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Chambers on Materialist Politics


In a recent post I noted that when materialist metaphysics meets politics (whether on the left or the right), it always devolves into mere right-makes-right force.  I said,

We err when we think of fascism, communism, Marxism, and progressivism as being different things.  They are not.  They are different versions of the same thing.  We especially err when we think of a fascist like Hitler and a communist like Stalin as being somehow polar opposites (with one on the “right” and one of the “left”).  Hitler and Stalin had far more in common than otherwise, and a political analysis that perceives them as opposites is deeply flawed.  If all of these things are versions of the same thing, what thing is that?  That thing is materialist metaphysics applied to politics.

Today I was surfing around and landed on Whittaker Chambers’ 1957 review of Atlas Shrugged.  Unsurprisingly, Chambers said it all far better than I:

Nor has [Rand], apparently, brooded on the degree to which, in a wicked world, a materialism of the Right and a materialism of the Left first surprisingly resemble, then, in action, tend to blend each with each, because, while differing at the top in avowed purpose, and possibly in conflict there, at bottom they are much the same thing. The embarrassing similarities between Hitler’s National Socialism and Stalin’s brand of Communism are familiar. For the world, as seen in materialist view from the Right, scarcely differs from the same world seen in materialist view from the Left. The question becomes chiefly: who is to run that world in whose interests, or perhaps, at best, who can run it more efficiently? Something of this implication is fixed in the book’s dictatorial tone, which is much its most striking feature. Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve. Its dogmatism is without appeal. In addition, the mind which finds this tone natural to it shares other characteristics of its type. 1) It consistently mistakes raw force for strength, and the rawer the force, the more reverent the posture of the mind before it. 2) It supposes itself to be the bringer of a final revelation. Therefore, resistance to the Message cannot be tolerated because disagreement can never be merely honest, prudent, or just humanly fallible. Dissent from revelation so final (because, the author would say, so reasonable) can only be willfully wicked. There are ways of dealing with such wickedness, and, in fact, right reason itself enjoins them. From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: “To a gas chamber–go!”

