This image is taken from the 1934 Chicago Tribune cartoon 'Planned Economy or Planned Destruction?'. It focuses on the character of Leon Trotsky, who is laying out a series of policy goals for the United States. The Chicago Tribute suggested in its latest reprint of this cartoon that we take a look at this cartoon and see if it rings true in today's political and economic climate.
Whereas others have focused on simply analyzing the larger cartoon to identify all the characters in it (for the best analysis see this post), today I am going to attempt to see if this cartoon sheds some understanding on the economic and political challenges facing today and whether it gives us as voters of a free nation any sort of guidance on how to vote in upcoming elections or which way to pressure our public officials:
Leon Trotsky was the founder of an ideology called Trotskyism, which is an extreme left-wing political ideology that believed that although the 'working class' had seized power in Russia, true socialism could not be established unless there was a global and permanent revolution led by vanguard parties of the smartest and best workers who would take control of society and achieve real change that would transform society. His vision of progress forward was defeated because even the communists saw that his economic and political theories were flawed and ignored the realities of of the world and did not lead to positive results as determined objectively. It is stunning how closely his ideas and thoughts mirror those of Obama.
Although in specific there are differences that will arise from current US President Barack Obama's general lack of referencing specifics and although Obama is by no means is a committed follower of Trotsky (I've suggested previously that Obama may in fact be a fascist), in the general Obama appears to echo the same ideas and beliefs of Trotsky. During his campaign he talked often about fundamentally transforming society by giving more power to bureaucratic elites, and one of the reasons why he was initially so popular overseas is that he translated his message of change and hope for workers and the working class to make it a call for an international and permanent struggle.
Both Obama and Trotsky appear to be motivated by a sincere belief that their economic and political policies will indeed make the world a better place- but sadly, Obama is facing the same realities and objective results that Trotsky faced. One can only hope that he doesn't end up some day with an ice pick in his back put there by a more committed Stalinist who works in his Politiburico.
- Spend Spend Spend.
Soviet economic policy, as pushed by the most progressive and idealistic of the communists, advocated for higher and higher government spending. From a low of 8784 million rubles in 1928, Soviet government spending skyrocketed 106238 million rubles by 1937 (spending)- and the Soviet economy crashed, millions of people starved to death, the ruble fell heavily in value, and the standard of living fell. Even though the government spent more and more money, things got worse, which might be shocking to those who think that more government spending is good, but is perfectly understandable to those who see unelected and accountable bureaucrats taking money and property from those who earn it and blowing it on politically connected businesses in an inefficient manner.
President Obama also has attempted to increase the wealth of society and make people more free by increasing government spending, and the United States has seen similar results to those experienced by FDR and the Soviet Union in the 1930's- economic depression. And the worse is yet to come- unlike past spending programs which were structured in the immediate time frame, President Obama's spending programs are paid for through debt, promises, and IOU's, a ticking time bomb which is going to destroy the prosperity of future generations. It simply does not work to take property from others, either via taxes or fees or through borrowing money paid for with interest or future payments, and then have it spent by politically connected bureaucrats. It destroys wealth and property because this property and wealth is spent inefficiently and in a manner that violates the unseen supply-and-demand hand of God.
Both the rulers of the Soviet Union and President Obama may sincerely believe that their economic policies of spending more money will indeed stimulate the economy and lead to a more prosperous people. President Obama has completely unhinged from reality on this, and his reply to mounting staggering debts and deficits is to borrow more money from foreign nations and spend that as well. Sadly, these policies have led to a long and lingering recession, matched only by the Great Depression that occurred the last time these 'spend spend spend' economic policies were employed.
- Under the Guise of Recovery.
The main reason that the people of Russia went along with the economic plans put forth by Lenin and later Stalin were that they were desperate to recover from the effects of various calamities. World War One destroyed the Russian economy and so the people desperately empowered Lenin to implement his communist policies. The results of these early communist policies proved to be devastating economically, and so everyone looked forward to Lenin's New Economic Policies. These more-capitalistic policies proved to be successful, but took power away from the elites and politically-connected, and so as soon as Lenin was dead, the tyrant Stalin proclaimed them failures and implemented his own economic policies, which turned into even worse failures. It was by disguising these various policies as responses to some sort of crisis that made the people willing to go along with them, willing to sacrifice seeing objective positive results, willing to sacrifice their property, liberty, and eventually their lives.
