Socialism as a Perpetual Civil War

by R. J. Rushdoony

From the Chalcedon Foundation book Law & Liberty 2nd Edition

Socialism and communism presuppose that their system represents the true order of the ages and is the answer to man’s problems. This assumption is one that assumes man’s problems to be not spiritual but material, not sin but environment. Change man’s environment and you will then remake man, it is held. The answer to man’s problems is therefore not the spiritual regeneration of man by Jesus Christ but the reorganization of society by the scientific socialist state.

Basic to the theory of scientific socialism is its infallibility concept. Every system of thought has an infallibility concept, but few are honest enough to admit it. Ultimate, final, and inerrant authority is vested somewhere in the system as the basic and assured arbiter of truth or reality. The scientific socialistic state sees scientific socialism as the infallible truth of history; its application ensures the perfect social order. If failures occur in scientific socialist states, it is not the fault of scientific socialism, which is by definition infallible and true, but of the hostile people, remnants of the capitalistic class, or traitorous members of the party. Because the scientific socialist state cannot blame itself, it must wage civil war against some portion of the state. Thus, first of all, socialism’s answer to every problem is civil war. Someone is guilty, but never socialism itself.

Illustrations of this are many. The Soviet Union has faced a situation of continual purges. The purges of the 1930s stand out merely as being more dramatic than the routine ones. But every crisis in the Soviet Union demands a scapegoat, and war is therefore waged against some portion of the Party, the bureaucracy, or the masses.

In Communist China, according to a news report of Friday, March 24, 1967, pestilence broke out widely, with many contagious diseases spreading across the country. The Communist regime’s answer to an already serious crisis was to threaten the doctors of China with a purge. The doctors were responsible, the Shanghai Radio declared, because they “had ignored Mao’s health policies.”1 The consequence of such a policy, the purge of doctors in a country with a serious shortage of medical men, only aggravated a serious situation, but anything is preferable to admitting that socialism can make mistakes and be an erroneous theory.

In the United States, inflation is a product of the federal government’s departure from a hard money standard, from gold to paper, and a product of its debt living or deficit financing. The guilt for inflation is essentially the federal government’s guilt. But the blame is instead shifted by federal officials to the private sector: labor is creating inflation by demanding higher wages, and business is inflationary because it demands higher prices for goods, and threats are made of wage and price controls. The demands of capital and labor are, of course, the results of inflation and their steps to protect themselves against it, but the policy of socialism is to ascribe all guilt to the people, and all wisdom to the state, in every crisis.

In these and other cases, the answer always remains the same: the socialist state wages war on the people. Whenever the scientific socialist state makes a mistake, the people suffer.

The second aspect of this socialist civil warfare is that it is perpetual civil war because of perpetual failure. Socialism is incapable of solving any problem it addresses itself to in the economic sphere. Because its premises are unsound and wholly in error, its conclusions are consistently failures. But, since socialism is by definition the scientific answer to problems of society, socialism cannot blame itself. As a result, it wages perpetual civil warfare as its answer to perpetual failure.

Third, the consequence of this perpetual civil warfare is an ever-deepening crisis. Propaganda works to disguise the crisis. We are always told that the Soviet Union is making economic and industrial progress and is becoming a milder dictatorship, but the reality is that it has merely gone from crisis to crisis and has faced a growing food shortage as a tribute to its incompetence. The other socialisms of the world have similar troubles. The little Fabian Socialist State of Great Britain is sinking steadily into the economic consequences of its own policies, and other Fabian states face a growing monetary and economic crisis. Socialism is never the way out for socialism, but simply the guarantee of an economic dead end.

Fourth, this perpetual civil warfare can and will terminate in the death of the state, and possibly of the civilization as well. It is destructive of the public and private resources of the state; the socialist state can sometimes build stone monuments and edifices, but it cannot perpetuate a living social order; it can only kill the order it seizes or inherits. It has often been observed that it is only when a civilization is dying that it begins monumental building constructions. Prior to that time, its concern is more with life than show. We cannot therefore misread socialism’s predisposition for monumental construction as a sign of life; it is tombstone construction.

