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Never the Vanguard
milhistorian
One day, I was linked to an article on a website called 100 Reasons Not to Go to Grad School, which discusses the multifarious problems with graduate education that people may or may not be familiar with. Some of these are obvious, some are less so, and I recommend it to you.

But, anyway, one reason to read said blog is the comments section. While I realize that Internet comment sections are usually wretched hives of scum and villainy, due to the fact that most of the people on the site are either college students, graduate students, or former graduate students, the comments section is an ivory tower of scum and villainy--much more pleasant.

Well, anyway, the most recent post spawned a massive discussion of the purpose of academia. I recommend using the find function to find any and all comments by a fellow name of High Arka, who is the closest thing to an out and out Marxist I've seen on the site. His (I suppose) idea was that academics should lead the charge for social change and be, in essence, the vanguard of the proletariat.

This is a terrible idea.

Here's why.

First, academics make terrible politicians--see Woodrow Wilson as the primary example in American history. The reason for this is that they are accustomed to getting their way and browbeating their opponents with intellectual arguments over fine points that literally no one but them cares about. Politics does not work that way.

Second, most of these academics tend to somehow believe that whatever society they create will somehow not have an elite that will self-perpetuate at the expense of the rest of society. If it's not merchants, it's apparatchiks. If it's not apparatchiks, it's priests. If it's not priests, it's aristocrats. And don't try and tell me that the social change they lead the proletariat in will not lead to the creation of a new society--getting a mass movement behind reforming the tax code is nearly impossible.

Third, some of these academics seem to think that they'll be the ones in charge. First off, they probably won't be. Men who make the most ruthless among them look like plaster saints will be. Second off, if they are more ruthless than non-academics, need I remind you that Pol Pot and crew were educated at one of the most prestigious universities in France?

Fourth, if you really want to be the vanguard of the proletariat, don't be an academic. Go be a community organizer, revolutionary, or a politician. That'll lead to positive social change.

After all, that's what Vladimir Lenin and Che Guevara did.

Well, except for the part where Lenin organized lots of mass killings. And was replaced by Josef Stalin, who organized even more mass killings. And who set up the Communist Party as the political and economic elite of Russia instead of the Orthodox church, aristocrats, and nouveau rich industrialists.

But hey, tens of millions of dead people is totally a fair price to pay for that change. Because, as we all know, basing political and economic clout on one's ability to mouth party doctrines while ruthlessly scrabbling for power is much better than doing so based on one's ability to utter platitudes about the nation and God while ruthlessly scrabbling for power.

Well, there's still Che, right? Darling of college leftists everywhere. Well, if you're really into nuclear war, hatred of everyone who doesn't think like you do (that does sound like academics, actually), and utter ineffectuality when acting without someone like Fidel Castro in charge, then yes, Che Guevara is a fine person to emulate.

Now here's what I'm not saying. I'm not saying that academics need to retreat to the ivory tower. What I am saying is that they need to live in the world that is, where unintended consequences exist, mankind is selfish, and the choices are not between everyone getting their fair share or some people getting more and some less, but between one group of people getting more than they deserve or a different group of people getting more than they deserve.

'Til next time,

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