Let me state my fundamental view at once. Socialism is to politics as coprophilia is to sex, a weird intellectual perversion which I find incomprehensible and disgusting.

All the same, I can’t accept that it is enough to simply label a policy or project as “socialist” in order to reject or discredit it. The same applies to labeling something “liberal” or “ultra-conservative” as a refutation. This rhetorical method is a thought-stopper and unacceptable.

Let us note tangentially that left-lurchers rarely use “conservative” without a suitable prefix or adjective. The word “conservative” standing alone repels few Americans, so it needs a modifier like “ultra” or “extreme” to discredit it. “Conservative,” naked and unadorned, hardly exists in the left-lurcher vocabulary.

You can separate communism (Marxism-Leninism) from Democratic Socialism, but you can’t detach Marxism from it. Mind you, true Marxists have become a rarity in the contemporary United States. I remember back in graduate school listening to true Marxists complaining about how few radicals or even Communist Party members had actually read “Das Kapital.” Can’t really blame them. When I started reading that tedious Teutonic door-stopper I was over six feet tall. When I finished I measured just five feet, 10 inches north to south. It’s a debilitating experience and I recommend it to no one.

We see in this the intellectual decline of American socialism, from Karl Marx to Michael Moore. What’s next, cartoons and comic books? Groucho-Marxism? Today we have Marxoids, Marxlings, quasi-Marxists and Mickey-Mouse-Marxists. The most they can manage is to mumble their way through the 40 or 50 pages of the Communist Manifesto and memorize a few anti-capitalist slogans.

The anti-capitalist sloganeering, at least, is true to their heritage from that densely-bearded German bore. People who say that   communism or Marxism is good in theory but impossible in practice disclose their ignorance of his work. Take every sentence he wrote about the communist future and you might have four or five pages. His work was a prolonged and laborious dissertation on the evils and inevitable collapse of capitalism. It was not a design for the future.

And that’s where socialism is today, with this huge distinction. There were no examples of socialism in practice when Marx was alive. Now it has a lot of history, all bad,  and its proponents show almost no interest in that history. Check out the menu of delights offered by the University of Maine Marxist-socialist study group and you will find many delectable dishes about the failures and evils of fre- market capitalism, nothing at all about past socialist failures and how to avoid them in the future.

Ask Chellie Pingree, a member of Democratic Socialists of America, for a bibliography of socialist analyses of socialist failures and expect a blank look. Ask her to discourse on the evil ways of Big Pharma and she will probably gas away until your ears start bleeding.

That’s all that socialism amounts to today, a vapid negation. Apparently the model of socialism is not any kind of socialism that has actually been tried, but the opposite kind

Somebody, I don’t remember who, concluded that Marxism has crawled off to the university to die. The dissident Vladimir Bukovsky declared in the early 1980s that it was already dead in the Soviet Union, that there were more Marxists in Holland’s universities than there were in the whole USSR. A few years later the Communist Party of the Soviet Union died.

Friedrich Hayek argued that socialism itself died in the 1970s, to be replaced by dirigism (derived from Dirigo, from which we also derive “to direct.”) This is a system, like economic fascism or national socialism, in which the government directs economic activity without assuming the responsibility of actual ownership. It retains all the fallacies of socialist thought, without the form.

The present financial crisis and inadequacies of the American “private” health-care system have provided them with every chapter and all the verses they need – as if the government played no role. The General Services Administration? The Department of Potted Palms? The Bureau of Chopped Liver? They had nothing to do with any of it. Barney Frank? Christopher Dodd? Innocent bystanders. The failures of the ‘free’ market prove the competence of governmental dirigism. That’s all they know and all they need to know.

Professor John Frary of Farmington is a former congressional candidate and retired history professor, a board member of Maine Taxpayers United and an associate editor of the International Military Encyclopedia. He can be reached at jfrary8070@aol.com.