Socialism in America: A Brief History
Unionism Leads to Socialism Leads to Communism
Today, I take up the subject of Socialism in America. In the West, trade unions took the advice offered to them by Lenin to “resort to every kind of trickery, cunning, illegal expedient, concealment, suppression of the truth.”
Socialism had a large following among labor unions, and also among African Americans seeking a quick path to economic equality.
Trade unions allowed their members to exclude others in order to secure high wages for themselves, but those who worked in trades where demand fell off had no where to go; changes in technology caused large unemployment.
Socialism did not take hold in the United States as it did in other parts of the world. American values, that arose from the vast opportunities in that country, drew nearly all the brains into business, and in turn, impressed the businessman’s attitudes upon the soul of the nation. The average workman felt himself to be a businessman. He applied himself to exploiting his own individual opportunities.
Socialism in America
Massive immigration around the turn of the 20th Century brought Socialism a measured degree of support in America. Many of the immigrants flocking to American soil were uneducated, unskilled, and some had already been influenced by Socialist ideas in their European homelands.
Rabble-rousers found support by spouting off about how unfair life was to those immigrants who did not adapt well to America, those who lacked moral bonds, and also amongst those who were immigrant criminals. These newcomers were found to be easy prey, and they were exploited.
Then there were Jewish immigrants who brought Marxism to America, such as Daniel De Leon. He helped found the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905, after leading the Socialist Labor Party of America for fifteen years. De Leon preached class warfare, revolution, and the destruction of the Capitalist state of America.
But the man in the street decided that Socialism was downright un-American. And America became a colossal economic success by sticking with Capitalism.
Socialists in the Free West Long for the Soviet Union
Most Socialists in the West, or Fellow Travelers as they were called, knew about the atrocities of Socialist regimes but rationalized them as a necessary evil to achieve equality. Some privately gloried in the slaughter. Communists in the West, having failed to make a dent in the power structure of their own countries, and seething with resentment, took a certain satisfaction at the sufferings of Stalin’s victims.
Many American Liberals and intellectuals promoted the ideas of Socialism, and denied that Uncle Joe Stalin was a dictator. They ignored the police state, the mass starvation, the executions, the gulags, and the censorship; they either denied its existence, or they attempted to convince others that it was no worse than in the United States.
American journalist Lincoln Steffens visited Moscow in 1919 and declared, “I have seen the future and it works. Russia will save the world.”
The English philosopher, Bertrand Russell, visited Moscow in 1920 and proclaimed, “Capitalism is doomed. Communism is necessary to the world. Bolshevism deserves the gratitude and admiration of all the progressive part of mankind.”
In 1936, French novelist Andre Gide claimed the USSR to be Utopia, despite the fact that during his visit to Russia he observed that “everyone dressed alike standing in long lines in front of stores with the hope of buying repulsive goods.” Gide also noticed repulsive poverty among Russians except his hosts—who were swaddled in luxury. This did not dampen his enthusiasm.
In 1942, the writer Beatrice Webb declared, “The USSR is the most inclusive and equalized democracy in the world.”
The Cold War
The Soviets directed Communist North Korea to invade free South Korea in 1950, prompting the Cold War between America and the USSR. Many American liberals inexplicably blamed their own country for this, ignoring the words of the Soviet leaders themselves that they fully intended to start civil wars and revolutions all over the world in order to impose global Communism: “The Communist International has declared war on the entire bourgeois world.”
In 1992, Boris Yeltsin, the new president of Russia, disillusioned some American Socialists when he said: “The world can sigh in relief. The idol of Communism, which everywhere spread social strife, animosity, and unparalleled brutality; which instilled fear in humanity, has collapsed.”
A distinction needs to be drawn between the Classical Liberalism of the 18th and 19th centuries, represented in America today by what are called Conservatives, and the Social Liberalism of the 20th and 21st centuries—they are opposites.
Social Liberals have usurped the word 'liberal' as camouflage for leftist movements that advocate massive governmental control. People who call themselves liberals in America today are believers in the all-powerful state.
A Classical Liberal views society as a garden, which once planted, only requires the maintenance of favorable conditions to flourish. Governments granted enormous power often use that power for evil.
As Lord Acton said, “The federal system limits and restrains the sovereign power by dividing it and by assigning to Government only certain defined rights.”
The most important change which extensive government control produces is psychological change, as the character of a people is altered in regard to its attitude toward authority, by Socialist policies and institutions that undermine even a strong tradition of liberty.
Despite the incredible wealth that freedom has brought about, the individualist tradition is being abandoned in America. America used to stand for individualism, capitalism, democracy, and liberalism (in the classical sense). Most support for Socialism among the lower classes is easily traced to envy of the unsuccessful. It is hard to admit one has made a muddle of one’s life. It easier to blame 'the man.'
Tocqueville predicted a new kind of servitude:
“After having successively taken each member of the community into its powerful grasp, and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface society with a network of small, complicated rules, minute and uniform. The will of man is not shattered but softened, bent and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. It does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid animals, of which the government is the shepherd.”
The Progressive Movement
The Progressives in America are not Liberals; they are Socialists. They demand an equal distribution of wealth.
