Between Anarchy and Opportunism

The Elite/Woke Alliance #4

When I say ideologue, I don’t necessarily mean a person consciously attached to a particular ideology, but a person who distorts their experience of reality in order to perceive what accords with their conclusions. In this sense, most everyone is an ideologue. I’m thinking it’s a gradient, and there are steps along the way to becoming so captured by your interpretative framework that you literally can’t think outside of it.

Of course “captured by ideology” sounds bad, and I’d say it very often is. Still, this state is closely related to a state of “conviction”, which is well-known as being particularly potent in getting things done. The problem really isn’t being convicted, but what a person is convicted by.

As Yeats famously put it:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Yeats published this in 1920, a few years after Lenin wrote STATE AND REVOLUTION, filled with passionate intensity and a conviction that would go on to create the authoritarian horror of the Soviet Union.

Yesterday a Marxist on Twitter provided me a thread to explain how equality within the capitalist democracies isn’t really equality, because of the way capital distorts the social order, essentially creating the playing field on which the democratic process operates.

Obviously this is true. The question is: what are you going to do about it?

In STATE AND REVOLUTION, Lenin takes on two principal ideological foes offering answers to this question: (1) those “opportunists” who would compromise by keeping the bourgeois state with its distorted playing field intact, (claiming that democratic control over this state can bring about a socialist society where all are represented and included); and (2) the anarchists who preached that the state should merely be smashed, as if by smashing the hierarchy they would achieve a world of true equality.

Lenin’s polemic against these opponents is founded on the idea of a middle way, which agrees with the anarchists that the state must be smashed, but only so as to establish the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, as a centralized means to dismantle existing structures of privilege and reeducate the population so that the society becomes capable of letting the state “wither away”. In short, for Lenin, communism is anarchy deferred to such time as a society is capable of being stateless. And this capacity can only be developed by an authoritarian dictatorship.

Sound familiar? It should.

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