The Strange Rise of Bourgeois Bolshevism

Socialism in the United States has gone mainstream. Bernie Sanders’ two presidential campaigns show that it is a flourishing political movement. It has widespread sympathy amongst Americans, especially younger Americans. Yet liberals and conservatives tend to treat the topic with the assumption that the new American socialism is an extension of traditional twentieth century European socialism, with similar political and economic aims.

American socialism, however, is not this kind of socialism. As I argued last fall in the Washington Examiner, American socialism is distinct from traditional European socialism, and rejects essential tenets thereof. It is a new, home-grown ideology, a made-in-America socialism. In this Law & Liberty essay, I shall analyse the unique ideological passions composing the new American socialism, which circumscribe its differences from traditional European socialism and define its characteristics and aims.

Socialism and the Anti-Bourgeois Passion

By traditional European socialism, I mean the Marxian-inflected 20th century political movements, which, focused on the economic plight of the working class in a capitalist economy, built their political programs and parties around the theme of class struggle. This socialism is neither Leninism nor Stalinism. European socialist parties contended that economic change had to happen not through violent revolution, but through democracy.

Yet socialists were not social democrats—that is, mere economic reformers. They shared the Leninist goal of ending capitalism: they remained, as Jean Jaurès once put it, the “party of opposition” to the whole capitalist system, the exploitative system of exchange based off pursuit of profit.

Traditional socialism’s theory and practice developed out of what François Furet in The Passing of an Illusion called “the oldest, most constant, most powerful passion,” the “hatred of the bourgeoisie.” The bourgeoisie came into existence not as a political class with an assigned role in the political regime, but as a class that owed its status to its capacity to create and acquire wealth. The bourgeois are defined entirely by economics. They bring into existence the new economic system of capitalism. Moreover, the bourgeois are not defined by the values of particular political or religious traditions. They bring with themselves the fundamental freedom to acquire more property and wealth. Contending that this freedom should belong equally to everyone, the bourgeois brandish the universal values of liberty and equality, as well rights of contract, free association, and the right to choose their own conceptions of happiness: “in short, the idea of individual autonomy, in opposition to all earlier societies based on dependence.” This combination of social, economic changes and the dissemination of universal values created an entirely new society.

Socialism confronted the bourgeois for their contradictions. The bourgeois were the agents disseminating unjust social and economic transformations: Touting equality, they exacerbated economic inequality. They gave class struggle an acute, painful form, because the sufferings of the working class, caused by the commercial practices of the bourgeoisie, were almost—but not quite—de-legitimised by the universalist ideology of the bourgeoisie. The bourgeois became socialism’s villain. They had to be attacked for both their economic exploitation as well as for their ideology of “individual autonomy.” The proletariat, in turn, became socialism’s hero. They had to be defended as the class with the power to end the contradictions of capitalism and redeem society. Marx’s contribution was to make these observations scientific.

The practical aim of socialism was to end capitalism, which meant defeating the bourgeois and suppressing their profit motive. This required organising the means of production away from the profit motive. Throughout the twentieth century, socialist parties defined their strategy to do so through state ownership of the means of production.

How American Socialism Transforms the Anti-Bourgeois Passion

Self-styled American socialists leave this behind. They define socialism not by government control of the economy or by state ownership of the means of production, but rather in terms of an open-ended commitment to equality. This shift shows how American socialists are punting the elimination of capitalism—supposedly the goal of the “party of opposition” to capitalism—to an ill-defined future. Certainly the anti-capitalist rhetoric persists, but the emphasis on an open-ended equality, rather than a strategy for eliminating capitalism, has changed socialism’s characteristics and aims. The clearest sign of this is how American socialists de-emphasize economic class struggle.

This was the most important difference between Bernie Sanders in 2016 and Bernie Sanders in 2020. When Sanders first ran for President, he largely focused on the “social question” of economic class. However, Sanders became vulnerable to the charge— peddled by the intellectual wing of the Clinton campaign—that he was insufficiently attentive to race and identity issues. So in 2020, to give his campaign a wider reach, Sanders clarified that he was not just fighting oligarchy. In a June 2019 speech, he named “oligarchy, corporatism, nationalism, racism and xenophobia” as his foes. These are connected because oligarchs encourage “violent rage against minorities.” Sanders connected his call for economic redistribution with a call to focus on the concerns of minorities, naming “women,” “people of color,” “immigrants,” and “members of the LGBT community.” “Class struggle” has transformed into the struggle on behalf of an open- ended, ever-growing category of “minorities.”

