed to you, whatever it is, you will not have to pay for it. The rest of your time you’ll be working for it.

Natan Sharansky was born in Soviet Russia and lived the first decades of his life there. He eventually escaped to live in freedom in Israel.

He writes about the torture of the mind in the prison of Communism:

My father, a journalist named Boris Shcharansky, was born in 1904 in Odessa, the cultural and economic center of the Pale of Settlement, where the Russian empire stuck most Jews. He studied in the Jewish Commercial Gymnasium, because most other gymnasiums accepted very few Jews, if any. By the time he was 16, he had already lived through the Czarist Regime with its anti-Semitic restrictions, the “February” Socialist Revolution, the “October” Bolshevik Revolution, and the years of civil war when power in Odessa seesawed back and forth from faction to faction, as hunger, pogroms, and destruction decimated the population.

When the Soviets finally emerged from the chaos, therefore, my father was hopeful. The Communists promised that a new life of full equality was dawning, without Pales of Settlement, without education restrictions, and, most important, with equal opportunities for all. Who wouldn’t want that? … [He]  was excited about building a world of social justice and equality closer to his home. …

Lucky for him, Odessa was emerging as a center for a new cultural medium—cinema. As silent Charlie Chaplin-type movies started evolving into more scripted sketches, my father put his storytelling talents to work. …

Of course, to succeed in his career as a screenwriter, he had to follow certain rules. His scripts, like every other work of art, had to follow the script of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, seeing the world through the lens of class struggle and class exploitation. As Karl Marx argued, and the Bolsheviks now decreed, “the history of all hitherto-existing societies is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight”.

Thankfully, in its final stage of class struggle, following Karl Marx’s teaching, the proletariat had seized power from its masters, establishing a dictatorship of the proletariat who would build a classless society of equals. So-called bourgeois freedoms, minor matters like civil liberties and human rights, were nothing more than facades for exploiting others. The old world and its retrograde values had to be destroyed in order to bring forth social justice. Today, such a singular vision might be called Critical Class Theory—or maybe The 1917 Project.

Everything had to serve Communist ideology: every institution, every medium, every art form. Lenin particularly appreciated the propaganda potential of movies, declaring, “Cinema for us is the most important of the arts.” So while all creative artists had to subordinate plot, character, and complexity to advancing the Bolshevik political agenda, movie-makers endured extra scrutiny. The term “politically-correct“, which is popular today, emerged in the late 1920s, to describe the need to correct certain deviants’ thought to fit the Communist Party Line. Any positive characters with bourgeois origins had to eventually check their privilege, condemn their past as oppressors, and publicly take responsibility for their sins.

At first, True Believers who championed the Revolution’s noble aims easily accepted these restrictions. But as the Red Terror grew … the number of True Believers kept shrinking …

I was born … in 1948. My father had fought as a soldier in the Red Army in World War II for four years, and had returned a hero. … (Our] family which had lost so many friends and relatives in the Holocaust, then watched so many friends suffer during Josef Stalin’s political and anti-Semitic purges …

Every day, my father went to work [as a journalist] …  seeking interesting stories. But, when it came to writing them up, his imagination had to shrink, his mouth had to be wired shut, his hand had to clamp tight, as he produced what the Party required. He knew the handicapped journalism he created was not true journalism, the art that resulted was not true art, the thoughts triggered were not real thoughts and the conversations surrounding it all were not real conversations. Yet my father remained a storyteller at heart—and now he had an audience—my older brother by two years and me.

When my father came home from work, he could leave the suffocating grey false universe he helped to create behind, and welcome his beloved family into a full-color world. From the time we were very young, he would tell us stories on three levels—explaining to us what the author said, what the author wished to say, and what the author could not say. When we started, from a very young age, our ritual of weekly outings to the movies, he would recreate the movie for us on the way home, filling in what the screenwriter probably wanted to write, and explain what he could not write. …

No [professional writer] was ever quite sure what would be permitted or not, what red line they might cross tomorrow; what “macro-aggression” or “micro-aggression” they might suddenly be found guilty of committing. To be a man of letters in a sea of fear was to worry about drowning constantly. …

Looking back at the history of Soviet literature, it’s hard to find any of the thousands of writers [who conformed] … who wrote anything worth reading or remembering. Their books, published on a massive scale—often selling millions—simply disappeared. … Eventually, their lies consumed both the characters and their authors, leaving nothing behind.

