What is Socialism? Most of those who grew up in the capitalist West and do not entirely dislike the idea would answer, social equality, of course, what else? Some of the more radical ones would say “spreading wealth” or equality…
However, those are just words, phrases void of meaning, because there is no such thing as “equality” – we are all different. Equality of something? Perhaps. Equality of opportunity, equality of chance, equality in the right to compete: Get in the ring and fight!
Although it dates back as far as Plato, modern socialism took root with the French revolution: Equality, Liberty, Fraternity. Ah, those French, they have always had a penchant for pretty sounds and idealism. They gave us the Statue and with it came, well, a Trojan present, it seems, for the world is swarming with poor, huddled masses today. They have all heard of our Freedom, but what is it? Certainly not giving everybody what they want and letting them do as they please.
Yes, as someone who grew up in socialism, I can tell you what it is, what it results in – socialism, the very opposite of democracy. Let me tell you why.
Socialism consists of:
1) censorship, total control of speech, political correctness regulated by the government,
2) central planning, by design from above, based not on the needs of the people but on what the demagogue in power says that (his) people need,
3) limited freedom of movement,
4) limited ability to achieve and prosper (speak of Pursuit of Happiness, ha!), and
5) regulated market, thus limited economy and ability of the state (GDP, prosperity) to grow.
If you are able, capable, want to compete and conquer; if you are creative and want to exercise your freedom; if you are an intelligent, intellectual person who wants to think for himself or herself – socialism is not for you.
If you are someone who just wants to be and let be, has minimum interests in life and wants only a shelter and something to eat, a mandatory vacation once, twice a year, guaranteed minimum wages, no matter what you do or how hard you work (or do not work), long hospital lines with the same fed-up “doc” at the end of the day, grocery lines packed with hangdog faces, shabby houses no-one cares for (because everything belongs to everyone), oh well, then socialism is for you.
Beware: You can get there by electing your demagogue. You can get back only by a violent revolution, by overthrowing him and abolishing and demolishing the tyranny, for that is what socialism is. Naturally, you will be walking the tightrope of anarchy at all times during your struggle to re-acquire, re-conquer the freedoms you so blithely gave away.
Adjectives like “intellectual” or “catholic” are terms of insult and opprobrium in socialism, for it is the proletariat, the “working class” that stands above all doctors and lawyers and architects. “True Architect is the people,” says the Demagogue. “The individual does not matter! One-two-four got killed? What difference does it make? I rule the people! They elected me to rule! Make no mistake, I am in power!”
Elections? There is one party and one Rule in socialism. Elections exist, to be sure, but they consist of coming to the ballot box to openly show support to the One. If you do not, he will crush you. You may “disappear” overnight without anyone ever hearing from you again. You think that Secret Police cannot enter your house without your permission? You think that you have to have right to an attorney? You think they cannot arrest you for looking dirty at a cop? Think again. Socialism is a police state. You have no idea what it means? 1984, much too real for me to ever read again…
Let me tell you about the “state of equality.” Socialism desires equality. Equality consists of a state of equal outcome, where everything is based on the NEED for an equal outcome. If you are a doctor and work twelve hours a day, your salary is the same as that of a shop assistant who works eight hours a day. As a shop assistant once told my mother (a physician who spent seven years of her life working shifts as a nurse while studying medicine at night): “We all have one mouth and two hands, why should you get paid more than I?” Teach that to two generations of people and it will take four generations to alter their (children’s children’s) thinking – if ever.
Plato had it right: democracy may easily turn into a totalitarian regime – because the power is vested in the people and the people may give it away – to a populist demagogue. It is the demagogue who will promise blue from the sky to them: education will be for free, healthcare will be for free, houses and accommodation will be provided by the government… What else do you want? Yes, that will be for free too and that one too.
