Socialism Part 1: The Dangers Of Populism

 

Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude”—Alexis de Tocqueville

Introduction

I have written many essays thus far on the topics of socialism and progressivism. My focus on these subjects does not stem from some kind of unhealthy obsession, but rather from a profound personal interest in them on an intellectual and academic level. Therefore, I write about these topics not only as a means to intellectually destroy them, but also in an attempt to educate, inform, and warn others about the very real threats that these toxic ideologies and movements pose to individual liberty, rights, and property, as well as about the unmitigated damage that they can, and already have, inflicted upon a society and culture.

Sadly, a lot of this damage is probably irreversible at this point. The genie is out of the bottle, and Pandora’s Box has been opened so to speak. The “tipping point” threshold of socialism and progressivism, both politically and culturally, has or is extremely close to being crossed. Now I know that I will never be able to change anything, I am not delusional or self-aggrandizing, but I can at least stand proud knowing that I tried to do my small part in attempting to shed light on the virus that is progressive socialism.

In this next series of articles, of which I have broken down into 6 parts, I plan on thoroughly exploring the dangers, consequences, and ultimate results of socialism. I will be focusing on four main topics: the dangers of unchecked and nefarious populism, the two main distinctions and systems of modern socialism: Marxist Socialism and National Socialism, the atrocities of socialism, and finally, why socialism ultimately ends in tyranny.

This article will focus on the potential dangers of unchecked and destructive populism.

Why My Focus On Socialism

There is no doubt that socialism is the dominant political and economic ideology and system throughout the world today, and that it is socialism which is promoting, rationalizing, justifying, corrupting, and pushing us further and further along the road towards authoritarian tyranny. Socialism is currently the dominant and most popular “big government” and “centralized government” political ideology in the world today, and its proponents are relentless in their pursuit for the all-powerful, authoritarian, centralized state. Socialism is also currently the dominant and most popular economic ideology and model in the world today, reaping the rewards of its endless false promises of “equality”, fairness, redistribution, and entitlements, while at the same time further sowing the seeds of envy, hate, and jealousy. Finally, socialism is also the dominant “pop culture” and populist ideology, with the progressive movement acting as the cultural and social apparatus of the socialist agenda, promoting cultural Marxism, social justice, feminism, liberal activism, identity politics, multiculturalism, cultural relativism, and various other culturally insidious causes in the name of furthering socialism.

As a result of these aforementioned things, socialism and progressivism currently poses the absolute greatest threat to our individual liberty, rights, and property, as well as to the fabric of a society and culture once grounded in individualism, liberty, merit, hard work, honor, and traditional civic and masculine virtues. If it were some other toxic ideology realistically threatening these things, then believe me I would focus on such, but it isn’t. It is socialism, and the liberalism, progressivism, populism, feminism, cultural Marxism, and social justice activism which promotes it. More specifically, here in the United States and the West as a whole, it is the reformist-Marxism brand of socialism that we are facing—i.e. progressivism and liberalism. Marxist socialism is the political and economic ideology and system, and progressivism is the cultural and populist mechanism which promotes it.

Are there currently, and have there been in the past, other tyrannical and authoritarian government systems which have denied liberty and were oppressive towards their own people—like absolute monarchies, military dictatorships, right wing or free-market fascists, and Sharia or Islamofascism? Yes of course, but these are not the kinds of systems that we are currently up against, nor are they the ones that actually and realistically pose a direct current threat to our individual rights and liberty—at least not yet. No, what we are currently facing is the very real threat of socialism—fueled by the virulent populism of ignorance, envy, and hate—and the tyranny that inevitably follows behind in its wake.

Populism

To begin, let’s first address the question: what is populism? For the purposes of this article, populism is generally any movement or cause pertaining to the interests, motives, desires, and influences of a large segment of the general public or masses. Generally speaking however, it is usually in reference to the interests of the middle to lower classes, or the “common people”. The term populism can also be in reference to the intentional appeal, manipulation, exploitation, and usage of the ignorant masses—through the use of demagoguery, propaganda, and pandering—by those with ambitions and aspirations of power as a means of furthering and acquiring said power.

