Most Read
Image 01 Image 02 Image 03

The undead: Communism and Socialism

The undead: Communism and Socialism

Why do socialism and communism continue to appeal to so many people even after they’ve been proven so wrong?

Communism/Socialism is an idea whose time has always come, ever-fresh and ever-new. It keeps rearing its ugly head wearing a new mask, like some vampire returning in a different guise. But can’t we finally drive a stake through its wretched heart?

Robert Stacy McCain describes the latest renaissance of an idea that has persisted in the face of all empirical evidence to the contrary, and which was correctly critiqued by the economist Ludwig von Mises not long after the Soviets came to power:

In his classic work Socialism, Mises explained that the attempt to replace the market system with central economic planning could not succeed, because the planners could not possibly have the information necessary to make all the decisions which, in a market economy, are made by individuals whose needs and desires are reflected in prices: “The problem of economic calculation is the fundamental problem of Socialism.”

“Everything brought forward in favour of Socialism during the last hundred years,” Mises wrote in 1922, “in thousands of writings and speeches, all the blood which has been spilt by the supporters of Socialism, cannot make Socialism workable. …. Socialist writers may continue to publish books about the decay of Capitalism and the coming of the socialist millennium; they may paint the evils of Capitalism in lurid colours and contrast with them an enticing picture of the blessings of a socialist society; their writings may continue to impress the thoughtless — but all this cannot alter the fate of the socialist idea.”

The rest of the McCain article is well worth reading. But my response is that this persistence of the idea of socialism/Communism despite evidence of its awfulness when put into practice in the real world should not be at all surprising. And I don’t think we’ll ever find the proper stake to drive into its still-beating heart, because the nature of this particular beast is that it represents an idea with strong appeal to a vast number of human beings. No amount of empirical or historical evidence can permanently teach enough people otherwise.

The rhetoric of Socialism/Communism has intrinsic appeal to certain groups of people and some members of each group are always likely to fall under its spell: the guilt-ridden wealthy and/or their even-more-guilt-ridden spawn, the poor who feel they’ve been screwed by society, the politically and economically naive intelligentsia who feel they know better than others, the religious and/or idealistic who want everyone to be loving and good and selfless, and those who just like the idea of power and control over others and plan to be the ones in charge.

Combine all that natural appeal with the undeniable propagandist skill of many on the left—including their willingness to lie in the most brazen manner—and you have an even greater effect. And then combine all of that with ignorance of history and economics, our culture’s reluctance to teach the young our good points and its eagerness to harp on our bad ones, and the fact that people only tend to really learn something through bitter and personal experience.

The wonder is that more people don’t believe that socialism/Commmunism is the answer to the world’s prayers, not that so many succumb to it in the first place. Never imagine that the fight, especially in the intellectual and educational and propaganda spheres, can be over. It would be too bad if each generation had to learn the lesson through personal suffering rather than in the realm of ideas.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]

DONATE

Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.

Comments

I remember that my 7th grade civics teacher taught us that “Communism is the ideal political system, but the leaders in Russia corrupted it.” I later learned on my own how wrong she was.

I got crawled all over for this some months back, but there are cultures that have a very strong paternalistic bent in them, several of them from very Catholic peoples, such as the Irish, the Spanish, and the Italians. Former Viking peoples also had a very strong attachment to a chieftain.

They seem to be very susceptible to the Collectivist models.

    9thDistrictNeighbor in reply to Ragspierre. | February 6, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    Happy to crawl all over you again…but it wouldn’t do much good.

      It is a steep hill…

      Try refuting what I said.

      “The pope’s apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, did nothing to dispel this perception. Indeed, the 288-page document set out charity as the moral imperative for a Catholic conscience, decried the growing gap between rich and poor, and condemned the capitalist system that produced it.

      This inequity, he argues, is based on the mistaken assumption that “economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably bring about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

      Rush Limbaugh lambasted the papal words as “pure Marxism.” The Economist agreed: “Francis is subtle and thoughtful when he approaches so many issues,” says Bruce Clark, who edits the magazine’s religious blog, “But his views on the economy sound ill-thought-out.”

    JerryB in reply to Ragspierre. | February 6, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    The only problem with the argument is that the Church (head “chieftain”) has condemned Socialism and Communism many times — prior to 1960 when the infiltrators gained supremacy.