What follows? The moment the demagogue acquires power, he will take away a few rights, just a few, such as by modifying the First Amendment, what you can say and what religion is allowed. You have to speak “equality” be “politically correct” and, above all, “make no mistake.” The Second Amendment follows suit, for by taking away your means of self-defense, the demagogue becomes invincible. Of course, the demagogue will ask “you the people” for an armed car, guard and military detail at all times by his Palace. That is taken for granted and is promptly provided. Do democratic leaders not have the same?
The next step is to bite off the First Amendment a little more and have you worship the Party of the Demagogue, abandon all other Gods, all other idols. He is your God, He is your Idol. Have you ever heard of a personality cult? Stalin cult? I could mention someone else too… In 1986, I visited Rumania (one of the few allowed countries on the permitted Party “vacation list”). The streets were not lined with trees but with portraits of Ceausescu and communist mottos, even in the country. Good sounding mottos too: “Through Peace to Prosperity!” or “With Soviet Union to World Peace!” or “Communism Our Goal!” or “Through Socialism to Glittering Tomorrows!”
I grew up among these mottos, too. What was even worse though was the people – totally indoctrinated. Naked children begging by the train. Why, I also came from socialism. Yes, but we were more to the west, we still had what to eat… The stores in Rumania in 1987 consisted of rows of toilet paper, rows of cans of beans, alcohol and an old man trying to sell dry, inedible stinking fish. The Black Sea was barren, dark, as if it reflected the country which shored it. Milk was provided in exchange for special tickets, which were distributed only to families with children once a month… Do I have to go on?
I was unlucky enough to suffer an ear infection while in Rumania. Had it happened at home, in Czechoslovakia, my mother (as a doctor) could have called an ear specialist and we could have brought her a bottle of wine and some chocolates. That way we would not have had to wait in line and she would surely have given me the one ointment prescribed by the state. Of course, there was a better one but it was manufactured in Switzerland and was not even available on the black market. You’d better not fall sick.
What happened in Rumania? There was a doctor who spoke German so we could get by. Her office looked like the holding cell where I later spent a few nights after my arrest for trying to “run away” from those kowtowing communist weasels. On the floor, there were a couple of rugs and a bucket, something you might use for washing a car. Next to it stood a small iron table with a tray and a couple of iron instruments, pliers, needles – I was surprised there was no hammer…
She looked at me, called on her bodybuilder nurse who grasped my head and said something in Rumanian which sounded like a Hitler speaking to his staff. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw this huge dirty syringe, I mean something you would use for a horse, holding probably half a liter of liquid. She stuck a large needle on it (which lay in the open in plain sight next to the plyers in the tray) with her bare hands and pushed the whole thing into my ear. The bodybuilder nurse was holding my head. Then they started squeezing the liquid into my ear. I felt it in my toes. The pain was unimaginable! I could not hear for three weeks thereafter… Well, my father gave her ten German Marks, all we had for emergency purposes (black market money), and I was “discharged.”
The free healthcare you get in socialism is worth precisely what everything else you get “for free” is worth. You had better study medicine yourself or have a doctor in the family – else, in any case, just hope that you never need socialist healthcare. I did have an advantage, as I say, my mother being a physician, but we still had to bring bribes to the office and they could only do so much in terms of the communist market cures and medication…
In socialism, all competition in the market disappears: there is governmental monopoly on drugs, cars, food… If you want something better, you want the greengrocer to “save” and put aside three bananas for your children for Christmas, you have to find a way to “befriend” the grocer. I remember my father cutting thin slices of a banana on a small breadboard, arranging them on a plate with tiny squares of a Cuban orange. It was Christmas Eve and I was allowed to eat half the plate myself. My parents had each one quarter, about four slices of banana and a quarter of an orange. I know, it is hard to believe, but that is how I grew up: from flu to scarlet fever to bronchitis, to rickets – I was a sickly child, mainly because my parents were “intellectuals” with few contacts to the “working class” people who lived in the country and had their own chickens and even a cow and a pig… They ate rabbits and once we were invited (by one of my mother’s patients) to a “pig killing” – which was a wonderful thing: I had a sausage for the first time in my life. And the boiled and fried pieces of fat tasted so gooood!
