Originally published 03/22/2013
Gordon N. Bardos is a Balkan politics and security specialist based in New York. Don’t laugh—but maybe Joe McCarthy was on to something. And the problem might be even more serious than he realized. Stepping back from contemporary policy debates reveals that Marx’s materialist view of history and Lenin’s voluntarism have been the ideological basis for many of our imperial misadventures from the Balkans to the Mideast to Central Asia.Actual commies are probably not crawling Washington’s hallowed halls. But a very Marxist-Leninist understanding of human nature and historical change has nevertheless had a significant impact on U.S. foreign-policy making in recent decades. Some forty years ago, Walker Connor, one of the deans of the study of ethnic nationalism, had already observed (and decried) the ”propensity on the part of American statesmen and scholars of the post-World War II era to assume that economic considerations represent the determining force in human affairs.” This “unwarranted exaggeration of the influence of material factors” on the world is of course a direct outgrowth of Marx’s belief that existence determines consciousness....