Posted on | February 6, 2014 | 94 Comments
Jesse Myerson (@JAMyerson) seems to believe he is so clever that the “points” he makes in advocating communism deserve a detailed rebuttal, and I suppose there may be people who have nothing better to do with their time than to supply such a response.
— Robert Stacy McCain (@rsmccain) February 6, 2014
Both humility and impatience (as well as years of experience) lead me to avoid a point-by-point engagement with an impudent fool.
— Robert Stacy McCain (@rsmccain) February 6, 2014
Jesse Myerson is not interested in the facts of history or economics that would contradict his communist enthusiasms. Myerson is merely striking the pose of a radical intellectual, expecting admiration and applause from those who share his socialist sympathies. No doubt he hopes these gestures will enable him to obtain TV appearances, book contracts and speaking invitations. His purported “idealism” is thus motivated by selfish ambition: The narcissist’s desire to be seen as praiseworthy, and to acquire an easy income by advocating ideas popular with the Left.
Many have trod that path before, and Myerson’s potential for success in this ideological endeavor cannot be underestimated.
Some people take Conor Friedersdorf seriously, you know.
— Gabriella Hoffman (@Gabby_Hoffman) February 6, 2014
Myerson is dishonest about many things, but mostly he is lying to himself, and foolishly believes his own lies about himself. He thinks he is a unique individual — a Special Snowflake™ — when in fact he is manifestly a type, and not a good type, either. His insulting impudence is reminiscent of Barrett Brown, now in federal custody awaiting trial.
Were I to learn that Myerson had a history of substance abuse and/or psychiatric problems, it would not surprise me.
Who Has ‘Huge Misconceptions’?
Myerson seems incapable of realizing that his insults are directed at someone who has seen his type a thousand times before. Presuming to lecture others about subjects which they know far better, Myerson petulantly pretends that their refusal to treat his faulty arguments seriously is proof of his own superiority. He imagines his elders who have lived through the history that he has merely read (and he doesn’t seem to have read it very carefully) need his sermons about their “huge misconceptions about communism.”
“In a socialist community the possibility of economic calculations is lacking: it is therefore impossible to ascertain the cost and result of an economic operation or to make the result of the calculation the test of the operation. . . .
“Too little attention has hitherto been given to these fundamental questions. . . . To understand the problem of economic calculation it was necessary to recognize the true character of the exchange relations expressed in the prices of the market. . . .
“It has not been realized that even exceptionally gifted men of high character cannot solve the problems created by socialist control of industry.”
— Ludwig von Mises, Socialism (1922)
Myerson is not illiterate, and is thus as capable as anyone else of reading Mises or Friedrich Hayek or Thomas Sowell. That he has never taken the time to do so — that he has not encountered the arguments of, e.g., Sowell’s The Quest for Cosmic Justice — is self-evident, and damning proof of Myerson’s intellectual sloth. He presents himself as an advocate of communism, but I can guarantee you that I have read more communist literature (including Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky) than has Myerson, and that I am more familiar than he with the history of Marxist-Leninist governments. But while I have studied the works of communism’s foremost advocates, Myerson has not studied the works of the most insightful advocates of the market economy. His ignorance, however, is no hindrance to his arrogance:
Communism envisions a time beyond work, when people are free, as Marx wrote, “to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner … without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.” In that way, communism is based on the total opposite of uniformity: tremendous diversity, not just among people, but even within a single person’s “occupation.”
And good luck with that, OK? You might think Myerson would be embarrassed to recite the theoretical speculations of Karl Marx from 1845 (!) as if acquainting us with something hitherto unknown. Overlooking this puerile insult, let us instead contemplate the passage in Marx’s treatise preceding the one quoted by Myerson:
With the division of labour, in which all these contradictions are implicit, and which in its turn is based on the natural division of labour in the family and the separation of society into individual families opposed to one another, is given simultaneously the distribution, and indeed the unequal distribution, both quantitative and qualitative, of labour and its products, hence property: the nucleus, the first form, of which lies in the family, where wife and children are the slaves of the husband. This latent slavery in the family, though still very crude, is the first property, but even at this early stage it corresponds perfectly to the definition of modern economists who call it the power of disposing of the labour-power of others. Division of labour and private property are, moreover, identical expressions: in the one the same thing is affirmed with reference to activity as is affirmed in the other with reference to the product of the activity.
Further, the division of labour implies the contradiction between the interest of the separate individual or the individual family and the communal interest of all individuals who have intercourse with one another. And indeed, this communal interest does not exist merely in the imagination, as the “general interest,” but first of all in reality, as the mutual interdependence of the individuals among whom the labour is divided. And finally, the division of labour offers us the first example of how, as long as man remains in natural society, that is, as long as a cleavage exists between the particular and the common interest, as long, therefore, as activity is not voluntarily, but naturally, divided, man’s own deed becomes an alien power opposed to him, which enslaves him instead of being controlled by him. For as soon as the distribution of labour comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape.
What Marx was doing here, laying the groundwork for his theory of alienation, was mimicking the method of 18th- and 19th-century social, economic and political philosophers who were forever dragging readers back to a mythical State of Nature in the primordial past, then leading them forward through a process of historical “development” in order either (a) to justify the existing order, or (b) to advocate some change to that order. If you’ve read through a few of these philosophical State of Nature field trips, you understand what Marx is up to here. When Marx’s particular “development” lecture ends with a contrast to “communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes,” the astute reader recognizes an attempted trickery: Marx merely imagines the possibility of this “communist society,” without bothering to specify how such an imaginary society could actually operate.