The French writers who founded modern Socialism had no doubt that their ideas could only be put into practice by a strong dictatorial government. They regarded Freedom of Thought as the root of all evil. Saint-Simon said, “Those who did not obey his proposed planning boards would be treated as cattle.”
Tocqueville wrote, “Democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom, Socialism restricts it. Democracy attaches all possible value to each man. Socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number.”
The New Deal was the first big success for Socialism in America. Since the New Deal in the United States, the transfer of wealth from those who earned it to those who did not through redistributive, progressive taxation, has been the greatest such transfer of wealth in the history of the world— more than all the confiscations of the Communists nations combined.
The progressive income tax, social security, and the welfare state are ideas birthed by Socialism. The bureaucracies in America have mushroomed since the Great Society legislation in the 1960s, and they are semi-independent “authorities” and “boards” that have blocked business efficiency, been the sources of much waste, and been a focal point for fraud.
Most generations flatter themselves that they are less materialistic than their parents and grandparents. The young buy into slogans such as: “full employment,” and “freedom from want.” These words represent fool’s gold.
There was full employment in Russia after three million kulaks were exterminated. There was full employment in Germany as six million Jews were being exterminated.
There is a connection between Socialism and the terror that haunts the modern world. To a Socialist, if the rights of the individual get in the way, the rights of the individual must go—or the individual himself. The end result of Socialism is always civil war or a dictatorship.
Socialists aim to conquer unemployment at any price. This leads to extremely irresponsible, shortsighted measures. This is where a single-minded idealist can do the most harm.
Attempts to cure poverty by redistribution, instead of allowing Capitalism a free range to increase the Gross Domestic Product for all people, has the result of demonizing the achievers and producers of society, and making the poor into determined enemies of the existing political order. The only way to build a better world is to increase the general level of wealth.
It is unfortunate that there will always be many people who, if they are paid according to what their services are worth to society, would have a lower material existence relative to others. Those with Socialist sympathies pride themselves on their more sensitive social conscience. By focusing their indignation on the inequities of the existing social order, they avert their gaze from detrimental individual conduct.
The Welfare State
The Welfare State is Socialism in a mild form. Piecemeal change has been the strategy of Socialists in America.
The unsuspecting public cannot sense that the cause of the destruction of the economy based on the Free Market, and the smothering of the creative powers of a free civilization, is Socialist creep. Economic controls slowly paralyze the driving forces of a free society. Total government spending in the United States has grown from 25% of the national income in 1950 to 50% today.
The United States now offers such high levels of socialist programs that its rates of unemployment wages, and other benefits to the unemployed, dwarf the real wages of working people in its hemisphere, except in Canada, making it better to not work in America than to work elsewhere, resulting in massive illegal immigration.
Furthermore, America has an unusual law that makes any baby born on its soil an automatic American citizen, further attracting pregnant mothers, or those planning pregnancy.
Even among native-born Americans it is estimated that half of the unemployed simply do not want to work because the benefits for not working make working not worth the effort.
Morals in individual conduct can only exist where the individual is free to decide for himself. Freedom to order our own conduct includes the responsibility for the arrangement of our own lives. Responsibility to one’s own conscience is the awareness of duties not exacted by compulsion. The very essence of morality is to bear the consequences of one’s own decisions.
Socialism destroys the morality of individual conduct—this is inevitable and undeniable. A ideology whose main promise is relief from personal responsibility cannot help but be anti-moral in its effect, however lofty its ideals. The personal obligation to remedy inequities as individuals is weakened. The state will set everything right. Collective action allows indulgence in selfishness. Virtues are less esteemed and less practiced. Independence, self-reliance, risk taking, standing by personal convictions, cooperating with one’s neighbors—these are the virtues on which a free society exists.
Under Socialism, the individual must do what the collective has decided is good. Then follows a relaxation in standards of personal conduct. Moral values, liberty, independence, truth, honesty, democracy, and individual autonomy—all are demoted under Socialism. The liberty of individuals, freedom of speech, and freedom of association—these are eliminated in favor of group rights. The moral sense is blunted instead of sharpened.
The eggs broken to make this omelette are of the kinds that were once regarded as the foundations of civilization—at least to Americans, the English, the Dutch, and the Swiss. We are talking about independence, self-reliance, individual initiative, volunteerism, local responsibility, and the respect for custom and tradition.
Almost all the traditions and institutions in which democratic moral genius found its most characteristic expression, and which in turn molded the national character and the whole moral climate once found in England and America, are those which Progressives who adhere to Socialism are progressively destroying.
Those who teach in our public schools and universities no longer proudly acknowledge the characteristic values and distinguishing traits for which other peoples know America. Those directing our educational systems have lost their belief in the peculiar values of American civilization or they are completely ignorant of the main points on which it differs from that of other peoples.
Leftist intelligentsia worship foreign gods and have become almost incapable of seeing any good in characteristic American institutions and traditions.
