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Auty, Albrechtsen and the fate of the West

Question: why do so many academics favour Marx?

5 September 2020

9:00 AM

5 September 2020

9:00 AM

In a recent edition of The Spectator Australia, Giles Auty took yet another swipe at communism as a political system when he wrote ‘Intellectuals in Western countries love to flirt with communism as an idea but the reality has always proved rather distant’ (8 August).

Few Speccie readers, and even fewer writers, would disagree with this unexceptional remark. Almost every edition contains articles reminding us of the lunacy of academics whose advocacy of the ideas of Marx has poisoned the minds of humanities graduates in Western universities for the past century.

It is undeniable that every time Marxists have gained control of government, tyranny gets its foot in the door and is soon followed by corruption and economic collapse or stagnation. Even what is shortly to be the most powerful economy on the planet got to where it is today only when Deng Xiaoping began the process of transforming China from a Marxist backwater into a ‘socialist market economy’. The economic success of China today is absolute proof of the hopelessness of socialism as an economic system as it is only when capitalism returned to China that it began what is an astonishing and continuing transformation. So Mr Auty and all the other writers who hold similar opinions regarding the evils and inadequacies of socialism will get no cavil, demurral or disagreement from me.

Every socialist political system has ended up, to a greater or lesser extent, as a tyranny. From Cuba which gives its citizens free education and free hospitals but no freedom of thought, to Cambodia where Brother Number One presided over a system where the mere possession of spectacles could class you as an intellectual and was enough to get you murdered.

Every socialist economic system that has emerged since WWII has failed to live up to expectations. The Russians were smart enough to develop a world-leading space exploration programme but couldn’t manufacture the jeans which, instead, had to be smuggled in from the West and would cost more than a week’s wages for a pair. The economic policies of Chavez and Maduro have impoverished Venezuela and they are only two on a long list of failed socialist leaders including Mugabe, Honecker and the Kims.

But there is a problem. Given that the failure of socialism is universal, how do we explain its continuing popularity in the humanities department of universities throughout the Western world where most lecturers are the academic equivalent of anti-vaxxers? What makes this question even more difficult is that, while people who argue against the efficacy of vaccination programmes are usually badly educated and possess brains the size of peas, academics are among the most highly intelligent members of society.

It is not enough to keep saying that those academics who keep espousing socialism in preference to capitalist democratic systems are wrong. Instead, we should be asking why, after more than a century of repeated failures and irrefutable evidence, so many academics still ignore reality and hold such strange beliefs. We should also be asking what effect the espousal of Marxist ideology is having in society.

Modern history and sociology courses are not creating the sort of underground Marxist groups that were common in Western universities before WWII. What they do seem to be creating is an antipathy to what is the most successful political and economic system that has ever been created. Many of the graduates from our universities fail to see that the people of Western capitalist democracies are richer, healthier, safer and live longer than the members of any other form of society ever created. Instead, many of the graduates from our best universities are told that they are inhabiting a racist, sexist cesspool where a white elite oppresses and exploits the masses. Those graduates who get into positions of influence in government or the media ensure that these ideas are able to shape social policy.

We must accept that if, after more than a century of repeated failures, so many academics still maintain that socialism will bring about peace on earth and goodwill to all men (and women and the rest), then reasoned argument cannot prevail.

Most Marxist and socialist intellectuals, like anti-vaxxers, will never be persuaded by mere facts. The pernicious influence they exert in universities was revealed in the absurd hoo-ha about accepting the Ramsay bequest and a way must be found to minimise their influence.

Stalin’s way of dealing with dissent was to have the dissenters shot and he wasn’t the first tyrant to deal firmly with dissenting intellectuals. In 221 BC a Chinese official suggested to the Emperor Qin Huangdi that:

Anyone who uses history to criticise the present shall have his family executed. Any official who sees the violations but fails to report them is equally guilty. Anyone who has failed to burn the (Banned) books after thirty days of this announcement shall be subjected to tattooing and be sent to build the Great Wall.

Executing the spouses and children of academics who hold dissenting, ridiculous opinions is probably not going to be acceptable today. More recently, in the Cultural Revolution, academics were sent to the countryside to learn from the peasants. It is a sign of the impotence of government that the academics who are poisoning the minds of our children cannot even be sent to work on Snowy Hydro 2.0 where their ideas about the Marxist labour theory of value, dialectical materialism and the concept of Exploitation would be of considerable interest to the workforce.

In a recent Weekend Australian, Janet Albrechtsen suggested cutting the funds of universities that don’t resist the current decline in academic freedom. While one may agree with Ms Albrechtsen’s dissatisfaction with the state of Western universities today, her solution is itself a restriction of academic freedom. Once we start telling universities what they can and cannot do and say, then we are on the road to burning books.

So, as Lenin once said, what is to be done? If neither rational debate nor the brute force of financial starvation can solve this problem what options are available? Probably none. We have to learn to accept crazy ideas will be pushed in our universities for some time to come. But Western civilisation still has the best science, most of the best music, art and literature ever created and, judging by the millions of people on the outside who are trying to get in, Western democracies are still the best place to live.

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