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From Radical Progressivism to Authoritarianism

  • The Calhoun Institute


The modern progressive movement in the United States, based upon ideology deriving from classical liberalism must invariably lead to greater authoritarianism. Classical liberalism began to fail as a philosophy as soon as it spawned ideologies that abandoned the notion of universal truth. Progressive ideology in the United States since the mid 19th century has demonstrated an increasing propensity to advocate a stronger central government, less Constitutional control and a decreasing adherence to the rule of law. Preferring de facto verse de jure. These trends in legal idealism at the expense of legal realism coupled with the growing passion and a propensity toward violence among the base indicate that increased left authoritarianism is not only possible but likely.
From Radical Progressivism to Authoritarianism
By Barry L. Clark, December 2019
any Americans, and perhaps Westerners for that matter, look around at the
world and the culture with confusion. Much has changed since WWII, a lot
more since the 1960s. Those changes pale in comparison to the turbulence
and transformation in the last thirty years. The changes in the cultural landscape in the
2000s would have been at best laughable notions in 1950. Like frogs in a boiling pot,
few really recognize the change for what it is, transformative and revolutionary. Rather
than upfront, comprehensive and collected into one easily identifiable category, the
cultural revolution has been incremental and progressively elaborating in its
manifestation. It is perhaps that fact that has kept most Americans blind to what was
truly occurring.
To be certain, segments within the populace have taken exception to pieces and parts of
the revolution as it unfolded, usually in terms of what they perceived as singular,
stand-alone issues. Some opposed abortion, others fought for gun rights, while others
fought for the family or for morality in society. At the same time various camps that
fought for one issue ignored others, these were separate issues, not connected
components to them. Some might support gun rights but shrug their shoulders over
family issues, etc. All the while failing to realize that all the issues the progressive left
has championed over the last four decades have been interconnected to them, it was all
part of a larger fight. To many that held to some distant notion of what America was
founded as, what rights mean, what right and wrong are and who we ought to be, the
understanding that there was a comprehensive fight going on never occurred to them.
To the Radical, this is Revolution
The same cannot be said of the left, those that adhere to a radical, revolutionary
progressive ideology. This is certainly not a homogenous group, all following lock-step
to the orders of a behind the scenes mastermind. There is no center of gravity of this
movement, it is an ideology and as such, it exists beyond mere personality and singular
organizations. That being said, there are guidepost that they all heed, sacred texts if
you will that shape their actions. Saul Alinksy’s Rules for Radicals, published in 1971 at
the height of the counter-culture movement is one such document. Modified versions of
Alinsky’s Rules are used by Justice Democrats, Brand New Congress, The Young
Turks, Antifa, Youth Climate Strike, Green new Deal, and others.
Alinsky made it clear that radical change was a power structure and not merely a
reformation of the status quo. He advised that “[a]ny revolutionary change must be
preceded by a passive, affirmative, non-challenging attitude toward change among the
mass of our people.” (Alinsky 1971, p.xix) Traditional-minded Americans have failed to
understand this as a revolution. It is this failure to fully grasp what has been occurring
is the prime reason that the progressives have been so successful. Most Americans
thought nothing of monuments being torn down, these were just granite things and
people said it hurt their feelings. To oppose abortion or homosexual marriage might
make one look backward and hateful, let the Bible beaters fight that. A person that does
not own guns may not see the reason to oppose gun control. There are just too many
shootings, so they remain silent or even join the progressive cause. None of those
people realize that each of those issues fed into the progressive agenda. Some were
easy wins that built momentum, others attacked the foundational philosophical
foundation of the old order. Each issue, and each victory built toward greater
progressive victories. The radicals were aligned by an ideology that focused them,
traditional America was confused and divided.
Decline and Failure of Classical Liberalism
This change did not begin in the 1960s with the counterculture. As Hans Hermann
Hoppe points out in Democracy, The God that Failed, “classical liberalism has been in
decline for more than a century. The second half of the nineteenth century in the US, as
well as in Western Europe, public affairs have increasingly been shaped instead, by
socialist ideas” (Hoppe 2018, p. 221) In fact, classical liberalism itself began to fail soon after it
was first theorized during the Enlightenment. Once classical liberal theorist began to
abandon notions of universal truth the philosophy began to divide into error and
ideology. (B. Clark 2019) However, this is not to say that there were no good ideas that arose
from Enlightenment. Ideas that in their original form aligned with truths men had come
to accept prior we good notions. At the time of the founding of the United States,
enough of the prime tenets of what was good of classical liberalism were written into
the form of government to produce something unseen in human history.
What then might explain the decline and failure of classical liberalism? If forced to
provide one word that signifies the core of the battle it is ‘truth’.
