Peter Cavanaugh

Think socialism always leads to communism? Check your history again.


Jesus was a socialist.

Easy now. Relax. Put down that pitchfork. Put out that torch.

This is not fake news.

His Sermon on the Mount from the Gospel of Matthew, particularly the Beatitudes, describes the ultimate socialist society – what one must do as His follower to live as a perfect member of God’s Kingdom here on earth.

Yet only God is perfect. His subjects are not.

Attempts at communal living in early Christian communities captured the spirit, but not the spin. Even our Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony (1620) attempted to share everything in common, but Governor William Bradford, to whom I am proud to be related, shifted gears, writing in “Of Plymouth Plantation” (1661) – “A people who had formerly been known for their virtue and hard work became lazy and unproductive.”

True communism as envisioned by Karl Marx in Das Kapital (1867) has never existed and never will. Marx predicted collective living would lead to an ultimate Kumbaya in which the state would “wither away.” No such luck. Look at Venezuela. Those who insist that socialism leads to communism should review human history.

What seems to work best is a blessed balance between anarchy and tyranny in which personal achievement is rewarded with common welfare preserved. That would be those principles enshrined in the Constitution of the United States of America (1789) and amended thereafter.

In our nation’s history, the following items are classically “socialistic.”

National Defense, Roads and Highways, Public Libraries, Social Security, Police and Fire Departments, Medicare, Medicaid, Student Loans, Bridges, Sanitation, Museums, Public Schools and Universities, Jails and Prisons, Veterans’ Care, Food Stamps, Unemployment Insurance, Snow Removal, National Parks, The Department of Energy, The National Weather Service – and lots of other stuff. We all own them all.

I’m not kidding about being related to Governor Bradford. I think I was channeling him right there. See --

The blessed balance between individual reward and group well being swings back and forth through the passage of time between basic labels of “liberal” and “conservative.” I was born in a more “liberal” era on Sept. 8, 1941, the same day as Bernie Sanders. This was during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Things started shifting toward more conservatism in 1980 as Ronald Reagan became president. Reagan himself had been a Democrat, Roosevelt supporter and union leader.

After almost four decades since, we have ended up with a Trump republic ruled by the rich. This is not class envy. This observation comes with a demand for restoration and restitution.

That’s not the worst thing happening.

“Captain Marvel” starring lovely Brie Larson in the lead role opens in theaters March 8. It is a $200 million investment by Marvel Studios.

Hold on!

The better Captain Marvel was Billy Batson, the poor little crippled orphan boy who would whisper “SHAZAM” and turn into Captain Marvel, champion of the ancient wizard Mamaragan.

The original Captain Marvel was like Superman, but even more powerful with a much better story line. He was the most popular super hero of the 1940s, starting in 1939 and coming to an end in 1953 when Bernie Sanders and I were 12.

I used to run all over the house screaming “SHAZAM” at the top of my lungs — flying towel around my neck — filled with warrior courage. My mother said I was “putting her in Marcy.” Marcy was an insane asylum near Syracuse. Closed in 1978, it is now a National Historic Landmark.

I hope the new “Captain Marvel” flops like a fish on the floor.

I’m going to make that happen right now.