2018 Supporters Summit
Political Correctness as Misesian Destructionism
Tags Media and CulturePolitical Theory
Presented at the Mises Institute's 2018 Supporters Summit in Auburn, Alabama. Recorded on September 29, 2018.
In his classic 1922 book Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis (first English edition published in 1936) Ludwig von Mises wrote of how the object of socialists everywhere had always been the destruction of existing society. After that is accomplished, then they can begin making vague promises of their “utopian” society. “Socialism is not ... the pioneer of a better and finer world,” Mises wrote, “but the spoiler of what thousands of years of civilization have created. It does not build; it destroys. For destruction is the essence of it. It produces nothing, it only consumes what the social order based on private ownership in the means of production has created ... each step leading towards socialism must exhaust itself in the destruction of what already exists” (p. 414).
This scenario has been played out in country after country that adopted socialism, from the Soviet Union to Venezuela. The Soviets lived off the capital accumulated by previous generations (and by property stolen from other countries through military conquest); British “Fabian” socialism consumed capital until it all imploded with the “British Disease” of the 1970s; Capitalist Sweden adopted socialism in the 1950s with the result that not a single net new job was created for the ensuing 55 years, 500 percent interest rates in the 1980s, and a struggle to de-socialize ever since. And of course once-prosperous Venezuela completely destroyed itself in a mere decade after Hugo Chavez, the latest in a long line of Castro-loving communist presidents, nationalized virtually all of industry and imposed universal price controls.
“Progressive capital formation” is “the only means by which the position of the great masses can be permanently improved,” wrote Mises. “Socialism and destructionism...propose to use up capital so as to achieve present wealth at the expense of the future…. The policy of destructionism is the policy of the spendthrift who dissipates his inheritance regardless of the future” (p. 415).
For Karl Marx and his followers, “all politics was only the continuation of war by other means ... . The socialist parties ... who have taken the Marxist parties for their model ... have elaborated the technique of agitation, the cadging for votes and for souls, the stirring up of electoral excitement, the street demonstrations, and the terrorism” (p. 417). Some things never change: this brings to mind the violent and thuggish behavior of today’s “Antifa” socialists; of campus “protesters” setting fire to buildings, destroying property, and terrorizing conservative or libertarian campus speakers; Black Lives Matter advocating the murder of police officers and organizing riots (while completely ignoring the thousands of black-on-black drug-gang murders in all American large cities each year); and the uncivilized, Bolshevik nature of today’s Democratic Party, which is now virtually indistinguishable from the Democratic Socialists of America or the Communist Party USA.
Mises also commented on the “fake news” of his day. The “literati” were essentially “recruiting agents for socialism, since socialism must destroy society [and] are ... paving the way for destructionism” (p. 422). The attack on Western culture, by the way, is not exactly new. “People which have hailed with great enthusiasm ... writings which call for the destruction of all cultural values are themselves on the verge of a great social catastrophe,” Mises wrote in 1922 (p. 423). “Our whole life is so given over to destructionism that one can name hardly a field into which it has not penetrated. ‘Social’ art preaches it, schools teach it, the churches disseminate it” (p. 425).
Mises then discussed some of the “methods of destructionism” that had already done great harm: labor legislation, compulsory social insurance; unemployment insurance, nationalization, taxation, inflationism. Of course, The Communist Manifesto is even more comprehensive in its recipe for societal destruction. This included “Abolition of private property in land”; “A heavy progressive or graduated income tax”; “Abolition of all rights of inheritance”; “ Confiscation of the Property” of anyone who criticized the government”; “Centralization of credit in the hands of the state ...”; Centralization of the means of communication and transportation in the hands of the state”; the operation of factories and farms under “a common plan” of the state”; forced labor; “abolition of the distinction between town and country” with coerced migration; and “free education for all children in government schools.”
Misesian Destructionism Today
After the worldwide collapse of socialism in the late 1980s/early 1990s socialist propagandists splintered into two main camps: the “watermelons” (green on the outside, red on the inside) who proposed destroying capitalism though regulatory and tax strangulation in the name of “saving the planet”; and the “Cultural Marxists” who embraced the ideology of a gang of early twentieth-century Marxists whose main targets of destructionism were Western culture and Christianity.