Abandonment of truth polluted and perverted classical liberalism and it is truth itself
that radical progressives now assault. All of the issues and singular battles are part of a
revolution and new metanarrative against truth. In fact, each of the issues that have
comprised the cultural war in the last 40 years have been battles of truth. It was never
about marriage, or monuments or words, not to the progressives at least. Each one of
those fights was an assault on an accepted truth. By breaking down the narratives of
truth in civilization they gained the power to assault ultimate truths. In The Philosophy of
Commonsense, I argue that truth, universal truth, must exist. I begin with the premise
that the same thing cannot be affirmed and denied at the same time. “Anyone that
proclaims that no truth exists is, in fact, making an argument for the existence of truth,
an argument that relies upon a statement that no truth exists in appealing to truth. It is
impossible to honestly argue for the existence of no truth by stating that there must be a
truth that no truth exists.” (B. L. Clark 2019, p.16)
It is impossible to really and honestly attack the notion that any truth exists. Besides, the
radical progressives do believe that they hold to some truth, even if they cannot
universally define it. Thus, they have focused their attacks on the truths that hold up
the system they want to destroy and replace.
Permanent Things as Truths
Most of the progressive attacks have centered on permanent things or on elements that
directly support permanent things. Permanent things are as Russell Kirk described,
[T]hose elements in the human condition that give us our nature, without which we are as the
beasts that perish. They work upon us all in the sense that both they and we are bound up in that
continuity of belief and institution called the great mysterious incorporation of the human
race.”(Kirk 1969)
In a significant way, the big story of the Bible teaches us that throughout time and
various revelations, certain things remain important, permanent. These lessens began
in Genesis. God created man, life, being and existence (Genesis 1:26) and then a relationship
to man with order and law (Genesis 2:18), then the Family (Genesis 2:24), wages of sin (Genesis 3:8-
19), and finally the concepts of social order, civil law, and society. (beginning in Genesis 4:8)
*One might argue that life is not permanent, it ends, and our mortal bodies die. True, but our being and existence is, guaranteed through the
second permanent thing, our relationship with God (B L Clark 2019, p.16)
These concepts have been central to Western Civilization for two millennia. Without
these permanent things, Western Civilization ceases to be the West, a point not lost on
the progressive revolutionaries. Their attacks on these permanent things, or on items
that support permanent things include the following:
Abortion: an attack on the Christian metaphysical notion of life as a permanent
thing - a truth accepted by the West for centuries; it was not liberty to choose as
the slogans claimed, it was license to ignore truth.
Historic monuments: Removing monuments and renaming institutions was an
attack on the vestiges of a view of history that was contrary to the
progressive/socialist narrative; not a real attempt to heal racial division, it
increased such.
Gun control: is about denying humans natural rights to property, life, and
liberty, unarmed people are incapable of defending those rights from their
neighbors and from government. Without an ability to defend life, liberty, and
property all other permanent things are imperiled; it was not about stopping
crime or shootings.
Homosexual marriage: an attack on the foundational element of civilization, the
family, the third permanent thing as well as on the notion that sin itself exists. It
was not about love or fairness and only concerned with ‘liberty insofar as that
meant license to ignore universal truths.
Transgenderism: an assault on the very core of Western ideas of realism,
existence and of the Christian metaphysical reality that gave rise to those ideas.
Transgenderism is a denial of natural, knowable and observable truths and
therefore perhaps the boldest attack on truth yet.
Critical Theory: in all forms but particularly that of Critical Race Theory, Critical
Gender Theory and other variations are an assault on social order, the fifth
permanent thing. These theories have come to dominate academia and the
ideology of the left. They create racism and genderism as forms of division and
hate. They elevate entire classes to hapless victims and others to wanton
oppressors, giving de facto moral superiority to one and stripping the other of
The subtle but persistent War on Masculinity is an assault on the family and of
truths the West has accepted concerning gender roles for centuries.
Language orthodoxy: In Orwellian fashion, the domination of the language, or as
Daryl McCann argues “the Sixties Revolution has gone the way of the French
Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution and every other left-
wing revolution that comes to mind. The radicalism of yesteryear somehow
turned into PC orthodoxy or what we might call Correctism. (McCann 2019)
Many Americans over the last forty years looked at the issues above as completely
unrelated, having little to nothing to do with each other. Most never stopped to wonder
why the same groups, with the same tactics and methods, were on the side of change in
each case. If ordinary Americans look around now in confusion as to how everything
has so fundamentally changed it is because they failed to realize all of this was always a
battle about truth.
This difference might best be described in a simple question; does a person believe
ethics exist because truth exists, or do they believe truth exist because ethics exist?
There is a magnitude of difference between the two answers to that question. In the
former, ethics are universal and guided by both knowable and revealed truths. In the
second, man is left to continually wonder, argue and eventually just acquiesce to the
majority view of what is true and correct just for the moment.
