Socialism is not only death and repression, it is anarchy, too. Under socialism there is no means of coordinating economic activity. The planners plan for five years or they plan for ten, but the best they can do is guess what goods are needed and where they are needed most. Economic calculation is impossible without prices, and prices are impossible without property. Socialism nationalizes all property in the means of production, and the result is a complete lack of any price signals generated by supply and demand on an open market. With no sense of the relative scarcity of different means of production (factories, heavy equipment, and other capital goods) there cannot be accurate prices for the consumer goods they produce. Without accurate prices for consumer goods, planners cannot discern relative scarcities; the politburo might get word that a province needs more grain, but they have no way of knowing how much more or less that province needs grain relative to another province that also needs grain — not without prices to show how much more one province or the other has bid up the price.
What is the result of this anarchy? Shortages in some goods, surpluses in others, poverty, starvation, subsistence living, black markets, violence, repression, and death.
Therefore, with the failure of socialist regimes, the problem is not the low price of oil, it is not economic sanction or “imperial capitalist” oppression. The problem with socialism is that it is a backward and destructive economic system, the consequence of which has been the deaths of over one hundred million people. This is why the term carries a negative connotation. This is why we should distinguish the hard-leftism of a contemporary political movement from the moniker behind which it rallies. Words mean something, no matter how perverted their definitions have become. Before you claim an idea as the mantle of your movement, face the reality of what that idea has wrought.
And after that reality is faced, a penance can be paid. We live in a post-socialist era, but we have yet to move on to an “after socialism.” No apologies have been made, no great monuments to the dead have been erected or solemn days of remembrance memorialized. We ought to pledge ourselves never to forget, had we not already all but forgotten. The great Alan Charles Kors, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Pennsylvania and National Humanities Medal recipient, put it best, and deserves to be quoted at length for his masterful take that should forever to lay the subject to rest:
The goal of socialism was to reap the cultural, scientific, creative, and communal rewards of abolishing private property and free markets, and to end human tyranny. Using the command of the state, Communism sought to create this socialist society. What in fact occurred was the achievement of power by a group of inhumane despots: Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, Kim Il Sung, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, Castro, Mengistu, Ceausescu, Hoxha, and so on, and so on . . .
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.’
To be moral beings, we must acknowledge these awful things appropriately and bear witness to the responsibilities of these most murderous times. Until socialism — like Nazism or fascism confronted by the death camps and the slaughter of innocents — is confronted with its lived reality, the greatest atrocities of all recorded human life, we will not live ‘after socialism.’
It will not happen. The pathology of Western intellectuals has committed them to an adversarial relationship with the culture — free markets and individual rights — that has produced the greatest alleviation of suffering; the greatest liberation from want, ignorance, and superstition; and the greatest increase of bounty and opportunity in the history of all human life.
This pathology allows Western intellectuals to step around the Everest of bodies of the victims of Communism without a tear, a scruple, a regret, an act of contrition, or a reevaluation of self, soul, and mind . . .
The bodies demand an accounting, an apology, and repentance. Without such things, there is no ‘after socialism.’
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