"Comrade Lenin cleans the earth of dirt" by Viktor Deni, November 1930 (Wikipedia)
(Versión en español)
I know that there is a difference between socialism, let’s say, light version, relatively modern and democratic one, and the old, classic and harsh Stalinism. But some lies are the same in all versions and history teaches us that socialism couldn’t be reformed.
Socialists or communists say that in the socialist system there is equality between people. All are trying to work equally according to their capabilities, and receive their share of the goods produced according to their needs.
This is a big lie. Actually there was no equality in socialism. Party leaders, officials, bureaucrats were much more powerful than the workers and peasants. The salary did not matter so much, but somehow they always received a much higher share of the goods produced. They had bigger real estate wealth, much more possibilities to have fun, to travel. They had access to much more advanced sanitary facilities. And many times they didn’t do anything useful in their jobs, their only function was to be loyal to the party.
(If you have not read or seen George Orwell's “Animal Farm”, the best moment is now.)
2. No unemployment
Was there no unemployment in socialism? Apparently, no. They even persecuted those who didn’t have a job, the police bothered them or even arrested them. But in reality, of course there was unemployment – inside the factories. As in total dictatorships, where almost everything is possible, they gave the order to the companies to hire more people than necessary. So many people had jobs in socialist companies but in reality they did not do anything useful. That’s one of the reasons the system wasn’t effective.
Already the names of some countries were a joke. “Federal Germany” and “Democratic Germany”, for example. (The second one was the socialist state.) Elections in socialism are almost always falsified. But many times it was not even necessary because people were too afraid to vote against the party.
For example, I just read this week that in the Democratic Germany, until the last days before his fall, only the people selected by the party were on the election lists. The vast majority of voters just folded his paper list of candidates and threw it into the box. Because of this, the people called the elections “ballot folding” (Zettelfalten.)
People could erase names of the lists, in theory, but for that, they had to enter the polling booths, separated with a curtain. So, if someone entered the booth, the entire polling station and other people present already saw that he was against the party and this could have serious consequences. Generally, almost nobody did this and the elections ended with a result of more than 99 percent, in favor of the party.
In general, people were living in an environment where only very few dared to contradict the powerful. And these few, many times also perished or had to live forgotten, expelled and in misery.
There was no freedom in socialism. Have you heard of the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall? They were to lock people up so they would not escape from socialism. The truth is that this already explains everything. No need to talk about much more.
The citizens of the socialist countries in Europe could only travel to a few socialist countries. Only a few people could leave the Iron Curtain and they also had to leave their house, their relatives or even their own children as security, a pawn. That’s how the state tried to prevent them from leaving forever.
Socialism promised a certain well-being, at least compared to the bad times of war and post-war, or the great crisis of the 1930s-30s. In some cases they managed to grant this welfare, but in other times and countries, no. In Poland or Romania in the 80s, for example, many people were starving. (In the 1950s, in almost all the socialist bloc in Europe people were very poor, but in part still as a result of the Second World War.)
Socialism simply couldn’t maintain a normal life, an adequate standard of living, like capitalism at the same time, at least for most people. What was cheap and abundant were alcohol and tobacco, so that people would forget their sorrows.
In capitalism, stores are mostly full of fantastic products, but many people don’t have money. In socialism, people either have money or not, but the stores are often empty. (There is a scarcity.) You can buy things on the black market, if you can offer something with value in exchange. Money does not always have enough value.
I do not know whether to laugh or cry. The communists killed more or less the same number of people as the fascists and Nazis around history. Joseph Stalin wasn’t a lesser assassin than Adolf Hitler, maybe he was even bigger. Mao Zedong, too. In the Ukraine and in China, millions and millions of people died when their plowland was taken from them, in the process called collectivization, to form enormous agricultural cooperatives. They simply starved, or got shot dead if they protested.
Communist dictators also ordered the execution, internment, exile, imprisonment, displacement of millions and millions of people. In the lighter versions of socialism, in the “dictablandas” or soft dictatorhips, they had other methods.
Soviet Union. A map of several Gulag prison camps between 1923 and 1961, based on data from Memorial, a human rights group. (Wikipedia(Click for higher resolution.)
The enemies of the party received only inferior works, for example they sent university professors to work in libraries in small towns to catalog or order books. Graduates were moved to the farms, many people were locked in psychiatric clinics. Or, in some way or another, they made life impossible for them forcing them to leave their country.
All this not only happened in the big countries like the Soviet Union and China, but also in smaller ones like Albania, Angola, Estonia, Vietnam, Cambodia etc. Wherever we are looking, hunger, death, misery everywhere. (On victims of Castroism in Cuba look for “Castro victims in Cuba” in Google.)
Another promise or lie of the communists was that socialism would be more developed than capitalism. Actually the communists first stole the wealthy people’s goods, stole their factories, stole their houses, real estate, their land. With this they could enrich the state and its followers. Afterwards, as the system was very ineffective, the economy was underperforming, they started taking credits in the 70s and 80s.
Socialist system states could not even feed its citizens, and had to borrow up to their necks to survive. They lived on the money of the hated capitalists of the West, until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. But some countries, now capitalists, are still paying these debts until today.
8. Everything for the people
Another giant lie. Actually the party leaders, the bureaucrats in the offices or the military, army officers followed their own interests, and not the interests of the people. The people worked for the state, and they were said it was for themselves, because the state was the same as the nation.
But the people in his heart did not feel that he was working for his own good, and with reason. They worked without enthusiasm, stole everything from the factories and built their own houses or made their own small businesses to survive or to live better. The black market was an important part of the economy (as it is today also in many dictatorships).
Does all this seem familiar to you? It is not a coincidence. I believe that in Venezuela they made the same mistakes again what ruined the other socialist countries, again and again before. Studying history or reading is very useful ...
To say goodbye, let me ask you 3 things.
Do not think that the fact that capitalism has many failures, means that we should throw it away and choose a worse system, completely failed before.
Do not believe extremists who say that everything is communism what is on their left. Or everything is fascism what is on their right.
Do not confuse socialism - what is a universal system of a whole country - with the parties called “social democrats”. (“Social democracy” not be confused with “democratic socialism”.) Social democracy is something based on capitalism, with broad social support for the people.
Why am I writing so much on this topic lately? Because it is possible that another crisis comes and the rightist governments actually in majority fail. The governments that are leading the largest and most important countries in the world now are mostly right-wingers, such as in the United States, England, Germany or Japan.
In this case, the rebirth of the socialist ideology may come, they may gain ground again. Many people may think that the problem is capitalism itself and the extreme left is what can be the solution of their problems. And this, contemplating history, can cause a new tragedy.