Edward Cline's post on The Sensitivity Syndrome got me thinking how potent are the New Leftist ideologies of multiculturalism, environmentalism, feminism, etc. The New Left is far more dangerous -- far more sturdily constructed -- than the Old Left ever was.
The Old Left was Marxism. Marxism is an economic theory with a lot of strange ideas for which Marx never gave evidence. For instance, Marxism holds that history progresses from feudalism through capitalism to socialism, the dictatorship of the proletariat. Late in his life Marx scribbled a note that maybe society could jump from feudalism to socialism, and when Engels published this passage the Bolsheviks made much of it, as they wanted to argue that Russia needn't pass through modern capitalism on her way to socialism. They were rather impatient to get to dictatorship as fast as possible.
The entire theory was nothing but a rationalization for state power. It was a reactionary philosophy, a reaction to the greatest, most liberating revolution in history: the coming of capitalism and the industrial revolution. Though Marxists called themselves "progressives," they were regressive through and through. (Today's progressives are no better.)
The 20th century served as a vast laboratory showing in experiment after experiment that capitalism (freedom) leads to wealth creation and happiness and socialism (state power) leads to poverty and slavery. It is remarkable that an illogical, discredited economic theory prevailed in the east as long as it did.
The New Left is not burdened by Marx's fantasies, and is therefore more effective. Its goal is the same as Marxism: the destruction of capitalism (freedom) and the reordering of society under state power. Instead of a relatively shallow economic theory, the New Left is organized around the more philosophic idea of egalitarianism.
Egalitarianism is how altruism is effected in society. Altruism demands that the strong sacrifice to the weak, the rich to the poor. Egalitarianism is how this gets done. In their quest to make everyone the same, egalitarians never focus on making the poor richer or the less intelligent more intelligent. Instead, they make the strong weaker. They redistribute money from the rich to the poor. They stop honoring the smartest student as valedictorian and just call the entire graduating class valedictorian. They stop one side from winning in children's soccer and declare both sides the winner. The strong are punished for the sake of the weak.
Egalitarianism is the most destructive doctrine in history because its destructive purpose is never mentioned and seldom understood. Egalitarians never say, "We want to destroy X"; instead, they announce, "In X there are no standards -- nothing is better than anything else." When there is no standard of value, then you lose all value. The destruction is done for the altruistic purpose of helping the weak.
Multiculturalism, for instance, does not set out explicitly to destroy capitalism. Multiculturalists say instead that all cultures are equal. We must not impose our way of life on some neolithic tribe on a remote island, but leave them alone to wallow in their squalor. We must not offend Muslims with cartoons of Mohammed because we are strong and they are weak. The strong must sacrifice to the weak.
Environmentalists hold that man must sacrifice his interests and productivity to plants and animals and even rocks. Environmentalists (usually) do not attack man as evil, but merely claim that nature has an intrinsic value apart from man's values. It is a highly abstract form of egalitarianism.
Feminists in their more collectivist variety do not just want individual rights for women; they want women to be considered metaphysically equal to men even in physical areas in which they are not as strong. Thus women who cannot carry a man out of a burning building are given employment as fire fighters under lower standards.
Affirmative Action does not strive to give minorities equal individual rights, but preferences at the expense of the majority. Minorities are not lifted to the level of the majority, but standards are lowered for them.
The New Left assault on capitalist culture has been a brilliant success, much more successful than blundering Marxism ever was. Consider: in the 1950's communism was reviled in a movement led by Senator McCarthy. Many on the left disagreed that communism was bad, but it was clear among all that we were not communist. We were capitalist (or to be exact, a mixed economy) and our enemy was communist. Our school children were not indoctrinated in dialectical materialism.
Today the New Leftist attacks on capitalism are held as moral ideals in our culture and indoctrinated into children throughout their 12 years in public education (government schools). The New Left has succeeded where the Old Left failed. Now we are taught egalitarian ideas that destroy the standards of value of capitalism. As a result, our culture is changing. State power is growing and freedom is disappearing.
The growth of the state is never done explicitly, never with clarity. It is always done in a kind of fog. Statists do not discuss their ultimate purpose, but stop at altruism. "It is our duty to help the little guy," they announce as they pass new regulations strangling corporations, violating property rights and stealing wealth.
Statists are wise to focus their arguments on altruism, because it is the ethics of religion. This morality is already accepted by most Americans. When New Leftists expand the state in the name of altruism, their religionist opponents are disarmed.
The New Left is so successful that it not only steers the Democrat Party, but its premises have penetrated deep into the Republican Party. John McCain, the presumptive nominee for President from the Republican Party, talks about expanding "national service" and "taking on" industry.
John McCain promises to "reform" Wall Street. This will mean an expansion of government intervention in the economy. When Democrats promise anything so bold, conservatives scream that their opponents are socialists and a threat to freedom. The Republicans' own candidate is just such a threat to freedom.
The ideas of the New Left are so widely accepted and so uncontroversial, sitting as they do on 2,000 years of Christian morality in the west, that they go unnoticed like the air we breathe. For the ignorant masses educated in public schools, seeing the New Left is as hard as describing the taste of water. It's just there like a metaphysical fact of nature. Marxism never came close to such success.