Friday, November 4, 2011

Collusion, Corruption, Coercion

From their earliest days of manning the barricades, up to the present, filling academic chairs at universities, Marxists, representing the poor and oppressed, have relentlessly savaged bourgeois values and the capitalist system they despise.  They compose a cognitive elite, a special set of knowers who engage in a special kind of theorizing that unmasks something that is deliberately, artfully concealed, namely the exploitation of groups of people.  Action follows theory. The exploited are called by the theorists to revolution.  Marxists are activists as well as theorists.
The hard, rock-bottom premise of Marxist theorizing is that domination and exploitation underlie all of human relationships. Tension, conflict and struggle are always underneath, below the surfaces, covered up by some who benefit from the subjugation of others – collusion, corruption, coercion.  The exploited and dominated ones do not know the true nature of their exploitation which, of course, is the most insidious part of the whole business.  The game is rigged. The losers are unaware of the built in unfairness which they have been led to believe is just a part of the natural order. Their unawareness is a deliberately manufactured sphere of “false consciousness” composed of their deluded belief systems. 
But the game can only stay rigged so long as the losers remain oblivious to the reality of the “fix” and the inherent culpability of the fixers.  Once they know of their exploitation and, more importantly, who profits from it, then they can act to fix it.
Ending exploitation begins first with the task of knowing it (the collusion and corruption, are hidden from view) – the consciousness of the exploited group must be “raised” by professionals who have come to know what the rest have failed to grasp.  With the raising of consciousness comes the exposure of the true character of the dominators and exploiters. Revolution follows. The exploiters are removed from power.
“Theory” is what distinguishes Stalinism (applied Marxism) from pure gangsterism, which it very much resembles in its methods, style, and morals, and from Nazism which also brooked no opposition but did not possess a theoretical apparatus sufficiently ponderous or sophisticated as to make it widely appealing or exportable.  Theory is what enables the Stalinists to rationalize the abuse they inevitably exercise against the opposition, those they have identified as the exploiters and dominators.   The abuse ranges widely in severity. Where the Stalinists are completely in charge, as in Stalin’s Soviet Union or Mao’s Peoples Republic of China, the opposition faces extermination. Where they have to compete with others for power abuse comes in the form of slander, character assassination and ridicule.
Theory as the Stalinists practice it turns average, normal people into “enemies of the people,” “counterrevolutionary scum,” “right deviationists,” and so forth. The Kulaks in post-revolutionary Russia were marginally better off peasants a fact which the Chief Theorist in the Kremlin concluded made them exploiters and reactionaries, thus deserving of very harsh treatment as counterrevolutionaries.  Their fate was collective starvation and deportation. They were “blood-suckers,” to use Stalin’s scientific, theoretical term. Mao ordered the elimination of his opposition within the party because they were shown to be “right deviationists.”
Stalinist theory has always been highly mobile and scalable.  It has been used to clean out the bourgeois riff-raff in countries large and small, from Enver Hoxha’s tiny Albania to Castro’s Cuba to Mao’s China. “Bolshevism,” writes Martin Amis, “was exportable, and produced near-identical results elsewhere. Nazism could not be duplicated. Compared to it, the other fascist states were simply amateurish.” [Martin Amis, Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million, New York, 2003, 91]
 Stalinist theory begins with a story that explains why the world contains so much human suffering.  The story typically details the origin and constitution of two classes or groups of people – those whose suffer and those who inflict the suffering and materially benefit from it, a relationship, always, of exploitation and domination.  Also, the theory provides the story teller with great flexibility in constituting the two groups – proletariat—capitalists, peasants—landlords, indigenous people—colonialists, men—women, white people—people of color. Most importantly, the story always moves toward an uplifting, inspiring ending, one of transcendence. In the script the sufferers are destined to overcome – dramatically and heroically. They prevail and overthrow the inflictors and oppressors because they represent the morally and socially progressive forces of a historically determined outcome.  Their struggle is vindicated by the suffering they have endured. They prevail because of their moral superiority, the cause they struggle for, and the better world they promise.  
The story also is easily tailored to match the sophistication of its audience.  Zbigniew Brezezinski writes, “Communism thus appealed to the simpletons and the sophisticates alike…” {Zbigniew Brezezinski,  The Grand Failure: The Birth and Death of Communism in the Twentieth Century, New York, 1989, 2] For the unlettered and unwashed it remains a simple story that identifies their oppressors and then excoriates them for the specific harms they inflict.  For the sophisticates there is for their contemplation and illumination an elaborate and challenging sociological and economic underpinning that reveals the structures and forces of oppression in play, but more importantly explains how these structures have been hidden from the oppressed so as to perpetuate the servitude and disguise the causes.   The story thus is both explanation and  revelation, “unmasking”, as the Stalinists like to put it, the oppressor, identifying him as the enemy and marking him for castigation then removal – physically in the earlier days, politically and professionally now.
The foundational moralizing narrative in contemporary Stalinism still uses a template brilliantly crafted by Karl Marx, one that weaves into its “theory” both sociological explanation and moral outrage and applies it to virtually all significant forms of human relationships.  The story becomes a manual for moral transformation.  From the beginning the story provides moral sanctification for the theorizers, built to justify whatever action is deemed necessary for advancement.  As well it is theoretically invincible, that is true as an ultimate, metaphysical, characterization of reality. Nothing empirical can ever be shown to falsify it.  Theory and practice are mutually enhancing features of an all-encompassing narrative that reaches out and folds all external criticism of the theory into support for it.   In questioning the theory and resisting the direction of the narrative, one is merely playing out the theoretically assigned role of a member or tool of the oppressor class, reacting against the progressive advance of history.  Only two classes of actors can exist in this moralizing narrative, the revolutionary (progressive) morally entitled theorists who advance the cause and wellbeing of the oppressed, and in direct opposition to them, the self-interested forces of reaction committed to the unjust status quo.
The theorists “discover” and “out” the oppressor class, expose their phony rationalizations of power and privilege, enumerate their offenses and set them for confrontation. The practitioners isolate them and then eliminate them as competitors.

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