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Bo-Bolsheviks & Soft Totalitarianism

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bo-Bolshevism's cover girl (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Here’s a fantastic piece by Nathan Pinkoski, on the particular qualities of contemporary American socialism. He writes that contemporary US socialists abandon the old socialist goal of replacing capitalism:

Self-styled American socialists leave this behind. They define socialism not by government control of the economy or by state ownership of the means of production, but rather in terms of an open-ended commitment to equality.

This means playing up issues of race and identity — which makes “socialism” much less hostile to the bourgeois class. Whence the bobos, or “bourgeois bohemians.” But the bobos are becoming more radicalized:

The new activity, making support for individual autonomy and self-creation the decisive issue, has the bobos denounce the bourgeois for their attitudes that are hostile to individual autonomy and self-creation, the practices that hold minorities back and get in the way of equality. Let us call these the practices of acknowledged dependency, whose paramount examples are found in familial and religious life.

The new socialists end up attacking the working class for its “problematic” views on race and identity. But notice, it’s not minority members of the working classes. Pinkoski says, “The new villain is not the bourgeois, but the white heterosexual American Christian male.”

Pinkoski says the socialist goal now is not to build up the working class. That’s over.

In its place are the new battlegrounds that Jean-Pierre Le Goff spotted: history, environmentalism, children’s literature, formal education of children, and human sexuality, where victory means extirpating the conscious and unconscious prejudices that belong to the villain’s culture. The goal is to negate the entirety of the existing culture.

To achieve that goal the bobos become “bo-Bolsheviks.”

Yes they do. Pinkoski says:

The disputes between socialists and progressives mask their fundamental, shared worldview: the bourgeois worldview of freedom as individual self-creation. American socialists may be anti-liberal on economics. But they are ultra-liberal about everything else.

Read it all. It is a superb analysis, though as Carlo Lancellotti has pointed out, Augusto Del Noce had all this figured out a generation ago.

See, this is a significant part of my claim, advanced in my forthcoming book Live Not By Lies, that we are moving into a condition of soft totalitarianism. The bo-Bolsheviks don’t really care about the state monopolizing the means of production on behalf of the working class. They care about authority (the state, corporations, universities, etc.) monopolizing the culture on behalf of those they regard as oppressed minorities. This is why, to use a Pinkoski example, nobody will bat an eye if you advocate for a flat tax, but if you dispute gender ideology, your career may be in jeopardy. The totalitarian core of these bo-Bolshevik attitudes doesn’t register with the middle-class people; they simply think that they are advancing the cause of justice.

The villain for these people may well be white heterosexual Christian males — and if you know and love any white heterosexual Christian males, you should care about this — but it won’t stop there. As the Columbia sociologist Musa al-Gharbi writes, blacks and Latinos are more socially conservative than the woke white people who assume the mantle of arguing for black and Latino interests. 

What happens when the bo-Bolsheviks in power come for black and Latino church people? When the online discourse of socially conservative blacks, Latinos, and other minorities is monitored for wrongthink, and punished? Pinkoski is right: the goal of these bo-Bolsheviks is to “negate the entirety of the existing culture.” To do that will require totalitarian methods. It will not require gulags. It will only require gaining control of the cultural means of production (e.g., schools, media) and the administrative state. China’s social credit system offers a soft totalitarian model for them to follow — this, in part because the technological surveillance infrastructure is already largely in place. Some Americans are getting wound up about the possibility of government tracking them as an anti-Covid-19 strategy. People, wake up: most everything you do during the day, including everywhere you go, is already tracked via your smartphone. If you don’t believe me, when you get home, ask Alexa.

I’ll be glad when my book is out this fall, and we can talk about this in greater detail. If you’re interested in the topic, pre-order it for September 29 delivery.

 

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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