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Rubin Reports

Ideology: A Specter Haunting the World

January 4th, 2014 - 4:55 pm

“The fire-breathing Rebels arrive at the party early,

Their khaki coats are hung in the closet near the fur.

Asking handouts from the ladies, while they criticize the lords.

Boasting of the murder of the very hands that pour.

And the victims learn to giggle, for at least they are not bored.

And my shoulders had to shrug

As I crawl beneath the rug

And retune my piano.”

 – Phil Ochs

Karl Marx once famously said that a specter was haunting Europe and that specter was Communism. Today, specters are haunting the world. They are “progressivism” and Islamism. Yet these are misunderstood because the progressives want to pretend they are liberals and the Islamists want to pretend to be normal, technically pious, traditional Muslims of a century or half century ago.

Islam is a religion, Islamism is a revolutionary movement. Liberalism is a center-to-left political movement, progressivism is a revolutionary movement.

In fact Islam/Islamism and liberalism/progressivism are parallel in many ways. Their differences are distracting, one as a religion and one as an atheist non-religious ideology.

For example; progressivism and Islamism both seek to be political monopolies and ideologies. They’re comprehensive. Both use intimidation, though progressivism is more verbal and Islamism is more violent. Whenever anyone takes one to task, they insult the whole system. They are not rational systems and are not open to debate.

Both invite large elements of opportunism and careerism. People who see the winning side endorse them to benefit their own careers, not out of genuine belief.

Both of these institutions should be studied coherently. They’ve not been studied well on political terms. I will explore Islamism further in an upcoming article.

The English Civil War from 1642-1651, the struggle between monarchy and religious political ideologies, mirrors what Islamism is going through now. This was the West’s struggle between “Christianity” and “politics” which is now the equivalent of the struggle between “Islamism” and “politics.”

This could be called a Manichean model. One side is completely right, and one side is completely wrong. Therefore, a democratic dispute would not be possible.

Phil Ochs, quoted above, was creatively mocking the situation. He showed this ambiguity. Incidentally, I was his guide at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.

Here was the new professional elite: so pompous, so arrogant. They were benefiting materially, yet were contentious, simultaneously arrogant yet luxury-loving, but also virtuous and well-intentioned, superior. What more perfect combination would there be but the well-heeled Bill Ayers, the son of a senior Detroit automaker, and yet a bombing revolutionary who did nothing to deserve his good estate!

Imagine! Someone with a gold spoon in his mouth made a scruffy revolutionary, and yet the recipient of hundreds of thousands of dollars from conservative Republicans, superior to everyone. Surely a new ruling class if ever there was one.

You get the privilege but pretend you are the victim. You can take a lot of wealth while pretending to be the champion of the downtrodden.

Nowadays nobody seems to know what “progressive” means, though it is in the history books. From around 1910-1924, “Progressive” meant liberal, which was not anything like what it is today. When Theodore Roosevelt was disappointed by his chosen successor, William Taft, he formed the Bull Moose Party from the Republican, often referred to as “the progressive party.”

The progressive party of that day did well among people who wanted to continue liberalism.

FDR was always conscious that the American system might turn sharply to the left if he failed, leading to some kind of Obamaesque situation. Remember there was large scale violence (mostly labor related) and an extremely left-oriented culture war. People forget that there was a looming radical threat at that time, for example the Labor Movement.

In 1924, Robert Lafollette decided that his party, Republican, was not liberal enough, and ran under the “progressive” title. He actually got 17% of the popular vote, but concluded that this was not the amount of people needed to win an election, even though this was a rare opportunity to create a three-party system. Ultimately, he decided that the country was not left enough. The brilliance of President Roosevelt was in playing the centrist view. There were communists and progressives and horrid “reactionary republicans.”

Roosevelt, however, pitted the idea that the far left (i.e. communists and socialists) were the only other alternative to the “reactionary republicans.” Often, liberals said that these were the only choices.

During the 1924 election and the 1930s, Earl Browder and other Communist Party leaders used the word “progressive” as a cover.  In 1948, it was the name chosen by the Communist Party for its front party.

Consider how the Communist Party approached the New Deal. Here’s that party’s leader, Earl Browder, in a 1936 interview:

“Roosevelt was being pulled by some to the left and by the others to the right. Consequently, it would be wrong for ‘all progressives to unite around Roosevelt as the sole means to defeat reaction.’  …It seems that personally Roosevelt and [Republican leader Alf] Landon look pretty much alike to Browder.”

Incidentally, I’ve never seen anyone note that when the 2010 electoral organization’s far-left organized, it was called Progressives for Obama. The head was Carl Davidson, the former chief of SDS in the 1960s.

What the Obama movement did was to combine philosophical idealism, the farthest left of the old democratic party, and the lumpen proletariat, convincing more moderate liberals that this more radical movement identified with them, while everyone else was reactionary (as was done in the 1930s). Furthermore the Republican leadership was headed by an unimaginative “rhino.”

If you want to understand Obama and his movement, you have to go back to the 1960s and 1970s. For more on this, see Barry Rubin, Silent Revolution: How the Left Rose to Political Power and Cultural Dominance (Harper Collins, forthcoming April 2014).

