The Nature of Leftist Hate

The greatest irony of modern leftism is its Inclusion Paradox.

Like the Tolerance Paradox, which deals with that intellectual muddle of “can we tolerate intolerance?,” the Inclusion Paradox shows an antinomy in praxis: In the cause of Universal Inclusion, opponents MUST BE EXCLUDED.

And with disdain, anger, marginalization, and even violence.

Now, this inclusion/exclusion idea was not what the older variants of the Left obsessed about, at least not explicitly. When I was young, there were still communists who believed that a total state and “democratic control of the means of production” would lead to a material and spiritual utopia, to wealth and happiness untold. Almost no one believes that now. History shows what happens when it is attempted, economics explains why it cannot work. So, what to do? Give up.

Yes, leftists have mostly given up on the superiority of complete State control of production and distribution — at least, they rarely lead with such concerns, and they try not to think about all that very much. It is so embarrassing for them, and they would have to actually learn some economics and deal with really smart people who look at issues more dispassionately than they are able to. Actual social scientists. Instead of retreading ground that is stained with the blood of millions — hundreds of millions of the victims of Historical Socialism — modern leftists have embraced the hidden entelechy that always undergirded the Left of the spectrum, and brought it to the surface, applying it to classes of people figured according to racial, cultural and sexual criteria, not economic.

If we take the approach of Dr. Jordan Peterson and philosopher Stephen Hicks and many others, we would interpret this development as a sort of logical outcome of the failure of Marxism and the persistence of Marxists. Specifically, the development via Gramsci, the Frankfurt School, and Critical Theory of a new approach to class.

Karl Marx had taken the class analysis of liberal industrielisme, which tracked class exploitation in the form of State redistribution of resources (the diversion of resources away from those who served consumer preferences and towards “rent seeking” special interests), and applied it bizarrely (and incoherently) to the market itself, without extraneous criminal or statist expropriation. The idea was actually older than Marx — Proudhon argued it in Systems of Economical Contradictions — but Marx put his stamp upon it. “Capitalists” hired “workers” to produce commodities for consumers, but they took a cut, and somehow this cut was robbery — as if capital itself (previously saved wealth) should have no return when invested. The class exploitation was of the workers (proletarians) by the capitalists (owners of capital and entrepreneurs and managers).

Well, this makes sense if you are not very bright or do not think very hard. But it is a ridiculous theory, a strained misuse of exploitation theory. And it depended upon a now-proven incorrect theory of value, the Labor Theory of Value. Well, by the 1890s, just as socialists were gaining power in governments, the LTV and the exploitation theory had been thoroughly destroyed by Austrian economist Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk (Karl Marx and the Close of His System and Capital and Interest are the classic works) and all the Marxists and Social Democrats had left was utopianism and class solidarity/class hatred. Then came the Soviet Union and Mao’s China and millions of corpses and dire poverty and tyranny and mass suspicion and cultural degradation and . . . what was a Marxist to do?

They invented Cultural Marxism. While Marx had formalized the idea that class-based ideas serve only their respective classes – ideologies were “superstructures” that served their class foundations — the later theorists ran with the idea that the classes that matter were based on race, culture, and sexuality, not productivity. It was the very idea of “identity” that matters! A never-ending supply of victim-groups to justify revolution and tyranny and all those old socialist “solutions”!

And here we are, in the postmodern age.

But we must add something to the critique of postmodernism. Marx had formalized the idea that class-based ideas served only their respective classes, sure. But there is an added element. Because “capitalist ideology” serve ONLY capitalists, and “proletarian ideology” serves ONLY proletarians, ideas are thus dismissible on class rather than truth grounds.

This is momentous. And pernicious. It basically justifies the argumentum ad hominem, the logical fallacy/debate technique that attacks the idea referencing the badness of a holder of an idea and not the ideas themselves. It is a recipe for hatred and social division and discord.

Modern cultural Marxists are definitely carrying on that tradition. They just swap classes from economic to racial, sexual and the like. And periodically invent new ones.

C.S. Lewis called this gambit “Bulverism.” Oddly, Wikipedia relates the procedure not to the ad hominem but to “Antony Flew’s ‘subject/motive shift,’” the appeal to motive, circular reasoning, and the genetic fallacy. But what I see most obviously is the ad hominem, though now applied broadly.

