Topic: Liberal Fascism
Socialism is all the rage just now, thanks to the quixotic presidential candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont and a self-designated socialist. Boosted mostly by the Democratic Party base’s distaste for the shifty and uncharismatic Hillary Clinton, Sanders is creeping up in the polls. And the Left is thrilled. Socialism! Its American moment has come!
But don’t hoist the red flag or throw up those street barricades just yet, comrades. There are some caveats that need to be considered: Bernie Sanders is not really a socialist, nor can what he’s preaching be called socialism. Sanders is a leftie progressive, nothing more, and his agenda for America is standard-issue left-wing progressivism. Sure, he and his claque have deployed lots and lots of fiery anti-capitalist rhetoric. They lambaste the rich, the big banks, Wall Street. But also they need the rich, the big banks, Wall Street. Where else are they going to get the money to pay for all that free stuff they promise to shower on the struggling middle class?
Come to think of it, Sanders’ professed devotion to the welfare of the middle class seems decidedly un-socialist. Since when have socialists championed the class-ridden society? The very term—“middle class”—legitimizes the existence of an upper class and a lower class. In whatever circle of Hell they inhabit Marx, Engels, Lenin and the rest of them must be rolling their eyes. Recall how J.V. Stalin dealt with Russia’s rural middle class, the kulaks: He exterminated them. But Sanders, that social fascist, proposes to build up the American middle class!
Ah, but you see, Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, etc. were not socialists. I have this on the authority of several progressives who have taken great offense at my light-hearted labeling of Bernie Sanders as “Comrade Sanders.” How dare I engage in such McCarthy-like rhetoric? Anyhow, socialism has nothing whatever to do with communism. It’s completely different! It’s not the Soviet Union—it’s Sweden!
Nothing new here: For a long time now the Left has been struggling to free itself of the tie to totalitarian communism. It’s true, of course, that the Left as a whole includes various non-communist factions, some of which were and are actively hostile to Soviet-style communism. But it’s also true that the Left as a whole sprang from the same Marxist root. In the 1930s, before its true character became plainly evident, Western leftists and progressives hailed Soviet communism as the herald of the radiant future. And when evidence of Stalin’s ghastly crimes began to trickle out, many on the Left either ignored the facts or worked actively to cover them up. “No enemies on the Left,” they told one another by way of justification.
To this moral confusion has been added a considerable amount of intellectual confusion. As the Left developed and diversified many of its factions embraced conventional politics, e.g. the German Social Democratic Party and the British Labour Party. Rhetorically they continued to honor socialist ideals and the revolutionary tradition. Practically, however, they abandoned the class struggle, revolution, etc., devoting their energy instead to reform measures: unemployment insurance, old-age pensions, workplace safety rules and so forth. To a considerable extent they were successful in this campaign, which eventually created the modern welfare state. But orthodox socialists still wedded to the ideology of class and revolution excoriated these trends. In their eyes the welfare state merely buys off the proletariat and perpetuates capitalism. And they do have a point.
If words mean anything at all, Bernie Sanders is no socialist. Is he proposing to expropriate the capitalists? No. Is he proposing to abolish private property? No. Is he proposing to collectivize the means of production? No. Is he proposing to replace the market economics with a centralized, centrally planned economy? No. What Comrade Sanders is proposing is that Peter should be robbed for Paul’s benefit: a redistribution of wealth via an expansion of the welfare state. Maybe you think that’s a good idea and you’re certainly entitled to your opinion—but please don’t insult my intelligence by insisting to me that Sanders is advocating “socialism.”
So what’s going on here? Well, though in substance socialism is banal and obnoxious, its aura does retain a certain appeal. “Socialism” means compassion and equality and inclusion and free stuff for everybody. Better still, being a socialist means that you’re morally and intellectually superior to non-socialists. Studies prove this! A recent national poll found that over 40% of Millennials favor socialism over capitalism—no doubt because they imagine that socialism means student loan forgiveness and the high-paying jobs to which they believe they’re entitled by virtue of their degrees in peace studies, eco-feminism and puppeteering. That Millennials have the slightest conception of socialism’s origins and history is a dubious proposition indeed.
During the Vietnam War an American officer notoriously declared that it was necessary to destroy some village or other in order to save it. A similar thing has happened with socialism. In order to preserve it as a brand the Left has deprived the word “socialism” of its former, rigorous definition. Nowadays it’s a warm and fuzzy little puffball of a word, denoting an overflowing cornucopia of benefits and entitlements, distributed with a generous hand by a smiling, paternal government bureaucrat. That’s the reality behind Comrade Sanders and his angry rhetoric. And the only remaining question is this: Are you willing to sell your soul in exchange for a government handout? If you are, then Bernie’s definitely your guy.