Poe: Guns and Communism
By Richard Poe
A gun store clerk told me recently that many young men come into his shop offering to sell their entire gun collections. They dump the weapons on the counter and announce, "I’m getting married and my fiancée says it’s either me or the guns."
The anti-gun ideology has burrowed its way into the tenderest corner of Americans’ hearts – the place where love resides between man and woman.
"There is nothing so good and lovely as when man and wife in their home dwell together in unity of mind and disposition," says Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey. "A great vexation it is to their enemies and a feast of gladness to their friends."
America has vexed her foes and gladdened her friends for over 200 years. But today, the foundation of America’s strength – the family – has come under attack. An invisible wedge has sundered man from woman. Thus divided, we cannot defend our rights.
That wedge has a name. It is called Marxism.
"A Comfortable Concentration Camp"
Most historians agree that modern feminism began in 1963, with the publication of a bestselling book called The Feminine Mystique> by Betty Friedan. The conventional account holds that Friedan was a suburban housewife who became bored with her life, realizing that her marriage was nothing more than a "comfortable concentration camp." Three years later, in 1966, she founded the National Organization for Women (NOW) and became its first president. Friedan’s struggle to break free of the deadening routine of childrearing and housekeeping was held up as an example for other women to follow.
This story, while widely accepted, gives a misleading view of Friedan’s life and motivations. In 1999, Smith College professor Daniel Horowitz (no relation to my former boss David Horowitz, by the way) published a book called Betty Friedan and the Making of the Feminine Mystique. It revealed what had previously been known only to the small circle of hard-core leftists who knew her; that Friedan had never in her life been a normal housewife or, indeed, a normal anything.
Beginning in college, Friedan – then known by her maiden name of Betty Goldstein – was already a hard-line Stalinist, active in the communist movement. Though Jewish, she supported Stalin’s 1939 non-aggression pact with Hitler. When orders went out from Moscow to all Communist Parties worldwide to treat Hitler as a friend, many communists couldn’t stomach it and broke ranks with Stalin. But Friedan was among the loyal few who obeyed.
"Friedan’s secret was shared by hundreds of her comrades on the Left," writes David Horowitz, "though not, of course, by the unsuspecting American public – who went along with her charade presumably as a way to support her political agenda."
Friedan later married a fellow leftist, Carl Friedan, and devoted her life to the cause of Marxist revolution. Friedan spent her married years working as a "labor journalist" – a professional propagandist for the Left. Her full-time maid did the housework. As her ex-husband Carl later noted, Friedan "was in the world during the whole marriage" and "seldom was a wife and mother."
The "Woman Question"
The conventional account implies that Friedan developed her feminist views in a spontaneous, trial-and-error fashion, based upon her experience with the "comfortable concentration camp" of middle-class married life. In fact, Friedan had no need to invent this philosophy. Feminism – or what we call feminism today – had been a standard feature of Marxist thought at least since the publication of the Communist Manifesto in 1848. David Horowitz observes:
Not at all a neophyte when it came to the "woman question" (the phrase itself is a Marxist construction), she was certainly familiar with the writings of Engels, Lenin, and Stalin on the subject and had written about it herself as a journalist for the official publication of the communist-controlled United Electrical Workers union.
In the Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels had shocked the world by calling for the abolition of marriage and family, which they viewed as oppressive institutions. They wrote:
What is the present family based on? On capitalism, the acquisition of private property. It exists in all of its meaning only for the bourgeoisie… and will vanish when capitalism vanishes. Are you accusing us that we want to end the exploitation by parents of their children? We confess to that crime… The bourgeois sees in his wife nothing but an instrument of production.
Marx and Engels argued for free love, in which everyone would have sexual access to everyone else. They mocked the "moral outrage of our bourgeois," who found the notion scandalous.
Our bourgeois find their main amusement in mutually seducing their wives.
The bourgeois marriage is in reality the community of the wives. One could at best accuse the communists that instead of a hypocritical, hidden one, they want to introduce an official, open-hearted women’s community.
Of course, Marx and Engels were men. One has to wonder whether the notion of communal lovemaking appealed to them for reasons other than ideological. Be that as it may, generations of Marxists dutifully strove to put the curious teachings of their founding fathers into practice. Few went so far as to embrace the extreme of free love. However, a deep ambivalence toward marriage and family was instilled in every Marxist heart.