By contrast, the works that lasted defied Stalinist orthodoxies in the service of truths, both immediate and internal. Stalin killed some of these honest writers, like the poet Osip Mandelstam. Some killed themselves, like the poet Marina Tsvetaeva. Some lived daily with the fear of arrest, or under the shadow of purges, like Anna Akhmatova. Some, like the novelist Mikhail Bulgakov, accepted the fact that their books would go unpublished in Russia—his classic The Master and Margarita didn’t see the light of day for decades. Others, like Boris Pasternak, who smuggled Dr. Zhivago to the West, sought readers elsewhere and paid the price back home ….

By my generation there were few True Believers left. Your field of vision had to be very narrow indeed to still see the crumbling society around us as some kind of Communist paradise.

I spent my high school years as an academic grind, drowning in problem sets, working around the clock to amass five out of fives in mathematics and physics. Because I knew that I had to follow a very specific script to get the character reference I needed from the local Komsomol authorities, I also spouted the right slogans, participated in the right youth activities, and sang the right songs. Yet even after I fulfilled my young dreams and made it to MFTI—Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, the Soviet equivalent of MIT—the scrutiny continued. We math and science students had to keep paying lip service to the Soviet gods, like everyone else. We kept taking tests on Marxist doctrine every semester, even when studying at the postdoctoral level. …

Our professors subtly encouraged us to brush such annoyances aside. We were the elite, they kept telling us, racing toward a golden future. It was all worth it. I was luxuriating in the sanctuary of science, an asylum protected from the daily insanity the Soviets imposed on nearly everyone else. I decided that the deeper I was into my scientific career, the less stressful this double life would be.

It was a comforting illusion—until I read Andrei Sakharov’s manifesto.

Sakharov was our role model, the number one Soviet scientist sitting at the peak of the pyramid each of us was trying to climb so single-mindedly. In May 1968, this celebrity scientist circulated a ten-thousand-word manifesto that unleashed a wrecking ball which smashed my complacent life. “Intellectual freedom is essential to human society,” Sakharov declared. Bravely denouncing Soviet thought-control, he mocked “the ossified dogmatism of a bureaucratic oligarchy and its favorite weapon, ideological censorship.”

Sakharov warned that Soviet science was imperiled without “the search for truth”. … At the time, there were few who could understand the depths of this critique. The Soviet Union wasn’t just relying on its scientific wizards to develop nuclear weapons; we now know that the research ran in tandem with an elaborate spying operation that stole as many of America’s atomic secrets as it could.

The message was clear for us. Sakharov helped us realize that the Soviet restrictions on free thought ran deep. You not only have to control your political opinions, but every interaction with your colleagues, every new insight, has to be checked and rechecked, for fear of ideological implications that could destroy a career in this world where even entire fields of inquiry were cancelled for being politically incorrect. Soviet scientists spent so much time looking over their shoulders and in their rear-view mirrors that they could not plunge ahead and catch up with their Western peers.

Long before most others, Sakharov saw in the Soviet scientific community the equivalent of the literary mediocrity we all saw in Soviet Realism. … Life in a dictatorship offers two choices: either you overcome your fear and stand for truth, or you remain a slave to fear, no matter how fancy your titles, no matter how big your dacha.

Natan Sharansky made the decision to stand for truth.

He applied to emigrate to Israel.

As a result of both decisions, he was jailed for nine years.

Once I had done it, once I was no longer afraid, I realized what it was to be free …

And that was why, during nine years in prison, when the KGB would try tempting me to restore my freedom and even my life by returning to the life I once had, it was easy to say “no”. …

Over the last three decades in freedom, I have noticed that … the feeling of release from the fear … is universal across cultures. This understanding prompted the Town Square Test I use to distinguish between free societies and fear societies: Can you express your individual views loudly, in public, without fear of being punished legally, formally, in any way? If yes, you live in a free society; if not, you’re in a fear society.

[Today] nearly two-thirds of Americans report self-censoring about politics at least occasionally … despite the magnificent constitutional protections for free thought and expression enshrined in the Bill of Rights

To preserve our integrity and our souls, the quality of our political debate and the creativity so essential to our cultural life, we need … a test [that] asks: In the democratic society in which you live, can you express your individual views loudly, in public and in private, on social media and at rallies, without fear of being shamed, excommunicated, or cancelled?

A lot of American voters – even if not as many as the socialist Democratic Party claimed in order to seize power –  recently voted against freedom. They voted for the political party that promised free stuff. And already masters of the social media, most of them politically correct social justice warriors, refuse to let opinions they disagree with be expressed on their forums. Free speech is deeply unpopular with the Leftists now in power in America. Freedom itself is not valued. Those “magnificent constitutional protections for free thought and expression enshrined in the Bill of Rights” are being swept aside.

You will not be free – and the stuff you get from government won’t be free either.

