Socialists’ Objections Answered

Bernie Sanders Campaigning

In previous articles, I went to great lengths to show why socialism is highly immoral, but it’s important to remember that the people who advocate for these policies are often well-intentioned individuals who believe socialism is the best and perhaps only way to fix many of the world’s most difficult crises.

I have spoken to numerous self-described socialists, and many more who closely associate themselves with liberalism or progressivism, and it’s evident that many of these Americans truly believe socialist policies make the world a better place. In fact, some of the kindest and most generous people I know consider themselves part of the political Left. Openly declaring their left-wing ideology immoral, or even “evil,” isn’t done without great caution. Calling socialism immoral, however, is the most intellectually honest analysis I can deliver after carefully considering socialists’ views and the logical implications of enacting socialist policies.

Below I briefly describe some of the most common objections I’ve heard to the moral concerns I’ve outlined in several of the articles published on this website and why I believe these objections don’t hold up to scrutiny.

Objection: Socialism Is Superior to Capitalism

When faced with moral objections, some socialists react by insisting that whatever moral problems may exist if Marx’s socialism is implemented, they would be far less severe than the serious issues facing capitalist countries around the world.

As I’ve noted repeatedly, little is gained by attempting to debate the effectiveness of Marxist socialist programs for a variety of reasons, including that a truly classless society has never been achieved anywhere in the world, making a debate on the effectiveness of such a scheme speculative. There is, however, nothing speculative about most of the moral concerns I’ve outlined in previous articles.

Some might argue that even with socialism’s moral problems, such a system would be far superior to the poverty we see in many market-based economies today. This claim, though, is riddled with assumptions.

For example, socialists making this argument assume their model will work without any historical evidence suggesting it would. It’s very possible—and I would argue likely—their collective-property-ownership system, if fully implemented, would be a complete disaster, although I doubt such a model could ever exist because it seems to be in complete contradiction to human nature.

Another flawed aspect of this objection is that it attempts to compare problems related to the effectiveness of capitalism—especially poverty, wealth disparity, etc.—with the moral problems that must exist in a socialist scheme. It’s entirely conceivable a capitalist, free-market economy in which all impoverished people are cared for because people charitably and voluntarily choose to help others could exist. Socialists might argue this has never happened and will never happen, but they can’t argue it’s impossible. And even the staunchest socialist must admit that the quality of life for impoverished people throughout the Western world has improved markedly over the past century, disproving many of the flawed predictions made by socialists more than a century ago, including Karl Marx. In many respects, the one-quarter of Americans with the least amount of wealth today live far better than some of the wealthiest Americans did a century ago, and much better than the “middle classes” of countless modern countries in Asia and Africa.

However unlikely it may seem to a socialist that people in a free-market society would take care of the sick and hungry by choice and not by coercion, they must acknowledge that it’s at least possible. It is completely inconceivable, though, that a socialist country could avoid many of the moral pitfalls discussed elsewhere on this website, because collective property ownership, which is required in Marx’s socialism, necessitates that the majority have total power over the minority to make all important moral decisions. Either a socialist agricultural society permits the killing of animals to feed its citizens, and thus forces some people who object to such activities to be part-owners of slaughterhouses, or it bans the killing of animals and prevents people who believe they have a natural right to hunt and fish from doing so. There is no other way.

Similarly, either a socialist society pays for contraception, and thus requires certain devout religious people to participate in activities they believe to be sinful, or it doesn’t pay for contraception, angering feminists who believe contraception is a health care “right.” Again, there can be no middle ground in socialized health care, because nearly all property in society or in a particular industry is owned and/or controlled collectively.

Objection: There’s Nothing ‘Evil’ About Forcing People to Violate Their Deeply Held Moral Beliefs

Some socialists say that although their system might compel people to engage in activities they find abhorrent, if it’s truly in their own best interests to do so, it shouldn’t matter. In other words, moral concerns should always take a backseat to other societal problems.

There are several defects with this argument. One is that it has absolutely no objective standard upon which to base its claim. In other words, without a clear, unequivocal standard that can be used to show that lowering wealth disparity is more important than not violating the beliefs of various people, including religious groups, their view is, by definition, subjective and completely incapable of being proven.

It further assumes that all major religions throughout the entire world are false, because if any of those religions are true, then socialism doesn’t merely force people to violate their beliefs, it compels all people to violate the will of God. Unless socialists can prove beyond a reasonable doubt all religions are false, they can’t with any certainty say religious objections are less valuable than economic concerns. Surely, even reasonable atheistic socialists must admit that if they knew for certain God is real, His will for the world would need to supersede any attempts to impose “economic equality.”

This objection also fails because socialists cannot prove economic concerns have a greater value than individual freedoms, including religious liberty and the right to live freely without having to violate one’s conscience. Socialists have a tendency to obsess over economic equality, but they almost always fail to assign any importance at all to freedom, which, as has been proven since the dawn of human history, has real and substantial value for most people. Who in America, for instance, would choose to live in a country where they have all the food, health care, education, and shelter they could ever need, but no ability to speak, worship, receive a fair trial, or think freely? Americans, as well as many people around the world, value their personal freedom more than many economic concerns, and without presenting a strong reason for why they are wrong, this socialist objection carries little weight.

Objection: Total Uniformity Is Possible

When I presented some of my concerns about whether it’s possible for socialism to coexist with religious liberty, The Socialist Party of Great Britain (SPGB) responded to me on Twitter with the following message: “As socialist consciousness becomes far more widespread, this will most probably be accompanied by a growing decline in the need for religion.” Along with that message was a picture of Karl Marx and a caption that read, “Religion is the impotence of the human mind to deal with occurrences it cannot understand.”