An Ideology, Not a Conspiracy
At times of confusion, it is often easier to look for a singular target to focus our angst
and fear upon. It is a lot easier to look around at our world and conclude that all of the
changes are part of a conspiracy, controlled by some secret cabal. Once one looks at the
historical progression, how one event enabled progress to follow and how there seems
to be a flow and a theme to it all the simple answer might seem that someone or a group
must be at the center of it all.
Unfortunately, that is the very nature of an ideology. Once diffused into a population it
takes on a life of its own, always centering adherents back toward its core loci. This does
not mean nobody has ever conspired to advance progressive issues, people conspire all
the time. It does not mean that some groups have been more successful than others in
taking a lead to shape the intellectual positions of the ideology. It does not mean that
there have not been significant individuals that represent the public face of the
ideology. However, as an ideology, once diffused, it can survive in the wild without
any of the groups or people you might name as famous progressive advocates. If those
were removed others would replace them. An ideology cannot be killed by eliminating
specific people or organizations, a lesson the US failed to learn in the middle east after
almost 20 years of war.
History of the Revolution
The following is not a mere history lesson, nor just a presentation of a view of history, it
is the path that government in America followed from the notions of classical liberalism
written into the Declaration of Independence and fought for in the American
Revolution to the current state of cultural, legal and governmental affairs. One cannot
separate the path that got us here from the position we now occupy. It has been a series
of events, a slow progression and a cascading failure.
Hoppe in Democracy noted that accepting the moral status of government was the initial
cause of classical liberalism going astray.
“Liberalism’s erroneous acceptance of the institution of government as
consistent with the basic liberal principles of self-ownership, original
appropriation/ property/ and contract, consequently led to its own destruction.
First and foremost, it follows from the initial error concerning the moral status
of government that the liberal solution to the eternal human problem of
security-a constitutionally limited government-is a contradictory
praxeologically impossible ideal. Contrary to the original liberal intent of
safeguarding liberty and property, every minimal government has the inherent
tendency to become a maximal government. “ (Hoppe 2018, p. 229)
In the American Republic, this began before the Republic itself was born in 1788. The
Federalist, centralist would have been a more appropriate term, held ideas of a more
powerful, central government that might provide the most public good. Men like
Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay were the most vocal of this original
group but the ideology grew and became one of the opposing points of view that led to
the American Civil War. The anti-federalists, more aptly called federalists because of
their view of a republic with a central government possessing only certain delegated
powers, included Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, and Patrick Henry. This view
came to be called sectionalism, with its most famous supporter and advocate being John
C. Calhoun. From 1788 until 1850 the issue was one of disagreement and debate,
tempered by the existence of checks and balances placed within the Constitution that
ensured neither side could assert dominance.
Much like the vast gulf between how one views truth, the difference in viewpoint
between a republican and central form of government is vast, too vast to exist side-by-
side for long without conflict. To a republican (Anti-Federalist), government was
inherently oppressive and should be restrained as much as possible and this restraint
was best achieved locally. To the centralist (Federalist), government was a force that
could perform good and was best centralized to make it more effective. These are
diametrically opposed viewpoints. Civil war was inevitable on the American continent
so long as these two views existed alongside each other with the relative power to check
and confound the other.
By 1865, as an inept professor of mine once told me, the issue was settled on the
battlefield. The meaning of the original compact, of the Tenth Amendment and of
sovereignty were redefined. In 1867 the initial revolution from one view of original
intent to another was completed with the Fourteenth Amendment. As George P.
Fletcher points out in Our Secret Constitution: How Lincoln Redefined American Democracy
we essentially had a second constitution after 1867 based upon “organic nationhood,
equality of all persons, and popular democracy” concepts different and opposed to
those of our first constitution which promulgated “peoplehood as a voluntary
association, individual freedom, and republicanism”. (Fletcher 2003)
This revolution is not without controversy. Leave aside the centralists narrative that
three years into the war it was suddenly about ending slavery, a feat that surely could
have been done in a more economical and less destructive way than a war costing
millions of dollars and over 600,000 lives. This was not their narrative at the beginning
of hostilities, then it was about power and control and the preservation of their
centralists worldview. However, it is the actions after the war with the irregular
circumstances of implementation of the 14th Amendment that were most
transformative. As Forrest McDonald Concluded in Was the 14th Amendment
Constitutionally Adopted?, clearly, then, the Fourteenth Amendment was never
constitutionally ratified.” ( McDonald 2018, p.59) McDonald makes a compelling case, that the
procedures used to force ratification were not only irregular but unconstitutional.
However, this amendment was necessary. The opposing voice to centralism had been
silenced, disposed of political power and impoverished but the mechanism of original
intent was still in place. The 14th Amendment ensured that the revolutionary change of
1861-1867 would stick.
The progressive movement itself was possible only because of the events of 1861-1867.
