Saturday, May 7, 2011

Book Review: Shakedown Socialism

Shakedown Socialism by Oleg Atbashian

I mentioned this book last year as the product of one of my favorite political satirists and founder of the website "The People's Cube". Although I purchased the book shortly after that blog entry, only recently have I had the chance to read it.

Much of the book's content and opinion is similar to the writings of many other conservatives. However, Shakedown Socialism has a unique angle in that its author was born and raised within the Soviet Union; his observations on what is currently happening in America are informed by what he saw in Soviet Ukraine. Thus, what might otherwise be guesses or theories on the part of the average conservative writer are actually Atbashian's personal experiences.

At 124 pages of actual text, the book reads like an extended article. The author is immensely straightforward and to the point; many authors nowadays would probably have taken 200 or more pages to say what Atbashian does. Shakedown Socialism focuses primarily on the negative effects of collectivism on personal and economic freedom, with an emphasis on the influence of unions (chapter 1 is named after a Vladimir Lenin quote: "Trade Unions are the School of Communism"). While leftists decry the greed and selfishness of managers, business owners, and other "enemies", the author points out that personal greed tends to be much more rational and less detrimental to others' liberties than collective greed, which is often tainted with a mob mentality. Atbashian recognizes that the vast majority of union members are decent people, but he deplores what is being done in their name and with their dues money.

The author's primary concern is that the collectivism demonstrated by trade unions, government unions, organizations like ACORN, and others will eventually lead to a situation similar to what happened in the Soviet Union. In the USSR, such unions initially colluded with the government and aided it in growing its power. Shortly thereafter, the newly totalitarian state declared the independent unions to be obsolete and absorbed them into the state apparatus. Once part of the state, conditions and wages tended to be forced down to pre-union levels, union organizers became representatives of the state rather than of the union members, and strikes made workers "enemies of the people" (with the attendant consequences).

Shakedown Socialism is a quick read and is livened up with photos and reproductions of Soviet agitprop. Also included are some of Atbashian's images that originally appeared on The People's Cube. The author, a talented artist, actually produced propaganda for a local Party committee in the USSR. And as is apparent from both his website as well as this book, Atbashian is also a talented writer. Not only are his arguments clear and logical, but his grammar, sentence structure, and spelling are excellent. I know that it seems petty to praise these later items, but it indicates a thoroughness and care on the part of the author and his editor(s) that is too often lacking in books printed by mainstream presses (and many small publishers and self-publishers are absolutely horrible in this regard).

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