The return of the word “socialism” in the victimary era is no mere throwback; the word itself has been altogether transformed. In the notion of “democratic socialism” as propounded by Bernie Sanders and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, the old Marxist conception that dominated the world for over a century has been dematerialized into one that in principle does away not merely with the “class struggle” but with all infrastructural conflict. The extreme intolerance of those who support this perspective toward those who do not reflects their genuine conviction that they have found, and that their opponents, out of an obstinate clinging to discredited prejudices are blind to, the ethical formula for universal human reconciliation.
Socialism, in the 19th-20th-century sense of the term, implies if it does not assert the structural opposition between the laboring “proletariat” and the possessors of the means of production. Marx theorized this more precisely than the others, and his precision won out, because the worker-capitalist opposition was indeed at the base of the socialist idea, as the extension of the original battle of the Third Estate against the old “feudal” power structure. There is no need to rehash this well-known history.
Victimary “socialism,” unlike that of Marx or Lenin, is a universal vision that excludes no one, and that requires no more than superficial “re-education,” let alone liquidation, of the former “class enemy.” The proof is that, as outlined in Chronicle 598, the most influential, and at any rate the most financially significant advocates of the victimary model are billionaires like George Soros, or less insistently, just about all the moguls of Silicon Valley, with the notable exception of Peter Thiel.
In earlier times, there were wealthy businessmen, such as Engels himself, who helped finance socialism. But these were rebels against their own class, not its leading figures, and their ideology was indeed ultimately opposed to the economic activity that generated their wealth.
What is a “Left” that is favored by billionaires, not as traitors to their class, but as its ideological leaders? The answer is simple: it is an ideology of resentment that redefines “inequality” as ascriptive discrimination, one therefore that demands before all else a moral commitment, not so much to treat everyone equally, as to combat any trace of “disparate impact” in the results of this treatment. Since 2016, this “symbolic” question has become ever more dominant. Who even remembers the 2011 Occupy Wall Street reaction to 2008, or the opprobrium once cast on the “1%”? Where are Bezos or Zuckerberg in that 1%? There is less shame in being a multi-billionaire than a white factory worker who has not checked his privilege.
Victimary ideology is often called “identity politics,” but the only identities that matter are those, “intersectionally” linked, that have the right to resentment.
There is no reason to understand this as a scam carried out by the leaders of international corporations and their minions to mislead minority members into betraying their material self-interest for the fool’s gold of affirmative action and its “symbolic” advantages. I doubt that many Democrats, either rich or poor, are this cynical. On the contrary, the beauty of the system is that it requires no cynicism, since instead of speaking of it as successfully masking its real nature, it should be understood as a quasi-conscious choice, one that could be made only where the ”poor” suffer more from obesity than undernourishment, that is, where they have a greater immediate demand for moral than for physical satisfaction.
In the digital world, the prospect of maintaining an even rough equivalent of Marx’s notion of “labor power” is for the foreseeable future increasingly unrealistic. As a consequence, the originary basis for human moral equality, the reciprocal exchange of language, becomes increasingly unreal, as the specialized use of numeric and other symbolic systems separates the class of professionals from the others (see Chronicle 487). In the face of the evidence that different individuals, and different ascriptive groups, are not “equal” before such systems, only the most ungrounded conception of human equality can reinforce the universal solidarity of “global” society, and it is such a conception, leaving the broadest set of grievances open to resentment, that today’s victimary ideology proposes as our new species-wide credo.
Recent history demonstrates, as writers such as Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams have insisted, that the long-term best interests of minorities and other victimary groups are by no means well served by this ideology. But it provides greater immediate satisfaction, and above all requires much less effort, than the Booker T. Washington approach—which is always available in any case, and whose beneficiaries are certainly not disadvantaged by affirmative action, even though their pride may be.
The utopia that victimary socialism proposes is entirely symbolic, more a religion than a political credo. Along the lines of one behind the “veil of ignorance” in Rawls’ “original position,” the believer is abstracted from his real economic interests and abilities; his sole duty is to assert his belief in the victimary credo.
For members of victim classes, this is not difficult, even if it is unlikely to lead to any material improvement in the lives of those not connected with the affirmative action-diversity bureaucracy. But the true genius of the victimary, and the reason for its extraordinary success thus far, is that it offers a simple way for those of the “privileged” white majority to participate along with their “victims.” It suffices that they express white guilt for their “privilege,” meaning not any of their specific advantages, such as the possession of billions of dollars, but simply the privilege of being white, particularly of being a white male.
The inclusivity of the victimary ideology rivals Islam, and what is more, demonstrates—although it would be a grave breach of victimary protocol to point this out—its superior sophistication and modernity by its far more “dialectical” approach to inclusiveness. Islam is open to all, but the down side is that it requires much the same conduct of all, particularly in the more severe forms that it has assumed in our era of renewed jihad. Whereas the victimary makes no real demands on behavior, provided that one express the appropriate sentiments. No doubt the sexual coercion of women, once winked at in “progressives” like the Kennedys or Bill Clinton, is no longer allowed, just as any hint of “racism” is strictly prohibited, but these are lifestyle matters, not questions of economic activity. (In this latter regard, I imagine that the “escort” industry must be flourishing in the #MeToo era, among those who can afford it.)
