What Have We to Offer
to Counter World Communism
Selim N. Tideman
[An address delivered at the conference of the Henry
George Foundation of America,
held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 24-26 November, 1958]
We are here to discuss ways and means to make more people aware of
the philosophy of Henry George.
This embraces our belief in the equal, rights of all people to the
resources of the earth, and in their right to engage in production,
and in trade, without Interference by the state. We do reserve for the
state the right and duty to collect the rental value of the sites
used, and of any privately held unused sites. The state would use the
proceeds for its support and the common welfare.
We also took to the state to protect the common man against
monopolistic enterprises designed to benefit those engaged in them at
the expense of the remainder of society.
I submit this familiar introduction because we believe that these
principles certain the solution of problems abroad, as well as, at
Practically 80 years have passed since the beginning of organised
effort to propogate these ideas. In the meantime great changes have
taken place in our world. Productive capacity has been multiplied. In
our country we have bad enough taxation applied to vacant land to
become some burden on the owner. This fact has served to make land
more available, and has been some assistance in developing the
country. In a material sense, our standard of living has been
improved, 'new needs have been developed, our servant class has
practically disappeared. It has been replaced with mechanical gadgets
and organized service industries that function on a plane similar to
that of the production industries.
Progress has been interrupted by two major wars, the requirements of
which resulted in stimulation of production facilities. The result is
that today the labor required to produce and sustain our capital
facilities does not have an important diminishing effect on the
production of our needs. The need to reduce consumption so as to
increase capital is no longer with us. Thus we find ourselves in the
enviable position, that if the economy were so ordered that everyone
could find a job, at work for which he is suited, there would be a
fair abundance for all.
This in spite of the tremendous waste of goods and manpower going
into the military machine of this, and every other, country. In the
political sense this may not be waste, but it is in the economic
Now let us look at the other side of our world, containing more than
half of its population. It is divided into two sections, one having
militant totalitarian communistic governments, and the other
containing primitive people, subject to foreign and local
exploitation. There are some whose production capacity is so low as to
defy exploitation. There is a tremendous awakening among these
peoples. They are seeking a way out of their misery. If ignored, these
efforts will become a danger to civilization. Look at Algiers! We have
undertaken to do something about it, but our efforts are hedged by the
world conflict between Freedom and Communism.
The Chinese nation has by-passed us. As the communist forces
advanced, the so-called free forces of Chiang Kai-shek retreated or
joined up with their adversaries. They took with them the arms and
equipment that we had furnished. I think it probable that this part of
history will be repeated on Quemoy and Matsu.
The main purpose in this Contribution to our meeting is an attempt to
pose the question of how we, as a nation, can assist in improving the
lot of the uncommitted masses in the backward areas of the world,
first in an economic sense and second to keep them from falling into
the communist orbit. The most important phase of their problem is the
land question. There is no other source of wealth in their areas but
the land their labor.
We Georgists regard ourselves as experts in this field. As communism
was being established in China, the process was to shoot the
landowners and divide the land among the landless. This was quite
acceptable to the masses. But as control was established, the state
took the land away from the peasants to whom they had given it and
established "communes ". Then any objecting peasants were
shot. It was all very simple and has been, and is being, done and will
probably be made to work.
So far as I know, our principal efforts to aid the "backward"
peoples have consisted of military aid to suppress, not only external
aggression but internal discontent. The discontent has become
universal and sometimes organized by professionals sent out of Russia
or China, The masses find that our military aid is used to hold them
in subjection and our technical and economic aid never reaches them.
The landowner who has "been taking from 1/2 to 3/4 of the
peasant's product gets the benefit of it. Our efforts towards law and
order turn into resistance to the revolution, towards keeping kings on
their thrones, and landlords on their estates. In Arabia, the roads
that we have built have facilitated travel so that the sheiks have
been able to discover squatters of whom they were previously ignorant,
and put them under the yoke. This is law and order.
What should be our policy? This rich nation can afford to support
unemployment, plus large military establishments, and can afford the
labor and resources to produce vast crops beyond its needs and keep
them in storage till they rot, at a cost of billions of dollars, ft
certainly can afford substantial help to the people on the other side
of the g lobe who are seeking emancipation from hunger. But how should
we go about it? The answer is not simple. Tell them they must put a
tax on the land? The immobile character of the populations and the
existing monopoly of the land would make it possible to increase the
rent in proportion, if there is any room above sustenance, which is
doubtful. Owners might decide to sell. The buyers would have to carry
both payments and the tax. But our own authorities do not acknowledge
the inequity of exploitation of labor through monopoly of the land.
