May 8, 2017
By Robert Tracinski • The Federalist
British athlete James Cracknell was recently caught citing North Korea and Cuba as examples of how to “get a handle on obesity”—which both regimes have done by starving their people.
Cracknell posted a half-hearted apology, and I don’t want to be too hard on him, because in all likelihood he is simply not very bright and just needs to refrain from speaking in public ever again. This is unfortunate for him, since he has ambitions of running for Parliament.
The problem is that Cracknell has clearly been educated and lives in an environment where the reasons for starvation in Communist regimes are considered to be vague and complex and maybe can just be chalked down to “behavior modification.” Cracking jokes about the Holocaust is a line not to be crossed, but insensitive offhand references to brutal communist dictatorships? No big deal.
This sort of thing is not new. As Elizabeth Nolan Brown points out, by way of The Federalist’s Bre Payton, there was once a craze about the “Cuban diet,” telling us how healthy it is to be starved by your government. (I’d like to link you to the original article, rather than just a screen-shot of it, but it has not-so-mysteriously disappeared from the Web.)
If you want to find another country that is really doing something about obesity, you can look to Venezuela, which is providing a wonderful model for involuntary weight loss.
But a lot of people don’t seem to want to look at Venezuela, because that would be uncomfortable. A few years back, a lot of them were praising Venezuela as a model of socialism, the same way they praise Cuba. Here’s just a small sample: David Sirota in Salon proclaimed Venezuela’s “economic miracle” thanks to Hugo Chavez’s “full-throated advocacy of socialism” and “fundamental critique of neoliberal [i.e., free market] economics.” Left-leaning celebrities traipsed to Caracas to pay their respects. Bernie Sanders declared just a few years ago that “the American dream is more apt to be realized in…Venezuela” than here. He concluded by asking, “Who’s the banana republic now?”
We’re seeing the answer to that. Today, Venezuelans are starving and the remainders of the Chavez regime are sending gangs of armed thugs into the streets to attack anyone who protests. And all of the people who praised the Venezuelan regime as a paragon of socialism? They suddenly don’t want to talk about it.
This is just the tip of an iceberg of insensitivity, ignorance, and denial about socialism’s ongoing and historical track record. The bodies keep piling up, but the ideology that produced those bodies always gets a free pass. You know what this is? It’s the equivalent of Holocaust denial for the Left.
There has long been a ritual, which I sincerely hope will continue, in which young people are required to immerse themselves in the horrors of the Holocaust. There is no shortage of books and movies and documentaries and first-hand accounts—really harrowing stuff that keeps you up at night and gets seared into your brain so you can’t forget it. And that’s the point. You’re supposed to remember it and have it haunt your nightmares so that you will never allow it to happen again.
But our culture never did that for the horrors of socialism, which is how you get a majority of young people having a positive view of socialism.
What have they missed that they can believe that? Here’s what they’ve missed: the artificial famine in Ukraine, the Soviet Gulags, the forced deportation of Lithuanians, the persecution of Christians, China’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, the killing fields of Cambodia, North Korea’s horrific prison camps and famines, the systematic impoverishment of Cuba, and now Venezuela’s collapse into starvation and mass-murder. All of this should be absolutely required background knowledge for any educated person.
I didn’t provide links for the second half of those examples. If you don’t know them, your assignment is to go look them up, because you’re precisely the sort of person who needs to learn about them.
Now when I cite all of this history, there’s always someone who insists that it isn’t fair to pin all of these crimes on “socialism” because those examples weren’t really socialism. The only “real” socialism is the warm, fuzzy welfare-statism of a handful of innucuous Western European countries. This is a pretty obvious version of the No True Scotsman fallacy, and a good way of disavowing responsibility for the disastrous results of a system you praised just a few years earlier.
But these crimes follow inevitably from the basic idea behind socialism: the idea that the good of “society” as a collective is more important the rights or even the life of the individual. That’s the “social” in “socialism,” and by throwing out the rights and liberty of the individual, it serves as a rationalization for an endless amount of carnage. Who cares if this particular person—or a few million people—suffer, so long as you can claim that mankind collectively benefits?
Consider the name of the roving thugs who are beating and killing dissidents in Venezuela right now: they call themselves collectivos. That says it all.
Socialism has been tested out more times and in more variations than probably any other social system, It has been implemented in every continent, every culture, every stage of economic development. It has always led to disaster, to the extent it has been implemented. If you’re lucky, your country gets off with a mere economic crisis, as in Greece. At the worst, your country is in for decades of living hell.
This, too, should be seared into our brains so that we never forget and never repeat it again. Because it hasn’t been, somebody is always trying to make us repeat it.