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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Igor Shafarevich : The Socialist Phenomenon (G)




IX.
Socialism and
Individuality

It is natural enough to begin the analysis of this social ideal by elucidating the interrelationship of its various elements. It is immediately clear they do not play an equal role. For example, Plato argues for the necessity of communal property and wives, since only under these conditions will the citizens take joy in and grieve over the same things. In other words, he considers the communality of property and the abolition of the family as means for achieving equality. He regards equality, however, not in the usual sense of equality of rights or opportunities, but as identity of behavior, as the equalization of personalities. Both these traits--the abolition of private property and of the family as a means to achieve equality, and this special understanding of equality--run through the majority of socialist teachings.
The view that equality is the basic principle from which other socialist doctrines proceed played an especially large role in the gnostic sects. "God's justice consists of community and equality"--such a proposition was used to justify both the abolition of private property and the demand for communal wives. This theme can be traced in the medieval heresies and the doctrines of the Reformation. Niklaus Storch preached: "Everything should be common, for God sent all into the world equally naked." Müntzer taught: "No one should rise above others; every man must be free, and there should be community of property." Citing Plato, More asserted that those laws are best that provide for "distributing all the good things of life among all equally," and deduced the need for communality of property. Meslier writes that "all people are equal by nature" and also deduces the necessity
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of abolishing private property. Representatives of the Enlightenment supplemented this argument with the notion of a "natural state" in which all people were equal and the disappearance of which gave rise to private property and all the vices of contemporary life. The only significant exception is "scientific socialism," which deduces the need to abolish private property from objective causes, such as the type of production. In so doing, Marx deduces the very notion of equality from the economic conditions of bourgeois society. (See 3: XVII: p. 68) But how, then, are we to deal with the just cited radical concepts of equality that were proclaimed in the early centuries A.D.? We have already shown why we cannot recognize "scientific socialism" as a genuinely scientific theory and why we must see it merely as a form or guise in which the socialist ideal appears Gust as it can appear in mystic garb, for example). For the same reason, we cannot take on faith the assertion that the demand for abolishing private property is also a result of scientific analysis of the objective phenomena of social life. We shall soon return to the evaluation of the role which communality of property plays in "scientific socialism" and its connection with the concept of equality. One of the most striking features of socialist ideology is that quite special sense which it attributes to the concept of equality. We have already pointed this out in connection with the rationale for communality of property, of wives and children proposed by Plato. And later, in the majority of socialist doctrines, we encounter a conception of equality which approaches that of identity. Dwelling lovingly on the details, authors have described the characteristic monotony and unification of life in the state of the future. Where More speaks about identical clothing, except for a difference between male and female attire, Campanella indicates that the dress of men and women is almost the same. In Utopia, everyone wears cloaks of the same color; in the City of the Sun a woman who attempts to alter her mode of dress will be punished by death. Solarians never have any privacy; they work and relax in detachments and share common sleeping and dining facilities. All the cities of Utopia are built according to one plan: "He who recognizes one will recognize all." The same ideal of life in absolutely identical cities consisting of identical houses is repeated by Morelly. His people also wear clothes made of the same material, and all children's clothing is absolutely identical. They all eat the same food 'and receive the same education. Babeuf and Buonarotti's circle, whose
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very title included the word "equality," understood this to include common obligatory meals, entertainment, etc. ... In the examples above, we see an external equalization of living conditions which symbolizes, as it were, the corresponding leveling of the inner world. Deschamps gives a more detailed description of the changes in human personality. Of the people of the future, he writes: "They would (much more than we) adhere to the same type of action and would not deduce from this, as we usually do with regard to animals, that to act thus is to reveal a lack of reason or understanding. Why do people who find perfection in nature's ever identical type of action consider this to be a defect in animals? Only because people are too far removed from this kind of action, and their haughtiness makes them interpret this very remoteness to their advantage." (53: p. 219)
More specifically, he foresees that people will begin to look alike: "Identical morals (and true morals can only be identical) would make, so to say, one man of all men and one woman of all women. I mean by this that ultimately they would resemble each other more than animals of the same species." (53: p. 176)
Deschamps proposes changes in language so as "to banish all terms presently used to express our good and bad qualities, even all terms unnecessarily distinguishing us from other things." (53: p. 503)
