Is progressivism a grandson of communism, or a cousin?
I am far from the first to note that communism is a religion. Those who were believers and got out are most insistent of this, comparing the social and psychological break to apostasy from a particularly nasty and enveloping cult. Americans have little appreciation of that these days. Those who left the Catholic Church after the 60’s have some understanding, perhaps, but even that is quite mild in comparison. You have to go to splinter Mormon groups, or Jehovah’s Witnesses, or one of the many small fundamentalist groups that preached removal from the world and refused to associate with you once you left to get the same intensity. (I will treat with political breaks in a subsequent post.)
There are variants – denominations, if you will – of communist belief: Marxist-Leninist, Trotskyite, Maoist, and a hundred subgroups according to region and culture. Because the Chinese and Russian spheres were so large, we got to thinking of them as parent churches of all these little denominations. Or if we pushed the history back a bit further, we thought of Marxism itself as the parent church, with Soviet, Western intellectual, and Far Eastern communism as major branches of that faith.
I am going to push that back one step further philosophically. Communism is itself a denomination of an older and deeper faith. I am not going to spring any theological tricks on you here, pulling back the cape with aflourish to reveal that they are really Albigensians, or Freemasons, or Gnostics. The religion that marxism springs from is not formal or visibly identified.
Perhaps “deeply-held religious sentiment” or “pervasive human ideal” would be more accurate descriptions than religion, but those are unwieldy. Also, I want the meaning and impact of concepts like faith, heresy, and cult to permeate this discussion.
Some conservatives, especially when they get rolling, like to refer to Obama, or Democrats, or liberals as communists. They cite evidences of similarity of belief, of tactics, of schema, in an effort to make this label stick. Progressives consider this merely ridiculous – overheated rhetoric by people who cannot see the obvious. Yet if one regards marxism as but a branch of some larger faith, with socialism, communal living, progressivism, and a dozen other beliefs as separate denominations of the same faith, we can give both extremes credit for being half-right. And notably, both extremes are more correct than the moderates on this, for the answer does not lie between the two extremes but outside them. To call progressives the same as communists is both half-ridiculous and half-true. (I note with some disquiet that “the people” have suddenly acquired the means of production in the huge American auto industry.) It would be like calling Jews and Muslims the same because they are both monotheistic, or Baptists and Copts the same because both are Christian. Half true, half ridiculous.
That’s enough for the first post.