Successful socialist countries do not exist for the simple reason that capitalism has waged war on socialism from day one. Capitalism is an economic system based on alleged competition, yet it will use any measure necessary to destroy a competing economic system such as socialism.
On the home-front, US capitalists have deployed the US Army, National Guard Units, police, and private security such as Pinkerton National Detective Agency against striking workers since the 1870s. A few of the more famous actions in which strikers were killed are the 1892 Homestead Steel Strike, near Pittsburg; 1894 Pullman Railway Strike; 1903 Colorado Labor War strikes against Colorado mines. The International Workers of the World Union (Wobblies) founded in Chicago, 1905, was attacked by the First Red Scare and the Palmer Raids in which leftist, socialist, communist union members were attacked, jailed and deported.
Child labor laws, the 40 hour work week, minimum wage laws, overtime pay, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid were all opposed by the capitalist class as socialism when proposed. Yet most Americans would agree that now they are all good programs that offer vital protections for all the American people.
“Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.” President Donald Trump”, 2019 State of the Union speech was received with a standing ovation, even some progressive Democrats stood and applauded. Heaven forbid that we would be able to participate in a democratic discussion of the pros and cons of socialism and capitalism. If we could just turn the calendar back, we can imagine Trump and the cheering Congress opposing as socialism: child labor laws, 40 hour work week, minimum wage laws, overtime pay, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
The US has used military force, military coups, propaganda, repressive economic sanctions and blockades on each and every socialist and socialist leaning country. Beginning in 1918 President Woodrow Wilson sent troops into Russia to undo the Russian people’s revolution. They soon found Russia vast, cold and unwelcoming to the snake oil the US was selling. After WWII, it was only the threat of Russian nuclear retaliation that kept the West from attacking and allowed the flawed autocratic socialist USSR government to peacefully coexist with the capitalist states during the Cold War.
I’m not here to defend the brutal murderous excesses of Lenin and Stalin. The U.S. sought to overthrow the USSR not because it was undemocratic, but because it was socialist. I don’t see us railing against Saudi Arabia’s repressive monarchy because of its dismal record on human rights. No, our Presidents visit, don their dress and dance with their leaders. Our government is now surreptitiously giving them nuclear power technology. Whether or not they are democratic or not is of no concern to US policy makers. The important thing is that Saudi Arabia is not a socialist country.
When Mikhail Gorbachev attempted to bring the USSR in from the Cold War as a proposed Scandinavian style democracy that guaranteed the people a strong social safety net, he was replaced by Russian President Boris Yeltsin who declared Russia independent of the USSR. Yeltsin was directed by the US economic team to privatize all the state’s assets (industry, mines, resources, etc.) for pennies on the dollar before any economic assistance would be available. Russia had already achieved a level of democracy, perhaps better than ours: free press, elected Parliament, elected local councils, elected president, vice president and a constitutional court. At the West’s urging Yeltsin was given dictatorial powers for one year by Parliament to enact the draconian economic programs demanded by the West that soon made beggars of the Russian people. Russia went from a 1.3% poverty rate (less than $4/day) in 1989 under Gorbachev to a 49% poverty rate in 1996 under Yeltsin and the capitalist financial reforms demanded by the US.
Eventually Parliament refused to continue to go along with the capitalist reforms which had their citizens selling their belongings on street corners. Yeltsin surrounded the Parliament building with tanks and a standoff occurred. Clinton was US President and both he and the European Union supported Yeltsin, who on October 4, 1993 shelled the Russian people’s parliament building called the White House with the entire Parliament inside and burned it to the ground killing an estimated 500 people and wounding 1,000. So much for Gorbachev and the Russian people’s incipient democracy and dream for a semi socialist state. The result of this massacre is the present autocratic capitalist Russia with billionaire oligarchs and a poverty stricken people. (Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine)
Currently in Venezuela our government and media give a constant refrain that we want democracy. Nothing could be further from the truth, the US demands capitalism. Russia had to sacrifice their new democracy to make way for capitalism, Venezuela is no different.
This article is not meant to defend or attack Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution under Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro. That should be up to the Venezuelan people, free of US propaganda, blockades, economic sanctions and threats of military attack. The sole purpose of this article is to explain why Venezuela and all other countries that have searched for socialist answers have failed.
The following governments had achieved a level of democracy. They had democratically elected leaders and were attempting to match democracy with socialism or a semi-socialist safety net. The US CIA conspired to engineer and or support military coups that installed repressive right wing governments that to varying degrees then jailed, tortured and killed socialists and communists:
- Iran 1953
- Guatemala 1954
- Congo 1961-65
- Dominican Republic 1963
- Indonesia 1965
- Greece 1967
- Laos 1958-73
- Ecuador 1961, 1963, 2010 unsuccessful
- Chile 1973
- Nicaragua 1979-90
- Haiti 1991, 2004
- Venezuela 2002 unsuccessful, 2015-present unsuccessful
- Honduras 2009.
I am sure that all of the governments that we have attacked and overthrown were not perfect. On the other hand, the governments that replaced them with our blessing were all much worse.
Libya didn’t make the above list because it was not a democratically elected government. Yet under Moammar Gaddafi’s 42 years of leadership, it certainly had many socialist benefits that President Obama failed to mention when he declared it was necessary to militarily intervene: free healthcare; free education, including university & graduate school; $50,000 housing grant to all newlywed couples and complete equality for women, unheard of in the Muslim world. Gaddafi built what has been referred to as the 8th Wonder of the World, the Great Manmade River Project the largest system of underground pipes and aqueducts in the world that every day supplied 6.5 million cubic meters of fresh water to the coastal cities of Libya. In addition Gaddafi had proposed to unite the entire African continent under a common currency. Under Gaddafi, Libya had gone from being the poorest country on earth to having the highest standard of living on the African continent. Now after the US/NATO war, much of Libya is a failed state largely ruled by roving bands of armed gunmen and no one is safe.
An informed debate needs to be held on whether or not we should have a capitalist, socialist or some sort of hybrid economic system. But please don’t bring to the debate the argument that socialism has never been successful. Perhaps, the debate should start with the question, Why are the capitalists afraid of competition from socialism?
Nick is a Vietnam vet and was named Northwest Indiana Citizen of the Year 2006 for his anti war activism. For the last several years he has focused on monetary reform, changing our present system of bank created debt money to a public system of sovereign just money. https://www.monetaryalliance.org/
Good point. A better description might be “social democracy.”
Arlen Grossman, both extreme Capitalism and extreme Socialism have their share of problems. Taxes may be the price we pay to live in a civilized society, however, how much taxation is too much in your opinion?
Ragnar, I think just enough taxation to make this a reasonably livable country for everyone. Yes, it will mean more taxes, but that’s the price that needs to be paid. And if the rich pay the most, the obscene inequalities we have now will be lessened, which would be a good thing.
Arlen Grossman, no argument there. What is not being mentioned is that some people may have a lot of money in savings, essentially negating the point you make about wealth inequality.
I think the author doesn’t consider Scandinavian countries socialist because they aren’t, since most of their GDP comes from private, not government spending – they are capitalist countries with stronger social benefits than the US.