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Socialism’s Very Quiet Revolution

Summary:
In his 1949 book The Road Ahead: America’s Creeping Revolution, John T. Flynn warns about the “great tides of thought and appetite that run unseen deeply below the surface of society.” These unseen tides are political waves that shape the law and institutional policy, but because they are unseen, there is no widespread awareness of the danger they pose. They are barely debated in academic or policy circles. They are treated as an uncontroversial aspect of the political “consensus,” and their implementation is largely unopposed.Flynn is concerned with the surreptitious methods by which socialism takes over society. Socialists do not overtly promote socialist values—on the contrary, they often deny being socialists. They proceed by stealth, by purporting to be

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In his 1949 book The Road Ahead: America’s Creeping Revolution, John T. Flynn warns about the “great tides of thought and appetite that run unseen deeply below the surface of society.” These unseen tides are political waves that shape the law and institutional policy, but because they are unseen, there is no widespread awareness of the danger they pose. They are barely debated in academic or policy circles. They are treated as an uncontroversial aspect of the political “consensus,” and their implementation is largely unopposed.

Flynn is concerned with the surreptitious methods by which socialism takes over society. Socialists do not overtly promote socialist values—on the contrary, they often deny being socialists. They proceed by stealth, by purporting to be concerned with the values closest to people’s hearts, offering them “fairness” and “justice,” a great plan for the good of society, and a safety net to shield them from the vicissitudes of life. Flynn observes:

You never hear our Planners advertising the wonders of socialism. Yet they are taking over the country. They understand that people are dominated extensively by personal and group interests, that this is a natural phenomenon and that the personal and group interests at any moment exercise a more immediate and potent stimulation upon their thinking than broad ideological principles.

Gramsci’s Long March

A good example of how this creeping revolution has unfolded is the strategy often referred to as “a long march through the institutions,” often attributed to Antonio Gramsci although Gramsci himself did not use this phrase. In his review of Patrick Buchanan’s The Death of the WestDavid Gordon highlights how the Gramscian approach has destroyed traditional Western values from within.

Thomas Sowell articulates a similar idea in what he calls the quiet repeal of the American Revolution:

The final chapter of The Quest for Cosmic Justice is titled “The Quiet Repeal of the American Revolution”—because that is what is happening piecemeal by zealots devoted to their own particular applications of cosmic justice.

They are not trying to destroy the rule of law. They are not trying to undermine the American republic. They are simply trying to produce “gender equity,” institutions that “look like America” or a thousand other goals.

Sowell’s point is that the repeal of the American Revolution proceeds quietly, without causing undue alarm, precisely because those subverting it claim to be upholding it. There is no great announcement that the Constitution will henceforth be interpreted in a manner antithetical to its original meaning. This explains why there are now judges in the United States Supreme Court who aver that they do not know what a woman is and who state that racial preferences are not contrary to the Constitution, positions that strike many people as so outrageously wrong that it seems barely worth taking them seriously. These positions are dismissed with no more than an offhand “but that’s unconstitutional!”

In the view of judges sympathetic to critical race theories, the Constitution does not prohibit diversity so there is nothing wrong, as they see it, with reserving opportunities exclusively for “people of color” because in their view, that will promote diversity. For example, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson in the Supreme Court affirmative action cases argued that “nothing in the Constitution or Title VI prohibits institutions from taking race into account to ensure the racial diversity of admits in higher education.”

In this way, a body of case law gradually emerges in which ideas that subvert the Constitution, primarily emanating from civil rights instruments, eventually constitute the basic law by which the country is governed. The danger lies not only in the possibility that the minority opinion in the Supreme Court may potentially one day become a majority opinion, but more so in the credence it gives to these ideas at the highest level. Incorporating socialist propaganda into Supreme Court opinions eventually creates a culture in which such propaganda is regarded as respectable and true.

These examples illustrate how the wave of socialist propaganda that Flynn warned about has now succeeded in transforming institutions in the West almost beyond recognition. The tenets of this culture are propagated daily through diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training sessions, which in many institutions are mandatory. Tom Woods summarizes some of the core tenets of DEI training:

You’re pushing “white supremacy” if you believe in meritocracy, if you compliment a “POC” on his speaking abilities, if you insist race doesn’t matter to you, if you reject the concept of “white privilege,” if you “fetishize” “BIPOC” (so you’d better really like them, but try not to like them too much or then you’re fetishizing them), if you are committed to colorblindness, or if you call the police on black people (can you please stop bothering the poor guy while he’s trying to murder you?).

And if you try too hard, you’ll be accused of having a “white savior complex.”

Misplaced Optimism

The quiet nature of this revolution means that great optimism surrounds the banning of schemes and programs such as DEI, and many fail to notice that such bans do not capture the relentless “great tides of thought and appetite that run unseen deeply below the surface” to which Flynn referred. Thus, we see DEI offices being shut down and DEI staff reassigned to other offices to continue their work albeit without referring to it as DEI.

For example, the New York Times reported in January 2024 that despite very public attacks on DEI in 2023, with over twenty states either banning or severely restricting DEI programs,

only 1 percent of the 320 C-suite executives said they had significantly decreased their D.E.I. commitments in the past year, and 57 percent said they had expanded those efforts.

In a survey of 194 chief human resources officers published by the Conference Board last month, none of the respondents said they planned to scale back D.E.I. initiatives.

However, some have reported rebranding their schemes to avoid using the toxic DEI label. A human resources officer was quoted by the NYT as saying, “When it comes to D.E.I., some professionals aren’t bothered by changes to branding as long as the work continues. ‘The end goals of these diversity initiatives and programs will not change.’” For example, “management training once framed as part of D.E.I. efforts may instead by discussed as a course to help managers deliver performance reviews more effectively.”

The lesson to derive from Flynn is that citizens unaware of an unfolding revolution are easily “sneaked into socialism.” Conservatives are now rejoicing at “winning” their battle to quash DEI programs, while the DEI enforcers simply slap a new label on their schemes and carry on. Being unaware of the scale of the threat, citizens fail to take effective action and are eventually “trapped in a socialist system.” A good example of how a country can become trapped is when decades of case law and legal precedent become difficult to reverse. Constitutional concepts over time acquire the meaning assigned to them by the courts, which are then entrenched in law schools and courts as the “correct” meaning. In this situation, the people’s optimism becomes their weakness.

In the United Kingdom, it was while feminists were rejoicing at their “landmark victory” in securing protection for the “philosophical belief” that sex determines who is a woman that new hate crime laws were enacted to make misgendering a “hate crime.” Speaking of the need for America to learn lessons from the rise of socialism in Europe, Flynn observes that these types of misplaced optimism may themselves be a hazard:

We have no talent as a people for pessimism. In prosperity we convinced ourselves it would last forever. . . . We are being drawn into socialism on the British gradualist model. We are well on the road—much further along than our people suspect. And if we do not clearly recognize that fact and abandon that fatal route, we will inevitably, perhaps in less than a decade, arrive at that state of socialization now before us in England. Not until we recognize this fact and all its implications will we be able to recognize “where we are and whither we are tending.” Not until then will we be able to judge “what to do, and how to do it.”


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