Socialism History And The Flaws Of It

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Hammer and Sickle
Hammer and Sickle

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher, is once quoted as saying “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples money.”

To this day, no truer words could have ever been spoken, as history teaches us, even in today’s society, those words still hold true.

The hammer and sickle is a symbol meant to represent proletarian solidarity. A union between the peasantry and working class. It was first adapted during the Russian Revolution. The hammer representing the workers and the sickle representing the peasants.

After World War I – Russia withdrew in 1917 – and the Russian Civil War, the hammer and sickle became more widely used as a symbol for labor within the Soviet Union and for international proletarian unity. It was taken up by many communist movements around the world, some with local variations. Today, even after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the hammer and sickle remains commonplace in Russia and other former union republics, but its display is prohibited in some other former communist countries as well as in countries where communism is banned by law. The hammer and sickle also remains commonplace in socialist countries like Vietnam and China.

In 1917, Vladimir Lenin and Anatoly Lunacharsky held a competition to create a Soviet emblem. The winning design was a hammer and sickle on top of a globe in rays of the sun, surrounded by a wreath of grain and under a five-pointed star, with the inscription “proletarians of the world, unite!” in six languages: Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijani. It originally featured a sword, but Lenin strongly objected, disliking the violent connotations. The winning designer was Yevgeny Ivanovich Kamzolkin.

In several countries in the former Eastern Bloc, there are laws that define the hammer and sickle as the symbol of a “totalitarian and criminal ideology” and the public display of the hammer and sickle and other Communist symbols such as the red star is considered a criminal offense. Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova and Ukraine have banned communist symbols including this one. A similar law was considered in Estonia, but it eventually failed in a parliamentary committee.

In 2010, the Lithuanian, Latvian, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Romanian, and Czech governments called for the European Union to criminalize the approval, denial or belittling of communist crimes, similar to how a number of EU member states have banned Holocaust denial. The European Commission turned down this request, finding after a study that the criteria for EU-wide criminal legislation was not met, leaving individual member states to determine the extent to witch they wished to handle past totalitarian crimes.

In February of 2013, the Constitutional Court of Hungary annulled the ban on the use of symbols of fascist and communist dictatorships, including the hammer and sickle, the red star and the swastika, saying the ban was too broad and imprecise. The court also pointed to a judgement of the European Court of Human Rights in which Hungary was found guilty of violation of article 10, the right to freedom of expression. In June of 2013, the Constitutional Court of Moldova ruled that the Moldovan Communist Party’s symbols – the hammer and sickle – are legal and can be used.

In Indonesia, the display of communist symbols and the country’s Communist party was banned by decree of US supported dictator Suharto, following the 1965–1966 killings of communists in which over 500,000 people were killed, with the US providing financial support and targets for assassination to the Suharto dictatorship. In January of 2018, an activist protesting against Bumi Resources displayed the hammer and sickle, was accused of spreading communism, and later jailed.

In Poland, dissemination of items which are “mediums of fascist, communist or other totalitarian symbolism” was criminalized in 1997. However, the Constitutional Tribunal found this sanction to be unconstitutional in 2011.

Socialism is an ideology that has been in existence for centuries, but was thrust to the forefront of the lives of the German people in the year 1848 by Karl Heinrich Marx and Friedrich Engels. Together, they assembled “The Communist Manifesto and the three volume Das Kapital.”

Portrait of Karl Marx
Portrait of Karl Marx

Karl Heinrich Marx, 1818–1883, was a German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist and socialist revolutionary. Born in Trier, Germany, Marx studied law and philosophy at university. He married Jenny von Westphalen in 1843. Due to his political publications, Marx became stateless and lived in exile with his wife and children in London for decades, where he continued to develop his thought in collaboration with German thinker Friedrich Engels and publish his writings, researching in the reading room of the British Museum. Marx’s political and philosophical thought had enormous influence on subsequent intellectual, economic and political history. His name has been used as an adjective, a noun and a school of social theory.

Marx’s critical theories about society, economics and politics, collectively understood as Marxism, hold that human societies develop through class conflict. In the capitalist mode of production, this manifests itself in the conflict between the ruling classes – known as the bourgeoisie – that control the means of production and the working classes – known as the proletariat – that enable these means by selling their labor power in return for wages. Employing a critical approach known as historical materialism, Marx predicted that capitalism produced internal tensions like previous socioeconomic systems and that those would lead to its self-destruction and replacement by a new system known as the socialist mode of production. For Marx, class antagonisms under capitalism, owing in part to its instability and crisis-prone nature, would eventuate the working class’ development of class consciousness, leading to their conquest of political power and eventually the establishment of a classless, communist society constituted by a free association of producers. Marx actively pressed for its implementation, arguing that the working class should carry out organized proletarian revolutionary action to topple capitalism and bring about socioeconomic emancipation.

