As the 50th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution approaches some of the former students who participated in its Red Guard terror have been trying to make amends to their victims. If China’s former leftist fanatics feel some remorse for the atrocities they participated in, the same can’t be said of their American counterparts.
Even as the Cultural Revolution was dying down in China, it flared up in the United States. The Weather Underground drew inspiration from China’s Red Terror. Their founding manifesto cited the Red Guard as a model for a “mass revolutionary movement.”
Bill Ayers, among others, had signed a letter, “Long live People’s China. Love live Comrade Mao.”
The American counterparts of China’s Red Guard remain largely unrepentant because here the Cultural Revolution never ended. Instead it went mainstream. Its members were never disavowed and their acts of terror continue to be celebrated, minimized and whitewashed by a left that finds them alternately embarrassing and thrilling.
The terrorists became celebrities and the radicals became part of the system and set the rules. There was less violence, but more authoritarianism. Instead of carrying on a futile campaign of bombings and bank robberies, the radicals used the vast wealth and power of the system to train the next generation of the Red Guard. And that next generation did the same thing.
Each wave of the Cultural Revolution in the United States has eroded civil rights and illiberally undermined a liberal society. Though the Red Guards have chosen to work within the system, they are animated by an unmistakeable contempt and hatred for the country and its institutions. Their endgame has not changed. Only their tactics have.
Barack Obama, a child of the Cultural Revolution, is the very model of a modern Red Guard. The mark of a successful revolution is that the revolutionaries no longer need extreme rhetoric since they can do anything they want. The Weather Underground engaged in extreme rhetoric and actions. Obama dispenses with the extreme rhetoric and gets right down to the extreme actions. He is calculating enough to avoid the verbal vindictiveness of an Ayers or a Wright, but he still chose them as his mentors.
America under the Red Guards is run by liberals without liberalism. Locke’s “No one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions” is as alien a sentiment to them as if it were expressed in binary code. Its grounding in a Natural Law whose equality eliminates power relationship is utterly incompatible with the Red Guard’s obsession with power relationships.
The United States has gone from a society that sought to create equality through neutral spaces that nullified authoritarian power relationships and restored a natural state of individuality to a society of authoritarian power relationships that promise equality by redistributing poverty and oppression. There is no room for neutral spaces in such a system. No room for withdrawal or dissent.
George Washington’s Farewell Address asking Americans to avoid factionalism clashes sharply with the progressive mandate to politicize everything.
The virtue of the creative individual was displaced by the Red Guard’s virtue of outrage. Its members mistake the thrill of abusing others for the rightness of a moral crusade. They celebrate the elimination of all restrictions that prevent them from punishing their victims as a revolutionary act.
This form of crowdsourced political terror by elites and their pet mobs isn’t new. It’s only new to the United States.
Political outrage is the supreme virtue of both the American and Chinese Red Guard. The denunciations leading from that outrage show off their revolutionary commitment to everyone.
The lines of scapegoats paraded through the media for some petty crime against political correctness are a modern digital version of the Red Guard’s denunciations and humiliations. The politics and the poisoned power motives are the same. The only difference is that the Red Guard lacks the license to commit real violence, as of now, and must instead settle for economic and social violence.
The virtue of outrage leads to a state of authoritarian lawlessness. Legislatures and laws are replaced with an alliance between the executive authority of Barack Obama and the Red Guard activists. The activists demand, the media manufactures outrage and Obama uses executive orders to deliver. These totalitarian antics of a new Cultural Revolution are celebrated as populist, when they are really the Machiavellian show that the leftist elite puts on for the people.
When outrage displaces the process of the law, what remains is either authoritarianism or anarchy. And despite the occasional Circle-A embroidered on a pricey jacket, the progressive Red Guard are not anarchists. What they are after is not less authority, but more of it. Not more freedom, but less of it. Their rhetoric about banks and corporations disguises what they intend for the rest of us.
They are not fighting against power. They are fighting for power.