    By the way, the old rule, “if you don’t work, you don’t eat,” comes from St. Paul. I suspect what you mistake as collectivism is actually charity. In fact, charity is (used to be?) a wonderful feature of American prosperity. Americans have been very generous. Now that gov’t displaces charity, we sink into collectivism.

    tom swift in reply to Ragspierre. | February 6, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    The Church is all about arbitrary authority. No surprise there.

    But including the Vikings in this claim has little historical basis.

    Juba Doobai! in reply to Ragspierre. | February 7, 2014 at 12:02 am

    Rags, your premise is questionable because the history of humanity is the history of paternalism—God or the strong father/king taking care of his people. Apart from the Amazons, history does not offer much evidence of cultures being maternalistic—in spite of judges like Deborah, queens, and empresses. Therefore, your exclusion of other cultures brings your premise into question because paternalism is not a national thing but a human thing. It is who we are, in spite of the best efforts of bra-burners.

    If your premise was true, then all nations would be Collectivist, as you call it, or Communist, as I call it. If your premise was true, then, just like the paternalistic Pilgrims who tried Collectivism, the wrangling over the Constitution would have led to a Communist USA.

      Ragspierre in reply to Juba Doobai!. | February 7, 2014 at 9:58 am

      I disagree with you as to the extent the influence of a patron had in some cultures, as opposed to the role of a father or leader.

      It is a matter of the degree to which that role of patron subjugates adults, and to which they seem to willingly subjugate themselves, so that most good things flow only from the patron, including justice.

      Historical Japanese culture is another example, although it presents its own interesting variations on that theme.

      The counter-examples I suggest are the English yeomanry, the Swiss, and the Scots after their development of codified law. Several Indian tribes were also good examples.

        Juba Doobai! in reply to Ragspierre. | February 7, 2014 at 1:41 pm

        Rags, paternalism is not patronage. Patronage is how artists and performers managed to survive. Take Shakespeare, for instance, some of his sonnets were addressed to his patron.

        You began talking about paternalism and then shifted to pafronage. If you had argued that countries with a history of feudalism have a tendency to Socialsm/Communism, that would’ve been defensible. But you didn’t argue that and what you do argue is weak on its face.

Socialism won’t ever go away. It’s an idea. There’s no way to eradicate an idea, and even if it was possible, there’s no guarantee someone else won’t independently dream it up again later. There’s no shortage of people who truly believe that large-scale socialism would work, if only [insert some small aspect] were changed/fixed/improved.

The problem is as Mises describes: those with the power don’t have the necessary information, and those with the information don’t have the power. Additionally, not everyone in either group will be 100% selfless and well-meaning.

Put another way: Omniscience, Omnipotence, Benevolence – all three are required for successful large-scale socialism, but when dealing with humans, you only get two, tops.

All we can do is present rational arguments and keep it from becoming the law of the land.

It could work, on a small scale, with a homogenous population. On larger scales, in diverse societies, it inevitably causes misaligned development, sponsors corruption, and requires a population control protocol (e.g. abortion). The consequences of marginally intelligent design are unprecedented violations of human and civil rights, as well as long-term instability.

There are four classes of people who choose left-wing ideology: cronies, incompetent, vulnerable, and, of course, presumptuous mortal gods to lead them. The first are exploiters, the last are opportunists, and the middle two fear organic development. The unifying theme is a quick fix demanded by a diverse cast with often contradictory but convergent interests. Still, they must be recognized as effective purveyors of an unfulfilled promise.

That said, exceptional corruption only serves the cause of fundamental corruption. Liberty is only suitable and possible for men and women capable of self-moderating, responsible behavior.

    Ragspierre in reply to n.n. | February 6, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    What’s interesting to me is that we very seldom differentiate between voluntary socialism and state socialism.

    Globally speaking, any time we work together to mitigate the harsh verities of life, we are “socializing” a problem. Insurance is a good example of this, as are charitable organizations. Both work very well, and they would have to for people to subscribe to them.

    Conversely, state socialism is always a system requiring coercion, since it really does NOT work well, and people cannot be allowed to decide to subscribe or not.

    Aside from utility (one works, the other does not, generally), my primary objection to the latter is that it is immoral.

      OldNuc in reply to Ragspierre. | February 6, 2014 at 7:37 pm

      You are describing the difference between public and non public goods. When government provides a non public good such as insurance you have state socialism.

        Ragspierre in reply to OldNuc. | February 6, 2014 at 7:55 pm

        Sorta.

