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Ramblings

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Ramblings

Allan C. Brownfeld

Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which is The Revolution Lobby (Council for Inter-American Security). He has been a staff aide to a U.S. Vice President, members of Congress, and the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. He is associate editor of The Lincoln Review and a contributing editor to Human Events, The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

In the Search for Bigotry, Karl Marx’s Racism Has Been Ignored

Throughout the country, there is an effort to identify those in our history who have been guilty of bigotry. Even Abraham Lincoln, whose Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery, has been identified as a guilty party. One historical figure identified by many on the Left as an heroic figure has been exempted from the kind of examination devoted to Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and James Madison, among others. That is Karl Marx.

The image of Karl Marx as a “humanist” concerned with the plight of the under-privileged, the downtrodden, and the “masses” is one which has been carefully cultivated in the years since his death. The facts are quite different.

Much has been written in recent years about the fact that Marx, though of rabbinical descent on both sides of his family, was an extreme anti-Semite. In fact, his book World Without Jews is considered by many to be a forerunner to Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Little, however, has been written about Marx’s racial views, the contempt in which he held not only non-whites, but whole groupings of Europeans, especially the Slavic peoples.

In his book Karl Marx: Racist, Nathaniel Weyl showed how Marx privately developed an entire racial hierarchy and racial view of history by the 1860s. In the middle of that decade, Marx was casting about for some scientific or pseudo-scientific justification for his racial notions, which he found in the work of Pierre Tremaux. He and his friend and financial benefactor Friedrich Engels went so far as to advocate wars of extermination against Slavic peoples and the destruction of Russia. How ironic that Russia later called itself a “Marxist” state.

“Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels,” Weyl writes:

“. . . were neither internationalists nor believers in equal rights of all races and peoples. They opposed the struggles for national independence of those races and peoples they despised. They believed that the “barbaric” and “ahistoric” peoples who comprised the immense majority of mankind had played no significant role in history and were not destined to do so in the foreseeable future.”

They regarded these peoples as obstacles to the forward sweep of history. They considered them as objects rather than subjects. They were people who ought to be conquered and exploited by the more advanced nations. Some of these inferior stock “were people who ought to be eradicated and swept from the surface of the earth.”

Marx took from Georg Hegel, another German philosopher, the idea that certain races, peoples and nations were “ahistoric.” Either they had never played any role in history and never would, as in the case of the “African Negro,” or they were insignificant peoples whose history was irrelevant, or they were frozen at civilizational levels at which the more advanced portions of mankind “had already left them behind.”

“These were ideas,” Weyl notes:

“. . . which Marx would adopt and transform. . . . Publicly, and for political reasons, both Marx and Engels posed as friends of the Negro. In private, they were anti-black racists of the most odious sort. They had contempt for the entire Negro race, a contempt they expressed by comparing Negroes to animals, by identifying black people with ‘idiots’ and by continuously using the opprobrious term ‘n----r’ in their private correspondence.”

Marx, for example, wrote to Engels on July 30, 1862, about one of the leaders of socialism in Germany and his rival, Ferdinand Lassalle, who he referred to as “that Jewish n----r Lassalle.”

He wrote:

“It is now completely clear to me he, as is proved by his cranial formation and his hair, descends from the Negroes who had joined Moses’ exodus from Egypt (assuming that his mother or grandmother had not interbred with a n----r). Now this Union of Judaism and Germanism with a basic Negro substance must produce a peculiar product. The obtrusiveness of the fellow is also N----r-like.”

In 1887, Paul Lafargue, who was Marx’s son-in-law, was a candidate for a council seat in a Paris district that contained a zoo. Engels claimed that Lafargue had “one-eighth or one-twelfth n----r blood.” In a letter to Lafargue’s wife, Engels wrote: “Being in his quality as a n----r, a degree nearer to the rest of the animal kingdom than the rest of us, he is understandably the most appropriate representative of that district.”

Marx also championed slavery in North America. When Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, probably the leading French Socialist at the time, published a book called The Philosophy of Poverty, Marx replied with a vitriolic rebuttal entitled The Poverty of Philosophy. Proudhon had been childish enough to advocate the emancipation of slaves in the United States.

Marx answered contemptuously:

“Without slavery, North America, the most progressive of countries, would be transformed into a patriarchal country. Wipe out North America from the map of the world and you will have anarchy — the complete decay of modern conference and civilization. Abolish slavery and you will have wiped America off the map of nations.”

Here, Marx makes it abundantly clear that he has no interest whatsoever in the fate or welfare of black people. Then there is his unusual prediction that, were slavery abolished, America would become a “patriarchal country.” What does that mean? A country of primitive shepherds?

