American Communism

Recently, actors Sean Penn and Maria Conchita Alonso entered into a verbal altercation at Los Angeles Airport concerning their respective geopolitical opinions.  Penn, a noted Hugo Chavez apologist, and Alonso, a Cuban-born, Venezuelan-raised, American capitalist, had what one could understatedly call a disagreement over the merits of the socialist* approach to societies.

While I tend to care very little about what actors in their ivory towers think regarding, well, anything, this story did cause me to reflect on the underlying topic.  Many Americans – most I know, at least – know that they are against communism as an ideal but few could articulate exactly why.  Ironically, when one starts digging into the communist ethos, one begins to notice just how many aspects of modern America have conformed to that ethos, a concept I will refer to here as “soft communism.”

In 1848, German philosopher-revolutionaries Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels co-wrote the Manifesto of the Communist Party.  In it, they explain several characteristics of communism that are uniform across all nations and cultures:

1.  “Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.”

2.  “A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.”

3.  “Abolition of all right of inheritance.”

4.  “Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.”

5.  “Centralisation [sic] of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and exclusive monopoly.”

6.  “Centralisation [sic] of the means of communications and transport in the hands of the State.”

7.  “Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of wastelands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.”

8.  “Equal liability of all to labour [sic].  Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.”

9.  “Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equable distribution of the population over the country.”

10.  “Free education for all children in public schools.  Abolition of children’s factory labour [sic] in its present form.  Combination of education with industrial production.”

This list presents some alarming similarities to modern America, which indicates that our migration to soft communism is ongoing – if unacknowledged by the masses.  While the United States has largely been able to avoid the violent revolutionary upheavals that Marx and Engels advocated for, their revolutionary perspective is still being implemented to various degrees and through certain circles.

Let us consider each of these communist principles in turn:

1.  “Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.”

While not in the single sweep fashion dictated above, the abolition of private property in the United States is nonetheless underway.  Land is one of the only commodities in America that is continually taxed throughout its existence, which is made doubly harsh considering it does not typically depreciate or have a finite lifespan as with most other goods.  When we go to the store and buy products, we pay a sales tax once and then the item is forever ours until we have exhausted its usefulness.  Not so with land, which seems to indicate that it actually belongs to the State – in line with the Marxist rationale – and we are just “leasing” it.  This becomes especially prevalent if we fail to pay those taxes and the government confiscates the land for use at its discretion.  After the Kelo v. City of New London (2005) Supreme Court decision, Eminent Domain has now become an authoritative weapon to redistribute private property at the economic discretion of the State (or the economic urging of the special interest) – constitutional intent be damned.

2.  “A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.”

The “progressive” approach to income taxes is redistributive by its very nature and has existed continually in the United States since the early 20th century.  The political progressives of this period passed and ratified the 16the Amendment, thereby making soft communism constitutional and permanently infusing it into the American Experiment.  While the current progressive rates are not as high as they once were (reaching 94% at one point in 1945), many politicians and special interests are calling for a return to those days.  The entire mentality mirrors the communist ideal with obvious socialistic effects.

3.  “Abolition of all right of inheritance.”

The so-called “Death” Tax in the United States facilitates this approach in many cases in the absence of Marxist-style government enforced policy.  Inheritance is subject to State pickings first – and to a shocking 35% degree (not including estate tax rates levied by the individual states).  Some politicians continue to call for higher rates with lowered/fewer exemptions.

4.  “Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.”

Property of confederate leaders was confiscated following the American Civil War (Robert E. Lee’s home was confiscated and eventually converted into what is now the Arlington National Cemetery).  But those instances occurred during a single time period, had different political motives at their root, and have not continued.  Fortunately for many, the United States has not adopted a property confiscation policy targeted at immigrants beyond what is already addressed in #3 but it seems clear that if modern socialists/communists get their way, immigrants will not find themselves allied with their policies as described in the Manifesto.

5.  “Centralisation [sic] of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and exclusive monopoly.”