The Communists have learned that a peasantry of low intelligence
distributed on small farms use up their products and leave little for
the market in the industrial cities. This impedes industrial progress
and is the basic reason for the Russian "collectives" and
the Chinese "communes". The masses do not offer resistance
to the elimination of their former oppressors and their new masters go
about their re-enslavement gradually.
The procedure of our democracy, involving vacillation and debate and
lack of guaranty of continuity, is naturally weak, compared with that
of totalitarianism. If we are to successfully keep the new nations in
the Western orbit, we must use methods of extending economic aid that
will reach the exploited population, rather than trying to preserve
the status quo by arming them. We have found, that our own standing
by, with military guard, builds suspicion and enmity and makes people
more vulnerable to communist subversion.
Communism is a system of political power over the economy of a
nation, thus enslaving the population, as contrasted with the old
system of economic power exercised over the political area. History
proves that political power can be overcome and freedom gained more
easily than economic power can be conquered. Looking far into the
future, and granting that our world will survive, I have no doubt that
the time will come when the cause of freedom will advance in all these
There is a condition, perhaps the most important, in the problem of
holding these peoples in our orbit.
As a practical measure, we must concede that the natural resources of
any nation belong to that nation. Europe and America have proceeded in
a highhanded fashion in the exploitation of these resources. Deals
have been made with sheiks and monarchs, leaving the common people out
of consideration. The profit possibilities in these concessions have
only partially formed a base for compensation.
An ideal way to handle these developments would be to set up an
international organization in corporate form to take authority over
all lands and concessions now held by private interests external to
the subject countries. It would be the duty of this organization to
see that the full value of the exploited resources was returned to the
host nation, and invested there in form to produce the most benefit to
all the people. To be sure, this is an Utopian idea having socialistic
elements, but I cannot see any way to advance the status of these
nations without some socialistic endeavors.
We are constantly faced with making decisions how to use our power.
Ostensibly it is for the protection of the subject peoples but
underlying is the protection of private interests. The organization
that I propose would be for the purpose of clarifying this situation.
Whether or not the scheme here proposed can be put into practice, we
should decide to adopt a neighborly attitude with these nations. We
should trade with them freely, compensate them fully in return for our
exploitation of their resources and follow through to see that such
compensation is extended to the benefit of the people. I realize fully
the difficulties connected with the latter requirement, but we should
announce it freely and demand the co-operation of all other nations in
this respect. This should be applied in a big way to the oil and other
resources of both the Near and the Far East. As a half measure to my
earlier proposal ours and associated governments should take measures
of supervision over exploiting corporations originating in their
several nations. This would be a radical measure* but less radical
than sending our armed forces to protect private contractural rights,
or for the purpose of settling quarrels between exploiting interests,
foreign or local.
This policy made clear to the subject peoples would produce respect
that could not be infringed by communism.
However, the principal source of oppression does lie in control of
the land by the local shieks, rajas, and subordinate landlords. A
series of articles currently running in The American Journal of
Economics and Sociology, by R. E. Grist, give an intimate view of
the plight of the fellahin of the Near East. There, as well as in the
"Far East" and in Latin America, the peasantry is forced off
of-all the good land, which is converted to the purposes of plantation
economy. The peasants who cannot find room or make a living on the
barren mountainsides are reduced to serfdom on the plantations, or
Our rubber, coffee, sugar, bananas, much cotton and numerous other
such items come from these plantations. When they are produced at a
profit, the economy, as we are made to understand it, is good. When
the demand for Cadillacs, palaces and foreign investment outruns the
income from exports, foreign exchange is exhausted and, the economy is
bad. The plight of the common man is essentially overlooked as an
element. But he will make himself felt, the Soviets will reach him,
even if they initially do their bargaining with his overlords. Once in
control, they will shoot the men they now bargain with, and substitute
their own form of enslavement and exploitation, which, except for
technical improvements, will be the same as now.
In principle, these are the real alternatives that present
- Continue to deal with the landed interests in these countries
so that we may continue to enjoy the use of their products as now
Provide military protection against Soviet influence and internal
dissatisfaction. Provide price protection on the products, similar
to that provided our own farmers or compensate with loans and
grants to keep land barons happy.