Fifth, perpetual civil warfare means in some form perpetual violence or repressive force, and as a result, the use of terror is not only accepted but is often justified and exalted. Terror is defended and upheld as necessary to suppress the enemies of the people and to protect the state from destruction. Jean-Paul Sartre, in his Critique of Dialectical Reason, spoke of terror as “the very bond of fraternity.” Terror is made a moral principle and an inevitable requirement of history. As a result, “total terror” is practiced as a necessary and moral requirement of scientific socialism. Incredible brutality, barbarism, savagery, and degeneracy become the products of scientific socialism.2 Thus, the perpetual civil warfare that the scientific socialist state wages against its people is also a form of total warfare. It is more radical than total warfare, in that normal total warfare is for a stated period of hostilities, whereas the socialistic civil war and its terroristic total warfare have no end. It is a perpetual threat to the people, and, in varying degrees, continuously practiced. The more the state approaches total socialism, to that same degree it also approaches total terror and total civil war. It is this aspect of perpetual and total warfare that has made socialists like George Orwell, author of 1984, turn from socialism in horror, without believing really in anything else. Theirs is not a conversion but simply revulsion from terror.

Such a situation, of course, breaks down the will to work and the will to live of the subject peoples. Hope of escape, or hope that the socialist regime will end, begins to grow weaker, and the result is all the greater slow-down in agricultural and industrial production. This decline in productivity creates a major crisis, and the socialist leaders must give the people some reason to believe that there is hope of a change, a “thaw,” in the socialist terror and oppression. A cow, after all, will finally give no milk if it is not fed, and so the masses, like human cattle, are given enough fodder to make them productive again. Their previous sufferings are blamed on bad underlings, poor managers. Stalin, for example, placed the blame on minor officials who were supposedly too eager to attain perfect socialism overnight. In dealing with enforced collectivization of farms, in a Pravda statement of April 3, 1930, Stalin declared that the policy was a “voluntary one,” but unfortunately some officials were using threats and pressure.3 It was after this statement that millions were starved to death for resisting collectivization, but Stalin in advance had cleared himself publicly of responsibility and also encouraged those who were hostile to feel freer to make a stand. Khrushchev also gave promises of a thaw, and then launched into the vicious terror in Hungary, and the still-continuing and greatest terror against Christians.

The purposes of these brief thaws and breathers are strategic: they serve to give a despairing populace hope for a change. This, then, is simply a sixth, aspect of socialism’s civil warfare against its people. The thaw creates a deviation from socialist policy only for the purpose of reinforcing that policy.

This points clearly to a seventh aspect of socialism’s perpetual civil war: truth is at all times a central casualty. Since there is no truth apart from the scientific socialist state, any device, any lie, any strategy which will further the socialist experiment is valid. The lie is spoken to delude the masses and the enemy; speech has as its purpose not the communication of truth but utility to the dictatorship of the proletariat as a weapon of warfare. Semantics therefore becomes a major concern of socialism. Language must be used; it is a superb weapon. Certain words have powerful meanings to many men, and one way of using men’s minds against themselves is to misuse the words that have a particular meaning to them. To expect language to have the same content to a socialist as it does to a Christian is a delusion. For the socialist, language is instrumental; it is a tool of revolution. Instead of representing a means of communicating an objective order of truth, language is basically an instrument of power. For the socialist state to neglect to use language as an instrument of power is for it to be guilty of bourgeois sentiments and illusions.

This, then, is the course of action, perpetual civil warfare, required by the scientific socialist state to maintain its delusion of infallibility. This perpetual civil warfare is a consequence of its departure from God and its socialism. It is a suicidal course, one well described by our Lord of old, when He declared, “He that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death” (Prov. 8:36).

  1. Oakland Tribune, “China Hit by Outbreak of Pestilence,” Friday, March 24, 1967, 1.
  2. Albert Kalme, Total Terror (New York, NY: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1951), and Harold H. Martinson, Red Dragon Over China (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 1956).
  3. W. R. Werner, ed., Stalin Kampf (New York, NY: Howell, Soskin, 1940), 252-257.

Used with permission.

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