Political issues are more than a battle of words, but words do come into it, particularly when the political elite have the means to frame the debate. Dictionary.com gives this definition of communism.
1. A theory or system of social organization based on the holding of all property in common, actual ownership being ascribed to the community as a whole or to the state.
2.(often initial capital letter) a system of social organization in which all economic and social activity is controlled by a totalitarian state dominated by a single and self-perpetuating political party.
3. (initial capital letter ) the principles and practices of the Communist party.
1835–45; < French communisme.
As most of us know, Karl Marx saw socialism as an intermediate state on the road to communism. For non-communist countries inclined towards socialism, one of the few advantages of communist states such as the Soviet Union was the cautionary lesson it provided of a modern totalitarian state. Those stone-faced Soviet leaders and goose-stepping military were a powerful reminder of where we absolutely did not want to go, political trends of which we had to be very wary.
Since the collapse of the old Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 and Chinese communism having evolved into a blend of communist and a pseudo-market economy, a useful word has lost some of its edge. The word communism is not as toxic as it was, no longer quite satisfactory as a label for extreme left-wing ideology and trends – particularly trends. We have a problem with our political language.
- Communism is dated.
- Red is tainted by punditry.
- Socialist is too fashionable.
- Left-wing is almost chic.
- Communitarian is okay but not mainstream.
- Nanny state is okay but tainted by punditry.
Yet in the UK, EU and globally there are a whole series of authoritarian and undemocratic political trends headed firmly in the direction of what we used to call communism, only now we don’t give it enough mainstream attention because a good word has lost its sting.
As an illustration of the wider problem with political language, we could also consider the BBC. By any rational criteria, the BBC has adopted the role of UK state television. It represents mainstream centralising political trends, ignores alternative viewpoints and even resorts to outright lying – on climate change for example.
Even so and regardless of how obvious these things are, referring to the BBC as state television isn’t particularly effective. The BBC has insinuated itself into our lives and is too familiar and comfortable to be seen as a serious political problem. Pre-BBC days are now almost beyond living memory.
Yet it is entirely reasonable to be concerned that we seem to be on the road towards a version of something we once described accurately as communism. Consider the trends:-
- State regulation covers all aspects of daily life.
- State education is dominant and increasingly ideological.
- State-sponsored health issues are invading daily life.
- State-sponsored politically-correct censorship is now commonplace.
- The three major political parties collude on all major issues.
- Environmental propaganda is used to manage expectations downwards.
The key point about all this is the absence of an acknowledged end-game. Where are we supposed to bring current trends to a halt because some kind of social and political objective has been achieved? How do we stop ourselves trending towards something that is communism in all but name? In particular, how do we tackle this trend without a name if we can’t call it communism or find a more suitable word?