Christian Socialists and Other Enemies of Mankind
Jose Mena has a problem. Well, more than one. In this impassioned, baffling essay at The Catholic Herald, he tries to prove that the Catholic Church embraces socialism, so all Catholics must favor it. Because the reflections of various popes on economics point to socialism as best. Therefore, Catholics must try to impose this system on all of society, because their Church tells them to. And non-Catholics should obey them and accept it … well, just because.
I’ll point up the problems in his essay itself at the end. But first, an introduction is in order.
Mena’s a guy with some chutzpah. He’s the only person I’ve been able to find who was willing to take responsibility for the anonymous Tradinista Manifesto. It’s no fun to read. Its prose is the clunky jargon of a bad translation of Marx. The Manifesto tries to mate 1980s-style Liberation Theology (it took “inista” from the Sandinista movement in Nicaragua — or else from the title of a Clash album) with intolerant “Trad” Catholicism. Not the sort that craves the Latin Mass. No, the faction that still wants to persecute Protestants.
Occupy Wall Street Slackers Meet Inquisition Re-Enactors
Give Mena and the other Tradinistas credit. Nobody else had thought to form a coalition of Occupy Wall Street slackers and Inquisition re-enactors. It would have made for a quirky fanfic blog. Or a really “lit” cosplay Meet-Up.
The Manifesto briefly lit a brushfire in some Millennials’ parents’ basements. As I wrote at the time:
The Tradinistas want:
- “Decentralization”… and a world government that ensures that every land “generously” welcomes migrants, and halts “dangerous” “anthropogenic climate change.”
- An officially Catholic state that promotes the “social reign of Christ the King” …. which also “eradicate[s]” homophobia and transphobia… .
- To give everyone “private” property … which the government stops them from using “exploitatively” (that is, privately).
- To order economic life to the “common good,” and “abolish” capitalism.
You Want Famines with that?
Really, what the Tradinistas and other Millennial socialists want is simpler. They are liberal arts grads who don’t want to have to go out and get grubby jobs. To be forced to offer services to strangers in return for something as crass as money. Think I’m kidding? Here’s the convoluted Marxoid way the Tradinistas demand that:
Markets … become vehicles of exploitation when people must sell their labor-power on the market in order to survive. So, while citizens should be free to engage in market exchange, the polity should ensure that no basic needs – food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, etc. – go unmet, guaranteeing a livelihood independent of the market. [emphasis added]
In other words, St. Paul was wrong. (2 Thess. 3:10) Those who don’t work should eat, and organic, sustainable cuisine at that. It’s the state’s job to make sure they do. How? By seizing control of the means of production. Nationalizing every large business, and running it on the model of Amtrak and the Post Office. Then handing out cash to the masses, as Hugo Chavez did in Venezuela, before the regime went broke and people started eating the starved animals at the National Zoo.
This idea found its way briefly into our actual politics. Remember “Catholic” socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her Green New Deal? She went ahead and promised “economic security to all who are unable or unwilling to work.” [emphasis added]
Who said that the Tradinistas never had any impact?
The Lord of the Flies as a Political Program
The Stream threw cold water all over this. We “relentlessly pounded [Tradinista] nonsense into the ground with a series of scathing responses — culminating with the last essay ever published by the late Michael Novak.” Gaping a bit in horror, each writer pointed up a different facet of the project’s adolescent madness. One of them was driven to cite The Lord of the Flies.
After that, mainstream commentators like Ross Douthat and Matthew Schmitz stopped talking up the Tradinistas. They seemed a tad embarrassed.
The Whack a Mole Pops Up Again
But let no one accuse Jose Mena of pusillanimity. Or even of “learning from experience.” He’s still at it, trying to sell the idea that Catholics should be socialists, socialists should be Catholics, and everybody should be both. As penitent socialist Joshua Muravchik shows in painful detail in his classic history of the movement, Heaven on Earth, no idea on earth has been given more undeserved “second chances” to fail than socialism. And no idea has failed so consistently, everywhere we’ve tried it outside the voluntary confines of a monastery.
Let’s examine the latest “second chance” Mena offers socialism — the chance to get rebranded as the official economic program of the largest Christian church.
