The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

The Romance of Radicalism

Posted on | May 21, 2023 | Comments Off on The Romance of Radicalism

East Berlin honors Karl Liebnecht and Rosa Luxemburg, 1988

Because I am a history buff, the YouTube algorithm shows me all kinds of stuff — the history of Carthage, the Anglo-Saxon invasion of post-Roman Britain, the Stuart dynasty, etc. — about obscure topics that would be boring to most people, and which even most history buffs might not care much about. Usually I watch videos like these on my phone at bedtime and fall asleep during them, which can make for interesting dreams, narrated by some guy blabbering on about Cannae or whatever.

Saturday night, I watched (or rather, fell asleep watching) a series of videos about the 1918 German revolution. which is something I dare say 99% of Americans know nothing about. The Bolshevik Revolution was not the only Communist uprising in Europe at that time. There was also the short-lived reign of Bela Kun in Hungary and various failed revolutionary attempts in Germany, including the brief Communist coup in Bavaria in April-May 1919. Anyway, so I fell asleep watching this thing about the German revolution of 1918, and when I woke up early Sunday, I took a brief look at the third part of the series, “The Violent End of the German Revolution.” As is my wont, I became curious about who was producing this material, which was of a particular political theme, i.e., neo-Communism. As might be expected, most neo-Communists are young, and thus have no useful memory of what Soviet-era Communism actually was, or how difficult it was for the West to win the Cold War. Unless you lived through the 1960s and ’70s, a time when it seemed that Communism was ascendant, you have little appreciation of the heroic qualities that manifested themselves in the Reagan Revolution.

Neo-Communists, generally influenced by older leftists who were objectively pro-Soviet during the Cold War, refuse to accept the verdict of 20th-century history, and wish to believe that Communism can exist without producing the kind of totalitarian horrors it produced in Russia, China, Cambodia and elsewhere. It seemingly does not occur to them that the evils of 20th-century Communist regimes were not accidental, but rather that Communism always must, by its very nature, result in brutal dictatorship and widespread misery. To quote myself:

Five years after the Bolshevik Revolution, Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises predicted that the Soviet project was doomed to fail. In his classic work Socialism, Mises explained that the attempt to replace the market system with central economic planning could not succeed, because the planners could not possibly have the information necessary to make all the decisions which, in a market economy, are made by individuals whose needs and desires are reflected in prices: “The problem of economic calculation is the fundamental problem of Socialism.”
“Everything brought forward in favour of Socialism during the last hundred years,” Mises wrote in 1922, “in thousands of writings and speeches, all the blood which has been spilt by the supporters of Socialism, cannot make Socialism workable. … Socialist writers may continue to publish books about the decay of Capitalism and the coming of the socialist millennium; they may paint the evils of Capitalism in lurid colours and contrast with them an enticing picture of the blessings of a socialist society; their writings may continue to impress the thoughtless — but all this cannot alter the fate of the socialist idea.”
Undeterred by Mises’ criticism, the Soviet Union spent the next seven decades proving his prediction correct. By the time the Communist utopia collapsed in bankruptcy and disgrace, it seemed that everyone with two eyes and a brain understood the lesson: The Marxist-Leninist project was a complete failure and, as historians documented in The Black Book of Communism, tens of millions of people had died for this mistake, deliberately starved or slaughtered by totalitarian Communist governments. . . .

What Mises was saying was that Communism is doomed to failure simply because its basic economic idea is wrong. There is no feasible alternative to the market economy, and the sooner everyone accepts this truth, the happier they will be. Whether your own individual fortune within the market economy may be judged a success or a failure, while certainly a matter of great interest to you personally, is irrelevant to the larger truth that a society organized on the basis of economic liberty ultimately produces greater prosperity and, as is said, “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

It should not be necessary for me to elaborate this explanation much further. Anyone can read Mises’ Socialism or Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom or any of another dozen books I could recommend, and come to the same conclusion. I have nothing original to say on the subject, and can only lament that so few people seem to be interested in understanding why economic freedom is so essential. The real point is that neo-Communists are willing to ignore not only the nightmare reality of what Communist regimes inflicted upon their subjects in the 20th century, but also ignore the work of Mises, et al., in explaining why it was all doomed from the start. Instead, as Mises said a century ago, these latter-day Bolshevik wannabes continue to “paint the evils of Capitalism in lurid colours,” as if such critiques suffice to justify their radicalism and their fanciful dreams of life in a Marxist utopia.

Which brings me to Jonas Ceika, who has more than 200,000 subscribers on the YouTube channel where I saw his videos about the German revolution of 1918. There seems to be zero biographical material about Ceika except what he’s published himself. He is a philosophy student in Norway whose first YouTube efforts were Marxist analyses of pop culture (e.g., Shrek in 2017), but who really hit the big time in 2018 with a video titled, “Jordan Peterson doesn’t understand postmodernism.” See, this is the way lefties gain clout online, by attacking popular figures on the right, and Ceika’s attack on Peterson has gained more than 900,000 views. What Ceika’s audience wants to believe is that Peterson has been “debunked” — refuted, exposed as a fraud — and I’m sure this video suffices to convince people who don’t like Peterson that they are justified in their dislike. In other words, Ceika targets his audience’s susceptibility for confirmation bias.

Well, if you’re foolish enough to believe in Communism, you’re likely to believe anything, and Ceika has built an audience of the naïve and gullible, for whom his version of the failed German revolution is perhaps definitive — The True History™ — and this is unfortunate in many ways. Ceika wants his audience to believe that it was a bad thing that Liebnecht and Luxembourg failed to bring about a Soviet Germany in 1918, that the radical faction of German socialists were the heroes of this particular drama, and that the Left in Germany was guiltless in the subsequent rise of Hitler. But by their rejection of electoral democracy, attempting to seize power by armed uprising in mimicry of what the Bolsheviks had done in Russia, the German Communists legitimized revolutionary violence, an example which Hitler and his associates subsequently imitated for their own purposes. There were many factors involved in the rise of Hitler, of course, but the radicalism the German Left was certainly an important part of the formula for national catastrophe.

By the way, for some reason, Ceika doesn’t want his photograph to appear anywhere online, but he was willing to do a video interview from which I was able to grab this image. You’re welcome.

Is there a famine in Norway? A meth epidemic? It’s a cheap shot to mock Ceika’s emaciated appearance, I suppose, and so I’ll instead return to mocking his politics. He exhibits a tendency to think of people categorically, using bourgeois as an epithet for anything he considers bad, as for example the moderate democratic socialists in early 20th-century Germany, and speaking of “the masses” when describing those whom Communists aspired to lead to revolution. Ceika uses the phrase “class consciousness” without irony when speaking of workers who supported Communism, as if it were self-evident that their interests would be best served by a Marxist-Leninist revolution.

Perhaps there are many youth who’ve had the privilege of growing up in the post-Soviet world who share Ceika’s romantic view of Rosa Luxemburg and other Communist revolutionaries, much like all those idiot American college kids wearing Che Guevara T-shirts and voting for Bernie Sanders. The reality of what Communism was — a formula for tyranny and mass murder — is ignored so as to enable these young dreamers to imagine what they wish Communism could have been, and perhaps what their hoped-for future revolution will bring into being.

All of which brings us to the final irony of this wannabe revolutionary: Ceica’s book How to Philosophize with a Hammer and Sickle: Nietzsche and Marx for the 21st-Century Left was published a couple years ago by Penguin Random House, part of the $30-billion media conglomerate Bertelsmann. Yes, he’s on the payroll of the hated bourgeoisie.




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