The New Party and Its Line

“One can be right only with the Party and through the Party, since history has not created any other paths for the realization of one’s rightness.” 

Leon Trotsky, Thirteenth Conference of the Communist Party (1924)*

We are often reminded that antibiotics tend, over time, to select for pathogens that are invulnerable to those antibiotics. Our present compulsive use of hand sanitizers has, for instance, created an antiseptic environment in which pathogens indurate to alcohol are fruitful and multiplying.  Anticommunism works in much the same way, eliminating certain forms and aspects of communism, but also breeding new forms that the old anticommunism can neither combat nor detect.

Long before a species is hunted to extinction, the very fact of its being hunted causes the species to fade before the eyes of its hunters.  Hunting a species changes that species because hunting selects for wariness and camouflage.  Anticommunism causes communism to disappear in just the same way.

As I wrote the other day, the anticommunism of the 1930s led to the evolution of communist “fronts” in which the connection to the Communist Party was camouflaged.  The anticommunism of the 1950s led to the evolution of so-called “Trotskyite” communism, in which there is no formal Communist Party.  As my epigram shows, Leon Trotsky was himself an extremely  loyal party man, but so-called “Trotskyite” communism evolved when old-style anticommunism made a formal Communist Party into a liability.

There is something exceedingly quaint in Joseph McCarthy’s old-style anticommunist question, “are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party of the United States?”  It is a question from a bygone era when America was a nation of “joiners.”  Membership was in those days a formal relationship, and members of all sorts of organizations were, quite literally, “card carrying” members.  They paid dues, went to regular meetings, and sometimes even wore uniforms.  As Robert Putnam has so strikingly demonstrated, this America of formal voluntary organizations has largely disappeared, and most of us nowadays are “bowling alone.”

The image of “bowling alone” is misleading, however, since it exaggerates our social atomization.  Voluntary organizations still exist, but they have evolved into informal voluntary organizations.  BLM has, for instance, a great many “supporters,” but no real “members.”  A supporter might post a sign in his yard, or sport a slogan on his tee shirt, but he does not pay dues, attend meetings, or carry anything like a “card” in his wallet.  In the extremely unlikely event that a U.S. Senator asked him an updated version of Joseph McCarthy’s question under oath, he could answer “no” without risk of perjury.

* * * * *

The competitive advantage of informal organization is clear if we compare contemporary communism to the lumbering dinosaur that is called the Catholic Church.  The fact that it is called by that hoary old name is one thing that makes it a lumbering dinosaur.  Communists dropped the name communist as soon as it became a liability, and they became, albeit in a purely nominal sense, something altogether different.  They became “neo-Marxists,” for instance, or “Radicals,” or “Progressives,” or, best of all, an anonymous cohort of people who were interested in “social change.”

Communists left their bloody past behind when they assumed these aliases or disappeared behind the veil of complete anonymity.  Catholics on the other hand openly identify with everything the Church has done, or is said to have done, since the Nicene Creed was drafted.  Catholics thereby stain themselves with the blood, real and imaginary, of two thousand tempestuous years.

We are told that one of the men killed in Kenosha had previously raped several boys.  This pederast was also, evidently, part of the anonymous cohort of people interested in “social change.”  But it is very hard to tar that anonymous cohort with his pederastic sins, and quite impossible to sue them, because the anonymous cohort does not exist so far as American law is concerned.  The Catholic Church meanwhile gives its officer class formal titles, decks them out in uniforms, and then posts an address where aggrieved and injured parties can file for reparations when one of those officers decides to act on a wild hair.

The Catholic Church is like a lumbering dinosaur at the very end of the Cretaceous, when the sly and secretive mammals began to take over.  If it wishes to survive, it will have to ditch its infamous name and discard the fat target of its ineffectual and scandal-prone officer class.  If it wishes to survive, it must evolve into something much more like a bird.

* * * * *

The anonymous cohort of people interested in “social change” functions without the fatal liability of an official name, a central Party, or even a very definite creed.  Because it has no official name, it appears much more disorganized and ragtag than it actually is.  Antifa is, for instance, the militant wing of this informal voluntary organization that has no name.  Like the old IRA/Sinn Fein consortium, this large and anonymous organization also has political and educational wings, but these wings have no official connection, so they can appear to disintegrate into small and unthreatening parts whenever this is advantageous.

