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Liberalism should not be confused with communism

Natalie Villalon | Op-Ed Submission

Communist forces are infiltrating the U.S. government. The American government will soon be engaging in totalitarianism abuses on par with those perpetrated by the Soviet Union. As ludicrous as the preceding statements may seem in a contemporary context, they should not be confused with the rantings of a Cold War-era witch hunter.

Based on its demonstration in front of the Women’s Building Monday, the student group “Young Americans for Liberty” would have you accept these statements as perfectly rational. The anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall seems to have provided the group with convenient fodder for a reactionary campaign against liberalism.

The display, in case you missed it, consisted of a DIY concentration camp, complete with fake prisoners and kitschy Soviet costumes (complete with fur hats). One of the group members handed out fliers detailing the abuse of prisoners in the Soviet gulag system to passersby. Had the group’s goal been to impart a history lesson, I would only question their methods; the whole display seemed too over-the-top to be taken seriously. However, the Young Americans For Liberty specifically drew parallels between the current political climate in America and the totalitarian Soviet Union. Apparently, America is moving toward socialism, which inevitably leads to a totalitarian state. Obviously, the current administration endorses more liberal policies than the last, most recently concerning health care. The group, as far as I noticed, did not sound off on any particular issues. But the Obama-endorsed public health care option has been met with accusations of communist leanings from some very conservative corners; I would not be surprised if the group cited the public health care option as a symptom of the impending communist coup. The idea of a public health care option would give more power to the government and would be similar to systems socialist European countries use. But conflating mainstream American liberalism with communism (not socialism, mind you, communism) is simply ludicrous. Can rational people really equate a public health care option with the collective ownership of the means of production?

Aside from that, the group equates somewhat socialist policies with concentration camps and oppression. I would like to point out that while France may not have the most efficient system of bureaucracy in the world, the government hardly endorses the violent oppression of its citizens. The same applies to a myriad of other socialist states. There does not seem to be empirical evidence for their conjecture. Frankly, I find the suggestion that America will soon begin violently oppressing its citizens to be absurd. The government guarantees its citizens freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of thought. We can vote and voice our opinions, as demonstrated by the group itself. The group seems to have little faith in the strength of American democracy if its members actually believe the current administration would get away with implementing a system of concentration camps. Even if the group doesn’t literally augur American concentration camps, using concentration camps for the loss of liberty that would be implemented if the administration got its way on everything seems hyperbolic at best.

Debate encourages critical thinking about policies and keeps any one person or party from having too much power. Indeed, opposition to whichever party is in power should be strongly encouraged. But the conflation of mainstream American left with communism is a gross oversimplification that detracts from intelligent debate about political issues. Intelligent politicians and citizens alike engage in debate about politics every day. They utilize facts and critical thinking to discuss the direction America should take. I won’t deign to detail the logical fallacies involved in equating the Obama administration with totalitarian leadership. The display itself seems to represent a blindly reactionary, rather than a rationally critical, viewpoint. Ignoring the actual political ideologies of those you oppose is not only counterproductive because you’re not arguing against current policy. It just makes you look stupid. I would have laughed at the display’s implications, had I not realized the group’s seriousness.

Political debate demands rational thought because the results have such an extreme effect on everyone’s lives. American democracy constitutes a government for the people, by the people. We all have a responsibility as citizens to critically examine policy issues and the ideological stances of those running for office before voting. I find it sickening when political discussion morphs into mudslinging. But we live in a free society, and all voices can be heard and will continue to be heard. There are no concentration camps in our future.

  • Jack

    Interventionism begets more intervention

    Read Ludwig Von Mises’ book: “Middle of the Road Policy Leads To Socialism”

    Hell – just look at the “progressive” tyranny in Britain – cameras in thousands of people’s homes, parents not allowed on playgrounds with kids, babysittying needs a license, etc.

    And in the US, policies for some time have been in place to implement all of the 10 planks in the communist manifesto.

    The author should consider that interventionism creates the need for more interventionism, due to distortions of the market, and look toward other societies in the 20th century as evidence of the tendency for middle of the road policy to lead toward ever increasing socialism and nationalism.

  • Alexei Zhukov

    Ms. Villalon, I wish to remind you of the following warning of one champion of liberty who bravely faced the Nazi tyranny:

    “Socialism is inseparably interwoven with totalitarianism and the abject worship of the state. It will prescribe for every one where they are to work, what they are to work at, where they may go and what they may say. Socialism is an attack on the right to breathe freely. No socialist system can be established without a political police. They would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo, no doubt very humanely directed in the first instance.”
    — Winston Churchill, electoral broadcast prior to the British general elections of 1945.

    And, since you are confused about socialism and communism, here is the words of Lenin himself on that issue:

    “In striving for socialism, however, we are convinced that it will develop into communism”
    — V.I. Lenin, from his book “State and Revolution, Selected Works” Progress publishers, Moscow, 1968, p. 320.

  • You are mistaken in saying the YAL literature “conflated” socialism and communism. What they suggested was something very different — that socialism LEADS TO communism. Now, conflating two things is very different from arguing that one is a consequence of the other. Whether socialism actually does lead to communism is certainly an arguable point, though Nobel prize winning thinkers such as F. A. Hayek have killed a lot of trees arguing for it.

  • I’m glad that someone wrote this Op-Ed too. Although I would not necessarily consider myself a Libertarian, the ones I know were mildly embarrassed by this display of logic that most Libertarians would never rationally try to argue with.

    Also, what I thought was pretty funny was when (as a friend and I stood watching the spectacle) a Political Theory professor walked up to us and stopped for a few minutes, to explain to us why exactly she thought that the display exemplified a sad misunderstanding of political theory. Haha.

  • Laura Kelly

    I was unsure of what exactly the gulag was trying to accomplish until I read the quote in Studlife today about how it’s supposed to raise awareness about “the problems with Soviet-style communism”. Seriously? I have yet to meet a Bolshevik on campus, I think we’re pretty aware.

    Glad someone wrote this op-ed.

  • Young Americans for Liberty

    I have here in my hand a list of 205 names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.

    As you know, very recently the Secretary of State proclaimed her loyalty to a man guilty of what has always been considered as the most abominable of all crimes—being a traitor to the people who gave him a position of great trust—high treason.