Finally, "scientific socialism" proclaims that the historical process is controlled by immanent laws which are independent of human will. An understanding of these laws makes history predictable. This conception was formed under the obvious influence of the advances of natural science in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, above all, the success of astronomy in predicting the discovery of planets, the return of comets, etc. Fourier asserts that mankind is ruled by the laws of "attraction of the passions," which are in his view precisely analogous to Newton's law of gravitation, whereby "the unity of the physical and the spiritual worlds is manifest." In terms of this analogy, individuals correspond to the elemental particles of matter, which must be identical (at least, from the standpoint of properties essential to the phenomenon under consideration--that is, history). As for Marxism, one thinks of an analogy with another physical theory. This is the kinetic theory of gases, according to which a gas is the aggregate of molecules that come into collision, with the result of each collision determined by the laws of mechanics. A very great number of molecules
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transform the statistical laws of their collision into the general laws of the physics of gases. The only form of social contact of the producers of goods in capitalist society is exchange (just as for gas molecules the only form of interaction is collision). The interaction of a great number of producers engenders that "social production" which, in its turn, determines their political, legal and religious notions, and the "social, political and spiritual processes of life in general." It is evident that such a conception makes sense only on the assumption that separate "molecules" (producers) are identical. Otherwise, instead of an explanation (or an "understanding," as Marx puts it), there would be only the individual properties of a huge number of people, and one enigma would be replaced by a mass of enigmas. Proceeding from these examples, it is possible to attempt to formulate the specific concept of equality inherent in socialist ideology. The usual understanding of "equality," when applied to people, entails equality of rights and sometimes equality of opportunity (social welfare, pensions, grants, etc.). But what is meant in all these cases is the equalization of external conditions which do not touch the individuality of man. In socialist ideology, however, the understanding of equality is akin to that used in mathematics (when one speaks of equal numbers or equal triangles), i.e., this is in fact identity, the abolition of differences in behavior as well as in the inner world of the individuals constituting society. From this point of view, a puzzling and at first sight contradictory property of socialist doctrines becomes apparent. They proclaim the greatest possible equality, the destruction of hierarchy in society and at the same time (in most cases) a strict regimentation of all of life, which would be impossible without absolute control and an all-powerful bureaucracy which would engender an incomparably greater inequality. The contradiction disappears, however, if we note that the terms "equality" and "inequality" are understood in two different ways. The equality proclaimed in socialist ideology means identity of individualities. The hierarchy against which the doctrine fights is a hierarchy based on individual qualities--origin, wealth, education, talent and authority. But this does not contradict the establishment of a hierarchy of internally identical individuals who only occupy different positions in the social machine, just as identical parts can have different functions in a mechanism. The analogy between the socialist ideal of society and the machine is certainly not new. For example, speaking about the ancient states of Mesopotamia and Egypt (which, as we have seen,
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were to a considerable extent based on socialist principles), Lewis Mumford expresses the view that their social structure was the first to be based on the idea of a machine. He supports this idea by referring to the drawings of the time that show warriors and workers as completely identical, like the stereotyped details of a machine. (141: p. 150) Even more convincing is the evidence of a man who was clearly competent in this area: I. V. Stalin. He once expressed his social ideal by calling the inhabitants of the state ruled by him "nuts and bolts." He proposed a toast to them. And in contemporary China the papers glorify the hero Lei Fen, who wrote in his diary about his desire to be Chairman Mao's "stainless-steel cog." The preceding considerations lead us to the conclusion that at least three components of the socialist ideal--the abolition of private property, the abolition of the family and socialist equality--may be deduced from a single principle: the suppression of individuality. There is also a large body of direct evidence that demonstrates the hostility of socialist ideology to individuality. Some examples:
Mazdak taught that the confusion of light and dark, as well as evil in general, derived from individuality and that the ideal condition cannot be achieved until people rid themselves of their individual qualities. Fourier believed that the "fundamental core of the passions" on which the future society will be founded is a passion called "unitheism." This force is not activated in conditions of civilization. The passion directly opposed to it is egoism or one's own "I." "This disgusting inclination has various names in the world of learning: moralists call it egoism; ideologues, the 'I,' a new term which, however, does not introduce anything new but is a useless paraphrase of egoism." (97: p. 105) It should be noted here that egoism in the usual sense is not at all excluded from Fourier's system. He held that the most useful people in the future society would be those who are inclined to enjoyment and who declare duty to be the invention of philosophers. Fourier offers a list of the most important passions for the new order: love of fine food, sensuality, a passion for diversity, competition, self-love. Evidently, "egoism" in the quotation above should be understood in a broader sense and the "I" in a direct sense.
