Consider: I’ve written a 461-page book documenting the genuinely diabolical elements of Marx and Marxism, hoping to equip conservatives with essential facts and truths our side must know about this awful, resurgent ideology. I attempt to exhaustively document the utterly idiotic, insane evil that communism is. Yet the book gets dubbed “a failure” not in the pages of The Nation or the New York Times but in National Review, the conservative movement’s flagship publication.
Why? Because in Hilditch’s view, “it exhibits one of the besetting sins of present-day conservative publishing: It is pitched at an incredibly narrow and siloed right-wing audience that is bound to already agree with everything Kengor has to tell them.” What’s worse, he adds, “if you are not already a conservative Roman Catholic, you’re unlikely to get very far into this book before putting it down. No attempt is made to convince people who fall outside this demographic of the author’s thesis. Marxists, or even moderately progressive readers, will be so turned off by Kengor’s insults and his childish dismissals of his ideological opponents that they will rightly dismiss it out of hand.”
Let’s address the second criticism first. Hilditch complains that “the book is . . . chock-full of appeals to papal encyclicals, writings, and statements condemning socialism and emphasizing its incompatibility with the Catholic faith.” I am Catholic. The book’s publisher, TAN Books/St. Benedict Press, is a very well-known Catholic publishing house. The book is thus, understandably, very Catholic. To this, I plead guilty as charged.
As for my insults and dismissals of an infantile, deadly ideology, I plead doubly guilty, again without apology. Let us say this candidly: Marxism is obviously unworkable and astonishingly asinine on its face. It’s about time we stop hemming and hawing and hand-wringing and say so. Why treat with kid-gloves something so ridiculous and destructive and deadly? Let’s finally admit and shout at the top of our lungs that Marx’s ideology doesn’t merely “distort markets,” but creates mass poverty, despair, and death. Let’s quit treating it like just another belief system and show it for the evil that it is.
Over a hundred million dead and counting. Had enough? I have. I’m tired of playing nice about it. Hilditch suggests that I offer “persuasive intellectual arguments in a winsome and non-sectarian way.” Been there, done that. Where has that gotten us? Answer: Over 30 years after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, communism, socialism, and “democratic socialism” are surging. Enough.
Hilditch writes that, “The reason that most Marxists want to see their political agenda enacted is probably not that they think it’s evil. They want to see it enacted because they think it is good. Conservatives must work to show them that they are mistaken, and that there are better means to fundamentally good and decent ends.” I’ve been doing that for decades, and it hasn’t changed Marxists’ minds. This book, as the title suggests, is meant to smack them upside the head with the truth that their ideology is evil.
I’m reminded of Ronald Reagan’s response after liberals denounced him for referring to the Soviet Union as evil: “For too long our leaders were unable to describe the Soviet Union as it actually was,” he said. “I’ve always believed, however, that it’s important to define differences. . . . The Soviet system over the years has purposely starved, murdered, and brutalized its own people. Millions were killed; it’s all right there in the history books. It put other citizens it disagreed with into psychiatric hospitals, sometimes drugging them into oblivion. Is the system that allowed this not evil? Then why shouldn’t we say so?”
Precisely. The ideology remains as evil as ever, and is somehow making a comeback. Now more than ever, it must be called what it is.
As for my failure to achieve what Mr. Hilditch deduces as my objective, let me pause for an added crucial point that I hope all conservatives who haven’t learned will learn quickly: Leftists, and especially those on the far left, largely aren’t interested in such dialogue. Having written nearly 20 books over the last 20 years, many of them on the evils of communism, I know all too well that few if any on the left will pick up this book.
Why? Because they’re close-minded and protect even the worst among their icons.
A case in point: My book gives special attention to Karl Marx’s genuinely disturbing poems and plays, which are rife with satanic elements. These writings were first discovered in the late 1800s by Marx biographer Franz Mehring, who in horror returned them to Marx’s daughter, declaring they should remain unpublished. They were eventually retrieved only by the due diligence of Marxist scholar David Ryazanov of the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow. He had the intellectual integrity to preserve and seek to publish them. And ever since, with rare exceptions — mainly conservative biographers such Paul Johnson and Richard Wurmbrand — scholars of the subject have almost completely ignored these chilling writings.
This is what the Left does. It doesn’t by any stretch obviate the need for conservatives to keep trying to persuade progressives of the error of their ways; I do that constantly, and I won’t give up. But that kind of persuasion was not the purpose of the book.
There’s just one more criticism raised by Hilditch that I feel I must respond to, lest it get me in trouble with my Protestant brothers and sisters. He condemns my alleged “defaming Protestantism as a staging ground for full-blown communism” in the section of the book that covers Marx and Martin Luther. Actually, I took care to say just the opposite, so it wouldn’t be misconstrued that way. On pages 60–61, I wrote:
Though this book is not the place to adequately treat the subject, it is noteworthy that Karl Marx seemed to appreciate Martin Luther’s rebellion from the Church. In no way is that observation intended to equate Luther with Marx or his goals, and certainly not with the destruction produced by communism. For starters, Luther was, of course, anything but a godless atheist. Whereas Marx liked what Luther did, or, more specifically, liked the byproduct of what Luther did in terms of undermining the authority of the Church of Rome, Luther surely would not have liked what Marx did, nor the results of Marx’s ideas or communism’s madness.
Marx seems to have appreciated that Luther pulled away from the authority of the Church, which, for Marx, was a crucial step in the ongoing march of the dialectic of history — that is, of advancing and progressing to the next crucial stage in history, according to Marxist theory. He mightily approved of that step, even if he did not necessarily approve of Luther at a spiritual level. This is stated most emphatically by Marx in the long concluding section of his famous 1843 writing, “A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right,” i.e., the writing on religion as “the opium of the people.” There he credits Luther, who, he says, “overcame bondage,” particularly from Rome. “On the eve of the Reformation,” Marx lamented, “official Germany was the most unconditional slave of Rome.” Just as Luther made a crucial break from the religion of Rome, now Marx and his fellow philosophers would make a crucial break in their revolutionary “emancipation.” Stated Marx: “As the revolution then began in the brain of the monk, so now it begins in the brain of the philosopher.” [Emphasis in original.]
Hilditch says of this section: “The Protestant Reformation is presented as leading ineluctably to Communism.” He says I offer “the ludicrous assertion of a direct and immediate causal link between disbelieving the claims of the Roman church and embracing communism.”
I don’t believe that at all.
He also says that, “Virtually the only readers that [this book] won’t alienate are [Kengor’s] fellow conservative Roman Catholics.” This I just don’t think is true. Surely Jewish readers (among others) will appreciate how I expose Marx’s vicious anti-Semitism in perhaps more detail than anyone heretofore has. I blast Marx for statements such as, “The Israelite faith is repulsive to me.” Vile anti-Semitism is another ugly aspect of Karl Marx that I badly want people to know about.
I could say much more, but I will stop by circling back to my opening lament.
Whittaker Chambers, a key early National Review writer and editor, said that when he left atheistic communism he knew he was leaving the winning side for the losing side. When I read a review like Hilditch’s, I see why we lose.