Comrade Cognitive Dissonance Czar, I surrender — the field is yours.
What convinced me? This book — Cogs in the Wheel: The Formation of Soviet Man,
by Mikhail Heller. The author grew up in Russia and, after escaping, became a Sovietologist at the Sorbonne. He wrote this in 1987.
Heller shows, in excruciating detail, the methods the Kommisars used to forge the New Soviet Man. I want to highlight two things:
The importance of “dialectic.” I knew about dialectic, of course, since it’s fundamental to Marx’s thought. Problem is, “dialectical materialism” is so obviously false that it’s impossible for rational people to take it seriously. It’s just Hegel’s “thesis-antithesis-synthesis” junk, gussied up with some squid ink about Historical Inevitability. It’s no more scientific than Global Warming, though Marx, like all leftists, loved to pretend he was science’s BFF.* History, of course, is not a science, and a guy with Marx’s record on predictions would be laughed off the pages of the National Inquirer. Reasonable folks know it’s all bunk, stem to stern.
But who’s dumber, them or me? I assumed that leftists are rational, despite several lifetimes’ worth of evidence to the contrary. They really do believe there’s no such thing as a contradiction. The Law of the Excluded Middle means nothing to a Hegelian — apparent contradictions are just the World Spirit working itself out.** Thus, propositions can be both true and false at the same time, and none of their obviously incoherent and self-contradictory beliefs conflict, because the phrase “self-contradictory” is meaningless.
Deliberate infantilization. You know who else has no problem with the principle of non-contradiction? Children. Kids believe seventeen obviously impossible things every morning before breakfast. The Soviets knew this. One of their main cultural goals, then, was to maintain a child’s mentality in the population. Deliberate, systematic fear was Communist policy from the very start, and Lenin, Dzerzhinsky, et al made no secret of it. Tie that to the magic word “dialectic,” and soon the people learn, Pavlov-style, to parrot — and, eventually, believe — the Party line, even if today’s Party line is 180 degrees away from yesterday’s. The Nazis are our mortal enemies. The Nazis are our allies. Ooops, now they’re our enemies again. Failure to shift with the wind means you and your whole family are headed to Siberia, so you shift — dialectically.
Heller illustrates this with a horrifying anecdote from Soviet literature.*** The protagonist of a play called The Suicide declares himself “the only Russian completely free of fear” because he’s going to commit suicide at noon tomorrow. So, out of all possible alternatives, what does he do with his freedom? He calls a random number at the Kremlin, and tells whoever picks up the phone that he’s read Marx, and doesn’t like it.
It’s worth reading for that alone. But it’s fascinating to see just how close our Social Justice Warriors have come to turning themselves into New Soviet Men.
There’s the same disdain for manual labor. You’d think it odd, what with the whole “proletariat” thing, but the USSR quickly devolved into Faculty Lounge Nation — shoddy work, of the kind that would get a real prole shipped off to Siberia, was tolerated from those who were unquestionably loyal to the Party. Indeed, ideological purity came first, technical competence a distant second — the Soviets would routinely throw armies of illiterate peasants into “the battle for industrialization,” forcing them to build factories with zero training (Mao had an even more lunatic plan in the Great Leap Forward, forcing every collective farm to build smelters and produce steel on their non-agricultural hours). Being a “brain worker” was nearly synonymous with political influence in the USSR, and “brain work” jobs were awarded based on loyalty — such that even the factory designers often had no idea what they were doing.
There’s the same paranoia, and the same hate. Indeed, Soviets were taught that they were constantly under siege, and that hating their besiegers was a mark of virtue — the greater the hate, the purer the soul. The same hypervigilance for any deviation — Stalin said, more than once, that even the best workers might be secret “wreckers,” because wreckers needed to look like good workers in order to sabotage socialism more effectively. And, of course, the same antisemitism — the phrase “Zionism is racism,” which is the UN’s official position on the matter, came from the USSR.
And, of course, there’s the same refusal to bow to reality, with the same horrifying results. A Soviet investigative journalist (I honestly had no idea there was such a thing) took it upon himself to find out why the food in a particular town’s one cafeteria was so relentlessly awful. It turns out that this cafeteria needed to hit a “waste food” target to meet its numbers in the glorious Five Year Plan. The Planners were convinced that some losses were inevitable in any cafeteria, and so they set an amount of “waste food” to be collected and redistributed as animal feed. When the cafeteria served appetizing grub, they weren’t getting enough “waste.” So, since they’d meet the “plates of food distributed” target no matter what they handed out, they served up the most wretched glop they could — the workers refused to eat it, and hey presto, waste food target fulfilled.
One could go on and on. Heller’s prose isn’t the sharpest — he’s an academic, and this is in translation — but it’s a riveting read nonetheless. And it’s a fine piece of writing that can change a guy’s mind on so large a topic as cognitive dissonance. Check it out — Amazon says you can get a used one for a penny. Just exercise caution; you don’t want to end up on a government list for knowing something you shouldn’t about their future plans.
*For those who know me as the “it all comes back to Marx” guy over at House of Eratosthenes… are y’all starting to see that it really does all come back to Marx? He was the first to “fucking love science,” and the left have been beating that horse ever since.
**Yes, Hegel really does believe this. Read any short summary of his thought. You’ll have to translate it into plain English — nobody wants to believe that so many Very Smart Philosophers with PhDs have been taken in by such a shitty con — but when you do, you’ll see it plain as day.
***Too bad this stuff isn’t available in translation. It’d be nice to see what Our Betters, the Liberals, have in store for us.