Leftists, Progressives, and Socialists

Despite historical warnings, some refuse to believe that government meddling causes nothing but misery. For those who are hesitant to read Rand, this article is a great introduction to free market morality.

One of the greatest sources of confusion and deception is the difference between leftists, progressives, socialists, communists and fascists. I thought about this as I caught a glimpse of the Oct. 2 "One Nation" march on Washington.

The participants proudly marched with banners, signs and placards reading "Socialists," "Ohio U Democratic Socialists," "International Socialists Organization," "Socialist Party USA," "Build A Socialist Alternative" and other signs expressing support for socialism and communism. They had stands where they sold booklets under the titles of "Marxism and the State," "Communist Manifesto," "Four Marxist Classics," "The Road to Socialism" and similar titles.
The gathering had the support of the AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union, stalwarts of the Democratic Party such as Al Sharpton and organizations such as the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza, Green for All, the Sierra Club, and the Children's Defense Fund.
What goes unappreciated is that socialists and communists have produced the greatest evil in mankind's history. You say, "Williams, what in the world are you talking about? Socialists, communists and their fellow travelers care about the little guy in his struggle for a fair shake! They're trying to promote social justice." Let's look at some of the history of socialism and communism.
Nazism is a form of socialism. In fact, Nazi stands for National Socialist German Workers' Party. Nazis murdered 20 million of their own people and in nations they captured. The unspeakable acts of Adolf Hitler's Socialist Workers' Party pale in comparison to the horrors committed in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

Between 1917 and 1987, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin and their successors murdered, or were otherwise responsible for the deaths of, 62 million of their own people. Between 1949 and 1987, Mao Tse-tung and his successors were responsible for the deaths of 76 million Chinese. The most authoritative tally of history's most murderous regimes is in a book by University of Hawaii's Professor Rudolph J. Rummel, "Death by Government." A wealth of information is provided at his website.
You say, "Williams, isn't it a bit unfair to lump the "One Nation" communists, socialists and their supporters with mass murderers such as Hitler, Stalin and Mao Tse-tung? After all, they expressed no such murderous goal."

When Hitler, Stalin and Mao were campaigning for political power, you can bet they didn't campaign on the promise to murder millions of their own people, and probably the thought of doing so never crossed their minds. Those horrors were simply the end result of long evolution of ideas leading to consolidation of power in central government in the quest for "social justice."

It was decent but misguided earlier generations of Germans, Russians and Chinese, like many of today's Americans, who would have cringed at the thought of genocide, who built the Trojan horse for a Hitler, a Stalin or Mao to take over. But as Voltaire said, "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."
While America's leftists, socialists and communists condemn Hitler, they give the world's most horrible murderers a pass. First, they make a false distinction between fascism, communism and socialism but more importantly, they sympathize with the socioeconomic goals of communism and socialism. The primary goal of communism and socialism is government ownership or control over the means of production.

In the U.S., only a few people call for outright government ownership of the means of production. They might have learned that government ownership would mess things up. Instead, they've increasingly called for quasi-ownership through various forms of government regulation, oversight, taxation and subsidies. After all, if someone has the power to tell you how you may use your property, it's tantamount to his owing it.
I believe most Americans find the ideals and principles of socialism, communism and progressivism repugnant, but by our sanctioning greater government centralization and its control over our lives, we become their dupes or, as Lenin said, "useful idiots."

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. He has authored more than 150 publications, including many in scholarly journals, and has frequently given expert testimony before Congressional committees on public policy issues ranging from labor policy to taxation and spending.

7 comments from readers  

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Dr. Williams. When Government calls for communism and state control we can understand it, but when the people think it is good politics, we are lost. Franklin said it best. "When people surrender their liberty for temporary security they deserve neither security nor liberty." Socialism, the one word which covers all the others, has been the governing ideology even before Jesus threw out the money-changers. No matter how benign it has seemed such as Sweden and Norway, the people never realized they had become cookie-cutter robots, living in box-like houses all in a row. What have those countries given the world, children's books and second rate serious music. I suppose it all depends whether you lovel your life, or think a little compulsory security is worth the trade.
Now that was a great commentary Prof. Williams. I love the way you confront people straight-up with the truth and expect them to handle it as adults would. You are no nanny.
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I wish I could give you a six! Excellent!

Even at the local level, it terrifies me how people constantly deliver new powers to their leadership, eagerly helping to gather the reins of power into ever fewer and higher hands-- the state level, the federal. Making ready for an absolute ruler to pick up the reins and take absolute power...

I try to remind people that Schindler of "Schindler's list" was a businessman in a freely-elected "socialist" country where all the decision-making was reserved for the government. He still owned his factories but the government told him what to make, how much... and when to deliver his Jewish workers to their death.

(Of course Ayn Rand describes this system as being the definition of fascism, but it just turns people off when you compare today's America with the Nazi regime.)
I regret a 5.0 is as high as I can rate Walter's clear, concise, elegant piece. Rand could not have said it better.
I am sure Mr. Williams (whose work I am great admirer of) was writing this column under the constraints of a word limit. However, I would love to see a more detailed comparison of communism, socialism, fascism, leftism and progressivism which gives a sort of technical definition of each, and then an explanation of how these terms are applied today; many of these terms are being used in the national discourse in a context that has little bearing to their actual definitions.
When the facts of socialism's bloody record are presented to people of ordinary, or even above average intelligence, and they continue to advocate for the adoption, or imposition of socialism, the only conclusion you can draw is that they also advocate the resulting violence and violation of human freedom.

Ayn Rand once wrote of the mutual admiration between intellectuals who feet impotent in the realm of action, and the brutes, who are keenly aware of their inferiority in the realm of intellect.

The widely unpopular takeover of health care by the government of the United States creates no new facilities, it trains no new doctors or nurses. All it does is unleash the force of the Waffen-IRS on those who would presume not to comply with the edicts of bureaucrats and their regime of fines and imprisonment.

The politicians who voted on this were told in advance, so even though most of them did not read the bill, there was no way they could have been ignorant of its most significant provisions and their consequences. Therefore they must approve of fining and jailing American citizens for demanding to be the arbiters of their own health care.
For a good look at how easy it is to fall in with Hitler's FINAL SOLUTION, read "The i Tetralogy." Through three points of view, the author shows how easy it is to believe genocide reasonable and just. Frightening.

The same thing is happening with government today. People want to level the playing field and tear down the mansions and fortunes built by profiteers and corporations who seem to pay no taxes and build their fortunes from the labors of the poor and oppressed. It sounds good, almost Robin Hood. Take from the rich and give to the poor. They miss the point.

There are profiteers among those politicians trying to share the wealth and they are getting richer while the rest of us are getting poorer. But who is going to begrudge Robin Hood and his Merry Men a little profit for their toil?
To post comments, please log in first. The Atlasphere is a social networking site for admirers of Ayn Rand's novels, most notably The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. In addition to our online magazine, we offer a member directory and a dating service. If you share our enjoyment of Ayn Rand's novels, please sign up or log in to post comments.