The most important consequence of de-emphasising class struggle is that socialism becomes much less hostile to the bourgeois. To hide this shift, American socialists’ open-ended struggle on behalf of the minorities tries to pass itself off as continuous with the old class struggle, and therefore as continuous with the old anti-bourgeois passion. But there is in fact a great chasm between the two.

American socialism offers an alternative explanation of the classical theme of economic inequality, why some are wealthy and others are not. Under the logic of traditional socialism, class is the barrier to economic prosperity. If class were eliminated, then wider prosperity would be possible. But if the struggle is to equalize minorities, the principal barriers to economic prosperity are now sexism, racism, xenophobia, and homophobia. These serve to explain economic inequality, and if these were eliminated, then wider prosperity would be possible. So the obstacles to equality are different. As the list of ‘isms’ and ‘phobias’ grows, it becomes clear that we are not talking about how dysfunctional economic relations prevent materially similar communities from enjoying the fruits of economic production. This new socialism expands the list of ‘isms’ and ‘phobias’ because its intention is to indicate how unjust these forms of discrimination are. The explanation for why they are unjust is that they thwart individual self-expression, individual self-determination, or most fundamentally, individual self-creation. But this is tantamount to defending the “idea of individual autonomy” that traditional socialism attacked.

The task American socialists have set themselves is to achieve and sustain a culture of free self-creation. But this culture, the culture of individual autonomy, grows out of the bourgeois. The social conditions that make bourgeois life possible, and contribute to its expansion, also make the culture of individual autonomy possible, and contribute to its expansion.  However bohemian this culture of self-creation may aspire to be, then, its conditio per quam is bourgeois: bourgeois social conditions and bourgeois morality. It cannot escape its bourgeois origins. What emerges is the bourgeois-bohemian, the “bobo”: the champion of freedom as self-expression, self-determination, and self-creation, whose social condition is inescapably bourgeois.

The bobos denounce the bourgeois from within the bourgeois, an activity as old as the French Revolution. The old activity denounced the bourgeois for their politically conservative attitudes that opposed revolution. The new activity, making support for individual autonomy and self-creation the decisive issue, has the bobos denounce the bourgeois for their attitudes that are hostile to individual autonomy and self-creation, the practices that hold minorities back and get in the way of equality. Let us call these the practices of acknowledged dependency, whose paramount examples are found in familial and religious life.

By scrutinizing the bourgeois for these practices of acknowledged dependency, the bobos denounce the bourgeois in the name of bourgeois principles. Yet rapidly the question arises: why should we assume that only the bourgeois have “problematic” attitudes that are hostile to self-creation? We must scrutinize all of society, including the lower, working classes, as they might also share in those problematic attitudes that hold minorities back and get in the way of equality. And what a minefield we find! So for the new socialism, the primary target for social criticism shifts from the bourgeois to the working class. The working class now falls under permanent suspicion.

There are three strategies to try and fit the new wine of minority struggle within the old wineskins of class struggle. To target the bourgeois again, we can play the card of ideology-formation, arguing that it is the bourgeois who are teaching problematic attitudes to the working class (e.g., oligarchs encouraging violent rage against minorities). But when one thinks of the social and political attitudes of Fortune 500 CEOs and the propertied denizens of New York and San Francisco, this argument is empirically unsustainable.

Second, we can adjust the class struggle thesis so that the propertied bourgeois are no longer the problem. The new class struggle is between the super rich, the 1% of Wall Street and big business, and the rest of us. Sanders often addressed this theme in his campaign speeches, but there are two problems with this approach. The first problem is that this approach, at best, targets capitalism only indirectly. As Norman Thomas observed, to attack the sins of big business as a progressive like FDR did is not to attack the profit system per se. The second problem is that it suppresses another plausible interpretation of the new class struggle: it is not the 1%, but the 10%, against the rest. This new class struggle interpretation counters that focusing on the problem of the 1% permits the 10% of the bobos to peddle critiques that are radical, but not radical enough to threaten their way of life.