- Decide that we can get along without these tropical products by
using homegrown and artificial substitutes so as to release the
land for the domestic needs of the people.
- Find a way to put the necessary purchasing power in the hands
of the working masses, so that they may purchase their needs in
the world market while producing for the world market. This trade
should be free of taxation and the profits kept within the subject
nation and used for local development.
If over production of a commodity threatens to wreck the price
structure, the proprietors need only to return enough land to the
natives to limit the plantation area to meet world demand. Next let
the surplus population engage in industry and produce whatever their
talents will permit, for their own, and the world market.
How simple! But there stands Civilization, holding on to the dead
hand of Protection, at the peril of its life.
The holding of the Arab world in the Western orbit is important. But
there is a basic political cause of discord in the establishment of
the country of Israel without making provision for nearly one million
Arabs who were pushed out of the area, either by force or by
While enlisting as much contributions as possible from other nations,
we should make it our business to re-settle these people. It will be
far more expensive now than it would have been earlier, because land
values have advanced, but we must find a place or places for them,
even if we have to dam rivers to water new soil and create conditions
so good that they cannot be refused. It is a moral obligation because
it was under our tutelage that the expropriating nation was
established. We might save the cost by reducing our military
appropriation by 3% over a few years, and by the contemplated
procedure find our security enhanced.
We might, by being sufficiently generous, make a deal to expand the
country of Israel to what might be called its natural boundaries.
World Jewry is sufficiently wealthy to have handled this whole
transaction among themselves, but this is just our ideological dream.
Freedom, democracy, cannot be imposed on a people from the outside.
They are relative elements that must first be aspired to and then
gained by the own effort of the people of a nation. Autocracy is the
only form of government in the experience of the people of the Orient
and Africa. The dictator has never felt secure in his position and now
is made more insecure than ever. We seek to remedy this situation by "military
aid", but in a showdown, finding a dictator endangered by another
aspirant to the dictatorship, we become embarrassed and back out. Some
aspirants to dictatorship have the welfare of the masses in view.
Communism offers them a positive approach, providing excellent moral
support from the outside. However, the opposing aspirant to the
dictatorship, representing law and order and property rights, accepts
support and military aid from the United States. He may then find
himself in conflict with a neighboring ruler with a different
philosophy, so military aid must be increased. Communist aid is
Except that I am fully committed to the belief that supplying arms to
these nations is under all circumstances wrong, I have no sure policy
to offer. I am convinced that we can afford generous economic and
technical aid if we find the proper use for it. Better minds than mine
should build a working policy and sell it to our Congress. Otherwise
the uncommitted areas of Asia and Africa will surely come into the
Communistic orbit and we should not be unprepared for it.
I do not wish to close without expressing myself, on the subject of
the nations committed to Communism and what we know as the cold war.
The Communist State is our enemy. If we could learn what is the basis
of this ermity it might be reduced or eliminated. I would list three
possible causes and at the risk of oversimplication suggest what might
be done about them.
First I would list FEAR. We cannot afford to drop our guard against
the ideological program of world conquest, but we could expostulate
less. We could acknowledge that Communism has become an established
way of life for nearly a billion human beings. It is evident that the
material well-being of the common people has been improved. It is a
powerful force that in time will evolve into a form of society that
may be found very satisfactory to its people, Coercion and thought
control is not an essential part of Marxism. The retreat from
socialism into private ownership and enterprise would be an
unthinkable revolution. Freedom; as we know it, is to them an
unthinkable concept, at the present, Democracy, as idealized in the
Constitutions of newly formed nations in Asia and Africa is already in
retreat before the traditional forms of autocratic government. It has
not been realized in the older republics of Latin America. We should
make clear that we are not seeking to impose our way of life, even on
the established satellites of Russia. They will work out their own
way, given time. We could help them, only at the risk of starting a
We should abandon our fear of Communist propaganda in our country.
Their spys will learn all our secrets from our newspapers, but the
advance of Communism in a country where 55% of the people own their
homes is unthinkable. But our fear confirms their fear of us.
