ideologies of revenge and the usefulness of fear

There was an interesting comment (by commenter Beckow) on a recent discussion on Stalin at Unz Review. The gist of it was that ideologies like Bolshevism, Maoism, national socialism and even populist fascism were revenge ideologies. The existence of such ideologies forced the ruling classes to share the wealth, at least to a limited degree. It was necessary to give the population as a whole the idea that they were going to share in the benefits of industrialism and capitalism.

When those revenge ideologies collapsed it was no longer necessary to maintain the pretence that everyone was going to get their share. Our elites are now following their natural inclinations. Capitalism is reverting to the robber baron model of the 19th century.

It seems to me that this is a very important insight. It also fits in with a belief that I have held for quite a while, that it is absolutely necessary for alternative political systems to exist. It doesn’t matter if those alternative political systems are not very efficient. It doesn’t even matter if they are not very pleasant. What matters is that they should exist.

And in our modern world it is increasingly the case that these alternatives have been shut down or neutralised or in various ways eliminated as viable possibilities. That has frightening implications, and we can see those implications when we look at the behaviour of our current elites.

Our elites are confident that there is no longer any danger that their power can be threatened in any way. There was a time when they were concerned about the possibility of too much inequality of wealth and income. They feared that this might lead to an upsurge of support for left-wing ideologies. Eventually it might lead to communist (or fascist or populist) revolution. But those left-wing ideologies no longer exist. There is no longer a political left. There are still parties and political organisations that claim to be leftist but what they all have in common is a total lack of actual leftist belief.

Identity politics is not left-wing. It is a right-wing ideology. Its purpose is to maintain the power of the elites.

Modern leftists are not going to lead a communist revolution. They are not under any circumstances going to round up capitalists and bankers and line them up against a wall and shoot them. They’re not going to do that because modern leftists are on the payroll of the capitalists and bankers.

And that’s the problem. The fact is that the only thing that will persuade capitalists to moderate their natural greed is fear. The only thing that will persuade the ruling class to behave with at least a modicum of decency is fear. In the days when alternative ideologies such as Bolshevism existed the capitalists and the ruling classes were always aware that if they behaved with too much arrogance and viciousness there was a very real chance that one day they really would be lined up against a wall and shot.

It’s actually a very good thing for elites to live in fear. It’s healthy. Kings always lived in fear. They knew that if they lost the support of the people they would be deposed and that generally meant being killed. They had a strong incentive not to rule like tyrants. Up until a few decades ago western elites lived in fear. They knew what had happened to earlier elites that had failed to deliver at least a degree of fairness and hope. They knew the fate of those earlier elites in the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, etc.

It is always a good thing for elites to have such things in the back of their minds. When the elites no longer fear the people you have tyranny. That’s why it’s a good thing to have Bolsheviks around. Their existence has a most salutary effect on the elites.

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