THE BATTLE FOR AMERICA’S SOUL
by Balint Vazsonyi
"Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.
It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
For thirty years now, the Liberal-Conservative debate has been raging in our country. Some of the participants bring to mind a passage from Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Raskolnikov, while delirious in the Siberian prison hospital, has a recurring dream. In it, the whole world had been condemned to a terrible and strange plague. Some new sorts of microbes began to afflict people. "Men attacked by them," he writes, "became at once mad and furious. But never had men considered themselves so intellectual and so completely in possession of the truth as these sufferers, never had they considered their decisions, their scientific conclusions, their moral convictions so infallible..."
One hundred-and-thirty years after those lines were written, it is disquieting to see just such "sufferers" among us today. Are we participants in a debate or are we fighting a virus? The following is an attempt to find some answers — to sort out the sides, their origins, their purpose.
THE QUESTION THAT MATTERS
Scholars on both sides suggest that, during the 1960s, the original principles on which America was founded came to be interpreted in entirely new ways. It was this new understanding, so the suggestion goes, which led to fundamental changes in our thinking, our language, our institutions. Among other things, this altered reading also accounts for the radical shift in the meaning of the term, "Liberal."
Is the national debate indeed a dialogue between two competing interpretations of what we shall call the American Construct? That, without a doubt, is the question that matters. If it is, then the word "debate" is entirely appropriate. If it is, then neither side can lay claim to the "Truth." If it is, then the more power to the winners — may they alternate frequently, as behooves a democracy.
Before we can decide, we need to remind ourselves of our spiritual and philosophical roots. We use the term American Construct here to represent the compendium of ideas and principles which issued from Franklin’s Poor Richard, Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, The Federalist Papers of Hamilton and Madison, all the way to the Bill of Rights. In order to qualify as indigenous, ideas and practices ought to be traceable to, or at least compatible with, the American Construct. The following key areas suggest some early answers.
The Constitution does not provide for Group Rights. Yet, a steadily growing number of groups is being granted an increasing number of rights. Defense, for which the Constitution does provide, has been surrounded by an atmosphere of derision and hostility; the effectiveness of our armed forces is being diminished through inappropriate use.
Of the three branches of government, Congress is entrusted with the powers to legislate. Neither the Executive nor the Judiciary should presume such powers, yet both have done so with increasing frequency.
The constitutional guarantee for the freedom of speech becomes moot if the vocabulary is controlled by codes, regulations and punitive practices.
The protection of private property is no longer guaranteed if the Executive Branch can confiscate it under the pretext of arbitrary regulation.
Education used to be based on the best available information, the consensus of generations, and rewards designed to extract the best effort from all participants. Currently, information is being replaced by propaganda, consensus by the whim and din of activist groups, best effort by primitive egalitarianism. Americans were supposed to be judged based on what they could do. Their prospects are now contingent on what (not even who) they are.
Morality and decency in human relations which once governed our society are being displaced by doctrines which do not, even, recognize the existence of values; the spirit of voluntarism is being choked by coercion.
Accordingly, the argument that we are conducting a discourse within the American Construct cannot be sustained. That being the case, the alternative must be considered. If the debate has not been generated from within, it must be one between our own preexisting principles and ideas which are foreign in origin. Foreign ideas may be benign or hostile. Given the foregoing, as well as the ferocity of the assault over the past three decades, there is every reason to assume that they are the latter. If so, the very existence of our country, as we know it, is at stake. It is therefore of the utmost urgency to seek detailed answers to the question that matters.
To begin with, new ideas are exceedingly rare. We may safely assume that most ideas, however differently they might be packaged, have been around for some time. The doctrines currently waging their battle inside America are likely to be old acquaintances, not brainstorms of the 1960s. There is some advantage to be derived: exploring the history and curriculum of old ideas provides clues about the path they are likely to follow again and again. As we encounter the alarming similarities between the so-called Liberal agenda and the practices of past regimes, there may be emotional barriers to overcome. How could decent, ordinary Americans take their cue from precedents they reject and abhor on a conscious level? Yet the facts speak for themselves.
