All Commentary
Monday, January 1, 1973

Before We Burn It Down!


Mr. Wells has been an educator and currently is a free-lance writer and supervisory training consultant.

Some time ago, Reverend Billy Graham spoke with one of the New Left’s leading theorists, a part time university professor. Writing of it in Reader’s Digest, (June, 1969) Reverend Graham added that the young man announced, “Our intention is to tear this country apart.”

The religious leader asked, “What system would you substitute after this one’s demolished?”

“I don’t know,” the young man replied, “but anything’s better than what we have now.”

If our young are so woefully misinformed, perhaps they ought to study in China, Cuba, or the Soviet Union, so that they can see and experience the serfdom suffered by the laborer under state ownership.

One year under those tightly regimented, totalitarian governments would undoubtedly leave these students as disillusioned as are the young Africans who have studied in Russia. According to Victor Lasky, author of The Ugly Russian (1965), Africans quickly learned that socialism was no cure for bigotry. Russian students often surrounded blacks and snickered over racial differences. A boy from Uganda was beaten by a mob of mocking Muscovites. A medical student from Ghana was found dead in the snow, a victim of violence. The Patrice Lumumba University where they study is a segregated school, dubbed “Apartheid U” by the embittered Africans.

The Sino-Soviet split and the intense nationalism displayed by most Russians has been enough to convince many of the brighter black radicals that socialism will not end wars. The tanks rolling into Czechoslovakia were proof enough for most that socialism is no guarantee against imperialism. These students have shared the popular Czech joke currently being whispered among the Soviets. “What is the most neutral country in the world?” one Czech is supposed to have asked another. “Ah, Czechoslovakia, of course,” his friend replied; “she doesn’t even interfere in her own affairs.”

So before we burn it down, perhaps we should face up to the alternatives. Pure socialism has never succeeded anywhere. Even though half the working force is assigned to farms, the Soviet Union has never been able to feed its people. According to U.S. News and World Report of May 15, 1972, one American farmer out produces seven Soviet farm workers, because the American benefits personally from his increased productivity. The Ukraine, once the breadbasket of Europe, has been unable to feed the people, who have had to rely on wheat sold to them by such capitalistic countries as Canada and the United States.

As Eugene Lyons wrote in Workers’ Paradise Lost (1967), Russia is a laboratory test of the effectiveness of private versus socialized farming. Because of the peasants’ resistance and sabotage, Joseph Stalin was forced to grant them the right to own a cow, a few animals, and a small section of land on which they could produce products for the open market at free prices. These private farms make up merely three per cent of the acreage in use, yet they produce forty per cent of all Russia’s vegetables, sixty per cent of its potato crop, and sixty-eight per cent of all its meat products.

Lazo Finds Problems in Cuba

Before Fidel Castro seized the farms, Cubans produced almost 8 million tons of sugar. It was Cuba’s “money crop.” Four years after Castro shot his way to power, sugar production had plunged to 4.8 million tons. To harvest this vital commodity, Castro forced the militia into the fields at the rate of 7 pesos a month (about $2.00). Conscripts must spend ten hours a day for a minimum of twenty-four months cutting cane or working the fields, policed by armed guards.

When the rebellious deride materialism, they should remember that the abundance of food in the United States is due both to our incentive system and our industrial advances. Machinery, improved fertilizers, electrical and mechanized power are contributions made by many of the giant companies that are now being harassed by those wishing to destroy our republic.

Cuba can scarcely feed its own. Toward the end of 1967, butter was no longer available. Chicken could not be bought, nor could fish. Except for infants and the aged, milk could be purchased only with a doctor’s prescription. Dr. Mario Lazo, a noted Cuban attorney and author of Dagger in the Heart (1968), stated that meat was doled out at a quarter of a pound a week — “what Americans consume in a single hamburger.” Even the contemptible malanga, humble cousin to the potato, which used to be given away free, was being rationed. Despite huge shipments of wheat from Canada, bread, too, was a scarcity. In fact, Castro’s regime has been kept from bankruptcy, not only by aid from Russia, but by credit or aid from Canada, England, France, and even Spain.

Communes Fail, Incentives Restored in China

As for China, according to Morris R. Wills, one of the twenty-one GI’s who defected and later returned, Chinese officials attempted to combine the agricultural cooperatives into communes back in 1958. In these communistic units, the diligent worker, the skilled, and the lazy were all paid, not according to their ability or output, but according to their needs, a basic tenet of Marxism. It resulted in complete, if grim, equality for the serfs, while the influential Party members or highly skilled citizens lived in comfort or even wealth. It also resulted a year later in nationwide starvation. The communes had failed!

“It was a common thing in the countryside,” Wills told J. Robert Moskin in an interview for the book Turncoat (1966), “to find a baby lying at the side of the road — thrown away.” It had died, and, helplessly, the parents had left it there, but make no mistake, they were not indifferent; they were bitter.

The desperate situation forced the Chinese officials to reintroduce the incentive system, an important aspect of capitalism. Workers were to be rewarded for special effort by monthly bonuses — extra food, extra clothing, extra allowances. In a bakery Wills visited in 1965, he learned the women wrapping candy were being paid according to piece work! How Karl Marx would have raged over such bourgeois retrogression! But, unhappily for the Chinese, Marx’s theory ignored human nature. It is human to resent injustice. Paying the competent the same as the incompetent infuriates the able and causes them to despair. Seeing no future in their efforts, most cease striving. Any political theorist, of whatever leanings, had best take, into consideration this inescapable fact.

