Ideas Matter Immensely

I’ve used “Ideas Matter” as a title to a post in the past.  I’ve long been aware that ideas matter, but the individual who has best argued the position that ideas matter is Billy Beck.

The importance of ideas was once again brought to mind, today, when I read a post of Mike Soja’s titled So much failure, so little time.

Soja’s post points to two (2) other individual linked articles.  The first, which Mike also quotes from, is a piece by Victor Davis Hanson titled There Are No Socialists?, from which the following is quoted.

What stops socialism?

I fear bankruptcy alone.

To which Mike responds.

And people.

If you click over to Soja’s post, you’ll note that the word “people” is a link, and that link takes readers to an Leon Aron written article in the Foreign Policy titled Everything You Think You Know About the Collapse of the Soviet Union Is Wrong, with the following as an asterisk sub-headline.

*And why it matters today in a new age of revolution.

The article naturally drew my attention, but it was the following from within the piece that reiterated, once again, why ideas matter, immensely.

To Gorbachev’s prime minister Nikolai Ryzhkov, the “moral [nravstennoe] state of the society” in 1985 was its “most terrifying” feature:

    [We] stole from ourselves, took and gave bribes, lied in the reports, in newspapers, from high
    podiums, wallowed in our lies, hung medals on one another. And all of this—from top to bottom
    and from bottom to top.

Anything sounding familiar in those words of Ryzhkov?  Seeing any of this going on in America?

Another member of Gorbachev’s very small original coterie of liberalizers, Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, was just as pained by ubiquitous lawlessness and corruption. He recalls telling Gorbachev in the winter of 1984-1985: “Everything is rotten. It has to be changed.”

Back in the 1950s, Gorbachev’s predecessor Nikita Khrushchev had seen firsthand how precarious was the edifice of the house that Stalin built on terror and lies. But this fifth generation of Soviet leaders was more confident of the regime’s resilience. Gorbachev and his group appeared to believe that what was right was also politically manageable. Democratization, Gorbachev declared, was “not a slogan but the essence of perestroika.” Many years later he told interviewers:

    The Soviet model was defeated not only on the economic and social levels; it was defeated on a
    cultural level. Our society, our people, the most educated, the most intellectual, rejected that model
    on the cultural level because it does not respect the man, oppresses him spiritually and politically.

That reforms gave rise to a revolution by 1989 was due largely to another “idealistic” cause: Gorbachev’s deep and personal aversion to violence and, hence, his stubborn refusal to resort to mass coercion when the scale and depth of change began to outstrip his original intent. To deploy Stalinist repression even to “preserve the system” would have been a betrayal of his deepest convictions. A witness recalls Gorbachev saying in the late 1980s, “We are told that we should pound the fist on the table,” and then clenching his hand in an illustrative fist. “Generally speaking,” continued the general secretary, “it could be done. But one does not feel like it.”

THE ROLE OF ideas and ideals in bringing about the Russian revolution comes into even sharper relief when we look at what was happening outside the Kremlin. A leading Soviet journalist and later a passionate herald of glasnost, Aleksandr Bovin, wrote in 1988 that the ideals of perestroika had “ripened” amid people’s increasing “irritation” at corruption, brazen thievery, lies, and the obstacles in the way of honest work. Anticipations of “substantive changes were in the air,” another witness recalled, and they forged an appreciable constituency for radical reforms. Indeed, the expectations that greeted the coming to power of Gorbachev were so strong, and growing, that they shaped his actual policy. Suddenly, ideas themselves became a material, structural factor in the unfolding revolution. (ending bold by ed.)

Ideas matter, immensely, and they are a material, structural factor required to return America to its rightful place as a leader in liberty.  Here’s an idea.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/28 at 04:22 PM
  1. John

    Your comment section swallowed a long post, so I will summarize . . .

    Gorbachev was baptized, chrismated, and communed on the same day in infancy.  When he was faced with unleashing troops on his own people, the Orthodox Bishop of Moscow told him he had no right to kill his fellow believers.

    And that is how it happened.

    Hell shall not prevail.  Period.  Try as it might.

    Posted by jb  on  06/28  at  08:45 PM
  2. “Indeed, the expectations that greeted the coming to power of Gorbachev were so strong, and growing, that they shaped his actual policy. Suddenly, ideas themselves became a material, structural factor in the unfolding revolution.”

    That’s a little bit of brilliance.

    Posted by mike  on  06/29  at  03:40 AM

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