Last week, several self-proclaimed Democratic Socialists defeated long-serving Democratic incumbents in New York State primaries. One of the insurgents, Zohran Mamdani, tweeted out the words, “Socialism won.” His pinned tweet on his profile page says, “Together, we can tax the rich, heal the sick, house the poor & build a socialist New York. But only if we build a movement of the multiracial working class to stand up to those who want to stop us . . . Solidarity forever.”
This is a pretty good summary of what people currently attracted to socialism think they mean by the term — tax the rich and bring down the special interests to bring about a better country founded upon an agenda of radical egalitarianism. Yet anyone who has studied the history of socialism knows that this will fail, painfully, and possibly violently. Why do people fall for this time and again?
That’s the question my new book, The Socialist Temptation, released today, tries to answer. In it, I argue that socialism has learned how to speak the language of American values. The three main American values identified by cultural theorists are fairness, freedom, and community. Socialism says it can provide all of those.
Yet when you look at just how socialism purports to do that, it is full of contradictions. Those contradictions have been in full display whenever anyone has attempted to build an actual socialist state. Whether it be the Soviet Union, today’s China, or the Britain I grew up in, we see that bureaucrats and officials gain a privileged position, rights are trampled in the name of democracy, and communities are broken apart.
Of course, when everything goes to hell, socialists console themselves by saying that wasn’t real socialism. As Kristian Niemietz of London’s Institute of Economic Affairs has documented, in every such case the program began lauded as real socialism at last. As the wheels come off, they blame “wreckers” and foreign agents, and then finally deny that the project was ever socialist in the first place.
Read the full article at the National Review