(Initially Published Nov 16th, 2017)
One of the most surprising theses of the book The Enemies of Commerce is that triumphant revolutionaries are usually reactionaries in the most eminent sense. Its author, Antonio Escohotado, describes how before writing it he assumed that the revolutionary factor was focused on going towards the unknown, but his research suggests that the cycles of high activity in the communist movement run parallel to milestones in the development of prosaic freedom, of advances in the cultivation of risk coupled with the existence of civic liberties, drawing an analogous “jerk backwards” reaction that an attack of vertigo imposes. Returning to ebionism.
Mastering the Hegelian conceptual apparatus to a considerable extent allows Karl Marx to transform the ebionite approach into historical materialism. Marx took from Hegel the dialectic of the master and the servant, from Saint-Simon the industrial process and from a Ricardo mediated by Robert Owen the concept of surplus value.
In the main nucleus of historical materialism there is great confusion, on the other hand shared by John Locke, Adam Smith, and David Ricardo, which perhaps can better excuse this “capital” sin of the parents. Such confusion consists on a theory of prices that starts from a monetary value measured by the hours of work used to produce each good.
In addition to being unfamiliar with the real process of price formation, this theory ignores the existence of the entrepreneur as a productive factor, seeing in business the mechanical fruit of joining money and labor, introducing an idea of automatic performance that lies behind the growing enthusiasm about cooperatives, as well as the proposition that only work produces, and that sharing the benefit with investors and bankers involves stealing from the producer.
Far from it, each and every one of us pays for the dissatisfaction that would cause us not to have such or such specific good, here and now. This finding, later called marginal utility theory, perhaps also helps to understand why Marx only published a third of his anti-economy treaty: writing the rest would involve the added work of refuting the new theory of value, which four years after the appearance of the first volume of The Capital was already the great news of economic thought.
The Proletarian Revolution
In political terms, Marx sees in the disastrous Paris Commune of 1848 the beacon of future government, which has finally discovered the dictatorship of the proletariat as a form of communist emancipation. The fact that it is almost impossible to find a single member of that class inclined to prohibit private property is not an unsurmountable inconvenient, because in the messianic constellation the saving agent is in any case an announced or future subject.
Riding in this legacy we reach the dawn of the XX century with Lenin, leader of the self-denominated Bolshevik faction within the communist current. The name “majority faction” (of Russian Большой, “Bolshoi”, Great) is rather ironic, because in 1906 about 13,000 Bolshevik affiliates correspond to 18,000 members of the Menshevik faction. However, the Bolsheviks managed to secure the majority in the Congress of 1907 thanks to the enormous resources obtained through robberies, which allowed to maintain hundreds of militants, send emissaries to all corners, found newspapers, distribute pamphlets and create more or less representative committees.
And precisely this lesson is the most historically decisive from the French Revolution: superior in prestige and votes as the Russian Mensheviks, the Girondins sought to retain liberties at a time when the Jacobin minority could manage to give a coup. The Girondins lost power by their disgust towards the procedures and agents of their political rival, so well adapted to a situation of extreme hardship, persecutory delirium and war against themselves and strangers that led to the Terror and, once the citizens were exhausted by the anarchy of violence, to the Napoleonic imperial restoration.
In the case of Lenin’s success, there is also a huge debt to Germany which, strategically forced to maintain two fronts during the First World War, is willing to pay for a campaign of political agitation on the eastern front that may allow to concentrate its military effort on the western. We are not only talking about the visa and the sealed train that transfers Lenin from Zurich to Petrograd, but about millions of gold marks, a network of contacts and the German know-how (for example, Operation Copenhagen leverages a series of offshore companies to move goods, people, arms and propaganda under various disguises) that are incomparably more determining between April 1917 and April 1918, when Russia signs the surrender of Brest-Litovsk.
The Soviet Disaster
Once Tsar Nicholas II has lost the throne after the February 1917 revolution, the assembly chaired by Nikolai Markov is conciliatory as well as moderate, with a “tiny Bolshevik minority”, but their superior resources allow them to organize the October 1918 revolution and take control of the situation. Ironically, the coup d’état called to enthrone the proletarian class takes place in a country where the proportion of industrial workers does not reach 2%. Neither does the proportion of workers in the Central Committee of the Party reach 2%, whose leaders are all former students more or less able to live during the previous years as professional agitators.
