While the current upheaval on America’s college campuses is not precisely the same as Mao Zedong’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution or the pogroms committed by Ernst Rohm’s Brown Shirted SA members the parallels are eerily disturbing.
Obviously, Maoism and Nazism count among the great pogroms of our time. Their purpose was to identify, isolate and rid the culture of alien modes of thinking. Among their enemies: the practice of freedom. I explained it in my book The Last Psychoanalyst.
For another take on Heidegger’s influence, see William Kristol’s column: “The Self-Destruction of the American University.”
When today’s American university professors launch pogroms against the great books of Western civilization they say that they are practicing deconstruction.
The term comes from the German concept of “Destruktion” which was invented by Nazi philosopher Martin Heidegger, a man who thrilled to the actions of the Brown Shirts and became disillusioned with Nazism after the group was liquidated in the Night of the Long Knives. One remarks that Herr Heidegger, a heroic genius to many of today’s empty-headed professors, never brought himself to recant his adherence to Nazism. He thought that it was a great idea that had not yet realized itself fully.
One notes that within a month of Heidegger’s joining the Nazi party in 1933 the Party organized book burnings targeting the works of Jewish authors. Heidegger was unmoved. Then again, as we know from recent publication of his notebooks, he was an anti-Semite and an enemy of the Western civilization that Judeo-Christianity had spawned.
Pogroms led by the SA were morphed into the final solution, which lacked the theatrics that Heidegger liked so much, but which was far more lethal in its effect.
Both Nazism and the Cultural Revolution were reactions to failure. Nazism grew out of the failure of Weimar Germany and the ignominious defeat that Germany had suffered in the Great War. Mao’s Cultural Revolution was a crackdown on those members of the Communist Party who wanted to hold Mao accountable for the Great Famine of the early 1960s, and to institute free market reforms.
They had good reason for trying to supplant the Great Helmsman. Following Mao’s policy agenda, the Great Leap Forward, China suffered a famine killed over 30 million people.
In its wake two men, in particular, Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping tried to wrest control over the party and the government from Mao. They lost out when Mao proclaimed the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in 1966. He empowered the student radicals called the Red Guards, purged Liu and Deng and handed control over the culture to his wife, the actress Jiang Qing.
Through her aegis all books were banned, with the sole exception of the little red book of Mao’s writings. Artifacts of Confucianism and capitalism were destroyed and all cultural productions were forced to become propaganda. One notes in passing that Mao was a major philanderer, making Bill Clinton look like a rank amateur. See Harrison Salisbury’s book The New Emperors.
During the Cultural Revolution students ran wild, humiliating their teachers, at times murdering them and even, cannibalizing their remains. Millions of people were killed, among them Liu Shaoqi. Deng Xiaoping survived because he was protected by friends in the military. During the Cultural Revolution the two had been branded the No. 1 and No. 2 capitalist roaders.
As I have often noted, the results of Maoism were so horrific that in 1980, four years after Mao’s death, the extreme poverty rate in China was still around 82%. That means that 82% of the population was living on less than $1.25 a day.
The Cultural Revolution ended when its leaders, led by Madame Mao were arrested and imprisoned in the months after Mao's death in 1976.
These facts will provide some context for Roger Simon’s description:
This massive national crusade, instigated by Chairman Mao Zedong, was intended to create a pure communist man and woman, devoid of the constraints of materialism and personal ambition.
It started with the closing of the schools and the re-education of intellectuals and the bourgeoisie and ended up with years of incredible violence, taking millions of lives. The actual statistics are still a state secret, but a recent biography of Mao states “at least 3 million people died violent deaths and post-Mao leaders acknowledged that 100 million people, one-ninth of the entire population, suffered in one way or another.”
I got a personal look at the remnants of the Cultural Revolution in 1979 when on an “activist’s” tour of China. The country was still extraordinarily impoverished and primitive. Propagandistic thought control was everywhere, broadcast on loudspeakers and splayed out on ubiquitous billboards urging the masses to “Criticize Lin Biao and Confucius” (Lin Biao was a former ally, then competitor, of Mao’s who died in a mysterious plane crash) or “Smash the Gang of Four,” one of whom was Mao’s wife, then in disrepute. Whenever you asked a question of your interpreters, even a bland one, you got a rote response. Everyone was too timid to say anything the slightest bit controversial. Newspeak reigned. It was like living in Orwell’s 1984 five years early.
