From the Pen of David Horowitz: December 13, 2009


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What can justify the nihilism of the revolutionary agenda? Only a vision of the coming apocalypse. Only a vision of the existing order as totally unjustified, unnatural, destructive. “Better Red Than Dead.” To those of us who were radicals in the Sixties, this famous slogan had a different meaning than it had for liberals to whom it signified choosing the lesser of two evils. For radicals, it meant that if we did not achieve world socialism we would all soon be dead. Our radical idea was that capitalism engendered conflict and war; unless capitalism were destroyed, the end of civilization was inevitable. On the eve of Lenin’s conquest of power, the German revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg summarized this vision of a radical apocalypse in the slogan “Socialism or barbarism!”

The apocalyptic claim is the cornerstone of radical politics. For if the cause is absolute, everything is permitted, and the real work of revolution—radical nihilism, the destruction of what is—can be carried out with no look back. Thus, in the name of everlasting peace, radicals wage permanent revolutionary war; in the name of a final human liberation, they enslave nations; in the name of ultimate justice, they commit unparalleled crimes.

For more than 70 years, the prospect of “socialism or barbarism” served to justify the destruction of the existing societies and to legitimize the Soviet future. But those 70 years of the socialist future have made Rosa Luxemburg’s claim grotesque. Today—from Estonia to Armenia, from Alexanderplatz to Tiananmen Square—the sea of humanity liberated by Marxists itself proclaims: Socialism is barbarism.

Even as its own inhumanity and inefficiency consume revolutionary socialism in the East, however, a specter can be seen rising from its ashes in the West. The colors are no longer red but green, the accents are those of Malthus rather than Marx, but the missionary project is remarkably intact The planet is still threatened, the present still condemned, redemption through radical politics still presses: Better Green Than Dead. In environmentalism, radicals have found a new paradigm for the paradigm lost.

Thus, the official program of France’s new Green Party echoes Rosa Luxemburg’s apocalyptic cry: “The future will be green or will not be at all.” And the program of Germany’s Greens exhibits the distinctive accents of the totalitarian voice: “The politics of radical ecology embraces every dimension of human experience — the old age is giving way to the new.” Or, in the blunter expression of the founder of American “social ecology,” Murray Bookchin: “We can’t heal the environment without remaking society.”

– “From Red to Green” from Left Illusions

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