In the United States, our nation has also gone along with the 'under the guise of recovery' swindle, giving up freedoms and property in a desperate attempt to recover from the Bush years, which we are all told were awful but are increasingly looking good in comparison to the lingering Obama recession. In response to various crisis', many of them provoked by Obama's very policies or policies which he supported during his short time in elected office, our nation is embarking on a historic redirection towards more government control over industries, more government control over our lives, and more divisive class warfare and bitter partisanship. It's a crisis, we are told, and the only response is more cowbell, and so our nation continues to empower the very man who is pushing the very policies that are making the crisis worse.
Same excuses used in both communist Soviet Union in the 1920's and 1930's and those used by President Obama and the Democratic Party today. And sadly, both groups appear to be supported or intimidated or fooled by the public that they are making poorer and less free.
- Bust the Government.
A little history lesson for you- with the death of Lenin in 1924, the Russian political system was in flux. Before 1924, the Politburo and other communist institutions had run the nation, which Lenin having a great amount of power but Stalin and Trotsky also having big roles to play. Lenin's death led to a power struggle won by Stalin, who eventually excited Trotsky. Later problems in the Soviet Union were blamed on Stalin's political enemies, who were killed off in the Great Purges of the late 1930's. The key to understanding what was happening this time is that the government and political structures were continually being broken by the very men who were promising to fix them- Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin.
And today, President Obama is stunning in his disregard for the historical political system that is established by the Constitution. In many instances he has violated passages of the Constitution, if not legally according to the letter of the law than in dozens of instances realistically according to the spirit of the law, from recess appointments to ignoring the War Powers Act to governing without budgets to drone attacks to appointed czars. At perhaps no point in the last century has our political system been as broken and busted as it is today, with the nation increasingly sharply divided and bitter and partisan attacks commonplace. The Democrats in the US Senate, Obama's allies, are even going so far as to seriously contemplate removing the filibuster so that they can jam legislation past the minority because they allege that the old historic political ways of doing things in our nation need to be broken.
Breaking government and busting society, whether you call it permanent revolution by the proletariat or the forward march of progressives, destroys property, makes people less secure in their rights, and eventually causes death. It happened in the past- and it is happening today.
- Blame the Capitalists for Failure.
Trotsky blamed capitalists for both the political and economic problems facing humanity, arguing that the economic boom and bust cycle that led to the destruction of so much wealth was caused by capitalists and that the lack of political power held by workers was also their fault. He believed that private ownership of the means of production and the creation of goods or services for profit was at the root of the problems facing society, and that the solution to this was a genuine workers' state where the working class controlled all the political power and the state owned and controlled the means of production. His desire was for the workers to really rule and the government to run industries for their good. But in reality what Soviet Russia ended up with was a nation ruled by a bureaucratic caste, where decisions were made by special interest groups and labor unions that controlled these various bureaucracies and made economic and political decisions to reward their supporters and not benefit the nation as a whole (or even 'the workers').
The modern day Democratic Party, led by Barack Obama, has apparently subscribed to these very same ideas, and is reaping the very same results of the implementation of these ideas. Running in 2008 President Obama promised to be able to smooth out the boom and bust cycle of capitalism- especially the banking industry and investment of capital- by empowering government agencies to have stronger oversight over them. In another example, he argued that government ownership of healthcare, a major industry in the United States, would prevent healthcare costs from rising. And it was his belief that by having the government take over major automobile companies and then turn over that ownership to 'the workers' that both the automobile industries and the workers would benefit. And everywhere that his Trotsky-like ideas have been implemented, the results have been economic and political failure. Industries have failed to prosper- even General Motors is only profitable right now because it was bailed out by billions of dollars and given billions more in government support- and politically power has shifted farther away from the workers and increasingly towards the bureaucrats. The gulf between the rich and poor has widened, not narrowed, as as result of Obama's Marxist policies, and this has been bad for America.
And through all the failures of Trotsky and Obama, even as their own policies resulted in more failures, they have blamed 'the capitalists', 'the rich', 'the bourgeoisie', or 'the 1%'. Deficits skyrocketed, currencies collapsed in values, the world became more unstable, civil unrest became more common, individual liberties were less protected, unemployment went up, and GDP stagnated- and yet still Trotsky and Obama blame capitalists.
- Junk the Constitution.
