David Stove — one of the fiercest defenders free thought has ever had — once wrote an essay arguing that in the long run, it would be better for the human race if anyone expressing what he called “the equality opinion” were shot.
François-Noël Babeuf, you’ll be shocked to learn, was a journalist. He was vain, dumb, and utterly convinced of the righteousness of his “revolutionary” opinions. But since Babeuf’s dates are 1760-1797, his opinions really were revolutionary. Specifically, they were equalitarian — so equalitarian, in fact, that he excoriated those other great Champions of Humanity, Maximilien Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety, for not going far enough. Equality “in fact” is what he wanted, not just “by proclamation.” He was afforded an excellent opportunity to express these views in his treason trial.
Stove credits Babeuf for both the courage of his convictions, and the simple, brutal logic of those convictions. There is no greater inequality than inequality of property. Since The Revolution was supposed to bring about equality — that’s the égalité part of liberté, égalité, fraternité — then The Revolution must institute common property. If it doesn’t, Babeuf said, then The Revolution is meaningless, and we’ve just exchanged one set of exploitative feudal masters for another.
Babeuf got the guillotine, of course (Privilege is always something other people have) but Stove says he got what he deserved. “The equality opinion,” Stove says — the notion that people can be made equal, in defiance of everything we know about the world — will always, inevitably, inexorably, end in a police state.
Stove’s logic is simple, brutal, Babeuf-ian (I think he’d savor the irony): Certain thoughts, like “the equality opinion,” are pathogens. They may not kill you right away (though in Babeuf’s case they did), but in the long run they are 100% fatal to any culture that tolerates them. Thus you can have either “free thought,” or you can have “the equality opinion.” Since the latter always destroys the former — plus the material, mental, and spiritual foundation on which it rests — “freedom of thought” turns out to entail at least one thought being ruthlessly proscribed.
Isn’t History fun? Everything comes around twice, as someone said — first as tragedy, then as farce. And what a farce it is! If we want to preserve any vestige of tolerant, open minded, liberal Western culture — so Babeuf-style reasoning would conclude — we need to resort to Bolshevik tactics.
So: What would a guy like Lenin do in this situation?
Marxism teaches that society is made up of Base and Superstructure. Marx was a man of his time, and his time was the middle of the 19th century, so he concluded that the Base upon which all culture rests is economic: The relations of the forces of production. Since V.I. Lenin had no problem rewriting the Scriptures, our Bizarro World Lenin would conclude that Marx was wrong — the Base isn’t economics, it’s biology.
Politics is downstream from culture, and culture is downstream from biology. Even though we’re talking about Lenin (albeit a Bizarro World version), it’s important to note that this is NOT some version of “genetic determinism.” Though human culture hit its apex in a London drawing room in 1902, there’s nothing specifically English about human culture — the world-conquering English were once, after all, blue-assed savages shivering naked on the edge of the Roman Empire. Any human culture past the mud-hovel level requires a certain IQ and a high future time orientation, yes, but those basic requirements allow almost infinite variation.
So: Decide the kind of culture you want to have, then get the biology that allows it.
[One of the things that sucks most about writing on the Internet is the knowledge that one’s readers are either not active enough, or all too active. (No insult intended to the fourteen people who actually read this thing on the regular — I know y’all follow me — but for everyone else). Right now, the not-active-enough reader would be expecting me to spell out the next steps — how, exactly, would our Bizarro World Lenin go about getting the biology that allows a given culture? What would his first steps be? And wouldn’t that mean…? Etc. Meanwhile, your all-too-active reader is a bot in a three-letter Federal agency, just waiting to pounce on certain combinations of words. This is why it’s useful to think about what Lenin would’ve done in such and such a situation, in that one can use words like “revolutionary activity” to describe them).
No matter what one decides, though, Lenin would have further advice. The historical Lenin’s great modification of Marxist doctrine was his assertion that the Proletariat will never develop the necessary “revolutionary consciousness” on its own. Rather, The Revolution requires a cadre of dedicated professional revolutionaries to teach The Masses, to help them realize the hopelessness of their situation. How that actually squares with The Scriptures, which proclaim The Revolution to be the inevitable outcome of Historical Forces, is anyone’s guess (though you’re welcome to have a crack at Lenin’s writings)…
…but ultimately it doesn’t matter, because that would be Lenin’s final piece of advice: Embrace contradiction. Marxist revolutionary activity is impossible without it, because Marxism is a Hegelian heresy and Hegel says the world only progresses via contradiction, but that doesn’t matter either. Look at where we started: The only guy who has never contradicted himself in this whole sordid mess of an essay is Babeuf, because he was a lunatic who sincerely believed that if true equality means turning all of us into lobotomized monkeys living in caves, well, so be it: Fiat justitia ruat caelum. That’s your choice, comrades (our Bizarro World Lenin would say): Embrace Bolshevik tactics to advance the cause of free and open society, or let free and open society stick us all in caves. (At least the lobotomies will be covered by Obamacare).Loading Likes...