The Popes Don’t Know What They’re Saying, But We Must Listen to Them
The first teensy-weensy obstacle Mena faces is this: Popes have explicitly condemned socialism by name. Not just one pope, but one pope after another. Nor did they criticize it as well-meaning but misguided. Pope Leo XIII called socialism a “scheme of horrible wickedness.” Popes Pius X, Pius XI, Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI used equally strong language. They described socialism as evil, as a diabolical counterfeit of Christian charity that tramples the “sacred” right of private property and violates natural law. A system that treats man as a “molecule … completely subordinated to the functioning of the socio-economic mechanism.”
Mena deals with this objection by suggesting that the popes didn’t really know what they were saying. They thought they were condemning socialism (explicitly, repeatedly, consistently, by name). In fact, they were only criticizing distortions of socialism or accretions to it, such as atheism, materialism, and brutal confiscations of wealth by armed gangs of thugs.
Real socialism, which has never apparently existed anywhere yet on earth, just wants to recreate the “the Apostolic communism described in Acts 2 and 4.” Except that instead of drawing people to it by their enthusiasm for a newly proclaimed Gospel, it will march them there by force at the point of a bayonet. And those who resist will be starved, like the Ukrainians.
Socialism Equal Brute Force, Followed by Famine
Mena’s distortions are so profound that it’s hard to believe he’s not consciously lying. The very first pope to write about socialism condemned its economic program. Not its accretions or abuse, but its essence. Read Leo XIII here:
[T]hey assail the right of property sanctioned by natural law; and by a scheme of horrible wickedness, while they seem desirous of caring for the needs and satisfying the desires of all men, they strive to seize and hold in common whatever has been acquired either by title of lawful inheritance, or by labor of brain and hands, or by thrift in one’s mode of life.
That’s not some distortion of socialism. It’s the heart of the socialist program. It’s what the Tradinistas demanded in their manifesto, and what Mena calls for again in his new article. Socialism is about erasing private property, by destroying the price system that makes our economy work.
There are only two ways to determine how people work and what they get in return: Free negotiation (within certain legal limits), or government force. The price system is what lets free men and women communicate what they need, and what they’re willing to offer in return. It’s an amazingly simple solution to an enormously complex problem: feeding, clothing, and otherwise keeping alive more than 7 billion people.
Destroy the price system in the name of lofty balderdash such as “human beings aren’t commodities” and “selling labor-power” as “exploitation.” Then what do you get? Spastic, clunky efforts by governments to figure out the needs and wants of billions of people, and meet them. And the massive use of brutal force. Even that won’t work, of course. However hard you hammer a cell phone into a toaster, it still won’t serve as bread.
More Than 100 Million Murdered
So the next phase of socialism is famine. That’s how the last huge countries to try socialism, Russia and China, racked up deaths in the tens of millions. According to democide scholar R.J. Rummel, the number of civilians starved, shot, or otherwise murdered by the Soviet socialists was 61,911,000. The Chinese socialists killed 35,236,000. Nor is this ancient history. More than three million people have fled Venezuela, the latest country to try to flout the natural law and militarize economic life in the name of socialism.
We shouldn’t listen to the popes’ condemnations of socialism because they were popes, but because they were right. It’s not for members of one religion to impose laws on outsiders based on divine revelation, or papal claims of authority. We must make our arguments based on natural law, knowable to all, plus facts and evidence. That’s what those good popes did.
Enemies of Mankind
On every single score socialism is an unmitigated catastrophe, an intellectual embarrassment, and a stain on the human race. No it’s not still “cute” or “idealistic” for people to still be selling this bad vaccine that has murdered tens of millions. It’s contemptible. So are the people promoting it, and those who give aid or comfort to these enemies of mankind.
Let me end by recommending a film. From the 1920s through 1990, the people of Ukraine were subjugated by Soviet occupiers, who starved some 6.5 million people (estimates vary). That’s because the socialists in Moscow insisted on nationalizing all farms. The first chance the people of Ukraine got, thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost, to make a film, they produced Famine 33. It’s a harrowing, accurate picture of that socialist artificial famine, which began with bright dreams of “collective farms” and ended with parents eating their children. When it opened in the U.S., it played in two theaters, each for a week. I made sure to see it. And when I taught college, I showed it to my students.
Here’s how introduced it: “Ideas have consequences. These are the consequences of socialism.” If Jose Mena, or any of his allies, still have a trace of human decency, they will watch it, and explain why the world should give their bankrupt, lethal system just one more try.