They have eyes, but cannot see — the conundrum of American attitudes towards socialism

Before the 1970s (give or take a decade) the vast majority of Americans viewed socialism as a profoundly anti-American phenomenon.  Red scares started in the immediate wake of the 1917 Russian Revolution, and America’s dislike for socialism, especially under the guise of communism, continued unabated through the first two thirds of the Vietnam War.

The temperature of the fear rose and fell, with some years witnessing a passive dislike for the red menace and other years erupting in active worries about America’s continued well-being as world socialism came a’knockin’ (thing HUAC).  Whether the fear was hot or cold, though, that deep suspicion always ran strong and true through the American bedrock.  Simply put, Americans were pretty darn sure that communism/socialism was a bad thing.

What’s so interesting, looking back on America’s decades-long hate affair with socialism, is that during all those years Americans hadn’t actually seen socialism in action.  Sure, they knew it sparked revolutions in Russia and China, but those were tightly closed societies, so the full horrors visited on those countries’ citizens were invisible to most Americans.

Not only were the depredations of socialist governments invisible, the information flow into America was made worse because of so-called journalists who were either actively complicit shills, and who provided leadership for the useful idiots who, even then, populated journalism.  The shills did their best, not only to hide communism’s miseries from Americans, but actively to lie about what was going on.  The New York Times’ own Pulitzer Prize winning Walter Duranty springs readily to mind as an example of the lies fed to Americans. Even as Stalin was murdering 35 million of his own people, Duranty used the nation’s premier newspaper to keep a steady stream of pro-Soviet propaganda flowing through America.  Despite that disinformation, Americans disliked the Soviets and what they stood for.

World War II was effective in exposing the world to the horrors of day-to-day life in Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy.  The problem with that exposure, though, was that those countries had denominated themselves, or been denominated, as “fascist.”  This label obscured for most people the connection between socialism, on the one hand, and the German and Italian systems, on the other hand.  Even my mother, who lived through that era, insists to this day that Germany and Italy were “right wing,” which in her mind means that they couldn’t possibly have been Left wing socialist, never mind the “zocialismus” in the Nazi party title.

Despite disinformation, misinformation and non-information, and despite misleading labels, mid-20th Century Americans understood that socialism — by which I mean maximum government control and minimum individual freedom — was antithetical to core American values.  They understood this because they understood the nature of socialism.  Understanding the theory behind socialism meant that they didn’t need evidence of its failures to know that socialism and the American system canceled each other out.  It helped that, having been raised on a steady diet of old-fashioned patriotism, Americans were clear that they wanted the American system triumphant.

Beginning in the 1960s, however, with the hard leftward shift in academia and in the entertainment world, Americans were presented with a different vision of socialism.  They were told that it was “fair;” they were told that it was an appropriate expiation for the sins of imperialism (an atonement that seemed like a good idea when paired with the self-loathing emanating from academia and Hollywood); and, most significantly, they were told that socialism would inevitably result in European-style wealth, leisure  and cool chic (never mind that it was America that funded this wealth and leisure by taking over the European states’ obligation to provide for their own defense).  This combination of being fair, having guilt assuaged, and envisioning socialistically enlightened Americans being as cool Europeans with red wine, Gallois cigarettes, and a café attitude was sufficient to blind Americans to something entirely new:  actual evidence about socialism’s personal cruelties and economic failures.

You see, the last thirty years have brought us face-to-face with the hideous facts of real life under socialism, whether the hard socialism of China, Cuba, North Korea, and the Soviets, or the soft socialism of Europe.  We now know that, during China’s “Great Leap Forward,” between 40 to 100 million people died (depending on who is counting) from starvation, neglect, torture and out-and-out murder.  We now know that Stalin was responsible for the deaths of between 20 and 35 million of his own people during the 1930s alone, a number that doesn’t count the millions of others murdered, disappeared or imprisoned in gulags in the years after that.  We now know that life in North Korea is the closest thing to a living Hell we see on earth outside of the total anarchy that appears in Africa (including the genocide that is North African Islam).  We now know that the cool Cuban icon Che Guevara was a psychopathic mass murderer who particularly enjoyed murdering boys, and that Castro keeps his prisons full.  We now know that East Germany was a police state in which every person spied on his friends, family and neighbors, all in a vain effort to curry favor with a cruel and despotic regime.

We also know that none of those systems worked economically.  China has embraced a weirdly capitalist economy, but kept its iron control on people’s individual freedoms; the Soviet Union collapsed; North Koreans eat dirt; and Cuba stays alive courtesy of its patron states on the Dark Side.

Europe’s soft, self-loathing socialism hasn’t worked so well either.  The perpetual adolescence that soft socialism encourages has resulted in a dying society, one that refuses to inconvenience itself long enough to have the children that will replenish its population.  The European economies are stagnant and flabby, when they’re not totally collapsing.  (And before someone points a finger at the saggy, flabby American economy, I’ll assert here and now my belief that America’s economy is in such terrible shape precisely because we have been emulating European socialism, rather than following solid free market principles.)

European self-hatred, a by-product of Leftism, has left Europe ripe for an Islamic takeover, made easier for the Islamists by the fact that Europe has been inviting them in, as part of its never-ending atonement for its imperialist sins.  (As for me, I don’t think it’s fair that Europe doesn’t get to use the Enlightenment as some sort of offset from this endless atonement.)  The average European is also being micromanaged to death, with an endless Nanny state bureaucracy inserting itself into every aspect of life.  Reading European and British newspapers makes it seem as if Europeans and Brits are no longer individuals but, instead, are sex-crazed, drunken, lazy, violent, state-run automatons.

So here’s the bizarre paradox:  In the past, when Americans were motivated by patriotism and a clear understanding that socialism is antithetical to individual freedoms, they loathed socialism despite being unaware of its true horrors.  And now, in the present, Americans who have been raised to hate themselves and to believe in socialisms wonder, believe socialism is a good and workable system despite irrefutable evidence that its has failed in every single place is has been tried — and that its failures are spectacular and often measured by the mountainously high bodies of its victims.

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  • DTA187247

    It’s okay to be a conservative, I’m a Jeffersonian myself, but it’s not okay to distort history, which is what this article does.

