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Movements (6.23.20)

One of the principles of Marxism is that people raised in a capitalist system would be tainted with capitalist values. Because of this, many people within the system would never even recognize the injustices being inflicted upon them -- since they would be trained from birth to not see them as injustices. In theory, when enough people got wise to "the truth," they'd rise up and overthrow the system in favor of socialism and the greater good.

Leninism took it a step further. Russian revolutionaries, tired of waiting for the supposedly inevitable evolution of society, adopted the position that the transition wouldn't be organic. (At least not in Russia, where industrial development was well behind that of the European nations where Marxism flourished.) Instead, it would take a small group of highly focused and organized people to catalyze that evolution. By infiltrating various organizations and influencing the actions of their leaders, Communists could accelerate a highly leveraged evolution of the social order.

And eventually, even that wasn't enough. The next evolution -- Maoist and Stalinist systems -- was built on the premise that revolutionaries could grasp the levers of power, then forcibly "retrain" society to its most perfect and collaborative form. In practice, it was all insanely horrible. The revolutionary vanguard created a status quo that was cruel, oppressive, arbitrary and murderous -- Stalinist purges, the Cultural Revolution, and so forth.

Fast forward to 2020. How do you want to describe what's happening in America today?

Racism and the generational inequalities it has created are very real problems. They need to be discussed and addressed. People who deny the existence of these problems are almost certainly wrong, or racist.

But one view of society -- critical race theory -- is frequently being presented to the public as the absolutely correct view, with very little challenge. Perhaps because a major tenet of critical race theory is that the act of disagreeing with critical race theory actually proves critical race theory. It's similar to the initial Marxist conceit.

Why is it presented this way? Perhaps because of the Leninist conceit. Small groups of highly focused and organized people secured positions of high-leverage influence in various organizations -- for example, media outlets, social media platforms and higher education.

And now, maybe we're seeing the attempt to grasp the levers of power. Today, it's primarily soft power, like canceling or shaming anyone who dares to oppose views that are nowhere near the mainstream. The activists attempting to tear down many statues in a frenzy are not pausing for thoughtful discussions; they're aggressively pursuing a unilateral re-writing of acceptable thought, where they are the arbiters of right and wrong.

Is it crazy to see things this way? Consider that much of this is conspicuously presented in the academic language of critical race theory. Protesters have tagged statues with "1619," referring to the New York Times' 1619 project. Do average people of any race spend their time reading thinkpieces in the New York Times? For that matter, do they spend their time parsing the meaning of "anti-racism" or "white fragility" or "white supremacy"? These are nebulous terms; to have actual value in public discourse, they would require agreed-upon definitions for all people in the discussion. It's hard to address racism if the parties involved don't even agree on what the term "racism" means.

On paper, the stated goals of Marxism, Leninism and Stalinism are noble or desirable. In practice, those theories became vessels for totalitarian nightmares. I don't know if critical race theory will follow the same pattern, but its practical application in recent weeks does have striking resemblances to those other movements.

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