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  • Utopian New Left Just Like Old Left

    How did the European left rationalize communism’s crimes and transform itself into a viable political force after the fall of the Soviet Union? It’s all explained in “Last Exit to Utopia: The Survival of Socialism in a Post-Soviet Era.”

    First published in 2000, the book by the late French intellectual Jean-Francois Revel is only now available in English. But given Revel’s insights into today’s leftist movements, it couldn’t be more timely.

    The old left’s attempt to “excommunicate” modernity, as Revel describes it, is as alive today as it ever was. He traces the left’s ideological rejection of modern civilization and the idea of progress back to French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who in the 18th century launched the Romantic rebellion against the Age of Reason.

    Revel explains how Rousseau’s “primitivism” and denial of reason manifested itself in the utopian ideologies of communism and fascism.

    These ideologies are often mistakenly associated with rationalism, progress and science. But their deeper motivation was the irrational impulse to eliminate all the uncertainties of the human condition — to create, in short, an earthly paradise. Revel calls this the “totalitarian temptation” because mankind is tempted into thinking that the only obstacle to creating the good society is a lack of will and power.

    Stalin’s Soviet Union and Hitler’s Germany were the most extreme examples of this idea. But Revel notes there were softer versions, ranging from socialism to the progressive movements in the United States. Yes, some versions were violent while others were not. But, Revel stresses, all shared the idea that their noble cause to create an ideal society morally justified the means, and the means of choice was state power – sometimes grossly violent and sometimes not.

    Hitler’s creation is long gone, and so, too, is the Soviet Union. But the legacy of Rousseau’s assault on civilization and progress lives on in three modern political movements.

    The first is environmentalism. By this I don’t mean the mere desire to have a clean environment, but rather the messianic mission to create a new ecological order through the application of state power. Environmentalism, particularly in its more radical forms, has inherited all of the old left’s habits of mind, only on a far grander scale. It seeks to transform not just civilization, but the physical planet as well.

    As with the old left, new left environmentalists view capitalism and the free market as enemies. But so, too, is reason. The lengths to which some scientists will go to stifle dissent reveal not only a disrespect for the scientific method, but also contempt for using reason to understand reality. If truly understanding climate change were the main goal, there would be no hesitation to look at all the evidence of global warming. In the minds of many climate-change scientists, however, the top goal is not to understand the planet but to “save” it. The cause transcends the science.

    Another new left movement is dedicated to “global governance” — the creation of supranational institutions to control societies. Manifested in the United Nations, the European Union, and other international institutions, the ostensible aim is more happiness for more people, but the means is the same old centralization of power in ever larger governing institutions — in this case, regional and global ones.

    The enemies here are also familiar, namely, the nation-state and the free market. The United Nations and the European Union seek to bypass and control both, empowering bureaucratic elites who are unaccountable to the democratic process. In the old days, the nation-state was to be the engine of socialism; today, it is supranational institutions.

    Unsurprisingly, this movement exhibits all the traits of the old left. Dissent from the received ideal is tolerated no more than the fat-cat bourgeois was by old-school socialists. For example, EU advocates in the European Parliament are boycotting its new European Conservative and Reform Group because it questions some aspects of integration. Its sin is apostasy from the creed of European integration, which EU advocates equate with wanting a return to the bad old days of suicidal wars. The same advocates never explain how regulating the size and shape of bananas and cucumbers or the noise that tires make serves such a noble cause.

    Another great utopian movement of our era, militant Islamism, differs in origin from these secular leftist movements, but it shares some of their mental habits. The Muslim Brotherhood rejects capitalism and freedom no less than the most ardent environmentalists. It matters little whether advocates want to create a religious caliphate or an ecological nirvana. They share the utopian’s disregard for progress and civilization, and see few if any limits on the means to stop them.

    Though written about the past, Revel’s book is a window into the future. Read it and you understand why, as the French say, “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose” (“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

    Kim R. Holmes, a former assistant secretary of state, is a vice president at the Heritage Foundation and author of “Liberty’s Best Hope: American Leadership for the 21st Century.”

    Reprinted from The Washington Times

    Posted in First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    16 Responses to Utopian New Left Just Like Old Left

    1. Freedom of Speech, T says:

      The Russian Orthodox Church survived an all-out assault by the USSR. Countless were killed; churches were razed. In the end, with the fall of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic, Christianity did not rise, for it never disappeared.

      Christianity is no threat to modern nations. This drive to demean Christianity in the sake of secularism is a desperate tactic of the left-wing. In the perfect world order of socialism there is no room for other beliefs.

      What are they so afraid of? The 10 commandmants are a pretty good guide to live by even though we all fall short at some time and some way. Christians are not perfect and do not claim to be. Forgiveness is a tenent of Christianity. Sadly, it provided an easy target because no one is without sin.

      Environmentalism and socialism will never replace Christianity for Christianity comes from the heart and the soul.

      Merry Christmas to All

    2. L., CA says:

      Environmentalism and socialism are people problems, not God-problems; they belong in the realm of the caesars. In our Christian faith, we look to God and remember what Christ taught His disciples. That is why these man-made issues can never replace Christianity in our hearts.