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All Comments   (10)
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Thank you Prof. Rubin, a very enlightening article!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
My father was an FDR Democrat and economist and had lots of stories about the 30 that fit in with Barry's analysis. My dad was fearful that either fascism or communism would prevail in the US and saw Roosevelt and Keynesian economics as a middle way between the two. He was pointing out in the early 50s that the New Deal didn't cure the depression and that only WW2 stimulated the economy enough to bring the economy back. He was not an ideologue. Also he was interested in the progressive movement as represented by Laffollet - we even took the Progressive magazine. But the heart of his politics was the ADA - founded by Elinor Roosevelt, Walter Reuther the labor leader and, Hubert Humphrey just after the war. It was founded to counter the left of the Democratic party led by Henry Wallace who accepted the support of the communist party and ran against Truman in 48. I lived in Chicago in '68 and was quietly horrified by the left of the Democratic party. I did not understand what it was at the time, but I have learned enough to agree forcefully with Barry that Obama is the contemporary epitome of that wing of the Democratic party and I want no part of it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Silent Revolution looks like an interesting read, I'll have to get it. On my first of two combat tours in 68, I was pretty much tuned out on what was happening in the states, had other concerns to focus on. Never thought much of SDS and the Weather Underground and their so called brave revolution sweeping the college campus system, or their whining about getting their heads thumped at the 68 convention while extolling their bravery and sacrifices. The Berkeley and Chicago police took prisoners, the NVA didn't.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
For what it's worth, it should be recalled that not only was FDR surrounded by Communists (cf. Witness and the Venona decrypts), but apparently he as also suffering from brain cancer. This would explain why he was so out-foxed by Stalin (through Hiss, Harry Dexter White, etc.), to the befuddlement of Churchill.

I've always understood "Progressive" in the context given by Ludwig von Mises, who witnessed the rise of Progressivism first hand. Implicitly, a progressive has to be going somewhere - and thus the progress must take a direction. As Mises explains it, progress is toward the socialist ideal. Therefore anything that leads to a consolidation of power in the hands of the State is progressive, anything that decentralized power back to the citizens is "reactionary" (or what have you).

Through the years this is the working definition of Progressivism I've applied to current events, and it hasn't failed me once.

Incidentally, I'm not sure I'd call Islamism an ideology so much as a cover for profiteers. Al Qaeda (or the Muslim Brotherhood - I'm not so sure there's any difference now) has grown from a cave dwelling corporation into a multinational corporation, with headquarters in Qatar, Pakistan, and Turkey. They have prominent branches throughout Africa, including in Tunisia, Libya, India, Egypt, and the CAR. They are also present in Burma, Thailand, China, Tibet, Mexico, and Paraguay. They work with affiliate organizations in Colombia and Peru, transiting narcotics into Africa and through into Europe.

They operate human smuggling (labor, sex slavery) rings through Asia, and import these poor souls into Arab countries, where they're kept under threat of violence. See the Qatari FIFA 2022 construction.

They're also in the business of armed revolution, of course, most prominently, at the moment, in Syria, but also now Thailand, China, the Philippines, and Indonesia.

When you consider the history of the Muslim Brotherhood, and take a very close look at documents and old books linking Haj Amin al-Husseini - a genocidal butcher, a Palestinian mob boss, a spy, and a skilled propagandist all rolled into one evil package - to Hassan al-Banna, it becomes frighteningly clear the the Muslim Brotherhood is just the Arab Nazi Party. They have no clear way they say they'll rule, they never maintain any realistic order, their leaders are always enriching themselves, the populations under their control are subjected to perpetual terror, they hate Jews and Communists and spurn "materialism" - just like the Nazis of the Third Reich.

In short, the Islamist leaders are a psychotic group of anarchists, murderers, supremacists, profiteers, gangsters, and drug traffickers. They've infiltrated our government under the guise of "religious tolerance," and for decades we've been blind to their true intentions... they've only recently, with Obama's backing, turned the entire Middle East on its head. Too many in the West see this as a strictly ideological/religious battle. I say it's not. Should we decide to destroy the opium fields en total, and do the same with the coca grows in South America, our modern day Nazi enemies would simply run out of money.

I suspect Prof. Rubin knew much of this already. Should any of you be very skeptical of what I write, consider that it was Qatar who employed KSM in the years leading up to 9/11. It is Qatar who is the least cooperative of the Arab states when it comes to counterterrorism. It is Qatar where the bogus Taliban embassy was to be located. It is Qatar who is partnered with the Pakistani National Logistics Cell, which -IS- the Taliban. It is Qatar who bankrolled the Arab Spring, and whose al Jazeera network promotes the Muslim Brotherhood. It was even Qatar who gave up KSM when he realized he was too much a liability.

As for the inevitable, why don't we do anything? It's simple: we have two of the largest American bases in the world in Doha.

Sorry for all the bad news.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You are a good writer, do you have a blog or anything?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The West's struggle between Christianity and politics? 17th century puritans were basically leftists (anti-monarchical, egalitarian) who justified their politics by quoting from scripture, still believed to be the literal word of God back then. I don't think comparing the English civil war with what's going on in Syria is at all convincing or useful.

What is ideology? The problem is that people with no education or culture are being pushed around by a few ideas they have somehow picked up here and there. If that's all that Rubin means by the word, then I heartily agree with him.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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