Sifting roses from the red
Swift reaction was stirred late last week following a post titled “Is socialism really the alternative?”
Readers of the blog that responded are clearly more aligned with social democratic governments than Communist regimes. But to Marx, social democracy is merely a transitional phase on the road to Communism.
Readers in support of social democracy see Scandinavian countries as an enviable model, but it is not the kind of socialism I’m questioning. They are still capitalist counties. (I should have qualified the kind of socialism I was critiquing in the first post.)
I’m questioning the socialism of collective ownership; the socialism of equal distribution of wealth; of a classless society. And I question this in the first place because I’m in the midst of reading all of Michael Ignatieff’s published record. He makes a viable and simple argument against socialism, one worth heeding.
If Communism was Marx’s ultimate goal, and socialism is merely a transitional phase, the examples of Communism and socialism that exist historically and today are not enviable models. Ignatieff rarely misses an opportunity to hammer this point home:
The obvious question [is] whether societies can ever reconcile freedom and solidarity. The societies which have marched under Marx’s banner - ‘from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs’ - have all turned out to be disastrous for liberty.
This is a vital point to remember. I am encouraged by some of what I’ve read on Venezuela and the “pink tide” in Latin America, but I don’t believe it’s healthy to dogmatically believe in a socialist alternative. We should always have in the back of our minds historical precedents of state violence and suppression. We should always question the party line.
That is to say, socialism’s fists are no less bloodied than capitalism’s, and we’d be lying to ourselves to suggest otherwise. A socialist alternative should have Utopian ideals, but in peeling back the rosy we must always see the blood red.
I hope to read and post about the following soon:
Has socialism made any gains at all during this financial crisis? And what kind of opportunities present themselves in light of the crisis?