own work, hegel as reagan

Hegelomics. How Ronald Regan Accelerated History Towards Global Communism.

By VVoytila | Comments on Culture | 22 Sep 2021

Was Ronald Reagan a communist? This seems like your typical, shallow question a journalist asks him or herself to justify a self-congratulating  rant. But I will try and answer this, admittedly provocative, question in light of historical dialectic.

Ronald Reagan is remembered today for many things, but most can be cajoled into two major events: economic change (Reaganomics/neoliberalism etc.) and bringing down the USSR (not without inside help, might we note). Neither of those major processes reeks of communism. For those who say that the USSR was not really a communist country there remains the task of explaining how Milton Friedman belongs on the standards of communism next to Marx, Engels and perhaps Mao.* The point being that, however you look at it, Reagan cannot conventionally be called a communist.

But let us look at the matter from a different angle. The 80s find the USA stagnant and the USSR in a mess. The situation at large, again, regardless of how you look at it, seemed an impasse. In comes Reagan, cuts taxes without cutting spending (military spending was actually upped by over a third), adds a hefty 1.86 trillion to the national debt and arguably accelerates or at least facilitates the collapse of the USSR through good old fashioned heavy handed diplomacy.

The consequences of all this for the world were, however, nothing but old fashioned. Reagan ushered in a new world structure, one in which there is only one global hegemon and that hegemon cannot reign in spending, with its debt seemingly for ever measured in trillions. The old duality of capitalist west and communist east gave way to a world in which both systems, through the imperfect, costly, superficial victory of one over the other, merged into one: a communist capitalism and a capitalist communism. As you might have noticed, those words, designed to describe ideologies of old, no longer do justice to a world in which corporate bureaucrats and state officials form one clique, banks, think tanks, NGOs and government agencies can no longer be disentangled, the self-proclaimed capitalist empire experiments with universal basic income while the self-proclaimed communist empire experiments with state hypercapitalism etc. etc. It really seems that at times the PRC is more capitalist than the USA, which seems at in certain aspects to be closer to communism. Such a sentence today seems funny, but 20 years ago it would simply not have been written. Somehow it got into my head and now into yours.

It seems that over the course of a dialectic process the forms of social organisation called, for lack of better words, communism and capitalism, collided, fell back and ended up producing a bastard unwanted child. It is telling that the current global order of things is opposed vehemently by ultracapitalist libertarians and communists (who, amusingly, accuse each other of running the world) - we do not live in capitalism anymore. One noteworthy attempt at a description of this state of society is James Burnham's The Managerial Revolution, which I recommend reading.

To parody Thomas Carlyle's view of history ("the history of the world is but the biography of great men"): who was the person who played the role of the machinist in this historical process? Who was the cog that enabled this rotation of the globe? Ronald Reagan. It is for this reason that I so provocatively asked whether he was a communist. Since he enabled (or so it seems from a human standpoint) a post-capitalist society, can he not be considered a communist in equal part as he is considered a capitalist? For there to be a conflict, you need at least two sides. While it seems ridiculous to call Burke a revolutionary, Frederic II a Guelph or the Gracchi brothers optimates, all those actors were simply polar opposites to the mentioned political stances.* In the end, looking at the conflicts of old from the perspective of ages, what difference does it make? Being part of a conflict means you belong to a certain plane, characterised and accessed by posterity as one. On a more pragmatic basis: your struggle enables the resolution of the conflict, whatever that may be. Taking the above into account, calling Reagan a communist makes a little more sense and I hope I have managed to introduce you to the key idea: history as a discourse.


*The task which I set before the hypothetical critic to prove that Milton Friedman belongs on the standards of socialism already has a solution in keeping with the spirit of this post: Friedman, like many liberal/neoliberal economists, was a materialist or was preoccupied with the material to such an extent that viewing him as locked in discourse with other materialists in fact makes a lot of sense.


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