Sunday, February 7, 2016

the decline and fall of working class pride

One of the most damaging things that has happened to our society over the past century is the decay of the working class. More importantly, the decay of working class pride has been catastrophic.

It’s popular to date the decline of western civilisation to the 1960s (and it’s fashionable in some conservative circles to blame it all on the Baby Boomers). In fact, like so many of the disasters that have afflicted us, this one started in the early 1950s.

The collapse of manufacturing industry has of course made a huge contribution to the destruction of the working class. The destruction of working class pride however has other roots. The first contributing cause was the obsession with higher education that started after the Second World War. By the late 1950s the absurd idea was already taking root that everybody should have a university education. This is of course arrant nonsense. Universities are useful for people who want to be doctors or engineers or physicists. Most degrees outside these areas are essentially hobby degrees, with no usefulness in the real world. For most people university is a waste of time and money and simply gives people ridiculously unrealistic expectations. What proportion of the population actually needs a university degree? My guess would be around five percent.

The explosion in the number of university students that began in the 50s and really took off in the 60s contributed to the idea that the only jobs that deserved respect were jobs that required a university degree.

Coupled with the higher education boom (and both feeding it and feeding off it) was an increasing disdain for blue-collar jobs. Eventually even blue-collar workers came to share this disdain and came to see themselves as being inferior to white-collar workers, despite the fact that a very large number of blue-collar jobs are both more socially useful and require more skill than most white-collar jobs.

When you add the slow but steady decline of manufacturing industry to the mix you get a gradual but inexorable erosion in working class confidence and pride. 

The situation was however even worse than this. From the 1960s the Old Left, which used to care about working class communities and working class families, began its own decline. The Old Left was sometimes misguided and sometimes unrealistic in its assumptions and was even at times short-sighted and bloody-minded but there was some genuine concern for ordinary working-class people. 

The New Left was to be very different. The New Left was middle-class and intellectual. They despised the working class. The New Left steadily lost interest in economic justice. Now it was “social justice” that mattered. Identity politics took over from class politics. Middle-class people, especially wealthy university-educated elite middle-class people (the ones who dominated the New Left), aren’t very interested in economic justice or class politics. They’re doing fine and they don’t care what happens to any lower down the social scale. Not only are they uninterested in confronting economic issues - they want to avoid such issues at all costs. 

Identity politics on the other is the kind of thing that appeals to them. It’s mostly about advancing the interests of other wealthy university-educated elite middle-class people. Even black identity politics tends to fit this mould. It’s noteworthy that so much of the Black Live Matter activism is not happening in poor black neighbourhoods. It’s happening on college campuses, among wealthy university-educated elite middle-class black kids. 

Of course enthusiasm for open borders has immense appeal to the New Left - it means lower wages for working-class people, it means cheaper servants and nice upscale ethnic restaurants. The downside to mass immigration does not affect middle-class people at all.

Identity politics is the betrayal of everything the Left used to stand for.

And of course as the Left has abandoned the working class, working class pride has fallen still further. The destruction of the family has naturally made a bad situation much worse. Middle-class people might be able to believe that family is optional. For working-class people it’s an absolute essential.

The working class has slowly been transformed into the underclass, which simply leads middle-class elites to despise such people even more. And so the circle becomes ever more vicious. In the US the working class is literally dying - death rates for poor white males are increasing, a shameful thing indeed for a First World country.

I’m working class myself and I can still remember when that was something to be proud of. Those days seem a long time ago now.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime

Richard Pipes’ Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime is the follow-up to his The Russian Revolution 1899-1919 and brings the story up to the death of Lenin in 1924. These two books provide an immensely detailed but thoroughly readable and fascinating history of one of the great cataclysms of history.

In an earlier post I talked about Niall Ferguson’s ideas on the contingency of history. Ferguson has no patience with the idea that historical events happened because they were inevitable. There are times when a single bad decision, a single piece of luck or the peculiarities of a single personality can change the course of history. Pipes also has no truck with deterministic theories of history. The Bolshevik Revolution was far from inevitable. In fact the odds were stacked against it. No-one but a tiny clique of intellectuals wanted it and without Lenin it would never have occurred.

