Foreign Affairs

None Dare Call It Socialism

The Berlin Wall fell twenty-two falls ago. Did the news only now reach the Mediterranean?

Those who cannot identify the present are condemned to repeat the past. Rampant stupidity has that effect on a maxim. George Santayana presumed too much when he mocked people who merely forgot yesterday. We can’t even get today straight.

This year is socialism’s worst since the Berlin Wall fell. Just don’t say it aloud. We aren’t supposed to notice that the same mindset that crippled Budapest, Berlin, and Belgrade beats down Damascus and Athens.

It is Eastern Europe along the Mediterranean. It is 1989 again in 2011. But who recognizes the past’s welcome encroachment upon the present? Who sees Prague and Krakow finally bringing the news to Tunis and Tripoli?

The government we just helped overthrow in North Africa called itself the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. We called it a lot of names, but never that.

The “Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution” was once a darling of American leftists. The Nation, for instance, proclaimed that “all Libyans are now equal under the law” and “no form of racism exists in Libya” upon Qaddafi’s coup. In imitation of Mao’s “Little Red Book” Qaddafi wrote a little “Green Book,” which taught that “land is the private property of none,” “wealth exceeding the satisfaction of one’s needs” must be confiscated, and “the final step is for the new socialist society to reach a stage in which profit and money disappear.”

To say Libyans revolted against Qaddafi’s oppression is another way of saying they revolted against socialism. The world economy is in rough shape. Nowhere is it as rough as it is under state-managed economies. The unrest in the Mediterranean Basin has focused on domineering governments that have micromanaged their economies into the ground.

Socialism happens.

Greeks freeload on free dentistry, child care, eye exams, and university educations. Do you grasp why Greece finds it necessary to freeload on the rest of Europe? Despite a debt-to-GDP-ratio that makes Obama’s America look prudent, Prime Minister George Papandreou’s “austerity” measures have increased state spending by seven percent this year. Is it any wonder that the sick man of Europe is led by the leader of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement and the president of the Socialist International?

The latter organization considered the ruling parties of Egypt and Tunisia members in good standing until earlier this year.

The group called the inability to placate demands for democracy “the dramatic failure of the Egyptian government.” But the Socialist International deciding to oust Hosni Mubarak’s party only after the events of Tahir Square had begun seems a rather “dramatic failure,” too.

Two weeks earlier, the group had cited “extraordinary circumstances” in their decision to expel Tunisia’s ruling party. The decades of oppression didn’t faze the Socialist International. The whole world watching did.

The Syrian thugs exterminating fellow citizens for mere protest are members of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party. Their motto is “unity, liberty, socialism.” There hasn’t been much “unity” or “liberty” in Syria. They are overdosing on the motto’s third component. The control freaks who micromanage wage rates, prices, health care, and banking unsurprisingly seek to control YouTube videos and Facebook postings, too.

Socialism is as much a failure in 2011 as it was in 1989. But its public relations is more successful now than then.

In Egypt, Libya, Greece, Syria, and Tunisia, not one in twenty protesters would say that what they have protested against is socialism. Ditto for America. Occupy Wall Street laments unemployment, debt, and decline. But they don’t identify socialized losses for financiers and automakers, or subsidies for the health insurance industry, as a cause for any of this.

Socialists, in America and abroad, protest against socialism and they don’t even know it. In fact, many protestors demand socialism as they protest its effects. Such cognitive dissonance would not be so rampant if we had correctly labeled the failed regimes upon the Mediterranean.

There is an historic movement sweeping the Mediterranean. But posterity, like the present, is unlikely to note that its targets have been exclusively collectivist regimes.

None dare call it socialism.

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