By Fanam Shakibafar
In this article, I shall discuss how a Frankenstein-like monster called “post-modernism” was born out of socialism, and why is this concept an ally for all forms of reactionary movements worldwide, as well as the greatest threat to our world today.
Classical Marxist socialism claimed economic and moral superiority over liberalism. The ideological basis was that the driving force for capitalism was “competitive exploitation,” while Marxism could establish a more productive (more economical) and more amical (moral) structure by establishing a collective and collaborative production paradigm.
Classical Marxism saw internal contradictions at the core of capitalism that were steadily escalating; ones that would ultimately and inevitably lead to its collapse. This prediction never materialized. Neither the number of successful entrepreneurs decreased, nor the middle class became weaker, nor proletarians increased.
In the classic interpretation of Marxism, all that was needed to reach the promised utopia was the “wait and see strategy.” The inner contradictions of capitalism were to intensify automatically, and in response, the proletarians will be enlightened and rise up to a revolution, which will subsequently deluge the human society with delight.
When the predictions of the Leftists’ Prophet ended up with the opposite outcome, and there was no indication of a promised revolution in Western Europe, socialism revised its strategy. As a result, assorted schools of thought emerged in various geographies, all of which abandoned the “wait and see” strategy.
One school of thought was the Russian-Leninist form of Marxism. Vladimir Lenin basically claimed that not only patience (wait) was unnecessarily, but one need not dispel capitalism in order to reach the promised utopia. All that is needed, Lenin asserted, that a vanguard elite resort to violence to clear the passageway from feudalism to socialism.
In China, Mao Zedong reached a similar conclusion. Yet, in his departure from classical Marxism, he went a step further than Russian Marxism. He also abandoned the overly optimistic beliefs of classical Marxism about science and technology and denied the necessity of worker-centeredness (farmers were instead placed at the center).
Southeast Asian Marxism (especially the Indochina region) had even more morbid regressions than the Chinese version. Pol Pot (Saloth Sâr), for example, virulently opposed the concept of “urbanization.” Under his leadership, the Khmer Rouge destroyed urban infrastructure and massacred a quarter of Cambodia’s population.
Let us return to continental Europe and the birthplace of classical Marxism; where the Prophet of the Left was born. While Russian-Asian Marxism replaced the strategy of “wait and see” with the strategy leap, and relentlessly murdered and looted, in Western Europe, primitive Social Democracy was born.
Of course, at inception, social-democracy did not plan to conform to the economic formulation of capitalism, but merely endeavored to seize power through parliamentary struggles. It can be called the “Trojan Horse Strategy.” However, the concept did not make any strides in the 1920s Western Europe.
The failure of the Western European Leftists in their parliamentary struggles had immensely frustrated them until the economic crisis of 1929. A wave of excitement swept the Leftist circles. They boasted that their Prophet’s predictions were coming true, and urged the believers to rise, as that the inner contradictions of capitalism were now in plain view.
Thus, Western European Leftists began the 1930s with great enthusiasm. They had been expecting class realization of the proletarians in the wake of the crisis and the Great Depression, but two factors dashed their hopes, so much that by the mid-1930s, their aspirations were long gone.
What were those two factors? First, in the United States, the self-restoring mechanisms of liberal democracy and the flexibility of capitalism managed the crisis; and second, the stagnation of Western Europe not only failed to usher into international socialism, but gave rise to national socialists (especially the Nazis in Germany).
The international socialists were defaced by their fellow socialists and totalitarian believers, but of the nationalist kind, led by Adolf Hitler. The camp of socialism was stunned, despondent, and frustrated. The blows they had sustained were severe.
The advances made by the Red Army to Berlin healed their wounds. A large majority of them had now turned to their Russian Tavarians to offer a globalizable model. But that fantasy was also shattered. In February 1956, a recurrent wave of astonishment and bewilderment reigned over the radical Left camp.
In February 1956, during the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the USSR, Nikita Khrushchev disclosed only a small fraction of the crimes that were committed during Joseph Stalin’s reign. That little information was so dreadful that it was sufficient for questioning the fundamental claim of the moral superiority of the Left.
The Leftist had barely recovered from that defeat, when in October 1956, the Soviet Army brutally repressed the liberation movement of Hungarian workers and students before the world’s eye, sparking a wave of hatred and appall. In the mind of many, the Communist utopia had suddenly developed a dystopian countenance.
Ethical crisis had swept the Leftist camp. There existed little option for defense. Revelations of what was going on the east side of the Berlin Wall were steadily growing. Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago was the coup de grâce to any hope for the realization of Marx’s utopia in the Soviet Union.
The reaction to the moral crisis on the Left was twofold. Some remained loyal to Marxist and post-apocalyptic socialism and refused to admit that their Prophet was wrong. Instead, they went on the quest for “true socialism” and changed tracks permanently. This happened from China to Vietnam and from Albania to Cuba: the “Marxist Qibla” changed.
The second group, finding it impossible to deny and at the same time refusing to accept the supremacy of liberalism, took another path. They said, now that we are not winning and that modernity does not lead to Marx’s utopic realm, we will now essentially undercut modernity, civilization, science, rationality, ethics, etc.
It was at this point that the Frankenstein of “postmodernism” came into view. This dogma attracted every element in any philosophy, school of thought, and creed that was opposed to modernity and liberalism, and attached itself from anyone it could (especially from Martin Heidegger and Sigmund Freud).
That process that began with the writing and publication of the sardonic work, Dialectic of Enlightenment by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno later culminated by people like Michel Foucault, Jean-François Lyotard, and Jacques Derrida. Today, postmodernists have horrifically and worryingly infiltrated many academic circles around the world.
Michel Foucault was an official member of the French Communist Party in the 1950s. In the same decade, Jean-François Lyotard was a member of the radical Leftist group, “Socialism or Barbarism.” Around the same period, Jacques Derrida wrote for the radical Leftist journal, Tel Quel, and was active in various Marxist circles.
Other popular and ostracized postmodernists of the 20th century often have similar backgrounds. Hence, it is clear that the re-emergence of postmodernism in reality represents a new front by former socialists and Marxists to continue the war against modernity and liberalism.
The old Leftist who could not find their way to the promised utopia either through revolution or through other political struggles, came to a realization. They figured now that the world will not dance to the beat of their drum, then it is imperative to harm modernity via any way possible, at any vulnerable area. The idea was to deprive modernity of even a moment of peace.
To this end, the postmodernist Left moved in two relatively parallel directions; the academic branch went to war with modern epistemology to radically and fundamentally destroy rationality. And the social and political arm battles liberal democracy by resorting to “identity politics” and “hate politics.”
By seeking assistance from racial minorities, LGBT, immigrants, feminists, environmentalists, and romantic peacemakers, postmodernist Leftists endeavor to blame all their and the world’s problems on capitalism and liberal democracy; turning them into a target for self-retribution and to remedy their innate mediocrity.
They welcome any resistance, anywhere and at any level, to modernity and liberal democracy. That is exactly the impetus for their adoration of the Islamic Republic regime in Iran. They praise and rejoice in the evil, rebellion, and malice in fighting modernity and rationality.
If Marxists were the greatest threat to mankind in the 20th century when they slaughtered nearly 110 million people, postmodernists constitute the greatest threat of the 21st century in terms of development, prosperity, peace, and freedom. They sow seeds of hatred to reap blood.
Mr. Farnam Shakibafar is an Iranian graduate student in Social and Political Sciences.