Kevin: I have to say that I found reading that David Sessions thing more entertaining than you did. I found this part particularly intriguing:
But here is just another exercise in the human tendency to call politics we like good and politics we dislike bad. Marxism hasn’t “done” these horrors, human beings have. (Conservatives have a simple formulation of this idea, namely “Guns don’t kill people, people do.”) Marxism didn’t “breed monsters” as much as future monsters adopted a label that had the power to inspire public hope and mask totalitarian designs. Not to say that the revolutionary aspirations of Marxism didn’t sustain their various totalitarian delusions, but Williamson’s body-counting is a prime example of how Marxism is the one of the only doctrines allowed to be blamed for its crimes. Presumably Williamson has not abandoned his Christianity because millions have been put to death in its name, but he clearly expects us to toss Marx for that reason.
On the one hand, I think Sessions is right that there’s a human tendency to call politics we like good and politics we dislike bad. Of course, one of these reasons we call politics we dislike “bad” is because we dislike bad politics. I dislike Maoism because I think Maoism is bad. This isn’t merely a tomaytoh-tomahtoh thing. Maoism is bad.
Having toiled in the fields of Fascism and fascism for several years, I find Sessions’s assertion that Marxism didn’t “breed” monsters interesting on several levels (we’ll leave aside the fact that you don’t get anything called Fascism without having Marxism first). I think he’s right that monsters adopted the label to mask totalitarian designs. You’d think Sessions would noodle that half-formed thought a bit more. He seems to cavalierly dismiss the obvious historical fact that there was something terribly attractive about Marxism that attracted monsters beyond its mere “revolutionary aspirations.” Moreover, I’d add that there’s something about Marxism’s inherent rejection of existing institutions and morals that not only gives totalitarians a lot more room to maneuver but also encourages the incubation of monsters. Stalin and Mao wouldn’t have found a comfortable home among revolutionary democrats or even anarchists.
But the confusion continues. His reference to the conservatives’ “simple formulation” that guns don’t kill people, people do, strikes me as a horrible category error. Marxism isn’t a gun. And very few people have been killed in the name of “gunism.”
But it’s when he writes that your “body-counting is a prime example of how Marxism is the one of the only doctrines allowed to be blamed for its crimes. Presumably Williamson has not abandoned his Christianity because millions have been put to death in its name, but he clearly expects us to toss Marx for that reason.”
Hmm, where to begin? First of all, Sessions concedes that Marxism’s crimes are “its crimes.” Should we not blame it for its crimes? What an odd formulation. If they are Marxism’s crimes, what else shall we blame them on?
Regardless, is that true? Not from where I’m sitting. What doctrines aren’t held accountable for their crimes? I can’t think of any. Even libertarianism is blamed, by the Left, for the things it didn’t do. But, if anything, Marxism is one of the few doctrines that isn’t held accountable nearly enough. More people have been murdered in the name of socialism than in the name of any other doctrine, by far, even if you don’t count German National Socialism as Socialism. And yet if I called Sessions a “socialist” very few people would take me as saying he’s in favor of genocide. Lots of decent mainstream people across the West call themselves socialists without fear of being accused of aiding and abetting mass murder. I don’t think self-declared socialists are automatically in favor of mass murder. But it also seems to me Marxists generally get off very easy indeed for the crimes of their ideological confreres.
And let’s talk about Christianity. “Millions” have been “put to death” in the name of Christianity? Really? Show your data please, Mr. Sessions. I’m sure you could get up to “millions” if you count every casualty of war from the Roman imperial edict of 315 until, say, the 18th century. But this assumes that the bloodshed of European nationalism was driven by Christianity rather than in spite of it. Yes, the number of people who were literally “put to death” in the name of Christianity is still shameful — as the Catholic Church has admitted and apologized for — but it comes nowhere near the numbers fueled by Marxist movements. And yet, the disciples of Marxism, unlike Christians, are often loath to apologize for their crimes.
The simple fact is that there is something to Marxism that creates opportunities for “body-counting” that doesn’t exist in Christianity. One of the lethal ingredients is surely the Marxist tendency to reduce life to crude material forces and inconvenient humans to expendable obstacles. This is why Marxism’s penchant for central planning is so dangerous. As you (Kevin) point out in your book, central planners are destined to work in ignorance because of what Hayek calls the “knowledge problem.” As the real world refuses to comply with Five Year Plans, the fact that there’s nothing in Marxist dogma that prevents Marxist planners from trying to bend, fold, and mutilate the reality of humanity to conform to some theoretical blueprint.