BOLSHEVISM — FASCISM
The conventional view, notwithstanding the Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939, is that Communism and Nazism were opposites — one on the extreme left, the other on the extreme right. At the time of the Spanish Civil War of 1936, Americans fell victim to the propaganda that Communists and Fascists ("Nazi" and "Fascist" will be discussed below) were enemies. In addition, the countless distinguished personalities who joined the North American Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy created the illusion that Communists were "on the side of righteousness." Unbeknownst to them, the Communist Party ran the entire organization.
Rather than enemies, Nazism and Communism were the ultimate competitors. Each wanted to conquer and rule — both over the physical world, and over the minds of people. The methods which were developed and implemented for the control of behavior took many forms, not all of them obvious or even unpleasant when dispensed in small doses. Yet they strike at the heart of human relations; they also severe the link between cause and effect, so essential in developing an individual's viability.
First, we need to remind ourselves of key words which, in common usage, have taken on different connotations: Fascism, Nazism, Communism. Webster defines Fascism and Nazism in almost identical terms: "a centralized autocratic severely national regime;" "regimentation of industry, commerce and finance;" "rigid censorship, forcible suppression of opposition." The definition of Communism begins with "common ownership of assets." The subheading Bolshevism, however, resembles the wording applied to Fascism and Nazism. Webster comes remarkably close, but no fully-satisfactory definitions exist. In truth, they are simply so many variants of Socialism, and Marx himself was already at pains while writing the Communist Manifesto in 1848 to sort out the different kinds of Socialism.
Initially, there appears to be a distinction between "National Socialism" (the German and Italian varieties) and "International Socialism" (the Russian Model), based on the difference in agendas as stated by the parties themselves. Reality, however, gives rhetoric the lie. Albeit without the Nuremberg Laws or prescribed physical characteristics, "The Soviet Man" was made the object of enforced worship just the same as was the Aryan hero - nothing international about that. Not even in the approach to the fundamental Marxian issue of ownership can we observe a substantial difference: The Program of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (the full name of the Nazi party) demands "the nationalization of all business enterprises that have been organized into corporations." A realistic examination of these seemingly opposite systems reveals them as mirror images, aspiring to a similar objective, applying identical methods, achieving comparable subjugation of people under their control, and pursuing the same enemies.
Objective. The agenda underlying all operations calls for unlimited discretionary powers to be concentrated in the hands of a small, self-perpetuating group in which membership is by invitation only. Members of the group typically fall into two categories. One of these claims to know what is best for all people; the other simply wants unchecked power. The synergy is perfect: Ideologues need terrorists to retain physical control; terrorists need ideologues to supply intermittent explanations for the rule they maintain. It is only natural that the objectives include an effort to expand the number of those over whom power is exerted.
Given the ultimate objective of concentrating all power in the hands of a single group, competing formations calling themselves "Fascist," "Nazi," "Communist," "Bolshevik," or "Maoist" must fight it out until only one of them remains operative, hence the insistence on being "different."
Methods. (The reader is asked to compare these to present-day practices.) As well as control of the military and the police, successful exercise of power requires control of key institutions to replace or supplement brute force. The checklist includes news sources — especially of the visual variety — education, the judiciary, labor organizations, arts and entertainment, as well as a parental relationship between government and the governed. Required, also, is the attribution of infallibility at the top. A human replaces the object of religious worship, just as holiday celebrations of a political nature replace religious ones. Replacement of another kind is the renaming of streets, towns, institutions. The purpose is to do away with reminders of the past — thus discontinuing history — and to provide constant reminders of the present.
The practice of discontinuing history is indispensable. Successive generations must be devoid of traditions and prevented from comparing past and present. It also "justifies" revision of the entire academic curriculum, so that no subject would accidentally provide accurate information about history. While adults need the threat of punishment in order to "forget" what they had learned, information can simply be withheld from young people and/or manipulated before it reaches them.
Youth organizations were created with compulsory membership - except when exclusion was chosen as an instrument of humiliation. Hitler Youth, Komsomol, Pioneers put people in uniform at a young age, ensured their early allegiance to The Leader, and placed them under the command of a political appointee whose prerogative superseded that of both the parental home and the school. Finally, learned faculties were placed under the control of political operatives with little or no education.
