The recent film by Agnieszka Holland, Mr. Jones, portrays the Soviet Russians’ attempt in the 1930s — with the assistance of sympathetic Western journalists like Walter Duranty — to cover up the famine caused by collectivization of agriculture in Ukraine. The film is a heart-wrenching and damning account of the Soviet experiment — and of the dishonesty that enabled it.
And yet, 87 years after Gareth Jones showed the world the crimes of socialism, there are still Western enablers who engage in a different kind of coverup of the same facts. As a result, a growing number of young people consider themselves socialists, and socialist politicians have risen in prominence. One was almost nominated as the Democratic Party’s candidate for president of the United States.
It is only thirty years since socialist regimes collapsed economically around the globe, leaving in their wake a death toll of tens of millions. We have seen the same pattern repeated in Venezuela in only the last twenty years. How do today’s defenders of socialism try to cover up this history and justify the ideology that supported such murderous regimes?
One tactic that today’s socialists employ is to portray the lessons of history and world affairs as irrelevant to their cause. They claim that the Soviet Union, Communist China, Communist Cuba, and today’s regime in Venezuela are not real examples of socialism at all. Real socialism, you may have heard them say, has never been tried.
What makes people think this is true? What do they mean by “socialism” and is their view even plausible?
What is “socialism”?
Socialism, in a standard definition, means public ownership of the means of production, which implies the abolishing of private property and ending the capitalist system of free trade and free markets. This is often understood to mean state ownership of the means of production.
By that standard, the Soviet Union, Communist China, and other authoritarian regimes all count as “socialist”: in every case, insurgents seized control of governments which then expropriated private farms, factories and shops from their capitalist owners — many of whom lost not only their property, but their lives. What’s more, these insurgents were led by figures (Lenin, Mao, Castro, etc.) that were explicitly committed to socialist ideology.
The economic failure, famine, and bloodshed suffered by each of these countries flowed directly from the same policies advocated by today’s socialists. Just as socialists demand, businesses were torn from the hands of their creators, those who both knew how to produce and who had a personal financial stake in improving their ability to produce. These businesses were then managed by bureaucrats who lacked both of these qualifications, and who also lacked the tool of the free market pricing system to calculate how much of which goods to produce. Production decisions were determined not with an eye to creating value above cost, but to the demands of arbitrary edicts from central planners. It is no accident that this system created shortages and starvation, and that regimes had to crush the resulting dissent to retain power.
Socialists try to insulate the system they advocate from this evidence of failure by using a talking point that (as we shall see) they have used since the beginning of their movement. They put a spin on the “public ownership of the means of production” definition. Real socialism, they say, doesn’t mean state control of the economy; it means control by “the people,” especially by the workers.
For instance, Bhaskar Sunkara, editor of Jacobin and author of The Socialist Manifesto, claims that real socialism means “democratic” control of the workplace by worker collectives. He claims that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was not a socialist society because it did not involve democratic control.1 Likewise, Nathan Robinson, editor of Current Affairs and author of Why You Should Be a Socialist, claims that, for similar reasons, none of the authoritarian socialist regimes of the twentieth century were socialist, and claims to “hate government and capitalism alike.”2 Richard Wolff, who has been described as “America’s most prominent Marxist economist,” agrees.3 He argues that the Soviet Union was really an example of “state capitalism”: while the nominally socialist party controlled the state, the state was “still capitalist in the employer-employee organization of its economy” because “a minority of persons . . . [the central planners] functioned as employers of an employee majority.”4
Using their definition of “socialism,” these thinkers would have us believe that since state control of the economy is not control by “the people,” no full-scale socialist political system has ever existed in history. If true, this would allow them to excuse their ideology from any responsibility for the murder and oppression of the brutal, allegedly “socialist” systems of the twentieth (and twenty-first) century. It also allows them to pose as the torchbearers of a noble ideal that has simply been corrupted by political operators of the past.
Is there any plausibility to the claim that “socialism” doesn’t really mean state control of the economy, but something else? Are today’s socialists really envisioning a wholly new system than what the revolutionaries of the past actually implemented? Or are they simply playing games with the word “socialism” to avoid the obvious facts?