5.  This point is already long established and facilitated by the central banking system – the Federal Reserve – and the universal adoption of fiat currency through the abolition of the commodity-standard (i.e., precious metals).  With a currency whose value is based solely on the word of the State and a credit system that exists – limited or unlimited – solely at the monetary issuing discretion of the Federal Reserve, it is difficult to imagine a more perfectly implemented communist monetary doctrine.

6.  “Centralisation [sic] of the means of communications and transport in the hands of the State.”

While the means are not technically centralized in America (yet), the regulation of communications and transportation certain is.  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) are just two of the agencies that are growing in authoritarian presence in modern America.  The FCC still seeks to compel private businesses to provide political coverage they otherwise would not via the so-called Fairness Doctrine and the TSA is growing into a 21st century Gestapo with its intrusive efforts to create an image of safety.

7.  “Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of wastelands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.”

This includes forced nationalization of industries more commonly seen in countries like Venezuela but with the bailout environment of late, in which the federal government took significant influential stock in companies such as General Motors and the American International Group, it is difficult to argue that some degree of nationalization is not occurring in the States as well.  Although the command economy approach has proven to be a dismal failure as a policy, there is no shortage of people in the world who arrogantly think that they can perfect intrinsically flawed systems this time.

8.  “Equal liability of all to labour [sic].  Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.”

Interestingly, this is the one area where America is significantly different than traditional communist nations.  A central tenet of socialism, at least academically, is that everyone must work.  The combination of inherited prosperity-inspired laziness and entitlement in America precludes this concept in practice, which virtually ensures American soft communism – the modern Welfare State – will fail as surely as the resources necessary to support the masses dwindle under inevitably diminished productivity.  To the “industrial armies” point, however, there is some reason to be wary of some politicians’ enthusiasm for establishing/expanding advanced, highly trained, and massive organizations such as AmeriCorps (among others) and unions such as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

9.  “Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equable distribution of the population over the country.”

Fortunately, we have not devolved into forced relocation of peoples to satisfy this goal as was the case in the Soviet Union and remains such in China but this would likely occur through coercion and social programs (if not by force) once the full nationalization of industries and resources has taken hold.

10.  “Free education for all children in public schools.  Abolition of children’s factory labour [sic] in its present form.  Combination of education with industrial production.”

Authoritarian “free” education is one area that American socialists have long advocated for, in part because once the State fully controls the education (as it does already at some levels) it can control the message taught to new generations entering society as new thinkers and doers.  It should be disturbing to note that some members of the Occupy Wall Street “movement” are advocating for the forgiveness of student loans – in effect, introducing free education at the collegiate level.  While I certainly have no problem with the absence of child labor practices as they existed in Marx’s time, allowing the State to control education also fully empowers it to determine who does what – which does not eliminate class distinctions as advertised but does eliminate the individual’s ability to follow his/her own path to happiness and prosperity, as his/her own desires, abilities, and skills merit.  Involuntarily forcing individuals into lifelong vocations is a natural outgrowth of nationalization and the command economy, and is the precipitator of forced relocations to fill State quotas and chase the resources.

Modern communists – especially American ones – are anything but dumb.  They realize that America is the crown jewel of socialist accomplishment but to get there they must amend Marx’s and Engels’ teachings to include subterfuge and take advantage of our collective ignorance and laziness (as has been accomplished in much of Western Europe).  This is why unions, redistributive wealth policies, and social programs have become such important political instruments for certain politicians, their parties, and special interests.  Only by paying attention, gathering the information, and applying it in ethical and proactive ways can we avoid or reverse this gradual transition – assuming that we agree that individualism, opportunity, and personal merit are sacred tenets of freedom that we are unwilling to concede to an oligarchy that arrogantly presumes it knows what is best for us.

 

*  The specific differences between socialism and communism are numerous enough to warrant their own dissection in a separate post but their overall goals are similar enough to generally collectivize them for brevity’s sake in this post.

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