David Horowitz’s Archives: A question for the millennium
Posted on October 19 2010 6:45 am
In this pre-millennial hour — December 1999 — the editors of the Nation chose to run two stories — an appraisal of the socialist century past and a harbinger of the socialist century to come — that provide the answer to my question.
In the Dec. 13 issue, there is a long review article called “Exploiting a Tragedy, or Le Rouge En Noir [The Red in Black],” written by the magazine’s longtime “European Editor,” Daniel Singer, a godson disciple of the Trotskyist writer Isaac Deutscher, and the magazine’s resident expert on the subject of the communist experience.
The main focus of Singer’s article is “The Black Book of Communism,” a French treatise that attempts to sum up the human horror of the project to make a better world. According to the book’s authors, during the 20th century between 85 and 100 million human beings were slaughtered in peacetime by Marxists in the effort to realize their impossible dream. As a foreword by Martin Malia reasonably suggests, “Any realistic accounting of communist crime would effectively shut the door on Utopia.”
That is the minimal lesson one might expect to learn from the unbroken record of the socialist utopias of the century just past. But it is exactly the lesson the Nation fervently rejects. Writes Singer: “Our aim — let us not be ashamed to say so — is to revive the belief in collective action and in the possibility of radical transformation in our lives.” He refers to this passion for social redemption as “the Promethean spirit of humankind,” a term that reprises the precise language Marx used when he launched his destructive project over 150 years ago.
Socialism is dead. Long live socialism.
For Singer and the Nation, the unrelieved horror and failure of socialist experiments over the course of a century is not a lesson in sobriety for those who promoted and supported them, nor a reason to reconsider the faith. It is just a tragedy of errors that need not discourage them and need never be repeated. For the Nation this is the story of “a revolution in a backward country failing to spread and the terrible result then presented to the world as a model.”
In other words, had there been sufficient communists in America and Europe to make revolutions there as well, the utopia that socialists had dreamed of would have been realized in fact. With communists triumphant everywhere, the Marxist fantasy would have come true.
And lo and behold, in the very next issue, a Nation editorial, “Street Fight in Seattle,” hails the eruption of political violence in the state of Washington as a beacon of socialist renewal in the nation as a whole. The protest against the emerging global market, the editorial gloats, is “something not seen since the sixties” — when the anti-capitalist, anti-market, anti-property forces of the left last took their socialist fantasies and nihilist agendas to America’s streets.
The voices recorded are familiar ones: “A week ago no one even knew what the World Trade Organization was,” proclaimed Tom Hayden, one of the most destructive luddites of the previous generation, who did not miss the opportunity to join the demonstration. “Now these protests have made WTO a household word. And not a very pretty word.”