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Postre: "Wrong Side of History," Marx and Hans Fallada (Alain de Benoist, France) (John Eipper, USA, 07/14/10 4:52 am)
Alain de Benoist writes:
I would like to thank the WAISers who sent responses and comments to my 10 July post: Jordi Molins i Coronado, David Gress, Ernie Hunt, Nigel Jones, and Sardar Haddad.
Jordi wrote (11 July): 'Even though I am biased against Communism, I can see something good about it: the original idea of 'everybody is equal'.'
As the 'goodness' of this proposition is not obvious, Jordi should explain why he thinks that the idea that 'everybody is equal' is good. He could also specify in which sense he understands 'equal.' In the sense of sameness? Otherwise? What I found the most strange is that he sees Communism as fundamentally related to 'equality.' Personally, I would have rather thought about the US motto: 'All men are born free and equal' (a obvious double mistake--or is it a double lie?). To fight against income and social inequalities certainly does not means or implies that 'everybody is equal.' Against some earlier utopian socialists of the 18th and 19th centuries, like Gracchus Babeuf (the 'RÃ©publique des Ã©gaux'), Karl Marx fought against social injustice and class oppression, but never appealed to the idea of 'equal rights' to legitimate his struggle. Nor did he structure either his vision of the future society around the notion of 'equality.' To the contrary, he strongly criticizes Gotha's Program for having said that work's benefits must be distributed 'to all members of the society with an equal right' (Marx and Engels, Selected Works, New York: 1968, International Publishers, p. 319).
That Marx has never been a defender of 'equality' has been luminously demonstrated by Alan Wood in his seminal article 'Marx and Equality,' in John Mepham and David Hillel Rubin (eds), Issues of Marxist Philosophy, vol. 4, Brighton: 1981, Harvester Press (reprinted in John Roemer, ed., Analytical Marxism, Cambridge: 1986, Cambridge University Press, pp. 283-303).
Introducing his very well articulated post of 11 July, David Gress wrote: 'For decades I have wondered about two things. Is there a direction to history? And, regardless of direction, is there a right or a wrong side to it? Frank Fukuyama famously in 1989 said yes to both questions [â¦] He of course relied via KojÃ¨ve on Hegel, who perceived a reason in history [â¦] My studies persuade me that Hegel, Alexandre KojÃ¨ve and Fukuyama have a point, but that there is also a wide gap between philosophical reasoning and social reality.'
As for myself, I do not believe there is any general direction to history, in which the whole mankind would be implied. History is not written by advance. In that sense, history is always open and unpredictable, because man himself is unpredictable. But there are historical cycles, and local historical developments of great length ('de longue durÃ©e') whose dynamics cannot be overturned before the end of their own cycle. It is clear, for instance, that Western dynamics since two millenia has been carried on by some principles which were first formulated as theological and religious principles, then became secular and ideological, or even 'scientifical' (notions like 'progress' or 'reason', for example), and that the logic inherent to these principles has never been stopped. Such principles will be exhausted only after having produced all they were intrinsically able to produce.
Ernie Hunt (11 July) summarized his belief with these words: 'The Christian viewpoint changed the ancient view of history. We are not going in circles. We are not Sisyphus. We are going somewhere [â¦] to the mysterious fulfillment of God's ultimate promises.'
Ernie is quite right to say that Christianity 'changed the ancient view of history.' It did it by replacing a cyclical (or 'spherical,' if we use Nietzsche's words) conception of history by a vectorial-linear-unitarian view where history has an absolute beginning, a absolute ending, and leads the whole mankind 'somewhere.' This is the root of the notion of 'progress.' Unfortunately, history does not obey beliefs. Mankind is only made of cultures, and cultures have their own history. Cultures are born, they grow, they mature and they die. What the Western world lives today has already been lived at the end of the Roman Empire. For Oswald Spengler, the moment where a culture becomes a civilization marks the beginning of its decay.
To contradict my opinion that 'there is no wrong or right side of history,' Sardar Haddad (11 July) just repeats that we see in history bad people (Stalin, Hitler, Mao, etc.) and nice people (he quotes Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi). This shows he did not really understand what I meant. That some historical figures are better or worse than others is obvious. However, it is not the proof that there is a 'wrong' or a 'right' side of history. That there is a 'right' and a 'wrong' side of history is a proposition that can be sustained only philosophically, and only if one sticks to a teleogical view of history. That's why I quoted the name of Hegel. I do not know on which philosophy of history Sardar relies. My philosophy of history relies mainly on Herder, Vico, and Spengler.
Another difficulty Sardar should not underestimate is that to determine where is the 'right' (or the 'wrong') side of history is not so easy, because no consensus will ever be established on the criteria of judgment. The dictators we regard today as extremely bad were acclaimed by millions of peoples in their times. Even today, Lincoln, Martin Luther King., Jr., and Gandhi are certainly not recognized by everybody as having been on the 'right' side of history. More generally, that kind of division does not work for most historical peoples and situations. A simple question to Sardar: at the time of the war between the Armagnacs and the Bourguignons, which side was the 'right' one? Finally, let's not forget that the very definition of the 'right' or 'wrong' side of history is usually given by the winners.
(Short note. Sardar wrote: 'Alain has expressed a negative view of freedom and democracy in the US. Does he also have a negative view of freedom and democracy in France?' My answer: yes, of course.)
I was pleased to see Nigel Jones (12 Kuly) quoting the name of Hans Fallada (actually it was a pen-name, taken from the Brothers Grimm tales. His real name was Rudolf Ditzen). I have read most of Fallada's books. Though his Kleiner Mann, was nun? (Little Man, What Now?) is the best known of his works, I think the most interesting one is Bauern, Bonzen und Bomben (1931), a powerful evocation of the great revolt of the Landbewegung, the movement of the Schleswig-Holstein peasants under the Republic of Weimar (Ernst von Salomon wrote about the same topic, with Die Stadt).
Hans Fallada wrote about the anti-Hitlerian Resistance after WWII (his Jeder stirbt fÃ¼r sich allein was published in 1947, a few months after his death), but he was never personally involved in this movement. Under the Third Reich, he lived in Carwitz (Mecklenburg) and was at that time particularly prolific, with books like Wir hatten mal ein Kind (1934), Wer einmal aus dem Blechnapf friÃt? (1934), MÃ¤rchen vom Stadtschreiber, der aufs Land flog (1935), Altes Herz geht auf die Reise (1936, a book translated into French during the Nazi occupation, in 1941, with a foreword of Alphonse de ChÃ¢teaubriant), Hoppelpoppel --wo bist du? (1936), Wolf unter WÃ¶lfen (1937), Der eiserne Gustav (1938), SÃ¼Ãmilch spricht (1939), Der ungeliebte Mann (1940), Das Abenteuer des Werner Quabs (1941), Damals bei uns daheim (1942), Heute bei uns zu Haus (1943), etc. In 1945, Fallada went to live in East Berlin, where he was invited by Johannes R. Becher to work for the TÃ¤glichen Rundschau.