In an interview last October, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper ascribed the continued fascination with Marxism to Western academics that relentlessly attempt to advance their revolutionary fantasies. Harper remarked: “When the Berlin Wall came down, you found that all the Marxists were on the Western side, while the East long since ceased to believe in it.” Right you are, Mr. Harper.
So long as people are taught a distorted view of Marxism, we’ll breed generations of historically ignorant and economically illiterate citizens who seek to impose it without understanding the experiences of those who’ve been ravaged by it. All the while we watch tragedies like the one in Venezuela unfold.
Recent polling data has found that 31 percent of American millennials identify as socialist. In the Democratic Party alone, 48 percent of its millennial members have professed their sympathies for the socialist alternative. Last April, The Globe and Mail reported that a survey of 18-37 year old Canadians concluded that 54 percent would prefer socialism to capitalism.
The misguided belief in Economic Rights
This explains the popularity of Marxist luminaries like Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who have captured the minds of a hubristically naive and infantilized generation that has little understanding of what Marxism entails.
Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez and their acolytes describe themselves as “democratic” socialists. They believe, implausibly, that they can realize their vision of an equal society by working within the structure of American republicanism.
A means by which they’ve pursued this is recreating Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Economic Bill of Rights, which intended to secure rights to housing, health care, and employment. Similarly, Sanders has drafted legislation that would grant rights to a job with a $15/hr wage and health care benefits.
Recently condemning billionaires as immoral, Ocasio-Cortez has been promoting similar ideas like her Green New Deal, and universal health care programs. She plans to fund these with her 70 per cent marginal tax rate. Which would cost taxpayers about $40 trillion dollars over a decade, while lowering incentives for business investments that help spur the economy.
The assemblage of laws that’d make up an economic bill of rights runs counter to, and risks replacing, the original Bill of Rights. Ineluctably, this leads to the erosion of American constitutionalism since the state would be empowered to curtail individual rights—to property, for example—for the greater good, instead of protecting citizens from such intrusion.
Social Democracy vs. Democratic Socialism
Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez often look towards Nordic countries like Denmark or Norway as references. In reality, these are just market-based economies with a robust welfare state. The wealth of these countries preceded the establishment of expansive government programs. The governments of these countries also have modest control over business operations, there are no minimum wage laws, and most of these countries rank high in economic freedom.
So high, in fact, that well-aware socialists believe that these social democracies don’t go far enough. Michael McCarthy of Jacobin writes that the “public ownership of productive assets is limited in comparison to what it could be.” Seeing state intervention as vital in all economic matters, McCarthy opines that more “public ownership” and the steady evaporation of capitalism means more democracy.
But as history unfailingly shows, this descends into mob rule, and usually culminates in what Vladimir Lenin called “the dictatorship of the proletariat.”
“Democratic” socialism in action
The truth is that “democratic” socialism is simply unfeasible and, even worse, it’s euphemistic.
Launching a socialist revolution democratically actually requires desecrating the pillars of democracy and the values that anchor it. The objective is to make the revolution irreversible by undergoing a complete societal transformation. To this end, dismissing the virtues of pluralism and co-existence in favor of rigidity and coerced conformity are essential, even if it proves to be disastrous.
The author of Venezuela’s woes, Hugo Chavez—Nicolas Maduro’s predecessor— did exactly this and took one of the most affluent countries in South America and turned it into a bastion of destitution and violence. After becoming President in 1999, Chavez called for a referendum to rewrite the constitution and won it. Allowing him to consolidate enough power to overpower the Supreme Court and the legislature, thereby decimating institutions that had the power to challenge his rule.
The evolving despotic system enabled him to rapidly nationalize private companies, with their number dropping from 14,000 to 9,000 between 1998 and 2011. This led to a decrease in foreign investment, and Venezuela became increasingly dependent on oil exports. This economic malaise has only worsened under Maduro, resulting in hyperinflation, food shortages, and rising infant mortality rates. Not to mention the vast human rights violations, including the recent killings of protestors by Maduro’s soldiers.
Set the economic insanity and repression aside for a moment.
Any Marxist leader is bound to have a detrimental effect on foreign policy. Look no further than Jeremy Corbyn, the anti-Semitic leader of the British Labour Party. While liberals and conservatives view alliances with authoritarian regimes as strategic imperatives, Corbyn’s worldview causes him to see friendships with Islamists and Israel’s opponents as moral imperatives. Someone like him would likely conduct foreign policy in a way that’d “atone” for Western imperialism. Such a self-flagellating approach would be at odds with security interests, and carve out the path to a long-term Western decline. No Western country could afford this.
This past week should be edifying for those who cling to the Marxist dream, as we have bore witness to yet another epic calamity in Venezuela. Unfortunately, the chorus of “I told you sos” we’ll sing likely won’t compel them to abandon the ideology. As the old adage goes, “being a socialist means never having to say you’re sorry.”