The Tower Amid the Ruins

AP Photo/Jens Meyer

Although Karl Marx, not Adolf Hiter, was arguably the most destructive German ever born, Bret Stephens writes in the New York Times that Western intellectuals will go to extreme lengths to deny it.


Why is Marxism still taken seriously on college campuses and in the progressive press? … These aren’t original questions. But they’re worth asking because so many of today’s progressives remain in a permanent and dangerous state of semi-denial …

They will insist that there is an essential difference between Nazism and Communism … balance acknowledgment of the repression and mass murder of Communism with references to its “real advances and achievements.”

“They will write about Stalinist playwright Lillian Hellman in tones of sympathy and understanding they never extend to film director Elia Kazan” because Marxism is ostensibly a moral enterprise. However many millions it killed, it meant well. The irony of this defense is that the Communist Manifesto argued morality doesn’t exist. It was simply a construct of the Party. Chapter 2 of the Manifesto says:

When the ancient world was in its last throes, the ancient religions were overcome by Christianity. When Christian ideas succumbed in the 18th century to rationalist ideas, feudal society fought its death battle with the then revolutionary bourgeoisie. The ideas of religious liberty and freedom of conscience merely gave expression to the sway of free competition within the domain of knowledge.

“Undoubtedly,” it will be said, “religious, moral, philosophical, and juridical ideas have been modified in the course of historical development. But religion, morality, philosophy, political science, and law, constantly survived this change.”

“There are, besides, eternal truths, such as Freedom, Justice, etc., that are common to all states of society. But Communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality, instead of constituting them on a new basis; it therefore acts in contradiction to all past historical experience.”


If you want to know what’s moral read the papers, the right ones, of course, because it’s changing all the time. There is no morality but class morality and the party defines what class morality means. Marxism styles itself not as the servant of some objective virtue but its maker. It defines good. Through this, the Manifesto deliberately sets itself against the psalmist who acknowledges an external truth which it is man’s purpose to discover. In the familiar words “the Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” It is there. I will find it.

The psalmist tries to understand reality in contrast to the progressive who decides what virtue is to be and re-evaluates the past accordingly. They are two points of view and ways of thinking, with Marxism winning the argument  — at least in the academy, the media and entertainment — through most of the 20th century. But in the 21st century, first slowly but with gathering speed the Internet has collapsed the Narrative and laid bare the corruption of Hollywood, politics and the media. For the first time in a century, the assumption progressives are a uniquely moral people pursuing a virtuous enterprise is impossible to sustain.

The populist uprising owes much of its success to the collapse of the progressive claim to moral superiority. But it comes at a price, a Pyrrhic victory. With the demotion of Marx’s own truth into merely another construct, everything slips into delegitimization. You can’t even surrender to Harvey Weinstein because there’s no There there.


With George Washington declared a racist, along with Christopher Columbus, Thomas Jefferson, and Teddy Roosevelt, there is no refuge from absurdity. Marx’s heirs, having freed themselves from moral restraints, have ridiculously proceeded to construct an elaborate system of mores governing every aspect of life. There are now PC formulas for bathrooms, transgender forms of address, Halloween costumes, sexual behavior, speech, food choices, energy consumption, transportation and even mathematics, just to name a few. Among the innumerable rules of virtue there’s even a sacrament of penance, to which Harvey Weinstein has subscribed, declaring his intention to atone for his reported sexual assaults by fighting the NRA.

Not bad for a movement that was going to abolish all truth and morality if the object is comedy. A million little politically correct rules and none of them — by Marx’s own admission — ultimately true. If that isn’t good for laughs, nothing is. Perhaps, the greatest damage Marxism did, apart from inspiring the death of actual persons, was to fill much of the Western world with such sheer craziness it undermines its will to live. The circumstantial evidence of damage is compelling. European youth unemployment is tragically high. Not a single EU member country can even reach replacement birthrate. One news article even half-seriously reported that millenials were ditching religion in exchange for witchcraft and astrology. Who wants to die for a joke?


Yet in this wasteland, perhaps the psalmist will have the last word. Human nature has a mysterious knack of reasserting itself as if driven by some underlying pattern that comes to the fore despite Marx’s argument to the contrary. Then-Lt. Gen. John Kelly’s story about what two Marines did in 2008 to an audience shortly after the death of his son in combat illustrates the tendency.

Cpl. Jonathan Yale and Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter, 22 and 20 respectively, one from each battalion, were assuming the watch at the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines.  …  Yale was a dirt-poor mixed-race kid from Virginia, with a wife, a mother and a sister, who all lived with him and he supported. He did this on a yearly salary of less than $23,000. Haerter, on the other hand, was a middle-class white kid from Long Island. They were from two completely different worlds. …

You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives. I suppose it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley.

It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time, the truck was halfway through the barriers and gaining speed. Here the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and rational men they were, some running right past the Marines, who had three seconds left to live.

For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines firing their weapons nonstop. The truck’s windshield explodes into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tear into the body of the son of a bitch trying to get past them to kill their brothers – American and Iraqi – bedded down in the barracks, totally unaware that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground.Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder-width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could. They had only one second left to live, and I think they knew.

The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God.

Six seconds. Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths.


Six seconds were certainly not enough time to think of the politically correct thing and makes one doubt whether everything is a construct. Perhaps Kelly was trying to understand his own son’s death and realized that some will stand between an oncoming threat and their buddies from the beginning of the world till now because that’s just how they are. The rock stands, the horn sounds, the high tower calls — no matter the truck bomb, no matter the narrative.

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