What’s In a Name?

Dr. Walter E. Williams, professor of economics at George Mason University, is consistently a reliable source of reason and insight.  Without having the privilege of knowing the man personally, apart from the exchange of a few cordial emails, it is evident through his writing that a driving force for Dr. Williams is the desire to see ideas, concepts, and commonly used terms clearly defined.

In his most recent column, Williams tackles the perpetually-relevant distinctions (and commonalities) between Leftism, Socialism, and Communism.

One of the greatest sources of confusion and deception is the difference between leftists, progressives, socialists, communists and fascists. I thought about this as I caught a glimpse of the Oct. 2 “One Nation” march on Washington. The participants proudly marched with banners, signs and placards reading “Socialists,” “Ohio U Democratic Socialists,” “International Socialists Organization,” “Socialist Party USA,” “Build A Socialist Alternative” and other signs expressing support for socialism and communism. They had stands where they sold booklets under the titles of “Marxism and the State,” “Communist Manifesto,” “Four Marxist Classics,” “The Road to Socialism” and similar titles.

The gathering had the support of the AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union, stalwarts of the Democratic Party such as Al Sharpton and organizations such as the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza, Green for All, the Sierra Club, and the Children’s Defense Fund.

He continues:

What goes unappreciated is that socialists and communists have produced the greatest evil in mankind’s history. You say, “Williams, what in the world are you talking about? Socialists, communists and their fellow travelers care about the little guy in his struggle for a fair shake! They’re trying to promote social justice.” Let’s look at some of the history of socialism and communism.

Nazism is a form of socialism. In fact, Nazi stands for National Socialist German Workers’ Party. Nazis murdered 20 million of their own people and in nations they captured. The unspeakable acts of Adolf Hitler’s Socialist Workers’ Party pale in comparison to the horrors committed in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Between 1917 and 1987, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin and their successors murdered, or were otherwise responsible for the deaths of, 62 million of their own people. Between 1949 and 1987, Mao Tse-tung and his successors were responsible for the deaths of 76 million Chinese…

You say, “Williams, isn’t it a bit unfair to lump the “One Nation” communists, socialists and their supporters with mass murderers such as Hitler, Stalin and Mao Tse-tung? After all, they expressed no such murderous goal.” When Hitler, Stalin and Mao were campaigning for political power, you can bet they didn’t campaign on the promise to murder millions of their own people, and probably the thought of doing so never crossed their minds. Those horrors were simply the end result of long evolution of ideas leading to consolidation of power in central government in the quest for “social justice.” It was decent but misguided earlier generations of Germans, Russians and Chinese, like many of today’s Americans, who would have cringed at the thought of genocide, who built the Trojan horse for a Hitler, a Stalin or Mao to take over.

But as Voltaire said, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

The heart of the problem on the political Left, as Dr. Williams goes on to identify, lies in the fact that all of their ideas centrally involve the centralization of power in the hands of the few.  It isn’t that liberal Americans are bad or wicked people – it’s that they are wrong in their conclusions.

Their intentions can be as right as rain, and the results will still be drowning in a big bowl of wrong.

Some will read this blog-post or Dr. Williams important column and only hear “Republicans rule; Democrats drool,” and that is a shame.  The attack here is on the ideas of the Left and their consequences, not a sales-pitch for November 2nd.

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