Marxism is a Gulag of the Mind

Marxism is a Gulag of the Mind
by Gary Saul Morton

May 14, 2024

Back when there were still two Germanys, one a parliamentary democracy aligned with the West and one a Soviet satellite surveillance state, I had trouble remembering which was the Federal Republic and which the Democratic Republic — until I realized that the one calling itself democratic wasn't. Even today, North Korea's official name is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The least democratic regimes in the world pretend to be the most democratic.

Then as now, Marxists and those who have learned from them often justify abuse of language by redefining the key term. Words come to mean their opposite. To the Soviets, "true" democracy wasn't a matter of voting for one of two indistinguishable parties, but of justice. So used, the word "true" means "false."

On paper, the Soviet Constitution of 1936 was the most liberal in the world. It granted universal sufferage, direct elections, the right to work and equal status to all ethnicities. It also established freedom of conscience, religion and speech. In practice, of course, none of it was true. The Soviets persecuted religious believers and arrested people for the mildest criticisms — even for supposedly anti-Soviet thoughts. The right to work meant the obligation to work, often in appalling conditions and with lateness punishable by exile to Siberia.

Other examples come to mind. Think of some "peace" movements. My Russian history teacher, Firuz Kazemzadeh, recalled that after World War II ardent pacifists in Western European cities asked people to sign petitions demanding unilateral disarmament. Kazemzadeh was well aware that the Soviets, who were rebuilding their military and surreptitiously solidifying control of Eastern European countries, sponsored European peace movements. If you had expansionist aims, wouldn't you want your enemy to disarm?

The Marxist impulse is always to accuse your opponent of what you are doing or plan to do. It resembles what Freudians call "projection," exception that in Freudian theory projection happens outside the person's awareness and is governed by an unconscious desire not to recognize one's own intentions. For the leaders of Marxist and quasi-Marxist movements, the technique of accusing others of one's own aggressive plans is entirely conscious. Call it "the political projection principle."

The principle is easiest to apply when the target really does seem unsavory, like Donald Trump. When he makes outrageous comments, spoils for a fight with his childish name-calling, or attracts attention by offensive suggestions and obnoxious exaggerations, Mr. Trump provokes people to approve of unprecedented tactics they never approved of before.

The test of whether a person really believes in freedom is the readiness to protect the freedom of opponents. It's easy to do when the opponent is mild and honorable, but what Democrat will rise to defend Mr. Trump? The accuse him him of harboring authoritarian designs aas they prosecute him in several courts so that he can't campaign, must spend his money defending himself, and may find himself in prison before the voting starts. Arresting potential challengers is what former KGB operative Vladimir Putin routinely does. In Maine and Colorado, Democrats tried to keep the presumptive Republican nominee off the ballot entirely. Who exactly is undermining Democracy?

Mr. Trump was charged with planning to curtail democratic freedoms, but the Biden administration pressured social media platforms to censor even true information about Covid and other sensitive topics. On campuses and in businesses, "equity," like "true democracy," has taken the place of its opposite, equality. Rights are for those who accept the new definition of rights; everyone is equal, except those who aren't. George Orwell grasped this way of thinking perfectly. "War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength," goes the slogan of 1984. Today diversity often means uniformity; equity, inequality; and inclusion, exclusion of those who think differently.

The Hamas charter explicitly calls for killing all Jews, but the terror group's campus supporters, who often harass Jews, accuse Israel of genocide. They call President Biden "Genocide Joe." No one uses hate speech more often than those who constantly accuse others of using hate speech.

If the illiberal elements of the Democrat Party win out over the traditional liberals, expect them to make sure they never lose power. It's easy: Expand the Supreme Court, as some have already proposed, and appoint new justices who define equality, freedom and democracy as their opposites. Adjust how voting takes place and who counts the votes, as Mr. Putin did. Then extend a full-scale authoritarian regime (or worse) to all corners of life. With technology already or soon to be available, authorities pursuing true justice will make 20th century communist leaders look like amateurs.

Do those accusing the Jews of genocide do so to justify killing them? Will tradition Christians find themselves worshiping underground? How far will the principle of political project extend? I don't know, and I hope to never find out.


Gary Saul Morton