Third, we can argue that a new, multi-ethnic, multi-minority working class updates the framework of economic materialism. We need to overcome the ‘isms’ because they hold the minorities within the working class back. But stressing the minorities therein rather than the working class itself gives the game away. It is another way of saying that all of the working class is equal, but some are more equal than others. We cannot have working class solidarity when half the working class is potentially racist.

American socialism does not defy but rather kneels before the bourgeois. It may criticize individual autonomy in the market for producing inequality, but its concern is mainly that inequality infringes on the autonomy of other individuals, their capacity for self-creation. This is what American socialists tend to mean when they say the liberal economy is “undemocratic.” As Furet observed in the early 1990s, the American left wishes to extend, not condemn, bourgeois life. In non-economic domains, the imperative of extension is obvious. American socialism zealously promotes individual autonomy. In the pursuit of self-expression, it turns the residents of Greenwich Village and the bathhouses of San Francisco into ideal character-types. But now we must address another question. Greenwich Village’s individualist self-creation and its defenders are over a hundred years old. Its sub-cultures survived and thrived. Whence the imperative to extend the bobo culture of self-creation? Whence the imperative to denounce those who hesitate to extend it? The origins of this moral passion lie in the singularly American phenomenon of the civil rights movement.

The Passion for Equality and Bourgeois Guilt

Furet argued that the major transformation of the American left came from its desire to imitate the civil rights era. The civil rights crusaders, closely associated with American Progressivism, worked to remedy a unique wound in American history: the inability of Blacks to participate in the American Dream because of the history of Black slavery and the persistence of legalized racial segregation. The successes of this era constituted the main moral passion of the American left. Moreover, it was successful in large part because it gave theological meaning to that moral passion. Furet had observed that the bourgeois had a “guilty conscience” at their core. In the American landscape, theology provoked it. The practice of civil rights leaders, notably King, was far from the secular public reason that a later generation of liberalism tried to extract from the era. Read through the Bible and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural, the Declaration of Independence became a text in civic theology, a hope for racial equality, a call to action, and a faith in the power to heal America’s wound. This theology turned desegregation from an elite cause into a mass movement, culminating in the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

As the specific struggle of the 1960s became more of a memory, however, the moral passion became increasingly abstract. The generations that missed the sixties turned the civil rights era into a readily applicable analogy to all other fights against inequality. Furet observed that American feminists first claimed equal access to work as a “minority group,” a “literally absurd claim” only intelligible by reference to the Black experience. Then there came the call for equalizing ethnicities new to American soil with older ethnicities; then equalizing sexual orientations; and now in the 21st century, equalizing gender identities. For their enthusiasts, each of these struggles—always a struggle on behalf of a “minority”—replicates the moral crusades of the 1960s.

Moreover, the theological concepts did not fall out of use; they became displaced from the referents that gave them specific content. Victimhood remained sacred and the moral authority for victimhood remained. But its uses became more vague, more careless, and more instrumentalised. Black Americans wear the crown of thorns, giving them their moral authority. But displaced from the Black experience and coupled with an open-ended, abstract passion, applications of the concept multiplied, along with claims to moral authority. Decades of proliferating the crown of thorns reference across the American landscape has provoked new tensions, and not all minorities remain victims. The old moral authority of some minorities passes on to new minorities (in Furet’s example, from Jews to Muslims). Moreover, if not one but many American minorities wear the crown of thorns, then its application now diminishes the unique significance of its initial application to Black Americans. They become just more victims of oppression.

We can differentiate the displaced theology of this moral crusade from Marxism. There is no repetition of Marxism’s messianism for the working class. Marxian-inflected socialism turned the working class into an agent bestowed with moral freedom to end capitalism. When this failed to happen, socialists projected this failure onto an impersonal, deterministic “system,” contending that when this state of affairs no longer holds, its limits and failures will no longer exist. But for the present, this impersonal system made everyone part of a historically conditioned and determined phase of society, abandoning moral agency.

By endorsing the open-ended struggle on behalf of the minorities, American socialism uses the language of the civil rights era to project its limitations onto an impersonal “system”—here, the systems of minority oppression that characterise American life. This echoes traditional socialism’s crudest determinisms, but with new content. Human beings are no longer passive objects of determined economic processes; now they are passive objects of determined racialised-sexualised processes. But there is no moral agent at hand to remove this system, no messianic “proletariat” at hand to break the chains. The best one can do is become aware of one’s place within these systems by listening to those with victimhood status. Moral agency only appears as guilt, with no opportunity for pardon. And there is a particular agent expected to bear this guilt. The new villain is not the bourgeois, but the white heterosexual American Christian male.