Lenin, as ruthless with violence towards others as pusillanimous when directed towards his own, protested in July for a search without court warrant of his home but in December is happy to sanction the “extraordinary commission”, better known as the Cheka, which decides and secretly executes all kinds of sentences, including the capital.
The fact that the unions began to oppose the Bolshevik government created a certain confusion, but Lenin had adapted Marxism to any kind of environment and the single-party regime is completely reinforced by the Cheka. Unlike the old and classic communism, the post-democratic does not include in the demand for equality the principle of “one citizen one vote”, arguing that authentic democracy cannot depend on that “bourgeois formalism”, because the people still ignore their interests and perhaps they need perpetual protection against the risk of trafficking with work, from which “classist” distinctions would derive sooner or later.
As for the direct relationship between liberal values and an open society that we related in Part 2, it is to be expected that when the communist creed is imposed the critical thinking will be removed from the scientific activity. And so when the USSR undertakes the transition from bourgeois to proletarian science, the new curriculum will suppress three subjects: genetics, which calls into question the powers of conditioning; the political economy that ignores central planning, and commercial law, which codifies the rules of commerce, the forbidden game par excellence.
The most audacious social engineering experiment begins, with a sixth of the earth’s surface as a laboratory, and the results speak for themselves: when Tsar Nicholas II entered the Great War his country had around 180 million inhabitants, and in the conflict more than 4 died. The subsequent Civil War claimed 3 million more victims. However, since the end of the civil war in 1920 until 1926 the Russian population goes from about 170 million to just over 130 according to the official census. Notice that we are still in the 20s, we have many purges of Stalin ahead of us. Faced with such figures, the number one position assigned to Hitler as the most terrible dictator in history, despite so many atrocities that he no doubt committed, begins to be debatable.
The Modern World
In the United States the individual spirit was never endangered; but in the Old World it was, so it is very fortunate that after the collapse of civilizations that represents the Second World War, where the ideologies of communism and national-socialism are confronted, the Marshall Plan arrives and in less than five years the European income is multiplied by three, consummating an unparalleled jump in quality of life. Opting for a broad coverage system, based on insurance to alleviate misfortunes, was accepted an extra price compensated for cutting the room for maneuver conferred in another case to incendiary prophets.
Now more than half a century later, the road chosen remains substantially intact, threatened by the aging of the population and the kleptocracy of its politicians, because the toll that the countries of tribal tradition pay to establish democratic systems has shown to be the venality of its political class, a singularly widespread phenomenon in the south and east of the EU, which reverts to injections of votes for post-modern communism.
It may seem that after such colossal failures, the ebionite ideology and its hatred of commerce would have been exposed in a very clear way for what they are: an amalgam of simplicity, resentment and escapism. However, in our times, the Tehran-Caracas axis, in addition to its enormous influence in Ibero-America, has successfully financed European parties such as Syriza and Podemos, just to mention some of the most fruitful ones, which capitalize on the scandal of their respective citizenships in front of the government corruption and the difficulties of countries with little financial tradition when it comes to managing their sovereign debt.
A flight away from reality could be considered dangerous for survival, but unfortunately Antonio Escohotado’s masterful research suggests that this viral meme, particularly in its communist mutation, has a seemingly inexhaustible capacity for infection that should keep us constantly on guard, as much as their diatribes sound delirious to us and their popular support seem minor or marginal. Let’s fight with the pen and not with the sword, but let’s not fall into the same erroneous complacency that doomed both Girondins and Mensheviks.
Where does the enormous contagious capacity of this viral meme come from? Surely from the fact that ebionism connects with the original values of brotherhood present in all human communities, admirable as moral principles although they show a crass understanding of how both individuals and economies actually operate: it is bad to take advantage of the neighbor, it is good to share efforts and achievements, what prevails is the group. From the same source spring nationalism, religion and communism, all of them capable of taking the noblest aspirations of the human being to justify the most abject crimes on the basis of an idea.
Nothing is perfect, of course; liberalism also has its own dark side. Click on the link if you are interested in knowing more about it.