Lewis introduced the concept in his usual charming way:

It is a disastrous discovery, as Emerson says somewhere, that we exist. I mean, it is disastrous when instead of merely attending to a rose we are forced to think of ourselves looking at the rose, with a certain type of mind and a certain type of eyes. It is disastrous because, if you are not very careful, the color of the rose gets attributed to our optic nerves and its scent to our noses, and in the end there is no rose left. The professional philosophers have been bothered about this universal black-out for over two hundred years, and the world has not much listened to them. But the same disaster is now occurring on a level we can all understand.

We have recently “discovered that we exist” in two new senses. The Freudians have discovered that we exist as bundles of complexes. The Marxians have discovered that we exist as members of some economic class. In the old days it was supposed that if a thing seemed obviously true to a hundred men, then it was probably true in fact. Nowadays the Freudian will tell you to go and analyze the hundred: you will find that they all think Elizabeth a great queen because they all have a mother-complex. Their thoughts are psychologically tainted at the source. And the Marxist will tell you to go and examine the economic interests of the hundred; you will find that they all think freedom a good thing because they are all members of the bourgeoisie whose prosperity is increased by a policy of laissez-faire. Their thoughts are “ideologically tainted” at the source.

Lewis goes on, though, trying to make the distinction between logical validity and empirical facticity, on the one hand, and the wrongness of a person because of their conceived identity . . . and explains his coinage:

You must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became so silly.

In the course of the last fifteen years I have found this vice so common that I have had to invent a name for it. I call it “Bulverism.” Some day I am going to write the biography of its imaginary inventor, Ezekiel Bulver, whose destiny was determined at the age of five when he heard his mother say to his father — who had been maintaining that two sides of a triangle were together greater than a third — “Oh you say that because you are a man.” “At that moment,” E. Bulver assures us, “there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument. Assume that your opponent is wrong, and explain his error, and the world will be at your feet. Attempt to prove that he is wrong or (worse still) try to find out whether he is wrong or right, and the national dynamism of our age will thrust you to the wall.” That is how Bulver became one of the makers of the Twentieth Century.

And Wikipedia addresses the real problem at base:

The special threat of this fallacy lies in that it applies equally to the person who errs as to that person’s opponent. Taken to its logical consequence, it implies that all arguments are unreliable and hence undermines all rational thought. Lewis says, “Until Bulverism is crushed, reason can play no effective part in human affairs. Each side snatches it early as a weapon against the other; but between the two reason itself is discredited.”

And with reason out of the way, and people attacking each other because their ideas stand and fall based on their identity or group affiliation, hatred naturally flows. Because, if you are told you are wrong because “you are a fucking white male!” what defense do you have? I mean, if you are a white male, you cannot prove yourself right by saying you are not a white male. And the charge itself looks a lot like the simple hatred of white males.

Turnabout being fair play, why would not the white males hate their accusers merely because they are not white and not male?

Hence the present ideological moment. And possible civilizational crisis.

All this does not mean one must never criticize people because of their characteristic errors. It only means one must not assume the error and then relentlessly treat all logic as subservient to an assumed group interest.

Where This All Comes From

Marxism formalized the idea that class-based ideas serve only their serviced class and are thus dismissible on class rather than truth grounds.

Modern cultural Marxists carry on that tradition. They just swap classes, invent new ones.

Mises called this gambit polylogism. C.S. Lewis called it “Bulverism.”

Intersectionality is the fasces with which postmoderns attack everybody else. They think of themselves as anti-fascists because of their Marxist heritage, but though they try to force us to use “their pronouns,” they are losing the ability to bludgeon us into submission even to use their nouns and adjectives.

So there may be hope. The lunacy of leftist style and method has reached its peak, and may now be so hysterical in part because the left finally sees double-pronged push-back: intellectual and popular. The revolt against Progressivism has begun.

twv

N.B. This essay was written a year or two ago, but never quite finished, lingering in my drafts folder. In the spirit of house-cleaning, I publish it now. The Venn Diagram atop was made about the same time, but was not tailor-made to illustrate this specific argument — not wholly irrelevant, it adorns this essay for whimsy’s sake. [August 15, 2020]