Olavo de Carvalho’s lecture: The structure of the revolutionary mind
Laigle's Forum, August 28, 2008
By Donald Hank
Even the best of observers have trouble figuring out what the Left is, or what the difference between left and right is, or what these concepts even mean any more.
Great strides have been made recently, however, with the recognition, among the most astute observers, that Hitler’s Third Reich is by no means an example of rightwing ideology and policies in action, contrary to current political doctrine.
Many conservative writers have already concluded that Hitler was not a rightwinger, based mostly on his National Socialism.
Indeed Mr. de Carvalho’s (as yet unpublished) lecture “The structure of the revolutionary mind,” cites the recent book “The Dictators: Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia” by Richard Overy, which demonstrates the parallels between Hitler and Stalin.
I had noticed that the compatibility of Hitler’s ideology with today’s European relativism was brilliantly highlighted in Ben Stein’s movie Expelled, and most poignantly in the scene in a former Third Reich mental “hospital” where patients deemed to be of no value to society were gassed (I couldn’t help but think of Terri Schiavo). When Stein asked the tour guide at the museum what she would say if she could talk to the perpetrators of that horror, she simply said that was another era and they had their reasons for doing what they did. Thus she clearly would not feel justified in judging these criminals by her standards (assuming she had any). Here was a woman who had certainly been educated in Germany, either the communist East Germany or the socialistic West Germany. Neither system prepared her to condemn Hitler’s actions because these actions were based on the same world view that Germany embraces today, atheistic humanism based on a tenacious belief in Darwinist principles of natural selection, and the correlative notion that man has a moral right and even obligation to support natural selection with his laws under which a race can be culled of inferior elements. Neither socialism nor “national” socialism reject this out of hand. Only Christianity does, and that religion is fading fast in Europe (while here Christianity is being absorbed by the Left. See here, here and here).
All this helps clarify the compatibility between two world views that our education system and mainstream press insist are opposites.
But surprisingly, despite a lot of keen observation, before Olavo de Carvalho’s lecture, no one had yet managed to credibly characterize the Left in all of its main facets.
I have personally grappled with this for many years and had all but despaired of finding an adequate definition. And yet, how can a good American be a good American if he can’t identify the enemy of his way of life? How can he stand athwart history and shout stop if he doesn’t know what it is he must stop?
At the top of the first page of each issue of Izvestia was the slogan “Workers of the world unite!” Thus to people of my era, the Left portrayed itself as a system of social justice that aimed at creating a level playing field between workers and their bosses and attempted to share the wealth equally with a view to building a world free of poverty.
Yet today, we see the Left working hard to make fuel more expensive for the poor, not in any attempt at social justice but rather to “save the planet.” The main area where social “justice” is sought is between heterosexuals and homosexuals, and the current thrust is toward legalizing same-sex “marriage” which, if it triumphs, will trivialize traditional marriage, ultimately prompting fewer to marry and bear children, since part of the attractiveness of marriage has been a sacred religious ceremony affirming one’s faith, encouraging people to wait until marriage to enjoy sex, and therefore fostering heterosexual purity based on a biblical world view. None of this is apparent in the “gay” community with its emphasis on promiscuity (broad daylight naked orgies) and its rejection of the biblical view of homosexuality. This focus on discouraging child birth is mightily supported by Planned Parenthood. Thus, ultimately, the leftist vision seems to be a world with more poverty and fewer children born to shoulder the burden of caring for the elderly, for example, by paying into the social services system. The once-proud vision of a world of strong healthy workers receiving equal pay for a better, more prosperous life, is quickly giving way to a vision of a world impoverished for the sake of an impersonal planet to whose riches mankind must increasingly forfeit its claims. We are taught that to consider humanity’s needs is to be selfish, that we must sacrifice our children’s future for the sake of a planet. And yet we are being asked to sever ties to that planet as if our destiny were separate from its.
Thus, obviously, the old left and the new left are different ideologically and many ordinary people are confused (particularly since an astounding percentage of Republican politicians embrace the Left’s policies). Some are confused into thinking that the new Left is more benign. These are the ones who believe the myth that communism is dead.
In fact, communism never died, it merely metamorphosed.
How to explain that the Left can completely substitute its original ideology and still be the Left?