Anything that costs you your freedom, costs too much.

Patriotism versus Nationalism? 4

Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, declares himself to be a patriot.

But not a nationalist.

“Patriotism,” he says, “is the opposite of nationalism.”

To his mind, patriotism is good, nationalism is bad.

He emphatically expresses his own patriotism, saying at various times:

Long live the Republic, long live France.

France is back.

France is a strong, wealthy country.

Our language, history, and civilization shine out across every continent.

I bring the spirit of French conquest.

He believes that France has reason to be proud – but not the French.

Not those who incarnate “the spirit of French conquest”.

For the French to be proud of being French would be nationalism. And nationalism is bad for two reasons:

First, because not just the indigenous French live in France.

Second, because France is only one of the 28 countries in the European Union.

If you are a citizen of one of those countries, you can like the country you live in, you can be proud of it. That makes you a patriot. Good. But you may not like it better than the other 27 countries. If you do, you are a nationalist. Bad.

Macron declares:

We are a continent of refugees, and if you say we can’t integrate refugees, that’s not consistent with our values, even if borders cannot be wide open. 

I want to be the president of all the people of France, for the patriots facing the threat of nationalism.

My responsibility will be to unite all the women and men ready to take on the tremendous challenges which are waiting for us, and to act.

He wants to unite them because very many of them – indigenous French citizens of France – still want France to be their country, not a country of refugees. They do not want the millions of (mainly Muslim) immigrants from the weak, poor Third World coming to live among them not to become French, but to benefit from the freedom and wealth  – which the French have attained through long centuries with their blood, sweat and tears – while keeping their own languages and customs, and even their own law. 

Those whose patriotism nationalism is expressed like that – the conservatives, the political Right – are Macron’s bad people.

The Left calls them “bigots”, “xenophobes”, “Islamophobes”, “Nazis”.

Macron calls himself a man of the Left, though not a socialist:

I am not a socialist.

I am from the Left, but I am happy to work with people from the Right.

Provided that the Right will accept the sharing of their country with multitudes of foreigners.

Macron saw his task as getting the nationalists to accept those multitudes. He called it “reforming” France.

We have no choice but to reform this country. I am not just a liberal movement. I come from the progressive Left. I am trying to refresh and counter the system.

To “refresh and counter”. A contradiction, yes.  Macron’s politics are bundles of contradictions.

On further thought, he was not sure that “reform” is the right word for what he believes he has to do. To “reform” France would be too local a project. Too … nationalistic. The French, all of them, have not only to accept that they must share their country with hostile foreigners – and be generous to them, and adapt their own ways to the foreigners’ because the foreigners are not interested in adapting to the ways of the French – they must fundamentally change from being French to being Europeans.

But wait! Even that is too self-serving, too vain and arrogant – still tainted with the stain of a kind of nationalism. As France is not better than the other 27 countries of the European Union, so Europe is not better than the rest of the world. (With one exception, which we’ll come to.)

It would not be enough merely to reform France into a different kind of country, changed from a nation-state into a constituent state of a United Europe. Not enough because France  needs to be much more changed, to have its Frenchness so eradicated that it will be transformed into just one geographical area named “France” among hundreds of other geographical areas in a United World.  

Macron announced:

I am for a progressive world. I do not propose to reform France; I propose to transform it at its deepest level.

That is “globalism”. It is the goal of the “progressives” – the Left – everywhere.

The Left has always understood that for their dream of a communist utopia to work, human nature must be fundamentally changed. Changed “at its deepest level”.

In fact, of course, Europe is not “a continent of refugees”. At least not until very recently. Now Macron and his fellow European Union leaders are trying to make it so by importing multitudes from Asia and Africa. Until that began to happen, the countries of Europe were largely homogeneous.

The country whose population is a mixture, is the United States of America. The American nation is the one that does not define itself in terms of origin and descent, or by subjection to king or chieftain, or by adherence to a particular religion. It is a nation of many peoples bound into one by a Constitution. It’s existence is the greatest political achievement of humankind. Those Americans who are aware of this have great cause to be proud of their country. Cause to be patriots. To be nationalists. Their nationalism is not a narrow arrogance. It is an achievement. And its present leader, President Donald Trump, is a proud patriot, a self-declared nationalist who puts the interests of his own country first, who wants it to be a great force and example for promoting freedom in the world. A country tolerant of all religions. With all its citizens equal before the law.

And it is this country, this leader, this patriotism, this nationalism that Emmanuel Macron and his fellow European globalists despise!