A Rude Awakening
In the November 19, 1990 issue of Newsweek, a freelance writer named Kay Eberling ruffled many left-wing feathers with a column entitled, The Failure of Feminism. She wrote:
To me, feminism has backfired against women. In 1973 I left what could have been a perfectly good marriage, taking with me a child in diapers, a 10-year-old Plymouth and Volume 1, Number One of Ms. Magazine. I was convinced I could make it on my own. In the last 15 years my ex has married or lived with a succession of women. As he gets older, his women stay in their mid-20s. Meanwhile, I’ve stayed unattached. He drives a BMW. I ride buses.
Eberling had accepted the feminist teaching that men were disposable, easily replaceable, and perhaps not even necessary. But in practice, it turned out to be women who were left out in the cold, once men were released from the traditional obligation to protect and provide for them.
Worse is Better
For women like Eberling, feminism proved to be a disaster. But for the left-wing ideologues who invented the movement, Eberling’s suffering was irrelevant.
There is a saying among activists of the Left that "worse is better." The more alienated and unhappy people feel, the more susceptible they are for recruitment into the revolutionary cause. For that reason, many leftists deliberately promote policies that they know will cause misery, suffering and chaos.
On April 7, 2000, I attended a conference entitled, "The Legacy and Future of Hillary Rodham Clinton," held at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington D.C. and co-sponsored by David Horowitz’s Center for the Study of Popular Culture.
Betty Friedan was one of the panelists. Instead of talking about Hillary, as expected, Friedan launched into a discourse on the future of feminism. "Modern feminism has transformed our society for the better," she said.
During the question-and-answer period, a woman in the audience stood up to confront Friedan. She was Mallory Millett – whose sister Kate Millett had written the 1970 feminist bestseller Sexual Politics. Mallory had been converted to feminism by her sister but later renounced it.
"I would like to charge Better Friedan with a question…," she said. "If you think society is so much better off in the last thirty years, explain the deterioration of the family and the ruination of the children."
"I do not see great evidence of the deterioration of the family at all," Friedan responded. "What happened to the family is that… we don’t have a single model of the family anymore. We have single-parent families and we have traditional families…"
"And children run wild," Millett retorted.
"No, and there is no evidence of children running wild. This is, you’re making it up," Friedan sputtered.
"They’re shooting each other in the schools," said Millett.
"The children in this country are doing better than they ever did," Friedan insisted.
The Bourgeois Enemy
In Friedan’s view, the skyrocketing divorce rate and the rise in single-parent families in recent decades were not bad things at all. On the contrary, they represented a widening of women’s choices, a major step in the right direction.
Of course, as any child of separated parents can tell you, the dissolution of a family is a heartbreaking tragedy. Yet it is easy to see why left-wing radicals such as Betty Friedan welcome and encourage this development. As the power of the family declines, the power of the Left grows.
Marx and Engels intuited more than 150 years ago that the family was the basic building block of the "bourgeois" order – by which they meant the peaceful, orderly community of hard-working, tax-paying, middle-class citizens. Marxists have always recognized the middle class as their enemy. Wherever communist regimes have taken power, middle-class people have been systematically exterminated by the millions.
The problem with the middle class – from a Marxist point of view – is that it has a strong stake in preserving stable, democratic government and in resisting revolution and disorder. That is why, when the British government feared a communist uprising in 1919, some officials suggested that the lower classes be disarmed, while the middle classes – stockbrokers, clerks, university students and the like – be provided with weapons. The British government felt confident that the middle class would be its ally in any revolutionary outbreak.
Disarming the Middle Class
Left-wing strategists have long understood that the "bourgeois" classes oppose them. For that reason, the disarming of the "bourgeoisie" has been a longstanding project of the Left.
This goal was clearly expressed by the socialist writer H.G. Wells in the 1930s. Wells believed that mankind was moving inexorably toward a global, socialist government that he called the "new world order." He believed passionately in this movement, but he knew that many would resist it.
Eventually, Wells predicted, "We shall find ourselves almost abruptly engaged in a new system of political issues in which the socialist world-state will be plainly and consciously lined up against the scattered vestigial sovereignties of the past."
