The history of socialism

I had the pleasure recently of attending a lecture on the history of socialism.

This event was less about politics and more about history. Tom Phillips, a brilliant (and very young) historian, offered his insights. He is a former socialist who is now a conservative. He grew up under socialism, and has seen the results.

Yet people often throw around the word “socialist” too causally. Who and what actually constitutes a socialist? Why does it matter?

With those questions being asked, I present the insights of Tom Phillips.

“Socialism goes back to Plato.

In Britain, the alternative to socialism was classical liberalism, not conservatism.

The socialist view was very popular with the Catholic Church, and throughout Europe.

The United States was the first to experiment with a liberal state. The only state powers came from the people.

Outside of America, the American experiment was considered a [email protected] of European Enlightement, particularly in France.

Edmund Burke supported the American Revolution, but he called the French Revolution ‘barbaric.’ All they wanted was ‘change.’ They tore everything down, but built nothing. Today we hear about change, but it is important to specify exactly what change means.

Karl Marx is not the father of all socialism. He was just a socialist. His dad was a socialist who admired Hegel.

How can we have the power of government while preserving freedom? This is an age old struggle. It did not first appear in November of 2008.

In 1876, the Communists were kicked out of Europe. They were deemed too radical. They needed a new home, so they moved to Philadelphia.

The Communists integrated into American society throguh the labor movement. This began the ascenscion of socialism in America.

In the late 19th century, Japan was at war with Russia. The United States was against this conflict because U.S. policy was to be against any conflict that was bad for international trade. Teddy Roosevelt had both sides come to the United States to sit down and talk. On the battlefield, Japan had clearly won. Roosevelt got Russia to acknowledge this. Russia never forgo that slight.

In 1917 there was the Russian Revolution. It was not done on the Gregorian Calendar since Russia was 14 days behind. So the February revolution was actually the March revolution and the October revolution was actually the November revolution.

The Bolsheviks were on a messianic quest. They wanted world control, and they hated the United States. They never got over the slight of the U.S. with regards to the Japan conflict.

The Communists felt that the easiest way to take over America was to take over the means of communication. They wanted control of the entertainment industry, academia, and religion. Religion was considered the most important because religion attracts crowds.

In 1925 there was a split among the Communists. Stalin chased out the Jews.

Trotsky was a Democratic Socialist. He hated Tyranny. He felt the replacement of the Czar with the Bolsheviks was substituting one tyranny for another. This led to a power struggle between the Stalinists and the Trotskeyites.

Original Trotskeyites included Lionel Trilling and Irving Kristol. Irving Kristol eventually left the left, and led the Reagan Revolution.

Communists did infiltrate the government. The OSS did get into the CIA. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the first Socialist President.

American Socialists and Communists were actually Pro-German National Socialism as long as Hitler and Stalin remained friends.

The Trotskeyites defended Joseph McCarthey. They understood the Communist threat. The true left never forgave the Trotskeyites for this.

One irony was that the original left of center party called itself the Democrat Party. The Communist parties of Russia and Iraq were Democrat parties.

Leftists took the word “liberal” to avoid being called socialist. Liberal sounded better.

Liberalism means freedom. The right then became conservatives, and the labels stuck.

Saul Alinsky was actually schooled in cultural Marxism. He did not create anything.

The Neocons were actually the right side of the left. They came about because in 1968, Neo-Marxists took over the Democratic Party.

In 1972 the Neo-Marxists seized power with the first Communist presidential candidate, George McGovern. Irving Kristol then penned his letter, and formed “Democrats for Nixon.” Lionel and Dinana Trilling did not sign the letter.

In 1976 the Democrats nominated another socialist, Jimmy Carter. On his watch five new Soviet states were created, along with three similar states in Asia.

During the decade, there was mass slaughter from social justice and peace movements.

Then came Ronald Reagan in 1980.

In 1932, FDR was the one who moved liberalism toward socialism. Every President since then either wanted to accelerate or decelerate socialism. Ronald and Reagan and Margaret Thatcher did not slow socialism. They outright reversed it. America became hated, and Reagan was vilified by the left. For those who think George W. Bush was hated, Reagan was truly hated.

Richard Nixon was the one who said “We’re all Keynesians now.” He only wanted to slow socialism, not reverse it. Reagan reversed it, and was hated by the left.

So where are we now? Today the left controls every facet of society in America. Look at the cultural institutions. Look at the pulpits. Politics and theology are now fused. Jeremiah Wright is not out of the ordinary. His speeches are common.

Most religions support the leftist cause despite the left attacking religion. Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, and yes, even Islam, support the left. Radical Islam is derived from Maoism and Stalinism.

Today the socialists control everything. It did not start in November of 2008.