Guerilla warfare is the model for this ability to assemble out of nothing, and then, just as quickly, disassemble into nothing.  At the moment, the anonymous cohort of people interested in “social change” is assembled because it needs to turn Trump out of office.  The militant wing is throwing Molotov cocktails in the streets, the political wing is promoting Biden and infiltrating Biden’s shadow cabinet, and the educational wing (in the schools and media) is “interpreting” this to the masses in the way most advantageous to the program of “social change.”  If they fail to turn Trump out of office, I predict that the organization will appear to disassemble, and that the educational arm will be tasked with covering its tracks and telling us it never was.

A George Washington University professor was recently disgraced by the revelation that she had been living as a racial impostor, but the disgrace of her hoax is a personal disgrace because she is not a “card carrying” member of something called the American CultMarx Party, or an ordained priestess in something called the Hatewhitey Church.  There are thus no newspaper headlines saying “Hatewhitey Church Rocked by Scandal,” or “CultMarx Party Scrambles to Limit Fallout.”  When a Catholic priest tickles a choirboy, on the other hand, it becomes an expensive scandal for the lumbering and deep-pocketed organization of which that priest is officially part.  When a Hatewhitey priestess gets sticky fingers and pinches some AA bennies, she’s just a crazy dame who needs to find a new job.

* * * * *

The most famous manifesto of all time is, no doubt, the Communist Manifesto, a work remarkable for its candor, clarity and brevity.  A reader may well cavil over many of its factual claims, but he cannot complain that it is dissembling, obscurant or prolix.  Closing the pamphlet after a mercifully short read, he knows pretty clearly what Marx and Engles are all about.

All of these qualities are absent from the prose that is nowadays written to advance “social change,” since this is dissembling, obscurant and extremely prolix.  Closing the last fat book in a long course of study, a reader is not at all sure what these enraged scribblers are all about.  That they are enraged is clear enough, as is the fact that they scribble; but beyond that very little is definite or clear.  And if the reader ventures to offer an unfavorable opinion of all the fat books he has read, the people interested in “social change” will laugh and tell him he has read the wrong books.

If a man wishes to examine the basic doctrines of Christianity, he can read the New Testament.  If he wishes to accost a Christian, he can then demand that the Christian defend what is stated in those books.  The Christian cannot laugh and tell his accoster that he read the wrong books.

Communism stopped writing manifestos when it became clear that manifestos had become a liability, and that dissembling, obscurantism and prolixity had become tactical assets.  Very few outsiders will venture into a vast thicket of tangled and thorny “literature,” and those who emerge (scratched and bug-bitten) can always be told that they missed the good parts.  I have not read the Talmud, but understand that it repels critics in this way.  It is hard to find the vital passages in the Talmud, hard to say just what these vital passages mean, and easy to deny that these are, indeed, vital passages.

* * * * *

An informal voluntary organization obviously faces a “coordination problem.”  The parts must know when they should assemble and disassemble, and the people in those parts must have a reasonably clear understanding of the party line.  Even when there is no formal Party, Trotsky’s line remains true.

“One can be right only with the Party and through the Party, since history has not created any other paths for the realization of one’s rightness.”

I have come to believe that this line is correctly updated as follows:

“One can be right only with NPR and through NPR, since history has not created any other paths for the realization of one’s rightness.”

Indeed, I would advise any young person who wishes to get ahead in the postmodern United States to make NPR their credo, and to make their perfect adherence to this credo evident at every opportunity.  NPR is not the cutting edge of progressive thought, but it stands to the cutting edge of progressive thought very much as the clothing sold by Land’s End or L. L. Bean stands to haute couture.

You will not turn heads with those Land’s End khakis, but they are sufficiently respectable for you to be seated in a restaurant, and even to keep your job.

The NPR credo is the same.  No one will think that you are brilliant or daring if you adhere to it like a center stripe adheres to a highway; but neither will anyone think that you are buffoonish or dangerous.  It’s the party line of the party that has no name, no officers, no members, and no manifesto.  In other word, it is the party line of the evolved party that has taken a form that allows it to control just about everything.

