A Modern Global History:

Andrei Znamenski (Lexington Books,
$176 hc, $61 pb, 451 pages)

Andrei Znamenski writes in the introduction to Socialism as a Secular Creed, “When I embarked on this project of galloping through the 150 years of socialism’s history I never suspected that it would be such an exciting and intellectually challenging venture.” In more than 400 pages, he provides a tour de force of historical knowledge and analysis of philosophy, religion, and culture. Znamenski argues that socialism is a form of political religion – a “secular creed” or surrogate religion that was rooted in utopians ideas of progress and science. Znamenski provides a chronological analysis of the development of socialism (and its mutations) in both theory and practice. Unlike most apologists who argue that socialism has never been truly tried and the brutal realities of regimes that rule under the name of socialism do not reflect the ideal of socialism, Znamenski demonstrates that the barbaric practices of communist governments is linked directly to socialism’s theory. The cults of scientism and statism justify grand projects and social engineering to make mankind not merely better off but better. Central planners can legitimately curtail liberty and impose punitive measures to correct the flaws in man to bend them to acceptable modern sensibilities. He explains and illustrates how the class-conscious roots of socialism gave way to racial identitarian politics: “The ideological border between class justice and racial justice is very slim.” He ably describes the “cultural turn” from international economic (class) concerns to identity politics sorted along racial and gender lines. From Marx and Engels to the Frankfurt School, from Hitler’s National Socialism to Maoism in China, from the New Left Cultural Marxists to present-day political opportunists, Znamenski draws a straight line from Marxism to the mainstreaming of academic fetishes such as deconstruction and postmodernism. In short, most of the myriad isms that seem to branch out into numerous different concerns all have their roots in Marxism.