The Private Life is Dead
Remember the Bolshevik Strelnikov in the film classic, “Dr Zhivago” (1965)? Played by Tom Courtenay, he was a young intellectual communist who had turned into a Red military commander in the civil war that followed the October Revolution. In reality, that comment “the private life is dead” had been the signature of the new Soviet experiment throughout America in the 1930s, especially in Hollywood. Even in the 1939 light-hearted comedy-romance, “Ninotchka” with Greta Garbo, the story line was about a dour apparatchik from the Ministry of Finance who went to Paris to find three party members who had gone there to recover stolen jewels belonging to the new regime, then decided to stay when they discovered the private sector, opening a restaurant. Overcoming the guilt indoctrined by the Soviet regime, first Ninotchka discovered the feel of fine fabric, then learned to smile and then to laugh, and finally to love, things all Party members had purged from their consciences since 1918, in the 20 years of the USSR’s existence.
There was even an early Hollywood B&W cartoon short (which I’ve never been able to find) of a valley of people who lived and frolicked in sunshine while in a nearby valley there lived frowning people living unhappy lives in near darkness. The story was of their trying to drive out the sunshine in the sunny valley.
In the middle of a world wide depression, these stories were indicative of a struggle in Hollywood, where a battle royale was going on about this New World drawn up by Lenin and Stalin. Predictably many of its writer-intellectuals took to it with vigor, since, like Marx, they were the smartest people in Tinsel Town but also paid the least. A few actors signed up as well.
If there was a communist signature for that era, it was that humorless deep furrowed brow of the weight of the world sitting squarely on their shoulders. This dispassion, this cold, even brutal analytical thinking defined the early Soviet state. Lenin and Stalin, more than Marx, knew that this brooding look had sales appeal in the West, and marketed its New Man and New World vision as one without sentimentality or any backward glances. It expressed an exclusivist state of mind implying that reason is harder then sentiment, thus more noble
What Lenin hadn’t banked on that in America this sales pitch appealed to a vanity that allowed converts to set themselves apart from the masses simply by converting. Hold that thought, for it was a great mistake. Lenin really couldn’t have believe that some people could only pretend to be committed, and then, within a century, that’s all there would be. See Bernie Sanders.
Lenin’s religious-like marriage of cold ideology to real life governance lasted just about one generation in the USSR. (Think of a young 22-year-old Hillary Rodham going all gaga and starry-eyed over this ideology as offered up by Saul Alinsky in 1969, and the Lady Gaga Hillary had become before she was fifty, stuffing money down her panty hose as if she had robbed a bodega in the Bronx.)
Even in the USSR, by Generation Two mostly only the façade remained, where the sour puss was just painted on, to be taken off at the close of business, in Russia at least accompanied by a crawl inside a bottle of vodka, a la Karl Marx, who was a famous pub-crawler, even as two of his children starved. The hidden private property, the dacha in the woods with European record players and American cigarettes, would also come in that second generation, so by the third, its ever-expanding bureaucracy would cause the Soviet star to begin a quick downward spiral and finally flame out, all according to natural laws as rigid as Newton’s observations on gravity.
Seventy years, right on schedule.
But as long as there were new fields to plow, the cold flame of Lenin could be lit elsewhere. Mao had his two-generation fling. Look at those guys now. So did the various Communist fathers of eastern Europe. Even Cuba. The featured photo (below) is from Bulgaria around 1948, the owner a woman with an arrow over her head, a founding Bulgarian Communist Party Central Committee member. (I have many of their family papers.) The Bulgarians being a naturally gregarious people, I doubt the flame of self-denial ever burned that brightly in their souls. Still, they had to put on this mask to suit their Stalinist masters in Moscow.
Taking the vows of communism was purposefully likened to men and women taking vows of chastity and poverty, to be able to tune into a higher existence and calling. But only one type of philosophy can claim real transcendence, involving elements mere political thought could never match, so would always fail. We’ve talked about this before, for all ‘ism’s fail in re-birthing themselves anew from the top down, while the loves of freedom, liberty and God dwell deep within all men, especially at the bottom, and never ceases despite every attempt to douse that flame. That’s why it’s called Christianity, not Christianism. The ‘isms’ life span are measured in years, not centuries.
So then, the short arm of any given type of authoritarian or totalitarian design is rarely no longer than three generations. But we also know it has to keep re-branding itself from the top down, so that it can appear freshly wrapped.
It seems this most recent iteration of old Pickle-Puss Lenin’s frozen grimace is built on personal vanity, which is about as ideologically shallow as a pool of warm spit can get.
The American Left of today is not your grandfather’s Oldsmobile.
“Greed is good.” -Gordon Gekko.
Begun as an anti-Wall Street mantra, this has now become the credo of the American Left, in alliance with the very fascist global corporatists Gekko personified in the film. Now every statist should be admired for the crease in his trousers instead of the sackcloth that once marked his voluntary poverty.
The modern Left is just as humorless today as the old Leninists of Soviet Russia. But it’s not the same. The American Left is more hate-filled. In fact, I’d wager they learned their hatred long before they learned any ideology…unless you consider Me-sim to be an ideology as opposed to a psychological condition. Modern leftists define themselves by who who they are not; who they hate. (So sadly do many on the Right.)
I can find very few personality traits that are common to the modern Left that were found in Old Guard Communists. I never knew a single Communist Party member in Russia or Europe who hated the people they ruled over, or looked down upon them as less than human. They were merely irrelevant. Communism killed by indifference, and Lenin, Stalin and Mao could count those in the millions. But rarely (Stalin) was there anything personal, or getting even, involved in it. Down the nose arrogance and killing out of hate were more Hitlerian than Communist.
Besides, their Old Guard had to maintain that “pretend-religious” aura to their station encoded by Vladimir Lenin, that required they hide their desire for riches and station. The Soviet Empire fell with over half their nations’ wealth hidden away. East Europeans almost uniformly referred to them as “imperial communists” but not because of the way they walked or addressed them but because of the heavy-handedness of their rule. Above all things they were predictable. They did not fall into fits of rage and throw lamps.
But in America there is little difference between a modern Leftist’s reaction to being rebuffed with a policy initiative or election outcome and ordering a medium-rare sirloin and it showing up at the table well done.
Everything that doesn’t go their way is a personal insult or inconvenience, and in this, they are more like Marx, and not at like Lenin, who once said he stopped listening to Beethoven because it made him feel weak.
The humorlessness we are witnessing with modern Left in America has almost nothing to do with Marxism or any other ideology. There is nothing about the American Left’s opinion of itself that demands it cast out or even disguise the personal life. Their private life is everything.
Self-love is everything.
Disdain, disapproval, more than dispassion mark their distemper. Among themselves their smiles are often confused with sneers and they imbibe on their favorite nectar, hating others.