Marx assumes as a premise the feasibility of communism, which had never been proven prior to 1845 and which most observers would say has been quite conclusively disproven since. Yet here we have young Myerson holding up to us this bit of Marxian sophistry as if he has discovered a new and wonderful idea with which none of us ignorant right-wing stooges were ever previously acquainted!
Do you see the futility of arguing with Marxists? If they gave a damn about facts or logic, they wouldn’t be Marxists. And yet the brutal exposure of their errors is no idle or trivial exercise.
“Obama was already an ardent Marxist when I met in the fall of 1980. . . . I know it’s incendiary to say this [but Obama] was basically a Marxist-Leninist.”
— John Drew, Occidental College graduate
As anyone who has read Paul Kengor’s 2010 book The Communist is aware, the problem with Obama’s youthful Marxism is that he has never offered a conversion story to suggest that he ever abandoned it. When I was a young man, I was an ardently partisan Democrat — hell, I voted for Walter Mondale in 1984 — but I’ve often told the tale of when, why and how I became an ex-Democrat in the 1990s. While I was never a socialist, many others who once embraced socialism (including, inter alia, Whittaker Chambers, Ronald Reagan and David Horowitz) subsequently became conservatives, but all ex-Marxists in public life have typically made the story of their conversion a central part of their personal narrative. The absence of any such a conversion tale in Obama’s narrative is, as Kengor says, quite troubling.
Confronting the Anti-Bush Generation
Nor can we dismiss as an aberration Myerson’s enthusiasm for the discredited dream of communism. Perhaps others have overlooked how many college-educated 20-somethings like Myerson have taken up a far-left progressive stance. My interpretation of this phenomenon is that it is to a great degree a backlash to Bush-era GOP hegemony.
In the span of a decade (1998-2008), American public life went through a series of shocking events:
- 1998 — The Lewinsky scandal and the Clinton impeachment.
- 2000 — The Florida election deadlock and the Supreme Court decision that made George W. Bush president.
- 2001 — The 9/11 terror attack and the invasion of Afghanistan.
- 2002 — An unprecedented mid-term win for Republicans, securing GOP control of the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives for the first time in nearly 50 years.
- 2003 — The invasion of Iraq.
- 2004 — Bush re-elected after the “Swiftboating” of John Kerry.
- 2006 — Democrats recapture control of Congress.
- 2008 — Barack Obama elected president.
This partial list of dramatic events occurred against a background of innovations and shifts in the field of political communication: The Drudge Report, the MoveOn.org list, the rise of Fox News, the leftward shift of MSNBC as a counterweight, and the accompanying development of the blogosphere, Facebook and Twitter.
During this decade, 1998-2008, when today’s 28-year-old went through his bildungsroman from middle schooler to college graduate, what did the Republican Party represent to him? Insofar as this 28-year-old identified with the hegemonic liberalism of American’s most powerful cultural institutions — in academia, journalism and the entertainment industry — the GOP was clearly viewed as the enemy, representing war, greed, racism and homophobia.
Let us not bother to ask whether these perceptions were fair or accurate, nor engage in a useless blame game of finger-pointing. Whether these perceptions of “Republican conservatism” were unfair, and whoever we might blame for those perceptions, the reality is that a great many young people — especially alumni of elite private schools like Bard College, which is Myerson’s alma mater — have integrated these anti-GOP perceptions into their worldview.
To such young people, “Rush Limbaugh,” “Fox News” and “Republican” are epithets, and any policy or argument that contradicts their progressive worldview they reject with a knee-jerk reflex: “Sexist! Racist! Warmonger! Homophobe! Right-wing Koch whore!”
“In the hands of a skillful indoctrinator, the average student not only thinks what the indoctrinator wants him to think . . . but is altogether positive that he has arrived at his position by independent intellectual exertion. This man is outraged by the suggestion that he is the flesh-and-blood tribute to the success of his indoctrinators.”
– William F. Buckley Jr., Up From Liberalism (1959)
This is the problem for which our 21st-century “Republican strategists” and “conservative intellectuals” have no solution. Almost unnoticed in the quarter-century since the fall of the Berlin Wall, a chasm has emerged between the political world where Republicans contend with Democrats in hyper-partisan battle, and the cultural world where smart young people are indoctrinated with beliefs incompatible with the conservative philosophy of the GOP. Conservative faculty in academia are as scarce as conservative producers in Hollywood, and the output of the emerging Progressive Culture-Media Complex tends to reinforce the progressive lessons inculcated in most K-12 education.
Only in such an environment could a self-declared communist like Jesse Myerson be permitted to propagate a neo-Bolshevik vision without being criticized by any prominent liberal.
Where are the anti-communist liberals? Why have we seen no latter-day “Scoop Jackson Democrat” types warning against the dangers of backsliding toward discredited Marxist errors?
Where is the 21st-century Jeanne Kirkpatrick to sound the alarm?
There was a time when Americans knew what Communism was, and had the courage to fight against it. I fear for the future.