“Roger Scruton tells us that Marx himself envisioned a society in which the state has withered away, there’s no law or need for it, everything’s owned in common, and each person…would be free for ‘hunting in the morning, fishing in the afternoon, tending cattle in the evening and engaging in literary criticism after dinner.’” John R. Coyne, Jr.
“The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” Margaret Thatcher
How socialist dogma defrauds society
John R. Coyne, Jr., The Washington Times, February 15, 2016, p. 25
In 1985, Roger Scruton published a book titled “Thinkers of the New Left” a collection of articles coming out at “the height of Margaret Thatcher’s reign of terror,” and “greeted with derision and outrage” by the nearly monolithic leftist British intellectual establishment, with “reviewers falling over each other for the chance to spit on the corpse.”
The earlier book, writes Mr. Scruton, was published before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the implosion of the Soviet Union, “before the emergence of the European Union as an imperial power and before the transformation of China into an aggressive exponent of gangland capitalism”
But with the collapse of a totally -corrupt and inhumane Soviet regime and the demonstrated failure of socialism as a workable economic system, it seemed for a while “that there might be an apology forthcoming, from those who had devoted their intellectual and political efforts to whitewashing the Soviet Union or praising the people’s republics of China and Vietnam.
But predictably no apology was forthcoming. After a brief period of silence and ideological wheel-spinning, the left was soon back at it with Noarti Chomsky and Howard Zinn renewing their intemperate denunciations of America, authors like Jurgen Habermas, Slavoj Zizek, Gyorgy Lukacs and others, largely unread but receiving prestigious awards for unreadable books and nonsense turned out by leftist intellectuals attempting to reconcile existentialism with neo-Marxist theology.
(“Although Sartre was ugly,” writes Mr. Scruton of existentialism’s patron saint, “with a flaccid body and the face of a toad, he was highlv successful with women.”)
And there’s the much-honored historian and “veteran communist Eric Hobswam” a Stalinist Englishman who kept the faith during purges, labor camps, Hungary, East Germany and was finally rewarded for a lifetime of unswerving loyalty to the Soviet Union by his appointment as “Companion of Honour to the Queen.”
What is it that commands that sort of secular religious loyalty, that true belief? And what sort of society do its adherents hope to establish? In its vision of the society of the future, “the left fails to distinguish civil society from the state, and fails to understand that the eni of life arises from our free associations and not from the coercive discipline of an egalitarian elite”
Karl Marx wrote that as opposed to various Utopian socialist systems of his day, his own “scientific socialism,” conforming to the “laws of historical motion,” after a period of “socialist guardianship” — a “dictatorship of the proletariat” — would lead predictably to full communism. But questions of whether that proletarian dictatorship might inevitably resemble East Germany aside, what would life there look like?
Mr. Scruton tells us that Marx himself envisioned a society in which the state has withered away there’s no law or need for it, everything’s owned in common, and each person, as Marx put it in “The German Ideology” would be free for “hunting in the morning, fishing in the afternoon, tending cattle in the evening and engaging in literary criticism after dinner.”
Not everyone’s idea of the good life, to be sure. But as Mr. Scruton tells us, that’s “the only attempt the founder makes to describe what life will be like” in the Marxist Utopia. And that’s a basic problem with all socialist dogma. None of it can depict a real society.
“The contradictory nature of the socialist Utopias is one explanation of the violence involved in the attempt to impose them: it takes infinite force to make people do what is impossible.”
For a time, it seemed that because of its great and demonstrable failures, socialism as a viable governing and economic system had been totally discredited, with Margaret Thatcher’s definition serving as its defining epitaph: “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples’ money”
But with only a brief pause to refill the coffers, as Mr. Scruton writes elsewhere, they’re back. Jeremy Corbin in is a case in point.
The Labour leader believes that Britain will not be governed properly until war is declared or the wealthy, the corporations and the toffs. Once again we are being invited along the path of social resentment, encouraged to hunt down success wherever it shows its ugly head and to present it with an exorbitant tax demand.
Bad news for Britain, but good news for those of us who look forward to more of Mr. Scruton’s scathing criticism and splendid prose.
John R, Coyne Jk, a former White House speechwriter, is co-author of “Strictly Right: William K Buckley Jr. and the American Conservative Movement” (Wiley)