The corruption of education was matched by the corruption of the legal system. This required judges who would subordinate both their natural and learned sense of justice to what was declared to be "the higher interest of the community." For an example we quote marching orders issued by Hans Frank, President of the Academy of German Law and of the National Bar Association in the Third Reich:
"The basis for interpreting all legal sources is the National Socialist Philosophy, especially as expressed in the party program..."
Thus was born the concept of the political activist judge who wore the robe as no less a uniform than the black shirt or the red shirt.
Controlling the behavior of the adult population required the most sophisticated approach, if outright terror was to be relaxed to any extent. Although Lenin and Stalin pointed the way and Mao Tse-Tung achieved the ultimate by making one billion people wear the same clothes, it was the Germans — ever the theorists — who supplied the terminology for the first tool. They called it "Gleichschaltung," which verbatim means "switching to being the same." The program called for total alignment with the goals of Nazi policies and placed everyone on the same level, creating the ultimate degree of conformity.
Gleichschaltung operated at once on structural and cultural levels. Structurally, the first victim was federalism: Within days of Hitler's accession, the states had to cede authority to the central government. Next, the leadership and membership of every kind of organization had to become politically and racially correct. While a variety of agencies had the task of implementing the structural changes, as early as March 1933 a separate Cabinet Department was created for Josef Goebbels to oversee every aspect of the cultural scene, making certain that it was politically correct. Specific terms aside, the reality of all these regimes is the great flattening of society which is in full progress from day one. It is astonishing and frightening how little time it took both in Russia and in Germany to accomplish this task. Indeed, it should be noted that demolishing what centuries had built does not require even a single generation.
The other tool had to do with groups. While it may appear contradictory to identify groups in a society having just experienced Gleichschaltung, contradictions do not represent obstacles in a totalitarian structure. Placing the emphasis on groups was as necessary as the leveling had been: It facilitated positive and negative imaging. This constant dichotomy of egalitarianism and group hatred provided a manipulative tool as simple as it was ingenious. Hitler used race and nationality, Lenin and Stalin mostly class — the outcome was the same.
Subjugation. (Please continue the comparison with current tendencies.) It is commonly known that the Gestapo was a state within the State, as was the Cheka/GPU/NKVD/KGB establishment. Their responsibility was not merely control but the maintenance of a permanent state of fear. Yet internal security organs, however large, could not by themselves see to that. Therefore, in one sense or another everyone was recruited to be an agent of fear. In Nazi Germany, as in Soviet Russia, children were encouraged to inform on their parents, neighbors on each other. Very soon it became a matter of reporting someone before someone reported you. It was possible to be reported for virtually anything, so that people grew fearful of doing or saying everyday, ordinary things. One could never be safe from somebody "putting a spin" on the most innocent act or remark.
Enemies. Whereas democracies associate enemies with physical attack or the threat thereof, both Nazism and Communism required at all times the existence of enemies, internal and external. The array of internal enemies would suggest a certain difference: Jews for the Nazis, "Class Enemies" for the Bolsheviks. However, the Russians had anti-Jewish pogroms long before Hitler and, later, significant numbers of Jews were exiled or killed as "exploiters." The aristocracy was looked upon just as much an enemy by the Nazis who were, after all, Socialists. The Church was regarded as an enemy by both, partly because it advocated morality, and because it, too, required allegiance and obedience — and attitude reserved exclusively for The Party. "National Socialist and Christian concepts are irreconcilable," so Martin Bormann begins the Third Reich's definitive statement on the subject. Yet, it is in the realm of Nazism's and Bolshevism's external enemies that examination proves the most revealing. Experience confirms that the primary enemy in the eyes of Nazis and Communists alike was the English-speaking world, in all its manifestations.
In my native Hungary, where Soviet occupation followed Nazi occupation, typically the same henchmen jailed the same persons for the same offense: Listening to an English-language broadcast — whether in 1944 or in 1952. The reasons are obvious. To all those who would take over the world, Great Britain and the United States have been the main impediment. Philip II of Spain and Napoleon had known that already; Hitler and Stalin had to learn it anew. Neither German technological genius nor Soviet numerical advantage was sufficient to carry the day against Anglo-American resolve, because it was backed by principles, attitudes and traditions which had brought forth stable, productive, peacefully-evolving societies. And since language is the carrier of ideas, English words were perceived to be as menacing as Spitfire interceptors or nuclear submarines. The power of seminally English phrases like "My home is my castle" or "Innocent until proven guilty" is awesome. The strenuous efforts by Liberals to diminish the presence of English in contemporary America furnish additional proof.