        A state could provide insurance as a market-player among many. It would certainly be a nest of market distortions, but it would not be coercive.

        Where, as with ObamaDoggle, you have no legal choice but to comply, that is entirely different.

          platypus in reply to Ragspierre. | February 7, 2014 at 12:07 pm

          Actually, Zerocare is not mandatory. There are numerous schemes already created which are up and running. Whether they can exempt participants from the Zerocare tax is uncertain at present.

          Ragspierre in reply to Ragspierre. | February 8, 2014 at 9:19 am

          Correct. You don’t have to use the government insurance, but YOU DO have to have “conforming insurance” (legally).

          My choice is NOT to, in open violation of the law.

      Midwest Rhino in reply to Ragspierre. | February 7, 2014 at 7:45 am

      Right … all this crap about “Jesus believed in communism”, or one verse in Acts that says “they had all things common” … yeah, but it was free will choice, free will giving.

      Communes are legal and may collect a group of like minded people, who can walk away for any reason. To an extent we have partially communal “common cause groups” like this all over America. Boy Scouts, church groups, charities, advocacy groups, even bloggers. Belonging to several is healthy. But we the people choose. Communism requires great walls to keep people captive in the single payer state commune.

      When Lord Obama shows up and claims he must use government force to “unite” us via redistribution, it is the opposite of free will. He rewards his chosen groups (all but non-white male Americans), with intent to tear down current free will structures, like Boy Scouts or Tea Party groups.

    Bruce Hayden in reply to n.n. | February 6, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    Not sure if it can really work all too well with even a homogeneous population. The Pilgrims initially tried socialism, with shared land, etc.,until they almost starved, and then switched to private ownership in order to survive. Then, you had pure WASPs of a fundamentalist Christian sect, with most, if not all, coming from Great Britain, and it didn’t even work.

      mgparrish in reply to Bruce Hayden. | February 7, 2014 at 10:03 am

      Witness to your point the Native Americans. Interesting that Casino Gaming (Capitalism) is actually the only real thing helping them in many cases. So often I see the trailer parked on “common” land now being the new age teepee.

    Juba Doobai! in reply to n.n. | February 7, 2014 at 12:06 am

    It cannot work. The Pilgrims tried.

      Estragon in reply to Juba Doobai!. | February 7, 2014 at 12:53 am

      So did the Virginia colony, with the same results. The experiment with communal living ended with Captain John Smith’s declaration that “Those who do not work, do not eat.”

      The inherent defect of all socialist models is that they take away the incentives to excel.

These photos show the difference before and after socialism/communism in Germany.

Other examples of the ruinous effects of leftist policies are Detroit, California, Venezuela and Sochi.

Today I was at a retirement party for man I’ve known for many years. His remarks were very touching. He came to America as a refugee from Austria in the mid 1950’s. The way he told it, with tears welling up in his eyes, conveyed the whole story. For him, the abhorrence of Communism is in his blood. That’s not imparted to children anymore. It hasn’t been imparted for many generations, and we may have to descend into that hell before folks wise up.

Reagan left this a center-right country. In 1988 George H.W. Bush won election mainly by identifying his opponent as a liberal, a term that Leftists at the time were dodging.

Since then, the radical Left is resurrecting itself because Democrats mislead naive voters.

What other reason could there possibly be?

Socialism is at root the conviction that conscious control of various aspects of society is always superior to natural or spontaneous systems. A very appealing thought, but with some not-so-subtle vulnerabilities. The biggest is perhaps that it cannot succeed even in theory without nearly absolute control. But even when it has control, it depends on other factors – extensive knowledge of relevant variables, a methodology competent to use that knowledge to rectify social and economic problems, and scrupulous honesty. An engineer would know that, of course; it’s just control theory, a well-developed field. But an intellectual – defined as someone who attempts to solve the world’s problems without any actual experience or understanding of what he’s doing – wouldn’t. (Think Aristotle vs. Galileo.)

In real life, none of these criteria above which are essential for a successful socialist program will ever be adequately met (except for the control – that part’s relatively easy). And half-assed attempts at the three essentials (knowledge, methodology, and honesty) cause crises far worse than the social and economic problems they’re trying to solve. A republican government and a capitalist economy may be riddled with incompetence and corruption, and these cause inefficiencies and limited failures. But in a centrally planned society, incompetence and corruption lead to catastrophic failure – even worse, failure which cannot be rectified, because the simple mechanisms which would do that have been purged by the process of forming the centrally planned society.

