From Stalin to Sequestration
Allow me to begin by apologizing for having been absent from these pages for a while. My up-coming book Disinformation, which I have co-written with Professor Ronald Rychlak, became the subject of a documentary movie to be released in June, and that has monopolized my time.
On March 6, 2013, we celebrate 60 years since the death of Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, whose nom de guerre was Stalin — meaning man of steel. I deliberately use the word "celebrate," because Stalin's death allowed the first ray of light to penetrate into one of the darkest and bloodiest disinformation operations in history: the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics itself. Soon after Stalin died, the curtain shielding his "workers' paradise" from public view was ripped apart, and the rest of the world got its first glimpse of the gulag empire that the Soviet Union really was. According to recent revelations, some 94 million people were killed during the lifetime of the Soviet empire[i] so as to uphold the heretical system of socialism, a creed that deprived mankind of the very motivational forces needed to keep mankind going: private property, competition, and individual incentive.
In theory, socialism is an idyllic dream. In reality, it is a phony nightmare, modeled after Karl Marx's infamous dictum “Jeder nach seinen Fähigkeiten, jedem nach seinen Bedürfnissen” (from each according to his ability, to each according to his need), a social theory that has destroyed the economy of every country where it has been applied. To put it into plain English, the socialist redistribution of wealth is theft, and stealing became a national policy on the day the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was born. Immediately after the revolution of November 1917, Russia’s new socialist government confiscated the imperial family's wealth, seized the land owned by the rich Russians, nationalized Russian industry and banking, and killed most of the property owners. In 1929, the Kremlin turned its covetous eyes toward the poorest elements in the country; by forcing the peasants into collective farms, it stole away their land, along with their animals and agricultural tools. Within a few years, virtually the entire Soviet economy was running on stolen property.
In the mid 1930s, the Communist Party itself became a target for theft. Following a brief period of collective leadership exercised by the Central Committee and later by its elite, the Politburo, Stalin personally stole all the top-level positions in the country and pinned them onto his own chest like war decorations, thereby establishing a dismal new feudalism in the middle of the 20th century. That is exactly what occurred later throughout Eastern Europe, when the Soviet socialists took over after World War II. By the time I said goodbye forever to Socialist Romania in 1978, the list of official positions and titles accumulated by Ceausescu and his wife could have easily filled a whole page.
The 1991 collapse of the Soviet Empire signaled a stern warning that in the long run stealing does not pay, even when committed by the government of a huge country. All socialists who have ever risen to lead a country have ended up in hell — all, from Lenin to Stalin, Tito to Zhivkov, Enver Hoxha to Mátyás Rakosi, Sékou Touré to Nyeree. All had their days of temporary glory, but all ended in eternal disgrace. A few remnants, like Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, are still hanging on, but they certainly have a place in hell reserved for them. (Update: Chavez has died since the writing of this post.) In this year that Marx's Manifesto turns 164 years old and should have long been discredited, there are still some foolish countries like Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Cyprus, Italy, and Spain that are being devastated by a misplaced trust in its advocacy of “to each according to his need” and its consequential redistribution of the country’s wealth.
There are myriad reasons why socialism can never succeed. One is the irrational socialist attitude toward money. Marx's socialists always depicted money as an odious instrument of capitalist exploitation, and they always preached the gospel that in the utopian socialist society there would be no money, no prices, no wages. Until that day, however, they admitted that money was unfortunately a necessary evil that had to be retained during the transition period from capitalism to socialism — because the socialist leaders were unable to offer anything to replace it. Nevertheless, in the socialist Soviet empire, money lost its economic regulatory function as well as its status as a measure of wealth, becoming merely an instrument for expressing domestic wages and prices. Irrational, unpredictable and chaotic, the socialist attitude toward money brought nothing but economic anarchy. I saw that with my own eyes during the 20 years I was involved with Romania's financial system, as I went from being deputy chief of the country's trade mission in West Germany to economic advisor to the Romanian president.
Thirty-four years ago, when I broke away from my life in the top circles of the Soviet empire, I paid with two death sentences from my native Romania for helping her people to stop thinking of government as a boon bestowed from on high, and to free themselves from the clutches of socialism. Alas, now I see the socialist plague of “to each according to his need” beginning to infect my adoptive country, the United States. On Feb. 7, 2009, the cover of Newsweek magazine proclaimed: "We Are All Socialists Now."[ii] That was just what the official Romanian newspaper Scînteia proclaimed when my former boss, Nicolae Ceausescu, began changing Romania into a monument to himself. Two years after seizing power, the socialist nomenklatura of the U.S. Democratic Party produced the same results as Romania's socialist nomenklatura did — on a U.S. scale. Over fourteen million Americans lost their jobs, and 41.8 million people went on government food stamps. The GDP dipped from 3.4% to 1.6%. The national debt rose to an unprecedented $13 trillion, and it is projected to reach $18 trillion by 2019.
Scînteia went bankrupt, and Newsweek was sold for one dollar. But a member of the Democratic nomenklatura representing the economically ruined state of California in the U.S. Congress — who is incidentally a stout admirer of and visitor to Fidel Castro’s Cuba — is preaching that the future of the U.S. oil industry is “all about socializing,” all about “the government taking over and running all our oil companies.”
In 1948, when the Romanian nomenklatura nationalized the oil industry, that country was the second greatest oil exporter in Europe. Thirty years later, when I broke with Marxism, Romania was a heavy importer of oil, gasoline was rationed, the temperature in public places had to be kept under 63 degrees Fahrenheit, and all shops had to close no later than 5:30 pm to save energy.
I have used these examples before, but I believe we should use them over and over, and over, because they contain our current drama in a nutshell. The sequestration imposed on the United States a couple of days ago shows that the Democratic Party's socialist attitude toward money and its addiction to the illusory socialist recipe of “to each according to his need” can generate economic havoc even in a country as wealthy as the United States.
The fact that the Democratic Party's nomenklatura believes it can solve our economic difficulties by again raising taxes reminds me of my old days in communist Romania. I used to repeatedly warn Ceausescu that Romania could not afford to keep losing $1 on every thousand eggs it was exporting to the West. My former boss always assured me, "We'll make it up in quantity."
American essayist George Santayana, an immigrant like me, used to say that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
[i] Stéphane Courtois, Le Livre Noir du communisme: Crimes, terreur, répression (Ėdition Robert Laffont, Paris, 1997), pp. 258-264.
[ii] Doug Mainwaring, "We are all Tea Partiers now," The Washington Times,, September 30, 2010, p.1.