The cartoon above showed up in my Texas cousin’s Facebook feed. Now, I love my cousin from Texas dearly, and she’s one of my favorite people, but we do see the world from very different perspectives.
I would describe my cousin as a walking bundle of right-leaning contradictions. She clearly has no love for any elected officials with a “(D)” next to their names. She dismisses Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with blithe contempt while simultaneously hero-worshiping Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She is equally dismissive of Donald Trump and his most strident critics at the same time. At her core, and why I love her, she is a smart and fundamentally decent human being, with nary a bigoted bone in her little toe.
But she also posts cartoons like the one above, and there hasn’t been a right-wing attack on AOC that she doesn’t gleefully swallow, hook, line, and sinker. I hope you can spot the lie in the cartoon. It’s obvious when you look for it.
If for some reason you can’t see the image, it is by Pat Cross, a conservative editorial cartoonist whose work is, to be kind, short on intellectual honesty. This particular cartoon shows a history class where the instructor is discussing the “millions of lives destroyed by socialism” while a young Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is sound asleep in class, suggesting that the insurgent legislator is ignorant of the atrocities committed in the name of “socialism” and that her political philosophy is indistinguishable from those of Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong.
Spotted the blatant, grotesque lie yet?
The cartoon perpetuates the falsehood that, because the full name for the Soviet Union was the “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics,” everyone who considers themselves a socialist is equally accountable for the excesses committed under their rule.
If socialists are to be held accountable for the actions of the Soviet Union under Stalin, just because they claim the word “socialist,” then every country we consider a democracy is accountable for the crimes of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and the Democratic Republic of Korea (North Korea) because they call themselves democratic.
I have previously written about how socialism and capitalism are not only compatible but also mutually dependent upon each other. Capitalism needs a degree of socialism to mitigate its worst excesses, while socialism requires some form of market economy to create the wealth necessary for the state to improve the lives of the largest possible number of people.
Communism, or Marxist-Leninist-style socialism, was a misguided attempt to have a socialist state without a free market to fuel the economy. It failed miserably. Literally miserably, causing untold misery and claiming millions of innocent lives.
This is nothing like the policies that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, or anyone else who would call themselves a democratic socialist, is proposing for the United States. Social Democracy is a mainstream, centrist school of thought in most other Western democracies, where it is not at all controversial to harness the strengths of a market economy to fund programs aimed at raising the standard of living for the entire country.
The next time you hear or see anything that equates democratic socialism with communism, just remember that the person repeating that claim is either lying or gullible.