The New York Times reported at the beginning of 2017 that George Orwell’s ‘1984’ is suddenly a best-seller. Prof. Stefan Collini, of the University of Cambridge, explained to the NYT that readers saw a natural parallel between the book and “the way Mr. Trump and his staff have distorted facts.”
Since Orwell is back en vogue, it’s appropriate to remind readers that he liked socialism a lot more than he liked the common run of socialists. In ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’ Orwell writes, “there is the horrible–the really disquieting–prevalence of cranks wherever Socialists are gathered together. One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.”
I had no opportunity to examine members of the Socialist Party of Maine during its founding convention on July 16, so I have no idea how closely the cranks meeting in Augusta’s Viles Arboretum corresponded to Orwell’s distressed description. Almost fifty years of associating with socialists of one variety or another, however, inclines me to suspect some resemblances. The vegetarians, sandal-wearers, nudists, and birth-control fanatics have pretty much fused with the climate-control fanatics and associated eco-weirdos. And, when we substitute Democratic Party grafters for those Labour Party crawlers, we see there hasn’t been much change across eighty years of history and three thousand miles of ocean.
Despite this, their meeting was a success. The Socialist Party of Eastern Maine was officially amalgamated with the Socialist Party of Southern Maine, creating the Socialist Party of Maine. I must leave it to the entomologists to distinguish the Socialist Party of Maine from the Maine Democratic Socialists of America, the Working Families Party, the Loafing Families Party, Millennials for Revolution, the Communist Party of Maine, the Green Independent Party, the Trotskyist Party, the Trotskyite Party, the Maine People’s Alliance, the Progressive Alliance and all the other progressive sectarians, living or dead. I’ve gotten too old and slow to keep up myself.
Tom MacMillan, who helped organize the convention, explained the Socialist hopes and dreams. “Because we believe in democratic socialism, we take both the democratic and the socialism very seriously. In their workplaces that means promoting worker-owned cooperatives. That’s a good example. Democracy at work, democracy at the ballot box, and democracy in society. We think that regular people can control their lives better than their bosses can or by the owners of big companies.”
With a little help from cryptanalysis and free-ranging intuition, I’ve deduced from MacMillan’s remarks that regular people will use their democratic power to give themselves fair wages, affordable health care, education, food and housing for all, and ranked-choice voting. The Regulars will pay for these beautiful things by taxing irregular people (also known as the wealthy).
I can’t say whether MacMillan is addicted to fruit juice and sandals, but he seems to fit the socialist profile in other important respects. His works and days have run along lines remote from those of most Regulars. There’s no evidence that he has ever contributed to the material wealth he wants to redistribute. Although he learned how to run America’s economy, culture and society in college, he has no record of running anything.
Despite MacMillan’s thin resume, he’s worth a paragraph or two. He equipped himself to transform American society by earning a B.A. in International Development and Social Change eight years ago. He served as Secretary of the Maine Green Independent Party Steering Committee. He ran on the Green ticket for the Maine House of Representatives in 2012 and 2014. He was endorsed for election by the Maine People’s Alliance (MPA), the New Progressive Alliance, and the Maine Education Association (MEA).
The connections are more interesting than the man. The Socialist Party of Maine may back candidates against Democratic Party nominees and incumbents, and the MPA and MEA may choose to back the occasional socialist while reserving almost all of their endorsements for Democrats. All these factions and fractions have one unifying project: The enlargement of government power.
All these varieties of big government cultists are surely sincere when they praise democracy, but they all harbor a covert conviction that democracy is too important to be left to the people.