Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mr. Hitchens and Fascism


"In the waning days of the campaign, John McCain took to accusing Obama of being a socialist. The epithet lacked traction. There were, I think, two main reasons for that. One was the fact that McCain was a poor messenger for his own ideas: he never really articulated his position in a compelling way. The second reason is that many people who have not had the misfortune of actually living under under a socialist regime regard it as a jolly good thing. Socialism, as Joshua Muravchik noted in his book Heaven on Earth: the Rise and Fall of Socialism, was “the most popular political idea ever invented.”
It was also undoubtedly the bloodiest. Of course, many who profess socialism are decent and humane people. And it is worth noting that socialism comes in mild as well as tyrannical versions. Muravchik, who was once a socialist himself, pays frequent homage to the generous impulses that lie behind some allotropes of the socialist enterprise. Nevertheless, he acknowledges that “regimes calling themselves socialist have murdered more than one hundred million people since 1917.” Why?
A large part of the answer lies in the intellectual dynamics of utopianism. “Utopia” is Greek for “nowhere”: a made-up word for a make-believe place. The search for nowhere inevitably deprecates any and every “somewhere.” Socialism, which is based on incorrigible optimism about human nature, is a species of utopianism. It experiences the friction of reality as an intolerable brake on its expectations. “Utopians,” the philosopher Leszek Kolakowski observed in “The Death of Utopia Reconsidered,” “once they attempt to convert their visions into practical proposals, come up with the most malignant project ever devised: they want to institutionalize fraternity, which is the surest way to totalitarian despotism.”

What socialism is he talking about? France? Italy? They were much bloodier in the Republic phase of their development, and, really, doesn't six weeks of vacation sound good right about now?

If you are talking about Marxist countries (Russia, China, Cuba) then I would agree -- Yes, they are bad, and a good example of failed states (although China does seem to have more money than us, and Cuba has better health care, for their blacks anyway.)

You really fall into the nut job category if you think Obama is heading towards us becoming a Marxist or Utopian nation. A more reasonable thing to say might be, “Obama may make us much more like Germany if he gets his way.” or, "Obama makes me feel better about the future now that he has become President."

'Utopia,' or is it just a feeling of Camelot again?

Socialism is a very loaded word -- it might be nice if he explained what he meant by it.
And remember – Hitchen's tried to get us calling Al QaedaIslamo-fascism” when Fascism was probably the furthest stretch imaginable for what Islamic extremists are all about.

Hitchen’s did it for the WORD Fascism – concentration camps, that sort of thing – not because it was real, but because he could inflame people with the connection, just as you are using the word socialism.

Sort of Goebbelish if you think about it, (I'm using the illustration that right wing republicans are closer to Hitler than Reagan these days.

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