When most people think of political, economic, or social conservatives, they either conjure up images of balding men with bow ties, or hooligans ransacking the United States Capitol building. Like all propaganda, these notions depend on the fallacy of hasty generalization and out-group hate. Today’s gurus use a broad brush to delegitimize an entire school of thought.
A key difference between Conservatism and neo-Marxism rests with the frequency of change, and the tools for effecting change.
Differences in this one parameter create two opposing worldviews and determine whether we retain whatever fleeting freedom, privacy, and civil liberties we have left.
At one end of the spectrum, resisting necessary change leads to ossification and obsolescence. In the current pandemic, those retail businesses which did not pivot to online ordering and delivery faced extinction. Lawyers, accountants, architects, or other professionals who did not use remote telecommunications to meet with clients or colleagues lost a lot of business. The same applied to universities and corporate teams.
Economic conservatives would agree that these rapid changes were necessary under the circumstances.
Although world governments enforced the lockdowns with a heavy hand, the business decisions in the wake of the public health emergency were not mandated under the threat of criminal penalty.
They came about by entrepreneurial decision and did not fundamentally transform their enterprises. The retail store still sold items to their customers, and the professionals still gave expert advice to their clients. The universities still taught their students.
Conservative thinkers do not object to technological or business changes that organically arise from market conditions. Nor do conservative thinkers try to violently reverse gradual social trends. They know that is part and parcel of capitalism and the march of history.
On the other end of the spectrum, drastic changes, coming in rapid succession, mandated by powerful central governments or mega-corporations allied to politicians via crony capitalism, are an anathema to social and political conservatives. While the pandemic is still distracting most people, a tsunami of frenzied radical change, accomplished without due process, goes unreported and unnoticed. Powerful elites know this and use it to their advantage in amassing power.
For decades, Western democracies have grown their bureaucracies to gargantuan size.
Besides the incompetence, economic harm and devastating burden on taxpayers, this behemoth has created a plethora of obscure regulations and “crimes”. Thus, what is legal one day is, unbeknownst to most people, illegal the next.
One day you can import exotic flowers, the next day you break the law by doing so. One day you can ride your snowmobile in federal land in Alaska. The next day, the government fines you for doing so. One day you can use the terms “father” or “mother” in the United States House of Representatives, the next day that breaks the rules. For 3 long years, Robert Mueller could investigate the electoral process; overnight, such inquiry became treason. Throughout history, tyrants used sudden and frequent upsets in the rules of the game to keep their citizens off guard, terrorized, and silenced.
Dio Cassius, in his history of Rome, described how the emperor Caligula changed the law often and posted these changes in small print on high columns to ensnare the citizenry into violating the law so the state could confiscate their property.
During the Jacobin Reign of Terror of the French Revolution, competing factions used constant change and brutal violence to subjugate their enemies, real or imagined. The Committee of Public Safety, created in 1793, was an early example of Orwellian doublespeak. By using a benign name, this wicked group masked its murderous rampages.
It enacted the Law of Suspects which persecuted those who “by their conduct, relations, words or writings showed themselves to be supporters of tyranny and federalism and enemies of freedom.”
This committee set up a Revolutionary Tribunal which condemned thousands to death by guillotine or mob violence without the due process of a fair trial. 72% of its victims were workers and peasants accused of hoarding, draft evasion, desertion or rebellion. The French Revolution was to champion such people, not oppress them. Under this Reign of Terror, the ground was forever shifting under the citizens’ feet. One day you were in public favor, the next, the Tribunals executed you before a riotous mob.
Stalin also used frequent change as a tactic during his great purge. One minute you were a loyal Communist, part of the 1917 Revolution, and the next minute you were part of the “fifth column” and an enemy of Stalin and the state.
The infamous Moscow trials were kangaroo courts used to eradicate Stalin’s political rivals and critics. We are not talking about capitalists or monarchists. We are talking about high ranking Communists who “confessed” to treason under torture. One minute, people like Lev Kamenev, Grigorii Zinoviev, and Nikolai Bukharin were esteemed members of the Lenin Bolshevik party. The next minute, they were public enemies.
Of course, Stalin’s purge did not end there. These things never do. The purge extended to intellectuals, ethnic minorities, writers and land-owning peasants. No one could escape it. At its worst, a vindictive neighbor could send you to the Gulag on a trumped up charge, as a pretense to steal your apartment, which were in short supply under the Communist controlled economy. Stalin’s expanding purge depended on rapid changes in the definitions of who was a traitor.
Like the French Revolution, the primary victims of Stalin’s radical changes were those that the Communist Revolution was supposed to rescue from poverty and Czarist oppression.
In George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984, sudden changes were unexplained and irrational.
One day Oceania was at war with Eurasia, the next day it was at war with Eastasia. The “Party” crushed any citizen who refused to affirm the blatant lie that Oceania was always at war with Eastasia.
A society that forces you to lie in public is a tyranny. It may dress itself in pretty names like “political correctness” or “safe spaces”, or even “protecting democracy”, but that does not sanitize the stench of subjugation.
Here in Israel in 2005, a Prime Minister, who championed the idea of a strong Israel with defensible borders, betrayed his voters and pivoted sharply away from his party’s platform amid impatient cries of “Peace Now!”
Thus thousands of tax-paying, law abiding, Israeli citizens, many of whom loyally served in the IDF, were summarily deported from their homes, greenhouses and businesses. Israeli media pundits gleefully celebrated the blatant abuse of their civil liberties.
This was all rammed through by a runaway Likud party in the Knesset, and a Supreme Court vote of 10 Justices with a solitary dissenting vote.
We were reassured that this Draconian betrayal was going to be the concession that brings peace. Instead, our communities bordering Gaza faced ongoing mortar fire for over 15 years, and we had to send in troops to stop the threat of terror attacks from underground tunnels originating from the territory that we evacuated. The tourist beachfront cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod regularly endure the trauma of frequent air raid sirens from ever deadlier bombs fired from the territory where we “gave peace a chance”.
Neo Marxists bank on public amnesia and history rewrites to mask their totalitarian caprice. Conservatives study history to seek patterns and try to head off wanton power grabs while there is still time.
Not all radical lurches and changes come from government overreach. Frequent, disruptive social changes by monopolistic, multi-national private corporations or organizations can be just as devastating as government caprice.
When traditional heroes such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Christopher Columbus suddenly are “evil men”, despotism is afoot.
When public shaming and boycotts force food items, sports teams, and high schools to change their brands and names in a sudden slew, your society is marching towards a reign of terror. When you post black squares on social media because you fear losing your job, you have arrived at the gates of repression.
Conservatism advocates gradual, measured change, with strict adherence to the rules of due process.
The desired changes can be painfully slow, but the alternative is a rapid descent into hell. Moderate change requires a virtuous, patient, educated, citizenry and a civil society. Conservatives are not the bad guys here. They are the unwelcome bearers of a cure no one has patience for. This puts them in the dock of censure and cancellation.
Source: Ann P. Levin – Arutz Sheva