Reviving The RCYB

When I was a student at the Ohio State University in the late ’70s, one of the many political groups on campus was the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade.  You would see them out on the Oval, advocating for their communist causes and trying to recruit new members.  There weren’t many takers for what they were selling.

Apparently that view has changed.

communism-topic-gettyimages-89856241According to a recent survey, millennials — defined as those between ages 23 and 38 — look far more favorably on communism and socialism than older generations.  The results of the poll indicate that an astonishing 36 percent of millennials approve of communism, and 70 percent responded that they are extremely likely or somewhat likely to vote for a socialist in the upcoming election.  In addition, about half of millennials and members of Generation Z — those between ages 16 and 22 — have a somewhat unfavorable or very unfavorable view of capitalism.  It’s not surprising, then, that 22 percent of millennials believe “society would be better if all private property was abolished,” and that 45 percent of Generation Z members and millennials believe that “all higher education should be free.”

The results of the poll, which was conducted by YouGov and released by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, are pretty amazing — until you consider the life experiences of the various generations.  When I was in college the Cold War was in full swing, the Soviet Union had just invaded Afghanistan, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was exposing the horrors of the gulags, and the world was only a decade away from the death of countless people in China’s “Cultural Revolution.”  It wasn’t difficult to form a negative view of communism.  Millennials and Generation Zers, on the other hand, grew up in a post-Soviet world where China is largely viewed as a producer of electronic gear and its repressive tendencies, whether in Hong Kong or in its treatment of ethnic minorities, are often ignored or overlooked.  How much have millennials and Generation Z been taught about the true nature of communism and its bloody history?

What will this embrace of communist and socialist ideology among young people mean for the upcoming Democratic primaries, where some candidates are advocating for policies that are openly described as socialist?  It all depends on whether those millennials and Generation Zers who want free college will register and cast their vote in a free and open election — which, incidentally, doesn’t happen in communist countries.  But then, millennials and Generation Zers may not be aware of that.

Socialists In The Midst

Over the weekend Kish and I went for a walk.  About a block from our house, near St. Mary, we found a poster encouraging people to attend the “launch meeting” for a new group called the Central Ohio Revolutionary Socialists (“CORS”).

The CORS recruiting sign reminded me of the signs that were posted around the Ohio State campus by the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade back in the ’70s.  Like those placards from decades ago, the CORS poster complains about bosses and landlords, “racist cops brutalizing our communities,” “imperialist wars,” and “poverty and powerlessness.”  There are some new parts to the revolutionary agenda, too — like concerns about “the threat of climate catastrophe” and attacks on immigrants and refugees — but the bottom line is pretty similar:  fighting against “the exploitation and oppression we face everyday under capitalism” by forming an organization to “fight for the end of the current system and the creation of one run by and for the working class!”  About the only thing missing from the signs I remember from my college days was a reference to “the masses.”

There’s one other difference between the RCYB of days gone by and CORS — like everybody else these days, CORS has a Facebook page, where a group of what apparently are CORS’ founding members — one of whom is wearing an Ohio State Buckeyes shirt — are shown giving the revolutionary fist sign.

The revolutionary socialist agenda went underground during the Reagan era, but socialism has now emerged from behind closed doors and is back in the American political mix these days, with candidates for the Democratic Party nomination in 2020 and some of the new members of the Party in Congress identifying as socialists.  It will be interesting to see how much traction the socialist agenda gets in the United States — particularly when some countries that adopted what were advertised as socialist systems, like Venezuela, have become train wrecks where the ordinary people live in poverty and misery.

It’s also interesting that the agendas and terminology of the revolutionary groups are so similar to what we’ve seen before.  Facebook page or not, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Failing The Toothpaste Test

If you haven’t paid much attention to the disaster that is slowly unfolding in Venezuela, here’s an indicator:  the economic disruption and hyperinflation is so bad that people can’t even afford to use toothpaste to brush their teeth at night, because a single tube of toothpaste costs half a week’s wages.

empty-toothpaste-tubeIt’s a classic example of the failure of a government-controlled economy.  Venezuela has a socialist government, but it’s a bastardized version that has a lot of Latin American “strong man” elements thrown in, too.  Dating from the days of Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s government has so interfered with normal economic functioning that the country can’t even take advantage of having the largest proven oil reserves in the world.  Chavez expropriated industries, used oil revenues to pay for many social welfare benefits, and discouraged private enterprise.  After years of such mismanagement, Venezuela faces chronic shortages of food, medicine, and electricity, skyrocketing crime, and mounting social disorder — to say nothing of hyperinflation, now running at about 700 percent annually, that cuts into the buying power of workers’ wages and makes even a single tube of toothpaste a luxury item to be used sparingly.

The Washington Post story about the toothpaste tells the tale of Venezuela’s downward spiral from the standpoint of the working people of the country, and it is a sad tale, indeed.  The average worker’s income is about $33 a month — which is less than a quarter of the average wage in Haiti, which is one of the most impoverished countries in the western hemisphere.  People have to stand in line for hours to buy staples like pasta, rice, and flour, and the products they purchase are of poor quality — such as broken-grain rice that normally would be used as chicken feed.  Since 2014, the portion of people living in poverty has increased from 48 percent to 82 percent.  People are down to eating two poor meals a day, and many are starving.

The government’s only response is to dictate increases in the minimum wage, which was just raised for this third this year, this time by 20 percent, to 250,000 “strong bolivars.”  (When you have to name your currency “strong,” it tells you something about how the value of that currency is perceived, doesn’t it?)  Of course, the constant increases do nothing to address, and instead only promote, the hyperinflation that is ravaging the country.

We should all think about Venezuela the next time some politician starts talking about how well off we all would be if the government just took a firmer hand in managing the economy.