A constitution is a body of fundamental laws that set up the principles, structures, and processes of government- and although I've been reading about the Soviet system of government over the last couple days, honestly I can't really figure out how it works, especially during the 1920's and 1930's that are addressed in the cartoon. The principles of government appear to be 'junked' by the 1930's- no longer holding to idealistic communism but instead succumbing to the reality of human nature. The structures of governing appear to be junked as well- the various political structures that Lenin may have used like the Politburo appear to have become merely tools for the people in power instead of actual structures of governing. And the process of creating laws to govern the actions of men appear to have been junked so much that in the Soviet system it really became all about decrees and directives from the ruler, whether it was Lenin or Stalin.
And in America over the last couple of years under President Obama and his allies in Congress, we are seeing the same junking of our governmental principles, structures, and processes. The process on how the Affordable Care Act became law still confuses me- my students always ask me "just how did it get through the filibuster in the Senate" and my explanation, even though I explain it correctly, still rings hollow and untrue. In discussing how our nation is going to put in place laws to avoid the fiscal cliff or sequestration, I'm forced to spend a lot of time talking about 'secret negotiations' and backroom discussion between government elites, wondering the whole time where the time-honored processes involved in creating legislation through Congress and committees went. During President Obama's run for the President, one can't help but notice that his campaign was devoid of governing principles and that Democrats who ran for Congress also seemed to lack governing principles as well- they didn't talk about their economic philosophies, or the politicians that they would emulate in office, or the latest political philosophies that they were students of, preferring instead discussions about power and demonetization of their opponents. And the czars and other bureaucrats who appear to be gaining more in power outside of the traditional structures of government are clearly similar to the bureaucrats and czars who ruled Soviet Russia.
Principles, structures, and processes- look at how these are increasingly becoming junked in our nation as our nation moves away from the founding principles, the structures established in the written Constitution, and the processes of making laws and executing those laws that governed our nation for the first several hundred years. Just like the Soviets junked their Constitution as Trotsky recommended, Obama and the Democrats are junking ours today.
- Declare a Dictatorship.
The last piece of advice that Trotsky wrote to Obama all those many years ago was to declare a dictatorship. This is the last step on the path to tyranny and injustice and the final attack on property and those people who create property, and is the end goal of all tyrants. Although Trotsky might have been suggesting that the dictatorship should be some sort of 'dictatorship of the proletariat' where the political and economic power was controlled by the worker class within a democratic system, the reality is that his allies and friends and supporters and fellow Marxists eventually established a classical 'dictatura' where a small group of undemocratic elites control the economic and political power in the nation.
And although President Obama sees himself as some sort of transformative community activist who is going to empower the workers or middle class or whatever he calls them, the reality that we are seeing is where an smaller group of appointed individuals are increasingly gaining in economic and political power. Trotsky saw himself as a fighter for the community too, but much like his experience, the reality that the Tea Party on the right and the Occupy Wall Street on the left can both plainly see is that political and economic power is moving father away from the common man, the middle class, or the worker and increasingly being concentrated in the hands of those who have the right political connections, who are the union bosses, those who have control over the bureaucracy, and those who have families and inherited wealth. The political classes enrich themselves while the workers become poorer, all due to President Obama and the Democratic Marxist policies which are supposed to due the opposite.
President Obama is not declaring a dictatorship in the sense that he is going to announce that he is some sort of dictator for life- rather he is going to declare that the America and the world should embrace a new arrangement of economic and political power which empowers a smaller elite to make decisions for everyone based on some sort of notion of fairness or social justice. It's a sneaky sort of declaration of dictatorship, but is one none-the-less, and the results will be that you personally will have less power over your own property, less power over decisions regarding your own healthcare, less choice in your own actions, and less protection of your life. It'll be a dictatorship different than the sort that Trotsky advised, softly declared by a smooth-sounding teleprompter reading tyrant.
The advice and truths that Trotsky is writing in this cartoon are advice and truths on how to establish a tyranny and destroy life, liberty, and property, and it appears from an objective standpoint over the last several years that President Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress (and some Republicans too) are following this advice and believing these truths. They are rejecting other truths on which our nation was built- that all men are equal, that all men are endowed with certain inalienable rights, that the purpose of government is limited to protecting these rights from men who would take them away, that these rights are the right to live and live in freedom and earn and keep property, and that governments that abuse any of these rights are tyrannical and deserve to be abolished so that men may put in place better governments to protect these rights.
America is playing out some sort of Greek play, where our main character in his hubris thinks that he can achieve positive results by implementing the same policies in the past that only achieved negative results. Opposition to him and his agenda should be motivated by knowing that history, morality, and truth are on our side and not with him, and that where he is taking our nation and the world is to a place where life is less secure, liberties and freedoms are broken, and property and wealth are not protected.