“Claimants are mistaking the welfare state (or earlier forms of government) for socialism and communism,” Milke said in response to questions from The Epoch Times, which he also posted on his website.
Milke was referring to the 2019 annual survey conducted by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC), which showed that 70 percent of millennials in the United States said they would be “extremely likely” to vote for a socialist candidate—a number that has doubled from 2018.
The survey also found that only 57 percent of millennials now believe that the American Declaration of Independence “better guarantees freedom and equality” than Marx’s “Communist Manifesto,” compared to 94 percent of the Silent Generation—the generation that precedes the Baby Boomer generation. In addition, it revealed that 36 percent of millennials now view communism favourably, an increase compared to 2018, while favourable opinions of capitalism have seen a “steep decline” between 2018 and 2019.
“When we don’t educate our youngest generations about the historical truth of 100 million victims murdered at the hands of communist regimes over the past century, we shouldn’t be surprised at their willingness to embrace Marxist ideas,” said VOC executive director Marion Smith in his assessment of the survey. “We need to redouble our efforts to re-educate America’s youth about the history of communist regimes and the dangers of socialism today.”
Although the survey was conducted in the United States, the results have some parity with Canada. In August 2019, Forum Research conducted a survey of 1,733 Canadian voters that yielded similar results. Fifty-eight percent said they held a positive opinion of socialism, with 18 percent saying they held a “very positive opinion.”
Milke, whose grandmother escaped Soviet Ukraine before the 1930s and whose grandfather left Poland for Canada in 1929, thinks those who are attracted to such ideologies base their opinion on false assumptions. One he has heard frequently is that more public funding of roads or public libraries that make them free to use is a socialist idea.
“Building more paved roads or a library from taxes is not socialism or communism. It’s merely a continuance of how people collectively paid for some goods delivered through government since Sumer (a reference to the first tax imposed on populations in what is now modern-day Iraq, or when Romans imposed taxes to build roads),” he said.
“Socialism and communism, properly understood, are assertions and arguments that government should own the commanding heights of the economy—the mines, farms, factories, railways, airlines—and also control other economic activity overmuch. The Marxist theory is that this is both efficient (no profit) and fair.”
In practice, however, this approach invariably “becomes tyrannical” due to the concentrated power that is required, he said.
“When governments, which already have a monopoly on the use of force and necessary institutions, add economic power as another pillar of control, civil society and individuals are crowded out from any practical role.”
Milke also takes issue with the idea of “democratic socialism” to rehabilitate Marxism, as the examples many cite, such as Sweden, are not “wholly socialist” and rely on markets, some state-owned enterprises, and a strong welfare state.
“If they were fully socialist, the Swedish state would own all major enterprises à la the Soviet Union in 1950. But Sweden doesn’t. It is a combination of capitalism, socialism, and a larger welfare state than, let’s say, the U.S.,” he said.
Using the example of former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, Milke explains that even if one comes to power through legitimately democratic means, they can still easily corrupt a once-free society by usurping too much control over the economy and other institutions.
“[Chavez] continually aggregated more power to the state in part by further nationalization,” he said. “That led to further erosion of free enterprise, which also constricted other freedoms because ever-more power was concentrated in politicians.”
Although many view socialism and communism as being separate, according to Marxist-Leninist theory, socialism is simply communism’s preliminary stage.
The Epoch Times special series “How the Spectre of Communism Is Ruling Our World” states that communist regimes force the general population into obedience by killing their victims “openly and deliberately.”
“In just one century, since the rise of the first communist regime in Russia, the evil spectre of communism has murdered more people in the nations under its rule than the combined death toll of both world wars,” the series states.
According to “The Black Book of Communism,” communist regimes have been responsible for close to 100 million deaths.