Fantasy speculation about the role of the state
Not everyone proposing a novelty is indulging in fantasy. A newly envisioned invention, like an airplane, can be based on known facts about birds, kites, and gliders. But even then, experiments are needed to prove the efficacy of the idea. And if the proposal is, say, a perpetual motion machine, which has no experimental basis and goes against the laws of physics, the proposal is selling a fantasy.
Although the proposal that “real” socialism doesn’t require the use of state power might sound new or innovative to the uninitiated, a few questions and a little knowledge of history are sufficient to show it is just as much a fantasy as a perpetual motion machine.
First, note that the socialists paper over the coercion and even violence that would obviously need to happen to expropriate private property from peaceful citizens to set up their system in the first place. (The mask drops when they start advocating “lawbreaking and sabotage” as worthy tactics in revolutionary social change.5) By itself this calls into question any assertion that socialism can be implemented without bloodshed: socialist ends cannot be detached from socialist means.
But even if we could imagine that private property holders were simply persuaded to give up their holdings peacefully, the notion that the ideal socialist system would work without coercion or oppression is hard to imagine, if it is even coherently meaningful to begin with. Consider Richard Wolff’s explanation for how a system of worker co-ops would gradually wean itself from the need for a state:
An economy based on worker co-ops would revolutionize the relationship between the state and the people. In their capacity as a self-employed collectivity, workers would occupy the spot traditionally held by the workplace in state-workplace relations and interactions. . . . The workers would collectively and democratically hold the purse strings to which the state would have to appeal. The state would thus depend on citizens and workers rather than the other way around. . . . The state would have fewer ways and means to impose its own momentum and goals upon citizens or workplaces. To that extent, the state’s “withering away” would become more immediately achievable than in any other variety of socialism known thus far.6
As I’ve argued elsewhere at greater length, the allegation that “democratic control” ensures freedom from coercion and oppression is an old fallacy that turns on an equivocation between a government with elected representatives and a society run by majority rule. The latter is what socialists advocate when they claim that factories should be run by workers, regardless of what the factory’s original creators have to say about it. This constitutes a direct violation of the rights of a minority of individuals. So if workers really do end up holding “the purse strings” of the factories and the power to make the state appeal to them, it makes little sense to say that the state would “wither away” as an entity independent of the workers.7 Rather, the workers would in effect be running a state.8
When Wolff is pressed to provide a real-world example of the system he envisions, he and other socialists often point to the Mondragon Corporation, a Spanish worker-owned manufacturer of a variety of industrial and consumer goods.9 But Mondragon is an international corporation that sells its products to private firms all over the globe, and employs an increasing number of foreign workers who are not members of the collective. At the same time, its workers increasingly depend on pensions from the Spanish state.10 Invoking the Mondragon example evades the question of whether a company like Mondragon could survive in the absence of a more general capitalist system that buys its products and provides market prices by which to calculate resource allocation, and the system of state-sanctioned private property rights that makes this possible.11 It also evades the question of whether a company run “democratically” (unlike most corporations) could exist in the absence of a coercive state that taxes capitalists to fund worker pensions.
The idea that real socialism involves social control of the economy without the state is not new, but you need to be aware of some history to realize this. It goes back at least as far as 1877, when Frederick Engels claimed in Anti-Dühring that after the proletariat seizes control of the state and thereby the means of production, the state would “wither away” or “die out.”12 Evading the important role of a state in protecting peaceful coexistence among individuals by protecting their rights, Marx and Engels held that the only role of a state is to enforce the exploitation of one class by another. Working from this fantastic premise, they deduced without evidence that once the state comes to represent the proletariat, class distinctions would disappear and, with them, the need for the state.13Lenin toed the same line in a lengthier work of no greater depth, but since he was himself a political operative who needed to rationalize his revolutionary actions, he argued that state control of the means of production was necessary as a transitional measure on the way to the achievement of real socialism.14 The same argument was then invoked for years by Stalin as he continued to starve and murder people in the name of eventually achieving the ideal of real socialism.15
All of this means that Lenin and Stalin and the other founders of the brutal Marxist regimes justified their actions using the exact same fantasy as today’s socialists do. They promised that the system they advocated would eventually eliminate state oppression as well. We saw what it actually delivered.
Why should we believe socialists today who also claim that their proposals to nationalize industries will take us further from and not closer to the specter of the Soviet catastrophe? They offer no better evidence than hucksters who sell perpetual motion machines. In fact what they’re doing is much worse, both because they actively evade the evidence, and because what they sell isn’t just dysfunctional — it’s deadly.