The Red Guard, whether it’s the Occupiers or Barack Obama, abide by no rules except those of their own ideology. The United States Constitution and the rule of law mean nothing to them. The rules of their ideology are expressed formally in private, but publicly as outrage or empathy.
The left understands that Americans have a great deal of antipathy to words like “Socialism” and relies on emotion instead putting over its agenda over through individual stories that engage audiences emotionally. Beyond that its rhetoric relies on “modern” and “sensible” cultural signifiers aimed at winning over the same middle class audiences that it inwardly hates.
And so the Red Guard communicates privately in terms of ideology, but publicly in terms of outrage. Like villagers hearing wolves howl on a hill, we hear the raw savage force of their call, but we don’t always understand the vicious structure behind it.
Liberal societies are sustained by reason. The momentum of emotion has no room for argument or dissent. There is no possibility of negotiation or compromise. Everything exists in black and white. Reason is not even a factor. There is nothing to debate. Either you agree or you are the enemy.
Under the rule of the Red Guard, rights do not transcend the ruling ideology. Freedom of speech and thought are only provided to those who say and think the right things. The same is true for all else. There are no rights, as we know them anymore. Only a binding mandate of social justice. The right to speak your mind or donate to a political cause is valid only if it serves that mandate.
The Constitution is not an absolute. There are no absolutes except social justice. A right either serves the cause of social justice, in which case it can be dispensed with since it will be protected by social justice anyway. Or it obstructs it, in which case it must be destroyed. The same is true of all laws.
The Living Constitution is not a fixed legal structure, but a mandate for equality. Justice is not blind. She’s a community organizer coming out on the side of the social justice faction against the greedy and ignorant majority. The entire system, political, cultural and legal, is a means of enforcing the mandate. Its administrators are an elitist faction whose contempt for the people leads them to believe that tyranny is the only way to equality.
Washington spoke of faction as “an artificial and extraordinary force” that replaces the “delegated will of the nation” with “the will of a party” and leads “to a more formal and permanent despotism.”
The artificial and extraordinary force of the Red Guard is a perverse parody of mob rule. Our Red Guard, like many in China’s Red Guard, are the sons and daughters of the elites. Their violence is a ferocious assault of the top against the middle in the name of the low. They manufacture an elitist populism in order to call for despotism.
In New York City, the sons and daughters of the elite stopped shaving, set up camping tents opposite Wall Street and clamored for the radical change that their parents were already busy implementing. Their 99% sloganeering, a group that few of their parents belonged to, was a massive distraction from an alliance between political and commercial elites to ration health care and displace the working class that had generated an authentic populist movement, which like all authentic populist movements rejected the authoritarian rule of a chief executive, rather than defending and endorsing it.
Occupy Wall Street, like every modern manifestation of the Red Guard in the United States, and like the original Red Guard, was a cynical power move by a ruling elite. The fake populism of 1 percenter brats shrieking about income inequality while campaigning to destroy the middle class and what’s left of the working class was true despotism.
The new Cultural Revolution is aimed at shrinking the already narrow power and prosperity of the majority for the sake of the minority. Not the minority of racial or ethnic minorities, but the minority of elites that is determined to get its way by any means necessary.
When George Washington warned of the political system being distorted by a “small but artful and enterprising minority of the community”, he certainly didn’t mean it in racial terms. He was warning about a radical left eager to align with the French Revolution in the name of a greater revolution that would transcend nations, tear down borders, dispose of morals and impose despotism in the name of liberty.
The 50th anniversary of China’s Cultural Revolution will coincide with a national election in the United States that will serve in part as a final referendum on the Red Guard reign of the previous eight years. Like the Chinese, Americans will be forced to confront the ruin of their institutions, the polarization of their society and the victims of the Red Guard’s political inquisitions.
50 years from now, will the students eagerly tearing down a liberal society and replacing it with outraged denunciations and media purges also regret their role in the new Cultural Revolution?
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