john_a_designer, Interesting point. Thank you. You asked:
Is there any way to reverse this trend?
The answer is: NO. It's not going to get better before the end of this age of grace. The only thing each of us can do is individually start from ourselves: we have been commanded to: (1) love God totally. (2) love our neighbors as ourselves. We have failed both. Before we criticize others, let's start from criticizing ourselves. Only if we achieve perfection we can judge others. We can judge actions, but not people. Commend good actions, criticize evil actions. But not the actors. Because we all are far from reaching the good standard, not even close. Hence, we are not qualified to judge others. Dionisio
Here is something I could have written yesterday, or for that matter today:
We want a strong country, the strongest in the world because we aren’t going to rely on mutual manifestations of good will to keep this country free. It is a tough world. The liberals think anyone who says that is practicing a false, twisted masculinity. So be it. We have been called everything else by liberals; we might as well be called sexual psychopaths. But at the same time, let’s demand that our nation be so strong that no nation or group of nations will ever dare attack us—or even think of attacking us. … We believe this is a good country. We believe that our way of life, our values, our adherence to formal religion, to the family, to what Chesterton called the ‘decencies and charities of Christendom’ have for too long been abused or ignored or threatened by left-liberalism. Left-liberalism is intellectually, morally, and spiritually bankrupt. We don’t want it to be replaced by radicalism of the left or right. We want our kids to grow up knowing not only their prayers but their philosophy, our philosophy. (emphasis added)
http://freebeacon.com/columns/return-street-corner-conservatism/ It was written back in 1968. It is an illustration of how deeply entrenched the progressive-secular world view (so-called liberalism) has been and still is in our culture. Is there any way to reverse this trend? Maybe. Unfortunately, things have only gotten worse. Maybe there is still time but like the sand running through the hour glass in the castle of the Wicked Witch of the West, time is no longer on our side. Any thoughts? john_a_designer
35 years ago: https://www.youtube.com/embed/hZQwQMj9GKo https://www.youtube.com/embed/CB1KbpuM9P4 https://www.youtube.com/embed/AokG9UTzlDw https://www.youtube.com/embed/by1xk1i2hHo Dionisio
Having read everything authored by Rand that is still in print, I can say with confidence that Chambers is utterly wrong in his assessment of Rand's writing. Rand agreed fully with Chambers' point that communism and Nazism did not differ in any meaningful way; indeed, she was likely more convinced of this fact than Chambers himself. EvilSnack
#5 error correction: Both links posted @5 were wrong. Please, disregard them. Instead, use any of these links: https://www.youtube.com/embed/9kiFK6xxE08 https://www.youtube.com/embed/OiwI1p5T8qQ Sorry for the mistake. Dionisio
At the root of materialism is proposing to know for a (scientific) fact, what is good and evil. That is how materialism is conducive to dictatorship, disallowing freedom of opinion. Opinion does not really figure in materialism, only facts figure. And actually not even the dictator rules, actually it is largely the ideology that rules the dictator. The dictator is a coldhearted calculating monster, calculating without conscience, without emotions, according to the facts of what is good and evil, which facts the ideology indicates. mohammadnursyamsu
What Hitler did not believe and what Stalin did not believe and what Mao did not believe and what the SS did not believe and what the Gestapo did not believe and what the NKVD did not believe and what the commissars, functionaries, swaggering executioners, Nazi doctors, Communist Party theoreticians, intellectuals, Brown Shirts, Black Shirts, gauleiters, and a thousand party hacks did not believe was that God was watching what they were doing.
Yet, God right there watching exactly what they were doing is precisely what happened: A few notes establishing that fact:
And whereas in General Relativity. (and Special Relativity), the observer himself is given a privileged frame of reference in which to make measurements, in quantum mechanics it is the measurement itself that gives the observer a privileged frame of reference in the universe: (December 2016) https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/darwinism/darwinian-atheist-slams-harvard-astronomer-on-our-cosmically-unique-position/#comment-621504 https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/darwinism/darwinian-atheist-slams-harvard-astronomer-on-our-cosmically-unique-position/#comment-621505 I find it extremely interesting, and strange, that quantum mechanics tells us that instantaneous quantum wave collapse to its 'uncertain' 3-D state is centered on each individual observer in the universe, whereas, 4-D space-time cosmology (General Relativity) tells us each 3-D point in the universe is central to the expansion of the universe. These findings of modern science are pretty much exactly what we would expect to see if this universe were indeed created, and sustained, from a higher dimension by an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal Being who knows everything that is happening everywhere in the universe at the same time. These findings certainly seem to go to the very heart of the age old question asked of many parents by their children, “How can God hear everybody’s prayers at the same time?”,,, i.e. Why should the expansion of the universe, or the quantum wave collapse of the entire universe, even care that you or I, or anyone else, should exist? Only Theism offers a rational explanation as to why you or I, or anyone else, should have such undeserved significance in such a vast universe: Verses: Hebrews 4:13 "And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to Whom we must give account." Psalm 33:13-15 The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works. Psalm 139:7-14 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
In the early days of the German advance into Eastern Europe, before the possibility of Soviet retribution even entered their untroubled imagination, Nazi extermination squads would sweep into villages, and after forcing villagers to dig their own graves, murder their victims with machine guns. On one such occasion somewhere in Eastern Europe, an SS officer watched languidly, his machine gun cradled, as an elderly and bearded Hasidic Jew laboriously dug what he knew to be his grave. Standing up straight, he addressed his executioner. “God is watching what you are doing,” he said. And then he was shot dead. What Hitler did not believe and what Stalin did not believe and what Mao did not believe and what the SS did not believe and what the Gestapo did not believe and what the NKVD did not believe and what the commissars, functionaries, swaggering executioners, Nazi doctors, Communist Party theoreticians, intellectuals, Brown Shirts, Black Shirts, gauleiters, and a thousand party hacks did not believe was that God was watching what they were doing.
[David Berlinski, 'The Devil's Delusion'] Origenes
In the following paragraph Chambers clearly interprets Rand as Nietzchean:
“Looters” loot because they believe in Robin Hood, and have got a lot of other people believing in him, too. Robin Hood is the author’s image of absolute evil–robbing the strong (and hence good) to give to the weak (and hence no good). All “looters” are base, envious, twisted, malignant minds, motivated wholly by greed for power, combined with the lust of the weak to tear down the strong, out of a deepseated hatred of life and secret longing for destruction and death. There happens to be a tiny (repeat: tiny) seed of truth in this. The full clinical diagnosis can be read in the pages of Friedrich Nietzsche. (Here I must break in with an aside. Miss Rand acknowledges a grudging debt to one, and only one, earlier philosopher: Aristotle. I submit that she is indebted, and much more heavily, to Nietzsche. Just as her operatic businessmen are, in fact, Nietzschean supermen, so her ulcerous leftists are Nietzsche’s “last men,” both deformed in a way to sicken the fastidious recluse of Sils Maria. And much else comes, consciously or not, from the same source.) Happily, in Atlas Shrugged (though not in life), all the Children of Darkness are utterly incompetent.
Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/213298/big-sister-watching-you-whittaker-chambers However, I see most contemporary secular-progressives on the left as Hegelian rather than Nietzchean. Their views are not really compatible. For example, Nietzsche did not develop a political theory, Hegel did. Furthermore, “Against Hegel’s assertion that history was a rational process, Nietzsche insisted that it was full of ‘blindness, madness, and injustice,’ and he therefore denied the possibility of its culmination in a rational world-order.” https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/from-hegel-to-nietzsche-the-revolution-in-nineteenth-century-thought-by-karl-lowith/ Probably no world view has a more linear view of history than Jewish-Christian (J-C) theism. Hegel accepted the J-C linear view of history (he was an observant Lutheran) but cast it in more pantheistic terms, where there were no timeless transcendent truths only evolving ever changing kind of “truths.” Hegel saw the flow of history as a constantly changing yet naturally improving one. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy describes it this way:
History, according to Hegel's metaphysical account, is driven by ideological development. Ideological—and therefore historical—change occurs when a new idea is nurtured in the environment of the old one, and eventually overtakes it. Thus development necessarily involves periods of conflict when the old and new ideas clash.
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/progress/ While modern progressives probably don’t see themselves as Hegelian, through Marxism and various forms of progressive socialism, it appears to me that Hegel’s ideas have had a profound influence on modern thought. For example, the idea of being “on the right side of history” sounds Hegelian, as does the utopian conceit that modern ideas are superior traditional or ancient ones, so they get rejected as racist, sexist, superstitious etc. However, I doubt that contemporary secular progressives are purists in any kind of theoretical sense. There is probably a lot of ad hoc thinking that incorporates the ideas of other thinkers including thinkers like Nietzche and Freud. Of course, from what I have seen there is a lot of inconsistency and incoherence with present day secular- progressive thinking. Both Hegel and Marx saw that at times violence (even war) would be needed to achieve societal change. You can readily see why the progressive PC left thinks nothing of employing bullying tactics to bring about their ideas of social justice-- and be forewarned they are willing to go further. You can perhaps also see how they can hold to positions that are on one hand culturally relativistic yet implemented years or even months later as new moral absolutes. Think, for example, about how quickly same-sex-marriage has been adopted. BTW as is the case of SSM, as can clearly be seen by following the news accounts, they are not beneath using coercion, even the force of law, to get you to accept their beliefs. Unfortunately, it could get a lot worse. john_a_designer

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