That’s not to say that the Tsarist regime would have survived, at least in the autocratic form that it had taken for centuries. The revolution in February 1917 was a real revolution. Some change was highly likely but the end result could quite easily have been a constitutional monarchy and perhaps even a liberal democratic regime. The October 1917 revolution was a coup d'état by the tiny and very unpopular Bolshevik party that was unlikely to succeed. That it did succeed was due to monumental bungling and cowardice on the part of the Kerensky government, exquisite timing, superb and inspired leadership by Lenin and quite a bit of luck.

The way the October Revolution came about had a good deal of influence on the subsequent history of the Soviet regime. Lenin was a superb revolutionary leader. He was focused to the point of obsessiveness, possessed sublime self-confidence, was utterly ruthless and had no moral scruples whatsoever. He tried to apply to the task of government the same approach he had employed as a revolutionary, with catastrophic consequences. As a leader of a government he was inflexible, brutal and colossally inept. Lenin had never allowed reality to get in the way of theory. If facts did not conform to his theories he ignored the facts. As a revolutionary leader he could get away with that. As a national leader it led to one disaster after another. Lenin had zero understanding of economics and zero understanding of human psychology. He considered organised terror to be the answer to every problem.

Within just a few years Lenin turned the world’s fifth largest economy into a shambles. Industrial production came almost to a standstill. Agricultural production plummeted. In the early 1920s millions died of starvation. The famine was not deliberately engineered; it was the result of incompetence, inflexibility and policies so wrong-headed that they almost defy belief. The famine may not have been deliberately engineered but Lenin took no steps to alleviate the suffering and in fact welcomed the deaths of millions of peasants since the peasants hated the Bolsheviks (with very good cause). Without American aid efforts (organised by Herbert Hoover) millions more would have starved.

Pipes makes it very clear that the beliefs held by so many western intellectuals that the brutality of the Soviet regime was solely the work of Stalin are entirely false. It was Lenin who created the apparatus of state terror. It was Lenin who presided over the creation of the network of concentration camps (the Gulags) that would eventually claim millions of victims. It was Lenin who created Soviet totalitarianism. It was Lenin who created a state that suppressed freedom of speech to an absolute degree. It was Lenin who created the one-party state. It was Lenin who allowed mass starvation to be used as a political weapon. Stalin refined these evils and expanded their scale but the evil started with Lenin.

Another notable point made in the book is that during the 20s the Bolsheviks were able to survive in power to a large extent due to the support of western liberals, some of them motivated by starry-eyed idealism, some by extraordinary gullibility and some by cash payments from Moscow. The short-sightedness and stupidity of European governments (and even more especially the US Government) also helped a good deal, as did the greed and cynicism of big business in interests. It’s another reminder that big business will cheerfully the most extreme evil if there’s a profit to be made.

Both The Russian Revolution 1899-1919 and Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime are essential reading, not just for an understanding of events in Russia itself but for its insights into the extraordinarily foolish and cynical conduct of the liberal democracies and their utter failure to comprehend the danger that the Bolsheviks represented. Highly recommended.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

antidepressants, suicide and social experiments

There have been suspicions for years that antidepressants (specifically the SSRIs) are dangerous and ineffective. Now it’s been confirmed by a major study - antidepressants can raise the risk of suicide, biggest ever review finds.

This is something that Peter Hitchens has been warning us about for years although no-one wants to listen - Time for Some Serious Thought about 'Antidepressants'.

In fact the increased risk of suicide is just one of the serious side-effects of these drugs. They also deaden the emotions, to a sometimes frightening degree. From personal experience and my own observations it’s also clear that these medications can not only produce anger, they produce a certain kind of anger. It’s a cold emotionless anger, a kind of simmering hate.

The effects on individuals are bad enough. What is often overlooked is that they have effects on society as well. They contribute a good deal to the atomisation of our society. They not only increase the risk of individual suicide, they increase the risk of societal suicide.

As well as all this these horrific drugs may well have been partly responsible for the rise of the particularly virulent kinds of radical feminism and Social Justice activism that have plagued the west over the past couple of decades. Or at least they may have made these phenomena more virulent and hate-filled than would otherwise have been the case. Medicating a huge proportion of the population with drugs whose actions are not clearly understood, for conditions that are often even more poorly understood (if indeed they exist), has been a gigantic social experiment. And a very perilous one.

