There are four new philosophical-political posts at Mike Valle's infrequently updated weblog that I recommend. Start with Marxism-Leninism and Islamism and scroll up. Excerpts with some comments of mine:
One thing that people got wrong with the communists, and they get wrong with the Islamists, is that they think that people can’t really believe this stuff. They think these people think that they are acting from these ideas, but they are really reacting to oppressive conditions, and these crazy ideological ideas are only an indirect way of expressing their frustration with their conditions.
[Scott Atran, anthropologist, seems to maintain this absurd view as I report in Does Anyone Really Believe in the Muslim Paradise?]
What Bochenski argues for communism, I also argue for Islamism: Yes, they really do believe this stuff, and we insult not only reality but those very people themselves by suggesting that we know more than they do about their own motivations. Yes, an Islamist does, in fact, believe that Allah will reward him for his violent martyrdom. He believes it in the marrow of his bones. Not only that—he will believe it even if he is no longer oppressed, lives in a big house, has a great job, has a university education, and the rest of it. Throwing money at Islamists does not kill ideology. Ideology is more powerful than wealth. Just as with communist terrorists, the Islamist terrorists are quite frequently well-educated and, by the standards of history, not particularly oppressed. They are ideologues.
Mike is on the money. What's the best test for belief? Action! By their fruits shall ye know them. What people believe is manifested by their actions in the context of their verbal avowals. People who think that Communists and Islamists don't really believe what they say they believe are probably just engaging in psychological projection: "I can't believe this stuff, so you can't either."
But the fact that I can't bring myself to believe in, or even entertain with hospitality, any such nonsense as a classless society or the dictatorship of the proletariat or post-mortem dalliance with 72 black-eyed virgins as recompense for piloting jumbo jets into trade towers, or that the USA is permeated with 'institutionalized racism' -- cuts no ice. People believe the damndest things and they prove it by their behavior, and the fact that other people can't 'process' this at face value means nothing. People really do believe this crap.
We all seek a transcendental meaning to our lives, except for those few of us who live as animals. National Socialism, Communism, and Islamism give people that meaning, and having such a meaning is, for many people, far more important than material comforts and wealth. I think this is fine, as long as one’s transcendental purpose isn’t murderously evil, of course.
Mike here touches upon the problem of misplaced idealism.
It is not enough to have ideals, one must have the right ideals. This is why being idealistic, contrary to common opinion, is not always good. Idealism ran high among the members of the Sturmabteilung (SA) and the Schuetzstaffel (SS). The same is true of countless millions who became Communists in the 20th century: they sacrificed their 'bourgeois' careers and selfish interests to serve the Party. (See Whittaker Chambers, Witness, required reading for anyone who would understand Communism.) But it would have been better had the members of these organizations been cynics and slackers. It is arguably better to have no ideals than to have the wrong ones. Nazism and Communism brought unprecedented amounts of evil into the world on the backs of idealistic motives and good intentions. Connected with this is the point that wanting to do good is not good enough: one must know what the good is and what one morally may and may not do to attain it.
It is therefore a grotesque error, one that libs and lefties have a soft spot for, to suppose that being idealistic is good in and of itself. The question must follow: idealistic in respect of which ideals? No doubt John Lennon in his silly ditty "Imagine" expressed lofty ideals; but his ideals are the utopian ideals of the Left, and we know where they lead. It is not good to be idealistic sans phrase; one must be idealistic in respect of the right ideals. Only then can we say that being idealistic is better than being a common schlep who serves only his own interests.
Bochenski was right about communism. Too many are still in denial or ignorance of the destructive and evil nature of communism (as were so many of my professors), just as too many are hopelessly naïve about the power of Islamist ideology (as are so many “intellectuals”).
I would add the following. Communism is not dead. it lives on in those leftist seminaries called colleges and universities. To understand the Left and its political correctness, you must study the history of Communism. As I have said more than once: PC comes from the CP!
A related point is that Islamism is shaping up to be the Communism of the 21st century. Which is another reason to study Communism.