A lot of conservatives have expressed shock and disorientation at the revival of enthusiasm for socialism, not to mention the shattering of the consensus for free trade, low taxes, open markets, freedom of expression, and so forth. It is clear—and I wrote a long memo about this at AEI about five years ago that I cannot now find—that we all made a major mistake in the early 1990s when the Cold War ended in thinking that the triumph of free markets and liberal democracy was permanent. (Anyone remember The End of History?)
Thus I was stunned to stumble across an unpublished lecture of Harry Jaffa’s from December 1991 which ends thus:
The defeat of Communism in the USSR and its satellite empires by no means assures its defeat in the world. Indeed, the release of the West from its conflict with the East emancipates utopian communism at home from the suspicion of its affinity with an external enemy. The struggle for the preservation of western civilization has entered a new—and perhaps far more deadly and dangerous—phase.
In other words, the Cold War never really ended. It just came home, and has by degrees been turning slowly hotter. All of the old impulses that found expression in Marxist formulae have been reborn in the dialectics of “critical theory” and oppression by “patriarchy,” etc., instead of capitalism. In the middle of the lecture, Jaffa explains:
[T]he revolutionary goal of the classless society of altruists has survived. It has survived, detached from any foundation in rational analysis, such as Marx claimed for himself. For what else is the movement for “consciousness raising,” but a re-named version of the demand for “socialist man”? What is the conflict between property rights and global environmentalism, but another chapter in the conflict between bourgeois man and socialist man? “Diversity” is demanded by those who will tolerate no deviation from the “politically correct.” And what is “politically correctness” but another name for “the party line”? It is Leninism/Stalinism without Lenin or Stalin.