    DaveGinOly in reply to tom swift. | February 7, 2014 at 4:26 am

    “A republican government and a capitalist economy may be riddled with incompetence and corruption, and these cause inefficiencies and limited failures. But in a centrally planned society, incompetence and corruption lead to catastrophic failure – even worse, failure which cannot be rectified, because the simple mechanisms which would do that have been purged by the process of forming the centrally planned society.”
    In a free society, the incompetencies and corruption are not systematic and they are self-correcting. Under socialism, incompetency is systematic, and the system resists correction, because correcting a mistake acknowledges that a mistake has been made – an admission the system can’t afford to make because it reveals it to be less than ideal.

I possess sufficient knowledge of socialism/communism and its effect on individuals, families, communities and society.

My knowledge was acquired “through bitter and personal experience,” with the slight difference that I did not have a choice: I was born and raised in communist Cuba.

There’s not enough space in this blog for me to give a full testimony of what it means to live under such tyranny and oppression.
All I can tell you is, please don’t take your/our freedoms for granted. Once you lose them, it is very hard to get them back. And have no doubt, and make no mistake: Barack Obama is taking steps towards that point of no return.
He has the media in his pocket, as well as the judicial branch and a big chunk of the legislative.
“He has a pen and he has a phone.” And he really means to use them. Don’t give him the chance.

    Estragon in reply to Exiliado. | February 7, 2014 at 1:02 am

    Having known personally persons who lived under communism in Ukraine, Poland, and Cuba, I can attest they all bore the same message as Exiliado.

    I recall being in Johnstown, PA for Thanksgiving in the early ’80s with a family of Czech and Polish immigrants and their descendants. News arrived that some distant cousins of one of the hosts – whom none of the family in America had ever met or communicated with – had managed to escape to Austria. They had taken off through a thick forest with just what they could carry, had to drink rain water from puddles, but survived. The celebration was as if a long-lost child had been returned! Because they knew what it meant at both ends.

Professor Alan Charles Kors offers an important perspective on murderous Communist regimes in his essay: “Can There Be An After Socialism?”

No cause, ever, in the history of all mankind, has produced more cold-blooded tyrants, more slaughtered innocents, and more orphans than socialism with power. It surpassed, exponentially, all other systems of production in turning out the dead. The bodies are all around us. And here is the problem: No one talks about them. No one honors them. No one does penance for them. No one has committed suicide for having been an apologist for those who did this to them. No one pays for them. No one is hunted down to account for them. It is exactly what Solzhenitsyn foresaw in “The Gulag Archipelago“: “No, no one would have to answer. No one would be looked into.” Until that happens, there is no “after socialism.”

The West accepts an epochal, monstrous, unforgivable double standard. We rehearse the crimes of Nazism almost daily, we teach them to our children as ultimate historical and moral lessons, and we bear witness to every victim. We are, with so few exceptions, almost silent on the crimes of Communism. So the bodies lie among us, unnoticed, everywhere. We insisted upon “de-Nazification,” and we excoriate those who tempered it in the name of new or emerging political realities. There never has been and never will be a similar “de-Communization,” although the slaughter of innocents was exponentially greater, and although those who signed the orders and ran the camps remain. In the case of Nazism, we hunt down ninety-year-old men because “the bones cry out” for justice. In the case of Communism, we insisted on “no witch hunts”—let the dead bury the living. But the dead can bury no one.

Therefore the dead lie among us, ignored, and anyone with moral eyes sees them, by their absence from our moral consciousness, spilling naked out of the television and movie screens, frozen in pain in our classrooms, and sprawled, unburied, across our politics and our culture. They sit next to us at our conferences. There could not have been an “after Nazism” without the recognition, the accounting, the justice, and the remembrance. Until we deal with the Communist dead, there is no “after socialism.”

Hitler’s Nazi regime lasted but 14 years, but communism began its infiltration of America shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution, near the end of the “war to end all wars.” Back then we called it the “Red Scare” but since the liberals hauled out “Red Scare” again in the 1950’s when the House Un-American Activities Committee got serious about investigating Communists in government – so the 1919-1920 invasion was renamed the First Red Scare.

There is no longer a visible CPUSA, but Commies are everywhere, saturating government and environmental groups in the U.S. as we speak.