The universality of the victimary utopia explains the excesses of righteous indignation we observe in (former) friends who simply cannot understand how we can resist its higher morality—let alone vote for Trump. For we are asked only to recognize (check), not even our sins, but our privilege, and this once done, we can go in peace. The obstinate refusal to do so, therefore, suggests that we are unwilling to discreetly accept the benefits of this “privilege,” but churlishly insist that it be recognized as deserved, that we be acclaimed as better than those we victimize—sentiments that conjure up sinister images of cross-burning and Nazi salutes.
A further encouragement to pay the small price for membership in the global utopia is that it is not obvious how, in contrast to the class war openly espoused by revolutionaries and reactionaries of past centuries, this ideology produces material benefits for any particular group.
No doubt one can point to class-favoring details, for example, the function of “sanctuary cities” and the demonization of the ICE in allowing the admission and perpetuation of an underclass of “undocumented” workers to service the well-off as few native Americans, even “of color,” are willing to do, certainly not for the same wages. As a bonus, to the extent that the members of this underclass become citizens, they will give their votes to the utopia-promoting Democratic party, which already controls virtually all large city governments. And just in case non-citizens attempt to vote, part of the victimary credo is to rail against requiring identification in polling places, as though this were a form of “voter suppression” directed against minorities.
But this is surely not sufficient to reveal nefarious economic interests invested in the victimary system. Even less do I think it is necessary to speak of such interests as “hidden” behind the system’s rhetoric, as though I were uncovering an inverted version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
In what sense can we find a parallel to our parable of The Big Short (see Chronicle 598), where the money itself, or rather, the promise of it, was at the base of the whole Ponzi bubble?
For one thing, the university as the ideological center of contemporary society, in contrast with its really productive sectors, its hard science and medical research, operates in an analogous manner. In recent years, universities have spent fortunes on “diversity counselors” and even appointed Deans of Diversity, with their support staffs, in various fields. All this costs a good deal of money, and contributes to increased tuition fees, which in turn lead to the inflated student loans that create serious problems for many recipients. Along with this has come the increasing victimological domination of these institutions, leading to the impossibility for “controversial” speakers even to be heard on campus—in short, to the conversion, at great expense, of the cultural domains of our universities into ideological training camps for the next generation of “progressive” professionals. And once again, in a potentially yet more destructive way than in the housing bubble, at the base of the whole operation are programs of ascriptively based affirmative action.
There really are no serious racial problems on today’s campuses. But by concentrating the students’ energies on micro-victimary issues, in short, by encouraging and empowering their resentment, whether direct or vicarious, the very denial by “conservatives” that there is a problem becomes proof that the problem indeed exists, and that it is those who deny it who by that very fact demonstrate its existence.
We should recall that the fundamental problem of any social order is to control resentment, lest it eventuate in the violent breakdown of this order. The political system that inspires, and seemingly aspires to justify, the neologism “victimocracy” dramatizes the travails of the victims, but is above all a means for regulating the conduct of the “hegemonic” majority. This phenomenon is diffuse and hard to measure in the economy at large, but it is easy enough to observe in institutions concerned with ideological production, of which the university is the most innovative. Indeed, one can say that the very function of the “softer” areas of the university is not merely to enforce but to produce this victimary ideology, as evolved within a laboratory where the mix of people and roles is freer to generate it than in any other institution.
Seen in this context, what is doubtless demeaning and intellectually embarrassing from the ivy-covered perspective of “academic freedom” and “the free exchange of ideas,” is quite functional from that of providing the ideological component of the globalist economy. And viewed in the perspective of tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner, it is even conceivable to defend this production as the best means to safeguard American and Western prosperity, at least in the short term.
But belief systems based on obvious falsehoods, unlike those based on faith in other-worldly sacred realities, are outrageous in objective terms, and the repetition of these falsehoods, which entails banishing the associated truths, degrades those who pronounce them. Worldly language cannot avoid being confronted with its truth-value, at best as an “emperor’s new clothes” revelation, but more typically, and disastrously, through defeat at the hands of powers more respectful of reality.
The victimary utopia is effective only because it has a basis in our originary human moral “instinct”; yet like the bubble in The Big Short, its reliance on this basis is fallacious and potentially disastrous. Moral equality cannot be realized through the denial of firstness.
The present moment of history obliges those who wish to avoid having to take a Big Short on Western Civilization to demonstrate the fallacy of the neo-socialist utopia. That various politicians, notably including our president, have begun openly to challenge the victimary ideology suggests not only that this action is possible, but that the more lucid understanding of the human condition that GA provides can strengthen the hand of these forces.
To be continued…