In Marxism the idea is occasionally expressed that man has no existence as an individuality but only as a member of a definite class--individual man is the invention of philosophers. We come across attacks on the "corrupt" views that hold "instead of the interests of the proletariat,
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the interests of man, who does not belong to any class and, in general, exists not in reality but in the clouds of philosophic fantasy." (3: V: pp. 506-507) Marx says: "The essence of man is not an abstract quality inherent in a separate individual. In reality it is the aggregate of all social relations." (3: IV: p. 590) Marx was concerned with the question of why, under conditions of complete political emancipation, religion does not disappear. From his point of view, this testifies to the fact that a certain flaw remains in society, but the reason for this flaw should be sought in the very essence of the state. Religion is no longer presented as a cause but as a manifestation of general narrowmindedness. The essence of this narrow-mindedness and limitation he sees in the following: "Political democracy is Christian in nature because man in it--not man in general but each man separately--is considered a sovereign and supreme being; and this is said of man in his uncultivated, non-social aspect, of man in a haphazard form of existence, man as he is in life, man as he is corrupted by the whole organization of our society, lost and alienated from himself; in a word, man who is not yet a genuine creature." (3: I: p. 368) In the contemporary leftist movement, the theme of the struggle against individuality is particularly strong. The ideologists of this movement distinguish several aspects of revolution (or of a series of "revolutions," as they put it): social, racial, sexual, artistic, psychedelic. Among these, two especially are perceived as means for the annihilation of "bourgeois individuality"--the psychedelic revolution (collective use of hallucinogens and deafening rock music) and a particular aspect of the sexual revolution ("group sex," which goes much further than the group marriage of primitive tribes, since not only the personality but also the sex of the partners plays no role).
This tendency leads to attempts to overcome sex distinction. Thus we read in a contemporary leftist magazine: "Capitalism developed the ever more inhuman polarization of the sexes. The cult of making distinctions, which serves only for oppression, is now being swept away by awareness of resemblance and 'identity.' " The author quotes another representative of the same current: "Both sexes are moving toward general Humanity." (142: p. 25)
Marcuse foresees a society in which fantasy, now suppressed by reason, will open up a new approach to reality. In his understanding ,of the nature of fantasy Marcuse here follows Freud, citing, in particular, the latter's idea that fantasy "preserves the structure and tendencies
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of the psyche prior to its organization by the reality, prior to its becoming an 'individual' set off against other individuals. And by the same token, like the id, to which it remains committed, fantasy preserves a 'memory' of the subhistorical past, when the life of the individual was the life of the genus, the image of the immediate unity between the particular and the universal under the rule of the pleasure principle." (119: p. 142) It is precisely in the process of disintegration of this unity that there appears the "principium individuationis" hostile to fantasy. Marcuse believes that one of Freud's most important services was the destruction of "one of the strongest ideological fortifications of modern culture--namely, the notion of the autonomous individual." (119: p. 57) Sartre's views in this connection are also of interest. He says, for example: "I believe that the thinking of the group is where the truth is. ...I have thought this way since childhood. I always considered group thinking to be better than thinking alone. ...I don't believe a separate individual to be capable of doing anything." (143: pp. 170-171) He feels particular antipathy for such individual action as sacrifice. "The sacrificial type is narrow-minded by nature. ...This is a monstrous type. All my life I have fought against the spirit of sacrifice." (143: p. 183)
We meet with the very same features in the historical models of socialism. Discussing the influence of the Inca system on the Indians' psyche, Baudin writes: "Life itself was torn out of that geometrical and sad empire, where everything occurred with the inevitability of fatum. ...The Indian lost his personality." (56: pp. 135-136)
The depth of the conflict between individuality as a category and socialist ideology is indicated by the fact that this conflict touches on the innermost core of individuality. As so much else in man, his individuality has two strata--one, the more ancient, is of prehuman origin and man shares it with many animals, while the newer stratum is specifically human.
