The following is part 2 of a 3-part series that discusses the author’s observations of the perception of socialism today and how would-be collectivists fail to see the dark side of their ideology. Read part 1 here.
While perusing YouTube in search of historical video clips, I reviewed the video results for “East Germany” and “GDR”. The search results included a YouTube post by the Guardian of London about a swap meet in Leipzig, a formerly East German city where vendors gathered to sell foodstuffs and consumer goods made in the former East Germany, the video included some older Germans waxing nostalgic for the old “republic.” Other videos pieced together newscast clips to tell the story of the dissolution of the German Democratic Republic and the reunification of Germany. I noticed the comments of various users on each video. While comments made with relative anonymity on a forum like YouTube must be taken with a salt grain the size of a Lenin’s Tomb, I noticed that a great many of them reflect some nostalgia for the USSR, for communism, for the security of Communist East Germany.
A lively and often uncivil debate played out through those comments. Some were insightful, observing that time and distance from the tyranny of totalitarian government made it possible to be nostalgic for the little things that shaped a life behind the Iron Curtain, from children’s toys and tubes of “fish sauce”, to vintage clothing and state produced automobiles available for purchase (at market price of course) at the socialist swap meet. Other conversations were cursing matches between individuals carrying out the arguments of the Cold War, 20+ years later set to footage of “people’s cars” or a montage of Communist Propaganda.
I was briefly surprised at how many comments glorified Communism, the security of universal mediocrity guaranteed by Socialism as lived out in the daily lives of the Eastern Bloc’s non-political class. However, upon considering my own reaction, I decided that my surprise was foolish…
After my childhood of knowing which system was good and which system was bad, I was introduced to the rest of the world. College acquaintances nailed the flag of the Soviet Union or Cuba to their dorm room closet doors, I saw clueless kids wearing Che Guevara shirts and surplus olive drab fatigue jackets. Unshaven pseudo-intellectuals espoused the merits of purely theoretical communism before fawning college professors enamored with the Cuban healthcare system. “Edgy” musicians would rail against the police or whatever city ordnance displeased them on one breath, and on the next demand a governmentally driven solution to any given ill in society. People who would have liked to make a reputation based on distrusting society and the government never blinked an eye at completely assigning the fate of society to the hands of the government. Some of these same people who might have had some familiarity with history would make the conscious decision to gloss over the tyranny of the Eastern Bloc to note that nobody went hungry and everybody worked.
YouTube generation socialists cling to the image of socialism that Soviet propagandists strove for decades to plant in the minds of the masses; that the state existed for the benefit of working class heroes in newsboy hats and coveralls and that the state created an egalitarian society that cared equally for all. Mentioning the universal poverty achieved by socialism to the YouTube Leftist will only result in a laundry list rant about the perceived failings of capitalism; homelessness and hunger among the population, unemployment or unequal education and the 20th century wars America fought.
Che Guevara shirts and Trade Union Punk Rock are sexy and romantic, they give the wearer or listener the feeling that they are supporting the working man or fighting for the little guy, but those who enjoy them may not realize that the socialist or communist solutions they advocate require the governance by the force and intimidation that characterize the evil empires of the 20th century and the remaining examples of today, examples that include champions of individual rights and freedoms such as China, Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, and Burma. They fail to see or will not admit that those states stifle their people and create their own societal stratification, not between rich and poor, but between the oligarchs or party elites, and everyone else. The patterns of oppression and cronyism rampant in collectivist states are directly contrary to what one might expect collegiate champions of individualism and freedom of expression would desire of their government.
Please return tomorrow for part 3 of “The Romance of Red”, which will wrap up by discussing our present course toward collectivism.