Whenever I describe our current president as a Socialist, I am most often greeted with shock. Take for example Obama’s new campaign slogan: “Forward!” This term has always been associated with the European socialist movement.
The official newspaper of the Socialist Party of Germany (SPD) since 1891 has been “Vorwӓrts”, which means Forward in German. The official newspaper of the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) since 1896 is “Avanti”, or Forward in Italian, and the editor of that newspaper a century ago was Benito Mussolini.
Going forward is not always a good thing. Manuel Etounga-Manguelle, a Cameroonian on the World Bank, recalls being told by an African government official, “When we gained power, the country was at the edge of an abyss; since, we have taken a great step forward.”
Instead of imploring our country to move forward, first we should look ahead to see where that step will take us. If it’s down the Socialist road, we should reconsider, considering the fate of those who have travelled on that road ahead of us.
As professor of European History at Colorado Christian University, I regularly teach courses on Communism. Last week my students turned in their book reports on History of the Russian Revolution by Harvard professor Richard Pipes. While grading their papers, I noticed that my students drew many comparisons between Lenin and Obama.
The Bolshevik government:
1) was run by intellectuals who didn’t understand economics, despised capitalism, never knew how to run a business, never had any money, and had never earned money.
2) stirred up the masses promising hope and change; specifically “Peace, Land, and Bread”, but all the people got was violence, confiscation of their land for collective farms, and starvation.
3) took over private enterprises by the state, especially “the commanding heights”, the major industries like banking and heavy industry, and those most influential like media and education.
4) massively expanded the money supply to inflate the currency and destroy personal wealth; in the process they destroyed the economy, caused massive unemployment, shortages, and poverty.
5) redistributed wealth in the name of social justice, actually it was confiscated from the productive (forcibly taking grain from peasants, who then starved), resulting in less productivity the next year.
6) in the name of the working class took away the secret ballot from union members, forced labor on the entire populace, paid them in worthless paper money with nothing in the stores to buy. A common saying in Soviet controlled areas was “we pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us.”
7) Government failures were blamed on the previous administration, the war, and political enemies, but never on their bankrupt political philosophy, economic stupidity, or inept administration.
As I read my students; papers, I was reminded of the old maxim, that “those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Watson worked with Army Intel in Cold War Berlin specializing in Eastern Europe, has graduate degrees in European history from the University of California, and recently taught Free Markets and the values of Western Civilization in a former Soviet republic as a Fulbright scholar. He is now a professor at CCU and a fellow of the Centennial Institute.
I recently got an email from a university professor in the former Soviet Republic of Moldova. He was my colleague, when I was a visiting Fulbright professor to his country five years ago, and he visited CCU in 1998, debating me publically on whether Vladimir Putin was responsible for the decline in personal freedom in Russia and a threat to the United States. So the other day he wrote me to ask, “How is the current US President viewed in Colorado, specifically knowing your state's political view. You know I was always interested in U.S. politics, elections.” Since my friend is a leading expert in his country on western politics and often serves as an advisor to his government, I felt compelled to respond: Dear Vitalie: America was born in a tax revolt. A European king was trying to squeeze as much money as possible from his subjects to fund his global agenda. Those very settlers had already fled Europe to avoid tyrannical government. Their dream, what we know call “The American Dream” was to create a better life for themselves and their family, to build their own wealth, which would not be siphoned off by a government claiming to represent their interests. When they finally began to organize their own government, they made sure there were certain safeguards built in their explicit written constitution to insure their freedom. They wanted:1) Free Markets, not manipulated by government bureaucrats, who would claim to speak for the masses but actually look out for their own corrupt special interests. In a free market everybody gets a voice. Every time one spends a dollar, it is a vote for more of that product to be produced. They spent that dollar because they felt they got the best product at the most reasonable price. If the government had set that price, it would have been a bureaucrat not the people who affected the economy. As in any command economy, bureaucrats look out for their own interests, which results in a corrupt system where those who know the bureaucrat get the product. When I lived in your country, I was amazed at the level of corruption within the government. Free markets empower the people. Governments subjugate the people. For that reason America’s founders also wanted: 2) Limited Government. If governments made decisions for individuals, those decisions would benefit bureaucrats, not the people. Who knows what is best for you and your family, a government official or you? Who cares most for you and your family, a government official or you? Statist political experiments from both right and left have been tried around the world and have failed. They have only brought massive violence, death and poverty.Most Americans I know prefer the ideas of John Locke and Adam Smith, to those of Karl Marx and Mao Tse-tung. Locke and Smith wanted personal political and economic freedom, and produced untold prosperity. Marx and Mao wanted to control the masses, and brought untold suffering to hundreds of millions. Many here in Colorado with whom I have spoken fear that Obama will not bring the hope many expect, but instead bring another failed experiment in social planning and human deprivation. Respectfully, William Watson
('76 Contributor) During a recent “Meet the Press” the host, with feigned indignation, asked a Senator, “You’re not calling the President a Socialist, are you?” Without waiting for a response, he repeated the question for emphasis. This performance highlights the hijacking of political semantics. “Socialist” was replaced by “Liberal” which, in turn, became a pejorative, and now “Progressive” is preferred, and used in titles of dozens of political and welfare advocacy groups.