BTW, if you missed the Instalanche of this pertinent Don Surber piece, I think you will find that the chemicals in his West Virginia water did not affect his skills.

Communism and Socialism will always be appealing for two connected reasons, both of which are theological, rather than political.

The first reason is the desire for the reclamation of Eden. The idea of a perfect place, perfectly governed by man and providing for the needs of all men is entirely edenic. It doesn’t matter that Communists and Socialist are basically atheistic; all humanity seems to be have a genetic imprint, perhaps a remnant of what was before the Fall, that makes man yearn for Eden, whether they know it or not. Communists and Socialists tend to believe that man can recreate Eden on earth, in this life. Judaeochristians know better. Eden, though a place of perfection, is not an utopian ideal to be striven for; it was a real place from which Man was cast out and which he cannot regain by his own efforts. Communism and Socialism are utopianist and is the Great Lie that Man can regain Eden without God.

That leads to the second point which was made apparent in Eden. Communism and Socialism deceive Man that he can be his own god. Therefore, he does not need God. If man, through Communism and Socialism can achieve Eden, what need is there for God? What need is there for the acknowledgment of sinfulness and of oneself as sinner in need of salvation? What need is there for forgiveness and reconciliation with a God who can condemn, save, and justify? So, the same impulse that motivated Adam in Eden drives those who find Communism and Socialism attractive: the desire to be like God knowing what He knows and creating perfection; it is also the same envy that moved Lucifer, to supplant God and be God.

Consequently, Communism and Socialism when implemented never end well because they are a quest for power and dominion over all, and we know what happens to absolute power.

Everything old is new again.
I’m amazed and not amazed by the Soviet nostalgia phenomenon in the former Soviet Union. It’s mostly the case of selective memory and reinvention of the past. Remembering Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space but not the American moonwalk. Or fetishizing their substandard consumer products. Or the idea that the best childhood ever was in the Soviet Union in the 60’s, 70’s and the 80’s. Strange, but I remember a lot of anxiety.

The Left’s old myth that “true communism has never been tried” is perpetuated generation after generation, aided and abetted by the predominance of far-left tenured faculty in our universities. Our own government subsidizes those who oppose and undermine our system.

The “true communism” the idealists imagine is of course impossible because it would require a suspension of human nature. The clearest explanation of why and how is still best illustrated by George Orwell’s short novel “Animal House,” which should be required reading for all students.

Mister Natural | February 7, 2014 at 4:26 am

you’re mixing george orwell with john belushi. surely you meant “Animal Farm”

Midwest Rhino | February 7, 2014 at 8:48 am

The process of organized control of American minds has gone on at least since the 50’s. McCarthy lost, Hollywood communists won. They subverted the education system, grew the welfare state, turned environmental concerns into leftist dogma, broke down the family unit, … subverted just about everything.

None of this happened “organically”. Powerful foreign and domestic enemies have worked very hard, not revealing their real motives. At the root, it seems to operate mostly like organized crime, with their own power structure. Obama more than any I recall, has used the state to punish any that resist.

There’s a Netflix series (Lilyhammer) where a mob guy seeks exile in Denmark, one of the alleged socialist meccas. He finds those in power abusing their office for self interest, and deals with them in his own hard knuckle way. Heavy state structured (smaller, more homogenous) places like Finland are not so free, except for the few, though they seem so wonderfully organized on the outside.

Socialism appeals cyclically to some perhaps not so well educated populations perhaps because as pitched it has the air of ‘fairness’ so important to adolescent intellects who cannot or will not think it through to its damning end.

Socialism always appeals to the power hungry because it requires a top-down centralized structure – the best model for totalitarianism and dictatorial powers.

When these two converge, ouch.

It is no surprise to LI readers that the US needs to better educate, and a good education in simple critical thinking alone would suffice, and to vote out overreaching politicians and/ or parties.

Too bad Abbie Hoffman isn’t around to straighten out those Occupiers. Wouldn’t he be in his 70’s now? Enjoying the payouts of popularity somewhere in Florida?

Every couple of decades the youth – the uneducated – those lacking in personal experience – are drawn into some form of crazy, communal, idealistic liberal nonsense.
Only a self-reliant, resourceful individual can fight the seduction. And that kind of strength is built before they can read.

Believable and manipulative lies. Sound to good to be true; but people believe them.

Font Resize
Contrast Mode
Send this to a friend