    3. Tony Hernandez, Phoe says:

      One of the best articles I've read in a long time. Progressive ideas are in-fact, antiquated. What they are trying to present as "forward and new" has been tried and continually has failed. Great job

    4. RJM, Chicago says:

      As Mark Steyn has been saying for years now, the socialization of health care is the tipping point for a nation. Obama himself admitted that it has been the dream of progressives in this country for a century to annex control of the health care system under the federal govt's umbrella.

      2009 was supposed to bring hope and change, but has brought nothing but staggering debt, empty promises, and corruption on a scale never seen before (at least not in America, comrades). Health care "reform" has been conducted behind closed doors, forced through two houses of congress, and will forever change the relationship between citizen-state.


      The Utopian dream of the Left is just as religious in nature as the most fervent follower of Christ, the Torah, or Muhammad.

    5. John Moore, Flower M says:

      Thank you for this very insightful article. Since the fall of the Soviet Union nearly 20 years ago, I have been amazed at the persistent efforts of the left to try to justify their radical views.

      I fear that we have indeed reached a tipping point and I pray for my country to wake up to the dangers facing it from within.

    6. Pingback: Utopian New Left Just Like Old Left « Conservative Thoughts and Profundity

    7. Andrew Beyon, Scotts says:

      The same thing happened to the Britons in the 1920s. The Fabians developed the socialist Labour Party and sided with the Liberal Party. Soon after gaining power and installing the Ramsey MacDonald as the PM they pushed aside the Liberal Party and the socialists have been running things, more or less, ever since.

      I'm afraid the same thing happened to our beloved America.

    8. mary triola new jers says:

      Andrew, you sound resigned to the fact. DON'T we are the majority they are the minority just keep praying for our beloved country. I believe GOD can and will save us.bho got elected so we would WAKE UP and see and fight for a sane government that is right now more out of control then ever. We to quote a phrase are seeing " how the sausage is made" and we don't like it. This is our time to re-claim OUR COUNTRY.It is not theirs it is ours. WE THE PEOPLE WILL GET IT BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!

    9. Jerry from Chicago says:

      Time for everyone to re-read Animal Farm.

    10. Lynn B. DeSpain says:

      To simplify: You and your family want to come and live in my house and share our shelter, food and medicine? Fine, move in. The cost is one of your children, you choose. We will ask for more later. When you run our of children? We'll talk about that, if and when that ever happens. Don't worry, its never happened before!

    11. Dave, Laguna Niguel says:

      Funny how all the socialists, especially Hollywood and evil politicians, want socialism for everyone EXCEPT themselves! Why, its for the "other people"! Apply socialism to major league sports: 1) no prayers before, during or after the game for any reason. 2)all games end in a tie. 3)all players earn the same money as the peanut thrower in the stands. How long would these games last. Not long. And remember that old word…DEFECTION! With the US dead, no place left to defect.

    12. Resident from Detroi says:

      The leftists think they can change the nature of man or our planet but they cannot, no matter how hard they try. The socialists vision of utopia is not my vision of utopia. Each individual can or strive to create their own personal utopia on earth. Creating a national or global utopia for the masses is impossible, this forced utopia brings nothing but misery.

    13. Drew Page, IL says:

      There is still no federal employee, from the president down to the lowest grade clerk, that has stepped up to say he or she would be happy to drop the federal employee health benefit package in favor of the national healthcare plan being proposed in Congress, just as no federal employee would give up his or her government pension in favor of Social Security.

      Does anyone honestly think that the heads of state (or any of their family) in any social democracy like Canada, England, France, Germany, Sweden would have to wait six months to get radiation therapy to treat their cancer, or be told that their treatments were too expensive for a person their age? I don't believe it, not even for a moment.

      Those pushing socialism always think it's a great idea, for the other guy.

    14. Linda, Carlsbad says:

      Just read "ANIMAL FARM". This is what is happening now, I passed my book on!

      My farmers in California are prevented from getting water because a Czar controls the fish! This is insane, our farmers are eating carrots from China. We have Senators preventing Congress from giving the water to our farmers. Our own Senators in California. Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein. What is going on, what is in the water they are drinking?

      I love that it is finally going to be 2010! We are going to vote all the liberals, Obama loving agenda out. What a bunch of life sucking leaches!

      I voted for the leaches before. I will go door to door and tell everyone what they have been doing, not that anyone doesn't know!

    15. Linda, Carlsbad says:

      Thank you Heritage Foundation for presenting us the facts. Thank you for all the hard work! Believe me, we American's appreciate all that you do to inform us, and stand up for our Freedom!

      We are going to have a great New Year! We are going to vote the nuts out! We are going to take our country back!

      I joined you about a Year ago, right after Obama, I have been telling groups about you, and so has Rush and Hannity. You deserve the following, you are great at what you do. We Love you! I have seen a great many more like minded people, it has given me great hope!

      Happy New Year!

    16. Mike, MS says:

      Great article. It never ceases to amaze me how people don't learn from history. Socialism has never worked before and it won't work now.

      Thanks to Heritage Foundation and others who are speaking the truth.

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