American socialism is more post-Christian than traditional socialist Marxism, because none of those minorities it alleges wears the crown of thorns can serve as a messiah. Its moral crusade has no soteriology, no redemption. Socialism defines the American landscape through a truncated messianism that multiplies moral authority for victimhood and extracts guilt from its new villain. Faced with so many victims and so many claims to moral authority, the bobo vanguard, who often share the characteristics of the villain, are left not with hatred of the other who wounded the victim, but with their own guilt—and without forgiveness, they are left only with self-hatred.

The Revolutionary Passions of American Socialism

Self-hatred is an old theme in democracy. For Furet, self-hatred gives democracy an:

infinite capacity to produce offspring who detest the social and political regime into which they were born—hating the very air they breathe, though they cannot survive without it and have known no other.

American socialism intensifies this passion for self-hatred across all political and social life. Its clearest manifestations are self-hating American bobos who channel their hatred toward the institutions of American democracy. In the Examiner, I argued that the revolutionary passion American socialism stokes leads to a direct assault on American constitutionalism. But another side is a passion for cultural revolution.

Traditional socialism could practice cultural revolution. It aimed to battle the ravages of capitalism by forming new cultural communities for the working class. Yet that response to the social question is long gone. In its place are the new battlegrounds that Jean-Pierre Le Goff spotted: history, environmentalism, children’s literature, formal education of children, and human sexuality, where victory means extirpating the conscious and unconscious prejudices that belong to the villain’s culture. The goal is to negate the entirety of the existing culture.

To achieve that goal the bobos become “bo-Bolsheviks.” Commentary on “woke” ferocity is now abundant, so I shall limit myself to four observations. First, the Leninist nomenclature is appropriate because the very concept of the “woke” is a carnival mirror of Bolshevism. As any erudite 20th century Marxist knew, Lenin’s innovation on Marxism was that it was impossible to wait for the proletariat to become self-aware on their own. Bolshevism contended that only an intellectual elite endowed with superior knowledge could start the revolution. The very concept of “woke” is explicitly this invocation of superior knowledge that the many do not possess.

Second, with bo-Bolshevism we observe substitutionist politics. In substitutionist politics, one substitutes a real unanimous will not yet agreed upon with the will of a vanguard minority. As Charles Taylor observed in his critique of the left, Leninism is subsitutionist politics. In Leninism, a vanguard takes over on behalf of the proletariat, creating a super-subject of the proletariat, to whom the vanguard imputes a will or a direction of history in which it wishes to move. This presupposes unanimity. So the vanguard’s task is to suppress those within the class or super-subject who think differently. American socialism is different in that it multiplies the amount of super-subjects: there are many minorities. But there is only one vanguard, the “woke.”  To enforce unanimity, the vanguard deploys its activists, media-adjuncts, and ultimately the power of the state not to persuade but to destroy opponents. The vanguard seeks to destroy rather than to persuade because persuasion involves compromise with those who have reservations about some of particular practical goals of the moral crusade, as well as self-examination about the whole theoretical basis for the moral crusade. The upshot of these hesitations is to risk falling back unto mere reformism, giving up the revolutionary passion. The vanguard cannot allow this. A revolution permits no obstacles, delays, or scruples.

Third, bo-Bolshevism’s revolutionary character is a consequence of understanding freedom as self-determination or self-creation. The aim is to create a world in which individuals can recreate themselves out of themselves. This project fights on the aforementioned battlegrounds to seek out and destroy the practices of acknowledged dependency therein—the religious and family practices, and their determinations in law and politics, which limit the capacity of persons to recreate themselves. The passion for this project can power destruction and transformation for a long time.

Fourth, bo-Bolsheviks develop a new kind of Leninism that serves the goal of self-creation: libertine-Leninism. Yet this goal is not unlike the goal of individual autonomy that American liberalism promulgates. American liberals and socialists tend to ape each other’s account of what constitutes legitimate politics. No one gets cancelled for advocating flat taxes, but if you voice disagreement with a wholly social constructivist understanding of gender, your public speaking days are numbered. Yet this is what American liberalism argued all along: once the benign restrictions to “public reason” are accepted and the liberal state built, then the only legitimate kind of political discussion left is economic management. American socialism is closer to American liberalism than its practitioners care to admit.