Although not all populist movements are inherently bad, the term generally carries a negative connotation to it, and movements deemed “populist” are often viewed with suspicion and contempt. This is because populist movements are generally perceived as rash and imprudent, and grounded more in pent up emotions rather than calculated rational thought, along with the perception that these movements are nothing more than manufactured manipulations by those with ulterior motives and agendas seeking to exploit them for their own ends. As such, and justifiably so, there can be an inherent danger in unchecked populism, especially depending upon the cause, methods, and objectives of said populism.

The Dangers Of Populism

A) The Age Of Enlightenment

Long before the rise of various socialist philosophies and ideologies during the industrial revolution of the early to mid-1800s, many earlier political theorists and philosophers had warned about the potential dangers of an unchecked populist mob, especially in the context of a democratic system. In the famous ancient Greek work “The Republic” by Plato, Plato warned that a democratic system would inevitably be corrupted by the greed and imprudence of an incompetent and inept governing body comprised of the populist majority. Plato theorized that this will in turn lead to chaos, disorder, and lawlessness, which will finally result in a tyrant seizing power in the name of “cleaning up the mess”—often with the blessing and support of the lower classes—but one who will also inevitably consolidate his total power, thereby leading to tyranny, injustice, and oppression.

Later well-known “Age of Enlightenment” political theorists and philosophers, such as James Madison, John Adams, and Alexis de Tocqueville, also wrote about the potential dangers of unchecked destructive populism, often referring to it as the “tyranny of the majority”. James Madison went into great detail on this subject in “Federalist Paper Number 10”, written in 1787. In this essay, Madison described a populist mob as:

a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community”.

Madison theorized—rhetorically—that to eliminate the potentially destructive force of populism, a government must either destroy the liberty and democracy which fuels it, or ensure that all people have the same beliefs. Madison stated that both of these options were evil and ill advised. Instead, Madison believed that by establishing a strong federalist republic, where power and representation was divided and dispersed, the potentially destructive whims of a populist mob could be mitigated by the will and representation of the rest of the republic.

These theorists, both Plato and the latter, understood this danger as not only the very real potential for populism to ultimately result in tyranny, but also the potential for atrocities, injustices, and oppression to be committed at the hands of a populist “mob rule”. As such, these Enlightenment writers and philosophers underscored the fundamental need for the protection of individuality liberty, negative inalienable rights, civil rights, divided government, and limits on government power, to act as a theoretical safeguard against the potential oppression and atrocity of a populist mob enacting their will, or that from a populist instated tyrant.

Perhaps no historical event of the time illustrates the points that these philosophers were trying to warn about better than the French Revolution, which began in 1789 towards the end of the Age of Enlightenment. Initially inspired by the new ideals and philosophies of the Enlightenment, and with the initial good intentions to establish a representative republic, thereby ending the absolute monarchy, aristocracy, nobility, and feudalism, the French Revolution however rapidly dissolved into an unchecked populist mob rule. The initial inspiring Enlightenment values of individual liberty and true equality under the law gave way to the corrupted, radical, liberal (not to be confused with classical liberal), and early socialist ideals of Liberté, égalité, fraternité (liberty, equality, fraternity), in what would eventually become a new liberal era of philosophic thought known as the Romantic Era.

Essentially, the ideals of liberty and equality were corrupted by the populism of the revolution to mean equality of outcomes and wealth, instead of equality under the law and equality of opportunity. The value of revolutionary fraternity came to mean that the good of the collective was more important than the liberty and self-determination of the individual, as well as also becoming a justification to separate and label people as “enemies of the revolution”. This in turn led to the infamous “reign of terror” of the French Revolution, where tens of thousands were labeled as “enemies”, and were then arrested and often executed summarily by guillotine.