WHAT'S "RIGHT" — WHAT'S "POSSIBLE"
The epoch-making contributions of Germans — from Luther to Goethe, from Bach to Wagner, from Gutenberg to Zeiss — reveal a great similarity across the centuries, across the various fields of endeavor. From Luther's "nailing his 95 Theses to the door" through Bach's The Art of the Fugue and Goethe's Faust to Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk, the observer beholds the German tendency and capacity for seeking and creating the absolute, the all-encompassing, the ultimate. When applied to philosophy, this same tendency gave birth to Kant who declared his chief work free from error. He was followed by Hegel, who more or less declared the end of history. By this juncture, German philosophy had established its lineage all the way back to Plato, and regarded itself sole heir to the search for what is right. From that point onward, a seemingly endless succession of German thinkers, in a mostly descending sequence of brilliance and/or morality, began to convert philosophy into Social Dogma. Social Dogma is based on a simple assumption: That certain people know better what is best for all other creatures, and that such people possess the right to enforce their "enlightened" beliefs because they shall lead the rest of us to a "perfect" world.
Taking his cue, perhaps, from what had begun in 1215 at Runnymede, it was John Locke who (nearly five hundred years later) identified and settled for attainable goals. He and Adam Smith seem to have broken with the two-thousand-year-old search for what is "right," and substituted an inquiry into that which is possible. It would be consistent with the previous argument to suggest that the sober modesty of Locke and Smith was as much a reflection on British temperament as Kant or Hegel was on the German. Be that as it may, the astonishing influence of their thought is comparable only to the success of the societies which paid attention to them. Without diminishing the significance of Locke's lasting pronouncements on the limited role of government, the separation of powers, the relationship of the individual to the community, or the full roster of civil liberties, one is tempted to say that his genius lay in the very acceptance of certain limitations, which is at the heart of his Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Free from what Friedrich Hayek calls the "fatal conceit," Locke presents his chief work fully cognizant of inconsistencies, perhaps to signal that these are forever inherent in the human condition.
MONOLOGUES — DIALOGUES
It took another hundred years before Nietzsche would declare God "dead" but, by claiming to be free from error, Kant began what amounts to a monologue. Hegel and Marx continued the practice of dispensing monologues. By the time Marx appeared on the scene, German thinkers had succeeded in seizing center-stage from the French. Social Dogma was now ready to embark on the effort of replacing Christianity as the dominant religion, hence its first conquest in Russia where only a new orthodoxy was capable of upstaging the old one. Russia had produced no thinkers of its own and was in desperate need of alternatives. Yet, there may have been deep-seated reasons in Germany itself. After centuries of struggle for a consolidated German state, after centuries of religious contention between Catholics and Protestants, between Lutherans and Calvinists, the perceived need for a set of finite doctrines was approaching crisis levels. Social Dogma provided all answers, bypassed or eliminated "troublesome" individual rights, and throve on group hostility. Because it does not accommodate contrary opinion and rules by decree without room for discussion, it must lead to intrusive government — the ultimate embodiment of The Monologue. Where it ran its full course, it gave the world leaders like Lenin, and his two stellar disciples: Stalin and Hitler.
By contrast, the founding of the United States of America occurred amidst a series of dialogues. Most notable among these was the long-standing disagreement between Jefferson and Hamilton. They and their contemporaries managed to divine from their studies of other societies an uncommon understanding of human nature. Postulating moral foundations as a given, these men created a framework which sought to limit secular laws, rules and regulations to the necessary minimum. They recognized that the fewer the rules, the broader the potential agreement. Broad agreement, in turn, results in less strife. Less strife leaves people free to create and accomplish. The fewer obstacles placed in the path of individuals, the less energy wasted in trying to overcome them. Nevertheless, they left the doors wide open for the continuation of the dialogue, enshrined in the American Construct as the system of checks and balances.
