A few weeks ago, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) wrote an article for Vox explaining the movement’s goals – to end capitalism and radically change America.
In normal times, the declarations of a fringe party and ideology in America would not merit much attention. However, these are not normal times. A new Gallup poll shows that more Democrats have a favorable view of socialism than capitalism.
This pattern has been building for a while. Senator Bernie Sanders took socialism mainstream in the party during the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. Since then, Democratic Party candidates have been increasingly attaching themselves to the ideology. Most notably, a telegenic young member of the Democratic Socialists of America named Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated a senior Democrat in New York’s 14th Congressional District and has since been on a whirlwind media tour, spreading the gospel of socialism.
So, the Vox article (or manifesto) is worth taking seriously.
Reading it, I was struck by two things.
First, it was remarkably honest.
The writer, Meagan Day, a member of the East Bay Chapter of DSA, explicitly debunks the apologists in the mainstream media trying to paper over the group’s radicalism. She quotes several prominent news “analysts” who argue that Democratic Socialism is just New Deal liberalism rebranded. She then dumps a bucket of cold water on them, writing, “[i]n the long run, Democratic Socialists want to end capitalism.”
In fact, she writes that the liberal, big government reforms which the movement has chosen to rally behind in partnership with the Democratic Party are simply stepping stones to this eventual goal.
“Social democratic reforms like Medicare-for-all are, in the eyes of DSA, part of the long, uneven process of building that support, and eventually overthrowing capitalism,” she writes.
This explicit goal of ending capitalism makes clear what Ocasio-Cortez meant when she said cryptically in a recent interview, that “[c]apitalism has not always existed in the world, and it will not always exist in the world.”
This is a clear threat to the system which has made us prosperous and the envy of the world, but I appreciate the honesty. Ultimately, the United States is a democratic republic. If Day, Ocasio-Cortez, and Senator Bernie Sanders want to try and convince most Americans to end capitalism and embrace a planned, totally redistributionist economy, they are welcome to use the democratic process to do so. It is up to those of us who know better to convince Americans of socialism’s folly (more on that in a later newsletter).
However, the second notable item in Day’s article suggests that Democratic Socialists don’t value democracy all that much. Day also identified herself as a staff writer at a New York-based, socialist magazine called Jacobin. In fact, several members of the Democratic Socialists of America are writers and editors at Jacobin magazine.
A magazine that would enthusiastically embrace this title is signaling that, like socialist movements of the past, the DSA is willing to drop the “democratic” part of their moniker and instead rely on the traditional method for socialist revolution – bloodshed, violence, and tyranny.
The Jacobins were the most violent and radical political group of the French Revolution. Led by Maximilien Robespierre, the group responded to a growing backlash against the revolution by executing anyone their so-called Committee of Public Safety deemed insufficiently loyal. The Jacobin clubs located throughout the country were used as a secret police force to root out dissent among politicians and the general populace alike. Historian Timothy Tackett estimates that almost 40,000 people were killed under the Jacobin control of the French government. Many were beheaded by guillotine in a grotesque public spectacle after a show trial, and others were brutally executed with firearms. In the case of one period in the city of Lyon, people were executed en masse by cannon fire. This period of carnage was known as the Reign of Terror.
A few years ago, Callista and I saw Dialogues of the Carmelites at the Washington National Opera. It is a moving, true story of the Carmelite Nuns who refused to denounce Christ at the peak of the Reign of Terror. (The French Revolution was virulently anti-Catholic – many churches were closed and reopened as “Temples of Reason.”) The nuns were beheaded for their unwillingness to denounce their faith. Moments before the guillotine dropped, they displayed the power of God’s love by singing hymns and renewing their vows.
A few years later we visited the Picpus Cemetery in Paris. It holds the graves of the martyred nuns and more than 1,300 victims of the Terror in a six-week period of 1794. It is a very sober reminder of what the Jacobins did during the Reign of Terror. It is not a record for which any American should advocate.
Christopher Hibbert’s The French Revolution contains more vivid details of the horrors the Jacobins inflicted upon the people of France. In one instance, he writes, “a woman was charged with the heinous crime of having wept at the execution of her husband. She was condemned to sit several hours under the suspended blade which shed upon her, drop by drop, the blood of the deceased whose corpse was above her on the scaffold before she was released by death from her agony.”
Make no mistake: This is the history of violent revolution, religious oppression, and dictatorship that Jacobin magazine, the DSA, and opportunistic Democrats are embracing – whether they know it or not. Senator Sanders, and more have recently shared articles from Jacobin magazine on their social media accounts. Representative Keith Ellison once sent a Jacobin piece to everyone in Congress.
It is hard to imagine a modern-day Reign of Terror happening in America. But consider the recent phenomenon of outrage mobs on social media demanding people be fired and ostracized for expressing un-PC points of view. Think about the left-wing activists taking over classrooms to prevent conservative voices from speaking. Think about the rash of people being attacked for wearing MAGA hats. Think about the violence of Antifa.
Perhaps it is not so difficult to imagine.
While I do not know Ocasio-Cortez, I have interacted with Senator Sanders numerous times in my career. He is an earnest guy, and I seriously doubt he would countenance violence in pursuit of his socialist goals.
He should keep in mind, however, that the Jacobins eventually turned on Robespierre (in fact they executed him). So perhaps Senator Sanders and the other Democrats rushing to embrace Democratic Socialism should be a little more careful about the demons they are unleashing to win elections.