American Socialism’s Qui Quem

American socialists equivocate between socialism and the American tradition of liberal Progressivism. This is departure from most of the 20th century. Progressives rejected socialism and sought economic reform through the means of technocratic, managerial liberalism. Socialists accused Progressives of entrenching state capitalism, since their raison d’être was to end capitalism.

Bernie Sanders, however, has presided over a cunning rapprochement between socialism and Progressivism, obliging his progressive competitors to be friendly to socialism. Yet rapprochement goes both ways. Sanders cleaves to the state capitalism that socialists once spurned. The political program American socialists propose—from free college and cancellation of debt, federally funded day-care, mandatory single-payer health care, and new federal agencies—is unreconstructed statism, a colossal extension of the power and size of the federal government.

The new socialism’s confidence in statism departs from the skepticism of the old. Norman Thomas criticized the New Deal and contended that “we do not mean to turn socialized industries over to political bureaucrats,” criticising the bureaucratic centralisation of the managerial, administrative state. British socialism in the twentieth century was a struggle between those who argued that transforming economic relations required strengthening the central bureaucracy, and those who argued that transforming economic relations required strengthening local communities. If the statists got the upper hand in the postwar Labour Party, composing the governments of Clement Attlee and Harold Wilson, Labour Party activists never forgot the localist strand of British socialism. Consider one recent example, a profile in The Guardian of Jeremy Corbyn’s first lieutenant:

[John] McDonnell believes there are limits to how far the left can increase taxes and government spending. In his view, many voters are unwilling, or simply unable, to pay much more tax – especially when living standards are squeezed, as now. He also believes that central government has lost authority: it is seen as simultaneously too weak, short of money thanks to austerity; and too strong – too intrusive and domineering towards citizens.

How extraordinary it would be if Bernie Sanders or one of his chief advisors declared that the federal bureaucracy had lost authority—“too intrusive and domineering”—or that voters will not and cannot pay more taxes. He would be accused of uttering “Republican talking-points.” To be sure, there are American socialist nods toward an “anarchist tradition” to refute the charge that socialism must aim for state ownership of the economy, as well as advocates for “Progressivism localism” and for “democratizing the economy.” But the agent for these proposals remains the centralized state, and none dare disown that. American socialists have a theory on how to take power. But they have no theory on how to use power that does not resemble managerial liberalism.

The decisive point, however, is that synthesising American socialism with American Progressivism does not univocally pull American Progressivism further to the left. The disputes between socialists and progressives mask their fundamental, shared worldview: the bourgeois worldview of freedom as individual self-creation. American socialists may be anti-liberal on economics. But they are ultra-liberal about everything else.

To those ends, socialists and liberal Progressives do cooperate. If, much to the dismay of American socialists, a bill to provide New York State a single-payer health-care system fails to make it through the state senate, in spite of the left’s majority, a bill for unrestricted abortion passes by wide margins. American socialists and liberal Progressives cooperate to advance the ideology of individual autonomy, which strengthens the bourgeois ideology and achieves the old objectives of American liberalism.

Toward the end of After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre argued that whenever Marxists had to take moral stances, they fell back into the moral language of liberal individualism. Marxists came to exemplify “precisely the kind of moral attitude which they condemn in others as ideological.” Moreover, the closer Marxists came to power, the more they became zealous defenders of the centralized administrative bureaucracy. This seems to be American socialism’s fate. It deepens individualism and statism. It is not the rival but the patsy of state capitalism. It does not resist but serves managerial liberalism. American socialism is neither Marxian-inflected socialism nor Marxism, but it parodies their defects.

Reader Discussion

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on May 01, 2020 at 09:51:52 am

Much of what passes for socialism in the U.S. is the angst of spoiled brats who find that their college degrees do not qualify them for the posh jobs they had been deliberately misled as their due.

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John Braeman
on May 01, 2020 at 12:12:05 pm

John, I agree. It's why you don't find many socialists among farmers, welders, plumbers, mechanics, and truck drivers. They are members of the working class who know that hard work is how you get ahead and who don't believe sending all their money to the government so the government can distribute it as a bureaucrat sees fit.

