One night during my ten year college reunion in June of 2001, my friend Grange and I retraced our old malingering grounds in the Coventry section of Cleveland Heights. We were disappointed to discover that the free-wheeling locale had turned into a suburban yuppie borough. All that remained from its bohemian past was a communist bookstore. Out of novelty, we decided to go in; although, much to our credit, even as clueless, over-emotional college students, we never flirted with the nefarious religion of communism. Inside, we were received by an obese redheaded woman in her forties and, mistaking us for future indoctrinees, gave us a sales pitch that passionately interpreted the events of recent race riots in Cincinnati as being indicative of the coming of a communist USA. She confused race baiting and our mindless over-sensitivity to race with economic oppression. I gave Grange a knowing smile and said to her, 'Don't you agree with the famous words of Edmund O. Wilson: 'communism, interesting idea, wrong species?'' Alas, she did not, and we left the store 20 seconds later.
There probably is no better way to describe the pointless and brutal love affair that many countries have had with socialism in the Twentieth Century than with the phrase 'wrong species.' Socialism is a plague on humanity. When it is boiled down to its most base elements, socialism becomes synonymous with state coercion. No socialist state can exist without it, as the state must attempt to sell its citizens on a system totally opposed to their individual interests. It is a crime against nature, and has decreased health and happiness everywhere it has been implemented. The errors of the communal impulse are meticulously documented in Joshua Muravchik's sensational Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism. I have seldom encountered a book that is such a perfect balance of entertainment and education as is Muravchik's. In a world where one can pay $25 for 200 pages of utter tripe, Heaven on Earth stands as a bargain and an ideal. It entertains as much as it educates. His compendium of the mayhem of that is socialism is also a testament to the necessity for historical analysis. He is similar to Anthony Beevor in the way his prose and style can create interest in a topic that one never wanted to study before.
The author of this work made a clever decision, and it was to focus on many of the lesser known members of the cult of socialism. Less publicized figures like Gracchus Babeuf, Robert Owen, and Julius Nyerere are given chapter long treatments. Clement Atlee, Samuel Gompers, George Meany, and the Israeli kibbutzim are discussed in order to flesh out the overall picture of the political actualities behind the success or lack of success of the socialist movement. It makes for a surprisingly suspenseful read, as many of the facts, stories, and quotations contained it the book the reader may never have gazed upon before.
Gracchus Babeuf, whose name in French directly translates as 'jackass' (well, it should anyway) is the real patriarch of the story. Indeed, Marx thought him a genius. Babeuf was not just another Jacobin in the French Revolution. He survived the death of Robespierre' albeit for a short while' but was not happy about it: 'Robespierre! Beloved ashes! Spring once more to life . . . .' At one time, an organization that Babeuf was a member of, called the Pantheon Club, was labeled a brigands' den and had the distinction of being padlocked shut by (then only General) Napoleon Bonaparte himself.
Babeuf's Conspiracy of Equals was an incompetent attempt to overthrow the Directory who, upon hearing about it, immediately locked up all of its members and put them on trial. Only two of the 65 were sent to the guillotine, but Babeuf was one of the two forced to receive the 'cool whisp' at the back of his neck. The Conspiracy of Equals was believed to be the first actual movement to embrace the concepts of socialism. Their credo is fairly recognizable even in our present day: 'If there is a single man on earth who is richer and more powerful than his fellows . . . then the equilibrium is broken: crime and misfortune are on earth.'
Ah, actually no. Crime and misfortune are on earth and always will be; however, as for the continued presence of demented leftist fanatics, we can only hope that our future differs from the past in this respect. Babeuf's dreaming appeared to be limitless. He said, 'Society must be made to operate in such a way that it eradicates once and for all the desire of a man to become richer, or wiser, or more powerful than others.' Undergraduates of the world unite! Such missives are poignant to those of us who understand that men have genes and are not made of clay. The appeal of Babeuf's words should rightly expire at the end of the reader's adolescence.
His coverage of Marx and Engels makes one ask the inevitable question, which is how two rogues such as these could have seduced a large portion of the world's population with their delusions. Marx appears to have been the prototype for what I call the 'self-righteous leftist' who still swings, like a Bonobo in search of a five second mate, from the girders of our political infrastructure today. His personality was exacting and ungrateful. This radical, who wrote of the way that capitalism alienated man from his family in turn had absolutely no respect for his own relations or for his fellow men in general. The same could be said of Engel. Marx appears to have despised his mother. The story of their relationship is 'one of love repaid in hatred.'