*) quoted in Thornton Anderson, Masters of Russian Marxism (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1963), p. 134.

17 thoughts on “The New Party and Its Line

  1. A good analysis of the left, and also of satanic evil.

    Evil can behave this way because it is negative, oppositional, inversional; defined by hostility to God/ creation/ The Good.

    But Christians can’t behave like that, and if they try to do so – they will be changing sides.

    Destruction just is easier than creation. In this mortal world, entropy rules.

    But this life and this world are ephemeral, and the eternal life in Heaven promised to those who follow Jesus is a very different situation!

    • I agree that we cannot be insidious or duplicitous, but also think that we are saddled with too many antiquated forms. I think this is congruent with many of the things you have written about Romantic Christianity. You stress the need for religious practices adapted to the psychology of the postmodern individual, but I think this could also be a means for religious communities to survive in a hostile secular environment. What I have in mind is the very opposite of megachurch mass appeal. I think the future may be an informal network of micro-churches that have no legal existence. The big churches of today are organized on the assumption that the congregation is composed of semi-literate peasants who get all of their information from the pulpit. I love old church buildings, but they are an obsolete communication technology.

      • I just don’t think this kind of arrangement you describe is sufficiently motivated by human nature. I can’t see that it would develop, sustain or have resilience. I have suggested that the future, if there is one, may be more like the origins of many religions (including Christianity) being based on family and neighbours.

      • Morale is always important, especially in a persecuted minority centered on a transcendent reality. Anyone who maintains minority opinions in a hostile milieux understands the psychological costs of doing so. I observe this in myself. If you do not have like-minded friends assuring you that the majority is wrong, you will be increasingly nagged by fears that the majority is right and that you are, yourself, a bad man, ignoramus or nut. This is why dispersion, diaspora and dilution are the best means to destroy a belief system. This also why I think Christians should look to Jews for ideas on how to survive as a dispersed minority. The present Christian institutions evolved in the environment of a Christian majority population and partnership with the state. That environment has change, and so must those institutions.

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  3. Speaking as a Catholic, this seems to be in line with Marian apparitions and visions of saints that said that the Vatican would be corrupted and would become the see of the Antichrist, while the Church would get preserved in domestic church groups.
    Of course, as a Protestant, I guess that you are going to disagree with that, but it makes sense.

    • I’m actually Catholic, although a disaffected Catholic at present. I still identify as Catholic, although I and my family withdrew into family devotions about a year ago. I continued to attend a small Bible study connected to my parish until covid closed that down, but it has been a good while since I was at mass. Here is a telling fact. We attended mass very regularly for more then twenty years, and I taught RE and served twice on the parish council. No one seems to have noticed we are no longer there. In my experience the Catholic Church has all of the disagreeable traits of a giant bureaucratic organization, but none of the advantages. Customer service is terrible and product quality is low. Maybe people of true faith don’t care about customer service and product quality, but I do.

  4. As I may have mentioned here, I work for what I call The Local Left/Liberal Establishment. For a variety of reasons – my age, DH’s illness, etc. etc. — I’m stuck here though I realized after about one year that I’d made a horrific mistake. That’s when I started having the recurrent thought, “I’m a conservative after the manner of Wendell Berry” and “it all went wrong when the Civil Rights Movement stopped praying.” What you say about organizational structure is true.

    Seeing as how I’m stuck — how can I use this to help the sane and the godly? Preferably without being a sneak and a spy? The shame of working there is I now see “my cross” or at least a big part of it.

    And yes, organizations with only a few organizations and only a few insiders work surprisingly well, so long as you don’t mind getting blindsided like I was when I was invited to the inside. Only the grace of God — I don’t know if I had go through this to wake up and leave progressive church for a more traditional path but I do know this experience is a lot of what shoved me onto that path, kicking and screaming.

    I dreamed not long ago that I was one of three women in headscarves, praying at night, in the woods outside our house. An angel came to us to warn us to pray to the east and that the evil angels were on their way. Part of the dream — the three women were three churches informally linked, the liturgical Protestants, the Catholics, and the Orthodox. We will informally merge. We will meet in brush arbors and hedge schools. We will meet in the woods at night. The “evil angels” will be on their way. But we will at least be facing the right direction.