Paul D. Moreno states in The American State from the Civil War to the New Deal that
progressivism was initially a shift toward expanding government power and away
from Constitutional limits. (Moreno 2013) Prohibition, Federal government welfare, a central
bank, the federal income tax, and even eugenics all owe their existence on the American
continent to that revolutionary change. Each of those programs and movements began
with good ideas, with high notions of what ethics were and a faith in government as a
moral entity. Each in its own way failed, prohibition created more crime, welfare more
poverty, the income tax created more intrusive government and denied people their
rights to their own property. Finally, eugenics, born in America and championed by
people like Margaret Sanger, manifested itself fully in Germany and the Holocaust.
(Conley 2017) All these programs and ideas, progressive ideas, resulted in less freedom and
all failed to ultimately achieve the goals the original proponents championed. That is,
as Hoppe pointed out, the key fallacy of placing moral hope in government.
This is of course not to imply that humans ought never ‘progress’ or improve. To attach
such a notion to me would be to build a strawman. The problem with progressives
since the mid 19th-century is their failure to understand that government is a necessary
evil, not a moral agent. As much evil and suffering as good will always come from any
and every law written with good intentions. In the 19th-Century progressives did not
understand this. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries they understand it full well
but have come to view ethics through the lens of a power struggle; if the other side
suffers in order to do what they perceive is good, so be it. This is how radically far the
progressive movement has come and thus why progressivism, as adhered to by radical
revolutionaries in our era, will ultimately lead to authoritarianism.
Radical Tactics
Understanding the history, those events that have built upon an ideology and put teeth
at the disposal of progressives of our time is important, yet this does not explain the
tremendous success of the ideology over the last 40 years.
Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals does help explain it. Alinsky drew on lessons from
Marxist tactics while trying to separate the counter-culture and progressive revolution
in America from that term. Rules has been and is being used by various progressive
groups since its publication in 1971. Many have modified the tactics to fit their own
personalities and approaches, but the basic principles remain unchanged.
Alinsky spends the first short chapter of his book discussing morality but quickly
descends into a worldview that obviously believes ethics determine truth.
He states:
Means-and-ends moralists, constantly obsessed with the ethics of the means
used by the Have-nots against the Haves, should search themselves as to their
real political position. They are passive-but allies- of the Haves they are the
ones Jauques Maritain referred to in his statement, “The fear of soiling
ourselves by entering the context of history is not but a way of escaping
virtue.” (Alinsky 1971, pp. 25-26)
Alinsky is quoting Maritain’s most Machiavellian thoughts, perhaps out of context
because Maritain stressed an acceptance of ultimate truth as the source of ethics.
(Sweetman 1999) By choosing and misquoting Maritain, Alinsky attempts to add
philosophical and theological credence to a set of ethical rules that allow and encourage
progressives to do some evil in order to accomplish some good, good being defined by
progressives. By avoiding Machiavelli, Alinsky steers clear of what many in the
counter-culture would have seen as an icon of the oppressive state.
The point, however, as Alinsky makes clear from the outset, is that right and wrong do
not matter, winning does. As he says, “the third rule of the ethics of means and ends is
that in the end justifies almost any means.(Alinsky 1971, p.29) Taken plainly, one can infer
already how progressivism ultimately ends in authoritarianism, just as socialist ideas
and inflamed passions in the French Revolution ended in tyranny.
Speaking of Lincoln’s illegal, and Alinsky admits it as such, suspension of habeas corpus
he states, “he who would be critical of the ethics of Lincoln’s reversal of positions have
a strangely unreal picture of a static unchanging world, where one remains firm and
committed to certain so-called principles.” (Alinsky 1971, p. 31) Compare that to a
contemporary of Lincolns, Alexander Stephens who said: times change and men often
with them, but principles never!” (A. H. Stephens 1868) Alinsky admits here a disdain for
principles, principles derive from truth, thus is illuminated to full objective of the
progressive movement, the elimination of universal truth.
An axiom of histography is that the victor often writes the history of the war. The
judgment of future generations is generally shaped by those histories. Alinsky
acknowledged this when he advised, “the seventh rule of the ethics of means and ends
is generally, success or failure is a mighty determinant of ethics(Alinsky 1971, p.34) If you
win, who is to judge your actions as right or wrong he is saying.