And these ill-understood drugs are being prescribed for children. Of course it’s not just SSRIs. We are pumping children full of Ritalin, in most cases because the children are simply behaving like children. Add to that the fact that our governments have, in practice if not in theory, given up enforcing laws against marijuana and what you end up with is a society drugged to the eyeballs.

Of course Huxley predicted all this, way back in 1932, in Brave New World. Unfortunately the elites who run our world have adopted Huxley’s book as an instruction manual.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Russian Revolution 1899-1919

Richard Pipes’ The Russian Revolution 1899-1919, published in 1990, is an incredibly detailed but highly readable account of one of the most significant events in modern history.

Pipes makes it clear that the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917 was not in any sense a revolution. The February 1917 revolution which led to the abdication of the tsar could to some limited extent be described as a revolution although it was driven almost entirely by the intelligentsia and enjoyed limited public support in the cities and even more limited support in the countryside. The Bolshevik Revolution enjoyed miniscule support in the cities and absolutely zero support in the countryside. It was a coup d'état, not a revolution.

What the Bolshevik seizure of power does demonstrate is the ability of a tiny but ruthless and well-organised clique to take advantage of circumstances to take control of a country even when that clique is generally despised and detested. What matters is that the said clique should be focused on its objective and have no moral scruples whatsoever, and that it is led by someone of unwavering determination.

Socialism of course has always been an ideology that appeals to intellectuals rather than actual workers or actual poor people. Never was this more true than in Russia. The peasants wanted land reform but other than that they took no interest in politics and were overwhelming loyal to the Tsar. 

The Bolsheviks did not start out as starry-eyed idealists who later became corrupted by power. They were vicious murderous thugs right from the beginning and they never had the slightest interest in anything but power. There were starry-eyed idealists among the other leftist groups but there were none among the Bolsheviks. The events of October 1917 demonstrated that starry-eyed idealists have little chance of success when they come up against disciplined cynical manipulators who understand the mechanisms of power.

Lenin was not a mass murderer on the scale of Stalin but it was not for the want of trying. Lenin put in place the mechanisms of terror which Stalin put to very effective use. Had Lenin lived a few years longer he would certainly have been responsible for at least as many murders as Stalin. 

Lenin invented totalitarianism. He was a man without any normal human emotions. He was also a committed theorist. If facts contradicted his theories he just assumed the facts were wrong. Much of the misery inflicted on the world by leftist totalitarians seems to come down to this basic weakness - an unwillingness to admit that theories which sounded attractive simply didn’t work in the real world. Lenin had zero understanding of human nature. He cared about humanity en masse in a vague sort of abstract way but he despised people as individuals, to a degree that was clearly pathological.

Perhaps the most depressing thing is that the leftist enemies of the Bolsheviks had opportunities to destroy them but failed to do so because they also were entirely divorced from reality. The Socialist-Revolutionaries actually mounted a successful revolution against the Bolsheviks but failed to take power when it was there for the taking. 

Pipes’ book is heavy on detail but always remains clear and readable. A fascinating glimpse into the workings of evil. Highly recommended.

interesting stuff in the blogosphere

Interesting stuff I've come across in the blogosphere recently:

Steve Sailer has a fascinating essay on modern Polish politics (eastern Europe being possibly the most interesting part of the world at the moment) - How Polish Politics Prefigure the GOP Civil War.

Ilana Mercer on why affirmative action Oscars are a great idea if they help to destroy Hollywood - Encourage Affirmative Oscars, So Hollywood Can Go Belly-Up.

Oz Conservative on the myth of white privilege - Privileged but dying of despair?

Vanishing American II on the derangement of feminists - Trading Racists For...

Friday, January 15, 2016

explaining the intelligentsia

I'm still reading Richard Pipes' huge book on the Russian Revolution (The Russian Revolution 1899-1919). He talks a good deal about the beliefs and motivations of the radical intelligentsia at the dawn of the 20th century, not just in Russia but in Europe as a whole.

The most noteworthy thing about left-wing intellectuals is of course the amazing extent to which they are out of touch with reality and out of touch with ordinary people in the real world. Pipes offers a salutary reminder that this is not a recent phenomenon - intellectuals have always been entirely disconnected from reality and from real people.

