Marxism, John Gray once slyly commented, didn't emerge from a Russian monastery. It's a Western faith, transplanted to Russia and China and elsewhere.
Marxism doesn't grow naturally in these exotic soils. Its program and promise depend on a specifically Western history of industrialization, which produced the great antagonists, the bourgeois and the proletariat, the capitalist owners of the means of production and their wage-slaves.
Of course, Marx attempted to universalize this specifically Western history. Every civilization would pass through the same developmental stages, until capitalists and proletariats emerged. Revolutions would happen, and the classless utopia would emerge, at the endpoint of this evolution.
The Western story doesn't make a good fit elsewhere, but there are other ways to universalize Marx. After all, every society has rich and poor; every society has its share of exploiters. You can stoke up revolutionary resentments almost anywhere.
But Marxism didn't become a global ideology merely on the basis of its inherent appeal or apparent explanatory power. It became a global ideology because it was promoted by global powers, especially the USSR.
Especially when transposed into an anti-colonial register, it's not hard to see how Marxism could be appealing to the peoples of Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America. But how strong would Marxist movements in Africa, Asia, and South America have been without Soviet support? Not nearly as strong as they were.
These thoughts come to mind as I read Rod Dreher's latest, Live Not By Lies. Dreher draws illuminating parallels between today's progressivist movement and twentieth-century communism. It's a bracing and sobering book.
Dreher got me asking questions about the appeal of progressivism. Like Marxism, it's a specifically Western faith. Like Marxism, it depends on a specifically Western - indeed, uniquely American - history.
You can see the limits of progressivism by taking note of where BLM protests have happened during 2020. Outside North America and Western Europe, there have been very few BLM protests. And it doesn't even fit very well in Western Europe.
Of course, there are ways to universalize identity politics. Sex, sexual orientation, and race, like wealth and poverty, are ineradicable features of social life. And there are sexual and racial inequities in almost every society. You can find protest-tinder anywhere if you're looking for it.
But, like Marxism, progressivism has become a global ideology in large measure because it's supported by a superpower. In this case, the superpower is US.
Obama's State Department made sexual and reproductive equality a plank of American foreign policy. Abortion rights was a high priority under Secretary Clinton (see here).
Some of the same policies have continued during the Trump Administration. Trump has ended US support for abortion rights, but he's maintained Obama's policies on other moral issues.
Trump's ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher, has warned the Poles they're "on the wrong side of history" with regard to LGBT rights. In Zambia, ambassador Daniel Lewis Foote denounced that country's anti-sodomy laws, until he was brought back home. He hasn't been replaced.
Declan Leary reports, "Richard Grenell—himself an openly gay man—was tapped to head our overseas LGBT efforts during his time as ambassador to Germany. Grenell continued the efforts during a brief stint as acting director of national intelligence, threatening to sideline any intelligence allies who did not bow to the agenda. On this audacious move, Grenell told The New York Times, 'We have the president’s total support. This is an American value, and this is United States policy.'"
It is American policy, under Trump as much as under Obama.
Dreher warns that progressivism will become a global ideology, leaving Christians and other moral conservatives with no place to go. If he turns out to be right, we Americans have only ourselves to blame.
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