What’s in a name? A lot, apparently, when you’re talking about Andy Stern and communism.

One of my favorite books, and one I highly recommend, is Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism. The title is self-explanatory, so I won’t belabor what you’ll find when you read it. I mention it here because I believe it was in that book that I read that, from the 1950s through the 1970s, one of the staunchest anti-Communist forces in America was  . . . wait for it . . . the AFL-CIO!*  Yup, under the leadership of George Meany, big labor was enormously hostile to Communism.  This was not just a symbolic thing.  The AFL-CIO’s political and economic heft meant that it could affect America’s political and economic approach to the Soviet Union.  For that reason, the AFL-CIO contributed largely to the Soviet Union’s downfall — and the freeing of a significant part of the world as a result.

MediaMatters, a Leftist media watchdog, wants to assure us that unions are still anti-Communist.  MediaMatters has therefore mounted a full frontal attack against Glenn Beck, who in turn is contending the SEIU president Andy Stern is not only Obama’s best buddy, but is also a communist.  The problem as Beck sees it and as Kathy Shaidle explains, is that Andy Stern likes to go around quoting communist slogans as his guiding principles.  In a recent interview, he announced that “workers of the world unite, it’s not just a slogan anymore.  It’s the way we’re going to have to do our work.”

Stern hastened to add in a subsequent interview that he thinks it’s just great that communism is dead.  It’s certainly nice of Stern to say that, but his conclusory statement about communism’s death hasn’t assuaged anyone’s worry that he, like Anita Dunn, who quotes Mao with the best of them, looks for moral and practical guidance to some pretty rotten people with really bad ideas.

You and I aren’t simplistic or naive.  We know that even bad people have good ideas.  Indeed, to be a high functioning bad person, you have to have some good ideas or otherwise you won’t sell your overall ideology.  Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin were all effective managers, and Mussolini did get those trains to run on time.

Nevertheless, as I’ve said before and am happy to say again, there comes a point when someone’s reprehensible side is so extreme that simple decency means that you can no longer hold that person’s less reprehensible side up as a useful example for one thing or another.  Because reputation matters, when a person’s evil outweighs his good, we toss him from the role model pedestal for all purposes.

Still, one could argue that recyclying is a good thing, and that’s mere convenience for for Stern, who does want to unite workers, to rely on that recognizable  old Marxist standby about the world’s workings uniting.  It’s kind of like a Che shirt — everybody recognizes it but, to the average American, it’s been leeched of its associated horrors.  The only problem with this defense is that, in addition to a weakness for communist slogans, Stern also engages in communist behavior patterns.

I’ll digress here a minute and explain what I mean by “communist behavior patterns.”  Boiled down to its essence, communism is about government control.  It is statism.  It is the opposite of the American experience which, since the Founders’ days, has been committed to liberty.

To the committed communist, anxious to explain why his system is so good, communism is an economic doctrine, with the government simply ensuring that everyone contributes so that everyone gets back.  (Doesn’t that sound nice?)  In real world terms, proven on the ground in myriad countries (the Soviet Union, North Korea, China, Bulgaria, etc.), things aren’t that simple or sweet.  Without exception, in every country in which it has been tried, communism has resulted in a state that controls the individual absolutely and completely.

It’s quite logical.  Without that overarching control, how can the simple government bureaucrat be sure that everyone is contributing?  Only through the use of force can a statist government ensure those voluntary contributions.  Individual liberty yields so quickly to coercion that life in a Communist nation is tantamount to life in a prison.  Freedom vanishes.  The government sees all and knows all — and it makes sure its citizens are fully aware of its overarching police powers.

To be sure, Andy Stern doesn’t control a government, but he does have his own private fiefdom in the SEIU.  As king of that domain, he’s committed to complete control over both those who officially reside in his kingdom (that would be the union members) and those he views as enemies of his kingdom (business and its allies).  So, Stern, to show his commitment to SEIU’s agenda, proudly boasts of engaging in precisely the same Big Brother tactics that characterize life in a Communist nation:

STERN: We took names. We watched how they voted. We know where they live. (…)

STERN: There are opportunities in America to share better in the wealth, to rebalance the power, and unions and government are part of the solution.

In other words, the same man who openly quotes Marxist doctrine also openly engages in coercive Marxist conduct.  Shakespeare knew that labels are just labels.  What matters is the deeper quality that characterizes a thing or a person.  (“What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.”)  Stern can disavow communism as much as he likes, but when he trumpets Marxist doctrine as his guiding principle, and loudly lets people know that he is willing to use spying and coercive tactics to ensure that everyone “contributes,” there’s a heavy Marxist stench rising around him — and disavowals simply aren’t going to deodorize the smell.

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* There are two other places I might have read about George Meany.  One is Natan Sharansky’s The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedm to Overcome Tyranny and Terror. The other is Ann Coulter’s Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right. By the way, even if I’m wrong and none of these books is the source for my knowledge about the AFL-CIO’s anti-communist activities, all three are such good books, you have nothing to lose by reading them.

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  • http://explorations.chasrmartin.com Charlie (Colorado)

    I’d quibble that this isn’t specifically “communist” but it is authoritarian and totalitarian.

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    I’ll agree with your quibble, Charlie, although communism certainly fits comfortably within that umbrella — and it made for a neater post.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Can we agree on the term “fascist”?

  • http://liberty-resource-center.blogspot.com Doug1943

    Communists are for an expanded state, liberals are for an expanded state, therefore …. liberals are communists? C’mon, guys. It would be just as valid  (i.e. not valid at all) to conclude that communists are liberals.
    It may be fun to wind liberals up by pointing out their similarity with totalitarians, but  making facile identities gets in the way of serious argument, and makes us look like idiots.
    There is a serious case to be made about liberals and leftist totalitarians. It would start with a factual recounting of how many liberals have always been soft on the latter — starting with Ring Lardner in the 20s, going through the Popular Front period of the 30s and 40s, and then looking at the New Left-influenced liberalism of the 70s (which lives on today), which abandoned its fascination with the grey, boring USSR and transferred its apologetics to the hip, groovy Third World variety of totalitarian, like Fidel and Ho.  But the real question is why liberals abandon their liberal ideals regarding, for example, free speech, when it comes to communism.
    There are a number of good, scholarly books written on this whole subject, or on aspects of it. Some have been mentioned here. It would be useful to put together an annotated list of them, and then post it in as many places as possible, for people who are interested in this subject.

  • suek

    >>Communists are for an expanded state, liberals are for an expanded state, therefore …. liberals are communists?>>
    We’re talking modern Liberals – those lefties who have misnamed themselves in order to cover their intentions … which seem always to be exactly opposite from their nomenclature – not classical liberals.  And yes. In this case, Liberals are – for the most part – communists.  Some of them know it, some of them don’t.
    >>C’mon, guys. It would be just as valid  (i.e. not valid at all) to conclude that communists are liberals.>>
     
    No…that’s a logical fault – I’ve forgotten the name of it.  It’s in the category of “all dogs are animals, therefore all animals are dogs”.  Something about the general and the specific.
    >> making facile identities gets in the way of serious argument, and makes us look like idiots.>>
     
    Statists fall into several categories, of which communism is one.  Communism is a philosophy of totalitarianism under a single world wide government.  How does that differ from the philosophy of Liberals today?  What makes someone look like an idiot is not recognizing the reality when it stares them in the face.
     
    >>the real question is why liberals abandon their liberal ideals regarding, for example, free speech, when it comes to communism.>>
     
    Because they aren’t really liberals.  And they don’t really believe in free speech.  Because deep in their hearts, they really are communists.  No matter how many books are written about how they’re not.