ON-Lion Letter

In February, The Wall Street Journal editorial page published a brief excerpt from a 2003 article for The Atlas Society by Bradley Prize recipient Alan Charles Kors.  That article itself was an excerpt from a larger article by Kors in Social Philosophy & Policy in 2000, "Can There Be an 'After Socialism'?"

"There is no 'after socialism,'" Kors wrote in the original, though still-timely, article.  "There will not be in our or in our children's lifetimes an 'after socialism.'"

Kors is the Henry Charles Lea Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania.

"In the wake of the Holocaust and the ruins of Nazism, anti-Semitism lay low a bit, embarrassed by its worst manifestation, its actual exercise of state dominion," he continued.  "In the wake of the collapse of Communism, socialism's only real and full experience of power, socialism too lays low for just a moment.  Socialism's causes in the West, however, remain ever with us, the product of the convergence of two extraordinary achievements:  liberal free enterprise and political democracy.  The former creates wealth that has transformed all human possibility, but it also gives rise to particularly deep envy.  The latter allows ambition a route to power by an appeal to the democratic state to seize and redistribute wealth in the name of social equality.

"For me, I would offer one indulgence.  Let the socialists, fellow travelers, apologists, and revisionists acknowledge the dead, bury the dead, teach what they have learned, and atone for the dead," Kors concludes.  "Otherwise, given the enormity of what has occurred, let them indeed be forgiven only when they have put out their eyes and wandered blind away from Moscow, Beijing, or Thebes.  Let Western intellectuals repeat the phrase of 'Requiem,' a work written during the Stalinist terror by Anna Akhmatova, the greatest Russian poet of the twentieth century:  'I will remember them always and everywhere, I will never forget them no matter what comes.'  The bodies demand an accounting, an apology, and repentance. 

"Without such things, there is no 'after socialism.'"

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