Salvo 11.08.2021 4 minutes

“Muh Socialism”


This isn’t about tax rates.

In 1937, Joseph Stalin was in the midst of his Great Purge. Sure that he had enemies everywhere, Stalin ordered the imprisonment and torture of officials in the highest levels of Soviet government. Like millions of others, the condemned would suffer and die in prisons and labor camps. 

Andrei Vyshinsky, Stalin’s chief prosecutor, wrote a report on prison interrogation during that year. Vyshinksy’s report features prominently in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s exposé, The Gulag Archipelago: “Vyshinsky pointed out…that it is never possible for mortal men to establish absolute truth, but relative truth only. He then proceeded to a further step, which jurists of the last two thousand years had not been willing to take: that the truth established by interrogation and trial could not be absolute, but only, so to speak, relative.”  

And so, since there was no hope of knowing for sure whether Stalin’s enemies really had done, or said, or thought about the things they were accused of, “the proofs of guilt were relative, approximate. The interrogator could find them, even when there was no evidence, and no witness, even without leaving his office.” With the blessing of this erudite theory, Stalin’s blue-capped thugs dragged soul after soul down the Gulag’s throat. There the accused were raped, humiliated, and brutalized in ways that made the Inquisition look to Solzhenitsyn like child’s play. 

When elected Republicans wail dramatically about “Socialism,” I wonder if they have any idea what on earth they mean. After Glenn Youngkin and Winsome Sears won Virginia’s gubernatorial and lieutenant-gubernatorial elections, the House GOP Twitter account posted, “Americans don’t want socialism.” Judging by this and similar tweets from official Republican accounts in both houses of the legislature, the point our career politicians want to make is that Democrats support too much social spending, taxation, and business regulation. 

Is that really supposed to be our takeaway from what just happened in Virginia? Before the election, reporting by the Daily Wire’s Luke Rosiak revealed that a girl at Stone Bridge public high school in Loudoun County, Virginia had been raped by a boy wearing a skirt in the girls’ bathroom. The school board, with the help of other county officials, did everything they could to keep this enormity hidden from the public.  

After Rosiak unearthed the story, New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg wrote that though the boy “expected sex and refused to accept the girl’s refusal,” right-wingers were wrong to get incensed because he was cross-dressing, not identifying as trans. The boy’s mother agreed: “First of all,” she said, “he is not transgender.” And then, addressing her son’s victim: “you’re 15. You can reasonably defend yourself.” From the bright minds who brought you “believe all women,” here comes “she was asking for it” and “he wasn’t really trans.” 

I hate regulatory overreach as much as the next guy, and I agree that Democrat tax policies are a mess. But if that’s what Republicans mean when they natter on about “Socialism” in the wake of Glenn Youngkin’s victory, then they are poised once again to co-opt real populist anger in the name of facile sloganeering and comfortable sinecures. What the people of Virginia really stood up against last week was a regime of intimidation and rape apologia. What they faced was an ancient evil that goes much deeper and farther back than the Reagan era. 

The cognitive dissonance, authoritarianism, and ideological fervor on display in Loudoun County was indeed vaguely reminiscent of socialism under Stalin. But only in the sense that Stalin typifies in the modern era a kind of barbarism that has haunted the human race like its own shadow since civilization began. It is the glib pseudo-sophistication of Andrei Vyshinsky, who twirls his wine glass as he tells you that really, there is no such thing as truth. This kind of elegant talk always turns out to underwrite the ugliest and most remorseless forms of savagery—not just in Stalin’s Russia, but in the torture chambers of the Marquis de Sade and the catchy arguments of sophists like Thrasymachus. It is not “socialism” we are facing. It is a deceitful moral relativism that conceals pure animal cunning and the will to power. 

What the American people do not want is a cadre of self-satisfied, self-appointed “betters” who tell them guilt and innocence are relative, to be determined by the protected identity status of those involved and prosecuted at the whim of the elect. They do not want a patrician class that defines the rape of their daughters out of existence because it undermines today’s electoral priorities. And they want no part of that old evil which grins hungrily beneath a phony mask of intellectual self-importance. In this, God bless them, the American people are catching wise—and not a moment too soon. I wish I could say the same of the GOP. 

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

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