Alan Charles Kors, “Socialism’s Legacy: Lest We Forget”

Session 9

Alan Charles Kors, “Socialism’s Legacy: Lest We Forget”

Session 9

Executive Summary

Dr. Kors is a professor of history (emeritus) at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert in European intellectual history and co-founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). In this Clemson University lecture, Kors argues that socialist ideas won’t be defeated until its consequences are acknowledged and studied systematically.

  1. Communists/socialists claim to want a more just system through central planning, but they take wealth as a fact of nature and—moved by envy of others’ greater wealth—wish to redistribute it.
  2. History’s most brutal regimes were communist: Mao Zedong’s China killed at least 70 million people; Joseph Stalin’s Russia killed at least 60 million. Socialism “extracts every last fiber of labor” out of people and then kills them.
  3. Socialism will always lead to inhumane states because of its basis in central planning—the view that the government should have full power over every aspect of one’s life. That inevitably leads to creating a society of masters and virtual slaves. Centralized power attracts those who will abandon their principles for pragmatic gain and those who desire power for the sake of power.
  4. Shockingly, communism’s atrocities have not been condemned by leftist Western intellectuals as much as those of other totalitarian regimes. Nazi crimes, for example, are properly recognized but Communist crimes are often dismissed as mere mistakes or as manifestations of non-ideal socialism.
  5. Further, socialism’s foundations are not challenged, even though Marxism says ideologies should be evaluated only based on their real incarnations. Nor has credit properly been given to critics like Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek who predicted socialism’s disastrous consequences.
  6. Socialists thus have “bad faith.” Instead of realism, they “contrasted a fictional perfect society that never was to an imperfect society that had accomplished actual wonders.”
  7. As a result, we have also failed in our moral obligation to the victims of communism to acknowledge and bear witness to the horrors of socialism.
  8. Further, the failure to assess socialist theory and practice objectively leaves us vulnerable. Even the dramatic collapse of European socialism, e.g., following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, does not protect us from socialism’s being tried again.

​Watch or listen to Dr. Kors’s lecture on YouTube. Summary by Andrei Volkov and Stephen Hicks, 2020.

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