By Don Frost
Not so long ago when Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders was the darling of the Left, a former colleague of mine at the Chicago Tribune, Ron Grossman, gave out with a mighty “Whoop!” of joy. Ron saw Bernie as harbinger of the long-awaited Socialist revolution in America. Socialism, Ron wrote, is no longer a dirty word in America, and he couldn’t be more pleased.
His opinion was prominently displayed on page 2, a space usually occupied by John Kass, the Trib’s token conservative columnist. While a malleable teenager Ron read “The Communist Manifesto” by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and never outgrew it.
There are many variations on the following quote and it usually is attributed to Winston Churchill. I like this version: “If you’re not a Socialist when you’re in your 20s, there’s something wrong with your heart. If you’re still a Socialist when you’re in your 40s, there’s something wrong with your head.”
Ron, well past his 40s, offered a list of evidence supporting the rise of Socialism in America and around the world, going back to the 1880s and Socialist measures taken by German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. There are 23 countries where Socialism is an honored political philosophy and where Socialists sit side-by-side with conservatives in European parliaments, Ron noted.
In the United States today there were Socialist presidential candidates Bernie and Sen. Elizabeth Warren drawing huge crowds. In the ’30s there was President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and in the ’60s Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and the transformative Medicare. He implied, but did not specify, the Socialistic Obamacare. Even conservatives, he noted, are not pledging to kill Socialized medicine; they’re promising to run it better.
Ron wrote that he was eager for a Socialist future because, “Karl Marx’s vision of a society without rich or poor still haunts me. . . . The ‘Manifesto’ promised a revolution, after which there would be no upper and lower classes.”
He’s right, of course. Socialism is the wave of the future. I view such a future with dismay and even horror. Ron views it with glee. Like all Socialists he can’t see beyond the theory: “No rich, no poor; no upper class, no lower class” and because of this, everyone is fulfilled, happy, healthy, and living in blissful harmony.
To borrow a phrase from Al Gore, there are some inconvenient truths Socialists tend to ignore, skip lightly over, or are simply blind to.
First, in any Socialist society there are classes, an upper and a lower. Throughout world history this has been so regardless of the form of government, even monarchies. It always has been, always will be. A government founded on capitalism is an exception. Only capitalism allows for and makes possible a comfortable middle class.
So when Ron’s keenly anticipated revolution comes, there will be two classes: The ruling class (upper) and the rest of us (lower). You certainly wouldn’t expect the ruling class – presidents, their advisers, legislatures, families, and closest friends to take a bus to work every day. Don’t forget about the governors and their staffs and legislatures. And the mayors, too. Then there’s the police, the military, the courts, the garbage collectors. In short, everyone at any level of government will enjoy privileges denied those not in government or not “connected” to someone who is in government.
The world has seen Socialism in its undiluted form and aspiring Socialists should take a lesson from them. Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Mussolini, Castro – and their successors – ran their Socialist regimes unfettered by opposition in any form. All of them enjoyed lifestyles similar to America’s despised One Percenters. (In 2009 Forbes estimated Castro’s net worth to be $900 million.) The lower class in their “classless” societies – well, they struggled.
Second, there’s the pesky human element. “From everyone according to his ability, to everyone according to his need,” Marx wrote when summarizing the essence of Socialism in “Das Kapital.”
To a Socialist this sounds like a grand philosophy, so gloriously altruistic. Or perhaps budding Socialists regard it as mere rhetoric never meant to be taken seriously. But suppose the Socialist revolution succeeded in America and Marx’s axiom was taken literally. Picture yourself living in Socialist America, unconnected to any government official willing to toss you a few privileges. You’re competent at your work, you’re proud, and you’re eager to do a good job because you’re devoted to the Socialist philosophy. So you arrive early every day, your work is high quality, and you stay late when necessary. You are paid $100 a week. You work with Joe Blow, doing the same job. Joe arrives late every day, he takes two-hour lunches, his work is shoddy, he goes home early, and never stays late no matter the urgency. He, too, is paid $100 a week.
If you’re human, that feeling welling up in your gut has a name. It’s called resentment. Eventually you’ll come to the obvious conclusion: “Why should I work my ass off? It doesn’t do me a lick of good.” So you’ll slack off and join all the other Joe Blows. It’s human nature.
The Socialists running the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics held absolute power for more than 70 years and they never figured a way to defeat human nature. So the USSR became a military power, but in every other way Socialist rule made it a Third World country.
Ron also wrote, “The Republican party is on the Right and the Democratic Party is in the center.” That’s just comical and a lie. That’s also a compliment I pay to Ron. He’s not so stupid that he actually believes it. Democrats are the party of the Left. Ron said as much in his column, citing Leftist measures taken by three Democratic presidents: Roosevelt, Johnson, and Obama. If that’s not enough to prove Democrats are the party of the Left, just recall how recent presidential candidates Sanders and Warren duked it out in their campaigns, each trying to out-do the other in promising voters free this, free that, and free, well, damn near everything. If you’ve got a need, they promised a program guaranteed to fulfill it. And just count the number of Socialists in Congress making the Democratic Party dance to their tune.
Norman Thomas, a six-time Socialist candidate for president, is credited with saying in a 1944 speech, “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. . . . The Democratic Party has adopted our [Socialist] platform.”
Snopes, the rumor-busting website, says attributing this to Thomas is “probably” wrong, meaning it can neither prove nor disprove that he said it. But who said it really doesn’t matter. Snopes was able to date the quote to at least 55 years ago to when someone was paying attention.
If soul-numbing Socialism ever comes to full bloom in America as Ron would like, it will come slowly, one “liberal” step at a time. And when it’s over, when all our personal hopes, dreams, and desires must yield to the needs of the state, no one will remember how or why or when it happened, just as Thomas predicted – allegedly.
Don Frost blogs at www.commonsense931.wordpress.com.