He does not forgo the need for the air of morality, to appear to hold the moral high
ground, “the tenth, rule of the ethics of means and ends is that you do what you can
and clothe it in moral arguments.(Alinsky 1971, p. 36) We can readily observe this in the
current progressive movement. All their causes center on ill-defined notions of fairness
and justice and appeal to emotions. They turn hatred of an entire race, ‘whiteness’, into
an appeal for action, anger, and vitriol toward an entire class, the rich, into calls for
equity, using the most dangerous of human emotions and passions clothed in a false
morality to advocate their cause. Equity, justice, fairness are their battle cries, just as
Alinsky suggested, “the eleventh rule of the ethics of means and ends is that goals must
be phrased in general terms like “Liberty, equality, fraternity”, “Of the Common
Welfare, “Pursuit of Happiness” or “Bread and Peace!’ Whitman put it: “The goal once
named cannot be countermanded.” (Alinsky 1971, p. 45)
Alinsky was not above targeting people individually, he even suggested it. He
provided an example of a new school board chairman that opposed his groups
proposals. By the account of Alinsky’s follows this was a good church-going, family
man with no apparent vices. But that did not matter, he was in the opposition and
according to Alinsky, there can be no black and white on an issue, everyone is for or
they are opposed, there is no room for compromise. Alinsky and his group used
ridicule, isolation, polarization and ‘freezing’, think modern canceling and doxing, on
this man. He advised, “ridicule is man’s most potent weapon it is almost impossible to
counterattack ridicule” and ‘if you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break
through into its counterside and finally, “pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and
polarize it.” (Alinsky 1971, pp. 128-130)
In terms of how to find issues to stir the mob toward action, Alinsky states, “in the
beginning the organizer’s first job is to create the issues or problems” and that “the
major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant
pressure upon the opposition. He also demonstrated little confidence n the masses to
actually understand the issues or know what they really want. It was the organizers job
to help them figure that out. Lastly, he advised that the mobs tend to get bored of an
issue and organizer’s need to continually find new issues to keep everyone engaged.
(Alinsky 1971)
We have seen and continue to see almost all of these tactics in use by the progressive
revolutionaries. Consider for a moment, if you were a progressive organizer in the late
1980s, an adherent to the ideology described above, a person that sought revolutionary
change. How would you accomplish that? You could not launch a frontal assault on
the family and marriage from the start. As Alinsky said, “any revolutionary change
must be preceded by passive, affirmative, non-challenging attitude toward change
among the mass of our people.(Alinsky 1971, p. xix) It would take time to get most of the
population into at least a neutral position on gay marriage. In the meanwhile, you have
to keep the momentum going, you have to keep and expand your base of support. You
would realize that a traditional ally of your cause, black Americans, have historically
been more opposed and less accepting to homosexuality than the general population.
(Lewis 2003) How can you eventually use your coalition to address all the issues on your
plate if you risk losing an important constituency? You pick battles that are easy to win
early and that speak directly to that constituency. You bring racism back to the fore and
create a racial divide. Beginning in the 1990s the issue was removing the ‘battle flag’
and proximations of that image from state flags. In the 2000s it was mobilizing
progressives to support Black Lives Matter and then an assault on monuments and
statues. It manifested into an attack on privilege and whiteness, equating unrepentant
and non-woke whites as morally inferior and unworthy of being heard or seen. It gave
birth to an entire concept in social science known as Critical Race Theory, derived
directly from Marxism. Those were all easy wins, they kept the coalition together and
cemented much black support, support needed later.
Through those three decades, the issues of gun-control, religious tolerance (of
Christianity) and homosexuality were not abandoned, they were just not foremost in
the progressive agenda. Media and the entertainment industry did most of the heavy
lifting, moving enough of the apathetic, low-information, non-critical thinking middle
toward neutrality or acceptance. A logical person, in the position described above in
the late 1980s, would have likely operated exactly as it all played out, Alinsky wrote the
Rules and they work.
There is no Neutral Ground
There remains an illusion in domestic politics that a center exists, that a person can be
thoughtful, diligent, compassionate and undecided. Perhaps in terms of parties, there is
often a decision to be made, as in to vote at all. To be certain many Republicans are
neoliberals or neoconservatives. However, between progressive or not, there can no
longer be a place for a truly undecided. A person either believes ethics exist because
truth exists, or do they believe truth exist because ethics exist. If they fail to recognize
the question, if they do not see the vast philosophical difference of metaphysical
opinion concerning truth, then, of course, they are undecided, because they are
unaware of the fundamental question at play. America is more divided than at any
point since 1850, precisely because of the vast philosophical and metaphysical
differences in the two camps. (Clark 2018)
The progressive seeks only a non-challenging attitude from the non-woke ‘undecideds’
of society. They do not need their support per se, they simply must gain their apathy.
Using the example of the Bolshevik take over after the Russian Revolution Alinsky
The task of the Bolsheviks is to overthrow the Imperialist Government. But
this government rests upon the support of the Social Revolutionaries and
Mensheviks, who in turn are supported in the trustfulness of the masses of
people. We are in the minority- In these circumstances, there can be no talk of
violence on our side’ The essence of Lenin’s speeches during this period was
‘They have the guns and therefore we are for peace and for reformation through
the ballot. When we have the guns then it will be through the bullet.’ And it
was. (Alinsky 1971, p. 37)
The progressive, like his Marxist master and teacher, is a patient and cunning creature,
willing to take small game, steal resources when his adversary is not looking and bide
his time until the mass of the population either does not notice or care about his
schemes, it is then, once power is gained that he can show the full fright of his teeth and
The ‘undecided’, unengaged, un-informed masses are separated only by degrees from
the pimple-faced kid that dons a black bandana and marches for Antifa. Each does his
part, in his own way, for the progressive cause.
