Author Joshua Muravchik, who once shared the idealistic materialism of socialists, told Spero News that he is set to release a new edition of his seminal summary of socialism, “Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism.” In the original 2004 edition, Muravchik, a former National chair of the Young People’s Socialist League (1968-1973), confessed “Socialism is the faith in which I was raised. It was the faith of my father and my father before him…” Socialism, for Muravchik, is not only a destructive ideology that sought to impose a “heaven on earth” of its own device and in the name of a “God that failed,” it committed crimes far greater than any other secular movements or theologies.
In an extensive interview with Spero News, Muravchik recalled that as a young man he sought the means by which “everyone could have what they need” without discord and sharp divisions between socio-economic classes. He said that at first, he and his fellow socialists wanted to bring about the utopia they envisioned through democratic means. But this changed in time, he said. He recalled that in the 1970s, socialists like himself became split between those who sought a gradualist means towards achieving their socialist ideals and others who were impatient with the rate of political change and were willing to use subterfuge and violence to further their goals. It is the latter group, Muravchik said, that eventually founded the modern Democratic Socialists of America - the party to which congressional candidates Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib belong. Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib are also running as Democrats and are projected to win seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Both Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib have aired a number of Leftist causes and solutions, such as eliminating the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and instituting a federal jobs guarantee, that have been endorsed by even some heretofore moderate Democrats. But Democratic Socialists, Muravchik said, often applaud their foreign confreres who remain open to the use of violence and coercion to achieve their ends.
The Democratic Socialists of America are no strangers to supporting candidates fielded by the Democratic party. For example, DSA has endorsed presidential candidates Walter Mondale, Jesse Jackson, John Kerry, Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders -- all of whom ran as Democrats. Sen. Sanders had served in Congress as an Independent who caucuses with Democrats. While he is not a DSA member, Sanders has revealed clearly socialist leanings, Muravchik said.
Muravchik said that, while there is currently little danger that socialists might overthrow the American system, he is concerned that if Democratic Socialists were to achieve power that they would become authoritarian. And despite its defeat with the fall of the Soviet Union, and its confinement to just a few places in the world such as Cuba and North Korea, Muravchik said that socialism appears to be on something of a come-back.
In the 2002 edition of “Heaven on Earth,” Muravchik noted that socialism is a faith that offers an alternative to Judeo-Christian concepts of justice and charity. His book chronicles what he wrote has been “man's most ambitious attempt to supplant religion with a doctrine about how life ought to be lived that claimed grounding in science rather than revelations.” Having been born in the French Revolution and growing up in the many struggles of the 1800s between labor and capital in Europe, Muravchik noted that socialism spread to China, Africa, Latin America and even the traditionalist Middle East. “No other faith ever appealed as widely,” he wrote. “It was not confined to salons and libraries but exerted itself as well in statehouses and on picket lines, barricades and battlefields. It did more than anything else to shape the history of the twentieth century.”
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When he was reminded of the work of sociologist Daniel Patrick Moynihan, an advisor to the Johnson administration who would later become a U.S. senator, Muravchik recalled Moynihan wrote the seminal 1965 report titled, “The Negro Family: The Case For National Action.” What became known as the Moynihan Report argued that ghetto culture that could be traced to the the legacy of American slavery and Jim Crow that led to a high rate of families headed by single mothers among black Americans. Moreover, ever since then, social indicators such as rates of divorce, single parent households, and out-of-wedlock births have increased along with social welfare programs. Muravchik noted that the family values instilled by the Judeo-Christian ethic are perhaps the only remedy for endemic poverty and welfare dependence among Americans.
In the updated version of his classic work, Muravchik said he wants to brings readers up to date regarding the socialist and leftist movements afoot since the original publication in 2002. Among the strains of leftism he will examine in the new edition are Antifa -- the black-clade violent extremists who he said have their origins in groups organized by the Soviet Union in post-war Europe -- and the recrudescence of socialists in North America and the United Kingdom. Among prominent leftists, Muravchik cited British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn as among the most extreme and influential. Having apparently ignored socialist Venezuela’s descent into authoritarianism and poverty, Corbyn is set upon a socialist path, Muravchik said. Should Corbyn become prime minister, Muravchik said, he would pose a danger to liberty in the United Kingdom and pursue a leftist foreign policy at odds with the interests of the United States and its allies.
Muravchik expects to publish the updated edition of “Heaven on Earth” this fall. He is the author of several books, including "Obama's Radical Transformation of America," and "The Future of the United Nations." Muravchik is a distinguished fellow at the Washington DC-based World Affairs Institute and is an adjunct professor at the Institute of World Politics. He is a former fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and at the George W. Bush Institute. He is also a former resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a scholar in residence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Editor note: this is an updated version.