    During the Early years of the progressive era (1880’s/90’s-end of WW1) socialism was the party of common people and unions, Eugene Debs ran against TR, Taft, and Wilson and received over 2 million votes. Not to mention millions of other Americans were members of unions which were ostensibly left leaning. Many millions of Americans supported socialist aims to some extent. Think about it, were in not for left labor unions such as the IWW, AFL-CIO, Knights of Labor or the Socialists child labor would not have been ended as quickly, nor would we have a reasonable 40 hour work week. Also, we wouldn’t be going to our jobs in a clean, safe working environment. Woman’s suffrage was also moved along by leaps and bounds by socialist activists. American history has been largely positively impacted by the socialists. Unless you hate free public education, and want to see senior criticizes slaving away at their daily grinds though? Then perhaps the socialists made a mistake. But if you lived during the progressive era, and didn’t have a pot to piss in, I’m sure you’d agree with me. 

    In fact socialism was so popular that politicians adapted by adopting many of their platforms. Mayor La Guardia as a REPUBLICAN congressman in the 19-teens rose to fame because of this. FDR’s new deal was practically lifted from legislation La Guardia was pressing twenty years before the depression.

    Also the federal reserve system came about in 1913 – one of the major planks of the communist manifesto…hmmm seems like Americans were pretty in LOVE with socialism if you ask me. You’re  kinda right about major media distortions but mostly wrong. The red scares were propagated by the state, not the other way around. The KKK had a lot to do with this also, interesting huh? Although the Hearst owned newspapers did a really nice job scaring the shit out of the American people too. Don’t even get me started about McCarthyism either. There were plenty of employed American journalists that were telling the truth about what was going on in Russia during the Bol-Rev, Jack Reed for one. He wrote a pretty damn famous book about it called 10 days that shook the world.

    Anyway socialism isn’t as evil as you and many conservatives think it is, and you’re mostly only looking at the economic side of the philosophy but forgo the equal rights side of it. Either that or they point to Stalin, who wasn’t a socialist. That’s why he has his own ism. Or Mao who was just a land reforming dictatorial murderer. He also has his own ism. Socialism is not communism by the way, although they are the same philosophy. Socialism advocates a peaceful transition, while communism advocates bloody peoples revolutions, their only key difference. Of course people died under communism according to Marx they are supposed to…Well the rich and middle classes at least.

    Anyway, if you care about political philosophy at all you should do better research. Start with American History because this was largely a history entry. If I was your history teacher, I’d give you a D and hand your paper back with a shitload of red socialist ink all over it. If this is what you’re into, you should read a book called pivotal decades. That explains American history from 1900 to the stock market crash. Supplement that with a copy of Howard Zinn’s A Peoples History of the 20th century. Or perhaps a copy of Eric Foner’s The Story of American Freedom. And since you’re a conservative, many used book stores have antique college textbooks from the 50’s and 60’s pick one of those up too. They are hella filled with “conservative” pro-statist bias. With those books you should be able to sift through the distortions and become enlightened, thus writing better articles that won’t get picked apart and eviscerated by some random  punk ass 23 year old college history student.

    Hope that helps!

  • Oldflyer

    My wife has asked me, “Why?”.   Why do these people want the country to go socialistic?  I interpret her query to apply to the Leaders and Thinkers on the Left.  The populace at large is another question.
    My first response is the Philosopher/King scenario.  The brightest, the elites, actually believe that if society were managed by a few of the Intelligentsia, such as them, we could achieve Utopia.  She responds, but “can’t they see that it has never worked?”.   To which I reply, “but it has never been attempted with THEM in charge.  In the past Utopia was always derailed because baser elements gained control.  This time they won’t let that happen.”  I do think that is partly the motivation of those with good intent.
    However, I  am also obligated to point out that there is the simple lust for power.  The easiest way to obtain power, lacking sufficient fire-power, is to centralize planning under the guise of benevolence.  This invariably leads to some degree of totalitarianism; the limits of which depend on many factors, but the potential is vast.  There is no doubt in my mind that a percentage of the Left are motivated by pure lust for power.
    In the long run, their motives do not matter.  The end result is likely the same.
    As to the populace acquiescing:  In those societies that never knew freedom, the people are largely apathetic.  A relatively small number of Activists can carry them along. In some of the more sophisticated democracies such as are found among the Euro-socialists, central control was expedited by great upheavals, e.g. WWII.  In others, it seems that socialism evolved more gradually as governments bestowed more benefits and incrementally accruing more control as a consequence. Until finally, dependence was wide spread and control was centralized. Look out America.
    A simple man’s analysis.

  • Jose

    When socialism is promoted as being “fair”,  only the suckers who have lived in aboslute luxury for the last couple generations fall for it.    By definition, Americans.  Most of the world still knows that life isn’t fair, and so did our Grandparents.  Those hard lessons will need to be learned again. 

    Along those lines, I just added the following to my list of books to be read:

  • Pingback: » Links To Visit – 06/11/10 The Progressive Hunter()

  • Bookworm


    You’re correct, up to a point.  Socialism was definitely a default setting for many immigrants from Italy, Russia and parts of Northern Europe.  (This explains a lot about New York and Minnesota.)  However, Americans who predated these immigrants never liked it.  This is an important point, because the immigrants were not educated in the American way.  However, a couple of generations of traditional patriotic American education meant that the immigrants’ children were no longer red shirts like their mommies and daddies.

    The fact is that, by the time of the Russian Revolution, socialism was viewed as a genuine danger to American well-being, explaining the Red Scares of the 1920s.  Keep in mind the Eugene Victor Debs never did very well at the ballot box.  Sure, he got votes, but his was a minority’s minority party.  By the mid 20th Century, the greater number of Americans, despite not having seen socialism first hand, feared it.

    And yes, socialism is evil, because any political system, whether socialism or communism or theocracy or non-constitutional monarchy or oligarchy or military dictatorship or fascism or whatever, that vests all or most power in the government, is evil.  Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  The more diffuse power is, the safer the average citizen is.

  • Mike Devx

    DTA187247 says many things, but I’ll discuss two of them:
    > It’s okay to be a conservative, I’m a Jeffersonian myself, but it’s not okay to distort history, which is what this article does.
    > If I was your history teacher, I’d give you a D and hand your paper back with a shitload of red socialist ink all over it. If this is what you’re into, you should read a book called pivotal decades. That explains American history from 1900 to the stock market crash. Supplement that with a copy of Howard Zinn’s A Peoples History of the 20th century.

