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 home.

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 sense.

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 areas.

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 unemployment.[1]

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 themselves:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 ideological coercion.

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 uninhibited.

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 world conflagration.

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 destroyed.

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 increase.

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 the atmosphere.

"* (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 ourselves accordingly.


  1. 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."