American Socialists, early in the 20th century, adopted Marx’s racist views. On September 14, 1901, the Social Democratic Herald characterized black Americans as “inferior, depraved elements” who went around “raping women and children.” In an article in the paper dated May 31, 1902, Victor Berger, one of the national leaders of the Socialist Party, wrote that, “There can be no doubt that the Negroes and mulattos constitute a lower race.”

Marx’s philosophical successors shared his thoughts on blacks and other minorities. Che Guevara, in his 1952 memoir The Motorcycle Diaries, wrote: “The Negro is indolent and lazy and spends his money on frivolities, whereas the Europeans are forward-looking, organized and intelligent.”

Marx called the Slavic people a “rabble” and looked forward to the time when Germany, with Hungary and Poland, would destroy Russia. He wrote on June 12, 1848, demanding “a war with Russia . . . in which Germany can become virile.” While people who call themselves “Marxists” today claim that they are against “imperialism,” Karl Marx himself supported the control of non-white peoples by white Europeans and Americans. He supported British control of India and French control of Algeria. Concerning the annexation of California after the Mexican-American War, Karl Marx wrote in 1894:

“Without violence nothing is ever accomplished in history. . . . Is it a misfortune that magnificent California was seized from the lazy Mexicans who did not know what to do with it? . . . All important nations must in the last analysis owe a debt to those who, under the laws of historic necessity, incorporate them in a great empire, thus allowing them to take part in an historic development which would otherwise be impossible for them. Evidently, such results cannot be achieved without crushing a few sweet little flowers.”

Marx, more a chauvinistic German nationalist than most men of his era, urged German control over Belgium, the Netherlands, Silesia, and Alsace-Lorraine. Yet, most of Marx’s biographers are like the Marxist scholar David McLellan, who blandly informs his readers that “Marx was not an anti-Semite.”

In an important article written in 2020, Walter Williams, the respected black economist who was chairman of the Economics Department at George Mason University, used the headline, “Did You Know that Karl Marx Was a Racist and Anti-Semite?” He wrote:

“Marx is a hero to many labor union leaders and civil rights organizations, including groups like Black Lives Matter and Antifa. . . . It is easy to be a Marxist if you know little of his life. What most people do not know is that Marx was a racist and anti-Semite.”

Ironically, Patrisse Khan-Cullors, a founder of Black Lives Matter, defined herself and at least one of the other founders, Alicia Garza, as “Marxists.” In a 2015 interview with Real News Network, Khan-Cullors said, “Myself and Alicia, in particular, are trained Marxists.”

Writing in The National Interest, Jarrett Stepman notes that:

“By the standards of modern ‘anti-racist’ ideologies, Marx, Engels and the whole body of their work should be canceled, not celebrated.”

Whatever their faults and shortcomings, Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln created a society that has steadily expanded freedom for men and women of every race and background. Those societies which followed the philosophy of Marx and Engels succeeded in doing the precise opposite, imposing tyranny upon men and women of every race and background. How sad that so many Americans know so little history that this will come as surprising news.

Confronting Social Media’s Often Negative Impact on American Children and Teenagers

The impact of social media on America’s children and teenagers is becoming a cause for increasing concern. Researcher Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University who has spent her career chronicling social media’s effects on children, has observed that the longer young people use social media, the more likely they are to harm themselves. This finding held true for both boys and girls, but especially for girls.

In early February, federal researchers reported that nearly 1 in 3 high school girls said they had considered suicide, a 60 percent rise in the past decade. Nearly 15 percent had been forced to have sex. About 6 in 10 girls were so persistently sad or hopeless that they stopped regular activities.

The data comes from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from a nationally representative sample of students in public and private high schools. “America’s teen girls are engulfed in a growing wave of sadness, violence, and trauma,” the CDC said.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, after reviewing the report, said:

“It’s alarming. But as the father of 16-year-old and 19-year-old, I hear about it. It’s real. I think students know what’s going on. I think sometimes the adults are just now realizing how serious it is.”

Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy says, “These are not normal numbers. When you grow up with this, I think the risk is in thinking, ‘Well, this is just how it is.’” Why girls appear to be in greater crisis is complex. Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd points out that:

“. . . girls are more likely to respond to pain in the world by internalizing conflict and stress and fear, and boys are more likely to translate those feelings into anger and aggression, masking their depression.”

Professor Twenge says that increases in most measures of poor mental health in the past decade were more pronounced for girls than boys. She said that part of the problem is that digital media has displaced the face-to-face time teens once had with friends, and that teens often don’t get enough sleep. For girls, she said, scrolling social media often means “comparing your body and your life to others, and feeling that you come up wanting.”

The CDC data reports a rise in suicidal thoughts among teen girls — 24 percent of teen girls have made plans for suicide, while 13 percent have attempted it, almost twice the rate among boys.