    Why is it necessary to be so condescending when disagreeing with Book? I see this over and over…    I’m lumping you (DTA) in with others who’ve disagreed, which may not seem fair to you because you’ve probably not seen the posts of others’ disagreements; but trust me, almost every single time, the comments are just dripping with condescencion throughout.

    Thank you for saying it’s “ok to be conservative”.   Your GENEROUS permission is, ahem, gratefully accepted.  (You began it all off with such condescension right there!  Because you were writing fairly well, I was hoping things would improve…)

    Recommending far-left authors such as Howard Zinn will hardly succeed with any knowledgable conservative.  It’s like telling us to listen to NPR six hours each day.  We’re simply not going to bother reading a committed idealogue for wisdom when we already know we disagree with 90% of whatever he’s going to say.  If I told you to read Ayn Rand for enlightment, how much time would YOU devote to studying what she has to say?

    Now were someone to REQUEST OF me, in honesty, for works outlining where I come from with my conservative philosophy of individualism, I’d  probably suggest starting with two essays by Ayn Rand  titled “Man’s Rights” and “The Nature Of Government”, which can be found in her non-fiction books “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal” and “The Virtue of Selfishness”.  But I would never tell someone that, for their own good, they’d be best off reading those, so that in my self-appointed University Of MikeDevx, I wouldn’t have to give you a “D” again.  God, I do love the withering condescension implicit in giving someone a “D” in my own imaginary university, in my own imaginary class, under my own imaginary “assignment”!

    You take issue with Book lumping soft and totalitarian socialist systems together.  Well, that’s your right to disagree with such a lumping.  I stick with Book on this one.  At their core, they’re both concrete implementations of socialist political philosophy by which means are used to enslave one segment of the population, forcibly taking things of value to redistribute to others, at the whim of those in power.  I do accept a critical distinction between the two systems of soft and hard socialism:  Soft socialists can usually be turned out of government by the vote of a mjaority of the citizens – the political institutions are set up so that elections allows a transfer of power.  Hard socialists run a dictatorship of one form or another and can only be forcibly removed by bloody revolution.  But socialism is socialism, whether instituted by the majority against their fellow citizens, or by a dictator against his or her people.

    > Anyway socialism isn’t as evil as you and many conservatives think it is, and you’re mostly only looking at the economic side of the philosophy but forgo the equal rights side of it. Either that or they point to Stalin, who wasn’t a socialist. That’s why he has his own ism.

    Well, as Book said above, and I agree, socialism is evil.  If you want to attach a moral pejorative to it.  That’s not to say that a Socialist Party might not have a good idea or seven buried among its many planks.  I don’t believe that any philosophy, economic system or political system has a monopoly on the truth or on moral ideas.

    That would be a utopian concept – that any one such has perfected the idea.  If I believe anything in politics, I believe that Man is flawed and though admirably reaches for perfection, never attains it.  Abolishing our shameful apartheid roots – hell yes.  Women’s legal equality with men – hell yes.   Regulating and ensuring a safe workplace – hell, yes.  (But specifics such as a guaranteed “4o hour work week”, or “smoking laws”, well, one would be stretching in my opinion there.)   You’ve got a good list of elements that I am sure did appear at various times in “socialist party platform planks”, and some of them I agree with, while some others I don’t.

    I would say, if you’d have dropped the withering condescension, you’d have written a good disagreement piece.  But then I’m back to the comment with which I started this small rant: Why do those who disagree with Book always come across with so much withering disdain and condescension?   I’ll close by saying, it doesn’t help your argument and it turns people off; and you obviously care enough to write quite a bit – and I thought, well-written in general – that you’d rather be persuasive than a condescending turn-off.

  • Mike Devx

    I was jumping here to the comments to say to Book, “Awesome Post, Book!  Well written and lengthy and convincing!”  But then I read the first comment and got side-tracked.
    So let me say:
    Awesome Post, Book!
    Well written and lengthy and very convincing!

  • Ari Tai

    Seems the -isms can be ranked in terms of ability to exercise one’s free will (to be argued at a later date is if this is a natural right, v. something granted by the state, etc.) Where a free people and their (free) enterprise are at the less evil end, and the other -isms are progressively worse.  My sense of international socialism (and national socialism, and the others that would simply use the power of majority to tax a minority unequally) are that they are uniformly bad for insuring the maximum rate of human progress (which always benefits the least of us more than the elites and wealthy).  And the hardest -isms were those that believed they could perfect humankind, and would kill to do it.  Call it 100M (early and often horrible) deaths in the last century, and billions of lives that accomplished nothing productive for the greater good.  In a managed economy without the correctives of competition and creative destruction we find factories where the outputs are worth less than the inputs.  Consider that regulation is actually a pre-made purchasing decision made by others for the masses (since the elites can large afford whatever they please).  I hope the masses like what others are buying for them (be it benefits, pensions, or, say, removing arsenic in the water that was too small to be measured by the best test equipment that existed before – this is largely the reason for wages remaining stagnant for the majority. What’s even more interesting is that there are many well-educated folks that believe in the precautionary principle – who hold that for certain problems there is no discount rate – or worse, a negative discount rate (what investments from 100 years ago do we value, to say nothing of having a value in excess of what they had then?).   And yet they would do nothing to restore the free-will of those enslaved and lost forever to these freewill limiting (if not destroying) -isms, and hold up Mr. Kennan as a wise man.  

  • expat

    DTA,  I would like to correct just one of your many errors: that about free public schools.  A member of my family helped set up the public school system in the area where I grew up.  That was back in the 1830s. It wasn’t free; it was paid for by the citizenry with their consent.  Perhaps you should do a bit of reading on Benjamin Franklin to learn something about how Americans solve problems and work together for the good of the community.  As an expatriot, I frequently experience how good ideas from creative Americans make their way over the Atlantic. Two examples are Meal on Wheels and Ronald McDonald Houses.  The problem with socialism is that it stifles this creativity and reduces many human needs to things identified in enormous books of regulations. The idea behind America is that citizens are empowered to solve their own problems at the local level and to reserve federal solutions to problems they cannot deal with effectively or efficiently at a local level.

  • Jose

    Here is an interesting article about the horrific conditions in North Korea, and that government’s attempts to “re-distribute” wealth.

  • binadaat

    why can’t we have human and civil rights on the one hand, keep the place of gov’t small in the economic sphere?
    Is that so hard to grasp?  Who is the dummy?

