Distilling the Good, Bad and Ugly of Communism

I always appreciate getting responses to my writing, even if it is harsh. It provides an opportunity to learn about whether I managed to get my message across or not. So let me have a go at clarifying me message.

One problem is that I am trying to cram in a lot of different arguments, which perhaps has caused the main point to get lost.

Does it really matter whether Commies or Nazis have killed more people? So If I kill one million people, and you kill two million, does that make me less evil?

I think you may understand my point easier if we focus on a comparison of the death toll caused by communism, christianity and capitalism. Religious wars have killed millions. The capitalist profit motive of the East Indian company alone killed tens of millions of Indians through starvation.

The point is that the mainstream isn’t using these experiences to argue that Christianity and Capitalism is inherently evil. Instead we focus on what the bad parts and try to remove them.

Far-left ideologies are just as inhumane as far-right ideologies. Communism for example disregards the human nature on a fundamental level. That is what it makes inhumane.

We can both agree that extremist ideologies is not the way to go. I am not arguing in favor of extremist ideologies, instead I am arguing that not all forms of socialism is extremist, just like not all forms of capitalism is extremist. Consider the example of Imperialism. It was an extreme form of capitalism. Companies like the East Indian company would literally invade countries and kill people to secure profits for its share holders. Early capitalism allowed exploitation of children in child labor. Workers were often not much different from slaves. However we have come a long way since then. You can take the extreme versions of capitalism and moderate it.

I am trying to get you to look at socialism the same way. There are extreme versions such as Communism. Communism is extreme because it advocates the use of extreme measures such as violent revolution and suppression to introduce a socialist society. Such an approach naturally attracts tyrants such as Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot.

The outcome of such an experience should not be to say all socialism is bad, just as imperialism should not be used to smear all forms of capitalism as bad. What you do, is you identify the good, bad and ugly parts. In my opinion it is not particularly difficult to do so. The ugly part was the insistence on revolution. Socialist who have taken a democratic route as in Nordic countries have not ended up as tyrants.

My motivation for writing about this, is due to the unfair attacks on democratic socialists such as Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn. Right wingers often try to imply that these guys will lead their respective countries into a sort of Stalin style communist dictatorship. That is a preposterous idea.

If human nature doesn´t allow for an ideology to work, than it is more likely the ideology is flawed. Both disregard the individual nature of humans and both want people to turn into a grey mass of obedient zombies.

That is a problem in all extreme forms of ideology. Capitalism is no exception. The extreme individualism at its core is not realistic with respect to human nature. Human nature fundamentally a mix of both collectivist and individualistic traits.

For sensible advocates of either socialism or capitalism, both acknowledge this, but one disagrees on which aspects should dominate society, individualism or collectivism.

Socialism also doesn´t work on a practical level. You just can´t produce the right amount of stuff, in the right time, at the right place. It is just impossible.

I think what you have in mind is the Austrian economists criticism of centralized planned economies, such as the Soviet Union. Their argument was that it is impossible to plan a whole economy. I am totally onboard with that argument. I am very much a proponent of markets, as they offer an elegant solution towards how to distribute information efficiently about where we need to allocate more resources to increase production, and where we can reduce it.

However socialism does not prescribe one form of economic system. There are socialists who believe in markets, such as market socialists. Yugoslavia was an example of a country that practiced market socialism and generally did better than many of the other socialist economies in the old east block. However it was still a dictatorship. Israel may be a better example as early Israel was both democratic and experimented extensively with various forms of market socialism.

The unifying theme for socialists is not planned economy, but rather stronger worker control of the means of production. There are many ways of achieving that. In Germany and Nordic countries e.g. up to half of the company board members are elected by workers. In southern Europe there are quite a lot of worker cooperatives, that is companies where workers own and run the companies. This is very different from say China, where the state owns many of the means of production, but workers generally have zero influence on their own workplace. That is why e.g. some socialists will deem China as state capitalism rather than socialist.

Humans would have to be perfect, super intelligent and selfless creatures, for that to work. But guess what? The same applies to far-right ideologies such as National-Socialism. If humans were perfect, any ideology would work. But that is simply not the case.

Exactly, which is why pure capitalism doesn’t work either. But many on the right seem to pretend it does.

Extreme forms of socialism does not work either. The most socialist Kibbutz in Israel did not become tyrannies, but in the end sharing absolutely everything was something most people eventually concluded they did not prefer. Eventually most Kibbutz in Israel reformed to something closer to social democracy. Meaning there was still many socialist ideas remaining but one allowed for more individualism.

My point is that we should not be afraid of trying out moderate forms of socialism, any more than we should we willing to try moderate forms of capitalism. As long as we are doing it within a democratic system, we are just one election away from rolling back policies that don’t work.

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Geek dad, living in Oslo, Norway with passion for UX, Julia programming, science, teaching, reading and writing.

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