In the terminology of the father of modern political science, Gaetano Mosca, communism is a political formula — a pattern of thinking that helps a subject support the organized minority that governs him. Typically a modern political formula allows the subject to feel a sense of political power that convinces him that he is, in a sense, part of the ruling minority, whether he is or not (usually not). Since humans, and in fact all great apes in the chimp lineage, are political animals evolved to succeed in hierarchically ruled tribes, feeling powerful is deeply satisfying. Communism works because it solves this problem, more effectively than any other political formula in wide distribution today.
When it comes to the formal governance process proper, of course, few are actually in the loop. Just as pornography can stimulate the human sex drive without providing any actual sex, democracy can stimulate the human power drive without providing any actual power. But one of the problems with American democracy today is that it’s far too constant.
Witch-hunting on a purely informal basis, Popehat’s “social consequences,” scratches the political perfectly, because of course here is actual power — the power to harm other human beings — being exercised by ordinary people who are not mysterious DC bureaucrats. Never, ever understate how fun it is to just chimp out for a minute. If you mock it, it’s because you’ve never had a chance to be part of the mob. You can condemn it as a vile, base passion, which of course it is — and a human passion as well. We really all are Caliban.
But we have an angelic nature too, and our angelic forebrains need a cover story while the chimp hindbrain is busy biting off toes and testicles. Pure sadism is enough for the id. It’s not enough for the ego. This is why we need communism.
And what is communism? As a political formula? Perhaps we can define it, with a nice 20th-century social-science jargon edge, as nonempathic altruism. Or for a sharper pejorative edge, callous altruism.
What is callous altruism? Altruism itself is a piece of 20th-century jargon. We could contrast it with the original word for the same thing, obviously too Christian to prosper in our age: charity. When we say charity, of course, we think of empathic altruism.
When we think of charity, we think not just of helping others — but of helping others whom we know and love, for whom we feel a genuine, unforged emotional connection. For whom we feel, in a word, empathy. Understandably, these people tend to be those who are socially close to us. If not people we already know, they are people we would easily befriend if we met them.
Dickens, no stranger to genuine empathy, had a term for nonempathic altruism. He called it telescopic philanthropy. Who is Peter Singer? Mrs. Jellyby, with tenure.
So, for example, in classic Bolshevik communism, who is the revolution for? The workers and peasants. But, in classic Bolshevik communism, who actually makes the revolution? Nobles (Lenin) and Jews (Trotsky), basically. To wit, the groups in Russian society who are in fact most distant — emotionally, culturally, socially — from actual workers and peasants.
Similarly, the most passionate anti-racists in America are all to be found, in early September, at Burning Man. Everyone at Burning Man, with hardly an exception, is highly altruistic toward African-Americans. But, to within an epsilon, there are no African-Americans at Burning Man.
But wait, why is this wrong? What’s wrong with nonempathic altruism? Why does it matter to the people being helped if the brains of their helpers genuinely light up in the love lobe, or not? Loved or not, they’re still helped — right?
Or are they? How’d that whole Soviet thing work out for the workers and peasants?
Heck, for the last 50 years, one of the central purposes of American political life has been advancing the African-American community. And over the last four decades, what has happened to the African-American community? I’ll tell you one thing — in every major city in America, there’s a burnt-out feral ghetto which, 50-years ago, was a thriving black business district. On the other hand, there’s a street in that ghetto named for Dr. King. So, there’s that.