Within America, the Left, the “progressives” do not like their country the way it is. They are  trying, furiously and violently, to change it. Insurrectionist organizations, many of them financed by the multibillionaire George Soros, are fighting by all means, including treasonous conspiracy inside the agencies of the state, to unseat the president, align the country with globalist Europe. Also to abolish borders and admit as many immigrants from the poor, weak Third World as desire to come and benefit from the freedom and wealth of the US, while keeping their own languages and customs, and even their own law. 

George Soros collaborated with the Nazis in his youth, when his native Hungary was under occupation by the German Third Reich. He is a Jew who helped the Nazis kill Hungarian Jews. He calls one or a group of his organizations the Open Society Foundations. His “open society” ideal is a socialist – which is to say a closed – society. When Karl Popper praised the “open society” he meant a conservative, capitalist, free enterprise society within the nation-state. So George Soros, whether ingenuously out of misunderstanding, or disingenuously and ironically, is misusing the label by sticking it on the collectivist system he works treacherously in many countries to instate.

Opposition to this Nazi-assisting, communist sympathizing, promoter of civil chaos is deplored by President Macron. He has not only embraced the Soros idea of an open society (“I am for an open society,” he states plainly), he also accuses those who denounce Soros of “anti-Semitism”. (Which recalls the classic example of “chutzpah”: the murderer of father and mother pleading for mercy at his trial on the grounds that he’s an orphan.)

When Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, Emmanuel Macron courted him. The first state banquet given by the Trump administration was in his honor. On television news one could watch the slight figure of Macron scampering about to claim a place beside the dominating figure of Trump when photographs of NATO or European or world leaders were being taken.

But he reformed his fascination. As President Trump is a self-declared nationalist who likes the nation-state and insists on firm borders, Macron came to perceive him as the enemy. The enemy of globalism.

Breitbart reports:

French President Emmanuel Macron denounced nationalism during an Armistice Day centennial observance in Paris on Sunday.

“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism: Nationalism is treason,” Macron said …

Macron spoke in front of world leaders including President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“If we think our interests may only come first and we don’t care for others, it is a treason of our values, a betrayal of all moral values,” he said. “We must remember this.”

Macron said that the moral values of France helped them fight for the future of their country.

He praised the world leaders that formed the first League of Nations, after World War I.

“They imagined the first international corporation, the dismantling of empires, and redefined borders, and dreamed at the time of a union, a political union of Europe,” Macron said.

The League of Nations! A horrible organization, brainchild of President Woodrow Wilson although his own country, the United States, never joined it. It was the precursor to the even more horrible United Nations. But Macron likes international bodies. He believes they keep peace between nations. The League, for all its imagining, did not keep peace between nations. World War Two broke out despite its being there. And the United Nations has not succeeded in keeping peace anywhere. It is a hopelessly corrupt organization. As is also the European Union. 

Oh, but for all his fondness for internationl bodies, for a United States of Europe, for open borders, Macron does not wish to be called a globalist.    

In an interview with CNN, Macron continued his condemnation of nationalism but was hesitant to claim the “globalist” label.

He doesn’t find it easy to say why. Perhaps because a lot of untransformed French voters understand that the Great Political Argument is now between Globalists and Nationalists and are on the side of the Nationalists.

“I would say I’m a patriot,” he said, but added: “I’m not a believer in a sort of globalism without any differentiation. I think it doesn’t — it’s very inconsistent, and it’s extremely — it makes our people very nervous. But I’m not a nationalist, which is very different for me from being a patriot.”

The radicals who rule 0

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are disciples of the left-revolutionary Saul Alinsky. Hillary Clinton encountered him personally and wrote an academic essay on his theories. Obama never met him but is his political child, faithfully following his intructions for changing the world. To what? An explicit answer cannot be found in the works of radical leftists, but what one gathers and gleans from them is this: an entirely different world in which human beings will not be as they are but transfigured, their nature so utterly changed that they will commit no crimes, never desire to have one thing that everybody else doesn’t have, and will have no aggression, envy, or hate in them. Or something along those lines. The picture of what will be is never apparently clear even in the revolutionary mind itself. A Marx, a Lenin, a Mao, an Alinsky can describe in any amount of detail what hell is – life as it’s lived now, especially in America; but they cannot describe their heaven (see our post Heaven and Hell, December 16, 2009). They require the utter destruction of this world so that the amorphous fantasy, the new world that they cannot visualize will arise on the ruins of the old. All they are sure of is the first step: destroy this world. This they can and will strive to do with fanatical passion. Anything may be done, however unjust, however cruel. Any number of the living may be sacrificed, for their suffering will buy the bliss of that far more worthy future human race.

