Why I’m a Conservative (2)

vietnam-out

The 1970s “morally superior” Progressive Left demands that the Indochinese people be left to the tender mercies of the Communists.  A genocidal bloodbath ensues once they get their way.  How do you think this “morally superior” vanguard responded?

Changing Course

Background

I’m going to try your patience for this additional post about me.  In the first post on this topic I stated:

It’s not that I was ignorant about the genocidal crimes of Communism in the Soviet Union.  Nor was I unaware of the moral hypocrisy of the Progressive Left in the United States. … These things were known and already troubling to me.

No, this event was influential because I saw this combination of dishonesty, evil and cowardice in a living human being.

Unless I explain why this event was so influential my transition from Progressive to Conservative will be unacceptably incomplete.

Sufficient Explanation

A central tenant of Progressivism is that the world would be a far better place if the right people were in power and that they have the power to implement their policies on a recalcitrant population.  Of course, the “right people” were Progressives and their allies.  While the Progressive circles in which I was raised weren’t explicitly Marxist, it was clear that Marxists fell into the category of the”right people” even if they were sometimes too extreme or in too big of a hurry.

So, when I came face to face with the committed Marxist professor of the previous post the chasm between my expectation of a “good person” and what I actually saw was unbridgeable.  Therefore, latent questions and concerns about Progressivism rose up under a new light.

In particular, the issue of what the Progressive Left had said and done about the Vietnam  War before and after the American abandonment became painfully active.  This all originally played out while I was a teenager.  If you want insight into my focus in those years (besides the obvious social and school activities) look into this post.  So, while I was vaguely aware of the situation in Indochina I wasn’t really paying much attention.

But, as an adult in the early 1980s, having met in person a Marxist radical who certainly would have toed the party line on Vietnam, the issue of the Left’s behavior reemerged.  Perhaps the following excerpt from The Black Book of the American Left: The Collected Conservative Writings of David Horowitz provides a good summary.

As soon as the Communists did win, in April 1975, there were reports of a bloodbath in Indochina. The Khmer Rouge had swept across Cambodia leaving killing-fields in their wake. In Vietnam there were reports of a hundred thousand summary executions, a million and a half refugees and more than a million people imprisoned in “reeducation camps” and gulags in the South. These events produced a shock of recognition in some quarters of the left. Joan Baez took out a full-page ad in The New York Times to make an “Appeal to the Conscience of North Vietnam.” She enlisted a number of former antiwar activists to sign the appeal. As soon as the statement appeared Baez was attacked by Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda as a tool of the CIA.  A counter-ad was organized by Cora Weiss, who had traveled with Fonda to Hanoi and collaborated with the regime in its torture of American POW’s. The Weiss ad praised the Communists for their moderation in administering the peace.

It was the bloodbath that our opponents, the anti-Communist defenders of America’s role in Southeast Asia, had predicted. But for the left there would be no looking back. Baez’s appeal proved to be the farthest it was possible for them to go, which was not very far. The appeal did not begin to suggest that antiwar activists needed to reassess the role they had played in making these tragedies inevitable.

Opposition to the Vietnam War united all cohorts of the Progressive movement, from moderates to the most radical (note that in the 1960s and 70s “Democrat” and “Progressive” were not synonymous).  Central assumptions to their opposition were:

  1. U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War was an immoral extension of Western imperialism;
  2. The North Vietnamese were primarily nationalists who were only seeking to reunite their country;
  3. The primary obstacle to Indochina’s emergence as a free and prosperous region was the United States’ presence.
Cambodian-genocide

The Cambodian genocide, in which two-million were murdered by the Communists out of a population of 8 million.  This was the largest Communist democide ever by percentage of the population.

So, when the Indochina blood bath followed immediately after the United States abandoned Vietnam due to Progressive political victory an ideological crisis occurred.  However, rather than reassessing the wisdom and morality of their position the Progressive Left’s leadership doubled down on hatred of the U.S.  The most idiotic explanation I recall was that in Cambodia Pol Pot was so angered by U.S. bombing that he ordered the genocide of his own people in retaliation!

boat-people

The Vietnamese “Boat People,” hundreds of thousands who chose the possibility of death at sea over remaining in the Communist “workers paradise” of a reunited Vietnam.

Previous to my encounter with the Marxist professor I had tended to thoughtlessly give the benefit of the doubt to Progressives on this issue.  However, having experienced this person’s shocking combination of deception and evil I began to question the morality of the Left.

What eventually became clear is that the Left’s leadership had never actually cared about the actual flesh and blood human beings in Indochina.  Once they had served their purpose as props for the real goal — U.S. defeat and Communist victory — the fate of these millions of people became irrelevant.  There was no soul searching, no shock and horror.  There was only the moving on to the next “social justice” cause.

Given that the Progressive Left’s program rested on their assumption of moral superiority the loss of confidence in that assumption led eventually to my rejection of their ideology.  The Conservative philosophy with its pessimistic assessment of human nature and the associated protections of human freedom from popular tyrannies thus began to fill the ideological space vacated by Progressivism.

Given the totalitarian temptation that now appears to dominate Progressive thought I thank God that I exited this ideology decades ago and never looked back.  Returning to David Horowitzs book.

… conservatism begins with the recognition that this [Progressive] agenda and the progressive paradigm that underpins it are bankrupt. They have been definitively refuted by the catastrophes of Marxism, which demonstrate that the quest for social justice, pressed to its logical conclusion, leads inexorably to the totalitarian result. The reason is this: to propose a solution that is utopian, in other words impossible, is to propose a solution that requires coercion and requires absolute coercion. Who wills the end wills the means.

