Respect for Language

This is a quote from Yoram Hazony’s new book on conservatism:

At the same time, an updated Marxism (calling itself “Progressivism,” “Anti-Racism,” or “Woke”) launched an astonishingly successful bid to seize control of the institutions that had been, until only recently, responsible for the development and circulation of liberal ideas in America, Britain, and beyond.

It’s sad that that one thing Hazony has decided not to conserve is treating language with respect. Instead, he has embraced the strategy of vague, confused name-calling. “Obama is a socialist!” “Trump is a fascist!”

Marxism is all about “proletarians of the world unite!” It’s not about “proletarians of the world, jump at each other’s throats because a bourgeois lady told you that you are sworn enemies based on your race.”

Marxism is the idea that economic relations are at the heart of everything. Class struggle and economic exploitation, not “white supremacy,” are the key to understanding how things work. The goal is not “social justice” but economic justice. In Marxist thought, ruling classes brainwash workers (this is called “implanting a false consciousness” in Marxist parlance) to make them believe that their enemy is another group of workers instead of the wealthier social class that exploits them. Isn’t this exactly what wokesters do? Sic us on each other to rip us off?

When an unemployed coal miner in West Virginia is considered more privileged than the Vice-President of the US, that’s as far away as one can possibly get from Marxism. I’m not saying this to defend Marxism but to defend language from careless abuse.

Yes, BLM called itself “Marxist.” Understandably, they didn’t call themselves “a scam to dupe frumpy middle-class white ladies into sending over cash.” What people “identify as” is crucial only to wokesters.

There’s no “cultural Marxism” either. The idea that everything is Marxist/socialist or fascist/Nazi is simple laziness. We can’t solve a problem that we can’t even be bothered to diagnose. I was looking forward to Hazony’s book but this sloppiness is putting me off. I want insight, not vapid name-calling rooted in Cold War nostalgia.

2 thoughts on “Respect for Language

  1. I agree with you that the label Marxism gets thrown around too easily. As such, like racism and fascism, it has largely stopped being a useful term. That being said, as I see it, at the heart of Marxism was always a scam to allow middle-class intellectuals to seize power. It was never about the rule of the workers. On the contrary, it was about setting up an ever more complicated caste system and setting members against each other. I grant that a major weakness of my understanding of Marxism is that I can never get past the conspiratorial elements within and simply focus on the economic and social theories within it. Obviously, there are important differences between classic Marxists and BLM so it is of little value to accuse BLM of being Marxists. Then again, when you have people like Angela Davis who really did have her feet in both camps, I am not going to object to calling her a Marxist.

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  2. BLM’s founders are self-avowed “trained Marxists”. Having said that, you are right in noticing that one of the crucial contradictions at the heart of Marxist discourse is the notion that you need a leadership vanguard of mostly middle-class intellectuals at the head of the proletarian army: once again, privileged people masquerading their guilt feelings or do-gooder instincts under the guise of a narcissistic display of conspicuous compassion.
    As for Hazony, most of what he writes is fluff, except when it’s not downright trans-humanist derangement. I think we can all do with Bauman and more Bauman.

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