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To Make History, You Have To Destroy It First

December 10, 2022 Frontpage No Comments

By CHRISTOPHER MANION

In reaching for a deeper understanding of our current times, I turn to the master. In his history of Rome, Titus Livy suggests that we “trace the process of our moral decline, to watch first the sinking of the foundations of morality as the old teaching was allowed to lapse, then the final collapse of the whole edifice, and the dark dawning of our modern day when we can neither endure our vices nor face the remedies needed to cure them.”
Wow, that’s a pretty tough assignment in any era. Today, any historian undertaking that challenge has a steep mountain to climb. While we have little trouble witnessing our moral decline, we are confronting a massive effort to hide its history, and then to destroy it. As Karl Marx says in his Eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach, “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.”
In Orwell’s 1984, history was destroyed and changed daily. And the effort was spurred on by the mandatory “Two Minutes Hate” to keep the staff on their toes.
In our own time, Livy’s “old teaching” has been scourged with all the epithets its destroyers can muster. Not only have the truths been corrupted, but the very symbols of the truth-tellers are being torn down and burned. Here in Virginia, “Lee Highway” and “Stonewall Avenue” have been dumbed down to “Woke Alley.” And in Richmond, the imposing, 21-foot-tall statue of General Robert E. Lee that stood on Monument Avenue was taken down in September. In order to drive the point home, the statue was then cut into pieces which were taken to an undisclosed location.
Media accounts explained that the campaign to have the statue removed had begun during the riots that followed the death of George Floyd. That death and destruction was not caused by nostalgic white southerners, but so what? The revolution relies not on logic but on the dialectic.
Media stalwarts failed to notice how the statue’s removal and destruction so faithfully followed the propaganda model of Vladimir Lenin in the Russia of 1917 during the months preceding the October Revolution. As historian Orlando Figes recounts, “In the absence of any obvious counter-revolution — without a real enemy to fight against — the destruction of the symbols of the old regime was, at least for the revolutionaries, the destruction of the old regime itself.”
The Lee Statue was a symbol indeed. When it was erected 133 years ago, there were no slaves in Virginia or anywhere else. It was placed there to honor a man whom all Americans — Abraham Lincoln foremost among them — greatly admired. But like Winston’s colleagues in the Ministry of Truth, the Woke Left was seething with the hatred stoked by the likes of Nancy Pelosi: “Forget history. We’re talking about the future!”
But to forget history, one must first destroy it. In the case of Robert E. Lee, as the symbol of everything he stood for is ground into the dustbin of history, a new symbol is born:
Behold the Golden Casket of George Floyd.

If You Can’t Destroy Them,
Hijack Them

In Russia, there were some symbols that were so beloved by the Russian people that Lenin’s revolutionaries couldn’t destroy them — so they were hijacked. Everything from popular songs and labor union mottos to Jesus Christ were candidates for dialectical destruction. Christ was “the first Communist,” said Anatoly Lunacharsky, Soviet Russia’s first minister of education.
Of course, that dialectical tactic was only temporary. Ultimately, Lunacharsky argued, all religion must be destroyed, because the revolution is fueled by hate, and religion is based on love. As Alexander Solzhenitsyn put it, “all of the Communist Parties, upon attaining power, have become completely merciless. But at the stage before they achieve power, it is necessary to use disguises.”
Our own revolutionaries today follow the same pattern. Consider “morality”: The Left cannot destroy it, so it has been hijacked and then turned on its head: With the recently passed “Respect for Marriage Act,” Congress has authorized a full-scale attack by the federal government and the courts on anyone who dares to defend the fundamental truths of family, marriage, and children, while cross-dressers and drag-show fans crowd the White House stage.
Or consider “Democracy”: The Left has simply pried it loose from its mooring in reality, only to convert the term into a label to slap onto its lust for power. Biden’s Philadelphia speech in September was worthy of Leni Riefenstahl, complete with the Marines that he had dragooned to play Stasi agents. He shouted “MAGA” 14 times, branding all of his political opponents “enemies of Democracy” — just like Vladimir Putin, of course.
Biden does this so often, one wonders, where’s the outrage? Are intelligent people just writing off the guy’s perversions to dementia, and shrugging their shoulders?
Not quite. As Orwell wrote in 1944, “Intellectuals are more totalitarian in outlook than the common people. Most of them are perfectly ready for dictatorial methods, secret police, systematic falsification of history, etc., so long as they feel that it is on ‘our’ side.” Biden’s lapdogs gave it rave reviews.
Good doggies, panting in the spirit of the crowd addressed by Josef Stalin on the eve of the Soviet Union’s legislative elections in December 1937, when he beamed, “The forthcoming elections are not merely elections, comrades, they are really a national holiday of our workers, our peasants, and our intelligentsia. Never in the history of the world have there been such really free and really democratic elections — never! History knows no other example like it…our universal elections will be carried out as the freest elections and the most democratic compared with elections in any other country in the world.
Well, there you go. Stacey Abrams would be proud.
And with good reason. Consider the observation of Boris Bazhanov, Stalin’s former secretary, quoting his boss on the subject: “I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this — who will count the votes and how” (Bazhanov, Memoirs, 1992).
Of course, if a Russian voter saw an example of massive cheating that betrayed that promise, he would whisper to himself, “Why, that’s terrible! If only Comrade Stalin knew!”
But he would never dare tell anyone else.

Afterthoughts

“The strongest argument for socialism is that it sounds good. The strongest argument against socialism is that it doesn’t work. But those who live by words will always have a soft spot in their hearts for socialism because it sounds so good” — Thomas Sowell.
When Communist parties gain power and shed their disguises, that’s where the terror begins. But Solzhenitsyn relates how by that point, trade union members we’re so absorbed in the ideology of the party that, “when the spokesman for the party line rebuked them for their laziness and for getting out of hand, and demanded sacrifices from them — overtime work without pay, reductions in food, military discipline in the factory administration — this aroused great elation and applause. We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward,” he writes.
Or consider the powerful image of Venezuelan refugees escaping into Colombia, as described by an officer in military intelligence at the border:
“These people are destitute, they are sick, starving, they have lost everything. But still, when questioned, they still want ‘Chavismo’ (the Revolution) to succeed.”
Did they “purely and simply deserve everything that happened afterward”?

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