Published on The Market Oracle, by Murray_N_Rothbard, Oct 26, 2009.
See also Part 2 of this article: Communism as the Kingdom of God on Earth, The Takeover of Münster, and its Notes 31 – 42).
… Communism was the great goal, the vision, the desideratum, the ultimate end that would make the sufferings of mankind throughout history worthwhile. History was the history of suffering, of class struggle, of the exploitation of man by man. In the same way as the return of the Messiah, in Christian theology, will put an end to history and establish a new heaven and a new earth, so the establishment of communism would put an end to human history.
And just as for postmillennial Christians, man, led by God’s prophets and saints, will establish a Kingdom of God on Earth (for premillennials, Jesus will have many human assistants in setting up such a kingdom), so, for Marx and other schools of communists, mankind, led by a vanguard of secular saints, will establish a secularized Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
In messianic religious movements, the millennium is invariably established by a mighty, violent upheaval, an Armageddon, a great apocalyptic war between good and evil. After this titanic conflict, a millennium, a new age of peace and harmony, of the reign of justice, will be installed upon the earth.
Marx emphatically rejected those utopian socialists who sought to arrive at communism through a gradual and evolutionary process, through a steady advancement of the good. Instead, Marx harked back to the apocalyptics, the postmillennial coercive German and Dutch Anabaptists of the 16th century, to the millennial sects during the English Civil War, and to the various groups of premillennial Christians who foresaw a bloody Armageddon at the Last Days, before the millennium could be established …
… Hegel as Pantheist Reabsorptionist:
Everyone knows that Marx was essentially a Hegelian in philosophy, but the precise scope of Hegel’s influence on Marx is less well understood. Hegel’s dubious accomplishment was to completely pantheize reabsorption theology. It is little realized that Hegel was only one, although the most elaborate and hypertrophic, of a host of writers who constituted the highly influential Romantic movement in Germany and England at the end of the 18th and during the first half of the 19th centuries.
Hegel was a theology student at the University of Tübingen, and many of his fellow Romantics, friends and colleagues, such as Schelling, Schiller, Holderlin, and Fichte, began as theology students, many of them at Tübingen.
The Romantic twist to the reabsorption story was to proclaim that God is in reality man. Man, or rather the Man-God, created the universe. But man’s imperfection, his flaw, lay in his failure to realize that he is God. The Man-God begins his life in history unconscious of the vital fact that he is God. He is alienated, cut off from the crucial knowledge that he and God are one, that he created, and continues to empower, the universe.
History, then, is the inevitable process by which the Man-God develops his faculties, fulfills his potential, and advances his knowledge, until that blissful day when man acquires Absolute Knowledge, that is, the full knowledge and realization that he is God. At that point, the Man-God finally reaches his potential, becomes an infinite being without bounds, and thereby puts an end to history. The dialectic of history occurs, again, in three fundamental stages: the precreation stage; the postcreation stage of development with alienation; and the final reabsorption into the state of infinity and absolute self-knowledge, which culminates, and puts an end to, the historical process.
Why, then, did Hegel’s Man-God (also termed by Hegel the “world-self” or “world-spirit” [Weltgeist]) create the universe? Not out of benevolence, but out of a felt need to become conscious of itself as a world-self. This process of growing consciousness is achieved through the creative activity by which the world-self externalizes itself. First, this externalization occurs by the Man-God creating nature, and next, by a continuing self-externalization through human history.
By building civilization, man increases the knowledge of his own divinity; in that way, through history man gradually puts an end to his own “self-alienation,” which for Hegel was ipso facto the alienation of man from God. Crucial to Hegelian doctrine is that man is alienated, and he perceives the world as hostile, because it is not himself. All these conflicts are finally resolved when man realizes at long last that the world really is himself.
But why is Hegel’s man so odd and neurotic that he regards everything that is not himself as alien and hostile? The answer is central to the Hegelian mystique. It is because Hegel, or Hegel’s man, cannot stand the idea of himself not being God, and therefore not being of infinite space and without boundary or limit. Seeing any other being or any other object exist would imply that he himself is not infinite or divine. In short, Hegel’s philosophy constitutes solipsistic megalomania on a grand and cosmic scale. Professor Robert C. Tucker describes the situation with characteristic acuity:
For Hegel alienation is finitude, and finitude in turn is bondage. The experience of self-estrangement in the presence of an apparent objective world is an experience of enslavement.… Spirit, when confronted with an object or “other,” is ipso facto aware of itself as merely finite being … as extending only so far and no farther. The object is, therefore, a “limit” (Grenze). And a limit, since it contradicts spirit’s notion of itself as absolute being, i.e., being-without-limit, is necessarily apprehended as a “barrier” or “fetter” (Schranke).… In its confrontation with an apparent object, spirit feels imprisoned in limitation. It experiences what Hegel calls the “sorrow of finitude.” …
In Hegel’s quite unique conception of it, freedom means the consciousness of self as unbounded; it is the absence of a limiting object or non-self.…
Accordingly, the growth of spirit’s self-knowledge in history is alternatively describable as a progress of the consciousness of freedom.
Hegel’s dialectic of history did not simply have three stages; history moved forward in a series of stages, each one of which was moved forward dramatically by a process of aufhebung. It is evident that the “man” who creates the world, who advances his “self”-knowledge, and who finally “returns” “Home” in an ecstasy of self-knowledge is not puny individual man, but man as collective species. But, for Hegel, each stage of advance is propelled by great individuals, “world-historical” men, who embody the attributes of the Absolute more than others, and act as significant agents of the next aufhebung, the lifting up of the Man-God or “world-soul’s” next great advance into “self-knowledge.”
Thus, at a time when most patriotic Prussians were reacting violently against Napoleon’s imperial conquests, and mobilizing their forces against him, Hegel wrote to a friend in ecstasy about having seen Napoleon, “the Emperor – this world-soul,” riding down the street; for Napoleon, even if unconsciously, was pursuing the world-historical mission of bringing a strong Prussian State into being.
It is interesting that Hegel got his idea of the “cunning of Reason,” of great individuals acting as unconscious agents of the world-soul through history, by perusing the works of the Rev. Adam Ferguson, whose phrase about events being “the product of human action but not of human design,” has been so influential in the thought of F. A. Hayek and his disciples. In the economic realm, as well, Hegel learned of the alleged misery of alienation in separation – that is, specialization and the division of labor – from Ferguson himself through Friedrich Schiller and from Ferguson’s good friend, Adam Smith, in his Wealth of Nations.
… (full huge long text of part I, and Notes 1 – 30).