  • BrianE

    “Anyway socialism isn’t as evil as you and many conservatives think it is, and you’re mostly only looking at the economic side of the philosophy but forgo the equal rights side of it.”– DTA
    OK, I’ll concede your point. Socialism isn’t the most evil philosophy. It’s just evil. So our disagreement is with the degree of evil.
    At the core of it, is the fundamental disagreement as to the nature of man. It appears that we are in universal agreement that mankind is flawed. Where our disagreement lies is whether through our own initiative we can achieve perfection, or even overcome our own self- centeredness.
    But if the goal of socialism is the self-sacrifice of the individual for the common good, how is that desirable? No one receives what they individually desire since everyone is required to give up personal desire to achieve collective desire. I suppose you can take solace in the fact that “you can’t always never get what you want”.

    “Socialism is universally hopeful about the perfectibility of humankind.  Socialism most certainly rejects the capitalist model of man: self-centered, greedy, anti-social, driven, obsessed with things.  This means that socialists necessarily believe in the historical progress.
    But Socialism may expect too much good from people. Perhaps the process of revolution itself contaminates socialism.  Revolutionaries are warriors, and warriors of every age & type harden their hearts in war.  They start feeling justified in using any means, any method, to win the fight. War and struggle erode every good intention, and often the ideological justifications for the struggle become reduced to slogans.
    But if the substance of socialism survives the revolutionary fire, it will remain fragile in the post-revolutionary period.  No matter the good intentions underlying a socialist society, some men and women will develop ambition and greed.  Others will use their offices or jobs to benefit relatives and friends or punish enemies.  Socialism– that is, true socialism– is therefore not inevitable.  Yes, socialism may expect too much of mankind, but then again so may Christianity and all other religion.”

    Socialism is a fantasy created by the envious. Not only is true socialism not inevitable, it is not possible. It always requires the power of the state to enforce it’s precepts. Locally, we have a large Hutterite community. They would certainly fit your definition of socialism, but they are certainly not a democratic commune. Elders have power to enforce the goals of the community.
    When you talk about equality, don’t you mean fair? Since none of us is truly equal, and one of the difficulties of democratic societies is the reality that those unable to recognize the future consequences of decisions are still free to make largely uninformed and selfish decisions. Not exactly the prescription for continued true socialsim. In fact, it’s a society that understands the selfish nature of man, and creates a system harnessing those competing interests that stands the best chance of flourishing.

  • suek

    >>When you talk about equality, don’t you mean fair?>>
    And what’s “fair”?  How do you measure “fair”?  My guess is that the concept of “fair” is so nebulous that we can only define it in terms of “equal” – even though “equal” may _not_ be “fair”!
    And _who_ decides what’s “fair”?

  • suek

    >>…you’re mostly only looking at the economic side of the philosophy but forgo the equal rights side of it.”– DTA>>
    How do you separate them?

  • Charles Martel

    DTA lost me at his recommendation that we read Eric Foner if we want to bone up on what really happened in U.S. history.

    Sorry, I don’t read crap by Communists, especially ones who’ve spent their lives defending the charnel house that was the Soviet Union. It’s unbelievable to me that a “Jeffersonian” would tell us that the road to enlightenment lies in reading the convoluted, twisted maunderings of a scholar who has been in lifelong love with mass murderers.

  • Mike Devx

    A far-left liberal thinks he’s a Jeffersonian if:
    – He believes that when Jefferson mentioned “a wall between church and state”, he meant that religion and God should be thoroughly banned from even being mentioned on government property.  If he doesn’t realize that Jefferson was a Deist who while President proclaimed his faith in God at every opportunity, even officially as President.
    – He believes that Jefferson would have LOVED Big Government.  That Jefferson would have proposed a Big Program for every problem to be found under the sun.  If Jefferson would have thought that in America, having more people employed by the government than employed in the private sector is one of those Very Good Things.
    – He thinks Jefferson was “way cool” for shagging one of his female slaves.  Way Cool!
    – He greets everyone wh knocks at his front door by wearing a robe with morning slippers, holding a cup of coffee, “just like Jefferson”
    – Is certain that Jefferson was a socialist, even though Jefferson believed strongly, completely, and absolutely in individual rights; and equally in private property being a cornerstone of individual rights.
    Actually, in truth until DTA explains why he considers himself Jeffersonian, no one else will know why.  The above is all merely my attempt at being humorous.  On a day when I’m filled with rage at Obama for proposing another EMERGENCY stimulus package to save the jobs of more public sector employees, and only public sector employees. attempting to be humorous (when I’m ranting at the keyboard, the walls, the ceiling, and my poor two dogs) is doomed to failure.