A 2018 Pew Research Center survey of 13- to17-year-olds found that 45 percent are online almost constantly, and 97 percent use a social media platform such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat. The Mayo Clinic notes that social media has some benefits, allowing teens to create online identities and build social networks, especially helping those who experience exclusion, or have disabilities, or chronic illnesses. Teens also use social media for entertainment and self-expression. However, social media can also negatively affect teens.

These negative effects, according to the Mayo Clinic, include distracting them, disrupting their sleep, and exposing them to bullying, rumor spreading, unrealistic views of other people’s lives, and peer pressure.

A 2019 study of more than 6,500 12- to15-year-olds in the U.S. found that those who spent more than three hours a day using social media might be at heightened risk for mental health problems. Another study of more than 12,000 13- to 16-year-olds in England found that using social media more than three times a day produced poor mental health and well-being in teens. Other studies have observed links between high levels of social media use and depression or anxiety.

Over the last decade, there is a large body of research linking teenagers’ use of social media with increased teenage depression. These studies show that the frequency of a teen’s use of social media has a clear correlation with their mental health. For example, a 2018 study of 14- to17-year-olds who used social media seven hours per day were more than twice as likely to have been diagnosed with depression, to have been treated by a mental health professional, or to have taken medication for a psychological or behavioral issue during the past year. This was compared to those who used screens only about an hour a day.

Many experts believe that the constant overstimulation of social networking shifts the nervous system into fight-or-flight mode. As a result, this makes disorders like ADHD, teen depression, oppositional defiant disorder, and teen anxiety worse.

Seattle public schools has sued TikTok, Meta, Snapchat, and other companies for worsening the youth mental health crises, and a British court recently held Instagram liable for promoting self-harming content to a 14-year-old girl who took her own life.

The platforms seem to know very well what they are doing. In 2021, The Wall Street Journal published internal documents from Instagram researchers revealing a long history of investigating the platform’s harm to children and teens. Instagram employees acknowledged that a third of teenage girls said “that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse.” The company also found that “among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, 13 percent of British users and 6 percent of American users traced the desire to kill themselves to Instagram.”

Beyond this, child sexual abuse material circulates on mainstream platforms such as Twitter, which fuels an underground economy run by human traffickers. These platforms have become dangerous to young people. Some in Congress are now advocating legislation that would keep children off social media until they are at least 16. Such a law, its advocates argue, could require real age verification processes and could empower the Federal Trade Commission to carry out periodic audits to ensure compliance. Parents could be empowered to bring lawsuits against companies that break the rules.

Some in Congress are now considering legislation that would keep young people off social media until they are at least 16 and in a better position to use these technologies safely. There is the idea of requiring real age verification, and calling upon the Federal Trade Commission to carry out periodic audits to ensure compliance. Some have suggested empowering parents to bring lawsuits against companies that break the rules. As people become more aware of the negative effects of social media upon young people, other suggestions will surely emerge.

This is an increasingly difficult time in which to grow up. The isolation brought about by the COVID pandemic made it even more difficult, and caused more and more young people to spend increasing amounts of time on social media. It is important for parents, schools, religious institutions, and others in society that are involved in bringing up the next generation to recognize the unique difficulties we face at the present time.

As the grandfather of six, I certainly hope that my grandchildren can grow up in a world nurtures their unique individuality and does not abuse them. The first step toward achieving that result is confronting the very problems we and other Western societies now face.

Is There a Retreat from Excellence in Education to Protect the Feelings of Non-achievers?

Recently, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County, Virginia, has been in the news. Found by many studies to be the highest-achieving high school in the country, it used to be proud of the accomplishments of its students, who traditionally have gone through a rigorous selection process.

Now it has been in the news for something quite different — it, and several other Fairfax County high schools decided not to inform students and their parents that students had won National Merit Commendation Awards.

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation’s letter to the high schools said, “Please present the letters of commendation as soon as possible, since it is the students’ only notification.” One parent said a school administrator told her that announcing the commendations would “hurt the feelings of students not commended.”

Thomas Jefferson High School has already changed its rigorous entry requirements in pursuit of “equity,” by which it means equality of outcomes among racial or ethnic groups. From this point of view, there are far too many Asian-Americans at the school, and not enough blacks and Hispanics. To achieve “equity,” the rigorous entry examination has been eliminated. The Fairfax school district paid $455,000 to a California consulting firm whose aim is “equal outcomes for all students, without exception.” How can students have “equal outcomes” if their abilities, study habits, and work ethic are quite different?

All of this is making the idea of America as a meritocracy, which it has tried to be, open to serious question, and misunderstands what the term “equality” has meant in the American political tradition. Equality of opportunity and equality of result are quite different concepts. Reviewing some of the history of these concepts is useful.

