Hey Millennials: Here’s the Truth About Socialism, Kim Jong-un, and Nicolás Maduro


A recent story in the New York Times discussed the increasing willingness of political candidates in the United States to run as socialists. Times reporter Farah Stockman wrote that the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is surging, even in conservative-leaning states. “Since November 2016, DSA’s membership has increased from about 5,000 to 35,000 nationwide,” Stockman wrote. “The number of local groups has grown from 40 to 181, including 10 in Texas. Houston’s once-dormant chapter now has nearly 300 members.”

Franklin Bynum, a 34-year-old attorney, avowed socialist, and DSA member, won the Democratic nomination for criminal court judge in Houston. At least 16 other socialists appeared on the ballot in primary races across Texas.

Many of the candidates and much of the support come from millennials, the largest generation of Americans in history. In part, millennials’ attraction to socialism can be traced back to Occupy Wall Street and the 2016 presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist. These well-publicized movements emphasized inequalities in income, access to capital, criminal justice, healthcare, childcare, access to education, and housing affordability. Amy Zachmeyer, a 34-year-old union organizer who helped restart the Houston DSA chapter said that socialism “resonates with millennials who are making less money than their parents did, are less able to buy a home, and drowning in student debt.” Millennials’ attraction to socialism is reflected in surveys.

A 2016 survey of 18- to 29-year-olds by Harvard’s Institute of Politics found that 16 percent self-identified as socialists, while 33 percent supported socialism. Only 42 percent supported capitalism, while 51 percent did not. Another survey in 2017 found that 51 percent of millennials identified socialism or communism as their favored socioeconomic system. Only 42 percent favored capitalism. Jorge Roman-Romero, 24, who leads a new DSA chapter in Tulsa, Oklahoma, said, “It’s not a liability to say that anymore,” referring to calling oneself a socialist candidate.

Frances Reade, 37, is vice chairwoman of the East Bay DSA chapter in the San Francisco Bay Area, which has about 1,000 members. She enjoys the free evening classes, known as “socialist school,” where they read and discuss political texts including Karl Marx. But it is doubtful that this Marxist night school is reading about the true history of socialism and communism in practice, which has brought more human suffering and death to the world than any other socioeconomic system.

For example, DSA chapters should read “Can There Be an ‘After Socialism’?” by University of Pennsylvania history professor Alan Charles Kors, which tells the story of socialism that Bernie Sanders and the Democratic Socialists of America won’t tell and that millennials don’t hear. Here is an extended excerpt:

The goal of socialism was to reap the cultural, scientific, creative, and communal rewards of abolishing private property and free markets, and to end human tyranny. Using the command of the state, Communism sought to create this socialist society. What in fact occurred was the achievement of power by a group of inhumane despots: Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, Kim Il Sung, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, Castro, Mengistu, Ceausescu, Hoxha, and so on, and so on . . .

No cause, ever, in the history of all mankind, has produced more cold-blooded tyrants, more slaughtered innocents, and more orphans than socialism with power. It surpassed, exponentially, all other systems of production in turning out the dead. The bodies are all around us. And here is the problem: No one talks about them. No one honors them. No one does penance for them. No one has committed suicide for having been an apologist for those who did this to them. No one pays for them. No one is hunted down to account for them. It is exactly what Solzhenitsyn foresaw in said: “Socialism has a lot of different messages to different people. I think the issue of socialist ideology and what that meant or means is not terribly important.” Perhaps it’s not important to Sanders, but it was to the tens of millions of people who died at the hands of socialists or who currently toil under such regimes in Kim Jong-un’s North Korea and Nicolás Maduro’s Venezuela.

A 2014 United Nations report on North Korea listed the conditions that ordinary citizens face in North Korea: “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial, and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation” (p. 14). Two million to three million people are believed to have starved to death in North Korea in the 1990s, including “deliberate starvation” of political prisoners.

Venezuela’s government has practiced socialism since 1998. The result is an annual inflation rate today of 9,000 percent, an economy that shrinks 15 percent annually, empty shelves, crushing poverty, a fleeing population (10 percent of the population has emigrated), 12 percent of children under five suffer from malnutrition and a socialist president who prohibits outside aid, even from the Vatican. At the recent FEEcon 2018 conference in Atlanta, a young violinist from Venezuela, Wuilly Arteaga, talked about being beaten by government agents for publicly opposing his country’s despotic government.

So millennials, this is what socialism looks like in practice and where concentrated government power inevitably leads. As the old adage warns: A government powerful enough to give you everything you want is powerful enough to take away everything you have. That includes life itself.

Bernie Sanders and members of the Democratic Socialists of America choose to “step around the Everest of bodies . . . without a tear, a scruple, a regret, an act of contrition, or a reevaluation of self, soul, and mind.” By giving socialism and communism intellectual cover and acceptability, Sanders and the DSA help to hide the bodies and hide the truth from millennials, who have few memories of the atrocities and are likely unaware of socialism’s full record. Rather than being a Utopia, socialism and communism in practice create a hell on earth.

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Lawrence J. McQuillan is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Entrepreneurial Innovation at the Independent Institute. He is the author of the book California Dreaming: Lessons on How to Resolve America’s Public Pension Crisis.

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