Will Our Commissariat
Before We Destroy It?
By: Victor Davis Hanson
Part One – March 21, 2023
In October 1942, after losing over 7 million Soviet soldiers in some of the largest encirclements in history at Kyiv and Bryansk, Joseph Stalin finally suspended the active role of his once pet commissars, zealots, and snitches.
Previously the Kremlin had applied ideological litmus tests to all military promotions, rewards, punishments, and even matters even of tactics and strategy. Before the war, they had murdered thousands of gifted officers deemed ideologically impure and incorrect. The result was that Soviet ideology promoted mediocre yes-men and punished the talented. Stalin did not want to end the commissar system, but he understood by 1942 it was losing him the war against the Third Reich.
The subsequent effort to restore some meritocracy to the Red Army came just in time before the Eastern Front collapsed. By 1943–44 the new Red Army took the offensive.
Fortuitously for the then Allies, at the very time the Red Army Stalinists allowed merit to determine promotions and strategies, the embattled Nazis increasingly sacked their old Prussian Junker class of generals.
Instead, they now appointed “Hitler’s generals” to implement Hitlerian fantasies. These were mostly yes-men whose chief attribute was Nazi fanaticism. Almost all of Hitler’s most boneheaded decisions, the Falaise Gap disaster, Stalingrad, the Battle of the Bulge counter-offensive, and the misuse of jet fighters were in some way predicated on Nazi mythologies that Nazi generals followed Hitler’s stupid directives and superior Aryan Germans never retreated and always paid back twice what they suffered, regardless of the particular circumstances in which an army found itself. By 1945, again fortuitously for the Allies, all those gifted generals who had once given Hitler victories between 1939-42 — Guderian, Heinrici, von Kleist, von Kluge, von Leeb, von Manstein, Rommel, von Rundstedt, and von Witzleben had been either sacked, murdered, or only occasionally recalled.
The chief reason why contemporary China is an existential threat to the U.S. in a way Mao Zedong’s China was not, is because the Chinese Communist Party in the 1980s and 1990s began to prune away its revered Maoist commissars, the Red Guards, and other ideological police that hampered research, education, and development—by predicating everything from science to medicine on correct Maoist revolutionary expression. In cannibalistic fashion, the entire society crumbled as ideologues hunted down scientists, professors, engineers, and doctors as bourgeois enemies of the people.
To the degree Xi Jinping retains any of the Maoist commissariat, and to the degree the U.S. rejects its current woke madness, will determine whether America still enjoys global leadership.
So how odd that even hard-core communists in the past, to survive the Nazi war machine, or mass starvation, cast off their woke commissars as the problem rather than the solution. And how odder that a free democratic society, guided by republican government, has willingly emulated the failed policies junked as suicidal by our worst enemies.
The essence of woke, despite what its boosters say, is not diversity. If it was, the woke revolution would welcome all sorts of dissenting views to enrich its conversations. It is not about “equity,” but instead mandating equality of result, as determined by a few elite commissars using ideology to cover their own relentless drive for power, control, and self-aggrandizement. And it is not about inclusion but rather fixates on racial, ethnic, and gender exclusionary quotas to hire, retain, and promote Americans on their appearance and politics, rather than either the content of their character or their demonstrable expertise. The result is that campuses have never been angrier and more tense, and racially segregated.
Everything woke touches is destroyed by both acts of commission and omission. The current Left is spending its entire energy on targeting expertise and talent and has no time or desire to train the inner-city poor or the rural impoverished or the immigrant needy in the basics of language, science, history, and math to ensure they can become self-sustaining and independent citizens—the Left’s apparent worst nightmare.
The distracted U.S. military is spending billions of dollars to indoctrinate recruits in woke ideology. Officers who comply are promoted; those who object are often either stalled or released. For every woke indoctrination seminar, thousands of artillery shells, or tank maneuvers are shorted. For every woke promotion, there is a Patton or Nimitz passed over because of criteria that have nothing to do with leadership.