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Tim Gorman
on May 01, 2020 at 20:34:29 pm

You speak truth. Also, my experience with many millenials is they were hard-core Bernie bros when just out of college, but now as they approach (or exceed) 30 they are gaining some understanding of the fact that you make money by working.

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Raymond Wood
on May 01, 2020 at 11:22:33 am

I fail to see what makes this "bourgeois." The bourgeoisie was committed to hard work, Calvinist theology, and the traditional family. These brats dismiss all of these things as "fascist."

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Grant Havers
on May 01, 2020 at 21:42:06 pm

Enjoyed you comment Grant. Agreed. "Socialism begins where Marxism ends" said Moeller van den Bruck. The way I see it, if the socialism is not Marxist, and it's not international, it's like Mussolini wanting his socialism for Italy. Today's left are socialists all right, but their national socialists (no caps). Maybe not German, but "generic" national socialists nevertheless. Historian John Lukacs is correct: Stalin and Mao became national socialists and Hitler's idea outlived him. That's why the left calls national socialism fascism or anything else. As Karl Dietrich Bracher said in the "Age of Ideologies" "To follow the fashionable theories [about] fascism and refer to national socialism merely as "German fascism" means a failure to take the concept of national socialism seriously or an attempt to taboo it because it contains the hallowed word "socialism" . . .The fashionable left-wing tendency towards stretching the concept of fascism in an imprecise manner and apply it to all authoritarian systems . . . will be avoided . . . national socialism shall be called by its name and not disguised or underrated as 'German fascism.' . . .This is the line invariably followed by the communists . . . "

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Richard Rabatin.
on May 01, 2020 at 16:53:44 pm

Today's so-called "socialists" are in reality European-style social-democrats. Early 20th century Italian Communists referred to European social-democracy as the left wing of fascism. Today's manifestation is not fundamentally different, just new wine in the same old bottle. The identitarian dimension is simply their version of corporatism. It seems to me that most of these so-called "socialists," these "Bernie Bros," are children, either in college or just out of it. If so, some more hard-headed adult Marxist type ought to perform an analysis of their social composition. As a "class," they seem highly dependent on government money (in the form of tuition loan guarantees and subsidies). Ideologically they should be no different from the classical bourgeoisie in believing their principles of state subsidization to be "natural" laws of modern society.

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on May 01, 2020 at 23:22:36 pm

Socialism was conceived as a bourgeois idea. Marx and Engles were both sons of prosperous bourgeoisie families, and neither had any use for the working class. Working-class socialists who tried to join their revolutionary exercises were dismissed as "ill-educated idiots" who could not comprehend the labyrinthine strategies of the leaders of the movement. Its principles were "idealist," i.e., they had no foundation in reality. Unlike capitalism, which most people don't realize had no idealist foundation but evolved out of the necessity of simply expanding business. It arose out of Western Civilization, which would not have existed without capitalism, as pointed out by Hayek. Civilization cannot exist without wealth. Capitalism expands and creates wealth, Socialism is a paralyzing idea that is static. Smith, like Aristotle, was a descriptive philosopher. He described what capitalism was and is. He did not invent capitalism. Socialism and communism always fail because they have no idea of what humans are. It's a theory. A very destructive theory. Purely a figment of an intellectual's mind. The academy is fond of intellectual theories. It's their playground. Their kindergarten.

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Richard Albarino
on May 02, 2020 at 10:50:27 am

“The civil rights crusaders, closely associated with American Progressivism, worked to remedy a unique wound in American history: the inability of Blacks to participate in the American Dream because of the history of Black slavery and the persistence of legalized racial segregation.”

The objectification of the human person is closely associated with American Progressivism because American Progressives denied the fact that from the moment of Creation at conception, every son or daughter of a human person has been Created In The Image And Likeness Of God, with an Intellect and a Will, equal in Dignity, while being complementary as a beloved son or daughter, Willed by God, The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity, Through The Unity Of The Holy Ghost, worthy of Redemption.
In denying the inherent Dignity of the human person Created In The Image Of God, as a reflection of Love, although not yet Perfected In Christ, the American Progressives deny the inherent Dignity of the human person as a beloved son or daughter, in order to justify demeaning acts, that regardless of the actors, or the actor’s desires/inclination, in all cases, among all peoples, because they objectify the human person and deny our inherent Dignity as beloved sons and daughters, can never be acts of authentic Love. Love, which is always rightly ordered to the inherent personal and relational Dignity of the persons existing in a relationship of Love, is devoid of every form of lust.

