Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Local or Express?


Louis Kelso once commented that socialism is a commuter train, a “local,” while communism is an express.  Both socialism and communism end up the same place — the abolition of private property and State control of virtually every aspect of life — but communism destroys the basis of State, Church, and Family faster and more efficiently than socialism.

Louis Kelso: Marx could define socialism.
Kelso was, in this instance at least, in full agreement with Karl Marx.  Reading through The Communist Manifesto one is struck by the number of times Marx applauds the goals of socialism, and in the same breath condemns the socialists for their lack of efficiency, their bourgeois values, and their failure to grasp the nettle and simply throw the baby out with the bath and start everything over from scratch.

Marx insisted that he preferred the term communism to socialism not because there is any substantial difference between communism and socialism, but because “the socialists” were, on the whole, in his opinion weak and ineffectual.  According to Marx, communism is simply the purest and best form of socialism.

Karl Marx: Communism is the best form of socialism.
Anyone truly committed to the goals of socialism would be a strong and manly communist, not an effeminate socialist.  One gets the impression that The Communist Manifesto is, in part, a very effective ad campaign for Marx’s new and improved socialism under the brand name of communism.

We have to agree with that . . . although that’s a little like saying that getting nuked is simply the purest and best form of warfare.  It rather begs the question as to whether you ought to be killing people in the first place for any reason. . . .

It does answer the question as to what communism and socialism are.  If they are not distinguished from each other except in degree and tactics, and not in kind, then we can define both socialism and communism the same way.

Fortunately, Marx did that for us, too.  As he said, “the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.”

Leo XIII: Karl Marx could define socialism.
Not coincidentally, the abolition of private property is also the principal tenet of socialism.  As Pope Leo XIII, an authority on the subject, explained,

“[I]t is clear that the main tenet of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected, since it only injures those whom it would seem meant to benefit, is directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind, and would introduce confusion and disorder into the commonweal.”  (Rerum Novarum, § 15.)

Yes, we admit that the words of Marx and the pope are not exactly the same — and this gives the intellectually dishonest an out.  Marx said “communism.”  Leo XIII said “socialism.”  Marx said “abolition of private property.”  Leo XIII said “community of goods.”

Fine.  Go play your word games.  The adults have grown-up things to discuss.  Chief among these are the problems caused by people who seem to lack reading comprehension as well as a moral compass, and insist that whatever they strongly desire must be good, while anything that gets in their way must be evil.

Don’t worry.  We’re not going to get into another discussion about the problem of people who can’t distinguish knowledge (reason) from opinion (personal faith), and who couldn’t think logically if their souls depended on it.  Our subject today is the group of people, seemingly growing in number by leaps and by bounds, who insist either that socialism is not socialism, or that communism is not a form of socialism.

This is not a recent development, but has been a cause of acute schizophrenia for more than a century — ever since methods of corporate finance and the slavery of past savings led to the development of capitalism as the predominant private sector economic arrangement, which led in turn to the reaction of socialism as the presumed solution that is worse than the disease.

John XXII: private property is a natural right.
Part of this is due to a split in the single largest Christian denomination, the Catholic Church.  The Catholic Church has for centuries condemned socialism in substance if not in name.  Pope John XXII, for example, sternly rebuked a renegade sect of Franciscans in the early fourteenth century for claiming that private property is not a natural right, and then excommunicated some of the leaders who attacked the foundations of both civil and religious society: property and the papacy, respectively.

The condemnations of socialism put socialist Catholics and others who looked to the Catholic Church for guidance in matters of morality (although often not in matters of faith) in a difficult position.  They consequently split their minds in two, and began insisting that their versions of abolishing private property were not really socialism.  Thus, where capitalism became many things under one name, socialism became one thing under many names.

This was bad enough.  These days, however, the socialists have caught on to the capitalist “trick” of defining whatever you want as “capitalism,” and have started distinguishing between socialism and communism, and even between “good socialism” and “bad socialism” — anything to confuse the issue.

For this, two people are largely responsible: Pope Francis and Bernie Sanders.

"Capitalism is bad, but socialism is worse, guys."
With Pope Francis, this is accidental, and is caused by egregious misunderstanding of the man, the office, and what he is saying.  The “conservative” discomfort with Pope Francis is rooted in the fact that, in general, they are committed to something they call “capitalism” — which they can’t seem to define consistently — and Pope Francis doesn’t seem to care too much for the obvious abuses of capitalism, the growing wealth and income gap, consumerism, greed, the dangers to the Family and even the State, and so on, and so forth.  They interpret every criticism of capitalism as an endorsement of socialism . . . something they share with their socialist brethren.  They forget that the pope cannot change any teaching of the Catholic Church, and socialism has been infallibly condemned, no ifs, ands, or buts.

Bernie Sanders is another case entirely.  He makes no bones about being a socialist.  He’s at least honest in that.  The problem is that he has fallen into the “socialism-is-not-communism-and-there-is-good-socialism-and-bad-socialism” trap.

"What choo talking 'bout, Francis? I'm a good socialist."
Sorry, Mr. Sanders.  Socialism and communism are essentially the same thing, and — while there are some good things in socialism (which no one has ever denied, or there would be nothing in it to appeal to human beings, who by nature seek the good and avoid evil) — both socialism and communism are distinguished by the abolition of private property.

That’s the bottom line, and why, despite all the good intentions of the socialists, no supporter of the Just Third Way can go along with socialism, and — despite the hideous abuses inherent in the system, primarily the violation of participative justice — we harshly criticize capitalism, but cannot condemn it outright.

Capitalism twists and distorts the natural law, it abuses the rights of the many for the benefit of the few, it is cruel and heartless, driven by greed, and many other things, but it has one saving grace: there is still a vestige remaining of the natural law, and thus something on which a new, just social order can be built.  Socialism/communism (or whatever other name you want to use), good, bad, or indifferent, abolishes the natural law in its entirety, putting everything in the collective and thus eliminating the last vestige of human dignity and the foundation of both justice and charity.

Ultimately, of course, asking someone whether he’d prefer to be capitalist or socialist is like asking whether you’d prefer to be shot or hit with an ax.  Capitalism, however, can be tolerated for a time, at least until it can fall of its own dead weight before the Just Third Way.  There is no hope for socialism, which is inherently anti-human, regardless of how you rename or justify it.

#30#

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