The Greatest Revolution

13 juni 2024 | Carl Benjamin

Based on a speech given to the Young FVD Congress held at Scheveningen, 8 June 2024

“The issue is never the issue. The issue is always the Revolution.” 

This catch phrase is usually used as a kind of catch-all method of explaining the otherwise inexplicable behaviour of leftists as they collectively align on bizarre non-issues or causes which would seem to go against their own best interests - such as gender neutral toilets, advocacy of mass immigration, the ideological defence of Islam, or gay representation in movies. 

While these subjects appear disparate and contradictory, there is a consistent thread which underpins and binds them, which we colloquially call “wokeness” to encompass and identify the consistent impulse which drives its advocates. 

There is a method in their madness.  What might otherwise appear to be silly and disconnected demands are actually expressions of the same political motive: a communist revolution by other means. 

Revolutions are traditionally understood to herald a new form of government. Ancient Greek thought viewed the cyclical nature of government as transitioning from aristocracy to democracy, then from democracy to autocracy, and then back to aristocracy. This is a straightforward pattern which can be easily explained: the problems with the existing form of government are cleansed by the revolution, which over time accrues its own problems which themselves are washed away by the next revolution. The cycle continues because it serves a necessary function. 

However, since the advent of liberalism, this cycle has been broken. No longer is the common view of the historical process cyclical.  Instead we assume a linear whiggish view which holds that liberal democracy is the final form of governance along an ever-rising trajectory of technological progress. 

What is liberalism?  Liberalism as an ideology makes two promises: that each person will have liberty, and each person will have equality. 

Liberty and equality are commonly be understood to be contradictory values but liberalism harmonises them by performing a thought experiment called the ‘state of nature'. To justify a radical restructuring of the state, early liberal thinkers imagined what man’s existence would have looked like before he entered society. This would give them an idea of what man’s “natural” state was.  From this, they could rationally derive man’s original rights. The state would then be charged with protecting and advancing these rights in the face of purportedly man-made social “chains”, as Rousseau put it in the first line of The Social Contract

Pre-social man was characterised according to the disposition of each philosopher: for Hobbes, he was a violent brute; for Locke, he was peaceful and contemplative; for Montesquieu, he was fearful and flighty; for Rousseau, he was a disinterested free spirit. But for each of them, man was alone - and made the conscious choice to enter into society and leave the state of nature. 

What this mythology accomplished was to turn the origins of society and the state into a mechanical, consensual human construct. Both society and the state were created by man for his benefit. The legitimacy of the state was, therefore, contingent on its ability to act in accordance with the consent of the governed for the protection of their natural (or civil) rights. A state which did not sufficiently protect the rights of its citizens was illegitimate and oppressive, and deserved to be dissolved or overthrown. 

This was the cause which was taken up by the English colonists in 1776 to justify breaking free from the British crown and the French bourgeoisie in 1789 to justify the overthrow of the king and the aristocracy. However, these revolutionary projects were only a half-way house towards the promise that liberalism made in its original position. Indeed, the established royalty and aristocracy needed to be overthrown to provide liberty but that left equality as an unfulfilled promise.  To those people who desire it, equality throbs like an exposed wound.

It is the attack on the hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie which gives Marx’s and Engels' Manifesto of the Communist Party such ferocious moral force. The bourgeoisie had “pitilessly torn asunder” the “sentimental veil” that bound men together and reduced all interaction to a “mere money relation”. The viciousness of this attack on liberalism can be justified: it is hard to argue that the bourgeoisie did not simply stop where it felt it convenient, instead of properly fulfilling their promises of liberty and equality for all mankind. 

The proletariat, the industrial working class, was therefore viewed by Marxists as in contradiction with the liberal order and the source of the energy required to fully complete the liberal revolution.  This is the purpose of communism. Marxists believed that the inherent contradictions in the liberal order would cause a worldwide worker’s revolution to establish communism. 

Though, conceptually, the materialist frame of liberalism may well have been the de-facto ruling principle of the rapidly-emerging modern world, people generally – and the working class specifically – still held deep romantic sentiments towards their own countries and did not wish to give them up. 

By the end of the 19th Century, it was evident that the worldwide communist revolution was not going to happen. The liberals had settled into liberal democracy as a satisfactory way to protect liberty and property, and capitalism proved to be a flexible enough system to begin to bring its luxuries to the proletarian underclass. Therefore, communist thinkers, who were the only faction left to advance the pure liberal ideal, realised that revolutionary socialism – the doctrine by which they expected to advance to the next stage of the revolution – had failed. 

This left them on the horns of a dilemma that appeared to offer a tripartite solution. The least appealing to most socialists was to change the ideal itself and develop a new system of socialism. Some, such as Giovanni Gentile and Benito Mussolini, accomplished this by blending Italian syndicalism with French interpretations of communism, to create fascism. This, while successful enough initially, was evidently not going to bring about the liberal ideal; instead, it abandoned the ideal completely and instead turned to deifying the state (or in the case of Nazism, the race).  

A second alternative was the creation of a communist vanguard, developed by Vladimir Lenin. The state and bourgeois society was not simply going to abolish itself so a well-organised group of communist revolutionaries instead had to bide their time, until the state showed weakness, and then attempt to overthrow it by force. Lenin was successful in this goal in 1917 after overthrowing the Provisional Government in Russia, in the October Revolution.  However, the Soviet system of communism also failed to bring about the liberal ideal.  It instead degenerated into a tyranny which mirrored the despised fascist system. The Soviet system eventually collapsed under its own weight, as the horrors of the Bolshevik regime and the widespread immiseration of the population became too much to bear in the face of the successful capitalist West. 