    • Would you accept my rephrasing your the last part of your first paragraph as, “when the Civil Rights Movement” became the Self-Righteous Movement? I think that any group that demands social reform must undertake self-reform, admitting that they were, themselves, one of the reasons for the old social order. An honest understanding of how an unfortunate social arrangement came about is not “blaming the victim,” only recognizing that the victims were not angels and their oppressors were not villains. We are all prone to self-righteousness, but I think it is especially common and virulent among progressives because they see politics as a crusade for truth and justice, and not as a means to settle differences between groups with different aims and interests.

      • An honest understanding of how an unfortunate social arrangement came about is not “blaming the victim,” only recognizing that the victims were not angels and their oppressors were not villains.

        Amazing how many otherwise intelligent people seem perfectly unable to grasp such a simple concept.

  5. I am reminded of Psalm 11:

    Save me, Lord, for the good men are all gone:
    there is no-one to be trusted among the sons of men.
    Neighbour speaks falsehood to neighbor:
    with lying lips and crooked hearts they speak.
    Let the Lord condemn all lying lips,
    all boastful tongues.
    They say “Our tongues will make us great,
    our lips are ours, we have no master.”
    “On account of the sufferings of the poor,
    the groans of the weak, I will rise up,” says the Lord.
    “I will bring to safety the one whom men despise.”
    The words of the Lord are pure words,
    silver tried by fire, freed from dross,
    silver seven times refined.
    You, Lord, will help us
    and guard us from now to all eternity –
    while the wicked walk round outside,
    where the vilest are most honored of the children of men.

    It is very true that the Church, as she now stands, is in need of purification and revival. It is also true that through the Holy Spirit this is happening now, much as it always has, via the laity and the secular priesthood. I am convinced COVID-19 has been a blessing in disguise to the Church, because so many priests are re-discovering the traditional form of the Mass now that they have no excuses, and because so many pure benchwarmers with hearts inclined more to the world than Christ have used this as the necessary excuse to clear out. This, combined with the blood of martyrs in the persecutions present and near future worldwide and the grace of the Holy Spirit, needs must remind the Bride of Christ of Her true duties, and those looking closely can already see that beginning to happen.

    (That comment about benchwarmers is not aimed at anyone in particular, much less our gracious host in his comment above. Far from it.)

    Aside, I’ve been saying the Office of Readings more or less daily and dwelling on the Psalms for a couple years now, and I think I’ve noticed something interesting. Nations are said to be prone to their particular vices; the Gauls trip into lust more readily than others, and the Teutons struggle with murder. Judging from the Psalms, it seems like the particular vice of the Israelites is lying.

    • When the Psalmist says “our tongues shall make us great,” I take him to mean that we will tell flattering lies about ourselves and to ourselves. I don’t think he is talking about silver-tongued sophists rising to the top (although that does happen), but that he is talking about social fictions eclipsing reality. I once understood these “lies” to be ugly rumors and whispered slanders. Now I understand them as the big lies that are at the foundation of an entire culture. I agree with what you say about a national vice, and so did most practical political writing before 1930. I expect colonial administrators were right when they noted that this tribe was cruel, this tribe improvident, this tribe larcenous. I hope you are right that the tree is being pruned so it will bloom again. I fear reform will follow the old path of retaining the husk and discarding the kernel.

      • So long as that fear is a holy fear which leads you to fear of the Lord and obedience to His commands, it is a good fear. If that fear leads you to despair and abandonment, or lassitude in the face of the Lord’s call for virtue in the refreshing of His Church, it is a tool of the Devil.

        I am a much younger and in many ways more foolish man than you are, so this really feels like I’m acting the titular child who tries to teach his grandmother to suck eggs. Really, though, I’m trying to give you words of encouragement.

        I know the blood cools with age, and that in many ways this is a good thing, when the young and the old are in unity with one another, because it leads to wisdom overruling rashness. However, it goes the other way as well, so that it may be harder for a man to truly feel the hope necessary to see the possibility of betterment. In this way, too, unity across the generations is a good that the Enemy has tried hard to sunder: older men can borrow comfort from the θυμός of the younger.