Proletarian internationalism, sometimes referred to as international socialism, is the perception of all communist revolutions as being part of a single global class struggle rather than separate localized events. It is based on the theory that capitalism is a world system and therefore the working classes of all nations must act in concert if they are to replace it with communism. Proponents of proletarian internationalism often argued that the objectives of a given revolution should be global rather than local in scope. For example, triggering or perpetuating revolutions elsewhere.

Proletarian internationalism is closely linked to goals of world revolution, to be achieved through successive or simultaneous communist revolutions in all nations. According to Marxist theory, successful proletarian internationalism should lead to world communism and eventually stateless communism. The notion was strongly embraced by the first communist party, the Communist League, as exercised through its slogan “Proletarians of all countries, unite!” Later popularized as “Workers of the world, unite!” in English literature.

Proletarian internationalism was originally embraced by the Bolshevik Party during its seizure of power in the Russian Revolution. After the formation of the Soviet Union, Marxist proponents of internationalism suggested that country could be used as a homeland of communism from which revolution could be spread around the globe. Though world revolution continued to figure prominently in Soviet rhetoric for decades, it no longer superseded domestic concerns on the government’s agenda, especially after the ascension of Joseph Stalin. Despite this, the Soviet Union continued to foster international ties with communist and left-wing parties and governments around the world. It played a fundamental role in the establishment of several socialist states in Eastern Europe after World War II and backed the creation of others in Asia, Latin America and Africa. The Soviets also funded dozens of insurgencies being waged against non-communist governments by leftist guerrilla movements worldwide. A few other states later exercised their own commitments to the cause of world revolution. For instance, Cuba frequently dispatched internationalist military missions abroad to defend communist interests in Africa and the Caribbean.

With our short emancipation history out of the way, lets look at how it’s influenced and damaged a lot of good working societies. For this we turn to Venezuela for our example.

The territory of Venezuela was colonized by Spain in 1522 amid resistance from the indigenous people. In 1811, it became one of the first Spanish-American territories to declare independence from the Spanish as a department of the federal republic of Gran Colombia. It gained full sovereignty as a country in 1830. During the 19th century, Venezuela suffered political turmoil and autocracy, remaining dominated by regional military dictators until the mid 20th century. Since 1958, the country has had a series of democratic governments. Economic shocks in the 1980’s and 1990’s led to major political crises and widespread social unrest, including the deadly Caracazo riots of 1989. Two attempted coups in 1992, and the impeachment of President Carlos Andrés Pérez for embezzlement of public funds in 1993.

A collapse in confidence in the existing parties saw the 1998 election of former coup involved career officer Hugo Chávez and the launch of the Bolivarian Revolution. The revolution began with a 1999 Constituent Assembly, where a new Constitution of Venezuela was imposed. This new constitution officially changed the name of the country to Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Chávez established populist social welfare policies bolstered by soaring oil prices, increasing social spending, temporarily and reducing economic inequality and poverty in the early years of the regime. In 2013, Chávez died and was succeeded by Nicolás Maduro, who was elected by a narrow majority in a widely disputed election. Maduro continued the populist policies, but with disastrous economic results which triggered another nationwide crisis that continues to this day.

Venezuela is a developing country and ranks 96th on the Human Development Index. It has the world’s largest known oil reserves and has been one of the world’s leading exporters of oil. Previously, the country was an underdeveloped exporter of agricultural commodities such as coffee and cocoa, but oil quickly came to dominate exports and government revenues. The excesses and poor policies of the incumbent government led to the collapse of Venezuela’s entire economy. The country struggles with record hyperinflation, shortages of basic goods and food, unemployment, poverty, disease, high child mortality, malnutrition, severe crime and corruption.

These factors have precipitated the Venezuelan migrant crisis where more than three million people have fled the country. By 2017, Venezuela was declared to be in default regarding debt payments by credit rating agencies. The crisis in Venezuela has contributed to a rapidly deteriorating human rights situation, including increased abuses such as torture, arbitrary imprisonment, extrajudicial killings and attacks on human rights advocates, while Maduro has become increasingly described as an autocratic and dictatorial leader by foreign observers. Venezuela is a charter member of the UN, OAS, UNASUR, ALBA, Mercosur, LAIA and OEI.

So unless you’ve been living under a rock the last few years, you’ve likely noticed that socialism is a disastrous ideological policy, but more alarming, it has become increasingly popular in the US, particularly among young people.

Only ten years ago, the word socialism symbolized just about as dirty of a word as you can get among the American people and in the political circles. Debates over its merits were mostly limited to obscure blogs, niche magazines and political parties on the other side of the Atlantic. But more recently Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a handful of other politicians have breathed new life into the label, injecting a radical alternate vision for the US economy into the mainstream political debate.

When this was first noticed in 2016, it made economist pause, scratch their heads and ask, “Could this really be a trend with a future?” We know that socialist countries have killed roughly 100 million of their own citizens in the 20th century. We know that socialist economies stagnate (Think about the eight years of the Obama Administration).