Many Americans still hold to a belief that permanent things should be preserved. Many
of those have also come to hold dear pieces and parts of postmodern progressive
ideology that often make it difficult to understand what preservation means. Fewer still
retain faith and allegiance to one of the permanent things of Western civilization,
Christianity. Of those that profess to believe, many are confused by strange doctrines
that derive from false ideology. Americans do not even have a political party they can
go to the polls to vote for that is clearly on the side of preserving permanent things.
Democratic socialist progressivism and Republican neoconservatism are two sides to
the same ideological coin. Without a party, an organized and untainted religious
institution and a rally cry, traditionalists seem to have no hope of reversing the cultural
decline and ideological ascendancy of progressivism. It is too far entrenched, in
churches, academia, and the political system. Whether this is the ultimate outcome and
the last vestiges of traditionalism and conservatism are to go extinct, remains to be seen
and beyond the scope here. However, without a significant change, it seems certain.
Is Progressivism Really Socialism?
William English Walling in Progressivism--and After certainly conflated socialism and
progressivism to a large degree. He termed progressive reforms as “useful but
temporary makeshifts” to the socialist plan. (Walling 1914) Walling among other things was
a co-founder of the NAACP, a member of the socialist party and a vocal supporter and
apologist for Soviet communism. John D. Stephens in The Transition from Capitalism to
Socialism states that Western capitalist democracies moving to become welfare states
through progressive policies was a realization of Marx’ theory that when the conditions
were correct a capitalist society would transform into a socialist one. (J. D. Stephens 1979)
Already in the US, a third of millennials polled advocate socialist programs. (Langlois 2019)
So it seems that in the mind of socialist progressivism is a form of socialism, and in the
mind of many in our culture that hold to progressive ideology socialism looks pretty
good. If they are not the same, they are close cousins. We can conclude therefore that
progressivism must necessarily lead to socialism.
Must Socialism Lead to Authoritarianism?
Despite the overall denial in general academia and propensity to label all
authoritarianism as a right-wing phenomenon, Sabrina de Regt points out in Left-wing
Authoritarianism is not a Myth, but a Worrisome Reality that not only does it occur on the
left but that fascism and communism have much more in common that most scholars
care to admit. (Regt 2011) Henry A. Giroux, a man of solid Marxist ideological credentials,
argues out in Terror of Neoliberalism that the US has entered a dark stage of cronyism,
what he terms neoliberalism and most would recognize as neoconservatism. He
concludes that this ideology, really just the right side of the left-leaning coin, as
progressivism and neoliberalism and neoconservatism all derive from flawed version of
classical liberalism, has destroyed the foundations of the capitalist economy, controls
the media and the culture and has all access to government and power. (Giroux 2018) The
conclusions of both de Regt and Giroux agree with Hoppes theory in Democracy, The
God that Failed, in that classical liberalism, polluted near the root, generated ideologies
that could not long stand without resorting to authoritarianism. In the US, all the
Democratic party and most of the Republican party, the neoconservative branch, have
aided and assisted in putting in place the mechanisms by which authoritarianism might
manifest itself in America.
As a reaction to or fulfillment of progressive ideology, authoritarianism has the real
potential to become reality via three paths.
First, progressive socialism itself, coupled with high-minded but impossible ideas
would certainly lead to authoritarianism. Socialism combined with an ideology that
seeks to create equality and justice where they do not exist in nature, by necessity must
create new laws to achieve those goals. When initial efforts fail, and they must because
it is impossible to make all men equal unless you strip all men of all abilities and
possessions, the progressive must create more laws and programs, more taxes and more
redistribution of wealth. Under such circumstances, by the very nature of its unrealistic
goals and the collective power of socialism, progressivism must by necessity end in
greater authoritarianism.
Second, neoliberalism/neoconservatism could retain power and expand its
infrastructure so as to become immune to populist ideations for the right or left. This
sort of status quo creeping authoritarianism would be invisible to most Americans,
imperceptible, as civil liberties were further eroded, surveillance increased, and police
powers expanded incrementally as they have over the last decades.
Lastly, a counter-reaction to the progressive social justice movement could theoretically
utilize the same disregard for constitutional limitations and appetite for expanded
government power to enact some form of fascism as a counter-cultural revolution. This
is perhaps the favorite boogeyman of the left, often incorrectly conflated with
neoconservatism and their grasps at power. This is the least likely path to
authoritarianism. Traditionalists and real conservatives are simply not that organized
and besides, real conservatives believe in Constitutional limitations and principles;
concepts incongruent with totalitarianism.