Slavery, the affirmation of the equality of sexual acts and sexual relationships, abortion, and euthanasia, are all cut from the same progressive cloth, a denial f the inherent Dignity of the human person.

“When God Is denied, human Dignity disappears.” - Pope Benedict XVI

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on May 02, 2020 at 13:57:28 pm

An excellent piece. Once we begin to see that this 'socialist' movement is led by a vanguard of 10% Bobos, give or take, and that the vanguard has very little use for the 'working class' and their actual experience except where it is useful to portray them as victims, then it may not really be a 'leftist' movement, but a blur of left and right (as many autocratic movement of course are). To turn around Norman Thomas' concern over turning over socialized industries to political bureaucrats, instead we would have bureaucrats turning over much of governance to capitalists: the government cannot censor speech in its own name, and it doesn't need to, if Facebook, Twitter and Utube can police, and re-write effective rules more more nimbly than agency lawyers. For-profit publishers can quickly put drivel into civics texts while commissions debate content. There is a facade to governance which respects majoritarian democracy, but of course truth is too important to be left to the majority; it must be set by the vanguard. But in contrast to Leninism, the vanguard is largely outside of the administrative government or any well-defined Party structure.
It is not government by and for the .01% who constitute the Davos class. They may benefit, or they may not care. But it is governance by and for an elite clerisy who pass their privileges to their children, so it may over time look more and more like an old aristocracy.

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on May 03, 2020 at 14:29:01 pm

A valiant effort by Pinkoski to demonstrate a viable syncretic as a theoretical explanation of the au courant epistemology of the "Bourgeois Bolsheviks"

This essay would be more readily understood and more empirically accurate were we to re-christen it, "Cultural Bolshevism" as it would appear that the employment of "economics" in the rhetorical arsenal of the new Bolsheviks serves only as a post facto justification for that rhetoric and as a means to include ever more classes of victims whilst the real targets, the real enemies are the culturally "UN-woke".
How to reconcile the New Bolsheviks own desires and admiration for wealth, indeed great wealth possessed by those Titans of Leftist / Progressive Media industry, e.g., FaceBook, Twitter, Google, Amazon. How to reconcile their own financial ambitions, their own striving? Perhaps, if we compare their actual accomplishments / wealth accumulation with their "aspirational" but unrealized wealth, we may understand the only visible critique of wealth that they put on offer - the critique of the 1%. Yet, it would not, nor should it surprise any observer that they a) simultaneously admire AND envy the Titans and b) aspire to attain a simulacrum of that wealth and status.

Pinkoski IS correct when he asserts that the New Bolshevism has its origins in the Civil Rights movement and alludes to the slow but steady *incrementalism* that characterizes both its growth and its ever broadening categories of victimhood. It is "Me Too" of a different sort - a form of wokeness, a mental and perceptual defect which itself requires constant infusions and validation, that permits one to first perceive and later express their own awakening, which incidentally may be even more superior than previous versions BY the identification of ever NEW victim groups. Thus, we may all validate the accepted / conventional wisdom of the day by our participation in the dynamic AND we may also demonstrate our own "individual" insights, heretofore not perceived by others of the Newest group of victim. We, too, can be pathfinders. We too can be stars in this stage play, this cultural seance in which we conjure up new fodder for the insatiable maws of this cultural seance.
Pinkoski adverts (unknowingly, I suspect) to the economic objectives of the New Bolsheviks. In this, he is properly identifying both a rhetorical and a political objective. Sadly, he affords "credit" to the wrong actors in this play.
It is not the performers of this kabuki play that seek economic utopia of socialism BUT rather those who originally fomented this vile and toxic brew. Look to history of the civil rights movement and study the (rather successful) efforts of the Old Bolsheviks to infiltrate and eventually dominate many of the US Civil Rights groups. The NAACP, LaRaza etc as well as labor unions were seeded with Old Bolsheviks whose intent was to usher in socialism BUT whose tactic was to discredit the American culture. An easy opportunity presented itself in this nations less than admirable record on civil rights for minorities.
Successful in race, it soon became apparent that women's issues would also yield a further vitiation of the American "myth" (as they would describe it). This too was successful. Presently, we observe all manner of "rights" grievances and oppressed groups.
Pinkoski is also correct in identifying "individuation" as the most salient objective of the New Bolsheviks. He is incorrect to assert that this is indicative of Bolshevism or even socialism as neither of those Old School ideologies ever advocated for individuation nor were they ever to be considered in the forefront of the battle for civil rights / individual liberties. On the contrary, there is NOTHING in either Bolshevism or Socialism, in theory or in practice that supports such an assertion, one or two comments notwithstanding by Marx, Engels on "arts" and the workers chances to engage in such pursuits ONCE the Socialist eschaton had been made immanent.
In short the New Bolsheviks are the modern useful idiots impelled by years of "MAL-education" to regurgitate that perverse rhetoric that the Old, albeit still active Bolsheviks have found persuasive AND sufficiently corrosive to the American cultural understanding that is furthers the Bolsheviks (Old and New ultimate objective of Socialism / Bolshevism.