Amazingly, in 1979 the remnants of the Cultural Revolution had not yet been wiped out, because posters denouncing Confucius stood side by side with posters against the Gang of Four. More than a few years were needed to roll back Maoism and the Cultural Revolution.
The Cultural Revolution was not a spontaneous uprising of disenchanted youth. It was an effort to relieve Mao of all responsibility for the horrific consequences of his political and economic program. It was a massive exercise in shifting the blame to those who were among the most able leaders that China had, men who did try, after the Great Famine to steer China toward free enterprise.
How much are the events on today’s American college campuses analogous to what happened in China? How much does it echo the days of the Brown Shirts in Nazi Germany? That is the question.
At the least, the current wave of student protest seems designed, as I have often suggested, to relieve Barack Obama of responsibility for his failures as president. That is the larger narrative. Their purpose, I have noted, is to blame the failures of Obama presidency on the Bush administration, the Republican Party and the Jews.
The notion that blacks, having been an oppressed group, can do no wrong hangs over the student protests. When the nation was debating black crime, Obama supporters were following the president’s lead and saying that black on black crime was for nothing compared with the dereliction of white police officers. It was all the fault of white people, the bearers of white privilege.
For the past seven years we have had a rogue president who does what he pleases, when he pleases. Clearly, he has managed to beat down the balance of powers and neuter the American Congress. Some people blame the political class for the debacle, but in truth, the system only works when leaders act with decorum. It only works when the president sets an example of judicious and prudent behavior. It can put a brake on reckless and lawless actions, but it needs to do so politically, and thus slowly.
Those who think that they can counteract the ill effects of the Obama administration by putting a bigger bully in the White House are not thinking. The man who saved China from Maoism was Deng Xiaoping. Surely he was not a weak leader, but Deng did not speechify or did not bluster on the stage.
Even before the most recent events in Missouri and New Haven a fascist hate group called Students for Justice in Palestine has been functioning more openly and loudly on America’s campuses. The group was formed during the Bush administration but it has been empowered by the Obama administration’s constant criticism and vilification of the leaders of the Jewish state. It harasses Jewish students and tries to prevent Jewish speakers from speaking on campuses. It seeks to destroy Israel, first through boycotts and divestment, but eventually by allowing a “right of return” that would spell the end of that nation.
In New York yesterday the SJP joined a rally yesterday and injected anti-Semitism into the current turmoil. They did it to be sure that you could not fail to recognize the connection to the Brown Shirts of Ernst Rohm. This group has been doing this for some time now. Administrators seem too cowardly to say or to do anything to stop it. Yesterday, Hunter College administrators offered a weak-kneed response.
The New York Post editorialized:
But the rally here at CUNY’s Hunter College came with an added, ugly twist, thanks to the NYC Students for Justice in Palestine.
In a Facebook post, NYC-SJP added an anti-Semitic spin. It blamed tuition costs on CUNY’s “Zionist administration” which “invests in Israeli companies, companies that support the Israeli occupation . . . and reproduces settler-colonial ideology throughout CUNY through Zionist content of education.”
Thought tuition was just about paying for a world-class education? Nope. It’s all part of a Zionist plot.
Yet CUNY’s leaders barely issued a peep. The university merely released a long can’t-we-all-get-along statement by the vice-chancellor of student affairs:
“Students should also be cognizant of the efforts of a few to distract attention from important issues in higher education . . . by invoking discriminatory language reeking of thinly veiled bigotry, prejudice, anti-Semitism or other behavior inconsistent with our educational mission.”
Roger Simon explained the further correlation between what is happening on America’s college campuses and the work of the Red Guards:
Recent events at the University of Missouri and Yale (where I attended graduate school), plus now other institutions, have only increased my apprehension. It’s not at the level of the Cultural Revolution — professors haven’t been asked to wear dunce caps yet and no one (to my knowledge) has been killed — but the portents are not reassuring.
Mob rule, not anything close to democracy, is at play. The so-called SJWs (Social Justice Warriors) seem to be functioning as early avatars of the infamous Red Guard, bullying and then threatening violence to anyone whose thoughts run outside what is deemed to be correct.
College professors and administrators quiver in their path. In the case of Mizzou, the president resigned before any concrete evidence of racism was made manifest. It still hasn’t been days later. At dear old Yale, it’s even more bizarre because there were no imputations of racism in the first place, only that there might have been or might be. Forget Bull Connor and the KKK, inappropriate Halloween costumes were the new danger. It was all about having a “safe space” so feelings wouldn’t be hurt, as if the world could be perfect and the human species remade for an extraordinarily fragile generation of coddled students.