The Charlotte News



Why Communism Fails:

Old Karl's Idealism
--A Sardonic Note

By W.J. Cash

As a liberal with his feet on the ground, Cash was too cannily analytical to be beguiled by the siren song of the then-fashionable Popular Front. His concern in this article is not with the conspiratorial nature of the Communist International but with what he considers the soft-headedness of Marxism itself.

--Note from W.J. Cash: Southern Prophet by Joseph L. Morrison
(This article appeared in the Reader section of Prophet.)

THIS past week I have had my nose in the pages of old Karl Marx again, and as usual I emerge from them feeling vastly sardonic.

I am always amused and exasperated by those people who grow red in the face and shout out denunciations when they hear old Karl mentioned, for most of them quite obviously have never read him. As a matter of fact, there is almost nothing in the old boy to infuriate anybody with a shadow of goodwill in him; there is only a lot of descriptive stuff which every reader above the level of a halfwit will immediately recognize as being at least mainly true, plus an enormous amount of the most seductive and fetching idealizing of the human race ever heard of in the world since Francis of Assisi passed to his reward.

That is what is the matter with the book. That is what was the matter with old Karl. So far from having horns, and for all the fact that there was a streak of deadly hate in him, he was one of the two or three most naive idealists who have lived on this planet. The communism he preached and prophesied is no wicked nightmare but one of the loveliest dreams ever conjured up by the brain of man—and that when measured by the ethical system which Western man prevailingly professes. For the essence of that communist resides precisely in the slogan: "From each according to his capacity, to each according to his need." And if I can read it all, that comes to exactly the same thing as the Golden Rule.

The whole trouble with the dream is that it is too lovely. It assumes that the human race is capable of a high degree of rationality and disinterested cooperation, that men will of their own accord give over their lusts to exploit and rule one another, and take to living together in genuine brotherly harmony. For that, of course, is precisely what old Karl does assume. There was to be a dictatorship of the proletariat, certainly, but only for long enough to abolish the foundations of the old order of society. The underdog was to be made the upper dog, and having been made the upper dog, he was to use his power just long enough to make sure that the old upper dogs did not once more get into the saddle, and having done that he was voluntarily to abandon that power, and enter on equal terms with all men upon the era of voluntary and intelligent cooperation.

Merely to state the proposition is to reduce it to a manifest absurdity. There never has been a dictatorship of the proletariat in the world; what Russia has had has been simply the dictatorship of Lenin and Trotsky, and since of Stalin, with the proletariat having exactly nothing to do with it. And for my part, I cannot imagine how an actual dictatorship of the proletariat could ever anywhere be brought about. But in any case, this much I am willing to bet my head on: if the proletariat ever actually got its hand on a dictatorship, ever actually got to be the upper dog, it would never voluntarily let go till the last lone cow was home in the barn and Gabriel was trumpeting open the pearly gates. The notion that it would is simply a child of Jean Jacques Rousseau's dogma that man is, in his primitive shape, an inherently noble animal, and that therefore the masses, being closer to the primitive, can be trusted to be more noble in conduct than their masters.

Even A Columnist Isn't Noble

That is pure nonsense, of course. The fact is that the closer we get to the primitive the less noble the human creature becomes, on the average. For humanity is not inherently noble. And what is more—but hold! I am speaking of "humanity" and "the human race" quite as though I belonged to another and superior species. Alas, I shall have to climb down. I shall have to report that, after long and hopeful inspection of myself, I am bound to plead guilty—to confess woefully that all I have said and all that I shall hereinafter say applies to me, too.

What I was going on to say, though, was that humanity is not only not noble inherently but also not in any other fashion—that it is noble neither in its primitive shape nor in its most developed shape. Not by and large. Not habitually and continuously. It has its moments, no doubt. At least certain individuals do. And perhaps there is even occasionally an individual who is predominantly noble, though I frankly doubt it.

Horizon: The End Of Your Nose

But for the body of us most of the time: we are not intelligent. We see only to the end of our noses—to the tiny limit of the immediate personal benefit we have in view. We are ruled by ego. We are out to get ours, and damn the hindmost. And we are quite incapable of extended voluntary cooperation.

I am blaming none of us. I have a notion that we are inevitably what we are because of everything that has gone before us from the first day of the world. It seems likely that, in view of our late Neanderthal cousin, we have done fairly well with the mere forty thousand years or so since he flourished. Even if the Cro-Magnon brother had a bigger brain than we have, we can still argue on our side that he probably ate his fellows and that we don't.

40,000 Years To Communism

All the same, I think we'll do well to keep the facts in the case well in view. They'll save us from succumbing to the seduction of old Karl's vision, with the reflection that, at our present rate of progress, it will be at least another forty thousand years or so before any such thing as actual communism has a chance of succeeding. And on the other hand, they ought to save us from getting so senselessly mad when the name is mentioned--from such heaping up of stupid epithets on a man who (for all the fact that his doctrine, like all doctrines that do not fit the facts of our nature, is raising no end of hell) hardly deserves them.

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