142. The power of the great (IV)
Updated: Jul 29, 2021
It has become a standard complaint by the political right that the left has infiltrated almost every institution, particularly cultural institutions, that sets the value system for society. The large state-funded bureaucracies that educate and entertain the public do so with a leftist tinge, so that the cultural norm of Western societies is usually in favour of leftist causes—particularly among the most impressionable, the young and women. Not unreasonably, the right wonders if it can do as the left did: stage a “long march through the institutions” and turn those institutions to serve the right’s purposes; to play the left at its own game.
This will never work. The reason why self-conscious leftists could infiltrate state bureaucracies in the first place was because the state bureaucracy is in and of itself inherently leftist: it is irresponsible. When a member of the American leftist terror group the Weather Underground grew tired of violent struggle, it was no great change for them to be integrated into the managerial state as an educator; they merely swapped one form of irresponsible behaviour—bombing people—for another, since a bureaucratic educator is not subject to market discipline.
It comes down to the cybernetic observation that a thing is its behaviour. If I spend all day drinking, I could say that I am a healthy person; but I am not: I am an alcoholic, I am my behaviour and not the cover story I give you. Indeed, the left is characterised by misdescribing behaviour, as if changing the label changes what is actually happening. If a right-wing person joins the managerial state they will become functionally leftist; they will be rewarded for and expected to behave in an irresponsible way. Further, assuming that a right-wing person is characterised by a high degree of responsibility, competence, and autonomous action they will be incredibly bored and frustrated—even in supposedly exciting organisations, such as the CIA, they will feel that they are wasting their time. If they act in a functionally right-wing way, they will be marginalised and forced out precisely because bureaucracies are malfunctional organisations which reward incompetence and punish responsible behaviour. As in the case of the Weather Underground, a sinecure government position is often the best a leftist can do, whereas the rightist in a government position will be selling themselves short.
Leftists, being involved in a pseudo-religion, are not motivated by achievement: they are motivated by holiness. They are content to work within a useless bureaucracy that is going nowhere if it makes them feel more holy. Rightists also have religious motivations, but usually for the old religions—the religions that the managerial state exists to extirpate—so their motivation would have to be concealed; they would have to work against their religious principles, not with them.
During the Bolshevik Revolution, it was revealed that a senior Bolshevik, Roman Malinovsky, had been an informer for the Tsarist secret police. The paradox was that he was an extremely effective organiser for Bolshevism. Paranoid extremists of the left and the right concentrate on infiltrators being agent provocateurs, but most agents of the state are there to gain information, not incite people to commit crimes—information is much more valuable to the state than actual sabotage. These infiltrators, drawn from the competent sections of the police, are often among the best activists in extremist groups, being smarter and more disciplined than the average extremist—usually a marginal, low-quality person. The state can afford to give its opponents a functional boost in exchange for information, due to the power asymmetry between it and the extremist group; but, sometimes, this goes wrong: the functional boost, as happened with Malinovsky, helps to destroy the state. This story merely illustrates that an infiltrator into the state might secure valuable information for outsiders, but he cannot seize the state; functionally, he must aid the state to secure its objectives—the right, in other words, cannot be subversive, even of subversion; it is defined by its anti-subversive stance.