Ethologists (scientists investigating the behavior of animals) see the moment when individual bonding appears as the first manifestation of individuality in the animal world (i.e., when there are relations in which one animal cannot be replaced by any other). This phenomenon may be observed experimentally by trying to substitute one animal for another. Certain types of fish, birds and mammals exhibit this type of bonding; a classic example of the phenomenon that has been thoroughly
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investigated is the bonding of the graylag goose. In this species, bonding is accomplished in a complicated ritual performed by parents and nestlings or by a pair or by two ganders. When one individual dies, the other calls him and looks for him everywhere, stops avoiding predators, becomes timid. Lorenz even assures us that in the eyes of such a creature there appears the same expression as in the eyes of an unhappy human. (144: Chap. 11) The presence of individual bonds has great importance for the structure of animal societies, which are divided into anonymous societies, in which animals do not distinguish each other as individuals (for example, groups of herring or of rats), and individualized societies, in which animals are linked by individual relations (e.g., geese). Astonishingly, among the forces supporting the existence of individualized animal societies, according to the ethologists, are precisely those factors (seen in human society) with which socialism is in conflict: the upbringing of offspring by a family, individually bonded children and parents and, in general, individual bonds between members of society. (Deschamps foresees "life without separate bonds" in the future society.) Other individualized animal behavior includes animal hierarchies in which individuals have different importance, and where, for instance, older members can use their experience for the benefit of the whole group, while stronger individuals defend the weak. Finally, there is a phenomenon which may be regarded as a prehuman analogy of property: the notion of territory in animal society.
Socialism is equally hostile to those specifically human factors which account for the individuality of man, to those aspects of life in which man can participate only as an individuality and cannot be replaced by anyone else. Cultural creativity, particularly artistic creativity, is an example. We have seen how the most outstanding thinkers of the socialist trend (Plato, Deschamps) elaborate measures that provide for the complete disappearance of culture. And in periods when socialist movements are on the increase, the call for the destruction of culture is heard ever more distinctly. It is sufficient to recall the regular destruction of books in monastery libraries by the Taborites and the destruction of works of art by the Anabaptists in Münster. In the years of War Communism, an anti-culture trend was quite evident, as we have already indicated. The contemporary left radical socialist movements ,manifest the same attitude toward culture. Culture is understood by them to be "bourgeois" and "repressive"; the goal of art is understood
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as an "explosion" or the destruction of culture. The theoretical framework is derived from Freud, Adorno and Marcuse, with their notion of the uncompromising conflict between the instincts and oppressive culture. The prominent leftist H. M. Enzensberger, for instance, criticizes literacy and literature as typically bourgeois elements of culture. He considers literacy to possess "class character" and to be subordinated to numerous social "taboos." The rules of orthography are imposed by society as norms and their violation is punished or condemned. "Intimidation by means of a written text has remained a widespread phenomenon of class character even in developed industrial societies. It is impossible to remove these elements of alienation from written literature." (145: p. 181) Although the author does not foresee a complete destruction of literacy, literature and books, he assumes that they will be supplanted by such means of communication as radio and television (perfected to the point where each receiver will function simultaneously as a transmitter). In the new information system, the written word will be preserved only as an "extreme case." One of the most significant features of spiritual life directly linked to the existence of individuality is a sense of individual (and not collective) responsibility for the fate of one's social group, city, nation, or of all mankind. With Plato being perhaps the only exception, all socialist ideologists are hostile to such an attitude. The medieval heretics, as we have seen, called either for a radical break with the world and life or for their destruction. This point of view was preserved in other socialist movements from the Reformation until our day. In recent centuries it has found support in the notion that history is governed by iron laws as precise as the laws of physics and that its basic direction could not be affected by human will. Fourier's position is typical. (Fourier is a forthright and honest writer whose philosophical views were not distorted by the exigencies of practical activity, by considerations of party politics or revolutionary struggle.) In answer to the question what one should do while awaiting the onset of the future order, he says: "Do not sacrifice the good of the present to the good of the future; enjoy the moment; avoid any matrimonial or other union which does not satisfy your passions-now. Why work for the sake of the future good? For this good will exceed your most treasured desires in any case, and in the combined social structure you will be threatened by only one trouble--the impossibility of making your life twice as
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long so as to exhaust the huge circle of pleasures awaiting you." (97: p. 293) Finally, human individuality finds its greatest support and its highest appreciation in religion. Only as a personality can man turn to God and only through this dialogue does he realize himself as a person commensurate with the person of God. It is for this very reason that socialist ideology and religion are mutually exclusive. (Of course, if either of these world views is underdeveloped, they can coexist for a certain time.) It is natural to see here the cause of that hatred for religion which is typical of the overwhelming majority of socialist doctrines and states.