Housing Shortages in Russia

Despite Russia’s fifty years of highly touted progress, it cannot adequately house its people. Almost half of Moscow’s citizens still share kitchen and bath facilities with other families. In this so-called “laborer’s paradise,” the workers’ requests for apartments get less consideration than do the requests of privileged Communist Party members.

Russia’s astounding scientific and technical advances have been equaled or surpassed by other nations, nations that have not had to resort to political genocide and mass enslavement. Furthermore, the New Left ought to make a careful note that when President Richard M. Nixon made his famous visit to Russia as Vice President he found roughly half the machines in Novosibirsk’s largest machine-tool plant were American made. Many of the rest bore German markings, proof that much of the Soviet’s technical progress has been made through the efforts of the free enterprise system.

According to Time magazine’s annual review in 1929, the International General Electric Company signed a twenty-five million dollar contract to electrify the Soviet Union. Other U. S. corporations agreed to build a 100-million dollar hydro-electric plant in the Ukraine, steel mills, coal mines, and tractor factories at Stalingrad. Ford sold the Russian government a complete automotive factory, installed and equipped. These are crucial facts, because current leftists too often dismiss the failure of socialism in China, Cuba, and Russia by saying these countries were not sufficiently industrialized for the changeover. They overlook or ignore Russia’s utilization of the technical advances created by capitalism. Much of Russia’s difficulty came from the resistance of the people. They grew less grain because of heavy taxes and the scarcity of goods. They slaughtered their cattle and uprooted their fruit trees rather than turn them over to the state. They burned their houses, thinking that soon they would get a brand new one from the government. During 1928, nine thousand homes were destroyed by fire in the Russian province of Samarra. Of these, one third, three thousand, were gutted because of arson.

Red Tape and Waste

Theoretically, socialism is supposed to be more efficient than capitalism due to state control and centralized planning. In practice, it isn’t. It suffers from the same ills that plague our own huge, cumbersome, Federal bureaucracy. It is strangled by red tape. It suffers from wasteful duplication. Typical is the factory that received seventy different commands from fifteen overlapping, government bureaus. Since it isn’t necessary to show a profit for a plant or factory to survive, gross inefficiency continues year after costly year. Unlike our own economy, however, there is no free enterprise system to support bureaucratic mismanagement.

The humor of the people is perhaps more revealing than are the periodic progress reports. One story tells of a leading Communist who died and was sent to hell. At the entrance, Satan offered him the choice of two gates, one marked “Capitalists,” the other “Communists.”

“I’ll take the Communist hell, naturally,” the Russian replied. “Oh?” said Satan.

The Communist nodded cynically, then added, “Yes. There’s bound to be a fuel shortage there.”

As Nation’s Business pointed out, if we wanted to match Russia’s economy, we would have to: “tear down sixty per cent of our homes, demolish sixty per cent of our steel mills, rip up two thirds of our railroad tracks, destroy nine out of every ten telephones, and reduce our standard of living a full sixty per cent.” Of course, in comparison to China and Cuba, Russia has indeed made giant strides. Mao and Castro have reduced the worker’s lot to grim survival.

Government Doesn’t Wither

Furthermore, the government that Karl Marx said would decrease in importance and disappear, remains as strong as ever. It has become entrenched by suppressing all dissent. Recently, seven Russians were imprisoned for merely complaining about the plight of the worker (Facts on File, November 26, 1969).

In Cuba, according to Dr. Lazo, a person cannot change his residence or transport so much as a chair or lamp to a new apartment without the knowledge and consent of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution.

China, like Cuba and Russia, has found the most insidious instrument of tyranny is the informer. For awhile, Wills played poker with an American couple also working with the Chinese Communists until their children walked in to demand the gambling be stopped or the children themselves would report it.

Borrowing a device from Czar Nicholas I, the Soviet leaders have had many critics declared “demented” and placed in insane asylums. So, before we tear down our republic, perhaps we should decide: Do we want a system where the sane are caged and the mad allowed to rule?

Paper Promises

So long as socialism remained an untried theory, it was understandable that idealistic young men and women should be drawn to it. It promised much: more efficiency in the productive capacity of a country, equality for all, an end to depressions (such as the famines both the Soviets and the Chinese Communists have suffered), a fairer distribution of the goods, and — once the state had been abolished — a true democracy of the people.

The promises were paper promises. They have all failed to materialize. Today, the only explanation for the continuing dream of a Utopian Socialistic Society is lack of knowledge or a belief that by destroying the free world, there need be no atomic war. In view of the possible consequences, to remain ignorant is criminal negligence.

As for the fear of a world-wide holocaust, there is no guarantee that the internal destruction of America would end this awesome threat. Such a belief is naive and illogical, for if a socialistic China can split with a socialistic Russia, there is no reason to believe a socialistic America would fare any more harmoniously.

At a prominent Eastern university, the majority of young men who were polled agreed with the slogan, “Better Red than dead.” But how many of these knew they were voting for slavery? Surely, if the real test comes, the majority of Americans will choose the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as expressed in his third Inaugural, (January 20, 1941): “We, and all others who believe as deeply as we do, would rather die on our feet than live on our knees.”

 

***

The Youth Movement

In the decade preceding the First World War Germany, the country most advanced on the path toward bureaucratic regimentation, witnessed the appearance of a phenomenon hitherto unheard of: the youth movement. Turbulent gangs of untidy boys and girls roamed the country, making much noise and shirking their school lessons. In bombastic words they announced the gospel of a golden age.

Ludwig von Mises, Bureaucracy