This article appeared in a slightly different version at NRO.
The Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky once described Stalinism as “the perfect theory for glueing up the brain.” What he meant to dramatize was the fact that a regime as monstrous as Stalin’s, which murdered 40 million people and enslaved many times more, was nonetheless able to persuade progressives and “social justice” advocates all over the world to act as its supporters and defenders. These enlightened enablers of Stalin’s crimes included leading intellectuals of the day, even Nobel Prize winners in the sciences and the arts like Frederic Joliot-Curie and Andre Gide. Brilliant as they were, they were blind to the realities of the Stalinist regime and therefore of the virtues of the societies they lived in.
What glued up their brains was the belief that a brave new world of social justice – a world governed by progressive principles - existed in embryo in Soviet Russia, and had to be defended by any means necessary. As a result of this illusion, they put their talents and prestige at the service of the totalitarian enemies of democracy, acting, in Trotsky’s words, as “frontier guards” for the Stalinist empire. They continued their efforts even after the Soviets conquered Eastern Europe, acquired nuclear weapons and initiated a “cold war” with the West. To the progressives seduced by Stalinism, democratic America represented a greater evil than the barbaric police states of the Soviet bloc. Even half a century later a progressive culture still refers to the formative phase of the Cold War as years of a “Red Scare” – as though the fifth column of American progressives whose loyalties were to the Soviet enemy, whose members included Soviet spies, was not a matter of serious concern, and as though a nuclear-armed, rapacious Soviet empire did not pose a credible threat.
How were these delusions of otherwise intelligent and well-intentioned people possible? How were otherwise informed individuals able to deny the obvious and support the most brutal and oppressive dictatorship in history? How did they come to view a relatively humane, decent, democratic society like the United States as evil, while regarding the barbarous communist regime as its victim? The answer lies in the identification of Marxism with the promise of social justice and the institution of progressive values, which will take place in a magical socialist future. Defense of the progressive idea trumped recognition of the reactionary fact.
Once the Stalin regime was identified with the imaginary progressive future, everything followed – its status as a persecuted victim, and its adversary’s role as a reactionary force standing in the way of the noble aspiration. Every fault of the Stalin regime, every crime it committed if not denied by progressives was attributed to the nefarious actions of its enemies, most glaringly the United States. Once a promise of redemption is juxtaposed to an imperfect real world actor, all of these responses become virtually inevitable. Hence the glueing of the brain.
The Soviet Union is gone, and history has moved on. But the Stalinist dynamic endures as the heritage of a post-Communist left, which remains wedded to fantasies of an impossibly beautiful future that bring it into collision with the flawed American present. This left is now the dominant force in the Democratic Party. Its extreme disconnect from real world realities is encapsulated in its support for the transparently racist movement called Black Lives Matter, which attacks law enforcement and defends street predators, excusing their crimes with the alibi that “white supremacists” create the circumstances that make them commit criminal acts. This extremist movement has the “strong support” of the entire spectrum of the “progressive” left (including 46% of the Democratic Party, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC news poll).
Black Lives Matter is a movement built on the fiction that police have declared an open season on innocent blacks. According to progressive fictions, police are the agents of a “white supremacist society” – a claim alone that should make one wary of the sanity of those who advance it. Facts belie the very basis of the claim that there is open hunting season on African Americans. African American males, accounting for 6% of the population are responsible for more than 40% of violent crimes. But a Washington Post report on all 980 police shootings of 2015 reveals that only 4% of fatal police shootings involved white officers and black victims, while in three-quarters of the incidents, cops were either under attack themselves or defending civilians,” in other words,” as Michael Walsh observed in theNY Post, they were “doing their jobs.”
One such job done by Officer Darren Wilson in the suburb city of Ferguson, Missouri, became the launching point for the Black Lives Matter movement and its malicious claim that innocent blacks were being wantonly gunned down by racist police. The alleged “victim,” Michael Brown had just committed a strong-armed robbery and refused to comply with Wilson’s order to surrender. Instead the 300lb street thug attacked Wilson in his vehicle, tried to wrest his gun from him, and then walked away before turning and charging him. Several warning shots failed to stop Brown, until one killed him.
