Socialism arrived in Europe with the Christian message, tucked inside an embarrassment of Beatitudes.
There are two sets of Christian Beatitudes. Mathew (5:1-12) is toothless, because none of the blessings in Mathew are accompanied by the red in tooth and claw curses found in Luke (6: 20-26).
“Blessed are ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God… But woe to you that are rich: for ye have your consolation.” And there is this hard to swallow beatitude: “Blessed shall ye be when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you and shall reproach you and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake… Woe to you when men shall bless you; for according to these things did their fathers to the false prophets.”
That last might serve as a testament useful to column writers. You cannot go far wrong when you take up arms against the world, which belongs to Satan and, for the moment, at least in Connecticut and Washington DC, to the Democratic Party.
At it most elemental, Christianity was and is an organization, the fancy word for which is “church.”
When Roger Williams, the founder of Providence, was banished to the wintry wilderness of Rhode Island by false prophets in Massachusetts, he took up cudgels against the Cottons and Mathers of the world. His cudgel and consolation he found in the lines quoted above: “Blessed shall ye be when men shall… separate you.” Shun their blessings, Williams shouted to an unheeding Boston, “for according to these things did their fathers to the false prophets.”
Williams never let the Boston ministers, warm by their firesides, forget his first bone chilling winter in Providence. That winter wanted his life and remained in the marrow of his bones. The Indians who saved him from the howling winter would remain in his heart to the end.
Every organization is both a refuge from the world and a redoubt.
Is this socialism, this huddling together for mutual succor?
It is, pretty much. The language itself is a social product. Adam, before Eve, did not need language. The unsociable lonely dead need no means of communication.
Now, some social services are provided by the state. Others are provided by what is blushingly called “the free market system,” partially compromised in some cases by errant socialist tendencies. Karl Marks, for instance, would have been proud of the hospital that cares for the indigent and passes along their bills to other business patrons, for in this case service is flowing from each according to his means to each according to his needs.
What this means is that we already have a system in which private enterprise, sniffing at socialism, conducts business according to socialist and religious prescriptions.
However, because the state gives us – for a price – postage stamps and police officers and teachers, it is by no means appropriate that the state should give us our daily bread. It is very important not to confuse the things of man with the things of the state. The state did not invent wheat; it did not even invent the wheat thresher. And before the wheat arrives at our table as bread, it passes through the hands of many people, few of them agents of the state. It takes a village to make a loaf of bread. A few politicians can make the Department of Motor Vehicles. Villages are made up of mutual aide societies, such as families, the smallest and heartiest of G. K. Chesterton’s vibrant cultural platoons. It will be important to recall that you cannot have the cultural platoons that G. K. Chesterton so often delighted in if the state, like some secular Aaron’s rod, swallows up all the little platoons.
To take a word in season from Sarah Palin’s new book, that is socialism gone rogue.
Benito Mussolini, who got many of his best lines and not a few of his ideas from his first mistress, an ardent communist socialist turned fascist socialist, summed up fascism briefly in a few well chosen words: “Everything in the state; nothing outside the state; nothing above the state.” Mussolini was a journalist and had a way with words. When the Italians tired of him, just before he was swallowed up by a larger national socialist, Herr Hitler, Mussolini lived for awhile in his own diminishing state and finally was strung up at an Esso station by a mob of resentful, terribly ungrateful citizens.
The state -- especially in Italy, but in the United States as well -- is an unforgiving master.