PRODUCTION — DISTRIBUTION
Adam Smith sets the agenda at the outset of his The Wealth of Nations by discussing production and productivity. It is a study of constantly accumulating wealth, providing increased access to a growing number of participants. On the opposite side, Marx's chief argument concerns "surplus value" and to whom it ought to belong. (In fact, he presumes to determine to whom anything may belong.) From the outset, Social Dogma concentrates on distribution. Socialism is defined as distribution of the national product based on individual performance, Communism as distribution of the national product based on individual need. Social Dogma is unable even to think in terms of production, of increased availability. Instead, it is obsessed with the distribution of what it considers a finite quantity of goods.
A review of the past thirty years in the United States will confirm these findings. American Liberals have concentrated solely on distribution. Emphasis was shifted from opportunity to entitlement. Instead of increased productivity, Liberal efforts are always directed toward increasing demands. These demands are for unearned participation in, and distributions from, the accomplishments of those who produce the nation's goods — tangible and intangible. Those who would resist are branded with pejorative labels no self-respecting American is able to bear.
Agendas of confiscation and of arbitrary distribution result in a downward spiral. With incentives shrinking, less and less is produced, consequently there is less and less to distribute. This, in a nutshell, is why welfare states invariably increase poverty.
MINORITIES — MAJORITIES
Were it sensible and desirable in and of itself, 19th century German Social Dogma would still be irrelevant for the United States. It was devised under conditions and with societies in mind in which a minority enjoyed a high standard of living, while the circumstances of the "overwhelming majority" (in the words of Marx) were in urgent need of improvement. By the time Social Dogma launched its all-out assault on the American Construct — during the mid-1960s — the overwhelming majority of Americans had come to enjoy a higher standard of living than members of any previous society. How, then, was it possible for this patently alien, irrelevant doctrine to pervade our thinking, our language, our institutions?
Social Dogma persuades its intended victims that it has people's best interest in mind, that it seeks peace, justice, and equality, that it is motivated by caring and compassion. Its ability to camouflage true intent and adapt to a specific scenario is matchless. It never admits to prohibiting freedom of speech; instead, it masquerades in the Third Reich as "allegiance to the Fuhrer," in the Soviet realm as "class struggle," in the United States as "politically correct vocabulary." It never admits to obstructing the path of the talented; instead, it decrees purification of the race (Third Reich), leadership of the proletariat (Soviet Union), affirmative action (United States). It never admits to confiscating the property of those who had succeeded; instead, it claims to recover "what the Jews had plundered" (Third Reich), to establish national ownership (Soviet Union), to protect the environment (United States).
A convergence of unusual circumstances rendered Americans receptive, among them the ennui of the affluent, the Vietnam debate, the new preoccupation with clean water and air, the Civil Rights movement. Along with its staples of "peace," "social justice," and all-round "goodness," Social Dogma promised unlimited and unrestricted sex. Soon, an entire generation of Americans was convinced that their own existing ideals and aspirations blended naturally with Social Dogma, which merely expressed them in "more precise and more global terms." Thus, the interpretation of the Vietnam conflict was switched. No longer an effort by the Free World to contain Communist expansion, it became "the just struggle of a small people against the mighty Imperialists." The rising tide of legitimate concern for America's Blacks was harnessed to brand every person of white skin with the indelible stigma of racism, thereby eliminating any prospect of a resolution. The genuine compassion Americans feel toward the less fortunate was corrupted into the agenda of redistribution. Academic freedom in our universities was turned into a weapon to stifle academic freedom, just as Martin Heidegger — Hitler's first appointee as University President, and still an object of academic worship in America — had demanded in 1933. With utter disregard for the American experience which had proven the very opposite of Social Dogma at every turn, the minds of an entire generation were taken over completely, producing several million unwitting Fellow Travelers. Today, it is that same generation which performs mind-snatching on successive generations of children.
They are stealing childhood from our children who are commandeered on the streets to march against ballot items they cannot possibly comprehend. Boys and girls are recruited to act as mouthpieces for activists on behalf of issues patently outside their youthful interests or grasp. A majority of them now believe they belong to a minority. Far from being encouraged to think of themselves as Americans, their sense of identity is imprinted with the stigma of separateness from their earliest moments of consciousness. The camouflage applied in this area bears the labels "self esteem," "role models," "roots."