Led by Marxist theorists like the Italian communist Antonio Gramsci and Hungarian communist Gyorgy Lucacs, these “cultural Marxists” were upset and surprised that “the working class” in Europe had not embraced violent revolution to overthrow the capitalist order. The so-called working class only wanted better pay and working conditions, not to take over the factories after a bloody revolution. They blamed this “failure” on Western culture and Christianity, which they theorized had blinded the working class to “Marxist Truth.” Therefore, Western culture and Christianity must be destroyed if there is to be a Marxist revolution. They plotted to do this via “a long march through the institutions” of schools, media, churches, the entertainment industries, etc. (Mussolini smelled a rat and imprisoned Gramsci).
When communists took control of the Hungarian government in 1918 Lukacs became the “Commissar of Culture” and introduced sex education into the government schools as part of a plan to destroy traditional sexual morals along with the rest of Christianity. The Hungarians hated this and kicked out the communists.
A “think tank” was established under the title of “Institute for Marxism,” but was relabeled “The Frankfurt School” because of the growing reputation of Marxists as one big gang of mass-murdering tyrants and criminals who had destroyed the economies of country after country. The ostensible goal of “The Frankfurt School” was to “liberate” people from the “repression” of Western culture (hence the lionization and idolization of such things in America today as Bruce Jenner in a miniskirt and high heels). The new class struggle invented by The Frankfurt School would replace the old Marxian theory of a struggle between the capitalist and working “classes.” The new class struggle, they theorized, was between an “oppressor” class — basically all white heterosexual males — and everyone else. Their strategy was to ditch the working class and instead create an “army” of students, minorities, feminists, and gays. This list of “the oppressed” has now expanded far beyond that initial categorization.
Traditional morality is denounced as “fascist.” If you are a religious person who believes that it is a good idea to try to live by The Ten Commandments, then by definition you are a Nazi according to cultural Marxist dogma. The role of education is not to educate but to instill “the right [cultural Marxist] values in children. (This reminds me of how one of the television networks interviewed the valedictorian of a large New Jersey high school and asked him what was the most important thing he learned in school. “The value of diversity” said the pathetic, clueless, un-educated child).
The Marxist Herbert Marcuse became somewhat of a cultural Marxist celebrity in the 1960s for his book, Eros and Civilization, in which he championed “polymorphous perversity” and advised American youth, “Don’t work, have sex.” It was Marcuse who invented a theory of “liberating tolerance” that has been used to “justify” all the campus attacks – often very violent attacks – on free speech. Only “the oppressed” (a.k.a. fellow cultural Marxists) deserve free speech, said the German communist, for free speech, like all the rest of the ideas of the U.S. Constitution, is supposedly just another tool of the oppressor class. Thus, when we observe such spectacles as an angry, violent mob of “students” screaming obscenities at political scientist Charles Murray, an invited speaker at his daughter’s alma mater, Middlebury College, calling him a “Fascist! Racist! White Supremacist!!” and literally chasing him off the campus and through the town by car (!), these little brainwashed moronic communists are convinced that they are taking the high moral road in doing so. (The female faculty member who invited Murray was grabbed by the hair by one of the Middlebury College Hitler Youth and jerked so hard that she injured her neck and had to be rushed to a hospital). Violent spectacles of extraordinary ignorance and narcissism such as this are result of several decades of cultural Marxist indoctrination at all levels of schooling in America.
One of my first observances of such idiocy was in the mid-1980s when that great intellectual giant Jesse Jackson led mob of Stanford University students chanting “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Western Civ Has Got to Go.” They wanted the university to drop its courses on Western Civilization and replace them with courses on “race, class, and gender studies.” The Stanford administration dutifully complied.
Then over on the east coast at around the same time, a wealth oil-industry family from Texas, the Bass family, gave the family alma mater, Yale University, $20 million for endowed professorships teaching courses in Western Civilization. It was the largest gift ever given to Yale at the time. A large segment of the Yale faculty angrily denounced the gift as part of a “dead, white, European male academic agenda” and called for more “multicultural studies” instead. (For those not too familiar with the academic world, “multiculturalism” does not mean learning about other cultures. It means hiring only socialists as faculty members, but from various cultures – an Asian socialist, a Hispanic socialist, an Indian socialist, etc., etc.). Yale returned the $20 million to the Bass family rather than being portrayed as yet another tool of the “oppressor class.” (If any members of the Bass family happen to be reading this, I recommend that you give the money to the Mises Institute instead).
Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
Thomas DiLorenzo is professor of economics at Loyola University Maryland and a member of the senior faculty of the Mises Institute. He is the author of The Real Lincoln; How Capitalism Saved America; Lincoln Unmasked; Hamilton's Curse; Organized Crime: The Unvarnished Truth About Government; and The Problem with Socialism.