A left-winger begins to figure it out

Charles Stross has a surprisingly familiar notion:

The key insight I’d like to bring to your attention at this point is that the purported political axis of the latter half of the twentieth century — between capitalism and socialism or communism — is a canard; in historical terms it’s an aberration, for the historical pattern is a struggle between the proponents of authoritarianism and those of what is today called libertarianism (and used to be Liberalism). The aberrant conditions of the cold war made for strange bed-fellows, so that the socialist and capitalist factions were themselves coalitions of libertarian and authoritarian types: and today the old power axes are breaking down and the deeper historical factions are surfacing.

It has been argued that there are two key influences on the neoconservative policy makers: the Shachtmanite version of Trotskyism, a somewhat mutant American variant, was clearly an influence of many of the neocons in their earlier 1960s incarnation, and the views of right-wing crypto-Nieztchian philosopher Leo Strauss. There’s a curious intersection between the views of Trotsky (it is the job of the vanguard to lead the proletariat but not to represent them, to form their opinions and give shape to the revolution that will overthrow the bourgeoisie) and those of Strauss (the rise of the bourgeosie is a tragedy for western civilization: the correct order for society is one oriented towards struggle, led by warriors whose actions will be shaped by an elite of behind-the-scenes philosopher-princes). And it’s worth noting that former leading denizens of Trotskyite organizations — in the UK, the former Revolutionary Communist Party is the leading example, as dissected by George Monbiot — have developed a habit (especially noticable since 1979) of suddenly turning up wearing suits and driving BMWs while working for right wing think-tanks.

Forget the left-right terminology when you’re reading this; remember, Stross is a pan-Europeanist Scot and his perspective is rather different than an American one. It’s particularly interesting to note that he grasps the fundamental Libertarian – Totalitarian axis that I’ve been vehemently trying to beat into people’s heads, as well as the Trotskyite aspect of the neocons.