March 13, 2017
Statists of the World, Unite! The Totalitarian Statism of Left
By Peter Amos Cohen
A Description of the Left’s Totalitarian Statism
Steve Deace has written a very good article describing the fanaticism and totalitarianism of the Left (https://tinyurl.com/j8tzuw7). Deace writes: “But what remains possible in the mind of a genuine liberal, no matter whether they are on the winning or losing side of an argument, is the possibility or requirement to coexist on some level with their countrymen. While they may be at war with the ideas of the person they are debating, they are not fundamentally at war with the person themselves. Not so with Leftists.”
Deace lists the differences between liberals and Leftists as the following:
- The liberal seeks to mold civilized society in ways we oppose. Mainly because they have a different definition of compassion, or have a different view of the role government should play in our lives. The Leftist seeks to dismantle civilized society altogether.
- The liberal believes in things we think are unconstitutional. The Leftist pursues an agenda that is anti-constitutional. They’re not simply perverting the general welfare clause, but attacking the very integrity of the Constitution itself.
- The liberal will contend for your free speech, even if they think you’re an unevolved troglodyte. The Leftist believes you forfeit your free speech entirely if you dare disagree.
- The liberal believes those who disagree with him or her simply need to be educated or exposed to diverse cultures and ideas. The Leftist believes those who disagree are automatically racist/misogynist/homophobic bigots.
- The liberal believes government is the primary tool to carry out his or her ideology. The Leftist believes government is the primary weapon to punish those who oppose his or her ideology.
The Left seeks ideological purity at the expense of social harmony and national unity. Events throughout the Obama years and since the Trump election make that clear. One could be tempted to psychologize the Left by calling these events merely immature and frenzied public displays that will simmer in time, as the movement matures. But, as Deace warns, the Left cannot recognize the humanity of those who disagree with its agenda. Why is that? There is no coexistence with Leftism. It is willing to attack even those who are pragmatic allies and moderate supporters precisely because they still are willing to moderate their politics during sports events and other traditional, non-political, American activities. What are the causes of the Left’s unrelenting fanaticism and totalitarianism?
A Brief Statement on the Causes of the Left’s Totalitarian Statism
The causes of the Left’s fanaticism and totalitarianism are in-built and essential to its primary purposes and goals: the rejection of civil society. To be consistent with this goal, Leftists cannot recognize people’s humanity independent of their political agenda; the Left must dehumanize its political opponents. Totalitarianism and fanaticism are not incidental, but essential to the Left’s political agenda. The correct understanding of civil society helps to see how this is the case.
A Definition of Civil Society
What is civil society? Civil society consists of families relating to and cooperating with other families, and forming intermediate organizations. Intermediate organizations are named such because they are formed after families but before the state (i.e. political society). These are voluntary societies that exist “in between” families and the state. But, although they exist inter media (in the middle or in between) families and the state, these associations do not serve both equally: service to the state is only a side effect of their primary purpose to serve families. These associations naturally develop amongst families as they interact and cooperate to form economic, educational, cultural, and/or religious auxiliaries to family life. The vast majority of human life and society, of justice, and of human goodness and flourishing takes place in families and these intermediate societies, while only a minimal amount involves the state, as important as its role is. Civil society generates the need for the state when its activity becomes complex and formalized to the extent that the rule of law is needed. The state is then formed to serve and preserve the pre-political, civil society. This is referred to as the instrumentalist view of the state: the state does not have its own, independent good/purpose, but is meant to be instrumental in civil society’s attainment of its own good. It is proclaimed a self-evident truth in the Declaration of Independence: “To secure these (God-given, unalienable, pre-political) rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The correct view of civil society comes to light when one combines the instrumentalist view of the state with the principle of subsidiarity, which defines the state’s role as subsidiary to civil society, that is, helping it, not replacing it or any of its intermediary organizations. Catholic Vote offers a brief video explaining the principle of subsidiarity here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GD0moAiq22k. This correct view of civil society is the basis for minarchy, a position which holds that the statization of human society ought to be minimized.
While the state is necessary for matters of conflict of interest among pre-political societies, for national security, or sometimes for positive action to serve the common good, etc., minarchy is required for human flourishing because the vast majority of human life takes place in civil society. Saint John Paul II wrote: “The social nature of man… is realized in various intermediary groups, beginning with the family and including economic, social, political and cultural groups which stem from human nature itself and have their own autonomy, always with a view to the common good.” (Centesimus Annus 13) Ryan Anderson explains that the true meaning of social justice refers to the order of justice, the duties and obligations, that exist by nature within the family and civil society (https://tinyurl.com/js8zbn4). This is the form of social justice which is diminished by the statization of civil society. But, conversely, affirming civil society (and the order of justice within it) limits the state. While there are further prudential limits (e.g. the separation of powers, term limits, election cycles, etc.) that can and should be placed on government, the priority of civil society is not a prudential judgment but an ethical, moral principle. Government (or the state) is ought to be limited in principle due to its subordination within the moral order to higher and prior goods. Unless subordinated and limited, politics are absolute and governments unlimited. But it would be wrong not to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, just as it would be to render unto Caesar what is God’s.
The Causes of the Left’s Totalitarian Statism Reconsidered
After the above reflection of civil society, one is positioned to understand the Left and the causes of its totalitarianism. Leftism dates back to the 60’s and 70’s and the sexual liberation movement. This movement is summarized here (https://tinyurl.com/3ru2wgv) by the following bullet points:
- Sexuality became political, emerging as an axis around which new social movements organised.
- Shifts in the relations between women and men, particularly those inspired by the emergent women’s liberation movements. This parallels women’s increased presence in the public realm and personal autonomy concerning reproductive choices and sexual expression.
- The political mobilisation of the gay & lesbian movements.
- A destabilising of the rigid boundary between the private family and the individualistic orientated public realm.
- Reforms in the legal and medical regulation of sexuality.
- The increased commercialisation and commodification of sexuality through pornography and mass media. The concomitant relaxation of censorship laws.
The sexual revolution promotes what is traditionally called sexual vice — sexual vice refers to all the forms of sexual activity denied in virtue-based societies (including traditional American life) that regulated sexuality according to reason. Reason, of course, finds marriage to be the appropriate and honorable “place” for erotic, sexual expression; having a family is the corresponding goal of sexuality. Marriage and the family, according to right reason, “frame in” sexuality, as alpha/origin and omega/end. Hence, marriage and the family are the primary obstacles and objects of animosity for the Leftist, politicized alternative forms of sexuality. Leftists hold that sexuality must be “liberated” from its “prison” within marriage and the family. Hence, the Left’s attack on the family and civil society.
The Left’s weaponization of the mechanisms of the state against its political enemies; the Left’s undermining of democratic processes to further its agenda; its using the courts, the media, and schools to counteract popular vote losses; it all flows directly from the Left’s philosophical denial of the family and civil society. Watch how this Leftist justifies her political absolutism: (https://tinyurl.com/zyfcyw8). The Left is a mixture of anarchy and absolutism: its anarchy towards civil society renders its politics absolute. For the Left, because there is no pre-political, civil human society, there is no basis human interaction outside of political agenda. There is no common humanity. Within the perspective of Leftism, there is no basis to enjoy a sports event where there is political disagreement: every platform must be subjugated to the agenda: (https://tinyurl.com/jawdbvr) The Left’s political agenda defines the social existence of its adherents. Any acknowledgment of the humanity of its political opponents would entail a betrayal of its core tenet by an admission of civil society. Coexistence is theoretically impossible for a Leftist.