Ignoring the facts, Black Lives Matter promoted the lie invented by Brown’s robbery accomplice, that Brown had his hands up and was attempting to surrender when he was shot. “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” quickly became the anthem of the movement. But this lie was refuted not only by black eyewitnesses testifying before the Grand Jury, and by forensic evidence, but by a review conducted by the Holder Justice Department, otherwise bent on demonstrating the existence of bigotry in the Ferguson police department. Meanwhile Black Lives Matter went about setting fire to Ferguson, causing millions of dollars of damage, because if there was no justice – no hanging of Wilson - there would be no peace, as the now familiar lynch mob slogan framed it. Black Lives Matter then set about taking its crusade to other cities, most prominently to Baltimore, where a career criminal named Freddie Gray became another cause celebre. Gray had suffered fatal injuries inside a police van where only another captive was present. As the Black Lives Matter inspired mobs began to gather in “protest,” Baltimore’s black Democratic mayor ordered police to stand down allowing them to destroy millions of dollars of property. The state’s black Democratic prosecutor then indicted six officers, three of them African American, on various ludicrous charges including first degree murder, although none except the African American driver were in the van with Gray.
The immediate result of Black Lives Matter’s war on law enforcement was an epidemic of crime, as police officers decided that aggressive law enforcement was dangerous to their careers and lives. Homicides in the St. Louis Ferguson area and in Baltimore jumped 60% setting records in the annals of criminal mayhem. Virtually all the victims were blacks, revealing the hypocrisy of a movement for which black lives didn’t really matter – the attacks on the law enforcement and the “power structure” and on whites did.
How could any reasonable citizen – let alone one with progressive aspirations - support a roving lynch mob like Black Lives Matter? How could half the Democratic Party support a movement that condemns America as a white supremacist society, disregarding the reality that the president and chief law enforcement officer and thousands of civil servants and elected officials including the mayors and police chiefs of large urban centers, like Memphis, Atlanta, and Philadelphia are black? (In Detroit the new mayor is actually the first white mayor in 40 years, while its police chief is still black). You can embrace the absurdity that America is a white supremacist society only if you are afflicted with the illusion that everybody is the same and all statistical inequalities affecting African Americans, like high crime rates, are not reflections of culture and character but marks of racist oppression. (This particular absurdity - universal as it is among American progressives and the current U.S. Department of Justice - is easily refuted: If statistical disparities proved racism, the National Basketball Association in which 95% of the starting multimillionaires are black would be an association controlled by black racists, as would the National Football League, while the National Hockey League would be under the thumb of white racists.) Progressives are delusional about black racism and black crime because they are in thrall to the vision of an imaginary progressive future in which social justice will guarantee that every individual outcome is the same.
Blindness to the accountability of inner city populations for their off the charts violent crime rates, and their failures to shoulder the responsibilities of parenthood is as characteristic of the progressive attitude as is its blindness to the betrayal of inner city communities by Democrats and progressives. The disgraceful conditions of America’s large inner cities is almost entirely the responsibility of these two political actors. Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, St. Louis and numerous other sites of out-of-control black poverty, failed public school systems and black on black violence are 100% controlled by the Democratic Party and have been for 50 to 100 years. Yet 95% of the black vote and 100% of the progressive vote continues to go to Democrats who oppress African Americans.
Progressives’ sordid history of supporting criminals at home is accompanied by an equally dishonorable record of sympathy for America’s enemies abroad. The Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, was one of the monsters of the 20thCentury, launching two aggressive wars, dropping poison gas on the Kurds, and murdering 300,000 Iraqi citizens. But more than a million progressives poured into the streets of America to thwart our attempt to depose him. At first, the Democratic leadership supported the Iraq invasion as a just and necessary war. But three months into the war, with American men and women still in harm’s way, under pressure from the progressive left they turned against the war they had authorized, and for the next five years, conducted a malicious propaganda campaign, worthy of the enemy, to discredit America’s intentions and to obstruct its military mission.
Because the Bush administration chose not to defend itself by confronting the treasonous actions of the left – including the exposure and destruction of three national security programs – leftist myths about the Iraq War persist to this day, even in Republican circles. To set the record straight: Bush did not lie to seduce Democrats into supporting the war, and could not have done so, since the Democrats had access to the same intelligence he did. The war was not about stockpiles of Weapons of Mass Destruction, as Democrats dishonestly claimed – it was about Saddam’s violation of 17 UN Security Council resolutions designed to prevent him from pursuing the WMD weapons programs he had started. The Democrats’ betrayal of their country’s war effort crippled its progress, and with the election to the presidency of an anti-war leftist in 2009, led directly to the explosion of terrorism and bloodshed that has since engulfed the Middle East.