While I was researching my last article, I stumbled upon a delightful editorial with the title “US passing through socialism on way to communism”. I was trying to find an example of the bizarre ideological stances that have developed in the United States as a result of the Cold War, and I could not have asked for a better one. It hits on all the best talking points and synthesizes them in a comprehensive way that beautifully demonstrates one of the most prominent right wing perspectives of our time.
I highly recommend you read the article, but for the sake of explaining how I see his arguments I’ll summarize them as best I can. At its core, it’s a retelling of Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. Expanding the government to support welfare programs may seem well intentioned, but it’s actually the path to justifying authoritarian control. Mao and Stalin promised their governments would take care of the people, but in practice they murdered millions intentionally and through incompetence.
There’s a moralistic component to his argument that separates his thought from Hayek’s. Political correctness aims to turn morality on its head and instill conformity in the people. A perverted and amoral culture seeks to replace the traditional one by marginalizing believers in God and the American way of life. Woe unto those who call evil good and good evil, and so on.
America is in a battle between good and evil. Communism teaches people to replace belief in God with atheism and materialism and as a result good and evil have been inverted. Righteousness is cast as wickedness and vice as compassion.
The synthesis of these two arguments results in a black and white struggle between good and evil. On one side you have the socialist communist Stalinist Bidenists who want to destroy the American way of life and enslave the human race. On the other hand you have those who believe that freedom is worth preserving and aspire to a “higher moral plane”. Also, election fraud is a real problem and Trump is the only hope we have to preserve liberty even if we don’t like him. (Note: this was written prior to the assault on the capitol).
Let’s start off by getting the low hanging fruit out of the way. Obviously, the argument that mild social programs will lead to dictatorships like the historical ones in China, Russia, North Korea, and Cuba makes no sense. All of those governments were established through violent revolutionary and civil wars. Most of Europe has far more radical social programs than ours and yet their democracies are as stable or perhaps more stable than ours. Hayek’s argument is almost 80 years old and it doesn’t seem to have predicted anything in the real world.
The moralistic argument is not worth attacking since it is based on faith. It is interesting though, given recent events. After Lil Nas X released a music video where he seduces the devil, some conservative commentators who had railed against political correctness on free speech grounds began to complain that such sacrilegious content should be banned. Our amiable editorialist is much more honest about his views: he problematizes the legalization of “demonic art” as part of a broader effort to degrade the moral foundations of our culture. I imagine many of these commentators feel the same way.
As Lenin once stated, “The goal of socialism is communism.” Socialism inevitably leads to communism. People are continually stripped of their rights until all that remains is a tyrannical, totalitarian regime with total control over the people.
This is the part of the editorial I actually want to talk about. Basically, it only makes sense if you lack even a rudimentary understanding of what Vladimir Lenin believed. I have not been able to find a source for this quote, most of the search results lead to people talking about Hayek and such insightful observations such as “Nazis are National Socialists”. The only really helpful link I found was a suggestion that maybe the quote is a summarization of some of the ideas in The State and Revolution. This is a text that Leninists recommend all the time, so I happen to have read it.
So long as the state exists there is no freedom. When there is freedom, there will be no state.
Yes, that is a direct Lenin quote. It turns out that most Americans have no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to communism or Marxism. Communism as a concept is actually the complete opposite of authoritarianism: it means a society with no government where people associate freely with each other and support each other voluntarily. People contribute what they can, and they receive what they need. Lenin believed that in order to reach this society, a centralized state run by the people needed to be formed to fight against tyranny. Over time, as people got used to operating as equals and working for a common goal, the government would “wither away”.
Of course, we know that in practice the Bolsheviks became the new tyrants, which is why the pigs start looking like humans at the end of Animal Farm. This may not seem like an important distinction: after all, our editorialist is essentially arguing that socialism is a sinister ideology that makes promises it cannot possibly fulfill. To a certain extent, this is true. Expecting a highly militarized state to just wither away over time is like expecting an oil company to solve the climate change crisis or Jeff Bezos to support labor unions.
However, socialism means different things to different people. Christian socialists believe that achieving a higher moral plane means recognizing the socialism inherent in the gospel and following Jesus Christ’s example of advocating for the poor and oppressed. I have written an entire article about Jesus Christ as a revolutionary figure.
Market socialists believe that centrally planned and dictatorially run businesses need to be phased out with workplace democracy and worker owned and managed enterprises. Starting in the 50s, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia began implementing reforms to decentralize economic decision making and increase worker self-management. While worker decision making always remained subordinate to central government policy, the reforms did allow for substantial economic growth and a more democratic environment. On the other side of things, Mondragon is a modern corporation that is based on a federation of worker cooperatives. Launched in 1956, Mondragon corporation is the largest business group in the Basque region of Spain and has implemented egalitarian and democratic working conditions to incredible success.
I could go on and on about the different ideas around socialism, but the overall point is this. Obviously, there are ideas that should not be seriously considered. However, if we genuinely want to find solutions to our problems and implement them democratically, we need to have an open discourse where legitimate ideas can be discussed.
So many prominent figures have suppressed even mild reformist ideas under the guise of defending our freedom from the most extreme forms of oppression. It leaves us in a position where thinking outside of the current system is unconscionable, and change even towards an existing system is impossible. Apparently, the founding fathers of the United States would want their experiment to remain stagnant in the face of hundreds of years of development, and they’d want us to meekly accept corporate tyranny out of a trembling, faint-hearted panic towards new ideas.
The founding fathers left us with a promise that all men are created equal, with the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Without the drive to implement radical new ideas, we would not have the United States. Maybe you think we’ve already reached the fullest potential of that promise and our best bet is to return to the original structure. I think we can do better.
Whether you like it or not, you’re going to see a lot more people talking about socialism and communism in the future. Scare tactics are not going to work. The information is widely available, people are going to find it, and they are going to realize that they have been lied to. I’ve heard center-right thinkers like Stephen Pinker claim that the alt-right is a reaction to lies from the “political correctness crowd”. Dishonesty is always bad for democracy, and I would suggest that the politically correct right has some soul searching to do on this as well.
As it stands, I actually have the tools to argue against Leninism in an honest way, because I know what they believe, just as I hope I have demonstrated I understand what the right believes. This is pretty basic: if we want to talk to each other, we have to make an effort to understand other beliefs in the most flattering light possible. It doesn’t mean we have to agree or even take those beliefs seriously, but it does mean we have to be sensitive and think complexly. People only listen when they feel like they are being heard.