The real meaning of socialism
Socialism means public ownership of the means of production. But to understand what this means in practical reality — and why it cannot mean what the socialists propose — we must appreciate what “public ownership” actually refers to.
There is no magical entity called “the public.” A society is composed of individual human beings. In reality, the only mechanism by which the actions of an entire society can be coordinated is by means of a government. And so the only way for anything resembling “the public” to systematically deprive capitalists of private property and to abolish capitalist free trade is for the state to do it. Every socialist acknowledges this, whether they advocate violent revolution to establish a collectivist state or a majority vote to establish the same.
it is more than obvious in bidens advanced stage of dementia, he has to be periodically under the influence of a drug or cocktail of drugs designed to make him appear to be cogent.
Still, his cadence is slow and many of his words are mispronounced or slurred.
Yesterday while being interviewed he held up a picture and the reflection from the glass revealed a teleprompter with green sentences and blue sentences. joe is not well
This Mystery Medication that eliminates the symptoms of advanced stage dementia trumps even the Miracle of Hydroxychloroquine. It really should be made public, for the benefit of the 6 million Americans suffering from dementia.
Particularly in videos that have been altered, like those intended to convince people that Nancy Pelosi is a drunk.
I’m looking forward to the debates.
@Greg: What has that to do with socialism? Unless you want to point out the communists had so many cases the free health care system was a total failure, people dying by the hundreds in the streets. Trump made sure not 1 patient that needed a ventilator went without one, created mash units to assist with any overflow saving the people from the totally incompetent democrat governors responsible for a lions share of the death.
President Trump is outworking joe biden
Again, as I have previously suggested, you need sources for information that do not cater to stupid people. I’ve watched Trump riff for hours at rallies making perfect sense. Biden can’t READ and make a valid point.
Pelosi IS a slurring drunk. I have listened to her live when she is obviously drunk. And, she’s a liar.
People like Greg defending people like Biden, Obama, Pelosi, Schiff, Schumer and Harris is what socialism leads to. Greg doesn’t realize it, but he is providing EXCELLENT examples of why we should do all we can to stay as far away from socialism as we possibly can.
Are not we all? joe biden guaranteed to flop.
Who needs “sources of information” to tell me what to think about Donald Trump? All a person has got to do is listen closely to what the man himself has said. There are endless hours of rally speeches, news conferences, and public addresses the man has made to listen to. You can compare his statements with documented facts, his claimed accomplishments with the reality of the daily news, and take note of the extreme measures he has taken to keep things that others freely reveal locked down and hidden. You can look at the court actions filed against him, and read what those on the inside of his administration have had to say.
If you want sources, you can read what his former lawyer has to say. You can even read what his own sister and niece have to say. You can take note of the number of felonies campaign and administration figures have been convicted of or confessed to, and consider how many conscientious, long-term public servants he has attempted to destroy. Oddly enough, with the exception of his former lawyer, none of them have been convicted of anything.
Everything we’ve been seeing on the news has happened on this guy’s watch. Obama didn’t do it, Clinton didn’t do it, nor did Biden do it. It’s all on Trump. It’s all how “Make America Great Again” is working out.
Well, because based on everything you’ve written, your “thinking” is wrong. So, you need to do some studying and learning.
Case in point.
@Greg: Ok we get it in several hundred comments you have no way to defend socialism.
We are immune to TDS no debunked bullcrap,making a mountain out of a molehill or twisted lies will infect us with your terminal mental disease.
This is truly hilarious..
“he has taken to keep things that others freely reveal locked down and hidden”
Still on about the taxes bwahahahahahaha!
Trump’s megalomania, on full display today for all the world to see. This
would be considered abnormal behavior for any individual; for a President of the United States, it should be setting off alarm bells.
Read a few of the comments under the video. His supporters recognize it as abnormal, but quickly rationalize by telling themselves it’s all just a joke at the expense of the media, and all those pathetic fools who don’t see that he’s only joking. Those in the crowd, however, aren’t laughing, nor is Trump giving any signal that they should be. What you’re seeing here is part of what’s actually going on inside of his head. He’s a president who increasingly believes he can act as he will without concern for the consequences. If he gets over the hurdle of the November election, by whatever means, he’ll have his confirmation—and there will be hell to pay. American voters cannot allow this to happen.
