Two hundred years ago, in May of 1818, Karl Marx, the father of 20th century collectivism and the towering inspiration for socialist central planning, was born in Trier, Germany.
Karl Marx continues to be lionized and admired by intellectuals and artists the wide world over, and one recent example, in addition to all the saccharin articles that you saw on May 5th — e.g. “Karl Marx: Prosperity Coach” — can be found in Raoul Peck’s new film, in which the young Karl Marx is portrayed as a man with an unquenchable thirst for justice.
It used to be that the vehement disavowing of Nazism — “NAZI,” as you know, is a kind of acronym for “National Socialist German Workers’ Party” — was the first thing that came up in conversations with socialists.
Now among socialist thinkers of every stripe, when you cite the artificial famine in Ukraine, the Soviet Gulags, the forced deportation of Lithuanians, the persecution of Christians, China’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, the killing fields of Cambodia, North Korea’s horrific prison camps and famines, the systematic impoverishment of Cuba, and now Venezuela’s collapse into starvation and mass-murder — or when you cite the child-murderer Che Guevara’s speech, in which he said (and I quote): “If the missiles had remained, we would have fired them against the very heart of the U.S., including New York, because the victory of socialism is well worth millions of atomic victims” (Che Guevara, November 1962); and Raul Castro, the current president of Cuba: “My dream is to drop three atomic bombs on New York City” ( November 1960) — nowadays, I was saying, when you cite some of this history, the first thing that comes up is no longer disavowing Nazism, as such, but rather the hysterical insistence that it’s completely unfair and even slanderous to pin this entire atrocity exhibition on “socialism.”
Because none of these examples are really socialism, of course.
“The only real socialism is the warm, fuzzy welfare-statism of a handful of innucuous Western European countries,” as Robert Tracinski put it, not mentioning, however, that all these warm, fuzzy countries have had to quietly implement free-market principles to save them from economic collapse.
Absolutely accurate: it is the No True Scotsman fallacy — writ large.
As I’ve said many times before, the majority of socialists, certainly in America but not only in America, all across the political spectrum, don’t really know they’re socialists because they don’t really know what it is — i.e. government control over the means of production and the abolition of private property, egalitarianism the goal (this, despite the fact that humans possess varying degrees of motivation and ambition, which are the two biggest factors in determining “inequality”).
The basic tenets of socialism, in whatever happens to be the latest trend, is, into the present day, the dominant philosophy that young people grow up with and among, and so there’s rarely any thorough examination of the premises that underpin that philosophy.
This is why the majority of young people polled have a positive view of socialism today.
This is also, I’ve come to understand, the primary reason that the foundational idea of that philosophy is so insidious:
It’s taken-for-granted in some measure by virtually everyone, regardless of explicit political affiliation, and it’s treated as holy writ by poet, priest, and politician alike: the foundational idea is that it’s virtuous to force people to live for one another.
It’s why the Dalai Lama (whom I like, in certain ways) “identifies” as a Marxist.
So that when the Nazi socialist ideology was defeated, when the Berlin Wall crumbled, when Soviet Russia fell apart, when the leading socialist scholars admitted in the 1990’s the Marx was wrong and Ludwig von Mises was correct all along — the socialist ideology simply changed its masthead. But it kept its business the exact same, inculcating into the minds of the next generation of children the identical ideology that’s been responsible for a billion deaths and wrongful imprisonments, and still counting.
You can read for free right here The Black Book of Communism, published by the Fellows of Harvard (no rightwing organization, that is for sure), and I urge you to, because it is a fucking eye-opener.
But more than that, I urge you to take a look around the Museum of Communism.
Quoting the economist Ryan McMaken:
Everywhere we look and find a relatively LESS socialistic economy, the less poverty and more prosperity we find. Historically, this is obvious. The countries that embraced free trade, industrialization, and the trappings of market economies early on are the wealthiest economies today. We also find this to be the case in post-war Europe where the relatively pro-market economies such as those in Germany and the UK are wealthier and have higher standards of living than the more socialistic economies of southern Europe — such as Greece and Spain. This is even true of the Scandinavian countries like Sweden, which, as Per Bylund has noted, historically built its wealth with a relative laissez-faire system. (Real Socialism has Indeed Been Tried — and It’s Been a Disaster)
On the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth, here’s what I want you most to know:
Everything is complicated until it’s reduced — and reducing is often the most complicated part. But once it’s reduced, it becomes simple:
There are only two fundamental forms of government: freedom and non-freedom.
Freedom is the absence coercion. It simply means that you are left alone.
Most governments are a mix — but one must always remember the iron-clad law: bad principles drive out good.
The fight is a fight for principles.
All — and I mean all — non-free systems and societies are fundamentally the same.
Do you know what their common denominator is?
It is this:
The individual is subordinated to the collective.
It’s this deadly conviction that’s most responsible for all the bloodshed and injustice in human history: the notion that the group, the community, the gang, the tribe, the cult, the clique — whatever you want to call it — the collective has primacy over the individual.
The concretes differ but the abstraction (i.e. the principle) is always the same.
And no matter how many mutations and permutations it undergoes, no matter what guise it masquerades under from one year to the next, one generation to the next, no matter what it chooses to represent it in any given era, it always plays out the same:
A select group of elite people determining for everyone else how to live.
The fatal flaw built into any and all forms of collectivism is that any and every collective consists only of the individuals who compose it.
This is why the individual — regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, color, class, or creed — is the only legitimate standard of measurement: because the individual is the smallest minority there is.
The question to always ask is this:
Who or what says that my life or the life of any individual may rightfully be subordinated to your group?
By what legitimate authority, by what natural edict or law?
In the history of the entire world, no good answer has ever been given to this question — because no good answer for it exists:
Because the notion that the individual may legitimately be subordinated to any collective, under ANY banner, is a horribly, tragically, murderously false idea.