  • DTA187247

    Phew, looks like I have a lot of comments to address. Let me start in reverse order…kind of.
    Mike: A couple of things that I will point out about Jefferson that you might not be aware of: Jefferson was one of the first founders to adopt the concept of public education, he founded the University of Virgina for this reason. That’s socialism. Not saying that Jefferson was a socialist, there was no such thing of course. Jefferson was huge on education and would spend entire days from dusk till dawn reading volumes from his massive library which was torched by Benedict Arnold, then rebuilt, and eventually became the Library of Congress. So public education along with public libraries, two socialistic concepts in nature, came from one of the most “conservative” Presidents in American history.
    Expat: You’re completely wrong about public schools and Franklin and 1830 is about 50 years too late. Not to diss your family, every family has a “my great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather…” story(ies)
    Jefferson was also very strongly against slavery. Jefferson’s slaves were inherited from his father and he passed laws in the state of Virgina that made it easier to free slaves. Back then there were many lengthy restrictions making it very difficult to just “up and free” your slaves. Yes, it was against the law to free them. Many of Washington’s slaves were later freed under laws Jefferson passed. However, it is true that later in his life Jefferson encountered a great deal of financial trouble, he was in all respects basically bankrupt and reluctantly kept many slaves until his death to keep his family from poverty. I agree that this is selfish and wrong, but what historians know is that Jefferson’s slaves thought highly of him. Any slave in 18-early 19th century America would have been very lucky to be on the Jefferson plantation as opposed to another gentry-man.
    On the Sally Hemmings Affair: The DNA evidence only proves that A Jefferson, not THE Thomas Jefferson, was mixed with the Hemmings’ line. In all probably it was more likely that Thomas Jefferson brother who was in charge and had access to the slave quarters was the one who inseminated Sally Hemmings. With recent updates in DNA testing technology it is possible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that TJ, or his brother, was the one who did so, but the Hemmings family will not submit to the test. They probably do not want to loose their status and fame. The truth is Jefferson probably didn’t do it. There are many books written about this subject which is too in depth to cover in a blog reply. May I recommend “The Case for Jefferson.” (I think that’s what it’s called- too lazy to check Amazon, but a google search will bring it up roughly.)  Jefferson never remarried after Martha died, and the Federalists were very nasty political opponents, they loved to pull the sexual debauchery card all the time and not only on Jefferson. Had Andrew Jackson would have been in Government at the time then we would have had a dictatorship by default because he would have shot all of them haha.
    To Whoever mentioned Rand: I agree with many of her individualist arguments concerning liberty. However, history has proven, if you study the labor movement and the robber barons, that a purely laissez faire approach to economics cannot work as long as corporations are treated as “individuals who cannot die.” Corporations eventually grow and oppress the people and they become too influential politically, therefore they are just as aberrant to liberty as governments are. Therefore, I believe our founders we correct in using the charter system for corporations in early American history as a check and balance. They learned their lessons from the British and the nasty East India Company. A free market does somewhat exist and work, its called E-bay and that’s about the closest thing we are ever going to get. Because on the internet corporations and average people are on somewhat equal footing. Her views on altruism are interesting, albeit rash at times. I just think that we do need the social security system. Old people and children do need help and this is where Rand looses me. She foolishly believes that personal, independent charity can solve these problems, just like Washington believed that private charity was going to fund the American Government. If charity could solve such problems then we would have cured cancer and no one would be starving to death in Africa…(billions and billions spent every year, countless volunteers etc…problems just get worse.)
    Martel on Foner: I recommended three or four books, Zinn is considered a left historian, Foner as well. Foner is also considered by many historians in the field to be highly credible and one of the greatest historians that is alive. Just look at his creds. I also recommended a particular book by Foner which is probably the most balanced book he has written in my opinion. The book is concerned with American changing conceptions of freedom, which is why I brought it up when arguing with Bookworm. Foner as well as every mainstream historian will agree that Americans have unequivocally adopted socialist concepts and supported its aims many times in multiple periods of American history. It was a majority opinion in the New Deal Era and it wasn’t really until the second red scare during the Cold War that things somewhat changed. Even still, Americans were still supporting concepts that were socialistic. I’ll give TR and Eisenhower a pass on public parks and land conservation…for the sake of argument we’ll say its not socialistic. However, Johnson’s great society was, Nixon expanded it. I’m rusty on my Kennedy history, but he was a right leaning democrat, or blue dog democrat, so we’ll give him a pass. Anyway, my point is every historian would agree, not just Foner, from you’re 6th grade civics teacher to a Post Doc American Studies Professor.
    Brian: I liked your comment- Well written arguments. I wasn’t trying to argue political philosophy. I’m not a fan of socialism, there are just positive aspects of it. Nor do I believe that an idea like socialism, no matter how blatantly obvious it is that it cannot work in it purest form, is evil. If that were the case Jesus was evil. (obviously he wasn’t: 4 out of 5 doctors agree haha.) He promoted charity for the poor. If we look at the kingdom of heaven, for the sake of argument, as the “Government of God” were we will “want for nothing” i.e. everything is provided for us…isn’t that socialism? Doesn’t seem evil to me. People can make any system of government evil, even our system of Constitutional Republicanism: it’s just harder when you have a multiple separation of powers, which I’m sad to say is eroding daily. Anyway Brian, I agree that Freedom and Equality are not synonymous, but I also agree that a balance is needed for both in our complex and often cut-throat society. Total freedom would be no government in a state of nature, and as Thomas Hobbes put it, after seeing the horrid atrocities committed in the English Civil Wars: “Life in the state of nature (neutral-anarchy) would be nasty, brutish, and short.”
    Anyway my personal philosophy wasn’t the reason I wrote my first comment, it was an argument concerning History.
    …And someone brought up that Jefferson was a Deist, ehhhhh perhaps…I would say that many of the founders were deists because of their ties to freemasonry and the miseries. Jefferson wasn’t technically a Freemason but as an architect himself (there was pretty much nothing Jefferson couldn’t do.) he was present at many a cornerstone laying, and had many ties to Freemasons. Also, masonic lodges/meetings were used before and during the revolution as a way to gather intelligence, think of them as the early CIA. Crude analogy, pardon it please, but you get my point. Anyway, Jefferson despised the “hocus-pocus” of religion, at one minute he talks smack about there being a God the next minute he doesn’t. If anything I would say that Jefferson was an aficionado of philosophy, from Aristotle to Jesus he borrowed from all philosophy. I would consider him an ethical-humanist five days of the week and if he is in a really good mood, maybe after a couple of ale’s, a deist the other two.
    Hope this helps. Sorry if I missed anyone.

  • Charles Martel

    “If we look at the kingdom of heaven, for the sake of argument, as the “Government of God” were we will “want for nothing” i.e. everything is provided for us…isn’t that socialism? Doesn’t seem evil to me.”

    I don’t recall God’s economy depending on looting the productivity of Heaven’s denizens. I can’t believe that you would make this analogy without considering the utter difference between the nature of God and the nature of His creations.  (Not to mention your hilarious surmise that socialism somehow provides “everything for us.” Is there a magic printing press involved? Or maybe the persuasive power of  government guns?)

    “Martel on Foner: I recommended three or four books, Zinn is considered a left historian, Foner as well. Foner is also considered by many historians in the field to be highly credible and one of the greatest historians that is alive. Just look at his creds.”

    Sorry, DTA, Foner is a Communist. Not “leftist,” but an apologist for the greatest mass murderers in history. You’ll understand if I can’t quite see his “creds” in that light. Your insistence that I do is what nettles me about kids like you. You are glib and seemingly conversant with the great currents and themes of history, yet I fear you have this dead lump when it comes to a moral center: What is it about Communism that you don’t get? Both Zinn and Foner did/do defend the indefensible. It’s as though you recommended the authors of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” as spiffy sources for learning the real skinny about Jews.

