Friday, January 16, 2015

Mohammed meets Marcuse

When economic Marxism collapsed of its own internal contradictions after World War I, because the working class hadn't collapsed into "immiseration" and had fought bravely for their nations, the Frankfurt School came along to give it a new life.

It wasn't just the working class that was exploited, they explained. It was marginalized people everywhere: suffering Asians and Africans under the boot of colonialism, African Americans, women, gays, etc. And each needed government to fight their corner. Because exploitation.

After World War II and the successful economic recovery in the Fifties and Sixties, this doctrine became not just an academic parlor game but an electoral necessity for working class parties in the West. The working class was becoming bourgeois and was starting to move away from class-warfare politics. You might say that civil rights and feminism came along just in time.

But there aren't many blacks in Europe and feminism is a professional-class thing. So the leftist politicians of the West came up with a cunning plan. They would refresh their proletarian voting base with immigrants from rural poverty in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

And the whole apparatus of political correctness and diversity and quotas could be deployed to attract the loyalty of the new immigrants and dish the evil right wing, whether libertarians, conservatives, or "far right" nationalists. Then there was Herbert Marcuse's contribution. It was right and proper for the left to be intolerant of right-wing intolerance and bigotry, he wrote.

After the success of Reagan and Thatcher, the left was desperate to attract new victims and their votes. So the Blair government in Britain in the late 1990s opened the gates to unlimited immigration, and the Clintons in the US passed the Motor Voter Act and started to turn a blind eye to the off-the-books activities of illegal Hispanics in the US while liberal activists in liberal cities declared them to be "sanctuary cities." In France the Muslim immigrants naturally started voting with the Socialists. As in 93 percent voting for Fran├žois Hollande!

If you want to understand why President Obama just can't say "Islamic terrorism" now you know. I suspect that the president is not merely a cynical operator -- like the Clintons -- but actually believes the multicultural gospel. He certainly behaves as though it is Republicans that are the enemy rather than Islamic jihadists.

But they that sow the wind will reap the whirlwind. What seemed like a cunning political ploy half a century ago has now become a gigantic clash of civilizations. People and politicians are being forced to pick sides, just as they were forced to do in the fight against fascism and the fight against communism.

These fights always put the left in a spot. In the 1920s the left was all in favor of fascism. It wasn't till the 1930s that Stalin drew a line between the fascists and the communists in the Spanish Civil War. After that we could all fight together against the fascists. But in the Cold War the left could never decide which side it was on. In the aftermath of Vietnam, especially, it chided us for an "inordinate fear of communism." After Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II defeated communism with no help from liberals we learned, all of a sudden, that communism was headed for defeat anyway, and we were on the same side all along.

In my view, the Islamic reaction against the West is nothing new; that's why I call it the "Muslim Question" to emphasize its similarities with the Social Question of the 19th century. The problem is that the modern exchange economy is a brutal experience for the folks immigrating to the city from rural poverty. Everything from their religion to their marriage customs to their work culture is ill adapted to life in the city. And like humans everywhere, they fight like mad to avoid change.

Looking back, we have to admit that there's no avoiding a fight. There was a big fight over fascism, a big fight over communism. And now there's a big fight over Islam. And like the fight over fascism, it starts with vacillation and appeasement; like the fight over communism it blows hot and cold.

I think the reason for all this appeasement and vacillation is natural and inevitable. It arises because we moderns live by surrender to the gods of the market. We learn by experience that the only way to live with the market is to accept its verdict. Anything else is foolishness. So, when our way of life is challenged we do not think immediately of counterattack and punitive expeditions. We hope that the anarchists and the terrorists will go away or get with the program. And often they do.

But sometimes they don't, and it's getting more and more likely that this is an occasion when they won't.

In that case we will have to limber up the western economy to fight a knock-down drag-out war against Islamism. The politicians will have a grand old time and We the People will pay for it in blood and treasure.

But is Islamism an existential threat? Here's Anthony Trollope writing in the 1870s in The Prime Minister about a fictional Navy minister that wanted to build "four big ships" for Britain.
Sir Orlando Drought had not been able to build his four big ships, and was consequently eager in his fears that Britain would be invaded by the combined forces of Germany and France, that India would be sold by those powers to Russia, that Canada would be annexed to the States, that a great independent Roman Catholic hierarchy would be established in Ireland, and that Malta and Gibraltar would be taken away from us;--all which evils would be averted by the building of four big ships.
You see there is nothing new. There are always existential dangers. The question is: which dangers are real, and which will give up and just go away? Calvin Coolidge:
Never go out to meet trouble. If you will just sit still, nine cases out of ten someone will intercept it before it reaches you.
The question is what to do about the remaining one case out of ten.

But there is one good thing. The meeting of Mohammed and Marcuse is not likely to end well for either the jihadists or the lefties.

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