Most immigrants took their lives in their hands because in the country of their birth they could not get ahead, or could not get along (or both). What made the difference? Why have men and women — Irish, Sicilian, Hungarian, Vietnamese and, yes, African — made out so infinitely better over here than over there?
The American Construct knew nothing about hyphens. If everybody was American, plain and simple, the curse of warring groups will have been eliminated and a community of individuals was free to evolve. Nearly two centuries later, the assault of Social Dogma was spearheaded by the arrival of the hyphen. The hyphen accomplished what the Wolfpack, the V1, the V2, and all the ICBMs of the Soviet Union could not. It created the seams at which America was to come apart.
Meanwhile, a growing multitude of minorities is attempting the uneasy fit of employing Social Dogma — developed to suppress the minority in a given society — to gain objectives advocated by self-appointed leaders. Common sense would inform them that destroying the very structure in which they seek accommodation has never been a successful recipe. If the objective is to live inside a certain building, demolishing it and distributing the bricks is hardly the way to go. Social Dogma has yet to succeed in building anything at all. History has recorded its unparalleled record of destruction, which is why the so-called National Standards for U.S. History and for World History had gone to such lengths to eliminate the teaching of history in our schools.
DEBATE OR WARFARE?
And so we return to The Question That Matters. Communism and Nazism have demonstrated what might happen if Social Dogma governs. At the expense of the individual — law, education, and human interaction of every kind will be subordinated to some "higher purpose," expressed always in terms of group identity. The agenda is prescribed and adjusted daily by those who claim to "know best" what is appropriate for all creatures.
During the 19th century, the clash between these conflicting views remained confined to writings. In 1914, the contest moved to the battlefield. Two World Wars and the so-called Cold War later the same battle continues to rage, now in the everyday life of America. It is, without doubt, a fight to the finish. Yet those who have been persuaded that we are debating merely different approaches to our shared American traditions remain the great majority. Decades of mind manipulation by social theorists, social dogmatists, has succeeded in distorting our vision.
That which divided Kant from Locke, Marx from Adam Smith, separates Liberals from Conservatives in today's America. Significantly, Locke neither implied that he was privy to divine insight nor found himself in need of declaring God "dead" to make his point. English-speaking thinkers, unlike their German counterparts, did not seek to challenge religion — an important distinction between the protagonists, still today. Securely anchored in their moral foundations, Conservatives can afford to pursue the dialogue as a process of discovery, amongst themselves and with the American people at large. Liberals must continue to rely upon their unrelenting monologue.
Because in the short term dialogue can appear as uncertainty and monologue as strength, the time has come to distinguish between appearance and substance as follows:
The agenda of so-called Liberals in America rests on 19th century (German) Social Dogma. No alternative roots of significance are traceable.
Social Dogma is diametrically opposed the principles on which this nation was founded.
Social Dogma seeks to restrict freedom of speech, freedom of movement, advancement without discrimination, and the protection of private property.
Having lost two World Wars and the Cold War, Social Dogma continues to cast aspersions on our defense establishment, seeking eventually to destroy the capability of this country to resist and combat forces of oppression.
Social Dogma, unchallenged, has led to Bolshevism and Nazism.
These are the origins, this is the true nature of the so-called Liberal agenda. Without comprehending it, we are unlikely to exorcize it. Some have argued that even the Liberal agenda has "good" points, but then people were taken in by Hitler's Autobahns, Mussolini's success in getting the trains to run on time, or all those Five-Year Plans which were supposed really, but REALLY, to put food on Soviet tables.
Remember Raskolnikov's visionary nightmare about the new microbes? "Men attacked by them became at once mad and furious. But never had men considered themselves so intellectual and so completely in possession of the truth as these sufferers, never had they considered their decisions, their scientific conclusions, their moral convictions so infallible..."
We have identified the microbes and the plague they spread. We called the virus Social Dogma. Cataloguing the damage it has already caused to America is but a first step. Next, we must learn to differenciate between those who have been infected, and those who are actively spreading the virus. While the former may be cured, the latter need to be engaged — head-on.
© Copyright 1996 Balint Vazsonyi