I found this response surprisingly refreshing and honest. Instead of fabricating an unlikely fictional scenario in which Marxist socialism could exist alongside religious liberty, The Socialist Party of Great Britain simply appeared to acknowledge that the two ideas are incompatible.

If you’re puzzled a bit by SPGB’s response, it’s worth mentioning it fits quite well with many other statements made by Marx and other socialists of the nineteenth century; many (but not all) socialists of that era believed religion is a tool used by wealthier classes to control working-class people.

In The Communist Manifesto, Marx wrote:

“Undoubtedly,” it will be said, “religious, moral, philosophical and juridical ideas have been modified in the course of historical development. But religion, morality philosophy, political science, and law, constantly survived this change.”

“There are, besides, eternal truths, such as Freedom, Justice, etc. that are common to all states of society. But Communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality, instead of constituting them on a new basis; it therefore acts in contradiction to all past historical experience.”

What does this accusation reduce itself to? The history of all past society has consisted in the development of class antagonisms, antagonisms that assumed different forms at different epochs.

But whatever form they may have taken, one fact is common to all past ages, viz., the exploitation of one part of society by the other. No wonder, then, that the social consciousness of past ages, despite all the multiplicity and variety it displays, moves within certain common forms, or general ideas, which cannot completely vanish except with the total disappearance of class antagonisms.

The Communist revolution is the most radical rupture with traditional property relations; no wonder that its development involves the most radical rupture with traditional ideas.[1]

In Marx’s introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, he wrote perhaps his most well-known passage on religion:

Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and also the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of spiritless conditions. It is the opium of the people. [Emphasis added.]

To abolish religion as the illusory happiness of the people is to demand their real happiness. The demand to give up illusions about the existing state of affairs is the demand to give up a state of affairs which needs illusions. The criticism of religion is therefore in embryo the criticism of the vale of tears, the halo of which is religion.

Criticism has torn up the imaginary flowers from the chain not so that man shall wear the unadorned, bleak chain but so that he will shake off the chain and pluck the living flower. The criticism of religion disillusions man to make him think and act and shape his reality like a man who has been disillusioned and has come to reason, so that he will revolve round himself and therefore round his true sun. Religion is only the illusory sun which revolves round man as long as he does not revolve round himself.[2]

Marx, as well as other socialists, seem to believe religion will likely, at least to some extent, disappear with the coming socialist-communist revolution, making some of the moral concerns I’ve outlined in several of the articles on this website irrelevant. If there were no religions, then obviously there would be no controversies regarding nuns and contraception or Hindus and the killing of cows. But Marxists often don’t stop there. They believe that because most struggles result from class “antagonisms” created by wealthier classes, most moral disagreements would fade away if private property were to be owned collectively, as Marx noted in The Communist Manifesto:

National differences and antagonisms between peoples are daily more and more vanishing, owing to the development of the bourgeoisie, to freedom of commerce, to the world-market, to uniformity in the mode of production and in the conditions of life corresponding thereto.

The supremacy of the proletariat will cause them to vanish still faster. United action, of the leading civilised countries at least, is one of the first conditions for the emancipation of the proletariat. In proportion as the exploitation of one individual by another is put an end to, the exploitation of one nation by another will also be put an end to.

In proportion as the antagonism between classes within the nation vanishes, the hostility of one nation to another will come to an end.[3]

My personal religious views compel me to believe that religion will not fade entirely from the Earth, as many Marxists suggest, but history is equally persuasive. Religion has seemingly always existed among humans, and to suggest religious beliefs will suddenly vanish seems quite foolish and contradictory to the entire history of civilization.

Even if religion were to disappear, however, that doesn’t mean all people would suddenly agree on every important moral issue. Few non-religious people hold identical positions on every moral controversy today, and I’m not sure why the rise of socialism would change that reality. In fact, throughout my study of socialism, it’s become clear that there are, indeed, a number of disagreements within the modern socialist movement. If socialists can’t even agree on every moral issue, why would they believe the entirety of the world would do so?

Again, as with other socialist objections, it seems socialists are more than willing to offer speculation but can’t provide any support for their radical predictions for the future. People have and always will hold diverse opinions on a wide range of issues, and no amount of wishing by socialists will change that.

PHOTO: U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont speaking at a town meeting at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Gage Skidmore. Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

[1] Karl Marx, supra note 1, pp. 19–20.

[2] Karl Marx, “Introduction,” A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, first published in Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher on February 7,1844 in Paris, France. Made available online by marxists.org, accessed June 8, 2018, https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/intro.htm.

[3] Karl Marx, supra note 1, pp. 18–19.

Justin Haskins is the author of Socialism Is Evil: The Moral Case Against Marx’s Radical Dream and a research fellow and senior editor for The Henry Dearborn Institute for Liberty. Haskins is also the editor-in-chief of the New Revere Daily Press and the executive editor of a national free-market think tank. Haskins has been published hundreds of times in major digital and print publications, including The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, Forbes, FoxNews.com, Newsweek, and National Review, among many others. His writing has also been featured or discussed by The Rush Limbaugh Show, Glenn Beck Radio Program, the Fox News Channel, The New York Times, Drudge Report, and Newsmax, which named Haskins one of “Top 30 Republicans Under 30” in 2017. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, Dr. Jacquelyn, and his dog Roxy. Follow him on Twitter @JustinTHaskins.