To state the obvious: Briggs is a petty bourgeois pedant and moralist—a parasitic excrescence. Even a cursory review of his moral effluvia shows him chewing the rags of absolutist ethics and eternal truths, revealing him as nothing more than a vulgar philistine spewing ideas that colonize the masses and ignore the only end that needs no justification: the liberation of mankind.
The reader shouts, “Enough with the Marxist rhetoric!” But those ideas are not exclusively Marxian dialectics. They are, in fact, an admixture of Marxist and progressive nonsense—the writings of Lenin, Trotsky, and John Dewey, the progressive philosopher, academic, and father of modern education in the US.1
In his recent post, “Global Warming Hanger-On Says Ends Justify The Means,” Briggs noted that, “A progressive is an academic who looks upon a fallen world and would fix it by Theory, by preaching that the ends justify the means” (emphasis in the original). How true.
In 1938, just a few years shy of an ice axe to the forehead, Trotsky wrote his polemic, Their Morals or Ours, to differentiate the morals of Stalinism from those of what Trotsky alternatively termed Leninism and Bolshevism. In his pamphlet, Trotsky claimed that the ultimate end—the end that needs no justification—is “the liberation of mankind.” In other words, any intermediate end—any end that serves as a means to another end—is justified if it “leads to increasing the power of man over nature and to the abolition of the power of man over man.”2 True Marxist thought.
Into the fray—the internecine war between Stalinism and Trotskyism—entered John Dewey. Now Dewey had previously ventured into the Marxist morality play when his “Commission of Inquiry into the Charges Made against Leon Trotsky in the Moscow Trial” allowed Trotsky to defend his good name after being tried and sentenced to death in absentia by the Stalinists at the Moscow Show Trials in 1936. That the commission provided Trotsky with a western pulpit to justify his beliefs and actions goes a long way in explaining Dewey’s critique of Trotsky’s defense of Bolshevik morality.
In his response, Dewey agrees with Trotsky in the rejection of moral truths and absolutist ethics:
Since Mr. Trotsky also indicates that the only alternative position to the idea that the end justifies the means is some form of absolutistic ethics based on the alleged deliverances of conscience, or a moral sense, or some brand of eternal truths, I wish to say that I write from a standpoint that rejects all such doctrines as definitely as does Mr. Trotsky himself, and that I hold that the end in the sense of consequences provides the only basis for moral ideas and action, and therefore provides the only justification that can be found for means employed.
Yet, he also claims, “The liberation of mankind is an end to be striven for. In any legitimate sense of â€˜moral,’ it is a moral end.” That Dewey claims the existence of a self-justifying, absolute truth—the liberation of man—while rejecting the existence of such a truth shows a serious misstep in logic. But such is life in progressive academia.
Dewey’s singular niggle with Trotsky was over the justification of the means to the ultimate end. Trotsky claimed the science of Marx proved class struggle is the justifiable intermediate means. And any action that tilts history in favor of that struggle is itself justified.
Dewey objects. As one under the sway of progressive scientism, he chides Trotsky for not submitting the supposedly historical concept of class struggle to further scientific analysis and testing. It is possible that Marx was wrong. And, according to Dewey, additional analysis and testing may have revealed a more justifiable means.3
Regardless, for progressives such as Dewey, with the ultimate end the ultimate given, the means only needs to be deemed scientific for it to be justified. From this, it can be reasoned that progressives may willingly accept any means justified by science (eugenics anyone?).4
To recapitulate, progressive thought is only different from Marxist thought in the justification of the means given their jointly agreed up ultimate end—the differences resolve to their science or ours. Morals just gets in the way.
1Of course, Dewey would never resort to the base language of Lenin and Trotsky. As a respected man of letters, he left the coarse attacks to those who did not mind dirtying their own hands.
2Rest assured, the concept of man over nature does not imply the domination and spoliation of nature by man. It simply means the removal of scarcity that is a product of capitalism—or so the Marxists say. You could easily incorporate the reduction of capitalist waste and its effect on global climate change into the liberation of man without offending Trotsky—as long as the control of the means of production was held by the masses and their unifying party, the Bolsheviki.
3Left unmentioned is the basis for the ranking of means—impossible in the absence of moral absolutes.
4Eugenics, which arose in the US, was advocated by many progressives. It was simply another manifestation of the liberation of man.