The same approach makes more comprehensible the curious traits we observed in the "Conspiracy of Equals" (see Part One, Chapter III, Section 4, above): the naIve adventurism, the arrogant boastfulness, the disposition to petty dishonesty and disruptive behavior, a certain inanity that gave the whole movement a somewhat comic and Gogolian flavor. These features are inherent in a majority of socialist movements in the initial period of their development. Among anarchistic and nihilistic currents in Russia, they found ultimate expression in "Nechayevism," so brilliantly described by Dostoyevsky in The Possessed. Early Marxism exhibits similar traits quite vividly. For example, there is the incredible history of the writing of the first critical reviews on Volume I of Capital--all composed anonymously by Engels. He offered Marx to write two, then four or five review articles "from different points of view" or "from a bourgeois point of view." Meanwhile Marx provided him with detailed instructions on what to praise and what to disagree with for the sake of authenticity. Marx writes: "In this way, I should think, it might be possible to hoodwink that Swabian Maier [the editor of a newspaper]. No matter how insignificant his paper is, it is still a popular oracle for all the federalists in Germany and is read abroad as well." "It's hilarious how both magazines have taken the bait," Engels informs Marx. In the first year after the appearance of the book seven reviews appeared--five of them by Engels, one each by his friends Kugelman and Siebel, who followed Engels' lead. As a result, Marx could say: "The conspiracy of silence in the bourgeois and reactionary press has been broken!" (Letter to Kugelman, February 11, 1869) He writes to Engels: "Jenny, a specialist in these matters, asserts that you have developed a great dramatic and even a comic
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talent in this matter of 'different points of view' and various disguises." (See 3: XXIII: pp. 406, 445, 453, 458, 465, 473, 483, 484; XXIV: pp. 3, 5, 26, 59, 65, 80, and the general survey in 146)* Equally bizarre is the episode of the "portraits" of prominent revolutionary figures in emigration that were put together for twenty-five pounds sterling for a certain Bann, who later proved to be an agent of the Austrian and Prussian police. In response to Marx's proposal, however, Engels immediately warns him that it would be regarded as "assisting reaction," but concludes: "£25 valent bien un peu de scandale." (3: XXI: p. 359) Or, finally, take the threats to blackmail their comrades in arms: "Doesn't this brute understand that if only I so desire, he would be up to his ears in a stinking swamp? I have more than a hundred of his letters in my possession. Has he forgotten that?" (Marx writing about Freiligrath, 3: XXII: p. 493)
The correspondence of the founders of the materialist approach to history abounds in such passages. The same traits are evident in today's more extreme left movements in America and Western Europe, and often give these movements a rather frivolous character. (Cf. 147)
To get a better feeling for the characteristics of these phenomena, it is worthwhile juxtaposing them with similar episodes from the sphere of religion, or with nationalistic movements where completely unknown individuals or small groups first launch their ideas. Take, for example, Captain Ilyin, the founder of the sect of "Forest Brethren" or "Jehovists" at the end of the nineteenth century in Russia; he was persecuted all his life and spent fourteen years in harsh confinement in the Solovetsky Monastery. One can reject his religious ideas, but it is impossible not to be struck by his profound dignity and moral strength, which never left him in the course of his many ordeals. There are thousands of such examples. It would seem that many people--leaders of the movements in particular--do not derive from socialist ideology the same sort of strength and self-confidence. This comes only at the height of success when the movement attracts the broad masses. Here, as elsewhere, Marx's words turn out to be to the point, if we understand them as referring to himself: "These ideas do not give strength of themselves but become a force when they hold sway over the masses." The reasons are clear in the light of the above discussion:

* In this connection, Engels' reproach to Loria appears in a different light: "The importunate charlatanism of self-aggrandizement," "success achieved with the help of clamorous friends." See p. 211n., above.

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an ideology that is hostile to human personality cannot serve as a point of support for it. We can see that all elements of the socialist ideal--the abolition of private property, family, hierarchies; the hostility toward religion--could be regarded as a manifestation of one basic principle: the suppression of individuality. It is possible to demonstrate this graphically by listing the more typical features that keep appearing in socialist theory and practice over two and a half thousand years, from Plato to Berlin's "Commune No.1," and then constructing a model of an "ideal" (albeit nonexistent) socialist society. People would wear the same clothing and even have similar faces; they would live in barracks. There would be compulsory labor followed by meals and leisure activities in the company of the same labor battalion. Passes would be required for going outside. Doctors and officials would supervise sexual relations, which would be subordinated to only two goals: the satisfaction of physiological needs and the production of healthy offspring. Children would be brought up from infancy in state nurseries and schools. Philosophy and art would be completely politicized and subordinated to the educational goals of the state. All this is inspired by one principle--the destruction of individuality or, at least, its suppression to the point where it would cease to be a social force. Dostoyevsky's comparisons to the ant hill and the bee hive turn out to be particularly apt in the light of ethological classifications of society: we have constructed a model of the anonymous society.
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