Here’s something you will never, ever hear:
“You know the Nazis were horrible and killed a lot of people, so obviously they just weren’t doing Naziism correctly. Don’t you think there are some things we can learn from National Socialism and Fascism?”
The reader might be thinking, “The reason you’ll never hear it is that it is batshit crazy, and no sane person should say it, or believe it.” That’s undeniably true, but what’s also true (remember Butch’s rule!) is that we constantly hear a refrain much like this about Communism.
So the fact that it’s ridiculous isn’t enough. There is a reason we hear Communism clarified and quantified and Naziism universally hated. It is actually quite…historical. Meaning after defeating the Nazis it was customary to make clear our kinship with the Soviets and thus we were kinder to Communist Socialism then we were to Nationalist Socialism or Mussolini’s Fascism… because they lost.
Mr Jones and Walter Duranty
But it’s actually worse than that. The truth is that Socialist and Communist regimes have benefited by full-throated protection of public opinion in the West as long as there have been Socialist and Communist regimes. There is no worse example than this than Walter Duranty, who is so brilliantly played by Peter Sarsgaard in the recent movie, Mr Jones. The title role was played by James Norton, but Duranty was the one to watch. He was a pulitzer prize winning journalist who continued to go on winning prizes well after ignoring the atrocities of the Soviet regime.
It’s not that he didn’t know what was going on (the movie is about the 1930s famine in Ukraine, and it is… chilling), it was that he, and many others (including Ada Brooks, played by Alanna Mitsopolis) were quite confident that their paradise was just around the corner, and that a few eggs needed to be broken. The Soviets had “captured” something…something… magical, and the world was going to be changed forever by it. George Orwell, who in an interesting subplot is writing Animal Farm throughout the film, is decidedly more cynical, but there is a fascinating moment when he shows his disappointment that the socialism he wanted wasn’t going to materialize through the machinations of central planning from Moscow.
The movie is relentlessly depressing, and it does play on the “journalist tries to tell the world the truth” model fairly heavily, but what the film only partially makes clear is that the Duranty’s stayed in charge of the narrative for another 20 years, until Khrushchev finally revealed the truth to the world in the 1950s. Many a card carrying “liberal” from the 50s tell the story of how SHOCKED they were when they heard of Stalin’s atrocities 40 years after they happened. They had dismissed all the stories — like those of Gareth Jones — for decades because, you know, they were in the HEARST papers! Who could trust them? Fake news, indeed!
It still amazes me… almost daily… to hear explanations and clarifications and excuses as to why Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot just didn’t do it right, and if we did it — “democratically” of course — it would be a warm and fuzzy communism, just the good parts of socialism, not the bad parts. Instead of admitting that eggs should be broken to make omelettes, the assertion is that the bad parts can be skipped altogether.
Facts are Stubborn Things
But let’s wonder for a second why in the modern age, more than 60 years after (finally) everyone in the world finds out how horrible the Stalinist regime really was, and 30 years after discovering that Khrushchev, et al’s regimes weren’t that much better, and about 15 minutes after watching the “socialist paradise” of Venezuela descend into chaos in slow motion — we still seem to want to pretend that smiley-face socialism is super cool.
Right now there are only four dedicated Marxist/Leninist Republics on the planet: China, Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam. There are twelve more that are not Marxist/Leninist, but call themselves “Socialist,” mostly in Asia and Africa, and one in Europe (Portugal – which refers to the goal of a “socialist society” in its Constitution). There are dozens more failed states and forgotten communes or collectives (with the most recent being “CHAZ” in Seattle) which have sought to create the perfect bohemian paradises where “capital” was put in its proper place (funding their hedonistic dreams, most specifically).
Today there is no end to the exhortations as to why we should do just a little socialism. After all, if all the social programs in place are still not enough, we need a little more. Any questions as to whether the programs might be doing damage, or whether the private sector might do a better job (the DSA kindly allows that for consumer goods we like capitalism!). But let’s just try it! Because Capitalism is just draining money from the poor and giving it to the rich.
Here are three truths, and they are inescapable:
- Communism and Socialism are inexorably intertwined. You can call Communism an “extreme” form of Socialism, though it would be more accurate to describe Communism as a tool to achieve FULL Socialism. The same model cannot be applied to Capitalism and Fascism/Naziism. Capitalism has almost nothing to do with Fascism. The two are not related. Big corporations have power, and they wield it, but even though the difference between corporations running the Government and the Government running corporations is subtle enough to be almost irrelevant. The thing is… the latter would be a better descriptor of most Fascist regimes, and it certainly would describe well Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Capitalism works best with Democracy. Everyone is free to buy what they need and want and suppliers are free to supply them at a price. This is not Fascism, not even “light” fascism.
- Naziism was/is a set of ideas. It did not emerge from nothingness and it did not emerge from the mind of a madman all alone without support. It had roots deep in German philosophy and had public, real, intellectual support from many prominent philosophers. It was essentially Nietzschean (though Nietzsche would not have had the same racist element, and really hated socialism) and its ideas, if/when they are implemented will always be bad, whether the powers implemented it are committing systematic genocide and trying to take over the world or not, the ideas and their use are evil and wrong. (I recommend listening to this podcast all the way through. Stephen Hicks on the intellectual birth of Naziism. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/philosophers-and-the-birth-of-national-socialism/id1443583377?i=1000425986773)
- Communism has the same problem: its fundamental goal — the “poison pill” if you will — is to eliminate private property altogether. This is the goal of ALL socialist/communist regimes and it is the goal of the Democratic Socialists of America (every denial of such is couched in terms like “right now” or “in the short term.”). Socialism/Communism has been tried for over 100 years, on five continents, and has killed more than 100 million people.It is incumbent upon a free society to reject bad ideas. And the ideas of Socialism/Communism and Fascism/Naziism are not about trying to make things equal; they are not about defending the “common man” and sticking it to the powers that be. (They also never end up with positive outcomes. The example of Sweden is an example where the country started improving once they started moving away from socialism.) They are about manipulating the masses into giving up their sovereignty. We should reject the term Socialism (and its ideas), just like we do Communism, just like we do Naziism; and then we can talk about the role of government in the economy and culture in a rational and clear-headed way.
It is incumbent upon a free society to reject bad ideas. And the ideas of Socialism/Communism and Fascism/Naziism are not about trying to make things equal; they are not about defending the “common man” and sticking it to the powers that be. (They also never end up with positive outcomes. The example of Sweden is an example where the country started improving once they started moving away from socialism.) They are about manipulating the masses into giving up their sovereignty. We should reject the term Socialism (and its ideas), just like we do Communism, just like we do Naziism; and then we can talk about the role of government in the economy and culture in a rational and clear-headed way.
(This is a “Great Conversation(s)” post.)