@Greg: Trump 2020 Don Jr 2024 a bill board I saw on the way to the Madison area. If signs are any indicator Trump, is way ahead, 2nd place is Help wanted, then Garage Sale, No trespassing then finally Biden(which I think was a prank cause it was in front of a graveyard.)
He can have his signs. 346 thousand people have seen this.
No, the deceased vote overwhelmingly for Democrats.
@Deplorable Me: Wisconsin is an ID required State. That really suppressed off our Illinois voters, da’ FIBs (you might have to look up FIBs its a Wisconsin thing.)
Because just a little bit of crazy is never enough…
September 14, 2020 – Trump Health Aide Falsely Alleges Conspiracies and Warns of Armed Revolt
A man suffering from paranoia and delusional thinking is one of the administration’s main COVID-19 messaging guys? That could explain a lot.
OK, his mental health has definitely failed.
Yep. He’s crazy. And he’s telling like thinking people to arm up.
Another Atlantic or woodward
They’re not making this stuff up. They’re directly quoting Caputo’s own crazy comments.
Caputo is a political operative. He formerly lived and worked in Moscow. In 2000 he was contracted by Gazprom to do public relations work on behalf of Vladimir Putin. Upon his return to the U.S. that year, he promptly hooked up with his former mentor Roger Stone. He’s now just another cog in Trump’s corrupt machine. His primary function in the Dept. of Health and Human Services has apparently been to suppress and have altered CDC reports that could be unflattering or politically injurious to Donald Trump. That has reportedly included the retroactive editing of past CDC documents.
Such deception has become easier in an environment where many people seem to have lost their capacity for critically evaluating information. Simple repetition by multiple sources is enough to convince many people that a lie is true. The internet is the perfect medium for this propaganda technique.
The liars always claim that they’re the victims of the false reports. It has become their routine defense. Here again, repetition seems to be enough to make their target audiences believe. It’s gotten to the point where something established by credible testimony and hard evidence can be called into question by enough Twitter posts.
@Greg:Biden exposed using monitor for answers to “interview” on CBS
Biden is going to be destroyed in debates… unless he doesn’t show up.
Oh, and you want crazy? Biden’s campaign and Kamala are bailing out convicted criminals caught committing political violence so they can go out and commit more violence. I don’t think you really have any “moral high ground”. In fact, you are defending the worst scumbaggery of society.
Nah, Joe will be prepped by his handlers with those secret performance-enhancing drugs before each contest. I’m surprised Donald can’t get any himself through his Russian contacts.
@Greg: Because Trump has a working brain and doesn’t need drugs or coaches. Or earpieces. Or teleprompters. Or the questions in advance.
But, but, but………..that’s a conservative website” says our resident Commie, Comrade Greggie. If it’s not in the NYSlimes, The Atlantic or on Huffington Post, it’s not true.
Never mind that the NYSlimes has been lying to the American public for almost 90 years. Pick the story they didn’t report or lied about; Holodomor, the Holocaust, you name it. But those like Comrade Greggie will continue to defend the NYSlimes as being reliable.
@retire05: It never dawns on then WHY their favored propaganda outlets don’t provide the vital information they are lacking, which makes them look stupid.
@Deplorable Me, #472:
Trump is a presidential nincompoop. A slick populace Pied Piper, though. Slick as a miracle no-stick skillet. He was there at ground zero after 9/11 you know, helping the first responders. He’s so slick the dust didn’t even stick, so it’s not clear if that was before or after he saw the New York Muslims dancing in celebration.
If he loses the election he’s going to do time in courtrooms, if not in a prison cell.
And Biden can’t even do a interview without a teleprompter giving him the answers to the questions he is asked. And he was so tired from his hectic campaigning last week he had to take the weekend off and huddle in his basement.
Where are the pictures of Biden helping at Ground Zero? Did he wear a mask? Maybe he was there in drag and no one knew it was him?
You don’t defend your candidate, Comrade Greggie, because there is no defense for Hiden’ Biden.