Socialism is like a seven headed hydra. You cut off one head, another one pops up.

We are now living in a world we no longer recognize. Our institutions are collapsing. 9/11 was another step in the institutional collapse.

So how will all of this play out? The same as everywhere else.

Socialism always creates short-term benefits. It offers instant gratification. People are given free stuff.

Why bother buying ingredients when people are just given the free food already made? Socialism is the food. Capitalism is the ingredients.

Every few years socialism sows the seeds of its own destruction. The markets and capitalism get blamed, when the actual cause of the destruction is bad policy.

America has not been ruled by the right in some time. The left controls the cities, the counties, and the schools. Electing a Republican president does not matter. It is irrelevant. The left controls the institutions. The left is the establishment. The right is the anti-establishment.

The right needs to take back the institutions. We should start with academia before religion. The world shuns academics. Conservatives must embrace academia. They can either write books, or talk to themselves in the mirror.

I was a socialist, and am now a conservative. Facts did not sway me. What I saw around me did.

Socialists were just Communists moving slowly.

Socialism, like Christianity, has a theological perspective. Being a socialist does not tell what denomination of socialism is being practiced. There are so many currents. A Christian can be a Methodist, an Episcopalian, a Baptist, or other denomination. A socialist could be a Trotskeyite, a Communist, or a Democratic Socialist. A Communist could be a Maoist or a Stalinist.”

I would like to thank Tom Phillips for a stimulating lecture. If more people like him went into academia, I would have a more favorable view of academics. Also, society would be better off.


4 Responses to “The history of socialism”

  1. thepoliticaltipster says:

    For once I am going to have to disagree. I don’t think FDR was a socialist. The New Deal was corporatist and left-wing (e.g. the NRA and 90% tax rates) but FDR would have had to nationalise significant swathes of industry to have been an actual socialist. One could even argue that the NRA (which was declared unconstitutional in 1935) was essentially a formalisation of some of what Hoover had been trying to achieve through voluntary means. It should also be pointed out that FDR was more sympathetic to free trade than his predecessors (though that is not saying much given that protectionism was the norm between Reconstruction and the end of the Second World War.

    Similarly, Jimmy Carter was undoubtedly a walking disaster where much of foreign policy was concerned and a disorganised mess generally, but again it would have been difficult to characterise him as a socialist. Indeed, his administration started many of the reforms that Reagan would carry out (deregulation, cuts in capital gains tax, appointment of Paul Volcker as Fed Chairman). According to the Fraser institute’s (admittedly idiosyncratic) measure, economic freedom increased between 1975 and 1980 (though from a relatively low base). Of course, many of these changes only appeared in the dying days of Carter’s feeble administration and would probably not have been carried further if he had been re-elected.

  2. hauk says:

    Something else to consider- History has always been written by the victors, except in one case- the 1970s and the follow up to the Hippie/Counter Culture Revolution. The Hippies failed to change the country and the government- they lost to the establishment. Where did they go? Straight into the Ivory Tower to rewrite American History and then re-educate Americans.

    As for Socialism vs Democracy- in an Ideal Democracy, everyone votes for what is best for the greatest number. In a real Democracy- everyone votes their self interest. They vote themselves beer and circuses, and vote the bill to someone else, which just doesn’t last long…

    I fear for my country. I have done for many years.

  3. This “history” is very humorous – I’ll give it that. It’s about as accurate as Mr. Magoo’s vision. As the lecturer reminds us, “Facts did not sway me.” ‘Nuff said.


  4. SallyMorem says:

    Hi Eric,

    I’ll offer some critiques and corrections to Tom Phillip’s History of Socialism here:

    As the name connotes, socialism is (or would be if it worked) the takeover of the entire economy by the government for the purported benefit of society. It also offers either absolute equality of economic state for every member, or close to it.

    Plato’s Republic would definitely count as a socialist state. However, Plato never even pretended to be in favor of equality. As a matter of fact, he was adamantly against such an idea. His Republic would’ve been closer to a caste system. Fortunately for the Greeks, they were never able to implement such a state.

    “In Britain, the alternative to socialism was classical liberalism, not conservatism.”

    The differences between Europe and America on terminology denotating political ideologies has always been a stumbling block to understanding for political commentators. European conservatives sought to conserve traditional European feudal institutions. American conservatives, living in what had been a classical liberal society since Colonial times, sought to conserve that very classical liberalism.

    “Karl Marx is not the father of all socialism. He was just a socialist. His dad was a socialist who admired Hegel.”

    He certainly wasn’t. Socialist thought had been around for at least two generations before he and Engels wrote “The Communist Manifesto.” (See William Godwin, for example.) Marx is considered to be the father of Communism. Communism is (or would be if it ever worked) either a radical subset of socialism or the successor stage to socialism.

