19/11/2018
John Black
Opinion
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Socialism – It's Back And It's Cool

I was a teenage communist.

For about a week.

One of my routine excavations of the local library had uncovered a copy of the Communist Manifesto by Messrs Engels and Marx. Its declarative confidence impressed my uncertain adolescent mind and before you could say Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin’s real name) I went red.

The theory of Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.

I quoted at my brother when he asked for his Metallica CD back.

Do you charge us with wanting to stop the exploitation of children by their parents? To this crime we plead guilty.

I quoted at my mother when she asked for a hand with the dishes.

This insufferableness came to an end when my wise and gentle father gave me another book.

George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Thus, providing a first example of something I’ve always found to be true:

The best cure for bad ideas is exposure to better ones.

If only my university lecturers had thought the same. Not as wise as my father (who had never been to university) they persisted with their adolescent infatuation with Marx. My pre-law course Law and Society 101 was riddled with denunciations of Locke and Hobbes, those foundation thinkers of Capitalism, while full of praise for Marx and Gramsci. But I should really thank those hippy has-beens, those lecture room revolutionaries in their hemp sandals and frayed fair trade cardigans. Three years of being constantly bludgeoned over the head by their lefty critical theory turned me into the unrepentant conservative I am today.

Please excuse this lapse into autobiography, but its relevant to a disturbing recent development.

Socialism is back. And It’s "cool".

Socialism is Communism with better manners. It existed before Communism and shares with it an antipathy to private property (the moronicism “property is theft” was coined by socialist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon when Marx was still in short pants) and a belief in collectivist power wielded by the state.

Bizarrely it is no longer in the dustbin of history where it belongs. Last week, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever to be elected to the U.S. congress. She is also a self-described socialist. In the 2016 presidential primaries, Bernie Sanders, a "democratic socialist", won more votes among those under age 30 than Clinton or Trump combined. Over in the U.K., Jeremy Corbyn, another "democratic socialist" got Labour 40% of the vote largely due to a "youthquake" of younger voters. In this country, a new umbrella socialist group Organise Aotearoa was launched last month, with respectful coverage in the media, not usually reserved for such crackpottery.

So, what's going on here?

Ignorance mainly.

The Nazis killed eleven million. Six million Jews and five million or so other "non-combatants". Communism, according to The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression, killed 95 million, including 20 million in the Soviet Union. If we add in the casualties of socialist "experiments" in places such as Venezuela, it would be many more.

And yet Himmler and Hess are widely known, while the equally evil Molotov and Beria are not.

So what accounts for this selective historical amnesia?

The bias of the academy, that decides what is and is not taught in schools.

The obscenity of Nazism gets covered in full including the horror of the gas chambers, while Stalin’s murder of the kulaks or his use of famine as a political tool, do not.

Because many academics still believe that Communism despite its terrible means, had the right ends.

They cannot see, or perhaps admit, that in disregarding the rights of the sovereign individual for the collective, Communism’s means fit its ends perfectly.

I’m not suggesting that Sanders or Corbyn want to restart the gulags (Organise Aotearoa, I’m not too sure about), but why isn’t their line of collectivist thinking tainted by the crimes of Communism?

Younger people may face an insane property market and competition for well-paid jobs but measured in what their money can buy their standard of living (thanks to Capitalism) is higher than that of any generation that has gone before them.

In flirting with Socialism to cure economic ills these babies risk throwing themselves out with their own bathwater. And our educational system and media, in failing to inform them of one of humanity’s biggest mistakes, are helping them do it.