It took a kiss to wake up the Sleeping Beauty. It took public unrest in Cuba to wake up Sleeping Joe, making him sit up and notice that there’s something wrong about communism.
Speaking at a press conference he shared with Angela Merkel after their meeting, Joe stated his position in no certain terms: “Communism is a failed system, universally failed system. And I don’t see socialism as a very useful substitute.”
I don’t know what exactly aroused Biden from his slumber. Until the press conference he hadn’t referred to the Cuban regime as ‘communist’, choosing the misnomer ‘authoritative’ instead.
Now, some will take exception to the notion that in the beginning was the word. Few, however, would deny that the word is at the beginning of speech.
If so, the word must have the same meaning for both the speaker and his audience. Let’s agree on the terms first, as an ancient philosopher said.
Alas, when it comes to semantics, a newly awakened Joe leaves terra firma and finds himself all at sea. To begin with, he confuses authoritative with authoritarian.
The former is desirable; the latter, less so. Authoritative means having authority, and surely no government can survive without it. Authoritarian, on the other hand, describes a government that not only has political authority, but monopolises it.
A government that monopolises not just political authority but also all others is called totalitarian, and that word would be a useful addition to Biden’s vocabulary.
If even such simple words defy the president’s grasp of political realities, it’s no wonder that he seems uncertain about the meaning of socialism and communism.
To be fair, he isn’t the only one, for the way these terms are used nowadays, they have a Marxist provenance. In other words, they were laid down in the works of history’s most muddled and disingenuous thinker.
Marx attached ironclad inevitability to political and economic history. Capitalism was bound to be ousted by socialism, and socialism by communism.
To Marx, capitalism was private ownership of the means of production (which is to say the economy), socialism was public ownership, and communism was abolition of property altogether.
Starting from the end, no government called ‘communist’ has ever claimed it was indeed communist, in the real sense of the word. Communism was to them not current reality but a shining light somewhere beyond the horizon. Hence most communist leaders refrain from pinpointing a definite timeline for communism to arrive.
Khrushchev was an exception. He declared in 1961 that “The current generation of the Soviet people will live under communism.” Since a generation is normally believed to comprise 20 years, eternal bliss was to arrive by 1981, but Khrushchev didn’t live to see the day that never arrived.
But what does public ownership of the economy actually mean? That everybody in the country owns a share in everything: industry, agriculture, utilities and so on? If so, we’re looking at a pie in the sky as indigestible as communism.
For ownership implies control and management. However, I may technically own some of the NHS, but I’m manifestly incapable of running it, and nor do I decide how it’s run. Only the state can do that, if only badly.
So in reality public ownership means state ownership. And the state must be sufficiently big and powerful to appropriate everything in the country.
Therefore, peeking through the fog of bien pensant phraseology enveloping socialism, we realise that it’s not about such beautiful things as universal equality and charity. It’s about a big and powerful central state.
Hence all modern governments are socialist, albeit to various degrees. And all of them seek to increase their power, thereby becoming more socialist.
They differ mostly in their methods, not their inner imperative. Extreme socialist regimes can rely on violence more widely than the moderate ones, which can’t easily nationalise the whole economy at gunpoint.
They have to act surreptitiously, mainly by gaining gradual control over more and more of the nation’s money. Biden’s signature under an annual budget of $6.5 trillion is tantamount to a pledge to do just that, as is his commitment to an increasingly nationalised healthcare.
At its extreme end, socialism becomes totalitarian, with the state concentrating all power in its hands, and some such regimes are loosely described as communist. The only ones springing to mind today are China and Cuba, although there must be others.
According to Biden, they’ve failed, but we must define failure. To me, the word means missing the desired target. If so, then neither regime has failed.
Just as the real purpose of mass murder is to murder masses, so is total power the real of purpose of totalitarianism. On these terms, Cuba’s regime is a qualified success, and China’s a spectacular one.
But that’s not what Awake Joe means. He means Cuba has failed to achieve American objectives, defined by another Democratic president as “two chickens in every garage” or some such.
That’s illogical. Cuba has her own goals, not Biden’s. Has it ever occurred to him that the American yardstick may not work in the metric system of totalitarian states?
And China is no longer failing even by American standards. If in the mid-1990s the 75 million diaspora Chinese produced more wealth than the billion people in the home country, today’s China boasts a per capita GDP of $10,500, 20 per cent higher than in Cuba. And in absolute terms, considering the number of Chinese capita, the country is an economic and geopolitical giant.
Something is terribly wrong with Biden’s platitudinous taxonomy, as it would be with any other that defines the world by purely or mostly economic criteria. Ronald Reagan emphasised this by describing the Soviet Union in moral, not economic terms. He called it an evil empire, not a failing one. It’s not just the economy, stupid.
But can you imagine Awake Joe saying that the Cuban regime is evil, which is why the United States is committed to helping those protesters? I can’t, even though he doesn’t want the Republicans to carry Florida again, as Trump did in two elections.
More than 1.5 million anti-Castro Cubans living in Florida are a powerful electoral force, and these people know totalitarianism not by hearsay. Those chaps won’t be won over by vaguely anti-communist noises, especially those that miss the mark.
They want deeds, not words, and Awake Joe doesn’t seem to know the difference. Then again, he’s a professional politician, isn’t he?