The Intellectual Orgins of the Left


By: Craig Chamberlain

Ideas matter. They are the fuel that guides our lives. This is true especially in the political world. This November we will be asked to pick between to candidates that have radically different ideas. Where do the left and the right get their ideas? Why does the left believe in an all powerful government? President Obama might have been influenced by Saul Alinsky but in truth the left derives the majority of its philosophy from four thinkers, the “four horsemen” if you will. To truly understand the leftist mind we must understand these philosophers.

The first is Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778). Rousseau was one of the main influences of the French revolutionaries. He believed that society had a corrupting influence on people. That people were born innately noble, and society stripped them of that nobility. Though he never used the term “noble savage” it is a good snapshot of his philosophical thinking. Rousseau believed that all of the problems of mankind could be traced to the founding of civil society. In his Discourse on Inequality Rousseau blamed the existence of private property for the existence of society, and thus property for all the problems of society.

Rousseau’s solution was spelled out in his most famous work The Social Contract in which he states that “man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains” the solution was an all powerful state that would force men to be free. This state would be the expression of the “general will” the general will could not be wrong, and their could be no dissent from it. Dissenters could be killed or enslaved, the state would have the power to tell you what kind of work you would do, what you could believe, and how you could live. The desire for an all powerful state, with no property, and no Christianity(Rousseau was a Deist, and contemptuous of the doctrines of Christ) has been a dream of the left that got kicked off by Rousseau.

Next up is G.W.F. Hegel(1770-1831). Hegel was perhaps the biggest influence on Karl Marx, though it can be argued whether Hegel would have approved of Marx. Hegelian philosophy is not easy to grasp(Hegel wrote for other philosophers, not the general public, and wrote in a dense, and complex style) To put it simply Hegel believed that the state was an organic thing, and that the state could be successfully controlled if placed in the hands of the right people. Put the right people in charge of politics, economics, the military, religion, and society will flourish. All the people need is enough good sense to listen to their masters, and devote their lives to serving the state.

The Hegelian ideal has been very popular with totalitarians, both Nazi’s and Communists cited him as an influence. The American progressives believed in his idea of a planned, controlled state(they still believe it.) Hegel, like his modern disciples, considered the individual to be to limited to be trusted with freedom. The state was the ultimate embodiment of his “idea” a stand in for God himself. Since the state takes on a divine role, the people have no right to fight against it, or disagree with it. Sounds like Nancy Pelosi.

The next philosopher is Karl Marx(1818-1883) perhaps the largest figure in the intellectual history of the left. He towers over the left, his disciples from Lenin, Mao, Gramsci, Luxembourg, or Alinsky have been the main influence on leftist thought for over a century. Marx believed, like Rousseau, that property was the source of all the worlds problems. He also believed that history inexorably moved in stages, that no one could influence or stop. Savagery to feudalism to democratic capitalism, to socialism, and ultimately, to communism. It’s hard to know what’s more appalling: his understanding of economics, or history.

Marx taught that Capitalism was a zero sum gain. One mans wealth could only be attained by the exploitation of the workers. The workers got poorer while the business class gets richer. Sounds like a President Obama speech. Eventually the workers would get fed up and overthrow the capitalist class(the bourgeois) and establish a socialist state governed by a dictatorship of the proletariat. Of course none of this is true. Capitalism is the only economic system that is win-win, where everyone can make money. Someone starts a business, he hires workers and both make money and improve their economic standing. People invest, and the laws of supply and demand control the economy, not the state.

Marxism went beyond economics. A staunch atheist, he famously called religion “the opiate of the masses” in his new order there would be no place for such bourgeois superstition. Believers had to get with the program or be liquidated, and if there is one thing Communists are good at its liquidating people. Communists are responsible for about 100 million dead worldwide, many of them killed because they refused to denounce their faith. The family, also a bourgeois institution was to be done away with as well. Free love was to replace monogamy, and the state would raise the children. Communists had less success with this. It didn’t involve killing on a mass scale so they quickly ran out of ideas. Marxism is the ultimate leftists fantasy, not one ounce of Marxist Dialectics is based in reality.

Marx, the champion of the working man, wouldn’t have known a days work if it kicked him in the butt. He was born into a wealthy Prussian family, and spent most of his years drinking to excess. He spent his adult years mooching of Friedrich Engels, his friend and communist collaborator. Engels was a wealthy industrialist so he could afford to subsidize his friend into a nice upper middle class lifestyle. Marx had servants, even fathered a child on one of them(guess we know where the free love ideas came from). The enemy of the bourgeois lived like them, and the champion of the working class never worked a day in his life. Hypocrisy is as much a part of the left as is hatred of property and religion.

Last, but not least is Friedrich Nietzsche( 1844- 1900). He was the amoral philosopher of the left. He gave us such slogans as “God is dead” “beyond good and evil” “superman” and the “will to power.” He taught that there were two types of morality. Master and slave. Slave morality was for the weak, stupid huddled masses who had the gall to believe in things like mercy, charity, forgiveness, you know all that Christian stuff. The masters or the “supermen” didn’t need any of that. For them it was might makes right. If you had to power to control another then that was “moral”.

Nietzsche was a major influence on the Nazi’s. There’s no doubt that this rabidly anti Semitic, anti Christian, madman would have given his full approval to the Third Reich. Nietzsche still has his admirers on the left, especially for his attacks on Christianity. Richard Dawkins reeks of Nietzsche’s philosophical ideals for example. Leftists don’t like morality, religion, or anything that tells them that they’re wrong, or that could command the loyalty of the people more than their insipid revolutionary rantings. They, like Nietzsche, see themselves as supermen who need to rule over the slaves to save the world from their morality.

This isn’t the whole history of the lefts intellectual roots,(I could go all the way back to Plato) but it’s a good view of their major thinkers in the modern age. If you can judge people by the company they keep then harsh judgement must be passed on the left for keeping company with madman, thugs, and apologists for tyranny.

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