The unchecked populism and mob rule of the French Revolution resulted in several new tyrannical governments arising during its course, and ultimately resulted in the absolute dictatorship of Napoleon—whether he was a benevolent ruler or not is debatable, but that is not the point. For all of the grandiose ideals and populism of the revolution, the final result was atrocities, mob violence, mass civil rights violations, international wars, suffering, death, and ultimately returning “full circle” with a new dictator taking the place of the executed king (Louis XVI) they initially sought to depose—as Plato predicted. Although some legitimate reforms may have been achieved, the cost of unchecked populism was extremely high.

B) The US System

Unlike the later French Revolution, the Enlightenment principles—classical liberalism—of inalienable rights, individual liberty, and private property, along with the principles of a limited government, a system of checks and balances, the social contract, and a government deriving its power from the consent of the governed, were codified in the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the Bill of Rights—some of the most important documents on liberty ever written. The obvious balance that these documents sought to rectify and achieve was the balance between the healthy and just will of the majority—required for a democratic republic to function—and the protection of individual rights and liberty, as well as the protection of the rights and will of the minority. This balance was theoretically achieved by codifying the inalienable and civil rights of the individual that cannot legally be infringed, as well as by establishing limits over government control and by establishing a divided system of government with checks and balances.

Along with these measures, the US system was also established by the founders with the foresight to be one where change was possible and encouraged—as times, attitudes, and technologies changed—yet also one where change was intended to be a slow, deliberative, and difficult process. To ensure that any changes made were restrained, deliberate, and prudent, the legislative system of Congress was designed and intended to be a slow, deliberate, and lengthy process—gridlock was actually intended and was once seen as a good thing. Government power was also intentionally divided among three co-equal branches, with the power to check one another in order to prevent any runaway power. The amendment process to the US Constitution was also purposely constructed to be a lengthy and difficult process. And finally, the rights and power of the states was expressly stated in the 10th Amendment as a further check on any runaway government or populist power. All of these measures were designed with the intention of curbing any dictatorial power grabs, but also with the intention to protect the system from the imprudent, hasty, and rash whims of a populist or mob movement, as well as to protect the rights of the individual from any nefarious tyrant or populism that would seek to destroy them.

C) Failures Of The US System

Was this system perfect? Of course not, and for many many reasons, but in the context of this article, the system has historically and ultimately been ineffective in safeguarding against the unchecked and destructive populism that it was initially designed to prevent. The system can only work if everyone is “playing by the rules”, if those elected into power are principled and committed to preserving the inherent value of the system, and if the will of the people remains steadfast in protecting the system. When the will of the people—or an outspoken minority—becomes infected by the forces of negative and nefarious populism, spurred on by ignorance, greed, jealousy, hate, and fear, and stoked by the unscrupulous pandering and manipulation of demagogues only interested in their own power, then cracks begin to appear in the safeguards meant to stop it.

D) The Dangers Of Populism

And that is the danger of unchecked destructive populism—and progressivism as well, for in this case the two are synonymous—it will eventually find its way into a system, seeping into the cracks, exploiting any weakness, and creating further weaknesses to exploit later. In a democracy, populism is a constant, persistent, and relentless force, perhaps sometimes with differing motives and objectives, but almost always with adverse and damaging effects. All too often, it is a movement of ignorance and imprudence, spurred on by ill-intentioned and manipulative appeals to base emotions, and the worst of human nature, devoid of rational thought, logic, judgment, and patience. It is often a call for hasty, radical, and comprehensive changes and reform, as opposed to incremental, restrained, and deliberative ones.

Unchecked destructive populism is a battering ram constantly beating against the walls of liberty and individualism, until eventually those walls collapse. It is an endless tide of relentless waves crashing against the beach of the Constitution and the rule of law, incrementally eroding away the sands. Sometimes, it is a Trojan Horse, gaining entry through seemingly benign or well intentioned actions, but ultimately resulting in disaster and tyranny. This too illustrates the almost futile struggle of those committed to liberty, for they often stand outmatched, trying to hold the line against a relentless and eternal force of history, time, and fate, which is constantly pushing for more populism—progressivism—and is never satisfied with any of the gains.

