Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Iron Heel and 1984-Part Three

The Iron Heel was published more than a century ago. By the timeline of the book, we should be about one third of the way through the reign of the Oligarchy or Plutocracy that it described. There are people today who would argue that our country has indeed become an oligarchy. I think the evidence of that is pretty weak. After all, we have a president who is, with his talk of "Wall Street fatcats" and "you didn't build that," decidedly leftist in orientation. More to the point, in the one hundred and seven years since Jack London published his novel of an oligarchical dystopia, leftists and socialists have committed atrocities that are horrifying in the extreme. Any crimes committed by capitalists pale in comparison to the tens of millions of deaths brought about by the Nazis, Fascists, Marxist-Leninists, Maoists, and other socialists of the last century.

As I've said before, science fiction is not meant to be predictive, although it is capable of foretelling future developments by extrapolation. Jack London may have been blinded somewhat by ideology, but he had some understanding of power, and he understood the nature of the socialist as a True Believer burning with holy fire. I'll let him speak (in the voice of his main character):
The socialists were revolutionists . . . struggling to overthrow the irrational society of the present and out of the material to build the rational society of the future. (The Iron Heel, Signet, 1971, p. 53)
The theme: socialism as "rational" vs. freedom as "irrational." Witness the mission of the spaceship Integral from We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (1921, 1924): "You will subjugate the unknown beings on other planets, who may still be living in the primitive condition of freedom, to the beneficent yoke of reason." Since Marx or before, socialism is said to be "scientific" or "rational." Even today, those who oppose socialism are tarred with the accusation that they are anti-science. Mark one up for Jack London.

Mr. Wickson, a capitalist, stands up to the saintly socialist Ernest Everhard:
"We will grind you revolutionists down under our heel, and we shall walk upon your faces." (p. 65)
Later, Everhard repeats Wickson's words:
". . . the Iron Heel will walk upon our faces . . . ." (p. 117)
London placed those words in the mouth of a capitalist, yet has Mr. Wickson's kind perpetrated crimes that are in any way equal to those of the Socialist or Statist in the last hundred years? George Orwell, in 1984 (1949), echoed Jack London's words, but he placed them at their true source: in the mouth of the Statist, in his case, the monstrous torturer O'Brien: "If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face--forever." (Signet, 1981, p. 220) Jack London: half right.

Mr. Wickson continues:
"There is the word. It is the king of words--Power. Not God, not Mammon, but Power. Pour it over your tongue till it tingles with it. Power." (p. 65)
Orwell, through O'Brien, paraphrases: "The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness; only power, pure power." (p. 217) Here is Saul Alinsky, one of our president's surrogate daddies, on the same subject: "In this book we are concerned with how to create mass organizations to seize power and give it to the people . . . ." (Rules for Radicals, Vintage, 1971, p. 4) Translation: We, the Statists, will seize power, ostensibly for "the people," in the same way that the Bolsheviks seized power, and in the name of "the people," proceed to commit atrocities. Again, London was half right.

Here is a footnote in The Iron Heel, written hundreds of years in the future:
[John Cunningham's book Economics and Education] dealt, in elaborate detail, with . . . the capitalistic bias of the universities and common schools. It was a logical and crushing indictment of the whole system of education that developed in the minds of the students only such ideas as were favorable to the capitalistic régime, to the exclusion of all ideas that were inimical and subversive. (p. 71)
Substitute leftist, statist, or totalitarian for capitalistic and you have a pretty accurate picture of what's going on in American education today. London: again half right.

To be continued . . .

Original text copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

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