  • DTA187247

    Oh, I almost forgot Book’s reply to my first comment. Socialism and socialist concepts, weather you like it or not, have been popular all throughout American history. When mainstream politicians adopt socialist platforms because it’s a majority opinion, then socialism is popular. Many voters during Debs’ era voted for for more viable candidates in the presidential elections (who had adopted socialist talking points/ideals.) true. But the Socialist party successfully ran and elected many members to congress as well as state houses and local government posts, mayors for example. I mean Debs ran from his jail cell and still got damn near a million votes. They were popular, end of story. When the socialists started to become significantly powerful the state, through coercion, removed many from congress unconstitutionally.
    Also, the re-education programs you’re talking about were federally funded to “Americanize” immigrants. It was borderline brainwashing. And generations after these immigrants still supported socialism like I have argued in the previous comment. “God forbid the Italian immigrants read anarchist pamphlets and drink too much wine, I say we throw them in jail for subversive thoughts, and while we’re at it prohibition sounds like a good idea, not to mention lets just- for all intents and purposes- almost completely end legal immigration.” The 1900’s-1930’s in a nutshell. State-ran political oppression…  Robber Barron influence. The socialists with the help of O-Labor helped to nip a lot of that BS in the bud.
    I think what you’re getting wrong is the governments view on socialism vs the peoples view and the majority view. You’re confusing the two. You are also using the therm “red scare” wrong. The “Red Scare” is a sarcastic phrase historians use to describe the hysteria of people like Wilson, Palmer, the KKK of the early Progressive-Era, and Joe McCarthy. The government is going to support whatever supports its aims. Prime example- allies with Stalin in WW2, then brutal enemies? Hmmmm…Stalin was doing the same evil shit Hitler was…hmmm someone is having their cake and eating it too…and how do you explain the unpopular war in Vietnam? Those pretty much destroy your 1950’s-70’s argument. No offense.
    oh, and someone said public education isn’t free…its free for someone. Unless I missed the part of the country where 5 year old’s were working and filing W2’s or buying goods with money they earned for sales tax. People get free education, even though taxpayers have to foot the bill, hate to be the one to break it to you guys. Just think about that when your free loading six year old asks you to take him to the zoo. Get a job!!! lol

  • DTA187247

    Martel- “I don’t recall God’s economy depending on looting the productivity of Heaven’s denizens. I can’t believe that you would make this analogy without considering the utter difference between the nature of God and the nature of His creations.  (Not to mention your hilarious surmise that socialism somehow provides “everything for us.” Is there a magic printing press involved? Or maybe the persuasive power of  government guns?)”
    So God is an economist? I don’t think we need money in heaven…Unless that’s in God’s plan, if so I’d hate to be an accountant. But seriously, I was trying to draw an analogy of Utopian Socialism to the closest thing that could work, a socialist state ran by a beneficent perfect God. I already stated, had you have read, that I don’t think socialism can work. Besides,The word “socialism” really only means state/community ownership of the means of production. So your definition of socialism is also reaching. Not to mention you didn’t really make an argument. What are you confused about, the fact that there is socialism all throughout the new and old testament, (not to say that there isn’t capitalist individualism too) or that God owns the means of production…?haha.
    “Sorry, DTA, Foner is a Communist. Not “leftist,” but an apologist for the greatest mass murderers in history. You’ll understand if I can’t quite see his “creds” in that light. Your insistence that I do is what nettles me about kids like you. You are glib and seemingly conversant with the great currents and themes of history, yet I fear you have this dead lump when it comes to a moral center: What is it about Communism that you don’t get? Both Zinn and Foner did/do defend the indefensible. It’s as though you recommended the authors of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” as spiffy sources for learning the real skinny about Jews.”
    first of all, the term left-historian does not literally mean that the historian goes to the ballot box on election day and votes liberal-democrat. Second, can you cite a quote and source where Foner proclaims himself a communist? Thanks for pulling the anti-Semite card as well, that’s always a thought provoking way to win an intellectual debate. Who is Foner an apologist for? And how do his personal political views have anything to do with what happened in American history? If you don’t like Foner read back issues of the New York times from the 1900’s-1970. You’ll draw the same conclusions from the Times, and it leans somewhat to the right if you’re reading it in its early period. Better yet, get a high school textbook from 1950, interesting reading. Oh, what does age have to do with anything? Are you saying that kids my age are all skateboard riding pinko-commie-leftists? I ride a skateboard, I’ll admit, but I’m a Jeffersonian, and at best the only left I lean is Left-Libertarian. I’ve never met anyone my age range that is either. Unless this debate is going to be acted out on the next season of Jersey Shore. Come back with an argument and less  ad-hominem attacks. This is fun. Sorry for the double post…

