Socialist vice presidential nominee Niles Niemuth visited Geneseo for a discussion hosted by the Geneseo chapter of International Youth and Students for Socialist Equality on Thursday Oct. 27. In my view, the question and answer session of this discussion showcased the intellectual weakness of the Socialist Equality Party. The SEP is a relatively new political party, modeled largely on the ideas of Soviet Red Army founder and prominent Marxist Leon Trotsky, whose influence was instrumental to the rise of communism in the Soviet Union. The SEP believes they are a liberal alternative to the Democratic Party.
The IYSSE discussion began with a quick presentation about SEP’s policies, followed by a question and answer session. When asked a question about United States foreign policy and the Islamic State, Niemuth quickly asserted that many global conflicts and issues were a result of capitalist greed with the epicenter located in the U.S. Niemuth also argued that a solution to U.S. foreign policy problems—including tense relations with Afghanistan and Russia—would be to withdraw all U.S. and European troops from occupied areas.
This platform is utterly idiotic. If the U.S. withdrew its troops, a worldwide power vacuum would be created. Powerful nations such as Russia and China would attempt to fill this space, creating widespread violence.
Niemuth added that by withdrawing U.S. troops and ceasing United Nations funding, a worldwide socialist revolution would occur. This is a utopian vision of the world. Socialist revolutions have rarely panned out, leading to disastrous results in Venezuela, the Soviet Union and Cuba. It’s clear that the SEP has no specific foreign policy plans for individual problem regions around the world.
In terms of domestic policy, the SEP makes Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders look like a Tea Party member. Niemuth argued that Sanders and the Democratic Party are merely capitalist pawns keeping the status quo in equilibrium.
Economics-wise, the SEP follows much of traditional Marxist doctrine, which calls for the seizure of the means of production, nationalization of industry and equalization of outcomes. Contrary to the American dream and economically illiterate, socialism is fundamentally wrong. The economies of capitalist countries tend to perform far better than their socialist counterparts. For example, after the split during the Cold War, East Germany followed a Soviet command economy, while West Germany followed a U.S.-style market economy. While the two sides were relatively equal before the split, eastern Germany’s gross domestic product in 2015 is only 67 percent of its western counterpart’s, according to The Economist. In my opinion, economics is not the strong point of the SEP.
All the talk of revolutions by the SEP is very disturbing. Niemuth spoke of a worker’s revolution at length during the Q&A. The SEP supposedly espouses violence, but when was the last peaceful communist revolution?
Overall, Niemuth’s presentation was extremely disappointing. The SEP vision of the U.S. and international community is very far removed from reality. Rhetoric seems to triumph over coherent policy for this group of socialists. Hopefully, not too many people will be writing in the SEP on the ballot this election.