Power corrupts and governmental power is no exception. In US history we can clearly
observe the central government moving from a position of first among states to an
entity that would allow 600,000 citizens to die to ensure its continued existence. We
have seen the rise of faceless, distant agencies that control much of what we do. We
understand, intuitively and by observation, how government grows. We can infer what
greater centralization and more power and control will mean. No concept that was once
sacrosanct - free speech, religious liberty, self-defense, private property, parental rights
and even life itself - is not guaranteed in such a scenario.
1984 may not be a reality in anyone’s life that perchance reads this, but totalitarian
autocracies begin somehow, and our path seems a sufficient start. We can only observe
the path the ideology has taken thus far and the ethics of its adherents coupled with the
propensity of the mob toward violence to deduce the possible outcomes.
This monograph is part of the Fourth Turning Clash of Inter-Civilization Cultures project.
DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.32977.28008 (B. Clark 2019)
Authoritarianism : Generational Theory : Gun Control : Retrenchment : Cultural War : Politics : Faith and Reason
Barry L. Clark is a Southerner, father, husband, Christian and a retired Army field
grade officer. Author of five books and of several papers and articles on ethics, culture,
history, geopolitics and military affairs.
Twitter: @onlyBarryLClark Web:
Author of:
Retrenchment: Christian Defense of Permanent Things
The Philosophy of Commonsense: A Cultural War Primer
A Commonsense Case for Christianity
Things You Are Not Supposed to Know About a Military Career
The Annotated Secessionist Papers, Second Edition
Barry L. Clark All Rights Reserved, Copyright© 2019
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Clark, B L, B L Clark, B McCandliss, M Peirce, W E Block, T E Woods, K L Clauson, et al. 2018. The
Annotated Secessionist Papers: Second Edition. The Calhoun Institute.
Clark, Barry. 2019. “Fourth Turning Clash of Inter-Civilization Cultures Thesis.”
Clark, Barry L. 2019. “The Philosophy of Commonsense : A Cultural War Primer.”
Conley, John J. 2017. “Margaret Sanger Was a Eugenicist. Why Are We Still Celebrating Her?” 2017.
Fletcher, G P. 2003. Our Secret Constitution: How Lincoln Redefined American Democracy. Oxford
University Press.
Giroux, H A. 2018. Terror of Neoliberalism: Authoritarianism and the Eclipse of Democracy. Taylor &
Hoppe, H H. 2018. Democracy -- The God That Failed: The Economics and Politics of Monarchy,
Democracy and Natural Order. Perspectives on Democratic Practice. Taylor & Francis.
Kirk, R. 1969. Enemies of the Permanent Things: Observations of Abnormality in Literature and Politics.
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Watch. 2019.
LEWIS, GREGORY B. 2003. “Black-White Differences in Attitudes toward Homosexuality and Gay
Rights*.” Public Opinion Quarterly 67 (1): 5978.
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Constitutionalism and the Triumph of Progressivism. The American State from the Civil War to the
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Regt, Sabrina. 2011. “Left-Wing Authoritarianism Is Not a Myth, but a Worrisome Reality. Evidence from
13 Eastern European Countries.” Communist and Post Communist Studies, no. 44: 299108.
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This paper answers the question of how did the writings of Blackstone influence American political philosophy, and what evidence for this influence is seen in Tocqueville's observations of American political life? The answer is that the totality of Blackstone’s philosophy is absent – the foundation of law, the role of morality for the common good. The only elements that transmitted were what eventually morphed into legal positivism.
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Twenty axioms used throughout the Fourth Turning Project
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Why did classical liberalism fail to achieve the results its original proponents envisioned? Given the popularity of social liberalism modern liberalism and progressive causes and ideologies, as derivatives and permutations of classical liberalism, one might argue it has not failed in the first place, rather, perhaps it has not yet been fully realized and implemented. But the fact is classical liberalism has failed, as can be conclusively proven, it has failed because it ignored immutable metaphysical laws, the historic reality and an approach to human nature based upon realism. At the end of the road of classical liberalism the West arrived at social liberalism and progressive liberalism which beckon its adherents to seek greater authoritarianism to compel compliance and ultimately reduce individual liberty and increase governmental power. iii Abstract I propose a unified theory of sorts that combines The Strauss-Howe generational theory with a hybrid of Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilization's hypothesis explains in part the observation that the West has not reached the End of History as some propose. Rather, classical liberalism, as expressed through derivative ideologies of progressivism, social liberalism, socialism, and communism, has failed to provide the social order and tranquility that early proponents envisioned. At its core, classical liberalism failed to acknowledge immutable metaphysical laws, the historic reality and an approach to human nature based upon realism. The overarching intent of this work is to provide an umbrella under which related research will reside that fleshes out specific and more detailed aspects of the larger hypothesis presented above.