To ensure the success of global socialism, Wells advised that all potential pockets of resistance be disarmed. "Life is conflict and the only way to universal peace is through the defeat and obliteration of every minor organization of force," he wrote. "Carrying weapons individually or in crowds, calls for vigorous suppression on the part of the community."
Divide and Conquer
In a stable, middle-class society, men and women work together to provide a good home and education for their children and a secure retirement for themselves. Working as a team, they achieve a high rate of success. But in a society where men and women are locked in ideological combat, the system breaks down. Energies are consumed in power struggles, infidelities, divorce, and child-custody battles and finally in managing the parade of lovers, therapists, and angry bill-collectors who enter one’s life after divorce.
This is bad news for the families involved but good news for the Left. After all, "worse is better" when seeking revolutionary change. Frightened, lonely, aging divorcées – or soccer moms who fear divorce, since they see it happening all around them – make far better recruits for the Left than women happily ensconced in stable, loving families.
More to the point, angry young men deprived of a father’s discipline, bursting with hormones and unrestrained by traditional notions of courtship, marriage and "gentlemanly" conduct run wild in the streets, wreaking exactly the sort of violence, havoc and chaos that dictators need to justify their crackdowns.
Enough is Enough
On April 19, 1994, Bill Clinton appeared on an MTV broadcast entitled, "Enough is Enough" to push his anti-crime and anti-violence agenda. Speaking to a group of 200 young people, ages sixteen to twenty, Clinton promoted a number of extreme measures, including his new plan for allowing police to conduct random gun searches in public housing projects without warrants. Clinton explained:
[W]hen we got organized as a country and we wrote a fairly radical Constitution with a radical Bill of Rights, giving a radical amount of individual freedom to Americans, it was assumed that the Americans who had that freedom would use it responsibly…
But it assumed that people would basically be raised in coherent families, in coherent communities, and they would work for the common good, as well as for the individual welfare.
What’s happened in America today is, too many people live in areas where there’s no family structure, no community structure, and no work structure. And so there’s a lot of irresponsibility. And so a lot of people say there’s too much personal freedom. When personal freedom’s being abused, you have to move to limit it. That’s what we did in the announcement I made last weekend on the public housing projects, about how we’re going to have weapon sweeps and more things like that to try to make people safer in their communities. So that’s my answer to you. We can have – the more personal freedom a society has, the more personal responsibility a society needs, and the more strength you need out of your institutions – family, community and work.
Just in case any readers failed to get the point, what former President Clinton said was that the system of "radical… individual freedom" passed down to us by our Founding Fathers was no longer working. It had been designed for a situation in which people were raised in "coherent families, in coherent communities." But now that these structures were breaking down – as in public housing projects inhabited largely by single-parent families on welfare – violence and disorder were on the rise. In such circumstances, said Clinton, we can no longer afford the kind of "radical freedom" bequeathed to us by our forefathers. We must "move to limit" freedom.
And for those who might ask precisely how he meant to "limit" freedom, Clinton offered the specific example of his "weapon sweeps" policy, which allowed police to invade people’s homes whenever they wished, without search warrants, in order to find and confiscate guns.
Could It Be?
It is hard to find a better illustration of the "worse is better" principle in action. Widely known as the "first feminist president," Clinton helped channel tens of millions of taxpayer dollars into leftwing and feminist organizations such as NOW that are ideologically committed to weakening and breaking up the traditional family.
Yet in that MTV broadcast, he pointed to family breakdown as a chief cause of violence and disorder. Without "coherent families," said Clinton, the Constitution itself could not function. It would be drowned in a rising tide of chaos – a tide that could only be stemmed by massive, unrestrained police force.
Could it be that America’s first feminist president understood exactly what he was doing? Could it be that, given a choice between a "bourgeois" society of happy, prosperous families and an authoritarian police state, Bill Clinton actually preferred the latter?
I leave this question to each reader to ponder. As the possibility looms of a new Bill and Hillary co-presidency in 2004, the question gains urgency with each passing day.
November 12, 2003
About the Author
Richard Poe is a freelance journalist and a New York Times-bestselling author. His latest book is The Seven Myths of Gun Control. Poe´s Website can be found at RichardPoe.com. Send the author an email with your comments to email@example.com
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