Constantly morphing ideas and permutations of definitions make it hard to compartmentalize politicians. An accepted basic view is that Socialism advocates state or collective ownership of the means of production and distribution of goods. That essential hallmark of freedom, private ownership of property, is prohibited. Note how the current abuses of eminent domain stretch the traditional definitions of public use.
Marx called Socialism a transition between capitalism and Communism. As any high school sophomore should be able to recite from Marx’s Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei, “To each according to his needs; from each according to his ability.” An advocate of these ideas is indeed a Socialist. To quote National Socialist German Workers’ Party leader, Adolph Hitler, “The needs of society come before the individual’s needs.”
Before labeling Obama and his inventory of actions, we must also note the academic definition of Communism. “All economic activity is controlled by the state, dominated by a single political party.” Further: “A system based on holding all property in common, with actual ownership by the state.” Differences between the categories, reduced to simplest form: Socialism actually takes ownership while Communism totally controls enterprise, which ostensibly could remain private. This administration’s actions overlap both, with the common goal of doing away with Capitalism. Degrees of success are temporarily limited by public resistance. Constitutional protections are rejected as archaic annoyances.
Obama, equipped with glibness and arrogance, was dismissed as a buffoon by serious economists. His experience was largely limited to preaching Alinsky to ACORN volunteers. Without apologies, he surrounded himself with cabinet and advisor appointees, and a cadre of czars with no accountability, most of whom have serious ethical, legal and moral taints. The czars have no Congressional approval. Uniformly visible in that group is the disturbing tendency to demonize the concepts of private property ownership and free markets. The last 18 presidents averaged 46% of their advisers from the private sector. Obama has 8%.
As perennial presidential candidate Norman Thomas, and others, famously said, “The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism. But under the name of ‘liberalism’ they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program, until one day America will be a Socialist nation without knowing how it happened.”
Fabianism (strategy of establishing Socialism by gradual means), used with patience by subversive movements world-wide, is not in vogue with this administration.
To some degree or another, the administration has addressed all the elements of the Socialist or Communist state, with varying degrees and a common thread of shrinking Capitalism with alarming speed. The advice of Obama mouthpiece Rahm Emanuel is, “Never miss an opportunity to take advantage of a crisis.” Tactics of Chicago-style patronage, populism and corruption, unabashedly taken to the national level, have caught many flat-footed.
To correct what he blames his predecessor for, “long years of drift,” Obama is moving to control major industries in Communist fashion. What better start than the showpiece of American industry for a century, automobile manufacture? The President has no desire to own the auto companies, merely to control them. Perhaps he has read of the disastrous Soviet attempts at controlling manufacture with bureaucrats making all decisions.
Obama wants control while allowing experienced management to take care of the details. Bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler certainly were never meant to be loans, but rather a grab of equity. The action instantly took 78.3% of General Motors by the government, followed by a gift of 17.5% to the auto workers union. Bond value was whittled down to maybe 10% of GM equity. Investors without rational recognition of Communist control strategy held out hope for a rebound.