Marx also hated his Jewish past and, most probably, although Muravchik does not state it, all members of the Jewish creed. His words are not ambiguous. 'We discern in Judaism . . . a universal antisocial element of the present time . . . . What is the worldly cult of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly god? Money . . . Money is the jealous god of Israel.' Then he later laughs at another man's 'Jewish nose' and calls an associate a 'Jewish nigger' and Engels substantiates his opinion, agreeing that the man 'is a greasy Jew disguised under brilliantine and flashy jewels.' If only Jews like Trotsky, Zinoviev, and Kamenev had read this description and decided to join forces with Kerensky instead of Lenin, then perhaps Russia may have avoided the Bolshevik boot.
Marx did not seem to have any love for anyone, and turned on his closest associates like Wilhelm Weitling and Moses Hess for petty reasons. His father wondered about his internal makeup, 'Does you heart match your head and your talents?' The graves or debris of 100 million dead from his political fantasies informs us that it did not. Moses Hess did everything for Marx and even embraced communism before anyone else did. Marx viewed him as one of 'those pieces of party excrement,' and Engels happily reported to Marx about having sex with Hess's wife. One of the more amusing anecdotes about Engels comes from 1848 (surely one of the most important years in all of history).
Rather than return to Germany to engage in revolutionary agitation, this great visionary of a monastic existence for all of humanity decided to go on a tour of French vineyards instead! He spent two months 'lying in the grass with the vintners and their girls, eating grapes, drinking wine, chatting and laughing.' Remember that when you think of the Lubianka.
It is strangely reminiscent of the situation in East Germany, as 'the people' referred to the area in which the party elite were housed as being 'Volvograd' due to it being the only place in the country where such exotic automobiles could be found. Perhaps a verse should be added to the 'Internationale' about austerity, Krug Champagne, foix gras, and brotherhood.
Both Marx and Engels would have been very alienated by the prospects of either of them being relegated to jobs requiring physical labor. Their families provided them with extra compensation and capital so they could live their lives of intellectual violence. Marx always had at least one domestic servant in his household and thought that not having one would have been an undue sacrifice. Neither of them had any sympathy for the working man (they called them 'jackasses' and 'ignorant curs') and regarded the proletariat as mere matchsticks with which to use to ignite fires that would incinerate the western world. Much like the condescending attitude of today's liberals [sic] towards the poor, the common man was only important to Marx if he would swallow his outrageous ideas for social programming and government. If not, then he would be one of the many eggs that had to be cracked in order to build the socialist omelet.
As one who has been reading about the Third Reich since the time that one of our most famous socialists, Jimmy Carter, was only a Governor, I found the chapter on fascism to be quite rewarding. Muravchik makes clear that socialism was an intrinsic part of fascism. He uses Mussolini as a case study, and it is quite convincing. The author refers to him as being one of the original red diaper babies. Mussolini began his political career as a socialist and even said, after he was kicked out of the party, that 'I am and shall remain a socialist and my convictions will never change.' They did not. One of Mussolini's aides died with the last words, 'Long live Mussolini! Long live socialism.' Of note also is the intrinsic link between socialist fascism and statism. They cannot be separated, and in the words of Mussolini: 'Everything inside the state; nothing outside the state.' It was Il Duce who created the phrase 'totalitarian state' as the embodiment of his governing ideal. In fact, the state was so involved in the lives of its citizens that taxes were even imposed in the case of 'unjustified celibacy.'
As for Nazism, there has never been much question that it was an offshoot of the socialist movements of the left. Indeed, as Hitler himself said, 'National Socialism derives from each of the two camps the pure idea that characterizes it, national resolution from the bourgeois tradition, [and] vital, creative socialism from the teachings of Marxism.' Muravchik valuably explains that it was the Jewishness of Marxism that Hitler objected to and wanted eradicated, but not its position that socialism was a solution for the world's problems. Goebbels left no doubt that socialism was intrinsically part of the Nazi weltanschung: 'We look towards Russia, because Russia is that country most likely to take the road to socialism with us . . . . ' Yet it was this same Russia that thankfully dispelled their communal cousins into the pit of history's untouchables.
The men who founded the movement known as socialism can best be described by a quote meant for Robert Owen which was, 'He became a humanitarian, and lost his humanity.' No better sentence can sum up the socialist mind and their 150 years of ruthless social engineering. Pass a cemetery and think of their legacy to the world. It is unfortunate that their bankrupt ideology remains politically viable in many locales today. Upon reading Heaven on Earth, the reader will realize that you can no more build a socialism which works than you can create a human being who will live forever.