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A presentation of an assertion that common-sense exists because first principles, natural moral law, and universal truths exist. Common-sense has served as a guide and a protection from ill-considered ideas and inflamed passions throughout history. It can guide us now through our current cultural war. Through an examination of the Strauss-Howe generational theory, the outcomes of past periods of history similar to our own era the book proposes that common-sense and the lessons our ancestors can teach us will be key in the solutions our children someday craft to resolve current issues. This book is important for parents to remind us of the knowledge we received from our parents and grandparents that we should pass along to our children. It is important for our children to help them understand that truth does exist and not everything from the past should be discarded willy-nilly.
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A sometimes heated debate between authoritarianism researchers takes place on the issue of authoritarianism on the left. Some researchers argue that authoritarianism is typical for right-wing political orientation while other researchers assert that authoritarianism can also be found at the left side of the political spectrum. The aim of this paper is twofold. First, we aim to contribute to the ongoing discussion on left-wing authoritarianism. Using representative samples, the relationship between authoritarianism and political preferences is examined in 13 ex-communist Eastern European countries. Employing six different indicators of left-wing/communist political orientations make clear that, despite cross-national differences, left-wing authoritarianism is definitely not a myth in Eastern European countries. Second, it was aimed to survey whether authoritarian persons in Eastern European countries might be a possible threat for the transition to democracy. Based upon five items it was demonstrated that in general the Eastern European population seems to hold a positive opinion on democracy. However, it becomes also clear that authoritarian persons in the ex-communist countries are significantly less positive towards democracy.
This book tells the story of constitutional government in America during the period of the ‘social question’. After the Civil War and Reconstruction, and before the ‘second Reconstruction’ and cultural revolution of the 1960s, Americans dealt with the challenges of the urban and industrial revolutions. In the crises of the American Revolution and the Civil War, the American founders – and then Lincoln and the Republicans – returned to a long tradition of Anglo-American constitutional principles. During the Industrial Revolution, American political thinkers and actors gradually abandoned those principles for a set of modern ideas, initially called progressivism. The social crisis, culminating in the Great Depression, did not produce a Lincoln to return to the founders’ principles, but rather a series of leaders who repudiated them. Since the New Deal, Americans have lived in a constitutional twilight, not having completely abandoned the natural-rights constitutionalism of the founders, nor embraced the entitlement-based welfare state of modern liberalism.
This book asserts that the Civil War marks the end of one era of American legal history, and the beginning of another. Abraham Lincoln's famous Gettysberg Address is viewed as the beginning of a new kind of "covert" constitutional law - one with a stronger emphasis on equality in the wake of the abolition of slavery - which was legally established in the Amendments made to the U.S. Constitution between 1865 and 1870. The author asserts that the influence of this "secret constitution", which has varied in degree from Reconstruction to the present day, is visible in the rulings of the Supreme Court on issues hinging on personal freedom, equality, and discrimination.
Neoliberalism has become the most influential ideology of our times. It guides both Democratic and Republican policies and, increasingly, those of European and developing countries worldwide. Influential cultural critic Henry Giroux assesses the impact of neoliberalism and points in this book to better approaches to building real democracy. Neoliberalism, too commonly regarded an economic theory, is a complex of values, ideologies, and practices that work more broadly as a "cultural field." Giroux argues that its cultural dimensions erode the public participation that is the very foundation of democratic life. Under neoliberal policies, Giroux shows, populations are increasingly denied the symbolic, educational, and economic capital necessary for engaged citizenship. Giroux assesses the impact of neoliberalism on the language of democracy, race, education, and the media, offering alternatives necessary to restore our democratic institutions.
On time preference, government, and the process of decivilization -- On Monarchy, Democracy, and the idea of natural order -- On Monarchy, Democracy, Public Opinion, and Delegitimation -- On Democracy, Redistribution, and the Destruction of Property -- On Centralization and Secession -- On Socialism and Desocialization -- On free inmigration and forced integration -- On free trade and restricted inmigration -- On cooperation, tribe, city, and state -- On Conservatism and Libertarianism -- On the errors of Classical Libaralism and the future of liberty -- On government and the private production of defense -- On the impossibility of limited Government and the prospect for revolution
Black homophobia has been cited as a contributing factor in slowing mobilization against AIDS in the African-American community, as an obstacle to black lesbians and gay men in coming to terms with their sexuality, and as a challenge to the legitimacy of the gay rights movement. Yet evidence that blacks are more homophobic than whites is quite limited. This article uses responses from almost seven thousand blacks and forty-three thousand whites in 31 surveys conducted since 1973 to give more definitive answers on black-white attitudinal differences and their demographic roots. Despite their greater disapproval of homosexuality, blacks' opinions on sodomy laws, gay civil liberties, and employment discrimination are quite similar to whites' opinions, and African Americans are more likely to support laws prohibiting antigay discrimination. Once religious and educational differences are controlled, blacks remain more disapproving of homosexuality but are moderately more supportive of gay civil liberties and markedly more opposed to antigay employment discrimination than are whites. Yet religion, education, gender, and age all have weaker impacts on black than on white attitudes, suggesting that black and white attitudes have different roots.