If democracies abandon the supreme ideal of freedom and individual autonomy, they admit their civilization is not worth preserving. It is impossible to preserve decency in a system in which personal freedom and individual responsibility are destroyed. People will be ordered about and not left in peace to pursue their own concerns. The community as a whole decides who will do what work, when they’ll do it, how they’ll do it, and who will get which resources. Shirkers may have to be sent to labor camps for reeducation.
More and more in America, the government encroaches upon business, interfering with lending, wages, and prices—the latter particularly in health care, where its social programs have nearly ruined the finest medical system the world has ever seen.
All of this puts politicians and business in bed together, through lobbyists—how can it not when the government is controlling, planning, or regulating most aspects of the economy on which business depends; when its bureaucracies are regulating most aspects of business itself. One has to wonder if there is some intent to force the surrender of private enterprise. As it is, those with political pull do not compete on a level playing field with those without it—reducing the economic efficiency of the system as a whole.
Bureaucracies, staffed by personnel unfamiliar with the nature of business, are persistently hostile to the self-government, self-organization, and self-regulation that once made American business and Capitalism the envy and the engine of the world.
Business is incessantly thrown off stride by ever-changing institutional data, coupled with ever complicated, ever growing governmental regulation. Success in business under present conditions depends more on relations with politicians and bureaucracies than on the sheer business ability necessary to deal with technology and commercial problems.
Meanwhile Washington talks of punishing profit-makers and assuming direct control of industries, while inflation caused by excessive printing of bank notes looms. It is easy for political propaganda from Socialists to convince the little guy that “big business” is the cause of America’s ailments. Surely Europeans would welcome a spectacular breakdown of the American economy, as this would satisfy their long envy.
Big corporations today generally favor vast regulations because it gives them a huge advantage over the small businessman who cannot comply, or even understand, all of the ever-changing regulations.
Americans are taught that profit is immoral, and activities involving economic risk are disparaged, as if gains made by the few winners among risk takers—the prospect of which makes the risks worth taking—are deserving of moral opprobrium.
To employ a hundred people is called exploitation, but to command a hundred people as a bureaucrat somehow honorable. Capitalists are despised if they win, and despised if they lose. This is anti-capitalist propaganda.
If America is to survive we must regain the belief in the traditional values for which we have stood in the past, and we must have “a pair” necessary to stand our ground against those who would destroy the greatest nation that ever appeared upon the Earth. This is not the shame-faced apology, assurance that we will change, or compromise between traditional American values and Socialist ideas, that is preferred by American Social Liberals. This is not to apply social experiments to our institutions, but to express unwavering faith in those traditions that made America a country of free, upright, and independent people.
Again, the word Liberal means limited government and free markets—not the corrupted use of the word by American Socialists, in which it means the opposite. This alone is a big clue what kind of people they are.
Steal From the Rich
The free market is the only mechanism ever discovered for achieving participatory democracy. Collectivism has an established record of producing tyranny and misery—but it is still regarded by Socialist Liberals as superior to individualism, with its record of producing freedom and prosperity.
Socialists have already influenced America’s affairs, as evidenced by the steady growth of the state—always at the expense of the individual; and by the steady growth of state initiatives and planning, which take the place of private initiative and planning.
Socialists want the power to assign people to occupations, but governments have always proven unable manage enterprises—they become mired in bureaucratic confusion and inefficiency.
The American people observed what happened under Socialism in Russia, Germany, China, Cambodia, Cuba, Korea, Chile, and Ethiopia; and this gave them the foresight to forestall the advent of full-blown Socialism in the United States. The Socialists shifted gears, gave up their dream of central planning the American economy (at least temporarily), and focused on strangling American business with indirect regulation of supposed private enterprise; and more so on governmentally forced wealth transfer payments—confiscating wealth in the form of taxes from some to make grants to others—all in the name of equality and the eradication of poverty.
Escape From West Germany
The coordination of man’s activities through voluntary cooperation, or conversely through central planning, are roads moving in opposite directions: the former to freedom, the latter to serfdom. Voluntary cooperation is the road to plenty; central planning is the road to poverty—even for the average man.
The best examples of this are North and South Korea, and East and West Germany, after the 1940s. Here we had a scientifically controlled experiment (unfortunately with living human beings) of peoples of the same blood, same culture, same civilization, same level of technical skill and knowledge, living under Capitalism on one side and Socialism on the other. In both cases the Socialist side built walls in order to keep its people from escaping, whilst they lived in tyranny and utter poverty; and the Capitalist side lived in freedom and world-class affluence.
Even with these two clear-cut examples for the entire world to see, American Socialists are amazingly still antagonistic to free enterprise, private property, and limited government; they still denigrate and revile Capitalism. Socialists must be persuaded or defeated if we are to remain free people.
Socialism is a failure; Capitalism is a success. To think otherwise must be a form of mental illness. But think otherwise they do! Socialists still want to expand government, and advertise it as protecting poor little people from big bad corporations, eliminating poverty, protecting the environment, and promoting equality and so-called social justice. The proposed national health care plan is an obvious example.
"To take from one, because it is thought that his own industry and that of his father’s has acquired too much, in order to spare others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association — the guarantee to every one of his industry and the fruits acquired by it." ~ Thomas Jefferson