Just because the powerful and eternal forces of time, history, and change may be behind a populist movement, that does not automatically validate that movement as just and good, nor does it automatically condemn those opposed to it as “evil”. There are consequences to populist actions—both intentional and unforeseen—and change is not always for the better. Populism and change does not happen in a vacuum, and there will always be a cause and effect and unforeseen consequences. The unfortunate and historical tendency of humanity is to move from liberty to tyranny, with tyranny being the historic status quo. Freedom is an anomaly. There always have been, and always will be, those willing to use, manipulate, and exploit the masses in order to achieve their own power, and there will always be the unsuspecting and ignorant masses ready to fall for it. Therefore, especially in the context of a democracy, there is nothing wrong with being suspicious of, or questioning the motives of, a populist movement. There is also nothing wrong with opposing or standing up to a populist movement.

At this point however, in the name of academic honesty, I must state that not all populism is bad. There can, and have been, legitimate grassroots and just populist movements throughout the course of history that have achieved positive and necessary change. Even the 1st Amendment in the Bill of Rights expressly states that the people have the right to organize, assemble, and petition for the redress of grievances. As I stated above, the dilemma—and often failure of—a democracy lies in the balance between the healthy and just will of the majority, and the protection of individual rights and liberty as well as the protection of the rights and will of the minority. The difficulty also lies in the ability to discern the difference between the just and healthy populist causes and change, versus destructive ones.

Therefore, populism in and of itself is neither bad nor good, it is simply a movement of the people. Like any movement or cause, its inherent virtue and morality lies in its objectives and methods. When a populist movement has legitimate grievances or just and noble objectives, and it follows the legal and established means to address them, while at the same time respecting the rights of others, remaining non-violent—or at worst civilly disobedient—and is representative of the will of a large segment of the population, then there is nothing inherently wrong with it. The problem arises when unchecked and nefarious populism violates the rights of others in pursuit of their objectives, usurps the law and constitution, turns chaotic or violent, believes that the “ends justifies the means”, does not represent the true will of the majority, or ultimately results in tyranny.

That is nefarious, dangerous, and destructive populism, and that is what Plato, the Enlightenment philosophers, and others have tried to warn about. That is what this article is trying to warn about, not the danger of populism in and of itself, but rather the potential dangers of unchecked nefarious populism. Unchecked nefarious populism may not always end in socialism, but it usually leads to destruction, chaos, and tyranny.

Another key point that I would be remissed not to mention, is that populism does not necessarily even need to be comprised of, or representative of, the will of the majority in order to be potentially dangerous or destructive. While the “tyranny of the majority” and other situational factors appealing to and manipulating the masses are real and potentially dangerous aspects of populism, often times—like Madison stated—unchecked destructive populist movements may not be indicative of the will of the majority at all. Often times, a well-organized and “vocal minority” is able to impose their will and influence over the majority. This may occur through a variety of different means, including lobbying, propaganda, protest, intimidation, cultural factors, and the projection of the false inevitability of their cause. It may also occur through the sheer apathy or unwillingness of the majority to fight them. All too often, the “silent majority” remains silent and disorganized, and therefore ill-equipped to combat the influence of a vocal populist lynch mob.

E) Socialist And Progressive Populism

Progressivism and socialism are intrinsically populist. So much so that the two words are practically synonymous. Not all populism may be socialist, but all socialism is populist. As such, populism is readily glamorized by those on the left as some sort of noble endeavor, but only because the power elites seek to manipulate and exploit it by claiming to champion it. Socialism is therefore a manipulative false appeal to the populist emotions and interests of the ignorant masses, in order to shore up their support for the cause, and thereby allowing the elites to achieve and consolidate power.