Why I’m a Conservative (1)

open-window

Introduction

It may or may not interest my readers that I’m the only Conservative (in the explicit ideological sense) in my immediate or extended family.  For my first 21 or so years I accepted Progressivism as my natural political home.  Recently a family member suggested that I write some blog posts that explain this transition.  While I’m doubtful that biographical posts will be of interest to my readers, there may be a few incidents along this path that shed general light.  So, I’m calling this the first post on “Why Im a Conservative.”

Besting a Marxist University Professor

The Incident

I married my childhood sweetheart in 1979 and we immediately moved to the Twin Cities in Minnesota.  My wife had already graduated from college but I hadn’t due to uncertainty about what I wanted to do with my life (boy was she taking a big risk with me!).  So she worked full time while I finished my education (eventually Electrical Engineering) and worked part-time.

My wife befriended a coworker whose husband was a professor at one of the area colleges.  We were invited over to their house for a social visit, likely in the Summer of 1981 or 1982.  When we arrived there was another guest who turned out to be one of the professor’s students.

marxist-struggle

It’s Marxism all the way down comrade!

Soon after arrival it became clear that this wouldn’t be a social event but rather an intense indoctrination session.  For the professor was a hard-core Marxist who only was interested in proclaiming that ideology’s propaganda.  He utterly dominated the conversation and appeared to be taking pleasure at our discomfort and his student’s approval.

Although my family was what would now be called Progressive, they were by no means Marxist.  On the other hand, we weren’t close-minded to hearing out Marxists and many other left of center ideological positions.  However, this guy was so aggressive and monomaniacal that he quickly became annoying.

As time dragged on he turned to the subject of World War II.  He couldn’t have known that despite my youth I had deep knowledge there due to a long-term interest in history in general and that conflict in particular.

He launched into a denunciation of the Western Democracy’s intentions and actions prior to the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941.  His point was that they had intentionally pursued a strategy to encourage war between Nazi Germany and Communist Russia.  He also said that the Western Democracies intended to eventually split the spoils of victory over the Soviet Union with Germany.

220px-Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-H27337,_Moskau,_Stalin_und_Ribbentrop_im_Kreml

Stalin and Ribbentrop shaking hands after signing the Pact on August 23, 1939.

Having endured at this point hours of one-sided, unrelenting propaganda I gladly took this opportunity to strike back.  I pointed out that the professor had it completely backwards.  It was the Soviet Union that made the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact (officially the Treaty of Non-aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) whereby Hitler was freed to attack the Western Democracies without fear of a Soviet attack on his Eastern front.  I also pointed out that the initial cooperative act of this Pact was the joint invasion of Poland in which Germany and the Soviet Union split the spoils of victory!

I will not soon forget the look of stunned amazement on the student’s face and the combination of fear and anger in the professor’s eyes as I dressed him down on this crucial point of historic accuracy.  Within seconds after my rejoinder finished the professor declared that the visit was over.  He then ushered my wife and me out of the house and drove us home (we couldn’t then afford a car).  The ride home was silent but tension-filled.  We were never again invited over to their house.

The Consequences

This experience became a key pivot point in my conversion from Progressivism to

Democide-Totals

Democide: “the intentional killing of an unarmed or disarmed person by government agents acting in their authoritative capacity and pursuant to government policy or high command.”   Note that socialist governments murdered almost four-times more people than did fascist regimes (the second most brutal regime type) and over 133 times more than capitalist governments. The conclusion is thus clear. Socialist governments are the most brutally murderous by far.

Conservatism.  It’s not that I was ignorant about the genocidal crimes of Communism in the Soviet Union.  Nor was I unaware of the moral hypocrisy of the Progressive Left in the United States (particularly regarding the consequences to Indochina in the U.S. abandonment of South Vietnam, a topic for another post).  These things were known and already troubling to me.

No, this event was influential because I saw this combination of dishonesty, evil and cowardice in a living human being.  Prior to this my knowledge about the dark side of Progressivism had been theoretical.  That is, no one in my family had ever made such an openly deceitful argument against the West.  Yes, they were often critical, but their points generally were limited to policy areas.

Now I had experienced up close and personal something that seemed to be strangely evil, but also sadly pathetic.  For here was a man who knowingly lied, making the most terrible defamatory statements against the West while purposefully hiding the fact that Communism in the Soviet Union had done that very thing!  And, he was arguing for the moral superiority of a system that had committed genocide against its own population!

I didn’t know it then, but this man was an instance of the ideological deformity described by Hilton Kramer.

It is in the nature of Stalinism for its adherents to make a certain kind of lying – and not only to others, but first of all to themselves – a fundamental part of their lives.  It is always a mistake to assume that Stalinists do not know the truth about the political reality they espouse. If they don’t know the truth (or all of it) one day, they know it the next, and it makes absolutely no difference to them politically.  For their loyalty is to something other than the truth.  And no historical enormity is so great, no personal humiliation or betrayal so extreme, no crime so heinous that it cannot be assimilated into the ‘ideals’ that govern the true Stalinist mind, which is impervious alike to documentary evidence and moral discrimination.

Although this experience didn’t cause me to immediately break with Progressivism it did begin to undermine its credibility.  For while I knew that most Progressives weren’t Marxists, I also knew that there would be general agreement between many of them and this professor about the West’s evils.  I also knew that Progressives often considered Marxists to be “on their side.”

I didn’t know exactly which way to run, but I wanted to run as far away from this evil as fast as I could.