It will be no surprise to readers to hear that collectivism is growing in the Western World. It matters little whether we refer to it as socialism, communism, Marxism, Fabianism, totalitarianism or any of its other names—the collectivist ideal is on the rise.
British Conservatives worry over the extreme collectivist speeches of the new Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who is far more to the left than former leader Ed Miliband was, yet they often fail to notice that Tory leaders are also becoming more collectivist in their rhetoric. Certainly current Prime Minister David Cameron is further to the left than, say, Margaret Thatcher was, yet we Britons often fail to notice that both of the primary parties are moving further to the left.
Across the pond, in America, we witness a similar development. Recent Democratic candidate for president Bernie Sanders is America’s first declared socialist candidate, something that would have been unheard of only a short while ago. In order to compete with him, the other Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, has been forced to spout more collectivist-sounding rhetoric to keep from losing votes to him. The many Republican candidates, whilst railing against socialism, all supported existing entitlements.
In Canada, the new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has already sold off the country’s gold and has promised to increase entitlements.
Interestingly, Westerners are still keen to declare the former Soviet Union, Maoist China, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany as oppressive totalitarian jurisdictions, and acknowledge that their leaders ruled with a despotic iron hand, crushing the individual rights of their downtrodden people. And yet, these same people don’t seem to recognise their own countries’ declines into greater collectivism—it is not simply being accepted, but demanded by many. They recognise that collectivism brought other countries to their knees, yet somehow imagine that the “new” collectivism will somehow turn out better than the old.
It might be argued that those collectivist regimes are ancient history, and have been forgotten by the present generation, but this is not so. The present generation of Westerners has observed the recent declines of Argentina and Venezuela as a result of collectivism, and they continue to witness the remnants of communist Cuba.
So, what, then, would it take for the champions of collectivism to recognize that the “rule of the proletariat” is a false promise—one that is sold to the masses by political leaders in order to create totalitarianism?
Well, the answer, sad to say, is that it’s the nature of the proletariat in any country to prefer to believe that, somehow, there can be a great “equalisation,” in which the wealth is taken from the rich and redistributed to the poor. Although this will never occur (in truth, leaders both conservative and liberal exist for their own benefit, not for the benefit of the people they represent), it’s the nature of people to want to believe that there really is a tooth fairy and that political leaders will deliver on their impossible promises.
But, if this is true, then why didn’t the Western nations jump on board in 1917, when the Russians adopted Marxism? Or in the 1930s, when the Germans adopted Naziism?
Well, in fact, the impetus wasn’t there. In 1917, a revolution had taken place in Russia, yet a provisional government continued the war with Germany. Tens of thousands of Russian troops deserted. Vladimir Lenin stepped into the vacuum in April, promising an immediate withdrawal if his Bolsheviks could be handed the reins of power. By October, the Bolsheviks had seized power and signed the Decree on Peace.
In Germany, the economy collapsed in 1923 as a result of the economically impossible conditions of the Treaty of Versailles. Again, a would-be leader, this time Adolf Hitler, saw the opening for someone to step in and offer a collectivist panacea. He rose to the position of dictator quickly as a result.
The pattern has also been true in other countries. Certainly, Fidel Castro rode in on the economic and social oppression of his predecessor, Fulgencio Batista.
Hugo Chávez was also regarded as a saviour, as a result of the economic crisis that occurred under his predecessor, Rafael Caldera. The collapse of Venezuelan banks bankrupted 70,000 companies and destroyed the savings of countless Venezuelans. The Chávez “tripartite”—a collectivist solution—was adopted, and the desperate Venezuelans welcomed Chávez and collectivism as “the answer.”
But why did the UK, Canada, the US and other countries of the “Free World” not go collectivist during these various periods? Well, conditions may at times have been difficult in these countries, too, but not so dire as in those countries that turned to collectivism.
As former American President Herbert Hoover stated in 1952, “Every collectivist revolution rides in on a Trojan horse of ‘Emergency.’ It was a tactic of Lenin, Hitler and Mussolini.”
And so it goes. When the banks have collapsed and the people are starving, the people will turn to whatever fairy tale is promised as a solution. (This is further exacerbated if the country is in the midst of a major war.)
Today, Westerners are seeing the economic collapse of their countries just coming over the rise and into view. They are also facing the inclination of their leaders (both conservative and liberal) to dive in at the deep end of what may well become the next world war. They see their future drying up, as their lifestyles are diminishing, with no hope on the horizon for conditions to improve. When this happens, it’s easy to convince a people that their situation was caused by “the rich” and that a collectivist leadership will make it possible to return to good times by taking the wealth from the rich and “giving it back” to the proletariat.
So, when will they learn? Actually, they rarely do. In Argentina, after each economic collapse caused by the Peróns and their successors, there was a brief fiscal conservative trend, yet the proletariat, even then, still believed in the collectivist ideal. After just a few years of belt-tightening, people again demanded that the entitlements expand. All that was needed was a new collectivist politician who would claim, “There was nothing wrong with the collectivist ideal; we just need to get it right this time.”
What we can learn from this is that, once a people becomes convinced that it’s their right to have their government take wealth from another group of people and give it to them, they will remain committed to the concept that the system is both just and possible. They will therefore repeatedly gravitate to those prospective leaders who promise largesse to them, at the expense of others.
As Edward Gibbon stated in the late 18th century, on the death of the Athenian republic:
In the end, more than freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all—security, comfort and freedom. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again.
And as Thomas Jefferson said at that time, “The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”
Once the belief in collectivism tops 50% in any nation, odds are that the trajectory will continue downward for the lifetime of the observer. Fortunately, the world is never without choices—alternate jurisdictions that may offer greater freedoms. In any age, there are jurisdictions that are on the rise as others go into decline.
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