The God that Failed...Over and Over Again
Why do so many of our university professors argue that socialism is a better way to peace and prosperity than capitalism? Because it is, to them, an article of faith. To admit that socialism has failed -- repeatedly, consistently and abysmally -- for over a century would be, for them, to deny their god.
Theirs are the eyes of faith that cannot see.
Venezuela, once one of the wealthiest countries in Latin American, is now on the brink of economic collapse and political anarchy after two decades of Chavez/Maduro socialism.
Cuba has languished under the Communist Party of Fidel and Raul Castro, who promised free and open elections when they came to power. Sixty years later, Cubans are still waiting.
The Soviets tried for 74 years to build a socialist workers’ paradise, killing millions in the process. Their empire wound up on the ash heap of history, so broke that President Mikhail Gorbachev had to borrow a pen to sign the document dissolving the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Some nations experimented with socialism, then came to their senses and reversed course.
India followed the socialist line for the first 40 years of its independence. It was mired in inefficient state-owned enterprises and excessive government regulation. But the country then adopted market-oriented reforms, particularly in technology, that have produced the largest middle class in the free world.
Following World War II, Great Britain was nationalized from top to bottom by the British Labour Party. The resultant economic decline was so serious that Britain was routinely called “the sick man of Europe.” However, with the election of Margaret Thatcher as prime minister, Great Britain denationalized its basic industries and unleashed free enterprise which put Britain back into the first rank of economic powers. According to the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, the United Kingdom has “one of the world’s most efficient business and investment environments” -- a finding that would stun Karl Marx, who wrote The Communist Manifesto while living in England.
Why have so many Western intellectuals -- from George Bernard Shaw to Jean-Paul Sartre to Susan Sontag -- waxed so enthusiastic about Communism, even at its most repressive? Their sympathetic observations often border on the pathological.
An English Quaker wrote that “the Communist view of human nature seems to me far more inspired by Faith, Hope, and Charity than our own.” Dismissing the existence of the Gulag, a criminologist asserted that in the Soviet Union, “the whole idea of punishment has been frankly dropped and the aim of reformation alone pursued.”
About the infamous trumped-up Moscow trials of the 1930s, which sent an estimated 1 million Communist Party officials to their deaths, the New York Times’ Walter Duranty wrote, “It is unthinkable that Stalin… and the Court Martial could have sentenced their friends to death unless the proofs of guilt were overwhelming.” Duranty was an early practitioner of fake news, writing there was no forced famine in Ukraine, although he had personally witnessed skeleton-like children and hollow-eyed women while traveling through the region.
Of China, where at least 50 million Chinese died in socialist experiments like the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, John K. Fairbank, America’s leading sinologist, wrote, “The Maoist revolution is on the whole the best thing that has happened to the Chinese people in centuries.” The reason for such blatant pandering? The professor did not want to risk being denied entry to the Middle Kingdom.
Author Paul Hollander has explained that such intellectuals avoid the truth because they are caught in “an intricate web of utopianism, secularization, and alienation, all of which breeds an abiding contempt for the West.” They find the God they need in Marxism just as the Marxist professors do in our universities.
Yet some intellectuals who initially succumbed to the siren song of socialism managed to free themselves. Among the great writers of the early 20th century who joined and then rejected the communist cause were: the black American novelist Richard Wright, the Italian realist writer Ignazio Silone, the French Nobel Prize winner Andre Gide, the Hungarian novelist Arthur Koestler, the British poet Stephen Spender, and the American foreign correspondent Louis Fischer. They chose Communism because they had lost faith in democracy. It was a decision, wrote the British author and editor, Richard Crossman, rooted in “despair, a despair of Western values.”
Desiring an end to poverty and war, they turned to Communism only to discover that its promises were all lies. The words “brotherhood” and “freedom” were only slogans. Truth was whatever the Communist Party said it was. The very things for which these intellectuals had joined the Party were most endangered by the Party.
At first they practiced unswerving obedience to the socialist line, but their commitment was shattered by the 1939 Hitler-Stalin pact. Socialists condemned Adolf Hitler throughout the 1930s until the summer of 1939 when Joseph Stalin and Hitler signed a non-aggression pact. Immediately, all true socialists reversed course and hailed the agreement as a major step toward peace. It was, in fact, a grossly cynical deal that allowed the Nazis and the Soviets to invade and divide up Poland, precipitating World War II.
Scales fell from the eyes of the writers starting with the novelist Arthur Koestler, who wrote, “At no time and in no country have more revolutionaries been killed and reduced to slavery than in Soviet Russia.” After visiting the Soviet Union, Andre Gide said, “I doubt whether in any country in the world… have the mind and the spirit ever been less free, more bent, more terrorized over and indeed vassalized than in the Soviet Union.”
Writing in the mid-1930s, Louis Fischer said, “Nineteen years after the fiery birth of the Bolshevik regime, ubiquitous fear, amply justified by terror, had killed revolt, silenced protest, and destroyed civil courage.” He might have been writing about Venezuela or Cuba or China. It’s always the same with socialism and its ready tanks and troops.
Fischer reflects the anger and revulsion of his once-communist colleagues writing, “I see that I turned to Soviet Russia because I thought it had the solution to the problem of power… I now realize that Bolshevism is not the way out because it is itself the world’s biggest agglomeration of power over man.” The Nobel Laureate F. A. Hayek put it succinctly, “Planning leads to dictatorship.”
And the planners are always planning, trusting we will not notice what they are doing. It is therefore our solemn duty to call out socialism for what it is -- a pseudo-religion posing as a pseudo-science enforced by political tyranny -- a god that has failed each and every time it has been tried.
Lee Edwards is The Heritage Foundation’s distinguished fellow in conservative thought and chairman of The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.