Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Never having to say you're sorry

Bret Stephens, reviewing the late Jean-François Revel's Last Exit to Utopia: The Survival of Socialism in a Post-Soviet Era, describes the Left's invulnerability to experience:
.... "The totalitarian phenomenon," Revel observed years ago, "is not to be understood without making an allowance for the thesis that some important part of every society consists of people who actively want tyranny: either to exercise it themselves or—much more mysteriously—to submit to it."

It was a temptation that proved to be remarkably resilient. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the once fellow-traveling European left had no choice but to admit that the god to which it had long rendered faithful service had been an illusion, and incurably dysfunctional to boot. Yet that grudging concession, as Revel observed, did little to chasten the former groupies of totalitarianism. On the contrary, it served as a springboard for a fresh assault on liberal-democratic principles. ....

...[T]he left's new refrain was that, whatever the excesses of communism, they were as nothing next to those of "liberal totalitarianism" and "savage capitalism." Communism, in this view, more than redeemed itself through its aspirations for social justice. And to the extent that actual Communist regimes—namely, all of them—fell short of that ideal, it merely proved that they hadn't been Communist to begin with!

Of this mental fortress, Revel acidly writes: "Utopia is not under the slightest obligation to produce results: its sole function is to allow its devotees to condemn what exists in the name of what does not." [emphasis added] Thus the political collapse of communism offered members of the hard left an avenue of ideological resurrection, since they could return to their favorite pastime of lambasting globalization and other American conspiracies to enslave the world without having to suffer any unpalatable reminders of some of the alternatives—the Berlin Wall, for instance. .... [more]
Book Review: Last Exit to Utopia - WSJ.com