A sidebar of the auto industry takeover was the “Cash for Clunkers” fiasco which, at taxpayer expense, amounted to a marginal cost per car of $24,000. It had an effect of about 32 thousandths-of-one-percent CO2 reduction. It stimulated car purchases at the expense of future business a few months down the road. For example, by the end the year, Colorado new car registrations were 29.8% less than last year.
(Centennial Fellow) Why have diplomats from the underdeveloped nations of the world been clamoring in Copenhagen for something to be done about global warming? Why did the burned-out Marxists of the world protest in the streets of Copenhagen for an even greater redistribution of wealth worldwide?
Zimbabwe’s dictator Robert Mugabe, in his speech at the conference, blamed that nation's poverty not on his own Marxist tyranny and economic mismanagement, but on “the planet-unfriendly model of development pursued by…the so-called highly-industrialised developed world, all to our collective detriment.” He was followed by Venezuela’s Marxist dictator Hugo Chavez, who praised “socialism [as] the way to save the planet, capitalism is the road to hell….let’s fight against capitalism and make it obey us.”
This is not about Global Warming. It is about fleecing productive nations, draining them of the capital which could lift the world economy out of its pit. It’s about redistributing that capital to unproductive nations, where it will disappear down a rat hole. This is a reincarnation of the Marxism-Leninism that killed over a hundred million people in the last century.
In the nineteenth century Europeans poured millions into their colonies throughout the underdeveloped world in hopes of a return on their investment. After the devastation of two world wars, those European powers could no longer afford to prop up these failing regions, so they let them go to fend for themselves.
Franz Fanon, radical Marxist and guru of post-colonial studies, called for the “Wretched of the Earth” to violently rise up against their colonial masters, whom he claimed had exploited them and ruined their lands. Actually Europeans brought modern technology and economic development which began to lift the underdeveloped world out of their primitive desperation. They built railroads, hospitals and schools, and worked to make their land productive and prosperous.
But when independence came they became even more “wretched”, sinking back into poverty and desperation. When the British left Ghana, its GNP was equal to that of South Korea, the largest producer of cocoa in the world and with the finest harbor in Sub-Saharan Africa. A few decades later it was one of the poorest countries in the world, with a GDP 3% of South Korea’s.
In the twentieth century two superpowers, the US and the USSR, poured billions into their client states throughout the underdeveloped world in hopes of either encouraging or discouraging the growth of world-wide communism. As the Cold War ended, foreign aid dried up and unproductive nations of the world sunk once again into poverty and desperation, with only paltry sums from cash-strapped NGOs to support them.
All foreign aid has produced has been economic dependence, perpetuation of poverty, and bitterness toward the very people who help them. Now the underdeveloped world clamors again for funds to prop up their corrupt regimes, funds that hardly filter down below the government officials whose incomes are hundreds of times greater than their general population. They now demand that productive nations pay trillions to perpetuate inefficiency, poverty and dependence, and all in the name of saving the earth from a danger that fewer and fewer people even believe is a danger, and if so, whether we can do anything about it anyway. More likely it is another way for politicians (from both the underdeveloped and developed worlds) to scam the productive of the earth.
William Watson is a history professor at Colorado Christian University. Amont the courses he will be teaching next semester are: Colonialism, the Cold War, and Africa.
Democracy and virtue go hand in hand. Freedom cannot exist without a corresponding level of responsibility. Democacy, likewise, needs a virtuous electorate to work smoothly. I am not advocating a utopian society based on an unattainable level of perfection, but one based on individuals who try to make the best of the gifts God has given them.
I believe that socialism (and other enlightenment utopian "isms" that rely on collective human means for some end of "salvation") stands in contradiction to this. In essence, while masquerading as the ultimate form of charity, socialism presents a twofold danger.
First, contrary to its claims, it is inherently rooted in the sin of envy. The Decalogue of Exodus (10 Commandments) specifically states "Thou Shalt not covet" but I think that is exacty what the class warfare involved with socialism does.
Secondly, socialism inhibits the virtues of courage and fortitude because it creates an entitlement mentality (again, masquerading as charity) that lets the government do everything, taking away an individual's personal responsibility to his neighbor, which also stands in contrast to the principle of subsidiarity, which states that men ought to govern themselves at the most local level whenever possible.