Socialism Is Slavery
This op-ed originally appeared in the New Hampshire Union Leader on 05/01/2018
One year ago today, an activist named Daniel Llorente interrupted the Workers’ Day march in Havana, Cuba. Wearing the Cuban flag T-shirt, Daniel unfurled an American flag over his head and ran in front of the procession replete with photos of Fidel Castro. He was tackled by undercover agents of the state.
The Cuban regime tries to take credit for the improvement of their people’s lives. It staked its legitimacy on the supposed emancipation and well-being of the working class. But the Cuban regime showed its colors by silencing Llorente and thousands of Cuban dissidents. Socialist regimes denigrate the very workers they claim to represent.
When the International Socialist Conference declared May 1 International Worker’s Day in 1898, it advocated for child labor laws, improvements in pay and safety regulations, and for the rights of workers to form independent organizations to advocate on their behalf. But by embracing Karl Marx’s theories of human nature and violent action, the early Socialists undermined their own aspirations.
Far from ushering in a more equitable society, socialist movements that subscribed to Marxist ideology engendered a new form of slavery in the modern world. In the USSR, unenthusiastic work was considered a treasonous offense, “counter-revolutionary sabotage” that resulted in prison or death. Whenever a factory or harvest underperformed arbitrary regime quotas, the laborers were blamed for sabotaging the revolution. When the 1932 Ukrainian harvest underperformed after Stalin collectivized farms, he blamed the farmers and workers and forced them to starve en masse. Millions perished.
Marxist ideology is still being used to hold more than a billion people captive around the globe. China, where Xi Jinping just proclaimed the Communist Manifesto’s continued relevance, continues to use a system of Laogai, or forced labor camps, and dictates where the working class can live and work based on a “social credit” system. Venezuela’s socialist regime seized the means of production. Venezuela’s military runs the grocery stores while Nicolas Maduro denies humanitarian food aid to his political opponents. The average Venezuelan has lost more than 20 pounds in the last year.
Millennial Americans who rightly take offense at the greed and inhumanity sometimes exhibited by global corporations must remember that workers’ rights have not improved thanks to international socialism. Workers are only truly empowered in a free society because employers and employees are able to negotiate with each other equally under the law. In a socialist system where the regime owns the means of production, the owner, manager, employer party apparatchik is the law. Workers who would demand better treatment face repression, imprisonment, or worse.
Although Cuba has ratified all of the international labor conventions against forced, demeaning, and dangerous labor conditions, “it willfully fails to comply with them,” writes the AFL-CIO. The Cuban regime recently banned all independent labor unions.
The superiority of independent labor over Communism was known to the shipyard workers of Gdansk, Poland when they founded the Solidarity trade union. With the support of the United States, Solidarity helped bring down Communism in Eastern Europe.
If May 1 really is about workers, then don’t celebrate socialism. Celebrate free enterprise that allows workers to thrive. Let’s celebrate a free society in which individuals are able to pursue their dreams, provide for their families, and bargain collectively.
For dissidents like Daniel Llorente who want freedom and prosperity, the American flag symbolizes hope. America manifests the noblest Western traditions of free and honest enterprise. On this May 1, Americans would do well to remember that Socialism is not the best hope of workers, it is their ultimate enslavement.
Marion Smith is executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C.