Socialist populism, especially in the context of progressivism and reformist Marxism, generally seeks to appeal to, manipulate, control, and “buy” the support of the ignorant masses through the promise of collective benefits, free government programs, and “handouts” or entitlements, generally at the expense of individualism and individual liberty, while at the same time empowering and centralizing the state and creating an underclass of state dependent slaves. By playing on populist ignorance, and a collective sense of greed and entitlement, the socialist power elites—and the “useful idiots” and complicit activists who assist them—have been successful in redefining government granted positive rights and entitlements as “inalienable” and “basic”. They falsely and disingenuously make populist appeals to “human rights”, “equality”, and “freedom”, while misconstruing the true definitions and ideas behind these rights, and maintaining the belief that these rights—and all rights—are derived solely from the government. All of this populism ultimately serves only to empower the state over the individual.

Socialism is also the populist false appeal to, and the populist manipulation of, the ignorant masses’ sense of jealousy and hate. It is a means of convincing them that by giving up their individual liberty, and by entrusting and empowering the state and power elites, that this will somehow better their overall situation, or at the very least punish and get revenge on the “rich people” or other scapegoats who have “oppressed” them. The socialist populists further try to appeal to the masses by falsely presenting themselves as “common men”, and by making the false claims that they are “for the middle, working, and lower classes”. They also try to garner support by misrepresenting their policies, claiming that by taking away and redistributing the wealth and property of others, it will “level the playing field”, reduce economic disparity, and somehow create equality. Yet when you boil it all down, it is really nothing more than appealing to a populist desire for retribution through furtherance of socialism and “central planning”. Socialism is therefore nothing more than a populist appeal to the masses for empowering the government, so it may then act as a sword of vengeance against their perceived enemies and scapegoats. Ultimately, it may not better the situation of the masses, but at least it will take those “bigwigs” down a peg.

Yet, in the end, it is even far simpler than these aforementioned things. Behind all of the populist appeals for equality, social justice, and fairness, as well as all of the base emotional appeals to populist greed, envy, hate, and revenge, socialism is nothing than a means of populist manipulation for advancement of government and personal power. Nothing more nothing less, just power for the sake power. Those with this desire for absolute power will, as they always have done, manipulate and exploit the lower classes and ignorant masses as a means to achieve this power, with little actual concern for them. Everything that these power elites do is predicated on the consolidation of their own power, yet they continuously successfully hide these intentions behind good intentions and the ignorance of the masses. As it was predicted in the ancient days of Plato, so too is it still today. Socialism is nothing more than yet another human means to achieve total power over an ignorant people, packaged as good intentions and emotional manipulation.

The Ultimate Result Of Socialist Populism

Karl Marx understood these concepts quite well—as I will discuss more in a later article—and it was a fundamental part of his writing and ideology. However, rather than trying to warn about the dangers of populism, Marx sought to exploit them. Marx developed an ideology inherently based on the manipulation of populist sentiment as a means for achieving total power. And although Marx himself never capitalized on this strategy, he painted a road map that would be followed by other tyrants for decades.

In this context, socialism is and has always been, a populist mob ideology and movement, and the means towards a totalitarian system. The cornerstone of all socialist ideology begins with the rallying of the populist mob—whether by class or nation—to be used as the starting point and means through which the old system can be torn down, and the new socialist system instated. Whether through a violent revolution (like Imperial Russia), or through reforming and reshaping the current system (like current Western Europe and the US), the socialist agenda is totally reliant upon the manipulation of the populist mob.

Conclusion

The end goal—or inevitable result—of socialism is an authoritarian, totalitarian, centralized, nationalized, centrally planned, redistributive, single-party controlled state, in which the “egalitarian” collective is placed above the rights and liberty of the individual. A state and system which then continually consolidates its own power, and leads to—and requires—the oppression, suppression, and subjugation of its own people.

In the next article in this series, I will explore the two main distinctions of socialism, their similarities and differences, and explore further how both distinctions manipulate populism in order to achieve their totalitarian ends.

 

© 2015 By AB Frank, All Rights Reserved

 

Read More: Socialism Part 2: Marxism

 

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