While socialists have and continue to preach equality, the reality is, as George Orwell put it in Animal Farm “some animals were more equal than others in socialist countries.” Orwell’s point is that the political elite in truly socialistic countries fare much better than ordinary citizens. Much, much better. Historians long ago discovered Karl Marx’s idea of equality always gets subverted by people who really just want power and therefore, inevitably organize authoritarian regimes.

Ahead of the midterms in the US, politicians like New York’s Ocasio-Cortez, Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, and Kansas’ James Thompson have proudly held up their endorsements for the Democratic Socialists of America, the country’s largest socialist group, whose numbers have swelled since Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign.

This is the stuff that nightmares are made of, not to mention that skittish Democrats fear alienating swing voters that are more comfortable with their party’s post Lyndon B. Johnson incrementalism. According to a poll from August, however, for the first time since Gallup has asked the question, more Democrats approve of socialism than of capitalism.

How could our fellow Americans, most of whom are intelligent, self reliant, caring people, want a socialist economic system and all of the tragedies that come with it?

For this answer, we turn to the young people. While I’m sure you’ve already drawn your conclusion, there is more to it than that.

For the last two, three decades, the media, politicians and parents that were not awake or paying attention heard the word education and were told that this would be only way a child would be able to get a job at Mc Donald’s. The obvious knee-jerk reaction to this by the parents was to get there kids into a university as fast as possible as the parents didn’t want their brats living at home. This also led to a huge increase in enrollment at the universities around the country.

More troubling is that it has been proven time-after-time (Think Mike Rowe and the show he produced called “Dirty Jobs”) that the trade jobs have always proven to be able to supply a family with a good income and nice house in which to live.

As with all universities, there is a high degree of corruption that takes place on any given year as we have seen from the college pay-to-play scandals that broke in 2019.

There is also the issue that a number of professors believe and were given free reign to teach what they believe should be right and not what really is right or what really does transpire in the real world, outside of the classroom walls.

This led to a huge decline of critical thinkers and a large population of students that are still in massive debt, some being well over one-hundred-thousand dollars or more with no end in sight to ever be able to pay off the tuition fees that were charged.

Psychologically, this leaves the newly graduated student working at Mc Donald’s in overwhelming debt, a bad credit score and in complete disparate despair, realizing that the dreaming they were doing in the classroom about getting the white picket fence house and raising a family with the cute student on the other side of the classroom is now looking more like living in a tent on any given street in Detroit.

Some of these students have made their way into politics and have shown the world their complete lack of understanding the world stage, much less be able to speak any other language that is not insulting with their insinuated “we’re better than you because we are university educated.” Particularly, the Democratic party when visiting South East Asia and why Japan labeled them as arrogant and pompous.

If we are to look at all of the numbers and facts, it would be easy to see that young people would easily believe in these rainbow theories of socialism without having actually taken the time to model an outcome in say in 10 or 20 years – much less five years – to find out if the end result would be what they have been led to believe. And, I’m going to say it, what the news media has led them to believe in their 24/7 banging of the drum.

One way to implement socialism in the US would be to copy many of the economic institutions found in the Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway. These countries, which consistently rank near the top of the world in happiness, human development and overall well being, have highly organized labor markets, universal welfare states and relatively high levels of public ownership of capital. It should also be noted that they also have the highest tax brackets, being around 46 to 48 percent.

To move in the Nordic direction, the US would have to promote the mass unionization of its workforce, increase legal protections against arbitrary termination and allow workers to control some of the seats on the corporate boards – effectively killing the capitalist ideology and practice – of the companies they work for, as Senator Elizabeth Warren has suggested, despite the fact that she is on the board of her successful corporation and you can best bet, she would be the first to cry foul play if she were to be ejected from her seat on the board.

When it comes to the welfare state, the country would have to create a national health insurance system, akin to some Democrats’ Medicare for All or Obama’s disastrous ObamaCare plans and proposals, extend to new parents paid leave from work, provide young children free child care and pre-K, and give each family a $300 per month allowance per child. The US would have to also provide housing stipends to those living on low incomes – leading to mass corruption – and increase the minimum benefits for those on senior and disability pensions.

There’s just one problem. While the Nordic countries have a working solution, it’s not always a good working solution. They do have their up’s and down’s and there are still some people that get the short-end of the stick (some animals fare better than others).

While one could easily point their finger at it, it does come with a cost and is not the be-all, end-all solution that would be touted and most certainly would not be implemented as designed and again, would cause a bankrupt state, as we have seen of Venezuela. For this reason alone, any thought of a socialist agenda should be met with harsh criticism and condemnation for many future generations.

Author: David

As a retired traveler, IT systems engineer by trade, Electronics engineer by hobby. I spend my free time writing about subjects giving the reader events in history to ponder, as well as current events.

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