Mar 252006
 

In the comments, Ergo raised a good question about the moral judgment of Marxist dictators versus Marxist intellectuals. So I’d like to sketch an answer to the question: Why and how is the Marxist intellectual morally worse than the Marxist dictator?

The key point is that the Marxist intellectual willfully makes possible all the brutal rights-violations of the Marxist dictator. That’s no accident, it’s the explicit end of his intellectual work. How so?

  • The intellectual offers a moral defense of the dictatorship of the proletariat. He uses people’s existing bad ideas (e.g. altruism, mysticism) as a weapon against them in order to push them into far worse ideas. As a professional intellectual, he has the upper hand against ordinary people not trained in the art of philosophic detection. In part, that means that he must evade on a massive scale to make his arguments, whereas ordinary people may accept them due to confusion, passivity, or minor evasions. By his arguments, the intellectual disarms the actual and potential victims of the dictator of any moral objection to the means and/or ends of the dictator. Without that, the people would immediately rise up in rebellion against the unjustified brute force threatening to crush them.
  • The intellectual’s moral defense of the dictatorship of the proletariat also emboldens the petty power lusters of the world to seize power. In a free society, such a person could aspire to no more than the leadership of a criminal gang. The intellectual presents that seizure of power as morally right and historically inevitable — and thereby fosters and rationalizes the power lust of the future dictator.
  • Once the dictator is in power, the Marxist intellectual conceals and excuses his inevitable brutality and mass slaughter. He is thereby sanctions those crimes. (In this respect, he’s like an uncle who approvingly nods and even offers helpful tips as his nephew rapes a young girl. Even if the nephew would have raped her anyway, the uncle is still morally guilty.) In so doing, the intellectual preserves the power of the dictator, often for decades upon decades beyond its natural life. If his arguments are even partially accepted in free countries, thanks to the bad premises people already accept, then he morally disarms the potential outside opponents of the Marxist dictatorship. Consequently, they will not exert any kind of pressure upon the dictatorship to reform, nor treat its espionage seriously, nor punish it with economic sanctions, nor invade to cut off the head of the expanding empire. Instead, his own country will prop up the Marxist dictatorship with aid of various kinds.

    At least in the case of Soviet Russia, the Marxist intellectuals did all that — with exactly the consequences I’ve outlined. Without their help, Soviet Russia would not have lasted for all those decades. In fact, it never would have even come into existence.

    While I do think that the Marxist intellectual must evade more than the dictator — if only for the simple reason that he’s called upon to think more in the course of his work — I don’t think the magnitude of his evil is a solely function of the magnitude of his evasion. (A hermit in the woods may evade all day long, but I wouldn’t call him evil, for the simple reason that the scale of his destruction is so small. He’s just immoral.)

    To be valid, the moral judgment should integrate mind and body by asking: What does the evasion accomplish in reality? So we need to pay attention to the scale of the destruction of values involved. In the case of the Marxist intellectual, he did not just make the mass murder of Stalin possible, he also made that of Lenin, Mao, and Pol Pot possible. He also promoted socialism in Europe and America — with substantial success.

    However, and this is critical, the fact that the Marxist intellectual is more evil than the Marxist dictator does not mean that the dictator is not fully evil. The dictator is absolutely 100% morally black, without the slightest shred of good in him. My point is rather that the evil of the Marxist intellectual is of broader scope. Despite his veneer of civility, he is a danger to every living creature on the planet. By leveraging people’s ordinary altruism into even just some sympathy for socialism, he is teaching them to submit to the yoke of whatever dictator might arise, while also encouraging the rise of that dictator. (And yes, that does require more evasion than just driving the yoke.) Without that intellectual legwork, the dictators wouldn’t stand a chance.

    I haven’t covered all the possible angles on this topic, not even all those raised by David Kelley in Truth and Toleration. In particular, I haven’t touched upon the argument that any given Marxist intellectual is just one voice in a loud chorus, nor upon the point that the intellectual persuades others while the dictator forces them. Still, I hope that the above comments constitute at least a clarifying start.

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