I would place ENVY as the next cause:
We should be less blatant, bragging about ourselves. We should at any
rate avoid comparisons. We should take the position of wishing the
Communist States well. There is an undertone of envy in all
nationalities towards the United States. We could take a position of
encouragement towards all peaceful endeavors for progress in Communist
countries, and merely express the hope that our economy will progress
as fast as theirs. Their vituperation against us is based on the
philosophy that national solidarity is enhanced by making the people
believe that they are threatened by a powerful enemy; also that the
armaments really intended to keep their own people in check are for
protection against this enemy. Envy is the most purposeless of all
vices and we, ourselves, should avoid it.
Our national ideal of freedom is what we cherish above all, not a
surplus of chickens in the pot or automobiles in the garage. Let them
make their statistical comparisons. We should not deprecate their
attempt to catch up with us, nor engage in boastful competition.
Say the next impulse is DESIRE FOR CONQUEST:
It appears established that ideological Communism includes the idea
of world conquest, I do not propose that we should let down our guard
against this contingency, no matter at what cost, I do believe that
time will remove this danger^ Marx could not conceive that Capitalism,
as he knew it, in his time, would permit Socialism to flourish in any
nation, without trying to destroy it by force. Hence conquest, to his
mind, became necessary.
To begin with, let us remember that there is no war, hot or cold,
between the people of Russia and the people of the United States. Each
wishes the other well. The Russians think that they understand better
than we do, what is good for us. We think that we understand better
than they do, what is good for them. This is not enmity -- just a
superiority complex. But if a war is started, millions of peace loving
people will be killed and the achievements of generations will be
We must encourage the maximum amount of contact with the people of
Russia. We should have reciprocal free and untrammeled travel in
respective countries. As Russia improves her condition, she will
invite it. Even now, I believe an American is more free to travel in
Russia than a Russian in the United States.
If we could only put over the idea of free trade, all fear of war,
all over the world, would vanish. The fetish, of so called protection,
is the most terrible superstition in the world, it makes enemies of
nations who have everything in common.
The basic cause of wars, including in considerable measure the cold
war. is the universal acceptance of the mercantile theory of
economics. All nations, especially the United States, believe
themselves growing wealthy and strong in proportion to their exports
and poor and weak in proportion to the wealth acquired by import. They
cannot see that free trade would simply increase the buying power of
the money (incidentally be the cure for inflation), although it might
be necessary to reduce profits and wages in terms of money. Of course,
some adjustments would have to be made on making so radical a change
in our system, but real wages would over a short period of time
Now we say that Russia is carrying on ECONOMIC WAR by exchanging
wheat for cotton with Egypt and machinery for coffee with Brazil.
Russian exports will continue to increase, and we must not deprecate
or be enemical to this development.
We must be ready to base our economy on world prices without placing
a penalty on imports. Other nations must be ready to accept our
surpluses and we ready to sell them at world prices. Such reciprocal
relations must be established between all nations, including communist
countries. We will then have order, security of life, of bur
civilization. We cannot buy permanent security on any other terms.
Because we hesitate to subject our industries to competition, Russia,
ready to accept any goods offered in the market, will, as usual, be
ahead of us in cultivating nations in need of a market.
We should seek free trade and reciprocal free travel with both Russia
and China. It might originally be refused, but the offer would clear
"* (13. When accepted it would be an example of democracy and
freedom that would gradually cause their autocracy to disintegrate.
Their recently developed high standards of education, higher than
ours, including learning foreign languages, will produce a generation
quite different from the present one. Russians are people, not much
different from ourselves. Indeed, recent travellers find them more
like us than are many other nationalities. It is time we look at
realities and one thing that belongs to a long look at the future
should be the promotion of the Russian language in our schools.
I prefaced this speech with a question. I did not undertake to give a
complete answer. My purpose was to emphasize that a problem more
important than any other is involved. It demands free and uninhibited
probing, and our intelligent insight, not influenced by the furtive
finger of desire, capable of translating current situations into the
inevitable eventualities of the future, and to currently govern
- Travelling through Lebanon, Mr. Grist
quotes his diary as follows: "The fertile coastal plains ...
are devoted to plantation agriculture: bananas, loquats and groves
of citrus fruits. But the wilderness of rocks and ravines,
difficult to penetrate, of the westward slopes of Mount Lebanon,
support three times as many people per unit area as do the fertile
plains along the coast. The plantation and the large estate are
profitable, but they do not support a large rural population, and
the profits benefit a small group in the urban centers."