        I go to a Church that is filled with children and young couples. I go to a Church that performs the Tridentine Rite in the place of honour, at 1230 every Sunday. I go to a Church whose congregation has swollen as Her priests have become more rooted in tradition, more reactionary. I go to a Church that in these latest times of COVID-19 has had people filling the sanctuary anyway, and standing around in the narthex or the overflow or the visitation chapel when they cannot get in, just to have a chance to be in the Real Presence.

        I truly believe that what we are seeing is not the death of the Church Universal, but instead the resurgence of the (right) vision of the Catholic Church as made up of Particular Churches united to the Holy See, a vision that has been languishing for the past two centuries (or more) as more and more cultural cachet reverted to Rome, much as more and more cultural cachet reverted to the centres of political power across the world.

        It is true that many, many Particular Churches are sick unto death with the disease of the world, and many more are ill. Even those that seem strong have the sickness, because we are all liberals now. Quanta Cura and others such are (almost) dead letters. But in some places, people are rediscovering the core of the Faith, and those places will flourish, and more so as the persecutions increase. Those places will live and spread the love of Christ.

        I take comfort in the coming technological collapse precisely because of this. The Internet’s days are numbered; probably even the railway and interstate systems will soon collapse. Without the mechanisms of central control that the modern State so heavily relies upon, which themselves will become unreliable or inoperable because of the poison of liberalism, reversion to the particular is inevitable. And the particular is where Christ is.

        The Church has always been about the salvation of souls, from which good the fruits of civilization flow as an accident via the grace of God. When we begin to praise the fruits of civilization over the salvation of souls, we lose both.

  6. This mode of collective existence you describe fascinates me. For tribalists like me, a group ceasing to identify with its past generations is not only impious, but close to the group ceasing to exist. For example, if some future men were to rediscover the truth of any number of propositions taught by the Catholic Church, that would not be equivalent to our collective survival, even if they were biological descendants of current Catholics. At least for me, collective survival requires these descendants to consciously identify with us.

    The Left seems to be able to have their cake and eat it too in that they consider consider themselves inheritors of a proud tradition but of no guilt. The price of this flexibility is that the boundaries of this tradition are retroactively adjustable, so one cannot be sure even a card-carrying communist having expired after a lifetime of loyalty to the cause will always be counted among the party of Progress. Depending on his other opinions or hobbies, he may someday be found to have been a male chauvinist or white supremacist and thus in fact to have always been a reactionary enemy of progress. And of course it would be unimaginable for any Leftist’s private vice to tarnish progressivism. Unlike Catholicism, where the community of believers is an end in itself, Progressivism is a means to the end of Progress. Any impurity of the means cannot by imputed to the end.

    This impiety toward forebears has been an advantage to them, although it still seems a shabby way for a tradition to behave, because at least they control what parts of their history get disowned. For Catholics, it would be catastrophic to allow past Catholics to be not really Catholic because they were insufficiently progressive. Nor do I like the idea that we should declare those with personal vices to have not really been Catholic, although I also don’t see the justice in me being financially liable for them for all eternity.

    As you say, the Jews should be our model. I’ve never heard them say that bad Jews aren’t really Jewish. Unlike Catholics, though, they don’t hate themselves. They love their tradition and their people. I have no idea how to create such feelings in a people that doesn’t have them.

    • I think you put your finger on something important in what you say about loyalty. Right-wing loyalty is always, in large degree, loyalty to people, whereas left-wing loyalty is loyalty to the cause. This is evident in their loyalty to America. The more right-wing a man is, the more his loyalty involves defense of “the ashes of his fathers” and the preservation of a patria for their posterity. The more left-wing a man is, the quicker he will be to denounce his fathers for their failure to perfectly realize American ideals, and the more comfortable he will be with radical demographic change (provided the principles are preserved).

      I’m not sure that many leftists think about it, but there is something magnificent in their willingness to not only die for the good of the cause, but to die and be denounced for the good of the cause. It’s as if a general promised to desecrate the graves of every one of his soldiers who died in battle, if doing so would raise morale among the soldiers who lived to fight on.

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