  • Mike Devx

    In response to DTA #17, #19,
    Keep in mind that we (all commenters here in Book’s domain) don’t speak with one mind here and will disagree with each other; many comments I’m about to make others will disagree with besides you…
    You’ve made a lot of points and I expect you’re going to get a very large number of replies, which is all to the good!   If you haven’t been browsing Book’s commenters, you’ll find we’re generally quite conservative so you won’t find much agreement, and we can get heated and perhaps occasionally insulting.  We love a good argument, so hang in there.
    Socialism throughout American history:
    I agree with you that socialism has deep roots in America.  The story of the early colony run by Governor Bradford along the lines of classic socialism is one example.  The colony failed, was starving, until the means of production and its fruits was returned to each family, at which point the colony immediately recovered and began to thrive again, thus leading to the first official Thanksgiving celebration.  I agree there have always been socialist movements within America and that at times they’ve been quite popular.  In fact, they’re very popular *right now*.  In fact, it may be that *right now* we are the most socialist we’ve ever been, if you agree that socialism requires the coercive power of government to *be* socialism.   Massive programs in our national government legally forcing redistribution exist across our national government.
    But I think the essential nature of the Declaration of Independence (as a philosophical basis for how America “runs”, and the Constitution (for the practical implementation of that philosophy, for “running” America) indicate that our government was founded to ensure that private property is owned by individuals who use it and keep the fruits of their efforts for their own good.  That’s a broad simplification but I think it describes the essential nature of how individual rights combined with the individual use of one’s private property, not socialism, form the basis of how this country was intended to be run.
    Jesus and Socialism:
    There’s enough detail in the New Testament to indicate that yes, early Christianity was highly communal and would qualify much more as socialist than capitalist.  In its nature.  I always make the point, however, that those in such Christian communities joined voluntary.  There was no State controlling them and performing forced redistribution “to each according to their needs”.  The critical presence of the coercive power of the State is missing.  I have no objection at all when people organize themselves voluntarily into groups that are communal (socialist in nature).  I agree that the “corporation” has the upper hand when employing workers and even in a capitalist system, I have no objection to the idea that workers may voluntarily organize themselves into a group where they act collectively.  No problem with labor unions as a concept.  But when other workers are forced to join the labor union against their will – such force occurring by law, meaning, again, via the coercive power of government – I object.  When the government prevents such a company from hiring both union and non-union workers – again via government coercion – I object.   Labor unions are a form of collusion; if companies want to engage in collusion as well, I have no objection either.  Government coercion – again by law – generally considers company collusion against a union to be illegal; I object.
    Regulation and my own thoughts about the Power of a Monopoly:
    I tend to say that one of the proper functions of a limited government *is* regulation. (Not everyone here agrees with me.  Perhaps few here would agree!)  Attempting to ensure a level playing field (equality of opportunity) is to me a legitimate function.  I struggle with one of the classic arguments against pure capitalism, that of the power of a monopoly that has arisen.  The classic example is a gasoline monopoly.  When a small competitor opens a gas station, the monopolist opens one right next door, and immediately drops his price far below the break-even point and runs that particular station at a huge loss, until the struggling new competitor simply goes out of business.  Then the monopolist jacks the prices at that station right back up again.  The monopolist has the deep pockets to run many such stations at a deep loss, and thus can prevent small competitors from succeeding against him.  So the only competitor that can challenge the monopolist is another one with sufficiently deep pockets to go head to head in such a battle.  I’ve never found a convincing argument yet that this is healthy.  The only answer may simply be that the alternative to allowing it is even worse. (Much like a paraphrase of Churchill: democracy is the worst form of government… except for all the others.)
    Should the government prevent a company from operating a single establishment at such a loss, purely to drive out competition?  It seems possible to me.  I’m not sure.  It might be be possible in economic theory to formulate economic rules that define such a condition: where within a single company, some “stores” are operating at such a loss while other stores in other regions, run by the same company, are not operating at such a loss, and that such a practice would be considered unlawful due to the deliberate creation of an un-level playing field for the purpose of destroying *local* competition; and that particular form of competition would be declared illegal.  As I said, I’m not sure there’s an answer to that problem nor that it would be possible to legislate against its use.
    Defining Socialism
    I don’t see how you can define yourself as both socialist and libertarian.  I suppose it comes down to definitions.  For me, socialism is about using the coercive power of government to seize the results of production and redistributing those results to others.  Libertarian economics is precisely opposed to that.  My guess would be that you’re focusing on the “individual rights” aspect of libertarianism divorced entirely from its economic foundations, which may be an impossible divorce.
    I’m no anarchist.  I believe that government must exist and should have extremely well-defined responsibilities, and well-defined limits on those responsibilities, meaning, defined limits on its power.  (Obama calls this “negative rights” as they are enshrined in the Constitution; his socialist policies generally fall under his concept of “positive rights” and I tend to disagree with every single one of them.)  Government’s essential nature is coercion, whether by consent of the governed or not.  That’s why I advocate limited and small government.  As government grows larger and larger (and our national government is by now *extraordinarily* large), the opportunities for corruption and cronyism are correspondingly are larger and larger.  And the effects of corruption and cronyism are correspondingly more devastating to everyone.  It’s not the same, to me, as corruption and cronyism existing at pandemic levels WITHIN businesses in the private sector, though that can happen just as easily as in large government-business incestuous relationships, because it is the coercive power of government that makes it so dangerous and destructive.  That coercive LEGAL power is what is missing when businesses alone engage in corruption and cronyism.
    So many more thoughts you’ve prompted than I can go into here!  I’ll let others have their say as well rather than go on and on…  I’ll close by saying I’ve enjoyed what you wrote, found it very interesting, and enjoyed the thoughts that much of it provoked; and I don’t disagree with all of it.  (It would be easier to have a back and forth discussion if it were a little more thematically organized than just as two lengthy paragraphs, but that’s just a very minor quibble.)

  • Bookworm

    I have actual deadline work today, so I won’t be contributing to this discussion.  I see, though, that my friends are writing what I was thinking in response to DTA187247’s statements.  (BTW, on the subject of history’s failed socialist experiments, both voluntary and involuntary, I highly recommend Josh Muravchik’s History of Socialism.)

  • Charles Martel

    Can you cite a quote and source where Foner proclaims himself a communist?
    I apologize. Foner describes himself and is described as a Marxist, which is not technically a Communist. Kind of like the difference between a Red Headed Woodpecker and a Golden Fronted Woodpecker—different species, same genus, same end effect. 

    Thanks for pulling the anti-Semite card as well, that’s always a thought provoking way to win an intellectual debate. Who is Foner an apologist for?

    DTA, it was an analogy, not an assertion. Please learn the difference and watch those knee jerks. (Speaking of Nazism, it would still be interesting to see what is your take on Communism. I see little difference between a Nazi and a Marxist, so perhaps you can enlighten me as to why I should trust Foner’s lens anymore than I would a fascist’s.)
    Regarding Foner’s sympathies, the link below goes to a rather enlightening discussion of Foner’s mental processes:;col1
    Another link shows that even scholars inclined to agree with him philosophically criticize him for his blind pro-communism:
    Theodore Draper, author of two early histories of the American Communist Party (CPUSA), as well as books criticizing LBJ’s actions in the Dominican Republic and Reagan’s involvement with the Iran-Contra Affair, saw Foner as “one of our most distinguished historians.” But, reviewing The Story of American Freedom in the New York Review of Books, Draper pointed out where Foner had whitewashed the history of the CPUSA in his glowing account, calling him “a partisan of radical sects and opinions.”[4] Another liberal historian, John Patrick Diggins of the City University of New York, wrote that Foner’s Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, was a “magisterial” and “moving” narrative, but compared Foner’s “unforgiving” view of America for its racist past to his notably different views on the fall of communism and Soviet history. [5]
    And how do his personal political views have anything to do with what happened in American history?

    You don’t have personal views that affect how you interpret data? Your self-description as a “left libertarian” is just a meaningless word string? If that’s the case, would any scholar or academic who espouses, say, racism, or anti-Semitism, or creationism be suspect in your mind, or would you say that he can perform the same sleight of mind as you apparently think Foner can? (See the reference to Theodore Draper’s criticism of Foner’s work above.)