The third method was through what was called Fabianism, named after the Roman consul Fabius “the delayer” Maximus, who kept Rome safe during the Hannibalic invasion of Italy in the Second Punic War. The Fabians adopted for their logo a wolf in sheep’s clothing, which aptly summarised their strategy: they would achieve socialism by subversion, creeping through institutions and moulding society to slowly produce the desired outcome. This was the method adopted in Britain.

It is this method by which modern “woke” ideology has proliferated through society and accomplished its victories, through a long period of time on the outside of mainstream discourse, in which the communist revolutionaries reflected on their own failures and strategised about how their worldview could be brought about. 

While imprisoned by the Italian fascists, the communist revolutionary, Antonio Gramsci, wrote his Prison Notebooks, which were published posthumously in 1947. One of the most useful contributions Gramsci made to the revolution was that the revolution required a weak society to be successful. The revolution in the East had worked because civil society was dilapidated, with very little faith in public institutions. When the communists attacked these, there was minimal defence. However, in the West, civil society was strong and people believed in their institutions, therefore they could not be easily defeated. 

Attacking the state had merely revealed the entrenchments behind it which propped it up. If the communists were to win, these would have to be overcome. It was to achieve this goal that Frankfurt School theoreticians developed critical theory. Marcuse described critical theory as an entirely negative doctrine, whose purpose was to reveal and dismantle the social institutions which held up the West. In One-Dimensional Man, published in 1964, Marcuse observed that it is in the language itself that the totemic power of liberal ideas sets down its unchallengeable foundations, in words such as “freedom”, “democracy”, “equality”, etc. This “closes the discourse” surrounding the value of said ideas, eliminating the gap between describing and judging, and rendering any opposition to them outside of the realm of the possible. 

It became evident, then, that it would have to be from within these foundations that the society of the West could be attacked. Critical theory was adopted by a dissident group of communist legal scholars at Harvard University who formed a movement named Critical Legal Studies (CLS).  They held that the law was inextricably intertwined with the issues of power and domination Marcuse and his fellow Frankfurt alumni had identified as the struts holding up Western society. 

Being American, issues of race, rather than class, came to the fore.  A group of legal academics broke away from Critical Legal Studies to form a philosophy which came to be known as Critical Race Theory. From this group, the legal scholar, Kimberle Crenshaw, began the process of knitting critical theory’s negative critique together with American race relations. In her 1988 essay Race, Reform and Retrenchment: Transformation and Legitimation in Antidiscrimination Law, Crenshaw calls for a Gramscian “war of position”, in which the communists slowly but surely, little by little, whittle away at the legitimacy of the state by redefining the foundational words which Marcuse identified as acting as closed totems for liberal society, in order to develop a counter-hegemony which might overcome “white” society. 

This could be done simply by expanding and exploding the definitions of the foundational terms used by liberal democracy. Crenshaw gave the example of the “expansive” and “restrictive” views of civil rights: the restrictive view believes that the process determines a fair result, whereas the expansive view holds that an equal result is fair, regardless of the process. By conflating the two contradictory approaches in the same term, Crenshaw was able to cast doubt on the process itself, leading to a self-consuming witch hunt within the institution of civil rights as the hunt for “racism” begins in earnest, never able to identify a racist but identifying racism everywhere. 

She noted that the same mechanism could be applied to various other “oppressed” categories, such as homosexuals, transsexuals, immigrants, etc, in order to form an active political coalition which could overthrow the hegemonic normal society. 

Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality” in her 1991 essay Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color. In this work, she identified the mechanism by which society could be attacked via a legal method. There is a hole in liberal civil rights law, in which certain categories – such as ‘woman’ or ‘black’ – are given special legal status and protections.  But the intersection between them – such as ‘black women’ –, allows oppression to occur due to this blindness in the law. It is this newfound ability to highlight and prioritise marginal minority concerns against the wider society, and to depict our own institutions as oppressive, which we colloquially call “wokeness”. 

The phenomenal success of Crenshaw’s war of position, in which she, and the other critical theorists, have managed to turn society against its own institutions, cannot be understated. We see this everywhere: opposition to capitalism, calls to defund the police, calls for the abolition of prisons, the abolition of borders, and in the declaration that every educational standard is inherently racist.  

This method of attacking liberal democracy works against every liberal democracy because it comes from within liberalism itself. In liberalism’s original position, it promises liberty and equality but fails to adequately deliver on equality. Liberty is a fairly easy thing to establish, but doing so guarantees inequality, and the communists have been able to leverage this to their advantage ever since. Because the attack is made using principles the liberal already holds, his defences against it cannot come from within liberalism. 

This has been a brief summary of the centuries-long communist assault on liberalism, of which woke is merely the latest iteration. It is important to remember that the communist revolution is, in reality, the true spirit of the liberal revolution. The liberal revolution promised to be the greatest revolution of all. 

No longer was a revolution merely to replace a dysfunctional government in the model of aristocracy-democracy-autocracy. Instead, liberals decides that society itself could be oppressive.  The revolution then needed to be the process of returning mankind to its purported state of nature, so that we might live as the liberals believed we had in the dawn of time. 

This is the telos of liberalism and communists are merely carrying its torch. Until we conclude that the mythology of the state of nature is a nonsensical fiction, and admit that absolute freedom and equality are, in fact, undesirable goals, the revolution will continue until everything good that we have built up over the centuries has been destroyed. 


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