Preach what you know

Not too long ago I had the misfortune of waiting for a bus that was never to arrive and I figured flipping through the Manitoban would help pass the time. I don’t often do this because in my experience there is always at least one article that seems to defy even the most basic sagacity, an article whose very premise is so flawed it boggles the mind to read it. I was not disappointed. That week’s choice offering was called “The Plan” by Rob McGregor (Sept. 28, 2010), a self described “anarchist.” The irreconcilable contradiction of his label, however, was soon buried under a mountain of adolescent naivety and dangerous idealism. Ironically, I was in Mr. McGregor’s class last year when we were both starting law school here at Robson Hall, and my classmates and I remember him well.

Unfortunately, McGregor is but one of many people on campus who push pro-communist and pro-socialist ideology. It always strikes me as odd, however, that these people feel entitled to talk as if life would be better off in another failed socialist experiment, yet they have no experience living under a true socialist regime. My parents were born in the Czech Republic — then known as Czechoslovakia.

To provide a brief historical context, Czechoslovakia was a country established in 1918 out of the chaos that was the post-First World War Austro-Hungarian Empire. Annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938, then subsequently overrun by Stalin’s Soviet armies, things where not looking good for the young country, and they only got worse. In 1948, a coup d’état brought the Communists into power in Czechoslovakia, where they ruthlessly imposed their will until the Velvet Revolution of 1989.

The true darkness began in 1968 when the Communist Warsaw Pact Armies invaded. This began a period now known as “normalization,” a cruel joke to say the least. This period mirrored the oppression in Communist regimes everywhere; those who opposed the totalitarian regime were imprisoned. Those who did not support the regime were also denied the chance to travel freely, were prevented from obtaining gainful employment, or even having educational opportunities. All these restrictions enforced the primary theme of socialist states: denial of an individual’s freedoms. The root of communism’s weakness is its fundamental misunderstanding of human nature. Above all, humans are individually oriented, and artificially contrived restrictions on our individual freedom inherently restrict our motivation to thrive in a competitive world.

The case against socialism and communism is not only limited to its political influence, the economic model also leaves much to be desired. Centrally planned economies, while productive in theory, fail horridly in practice and have lead to the slow deaths of hundreds of millions of the people they aimed to empower. Through its failure to reward productive effort, communist economies create work environments in which there are no incentives to do any more than the bare minimum. Furthermore, without material rewards for productivity, innovation or even invention, workers rarely if ever have the opportunity to reach their full potential. To make matters worse, the extreme redistribution of wealth, which socialist ideologies purport, is in direct conflict with voluntary free trade, which is arguably responsible for the prosperity much of the world now enjoys.

Eventually, my parents risked imprisonment by fleeing the Communist state with little more than the clothes on their backs and came to Canada to build a better life. As the millions of victims of Communism can attest, and as my own parents could tell you, a life under Communism is not a life worth living. This is a fact that has been exemplified by the innumerable masses of people that have risked certain death to escape a Communist existence. Those living in First-World countries who naively promote Communist ideology without understanding its past consequences need to realize that almost none of us have ever lived in a totalitarian state, so to make comparisons between our system of government to the likes of truly undemocratic states like North Korea or Cuba is quite insulting to those who have suffered true subjugation in these countries.

This is something that everyone who promotes socialist and communist ideologies without having lived in the way they are ascribing should remember the next time they attempt to influence others. This is not to say that McGregor’s opinion is unimportant, but perhaps he should stick with giving advice on issues in which he has direct experience.

Jan Musil is a second-year law student at the U of M.

12 Comments on "Preach what you know"

  1. Tragically, proponents of socialism and/or Communism in a university setting truly seem to believe the utopian propaganda they’ve been fed. McGregor is one of several who believes in either total government control or, if he disagrees with that government, none at all; no gray area exists in his mind. There is a time for government to step in and another time for government to get out of the way, as the most successful nations in the world have taught us.

  2. Sounds like something Joseph McCarthy would say. Congratulations on vomiting up some cold war rhetoric – next time maybe you’ll try some critical thinking?

  3. Pro tip: Anarchism =/= Stalinism
    Also, Communism and Socialism =/= Stalinism

    It’s troubling to me that you wrote this entire article premised on the idea that my views are flawed, naive and dangerously idealistic, yet make no references at all to anything I’ve ever said.

    Here’s some historical context concerning anarchism: “The best known examples of an anarchist communist society, established around the ideas as they exist today, that received worldwide attention and knowledge in the historical canon, are the anarchist territories during the Spanish Revolution and the Free Territory during the Russian Revolution. Through the efforts and influence of the Spanish Anarchists during the Spanish Revolution within the Spanish Civil War, starting in 1936 anarchist communism existed in most of Aragon, parts of the Levante and Andalusia, as well as in the stronghold of Anarchist Catalonia before being brutally crushed by the combined forces of Francoism, Hitler, Mussolini, Spanish Communist Party repression (backed by the USSR) as well as economic and armaments blockades from the capitalist countries and the Spanish Republic itself. The Spanish example, in which high levels of mobilisation and swift improvements to production were implemented by anarchists, is often cited as an example of an anarchist-communist society which saw rapid improvements to both industrial and scientific output. While some exponents of capitalism believe that such a society’s productivity and technological progress would stagnate out of lack of monetary incentives.” (

    Next time, don’t write and article about socialism until you have at least read the wikipedia article about it.

  4. Between the USSR, Cuba, China, Venezuela and these parts of Spain, I gather there’s a 20% probability of choosing and enjoying communism without having it lapse into totalitarianism on its own accord, and an even lower probability of this happening on a national scale. Not good enough.

  5. What makes you think we don’t live in a totalitarian society? Contemporary North America is the most surveilled society ever, beating out East Germany, the Soviet Union and the Third Reich. Radicals are dismissed as weirdos without any hearing of their argument (see this editorial) and dissent is stifled. Secrets are withheld from the public and those who expose them (Julian Assange, Bradley Manning) are held in captivity with neither fair trial nor habeas corpus. All to maintain private profits. Not good enough.

  6. If that’s all true, then why are you and Rob McGregor allowed to post here without repercussions beyond substantial criticism? Get over yourself.

  7. “Substantial criticism”? Ha! Get over yourself.

  8. Is that all, Rob? You usually have so much more to add.

  9. Greg, at this point, few people will dispute that the government and the Toronto police overreached at the G20 summit, and that a public inquiry is imperative. But to say this single instance makes today’s North America “the most surveilled society ever,” especially in comparison to Nazi Germany and the Stalinist USSR, is not only patently false but hideously offensive. There is no overarching threat of repression, political or otherwise, that the majority of our citizens need fear. In a truly surveilled and totalitarian society, we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion online.

    As for Assange and Manning, we should not look to them as icons. Releasing state secrets without prior authorization is a crime.

  10. Substantial criticism indeed!

  11. Glad you agree.

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