    Oh, what does age have to do with anything?
    Skateboarding philosophers like yourself can be very smart and entertaining, but one of your inevitable “tells” is an unmerited air of superiority, as though you the first person to ever argue these things or your assumption that people here aren’t quite up to your intellectual snuff.
    Another tell is what appears to be your willful ignorance about Communism and its apologists. I find this to be common among people your age, and I attribute it to the fact that there are so many Marxists and Neo-Marxists in the academy. It has turned would-be scholars like you into fish: You’ve been swimming for so long in red soup that you don’t even know you’re wet.
    Also, “leftist libertarian is an interesting description. I wonder how you reconcile libertarianism—minimum government involvement—with leftism—the desire for government control of almost every aspect of life.

  • suek

    His prose and style  seem familiar…maybe he was here before under a different name???

  • DTA187247

    Charles Martel: This is probably going to be my last reply to you, because you’re not really arguing anything other that Ad-Hominem attacks. You still didn’t give me a quote from Eric Foner HIMSELF where he proclaims that he is a socialist, communist, Marxist etc…Nor did you provide a quote where he praises pol-pot, Stalin, Lenin, Mao etc. The CPSUA was radically different than any communist groups in Soviet Russia. I would suggest you go to a Primary Source, Jack Reed, who was a member of the CPUSA (Back then it was under two different names, long story) then went to Russia and basically defected, then saw what was going on in Russia during the Bol-Rev and became frightened. If you’re not the reading type, and judging from your lazy first two pages of google research on Eric Foner, you’re not, you can rent the movie “Reds,” it won a few Oscars and is a fairly good depiction of the era. Like I said, if you have a problem with Eric Foner read back issues of the Times, another primary source, and draw the same conclusions Foner did. The CPUSA wasn’t throwing subversives in jail for their speech, the  government was, its an undisputed sad fact of history, get over it.
    Nazism V. Marxism: This is another discussion that would take a terrible amount of time to explain. Nazis are fascists but not all fascists are Nazis. But to be brief, Nazism works with corporate capitalism to an extent, and promotes individuals through their class system based upon ability, pedigree (very,very important), and leadership qualities. It is neither completely free market, nor completely socialist. The Nazis hate(ed) Marxists and communists. They considered beliefs in communism a mental disorder worthy of execution. Hitler himself had a picture of Henry Ford hanging in his office and praised him all the time. He didn’t hate capitalism at all, rather he harnessed its power and offered incentives to make capitalism work for the state. The closest example to a Nazi economy to day would probably be Japan’s. You can’t lump in either philosophies, they are complicated and intricate and require study. One size doesn’t fit all. I would recommend going to your local book store and picking up a short book on political science/philosophy and giving it a whirl. That isn’t to say that there weren’t similarities, for example the use of Jewish slave labor in both systems. Many venture capitalist corporations took part in the Nazi economy: Coca-Cola, IBM, Opel (Fords German subsidiary) etc.

    Left-libertarianism and personal political views skewing interpretations of history: Fist of all Left-Libertarianism is a viable, real, factually existing paradigm on the political spectrum. It’s not a meaningless word-string. In a nutshell it is close to Jeffersonianism, but with strong regulations on the power corporations. Again, pick up a poli-sci book, in short every political philosophy has a left-right-moderate-centrist, up, down, etc to it. Sometimes it might be like BBQ chicken vs, grilled, but other times it may be like BBQ chicken vs. a house salad and Left-Libertarian vs Leftist its like the Salad analogy. Of course our political beliefs can skew our interpretations of things, but all of our life experiences do. Do you think every jury member (if any) are truly unbiased? If so that’s a very naive assumption. That is why their are a set of rules- jurisprudence, that the court must follow so that the trial can be as fair as possible. There are a similar set of rules for academia, if you have a problem with Foner being “a communist” (if he is one), then take it up with Foner. However, if you have a problem with his history you should argue HISTORY. Personally I don’t care if someone is a racist, a republican, or Godzilla when it comes to academics- I care about what their evidence is. It helps when studing a liberal-art as opposed to a science, (history is a liberal art) to read A WIDE SPECTRUM OF ACADEMIC AUTHORS AND DRAW CONCLUSIONS BASED UPON SCHOLARLY RESEARCH AND EVIDENCE. Then, if you want, you can check sourced material, do a Freedom of Information Act request for your own, or go to a library and look at their microfilm archives. Be your own historian, but be warned, it takes a little more research than just scouting the first two pages of google. I’m not ignorant about “communism and its apologists.” I think I proved in the previous paragraphs/posts that I probably know more about it then you do. If you have a problem with a young person besting you (easily) in an intellectual debate then don’t argue with us perhaps? I hope you think about it when you get together with your friends on the golf course and try to figure out why the youth of today doesn’t respect your age group haha.
    And I’ve never posted here before I ran across this blog completely by accident through doing random searches through blogs.

  • Charles Martel

    “Charles Martel: This is probably going to be my last reply to you.”

    A small mercy for which I thank you profusely.

    I would leave you with this:

    1. Please acquaint yourself with the Venona Files, which paint a tiny bit different picture of the CPUSA then your impressive, objective primary sources (“Reds,” Jack Reed and Eric Foner).

    2. Please quit assigning homework to people. I gave you some links—which you dismissed but did not refute—but at least I gave you some references. Waving your hand and commanding the rest of us to read this and read that, as though the command is an argument that has any substance, is just lazy.

    3. I know you’re far better educated than I (after all, I spend most of my time on the golf course), but could you be bothered to take just the eensiest bit of time to edit your spews? A passage like, “Do you think every jury member (if any) are [sic] truly unbiased? If so that’s a very naive assumption. That is why their [sic] are [sic] a set of rules- jurisprudence” is so painful for its lack of number agreement, bad punctuation and misspelling that it makes me feel sorry for you. See, as you might say in your peculiar form of English, “there are [sic] a similar set of rules for writing,” that puts me under an obligation to take up with you the same way I’m supposed to take up academic standards with Foner. So, here I am, wondering why you can’t be bothered to write like an adult.

    Here’s hoping you begin to show some respect for your native language. When used properly, it can be very persuasive. Otherwise, I’m afraid, you come off as spectacularly slapdashical, both in content and form.