By Paul Kengor
March 26, 2009
"We must teach our children to hate," Vladimir Lenin instructed his education commissars. The Bolshevik godfather declared that hatred was not only "the basis of communism" but "the basis of every socialist and Communist movement."
Class envy has been a defining staple of the left for centuries, from the frenzied mobs leaping around the French guillotines to the Soviets to, well, the new masses circling AIG executives today. The difference is merely the degree of response -- a question of socially acceptable force or violence.
Historically, this behavior is both foreign and antithetical to the American experience.
Unfortunately, modern Americans don't understand their founding and the nation's core principles -- our educational system doesn't teach those things. Thus, they are now voting, and behaving, in kind. And we are now witnessing our own homegrown socialist movement in action, inspired by hate.
Some Americans, whipped into poisonous hatred by their elected representatives, have literally called for death for AIG executives, and one U.S. senator openly requested that these businesspeople commit suicide.
Liberals in Congress, from Senator Chuck Schumer to Senator Chris Dodd, plus a wild gaggle of unleashed central planners in the House, have conducted a show trial of AIG executives, with the larger purpose of placing American free enterprise in the dock.
The interrogation by this anointed body made me think of the old Soviet "Extraordinary Commission," the operation of which was explained by its awful head, the Latvian M. Y. Latsis:
In your investigations don't look for documents and pieces of evidence about what the defendant has done, whether in deed or in speaking or acting against Soviet authority. The first question you should ask him is what class he comes from, what are his roots, his education, his training, and his occupation. These questions define the fate of the accused.
Latsis characterized his commission as a tribunal acting on the home front against the capitalist class.
Liberals -- if they'd ever heard of Latsis, which they probably haven't in their universities -- might ridicule the extremism of my analogy. After all, they aren't talking about "eliminating the bourgeoisie as a class," as did Latsis. Fair enough. But, again, it's a matter of degree. Certainly, the acceptable demonization of an identified, despised class, for the purpose of working the masses into a rush of rage for political exploitation, is not terribly different.
As members of Congress target the likes of AIG chief executive Edward Liddy, mobs target the homes of AIG employees in Connecticut.
Of course, our sophisticated members of Congress separate themselves from the fray by choosing a non-violent but, ironically, somewhat Bolshevik-like response: they confiscate AIG pay ("bonuses") at a flat, full tax rate of 90%.
Will this financial penalty satiate the mob's bloodlust? No. That's the problem when deadly sin -- envy -- becomes government demagoguery and policy. The torch-carriers spill into the streets to take "social justice" into their own hands.
A case in point is a remarkable New York Times article, titled, "Scorn Trails AIG Executives, Even in Their Driveways."
Though frightening, the piece is not surprising. It begins with AIG executive James Haas trying to make his way into his home in Fairfield, Connecticut -- a "bay-windowed house," as the Times described it. "I feel horrible," said Haas, "this has been a complete invasion of privacy."
But Haas's tormentors do not respect things private. They seek to expropriate the private.
"You have to understand," pleaded Haas, fighting back tears, "there are kids involved, there have been death threats."
Haas explained how he had offered political penance -- to pay reparation: "I didn't have anything to do with those credit problems. I told Mr. Liddy I would rescind my retention contract.... Leave my neighbors alone."
The neighbors, however, are fit to be tied. They want a body. The Times quoted a loving New England resident who for 24 years lived down the block. Driving by, dripping with rage, surely after watching the morning news shows, she practically spit as she fulminated against AIG bonuses - which are a microscopic sliver compared to the trillions of dollars in debt Obama and the Democrats have racked up in only eight weeks.
"It makes me absolutely sick," scowled the neighbor, in reference to AIG, not the federal government. "It's despicable. It's disgusting what these people have done. They should be forced to give every cent back."
AIG workers are being demonized, noted the Times; they are hiring bodyguards. And it isn't only AIG. Merrill Lynch is dealing with similar assaults.
And that's just the start. It's only a matter of public exposure until another group of private-sector "reptiles" -- Lenin's word -- is identified for the proletariat. Congress and the White House will be happy to call out the next group of kulaks.
Alas, among the eager comrades joining this effort -- and, predictably, not investigated by the liberal media camped outside AIG homes -- are the ringleaders behind the packs of protestors across the country, including those carted around in "bus tours" of AIG executives' homes.
These alleged unprompted uprisings of "the people" are, of course, hardly spontaneous. They are organized, particularly by the odious Service Employees International Union.
Personally, I knew where to follow the footsteps. I went to the website of People's Weekly World, an organ of Communist Party USA. There, among the articles praising Obama's "mandate for change," praising the "Employee Free Choice Act," and so forth, was an article titled, "Angry about AIG? Here's how you can do something about it."
The CPUSA article emphasized that "President Obama calls AIG's behavior an ‘outrage.'" "But what can [you] do about it?" asked the communists. Well, "if you're angry," you can join the "March 19 Day of Action Against Corporate Excess." CPUSA then linked to a "complete list of cities and events."
"Don't see your city on there yet?" carefully guided the article. "Sign up to organize your own Take Back the Economy rally -- all the materials you need are available through the site." Indeed, they were: PDF's of fliers and all kinds of things.
Following the links, one ends up at the sponsors for the Day of Action. Topping the list, naturally, is ACORN, the training ground for the current President of the United States and leader of the free world. Joining Obama's alma mater is SEIU, MoveOn.org, the National Lawyers Guild, the Mass Nurses Association, and other usual suspects.
Dependably, the useful idiots of the Religious Left were there: Interfaith Worker Justice, United for Peace and Justice, Catholics United, American Friends Service Committee, Brockton Interfaith, Catholic Scholars for Social Justice, Mass Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, New England Jewish Labor Committee, and other fellow travelers.
But most significant, the greatest dupes of all -- the liberal media -- are relied upon as the ultimate sucker: The ringleaders count on the press to report the tiniest protest; they understand that the mainstream media is educator-in-chief to most Americans. From there, the likes of James Haas's Connecticut neighbor learn how to feel about the Haas family's bay windows.
That's the process. Thus, the mob.
Well, the mob wants someone's head on a platter -- now. Time to eat the rich. Perhaps our dear leader, President Obama, can go to Connecticut to play the role of healer, addressing the faithful, calming their fears, a political sermon on the mount. Blessed would be the peacemaker.
But not yet -- for now, this hate is just too excellent, too perfect for advancing the agenda of the leftist ideologues and envy-mongers running the republic.
Who's to blame? The American people are to blame. I'm tired of the populist nonsense from talk-radio on how Americans "deserve better than this." They do? Why? They voted for this. Obama is being Obama. Pelosi is being Pelosi. Schumer is being Schumer. The American people cast the ballots.
You reap what you sow. Enjoy the hate, America. You elected it.
- Paul Kengor is author of The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (HarperPerennial, 2007) and professor of political science at Grove City College. His latest book is The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007).