Olavo de Carvalho had wondered the same thing. But he was born into a South American environment where leftism was the air they breathed. It was the worldview in academe and on the street and there was no other box to think outside of. Therefore, as a philosophy student, he was steeped in the literature of the Left, not just Marx and Hegel but the entire pantheon of leftist gods writing the blueprints for society. Thus he had read an enormous amount of this literature and is today one of the few living conservatives-having had his epiphany-who now truly understands the Left, something like David Horowitz, except that de Carvalho had the additional benefit of seeing a much more virulent leftism in action and up close.
Even so, Mr. Carvalho had to read and reread the old (and new) revolutionary literature to find a common thread, and what he found is surprising:
The Left (which he calls the “revolution”) is not a unified ideology or agenda at all, but rather a way of seeing the world, and specifically it is an inversion of what normal people call common sense. And this inversion is the sole unifying factor, the one common thread running through the revolution since the 13th and 14th centuries
According to de Carvalho, revolutionary thought as we know it did not exist before about the 13th century; nor is it a function of chronological age. The myth that the young tend to be revolutionaries arises from the Left itself and serves the purpose of making the Revolution appear to be a natural phenomenon.
Instead, this revolutionary inversion has its origins in an early Christian heresy (arrogating to itself the role of Christ the avenger) and has at least three aspects:
1-Inversion of the perception of time
Normal individuals, based on common sense, see the past as something immutable and the future as something that can be changed (it is contingent, as de Carvalho puts it).
Not so the leftist revolutionary, who sees the utopian future as a goal that eventually will be reached no matter what and the past as something that can be changed, through reinterpretation (what we call “rewriting history”), to accommodate it.
One example the author gives of this is how Soviet propagandists reinterpreted Dostoevsky, an anti-revolutionary of the first order. In his novel “Crime and Punishment,” young revolutionary Raskolnikov kills his wealthy elderly landlady as an act of solidarity with the poor class, in keeping with his world view that ownership of private property is immoral and that the revolutionary is entitled to take possession of it by any means at his disposal. But Raskolnikov is caught and goes to jail where the only book available to the prisoners is a Bible, which he reads, and is converted to Christianity, abandoning his revolutionary ideology, which he now understands as immoral.
While fully aware of Dostoevsky’s anti-revolutionary mindset, the early communists liked his novels and considered them too thoroughly Russian to ban, so they simply reinterpreted him posthumously and declared that his novels were written to highlight the need for more social justice. Thus the Left reached back into time and manipulated the thoughts of a man who would have been their adversary, making him posthumously a fellow communist.
2-The inversion of morality
De Carvalho points out that because the revolutionary (leftist) believes implicitly in a future utopia where there will be no evil, this same revolutionary believes that no holds should be barred in achieving that utopia. Thus, his own criminal activities in achieving that goal are above reproach.
The author cites Che Guevara, who said that the revolutionary is the “highest rank of mankind.” Thus, armed with such moral superiority, Che was able to cold-bloodedly murder his political enemies wholesale.
Another example cited in the lecture is Karl Marx, who had an illicit liaison with his maid and then, to keep bourgeois appearances, made his son, the offspring of that liaison, live in the basement of his home, never even introducing the boy to his brothers in wedlock. The boy was never mentioned in the family and went into historical oblivion.
De Carvalho compares this despicable behavior with the more noble conduct of Brazilian landowners who had illegitimate children but made them heirs, yet made no claims of moral superiority!
To the revolutionary mind, it is normal that the revolutionary should pay no mind to the bourgeois morality, because after all, nothing he does can be construed as immoral, since the sum total of his actions hasten the revolution when justice will prevail. This is why conservatives frequently refer to the Left’s hypocrisy (for example, environmental champion Al Gore’s 20-fold electricity consumption compared to yours and mine).
By contrast, the author shows that by the Left’s own definition of “revolution,” the American revolution is not a revolution at all because our founders were men who held themselves (not just others) to high moral standards, and in no way tried to usher in a novel experimental utopian system, basing their actions and policies on older English traditions and common law, and modeling our Republic on these tried and true common-sense precepts.
3-Inversion of subject and object
When revolutionaries like Che, and Hitler’s operatives, for example, killed innocent people, they would blame the people they killed for “making” them do it by refusing to go along with their revolutionary notions. This is one example the author gives of the inversion of subject and object.
De Carvalho also points out a number of other inversions and makes many fascinating points, but my purpose here is simply to clarify what the Left really is, to stimulate thought and to predispose the reader to buy his book when it comes out.
You will be a better American for having read the writings of - a great American.
Olavo de Carvalho is a well-known Brazilian philosopher and writer, many of whose articles have graced the pages of Laigle’s Forum.