Sunday, April 14, 2013


Students often write that ''socialism is a failed experiment." Yet the socialist experiment has only occurred in the last 100 years and unfolded against tremendous odds. Surely it's too early to dismiss it as a failure?

Unfortunately, most people's ideas about socialism are derived from the USSR. Yet, there are many models of socialist governments. It's as complex as the different models of democracy. Many countries have claimed to be socialist, but are not.
A good list  of countries past and present that have identified themselves as socialist (but check references) can be found here:
To enter into a discussion about socialism, one must first begin with a definition or at least a set of categories.
In Marxist terms, socialism is a transition from capitalism to communism. The means of production are taken into social ownership and control, via the state. This permits the emergence of common ownership and egalitarian distribution of any ensuing wealth, and eventually the 'withering away' of the state.
But socialism can also be viewed as permanent (not by Marxists). Often, private property is acceptable as long as there is not excessive accumulation of private wealth. Politically, there can be grassroots democracy, for example, in neighborhoods as in Cuba, workers' control in factories, and other types of democratic institutions such as proportional democracy, A key feature is the nationalization of the major resources and industry, such as steel, energy and other manufacturing centers. An equally important key feature is a massive welfare system 'from cradle to grave' to conform with the requirements of the Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
By socialism, I mean at a minimum. state managed and owned resources, and a strong welfare state paid for by these resources. This translates into free health care and education, in other words, a form of domestic wealth sharing that benefits the poor. Political models can range from multi-party elections and a free press (Nicaragua under the Sandinistas during the 1980s) to Stalinist-type dictatorships (USSR).
 The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 was greeted from Day One with some 13,000 American troops at the borders of the just-born state. Later on, British and French joined the US and engaged the Bolsheviks in a frontier war. The crime of the Bolsheviks was to turn a semi-feudal capitalist system into a socialist society  --an act viewed in the West as an assault against civilization. The 1919 War against the USSR precipitated the latter into a highly centralized, militaristic mode - which found its ultimate expression in the Stalinist era.
It was after World War II, inspired by the defeat of Fascism, that many countries voted in socialist governments in free and fair elections. These countries subsequently  became subject to Western military and CIA interventions, so the experiment was never allowed to stand up on its own merits. From Vietnam to Chile, from Angola to Korea, socialist movements and governments were cut down before they had a chance to mature. Millions of lives were lost in these anti-socialist wars. An excellent book detailing this gory era, is Killing Hope, US Military and C.I.A. interventions since World War II by William Blum.
Why is such a virulent approach taken against an alternative economic model, which has such mass appeal to the poor and impoverished of the world?  Largely because socialist models deprive multinational corporations from accessing cheap labor forces, cheap resources (such as oil) and consumer markets. Today, weaker countries with state-owned resources and comprehensive welfare states, are at risk for interventions: Libya, Iraq, Syria are recent examples. Whereas, countries that open up their borders to corporations, or align themselves with Western interests, are untouched and receive support despite being governed by dictators (Egypt under Mubarak, Pakistan under Zia). Here is a current partial list of US-supported repressive leaders: 

President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen, Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al-Said of Oman, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov of Turkmenistan, President Karimov of Uzbekhistan.For more, see this:

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