I’ve seen much clearer photographic evidence of bigfoot. Are those green and blue smudges supposed to be words? It looks to me like a corporate logo. It’s probably exactly that, filling in two unused frames of a four-frame commercial video conference screen. Blue and green are the CISCO/WEBEX colors. They’re also NewVista’s. Or maybe it’s a UFO? Is it someone’s intention to demonstrate that Trump’s supporters are stupid?
Unlike Donald Trump, Biden never told such a lie.
I know, I know; you’re eyes are lying to you again.
No need to demonstrate what is clearly obvious that Biden’s supporters are stupid.
What lie? Are you saying Trump didn’t sent workers to help in the days after 9/11?
What did Biden do? Hide in his basement?
Settle For Biden is trending on Twitter:
That isn’t what Trump said. What Trump said was a LIE. And you’re lying about that. He has that effect on his followers. He corrupts everyone who falls under his influence.
Really? Is that why he, not Obama/Biden, rebuilt the economy? Is that why he, not Obama/Biden, is bringing peace in the Middle East? Is that why he, not Obama/Biden, destroyed ISIS? Is that why he, not Obama/Biden, served the needs of veterans using the VA? Is that why he, not Obama/Biden, is securing our border? Is that why he, not Obama/Biden, is restoring trade equity for the United States? Gosh, if a “nincompoop” can accomplish all this when Obama/Biden failed, that must make them totally moronic idiots.
You are probably correct. If nothing else, Democrats are vindictive and cruel and, not being able to destroy Trump in office, they will pursue him indefinitely. Democrats enjoy abusing the court system to accomplish what they can’t Constitutionally, so of course they will jam up the courts with a lot of frivolous, false accusations and charges. This is why Trump made a mistake thinking letting Hillary and Democrats off the hook would bring about peace and civility. Like most fascists, Democrats view that as weakness.
It doesn’t matter what you interpret it as looking like; what it is is a computer screen on which someone can use to put the proper words into Biden’s atrophied brain. What satellite was Biden talking about that is 1 million miles away that can take pictures of the wild fires? What eh HELL is he talking about? This guy has to be under adult supervision 100% of the time or he says stupid things. This guy CANNOT be President.
First, prove Trump wasn’t ever at ground zero and, if Biden never told that lie, it is the ONLY one he missed. Maybe at the time, Korn Pop was rubbing the hair on his legs as he sat in the Speaker’s Chair.
Biden was looking at a video conferencing screen. If he’d been reading script off the monitor, which was only a couple of feet away, you would have seen his eyes tracking the words.
Donald Trump shows more signs of dementia and delusional thinking than Joe Biden. They’ve progressed quite noticeably since 2016.
@Greg: Which we did. Duh.
Maybe you think you did because somebody told you that you did, but there’s actually no indication of any kind in the video that suggests Biden is reading scripted lines.
Seeing things that aren’t really there seems to go hand-in-hand with not seeing other things that are both present and plainly visible—the extent of Donald Trump’s progressive cognitive decline, for example. Comparing Trump’s past clarity of thought and concise verbal expression with what we have at present makes the extent of the decline very clear.
As usual, that’s dealt with by means of projection.
@Greg: There is nothing BUT evidence Biden can’t put a sentence together without someone else writing it down. 235 retired generals have signed a letter stating Biden would be a disaster as President.
If Comrade Greggie thinks Biden is coherent, that tells you all you need to know about Comrade Greggie’s mental acuity. But then, Comrade Greggie probably believes that Biden can stop hurricanes, floods and fires in the suburbs.
@retire05: He doesn’t think Biden is mentally active; no one does. They simply hate Trump because he represents what is good for America and what stands in the way of socialism, degrading America and turning our wealth and capabilities over to a One World Government.
I don’t believe something is real just because Trump’s campaign organization tells people it is. That includes a statement supposedly signed by 235 retired high ranking military officers. Hunt that up, and you’ll find it consists of several paragraphs typed on a computer screen followed by a typed list of names. They don’t have a scanner? Show me some signatures.
@Greg: It really doesn’t matter to me if you choose (CHOOSE) to live in abject liberal ignorance. 235 generals and admirals all stating the obvious; Biden is a disaster in the making.
Meanwhile, Trump closes the most historic peace deal in the Middle East. Obama/Biden brought chaos, disruption and war. Trump brings nations together. Jared Kushner was a major player. The left fails and obstructs, Trump succeeds.
Time to take this to another thread