In short, it is the CULTURE. Economics is a side dish on the menu only to induce one to "order and enjoy" the meal.

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Image of gabe
on May 04, 2020 at 17:29:10 pm

Mr. Pinkoski's essay or "attempt" (per Montaigne, who created the essay form,) is to describe a political-economic amalgamation which comprehends "a new, home-grown ideology, a made-in-America socialism," which he calls "Bourgeois Bolshevism.''

Yet the "attempt" falls short. The intellectual origins of 21st century American radicalism are too historically deep (spanning the breadth of time from the late Middle Ages to contemporary postmodernism, as far back as the culturally-disintegrative forces of the Reformation and the morally-atrophying hubris of the Enlightenment's worship of reason and its abuse of revelation,) too ideologically multivalent (from Jacobinism to Marxism to Progressivism to Leninism to Nazism to Stalinism to Maoism, to Obamaism,) too culturally diverse (from the utopian, middle class socialists of New Harmony, Indiana to the revolutionary proletariat of Maoist China) and its salient characteristics are too psychologically complex (from Freud to Norman O. Brown to Herbert Marcuse to Fanon to Foucault) and too politically-assorted, logically-contradictory and intersectionality-entangled (from racist anti-racists to sexist anti-sexists to fascistic anti-fascists ("Fantifa") to anti-environmental environmentalists to abortionists for whom every life is precious to democratic totalitarian elitists) to permit syncretism.

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Image of Paladin
on May 05, 2020 at 17:15:29 pm

And here is something I left out of my original post:


As indicated in the above link, the new (but widely admired by the New Bolsheviks) plutocrats are as, if not more rapacious than the late 19th century Titans of Industry, yet they are widely admired by the New Bolsheviks. Can you imagine an early 20th century socialist singing the praises of the likes of amazon, Uber or Grubhub? Can you imagine them praising the "dynamic pricing" of Uber during rush hours when a standard taxi driver is compelled to charge not 10 times the going rate but the standard rate. These New Bolsheviks all thought this rather clever. Same with Grubhub, Amazon etc where we find that the employees are overworked and underpaid while the Titans accumulate vast wealth.
NO, this is about CULTURE. And it is sufficient in and of itself to engender a sense of moral propriety in the holder of the Woke cultural beliefs while they retain the admiration (and repressed aspiration to) for great wealth and influence.
Then again, look no further than Bernie Sanders who has demonstrated his own acquisitiveness yet professes Socialism, but more importantly all of the proper culturally woke platitudes.

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Image of gabe
on May 07, 2020 at 10:29:09 am

Neo class wars.
Between younger and older
Between public and private sector employees
Between bureaucrats/technocrats and citizens/entrepreneurs
Between employed, gig workers and unemployed
Between those wanting affordable homes and those holding houses as investments

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Image of Per Kurowski
Per Kurowski
on July 13, 2020 at 15:24:55 pm

"Axiom: hatred of the bourgeois is the beginning of wisdom."
Letter to G. Sand from Flaubert, 10 May 1867

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Image of Jeff Perrone
Jeff Perrone

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