Alinsky lays out practical steps for achieving the total destruction in his book Rules for Radicals. David Horowitz, the doughty fighter for freedom in general and especially for free speech in the academies, has written a booklet titled Barack Obama’s Rules for Revolution: The Alinsky Model *, in which he explains fully what the Alinsky ethos is, and what tactics Alinskyites will use to create not heaven on earth but chaos.

Here are some quotations from the booklet:

Alinsky’s advice [to his followers] can be summed up in the following way. Even though you are at war with the system, don’t confront it as an opposing army; join it and undermine it as a fifth column from within. To achieve this infiltration you must work inside the system for the time being. Alinsky spells out exactly what this means: “Any revolutionary change must be preceded by a passive, affirmative, non-challenging attitude toward change among the mass of our people.” In other words, it is first necessary to sell the people on change itself, the “audacity of hope”, and “yes, we can”. You do this by proposing moderate changes which open the door to your radical agendas: “Remember: once you organize people around something as commonly agreed upon as pollution, then an organized people is on the move. From there it’s a short and natural step to political pollution, to Pentagon pollution.”

There is no real parallelism in the war which radicals have declared. One side is fighting with a no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners battle plan against the system, while the other is trying to enforce its rules of fairness and pluralism. This is the Achilles heel of democracies and all radical spears are aimed in its direction.

At first it might seem paradoxical that an American president who has been the beneficiary of an electoral process second to none in its openness and inclusion should have been a veteran advocate and functionary of an organization like ACORN, which has been convicted of the most extensive election fraud in American history. But this is perfectly intelligible once the Alinsky method is understood. ACORN activists have contempt for the election process because they don’t believe in the electoral system as it is constituted in a capitalist democracy.

The really serious revolutionaries, the ones prepared to burn down the system and put their opponents up against the wall, have never had a plan. What they had – and still have – is a vague idea of the kingdom of heaven they propose to create, in Marx’s case “the kingdom of Freedom”, in Alinsky’s case “the open society”, in the case of the current left, “social justice”. These ideas are sentimental and seductive enough to persuade their followers that it is all right to commit fraud, mayhem and murder – usually in epic doses – to enter the promised land. But otherwise, revolutionaries never spend two seconds thinking about how to make an actual society work. How to keep people from committing crimes against each other; how to get them to put their shoulder to the wheel; how to provide incentives that will motivate individuals to produce wealth.

On this passage two points should be noted: The radical left’s understanding of what “the open society” means is the opposite of what the philosopher Karl Popper meant by it in his great work The Open Society and Its Enemies. Popper meant a society in which individuals are free to strive for their own ends, a society in which Adam Smith’s “natural order of liberty” (or what Karl Marx called, with contempt, “capitalism”) prevails. George Soros, who has benefitted hugely from the real open society of America, spends part of the fortune he has made in it on promoting collectivism with Alinskyite strategems through his “Open Society Institute”. And it should always be remembered that “social justice” is the opposite of justice. “Social justice” means endowing those who have not earned anything with the hard-won gains of those who have.

It must seem simply incredible that the chief enemy of a country should be its own elected president; that the man entrusted to lead it should be waging war on it. Many conservatives cannot bring themselves to believe even in the possibility that Obama – even though he is universally acknowledged to have been an Alinskyite in the past – is still of a mind to wreck the America he’s been elected to lead.

“Chaos”? “Wreck”? – don’t these words vastly exaggerate what’s happening?  But look at what he’s done: set the people against Congress, the states against the federal government, former allies against America; let enemies become dangerously strong; and loaded such a burden of debt on the people as will crush generations to come. Isn’t wrecking and chaos well underway?

Today in Townhall, Michael Medved writes a plea to conservatives not to characterize Obama as a revolutionary, or a radical of any sort. While never actually saying that Obama is not a radical revolutionary, he pleads that it’s politically unwise to say that he is. Here’s how he ends his column (but it’s worth going to the source to read the arguments):

If conservatives persist in characterizing the President of the United States as vicious and radical, insanely bent on the destruction of the Republic, we may find reassurance from the already like-minded but we’ll lose nearly everyone in the persuadable middle. As a result, we could spend the next decade or more as an increasingly impotent, irrelevant and angry opposition, howling in the political wilderness.

We don’t agree in this instance with Michael Medved. Horowitz’s booklet explains at length why it is just such fears that Alinskyites take advantage of. We think it’s time to fight seriously (though not unscrupulously as the radicals fight), and nothing can be won if the enemy isn’t recognized and named.

*Order it from The Freedom Center, PO Box 55089, Sherman Oaks, Ca 91499 Tel: 800-752-6562.