Part Two – March 22, 2023
When Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley bragged that he was focusing on “white rage,” Americans assumed that he had time for such distractions because the army would secure Afghanistan, the air force would keep our skies free of Chinese spy balloons, and the military, in general, had plenty of recruits—all mistaken optimism.
So woke serves as a cover for the mediocre: fail at what you were assigned to do, and then cover that failure with ideologically correct, head-nodding, virtue-signaling verbiage.
We know what followed Gen. Milley’s testimonies: Afghanistan fell in the greatest American humiliation in a half-century. China sent spy balloons across the United States with impunity. Thousands of targeted white males simply ceased signing up for military service. Either they were tired of dying at twice their demographic numbers in losing efforts in distant Afghanistan and Iraq, or they did not want to enter the military under suspicion of being racist, sexist, or homophobic and thus subject to special military retraining. Or both.
Now the army alone finds itself 15,000 recruits short in 2022—in other words an entire division lost. 2023 may be even worse.
Experts are fighting over what caused the collapse of SVB in Silicon Valley. Was it the hyperinflation caused by the Biden administration, the laxity of the Federal Reserve to stop de facto zero interest and quantitative easing, and then in panic spiking interest rates at a historically rapid pace? Was it buying low-interest bonds that did not pay enough interest to service the banks’ growing expenditures? Was it a “It’s a Wonderful Life” bank run, fueled by the panic of losing deposits? Was it the recession in Silicon Valley that meant reduced demand for profitable loans and start-ups’ difficulties in meeting payback dates?
No one quite knows the exact lethal calculus. But if one reads the now defunct bank website and the social media performance art of its executives, the main theme is not brilliant banking or iron-clad guarantees of depositors’ money, but the diversity profiles of its management and board, the bank’s commitment to equity and green causes, and the general sense of inclusion. The commissariat wished us to know it was woke, but not that its team had made disastrous choices that would destroy its very existence.
Again, the bank overinvested in hundreds of Silicon Valley tech, socially aware, and green start-ups. The latter had obtained easy contracts from budget-busting massive “infrastructure” bills during the Obama and Biden administrations. Their bosses also bragged about their diversity profiles, their green investments, and their contributions to leftwing groups.
All this was a veneer over the truth that SVB was issuing what amounted to subprime business loans to risky startups. They had ignored the reality that their long-term government bonds paid little interest just when annual inflation began spiking, just when depositors demanded higher returns, and just when clients were increasingly buffeted by stagflationary layoffs. When a March run on the bank by depositors drained the bank of cash, and a massive sell-off of now low-yield government bonds incurred huge losses and fueled the panic, the bank simply imploded. So we now have a perfectly woke and perfectly broke epitaph for SVB—and a tragic model for others to follow.
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Most of our marquee universities are dropping the SAT requirement for admissions. They are coy about the reasons. But most know why.
All SAT scores are dropping, given high schools are spending an inordinate amount of time to ensure that all students are equally mediocre rather than ensuring that their best are accordingly rewarded, and its struggling students still graduate with basic knowledge. More importantly, however, particular woke college quotas cannot be filled if prior SAT standards are maintained. Our best universities in Orwellian fashion brag that they reject 60-70 percent of those who score perfect scores on now optional SAT tests. But they will not disclose the scores of those who were admitted and had chosen to take the test.
Remember, woke admissions are the beginning and not the end. What follows requires watered-down courses, inflated grading, and assured graduation—at least if a faculty member or administrator wishes to avoid the lidless eye of the woke commissar, who scans the landscape looking for “disparate impact” and “disproportionate representation” in grading.
Never have ignorance and arrogance been so intertwined. At the recent infamous Stanford Law School trashing of invited speaker Judge Kyle Duncan, what was striking was not the usual obscene placards, the infantile rude questions, the teenage summer camp-like chanting of boilerplate slogans, but an occasional shout to the judge “You wouldn’t have gotten into Stanford”! (But Stanford’s own 2022 fail rate of the first California Bar examination has now reached 14 percent of its graduating class, lower than four other California law schools. So was the ignoramus’s brag of Stanford Law School’s excellence warranted?