“For intellectuals of this kind, the criterion of truth was not life: they created their own reality, or rather, sur-reality, subject to verification only with reference to opinions of which they approved. Contradictory evidence was ignored: anyone inclined to heed such evidence was ruthlessly cast out.”

Marx of course was a case in point. Marx’s claim to have created a scientific explanation of the evolution of human society was pure fantasy.

Socialism, of both the revolutionary and non-revolutionary varieties, in Russia was entirely dominated by intellectuals. These intellectuals regarded actual workers and peasants with a mixture of mystification, scorn and loathing. If you’re going to achieve democratic socialism the last thing you want is actual workers and peasants having a say in the process. They might not vote the right way. And if you hope to bring about the dictatorship of the proletariat it is essential at all costs to prevent the proletariat from becoming involved.

Lenin was a fine example of the type. His theorising ignored reality altogether. He was prepared to check his theories against the works of other theorists such as Marx but the idea of checking his theories against real-world facts never occurred to him.

In Pipes’ view the Russian Revolution was entirely driven by a very small number of radical intellectuals. The vast majority of the Russian population had no interest in a revolution. It was the intellectuals who wanted revolution. 

“But many of those who want to change the world regard human discontent as something not to be remedied but exploited. Exploitation of resentment, not its satisfaction, has been at the centre of socialist politics since the 1840s.”

Pipes also has this rather good quote on what makes left-wing intellectuals tick:

“...Ludwig von Mises thought that intellectuals gravitate to anti-capitalist philosophies ‘in order to render inaudible the inner voice that tells them that their failure is entirely their own fault.’ ”

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

whatever happened to Christian warriors?

A subject that has attracted my interest for a while now is the cause (or causes) of the failings of modern Christianity. Tonight a couple of recent comments on other people’s blogs have brought the subject back into my mind.

In a comment to a post on his blog Bruce Charlton says that “what was good about Franco's regime were factors absent from today's scene - Christian piety, and the military virtues such as courage and discipline.” And another comment on another blog (which I can’t find at the moment) made the claim that Christianity was a positive force when it was allied to an aristocratic warrior ethos. I tend to agree quite strongly with both these comments.

We tend to forget that after the fall of the Roman Empire in the West European civilisation was slowly and painfully rebuilt by the very barbarians who destroyed the power of Rome. They were still barbarians, but now they were Christian barbarians. Without Christianity they would have remained barbarians - they would have remained a destructive and negative force. Christianity was a much-needed civilising and softening force. To a certain extent Christianity feminised the barbarians - but only to a very limited and healthy degree.

But without the warrior ethos of the barbarians Christian civilisation could not have survived. It would have been too soft, too feminised, and would have been easy prey to other invaders. The Gothic invaders who had destroyed Rome added a necessary masculine element - they still retained the warrior virtues and they were prepared to fight to maintain their emerging civilisation.

In medieval times it was believed there were three main classes of people - those who worked (the peasants), those who prayed (the clergy) and those who fought (the nobles). It was clearly understood that all three classes were equally necessary.

The warrior ethos survived until the mid-20th century. It has now been swept away on a tide of guilt, self-righteousness, apathy, materialism, hedonism and selfishness. Europeans (and I include Americans, Canadians and Australians as well) no longer believe in fighting to preserve their civilisation. They’re not necessarily opposed to war - they’re often in favour of it if they don’t have to do the fighting (and ideally they’d like someone else to pay for it as well). They’re not opposed to sacrifice, as long as someone else makes the sacrifices. They’re not opposed to making an effort as long as someone else makes the effort. But the idea of risking their own precious skins to preserve their own civilisation horrifies them. Many are so self-hating that they don’t want their civilisation defended even if somebody else offers to do it. In fact many are openly overjoyed at the prospect of seeing their civilisation disappear down the gurgler.

A hundred years ago European men took it for granted that belonging to a civilisation entailed responsibility, and the ultimate responsibility was to risk their lives to defend that civilisation. All that has gone.

Without a warrior ethos Christianity has become unbalanced. It has descended into mealy-mouthed platitudes about human rights and tolerance. It has become excessively feminised. It has become Kumbaya Christianity. And Kumbaya Christianity is not going to save us.