All features, not bugs.
What this means is that socialism, at least revolutionary socialism, cannot function outside of a crisis. It is a last resort position a desperate people will tolerate in times of extreme duress. That’s the odd thing about the concept. It is an admission that the radical program cannot exist in easy times. It can only thrive when the people, or at least a large swath of them, are sure their existence is on the knife edge. It also means the revolution can never achieve its stated goals.
This contradiction within radicalism is important to keep in mind when looking at modern politics, broadly inclusive of current events. In America, we have been in some form of crisis since the turn of the century. Under Bush the Minor, it was Islamic terrorism that put us on permanent war footing. The ruling class stripped away most of our remaining rights in the name of fighting this existential threat. America now has political prisoners and a security state that spies on citizens.
In the Obama years, the permanent crisis over Islamic terrorism slowly gave way to a laundry list of left-wing bogeymen. Racism, antisemitism, various imaginary crimes against imaginary identity groups. The rape hoax on campus was a classic example of trying to maintain the permanent crisis. Coeds were supposed to act as if Chad and Biff were lurking around every corner, ready to rape them. Of course, this warranted preemptive strikes against Chad and Biff in self-defense.
What the last two decades have been, really starting after the Cold War, is the bourgeois version of permanent revolution. The managerial elite maintain a militant and independent approach to politics, seeing themselves outside of society. They are the revolutionary class that is driving progress by driving the revolution. When they shriek about threats to the democracy, they really mean a threat to the revolution, their revolution, the managerial revolution.
The old radicals understood something about the class war they promoted. Marxist intellectuals understood they lacked the stones to fight for their cause. These were soft men who lived soft lives. The working class, on the other hand, had lots of tough guys comfortable with violence. The bourgeois class was also full of soft men, comfortable living the liberal lifestyle. In a genuine class struggle, they would not stand a chance against the working class. They would not fight.
Ahh, but that’s one of the things that demonstrate the true genius behind Gramsci’s revision of Marx’s original revolutionary theory, see. A slow, semi-clandestine takeover of society’s culture and institutions renders it unnecessary to fight. When done according to Gramsci’s clever recommendations, the frog ends up boiled without any struggle at all.
The managerial revolution, on the other hand, is led by radials, who make many of the same assumptions. The difference is there is no working class. They destroyed it by auctioning off the industrial base. Instead they will use their power over institutions, like the police, the security apparatus, finance and so on, to intimidate the middle-class into going along with the program. The permanent crisis legitimizes endless intrusions into daily life by the managerial state,
The thing is, the permanent crisis has another flaw. It channels the natural energies of a people away from industry and community. The permanent revolution becomes a bonfire onto which is thrown the social capital of a people. For the revolutionary, society is the sum of men, exclusive of their inner connections. They place no value on the social capital they burn for revolutionary fuel, because they see no purpose in it. To the managerial class, society is just kindling.
We are getting a glimpse of this with the Chinese Flu. The federal state is paralyzed by the growing incompetence of the managerial class. State and local responses have been incoherent, because the normal social capital that would animate such a response has been largely destroyed. You cannot have a community response when there are no natural communities of people. Clusters of strangers in temporary developments named after what was knocked down to build them are not communities.
The purpose of government either eventually becomes or is from the beginning to grow, to consolidate and then expand its power over its subjects to the widest extent it can. The problem is that it’s just not possible to effectively micromanage a nation as enormous and heterogenous as this one, no matter how overgrown and intrusive the central government may become. The more power it tries to reach, the more its grasp is exceeded, and the more apparent its metastasizing failure.
Worse (for them), this escalating failure drives them to attempt to regain the upper hand by imposing a veritable blizzard of niggling laws and regulations, which only results in most of those petty edicts being either slyly circumvented, ignored, or even contemptuously defied. Lather, rinse, repeat, until one of three things happens: 1)the bloated system collapses under the weight of its own incompetence and futility; 2) the subjects rise up in righteous outrage to overthrow it, either violently or through other means; 3) the whole mess spirals down into exhaustion and irrelevance, the collapse into dissolution, decrepitude, deprivation, and utter futility more or less accepted by its population as just the natural order of things. Unless and until things get so bad that large numbers of them begin to starve, at which point see No. 2.
Why, it’s almost as if God His Own Self might have stacked the karmic deck against Big Government and all its works, ain’t it?