The only caveat I would add to Hitchens' remarkably concise analysis of the true nature of socialism is to stress that there is a difference between hard core socialist ideologues and the naive, idealistic, often young, fellow travelers drawn in by socialist rhetoric that seems to exude genuine concern for the poor. The latter group is motivated by a wooly-headed, but sincere, desire to "help people" that arises out of genuine human decency and a sense that the Biblical mandate to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God is fulfilled by some sort of welfare state program.
I’ll get on to Judas Iscariot in a moment. I am asked how I define poverty. I would define physical poverty as severe want – not enough food to eat, no access to clean water, absence of proper shelter either from great heat or from cold, inadequate clothing, untreated sickness and no possibility of medical help, conditions so squalid that cleanliness is impossible, severe overcrowding. These are the features of poverty that I have seen in various forms on my many travels into remote parts of the world.
I had an interesting discussion about this on Nicky Campbell’s Radio Five Live programme a few weeks ago, and was encouraged by a contributor from Africa who agreed with me that poverty of this kind does not really exist in this country. But he added that hardship undoubtedly does exist. Of course much of that hardship stems from not having things that others do have, and from a feeling of injustice and rejection. But this is not poverty, which in my view is an absolute condition of severe material want, not a comparative condition of being worse off than your neighbour. I would add, as I often do, that I suspect that there may be something very close to absolute poverty among the lonely old people of this country, trying to make ends meet on no more than their pensions, regarding any further appeal to the welfare state as a shameful (and therefore unthinkable) form of charity which they are too proud to accept.
Many of these live very pinched and deprived lives, though even they are materially rich beside the rural dwellers of North Korea or millions of the less fortunate in Africa and parts of India. But the measure of poverty as an arbitrary proportion of average income is just a device by which socialists justify their unending raid on the possessions of the wealthy and productive, to finance the unproductive and penniless state in its vote-buying projects. Some of these projects may incidentally do good. But their aim is not to do good, but to make their authors feel good about themselves, while increasing their power. It also incidentally shrinks the power of the productive middle-class to be charitable in their own right, as they have handed over a large part of their charitable duty to the state.
That is why I am so fond of Christ’s rebuke to Judas, and the account as a whole. The passage is as follows: The Gospel according to John, 12th Chapter, beginning at verse iv; Mary (not Mary Magdalene, but Mary, sister of Lazarus), has just taken a pound – or 454 grams in the Rocky Horror Bible - of very costly Spikenard ointment and wiped Jesus’s feet with her hair, ‘and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment’. ‘Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him : ‘Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?’ This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. Then said Jesus :’Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always’.As so often, there’s a lot packed into this, notably the realistic recognition that there will always be poor people in the world , and those who wish to help them will always have the opportunity to do so. But it is the biting observation that Judas, like so many since, is pretending a concern for the poor to cover up other, less noble motives, that really goes home with a satisfying thud. There is no new thing under the sun.
[bolding is mine]
The ideologues deserve nothing but scorn and mockery coupled with determined opposition to their schemes and machinations. The naive fellow travelers can be reasoned with, confronted with arguments and sometimes rescued from the grip of socialist ideology. We should do all we can to ensure that young, evangelical Christians become followers of Christ on the model of Peter and Paul, rather than of Judas.