    The Enlightenment was made up of many strands. For instance, the Scottish Enlightenment gave us Adam Smith and the French Enlightenment gave us Robespierre and Napoleon. We can and should consider the marvel of what should be called the American Enlightenment (but hardly ever is), made up of the revolutionary generation. That version of the Enlightenment permitted Americans to plant seeds of political and economic freedoms that are sprouting even today…even under the Obama regime.

    “In 1876, the Communists were kicked out of Europe. They were deemed too radical. They needed a new home, so they moved to Philadelphia.”

    Huh? Philadelphia? I thought they moved to New York. More seriously, most of them stayed in Europe. In a little known chapter of the history of Communism, Marx and Engels had a great deal of trouble with the few who did move to America. America kept subverting them to Americanism – belief in the superiority of American freedoms. Irony of ironies: America had what the Communists most deeply desired. And we had it through free markets and free political processes. Marx and Engels wrote letters to them excoriating them for their apostasy. (Religious term use here is quite deliberate. Communism had become a secular religion well before Marx died.)

    “The Bolsheviks were on a messianic quest. They wanted world control, and they hated the United States. They never got over the slight of the U.S. with regards to the Japan conflict.”

    I doubt if the Bolshies gave two figs for the Russo-Japanese War. They certainly didn’t care about the Great War (WWI). They pulled Russia out of that one after they took power. Actually, they hated the US for two very obvious reasons: 1. America never became the first socialist state the way their beloved Karl Marx predicted. That was unforgiveable in their eyes. 2. America (by 1870) was already the world’s leading economic power, and by the 1920s, it had become quite clear to those who were paying attention that it would also soon become the world’s leading military power.

    The Bolshies were as power-hungry as it is possible for anyone to be. They would and did loathe on sight their future rival. The expeditionary force into Russia during their civil war between the Reds and the Whites led by America was merely an excuse for their anti-Americanism.

    Communists did indeed infiltrate the American government during the Thirties and Forties. We know their names now that researchers gained free access to the NKVD files in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. The Venona Papers proved the Rosenbergs did what they did and the Alger Hiss was a spy. And a lot more.

    FDR wasn’t a socialist. He was a liberal who wanted more government control over the economy, not total control. Or at least he wasn’t as much of a socialist as Obama is.

    “American Socialists and Communists were actually Pro-German National Socialism as long as Hitler and Stalin remained friends.”

    True. Read “Liberal Fascism.” You’ll find out how ardently pro-Hitler and pro-Mussolini the American leftists were. They were all statists to their rotten core. As Hayek unkindly put it in his dedication page in “The Road to Serfdom”: “To the socialists of all parties.”

    Islamofascism is the natural ally of the left. Think Hitler-Stalin Pact Part II. This shouldn’t surprise us. Leading Arabs were ardent allies of Germany during WWII. Why do you suppose their descendants are so knotted up over having a Jewish state in what they consider an Islamic land? They learned to hate the Jews from Hitler’s minions – who spread the gospel of anti-Jewish diatribes such as the Protocols of the Elders in the Middle East back then.

    “Socialism is like a seven headed hydra. You cut off one head, another one pops up.”

    True. Why? Because most Americans have no idea how a free society actually works. They certainly cannot comprehend how uncommanded free markets can possibly be workable or fair. There is a natural human disposition to believe humans can control extremely complex processes in which humans take part. Ludwig von Mises proved flatly that this can’t happen. But most Americans have never heard of him nor have they read his magnum opus, “Human Action,” wherein this proof can be found.

    As a result, Americans think that the dreaded, secretive “they” control America secretly. And if we just elect a president on “hope” and “change” he’ll get rid of the dreaded “they,” and free us from “their” bondage.

    The “Neocons” Kristol and Podhoretz and their allies, were indeed hard core leftists in their college years, became more mainstream liberals later (back then, liberals were pro-American on foreign policy), and then when the Sixties revealed the bankruptcy of liberal ideology, became conservative in the late Sixties.

    Contrary to popular usage, you have to be of a certain age (college student in the early 1940s) to be considered a true Neo-Conservative. Though I agree with almost all the policies Kristol and Podhoretz called for over the decades, I can’t be considered a Neocon because I’m way too young and have never been a leftist. Therefore, there’s nothing “Neo” about me. This is also true for the men who worked for Bush who are called Neocons by sloppy writers.

    “The right needs to take back the institutions.”

    True. And the only way to do that is to write and speak clearly about American conservative beliefs, giving cogent arguments any reasonably intelligent American can understand. And to do so over and over and over again. Education never ends. New generations arise wholly innocent of hard won knowledge. This site is a good resource.

    You can also check out my essay, “Why I Am an American Conservative here:

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