If I say that the socialist market consists of monopolies and lack of competition, that does not quite describe what my experience does, does it? I still have to say that: costs are established by the government, as is the product, the same for everyone – one or two brands of the car, television set, even the house furniture. You go visit your schoolmate at home – they will have exactly the same furniture from the same company (which supports the Regime, the Party and has acquired the much-desired governmental monopoly) – consequently, everything looks familiar to you. You feel at home everywhere. Isn’t that wonderful?
Yet, you do not have a home. Your home, your privacy, your dignity has been taken away from you. After a while, you cannot imagine anything else… Not until you take a peek into a West German catalog someone has smuggled into the country… Not until you (surreptitiously, at low volume at night) listen to the Russian-jammed Radio Free Europe…
Here is another aspect of socialism. Socialism is a police state. If a policeman stops you, you have to do as he says, go with him, stay locked up without any rights until he lets you go or you proceed to prison from which they pick you up and put you in front of a three-judge panel. Hopefully, these minions of the Regime will let you go…
Of course, if you have had the audacity to say something untoward about the government or the Demagogue – why, that is worse than a murder! Political prisoners are prisoners of free speech, the greatest evil of capitalism. The minimum sentence for “attacking the Regime” was 20 years, usually of hard labor, in a uranium mine (by then totally “mined out” by the Russians) or in a coal mine. Years later, after the “Velvet Revolution,” I had a boyfriend who had these rather large black spots around his spine and lower and upper back. I asked him where they came from, what were they. He said he was doing forced labor in a coal mine for two years, a deep black coal mine in Northern Moravia. I asked no more.
Today, I look at the modern demagogue who grew up with all advantages of capitalism and what he – indeed, she too – knows about socialism is limited to sociology studies, books describing those wonderful ideals of Marx, Engels, Lenin and their followers). This Modern Demagogue says: I am a “democratic socialist” – just to confuse you. If it has “democratic” or “democrat,” it must be good, mustn’t it?
Allow me to explain: social democrats in western European political systems are innocent only because they play their “social role” and function as part of a multi-party parliamentarian political system. What is more, they are “social” democrats, not democratic socialists – a difference not without insignificance! The latter, a democratic socialist, obviously means that this Modern Demagogue is a socialist first and uses the “demos” – i.e. people – only as an adjectival premodifier to personal power, the power of a populist demagogue who will turn “demos” (people) into “agony” (struggle) at the very first opportunity, the moment they transfer their power to Him: the “Struggle of the Proletariat,” Marx called it.
In a two party representative government, the danger of democracy turning into a totalitarian regime is much greater than in a multi-party parliamentarian system, where all powers and factions are kept in check by all the other powers and factions. As freedom is indispensable to democracy and it is also “to a faction as air is to fire” (as James Madison says in Federalist 10), we must treat democracy not as a stable system, a huge majestic animal without any natural enemies, but as a fragile, beautiful creature, a gentle lady, who can be swayed and lured, led astray and – violated – by a mob.
A mob is what people become in the hands of a socialist demagogue. There is no more “We the People.” People do not matter. Mottoes and icons matter, banners and slogans which you must shout too – or else…
I shiver when I see it, I can smell it a thousand miles away. When you have seen the Heart of Darkness, it alters you forever. “We the Mob, We the Mob!” is ringing in my ears. Ah, but that was not the old communist T.V. – that was NBC. Really? Just think in silence, do not let it out; for If you refuse to be subdued, suppressed, refuse to conform and give away your rights and liberties for some larger abstract “good,” off to the mine with you! Make no mistake about it: an individual “makes no difference!”
That is what socialism is about. Believe me, I have been there before – and I am not going back.
(Originally published October 2015.)