The Declaration of Independence declares that “all men are created equal” with the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Stanford University historian Jack Rakove notes that:

“With each generation, the words expressed in the Declaration of Independence have expanded beyond what the Founding Fathers originally intended when they adopted the historic document on July 4, 1776.”

When Jefferson wrote “all men are created equal” in the preamble to the Declaration, Rackove argues:

“. . . he was not talking about individual equality. What he really meant was that the American colonists, as a people, had the same right of self-government as other peoples, and hence could declare independence, create new governments, and assume their ‘separate and equal station’ among other nations. But after the Revolution succeeded, Americans began reading that famous phrase another way. It now became a statement of individual equality, that everyone and every member of a deprived group could claim it for himself or herself. With each passing generation, our notion of who that statement covers has expanded.”

The idea that all of us are equal in all things disregards the reality that there is a distinction between equality of outcome and equality of opportunity. The advocacy of “equality of condition” rather than equality under the law and equality of opportunity is a serious misunderstanding of the American political philosophy and the primacy of freedom in the thinking of the Founding Fathers. The fact that liberty and equality were diametrically opposed concepts was clear in the colonial era, but has become less clear in today’s world.

In his classic work Democracy in America, Alexis De Tocqueville lamented the fact that it was likely that the desire for equality in democratic societies would, in the end, bring an end to liberty. He wrote that:

“I think that democratic communities have a natural taste for freedom; left to themselves they will seek it, cherish it, and view any privation of it with regret. But for equality, their passion is ardent, insatiable, incessant, invincible; they call for equality in freedom; and if they cannot obtain that, they still call for equality in slavery. They will endure poverty, servitude, barbarism — but they will not endure aristocracy.”

Since men have different abilities, different work ethics, and different ambitions, they will achieve at different levels. In The Federalist Papers, James Madison deals with this question. He wrote that:

“The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interest. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results.”

In his book The Assault on American Excellence, Professor Anthony T. Kronman of the Yale Law School, of which he was formerly dean, writes that:

“The feverish egalitarianism gripping college campuses today is a threat to our democracy. . . . The boundless impulse for equality gripping college campuses today is a threat to institutions whose job is to prepare citizens to live in a vibrant democracy.”

Dr. Kronman has devoted his life to helping students be capable of living up to the demands of a free society:

“. . . and to do so they must first be tested in a system that isn’t focused on sympathy at the expense of vigor and that values excellence above all. . . . At their best, our colleges and universities have resisted the demand to make themselves over in the image of the democratic values of the culture as a whole. . . . They have held to the idea that part of the work of our most distinguished institutions of higher learning is to preserve, transmit, and honor a tradition of respect for human greatness. . . . The preservation of an appreciation of excellence in human living produces inequalities of wealth, status and power. But it is consistent with the democratic belief that no one’s humanity is greater than anyone else’s.”

Not too long ago. Thomas Jefferson High School thought it had a “problem.” Based on a competitive application process and a rigorous examination process, it had a student body which had become 73 percent Asian-American. Meritocracy had produced what school officials viewed as a “problem”: Too many Asian-Americans and not enough blacks and Hispanics. The answer: eliminate the examination and produce a more “balanced” student body by using other, largely race-based criteria. Thomas Jefferson High School’s principal now claims that his goal was to close the “equity gap.” Meritocracy takes a back seat.

The same concern about “equity” and efforts to change the racial makeup of New York City’s highly selective Lafayette High School began in 2018. At that time, Department of Education Chancellor Milady Baez told a staff meeting, “I walked into Stuyvesant High School and I thought I was in Chinatown.”

Instead of our current meritocracy, what some educators want to impose, is a quota system similar to what Jewish students faced at some institutions a century ago. In 1929, four years after Yale instituted a quota for Jews, admissions chairman Robert Corbin received a letter from a Yale trustee complaining about too many Jews on the admissions list. The trustee wrote:

“The list as published reads like some of the ‘begat’ portions of the Old Testament and might easily be mistaken for a recent roll call at the Wailing Wall.”

Admissions Director Corbin agreed in response.

It is sad to think that the admissions directors at Thomas Jefferson and Lafayette High Schools would feel comfortable with Yale’s Director of Admissions in 1929. Excellence in education is something we should strive for, and we should reward students for their achievements, not penalize them for their racial or ethnic background. The goal of the civil rights movement was, as the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. declared, to judge each individual on the “content of his character, not the color of his skin.” Sadly, we are now departing dramatically from that worthy standard.     *

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Allan C. Brownfeld

Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which is The Revolution Lobby(Council for Inter-American Security). He has been a staff aide to a U.S. vice president, members of Congress, and the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. He is associate editor of The Lincoln Review, and a contributing editor to Human Events, The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

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