Before Lenin tried to make a distinction between “socialism” and “communism,” the terms were often used interchangeably. This was not by accident. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engles — who together developed the ideology now known as Marxism — certainly didn’t see much separating the two. The act of supplanting “communism” with “socialism” is actually more of a successful modern branding exercise than an acknowledgement of any substantive difference between the theories.
After all, championing “communism” to anyone even remotely familiar with Stalin’s purges in the Soviet Union, Mao’s collectivization schemes which starved millions in China, or Pol Pot’s massacres in Cambodia is a pretty tough sell. So, leftists in predominately free countries must find a different way to pitch their favorite failed concept, pivoting socialism away from the label of “communism” by describing their political and economic philosophy in terms of “objectives” rather than policies.
This approach was on full display during a debate on the floor of the Virginia House of Delegates when socialist legislator — and potential gubernatorial candidate — Lee Carter described socialism as a desire for people to have food, medicine, and affordable housing. Interestingly, nowhere in his speech did he actually define what socialism is, or how he planned to achieve these “noble” goals. The “how” was replaced entirely by the “what,” with Carter simply listing a series of objectives as if the ends were the means.
Before falling for this trick, shouldn’t we at least explore the “means” socialists work to keep hidden? For example, if the argument is that the abolition of private property results in their desired end state, what are the actual outcomes in societies which have followed this same path? How are people treated? Are the poor better off? Is the goal of greater “freedom and tolerance” actually achieved?
On the subject of tolerance, one of the most glaring differences between free societies and those under the control of socialist regimes is how citizens are treated when they dissent. In the United States, if you wish to live as a socialist, you are free to do so. You can get together with like-minded people, set up a commune and share all of your resources. You can peacefully live out your political and economic theories with very little interference from the government. In fact, not only will legislators like me leave you alone, but we will also defend your right to live the way you prefer, and even try to lower government restrictions on your freedoms. The only stipulation is that others are not forced against their will to live on such communes or contribute to them. In a free society which values individual liberty and personal choice, the goal is not to impose a particular lifestyle, but to preserve liberty for all, provided that the liberty of others is not infringed in the process.
What is the result of this form of dissent in a socialist country? Can you freely decide to get together with like-minded people and choose to implement free market solutions to problems? History would argue otherwise. People living in the socialist utopias of the Soviet Union, China, Venezuela, Cuba, and others, found out very quickly — and painfully — that desiring liberty in the form of freedom of association, exchange, or religion would not only result in punishment, but imprisonment, torture, or even death. Despite what the “tolerant” left claim, our free societies allow for the peaceful coexistence of different world views and preferences. It is the socialist societies which demand compliance.
The Berlin Wall was one of the most infamous manifestations of this reality. Free societies aren’t erecting barriers to keep their people inside their borders. Free societies aren’t restricting ownership of capital, controlling the arts or entertainment, or restricting the press. Socialist societies, on the other hand, are. This is because the key and crucial feature of socialism is not “equality,” but authoritarianism. Throughout history, socialist regimes — whether they arise out of armed conflict or through “democratic” elections — ultimately have to resort to violence, oppression, and the elimination of individual liberty. This is not a “bug” in socialist theory. It’s a feature.
Beyond the obvious fact that socialism actively relies upon force and coercion to implement its central plans, all that is needed to prove the inefficacy and immorality of socialism is to analyze the desperate actions of those trapped under such regimes. While socialists in Congress decry the United States and its free market system as evil, racist, and oppressive, how many American workers have hastily constructed makeshift rafts and risked their lives to sail to Cuba? How many people who lived in former West Germany risked everything to make it into East Germany? How many American immigrants and refugees are waiting at Venezuela’s border to enjoy their latest attempt to implement socialist policies “for the good of the people?”
Socialism, like its immoral counterpart communism, fails by design. It impoverishes and oppresses people both because its reliance on central planning is economically ineffective, and because it cannot exist without the application of violent authoritarianism. When such violence exists, freedom is impossible.
Nick Freitas is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and a Green Beret combat veteran.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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