I’m reading Althusser for class, on Marxism this week. For context, I looked up his bio on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. He was an intellectual, and a member of the French Communist Party. He also strangled his wife (he was in his 60s, she was in her 70s) in a bout of mental illness. Charges were dismissed because of his condition, and he lingered on for 10 more years, going in and out of mental hospitals, before dying himself.
It occurred to me that if he’d been a conservative right-wing philosopher, I bet there would be five Hollywood biopics about him already. The modern narrative sees conservative, right-wing ideology–basically Christianity–as the violent, anti-women, sinister instrument of oppression, so this wouldn’t fit in with that. They have to stick with the Spanish Inquisition at the moment. Ignore more recent stuff that doesn’t fit the narrative.
But we have to face it, face the twentieth century for what it really was. Currently the trend has been to cast the National Socialists as “right wing”, the Marxists as “left wing”, then point to WWII and say “everybody massacred, so what, it had nothing to do with ideology”.
But the great killings of the twentieth century were almost all…done by Communists/Socialists. Look here, I know how sweet and heroic the principles of Marxism can be, egalitarianism, kindness, unselfishness, economic equality, etc. etc. But somehow, somehow this bastard child of Western Christendom caused more catastrophe than any other.
There is something peculiar about it. Why is it, that whereever Marxism goes, there is…this violence, this death? The old Russian Empire was corrupt and oppressive, but it was unspeakably worse for occupied territories under the USSR (eg Ukraine, 1930s). The list goes on. Communism/Socialism is a religion that will inspire starry-eyed heroes to give up their lives and crowds to cheer in joy, full of glorious ideals, and yet, in the history of the world’s religions, it is the one that has proved extraordinarily bloodstained. Why?
There is something in the ideology of Marxism that does not protect man from his inner demons. That does not have the power to save us from greed, from mental illness, from ourselves.
Ideology matters. It is too late for poor Althusser. But for future generations, we must give them an ideology which will not kill them. Which can save, save us from our inner demons, save us from ourselves.