by William L. Anderson
The Nation, which enthusiastically has supported every totalitarian communist regime that has existed in the past century (and that includes Pol Pot’s Cambodia and North Korea) is now firmly riding the Bernie Sanders bandwagon. This article, entitled “Why American Socialism Failed—and How It Could Prevail Today,” unwittingly gives away the mentality of American socialists which claims all economic issues as being “solved” by the implantation of socialism—regardless of the actual economic outcomes.
Three years ago, I wrote “The End of Socialists is Socialism, Not Prosperity,” and this article follows some of the same themes. In that article, I argued that socialists do not necessarily believe that socialism produces better economic outcomes than capitalism—indeed, one would have to be willfully blind to fail to recognize the differences—but that socialists believe it doesn’t matter. Socialism is a moral imperative, and the only thing holding back the implementation of this system in the USA has been the failure of socialists to present a plausible alternative—something that socialists claim now is being done.
People who follow the arguments based in Austrian economics are intimately familiar with the economic calculation problem of socialism as laid out by Ludwig von Mises in 1920 and Murray N. Rothbard on numerous occasions, as well as the secondary “knowledge” argument presented by F. A. Hayek in 1945. Mises and Rothbard presented what clearly are irrefutable claims that the only kind of socialist economy that could exist would be a primitive, extremely basic economy that could not support any kind of complex economic activity. Even a die-hard socialist like Robert Heilbroner would admit to as much in his 1989 commentary in The New Yorker:
The Soviet Union, China & Eastern Europe have given us the clearest possible proof that capitalism organizes the material affairs of humankind more satisfactorily than socialism: that however inequitably or irresponsibly the marketplace may distribute goods, it does so better than the queues of a planned economy….the great question now seems how rapid will be the transformation of socialism into capitalism, & not the other way around, as things looked only half a century ago.
However, as I pointed out three years ago, the collapse of the USSR and the eastern European socialist states did not “convert” Heilbroner to becoming an advocate for capitalism, nor did China’s transformation from Mao’s giant commune to a quasi-capitalist economy (and subsequent economic growth) change his mind. Indeed, socialists seem almost impervious to factual arguments, and despite a gaggle of “what would a socialist economy look like” articles in publications such as Jacobin, socialists have never refuted the Austrian arguments. For that matter, socialists really cannot appeal to economics at all despite their claim that their goal is to provide a better economic society for those ubiquitous workers. Jacobin declares:
For socialists, establishing popular confidence in the feasibility of a socialist society is now an existential challenge. Without a renewed and grounded belief in the possibility of the goal, it’s near impossible to imagine reviving and sustaining the project. This, it needs emphasis, isn’t a matter of proving that socialism is possible (the future can’t be verified) nor of laying out a thorough blueprint (as with projecting capitalism before its arrival, such details can’t be known), but of presenting a framework that contributes to making the case for socialism’s plausibility.
(Note that the Jacobins are famous for unleashing the infamous Reign of Terror during the French Revolution, in which thousands of so-called enemies of the state were murdered. That American socialists today willingly associate themselves with genocide speaks volumes of what these people will do if they ever gain real power here.)
In other words, the implementation of a socialist order is not so much dependent upon a plausible model of a socialist economy, but rather is an exercise that depends upon convincing people that somewhere over the rainbow we can make the whole thing work, despite the failures of the past. And that is where the recent articles in The Nation and the Daily Mail reveal much about the socialist mentality.
In The Nation, Ross Barkan argues that the barriers to implementing a socialist system are political, not economic. Indeed, in “Why American Socialism Failed” he writes that there was just too much political resistance to reorganizing the United States into something like what at that time was being done in the Soviet Union. (It should be noted that he seems to view the Russian Revolution with much sympathy—and fails to note that perhaps Americans at that time were not interested in implementing a regime that would mirror the atrocities being committed by the Red Army and the new Soviet government.)
Instead of following the old political strategy of having people run as members of a socialist party, Barkan says that the better plan is for socialists simply to take over the modern Democratic Party by electing socialists from the presidency on down. He writes:
Today’s Democratic Party is a shell waiting to be inhabited by whoever claims the prizes of elected office. If Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist, is elected president of the United States, the Democratic Party will slowly become his party. And if he loses, inspiring still more DSA recruits and fueling down-ballot victories, socialists can continue to win council, legislative, and even congressional seats on Democratic lines, wielding tangible clout.
In New York, there is one socialist in the state legislature: DSA member Julia Salazar. She has helped lead campaigns for public control of power companies and a universal right to housing. Five DSA-backed candidates are seeking legislative seats this June, challenging establishment-backed Democrats. If they all win, they will start to gain back the momentum of the 1920s.
This time, there will be no reactionary legislative leaders to unseat the new socialists, no Red Scare to feed a public frenzy against their anti-capitalist views. Salazar is a member of the Democratic majority, an ally of the progressive block, unlikely to lose an election anytime soon. The DSA members seeking to join her will be free to advocate for radical change. It’s a future that would have surprised the class of 1920 because Socialists never took over New York, let alone America. But today’s socialists march into the 2020s without the daunting roadblocks of a century ago. They don’t need their own party anymore. They can just take someone else’s.
In other words, the entire question of socialism is political; socialists can speak about their utopian visions, be elected on those platforms, but really don’t have to explain how they actually will make a socialist economy perform in a way that will even begin to match the output of a private enterprise–based economy. Yet, when confronted with the reality of the actual performance of a socialist economy, all the writer can do is to appeal to the election of socialists, which should not be surprising, since the end of socialism is political power and nothing else.
The death of a Canadian teenager of leukemia while waiting for the government’s permission to have a bone marrow transplant speaks volumes both of the performance of socialist systems and the way that people under socialism submit to the system. Laura Hillier, 18, of Ontario died before she could receive a transplant, which is not particularly unusual in the Canadian system, as “standing in line” for care is the typical experience, even when a life is at stake. From the Daily Mail:
Laura might have experienced a few more milestones if a Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, hospital had been ab