Some Thoughts about Socialism

The Anti-Empire Report

History is littered with post-crisis regulations. If there are undue restrictions on the operations of businesses, they may view it to be their job to get around them, and you sow the seeds of the next crisis.

– Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment analyst, CharlesSchwab & Co., a leading US provider of investment services. ((Washington Post, March 29, 2009))

And so it goes. Corporations, whether financial or not, strive to maximize profit as inevitably as water seeks its own level. We’ve been trying to “regulate” them since the 19th century. Or is it the 18th? Nothing helps for long. You close one loophole and the slime oozes out of another hole. Wall Street has not only an army of lawyers and accountants, but a horde of mathematicians with advanced degrees searching for the perfect equations to separate people from their money. After all the stimulus money has come and gone, after all the speeches by our leaders condemning greed and swearing to reforms, after the last congressional hearing deploring the corporate executives to their faces, the boys of Wall Street, shrugging off a few bruises, will resume churning out their assortment of financial entities, documents, and packages that go by names like hedge funds, derivatives, collateralized debt obligations, index funds, credit default swaps, structured investment vehicles, subprime mortgages, and many other pieces of paper with exotic names, for which, it must be kept in mind, there had been no public need or strident demand. Speculation, bonuses, and scotch will flow again, and the boys will be all the wiser, perhaps shaken a bit that they’re so reviled, but knowing better now what to flaunt and what to disguise.

This is another reminder that communism or socialism have almost always been given just one chance to work, if that much, while capitalism has been given numerous chances to do so following its perennial fiascos. Ralph Nader has observed: “Capitalism will never fail because socialism will always be there to bail it out.”

In the West, one of the most unfortunate results of the Cold War was that 70 years of anti-communist education and media stamped in people’s minds a lasting association between socialism and what the Soviet Union called communism. Socialism meant a dictatorship, it meant Stalinist repression, a suffocating “command economy,” no freedom of enterprise, no freedom to change jobs, few avenues for personal expression, and other similar truths and untruths. This is a set of beliefs clung to even amongst many Americans opposed to US foreign policy. No matter how bad the economy is, Americans think, the only alternative available is something called “communism,” and they know how awful that is.

Adding to the purposeful confusion, the conservatives in England, for 30 years following the end of World War 2, filled the minds of the public with the idea that the Labour Party was socialist, and when recession hit (as it does regularly in capitalist countries) the public was then told, and believed, that “socialism had failed.”

Yet, ever since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, polls taken in Russia have shown a nostalgia for the old system. In the latest example, Russia Now, a Moscow publication that appears as a supplement in the Washington Post, asked Russians: “What socio-economic system do you favor?” The results were: “State planning and distribution”: 58% … “Based on private property and market relations”: 28% … “Hard to say”: 14%. ((Russia Now, in Washington Post, March 25, 2009))

In 1994, Mark Brzezinski (son of Zbigniew) was a Fulbright Scholar teaching in Warsaw. He has written: “I asked my students to define democracy. Expecting a discussion on individual liberties and authentically elected institutions, I was surprised to hear my students respond that to them, democracy means a government obligation to maintain a certain standard of living and to provide health care, education and housing for all. In other words, socialism.” ((Los Angeles Times, September 2, 1994))

Many Americans cannot go along with the notion of a planned, centralized society. To some extent it’s the terminology that bothers them because they were raised to equate a planned society with the worst excesses of Stalinism. Okay, let’s forget the scary labels; let’s describe it as people sitting down to discuss a particular serious societal problem, what the available options there are to solve the problem, and what institutions and forces in the society have the best access, experience, and assets to deliver those options. So, the idea is to prepare these institutions and forces to deal with the problem in a highly organized, rational manner without having to worry about which corporation’s profits might be adversely affected, without relying on “the magic of the marketplace.” Now it happens that all this is usually called “planning” and if the organization and planning stem from a government body it can be called “centralized.” There’s no reason to assume that this has to result in some kind of very authoritarian regime. All of us over a certain age —individually and collectively — have learned a lot about such things from the past. We know the warning signs; that’s why the Bush administration’s authoritarianism was so early and so strongly condemned.

The overwhelming majority of people in the United States work for a salary. They don’t need to be motivated by the quest for profit. It’s not in our genes. Virtually everybody, if given the choice, would prefer to work at jobs where the main motivations are to produce goods and services that improve the quality of life of the society, to help others, and to provide themselves with meaningful and satisfying work. It’s not natural to be primarily motivated by trying to win or steal “customers” from other people, no holds barred, survival of the fittest or the most ruthless.

A major war can be the supreme test of a nation, a time when it’s put under the greatest stress. In World War 2, the US government commandeered the auto manufacturers to make tanks and jeeps instead of private cars. When a pressing need for an atom bomb was seen, Washington did not ask for bids from the private sector; it created the Manhattan Project to do it itself, with no concern for balance sheets or profit and loss statements. Women and blacks were given skilled factory jobs they had been traditionally denied. Hollywood was enlisted to make propaganda films. Indeed, much of the nation’s activities, including farming, manufacturing, mining, communications, labor, education, and cultural undertakings were in some fashion brought under new and significant government control, with the war effort coming before private profit. In peacetime, we can think of socialism as putting people before profit, with all the basics guaranteed — health care, all education, decent housing, food, jobs. Those who swear by free enterprise argue that the “socialism” of World War 2 was instituted only because of the exigencies of the war. That’s true, but it doesn’t alter the key point that it had been immediately recognized by the government that the wasteful and inefficient capitalist system, always in need of proper financial care and feeding, was no way to run a country trying to win a war.

It’s also no way to run a society of human beings with human needs. Most Americans agree with this but are not consciously aware that they hold such a belief. In 1987, nearly half of 1,004 Americans surveyed by the Hearst press believed Karl Marx’s aphorism: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” was to be found in the US Constitution. ((Frank Bernack, Jr., Hearst Corp. President, address to the American Bar Association, early 1987, reported in In These Times magazine (Chicago), June 24-July 7, 1987 ))

Along these lines, I’ve written an essay entitled: “The United States invades, bombs, and kills for it, but do Americans really believe in free enterprise?” ((William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, chapter 26))

I cannot describe in detail what every nut and bolt of my socialist system would look like. That might appear rather pretentious on my part; most of it would evolve through trial and error anyway; the important thing is that the foundation — the crucial factors in making the important decisions — would rest on people’s welfare and the common good coming before profit. Humankind’s desperate need to halt environmental degradation regularly runs smack into the profit motive, as does the American health-care system. It’s more than a matter of ideology; it’s a matter of the quality of life, sustainability, and survival.

“Omission is the most powerful form of lie.” – George Orwell

I am asked occasionally why I am so critical of the mainstream media when I quote from them repeatedly in my writings. The answer is simple. The American media’s gravest shortcoming is much more their errors of omission than their errors of commission. It’s what they leave out that distorts the news more than any factual errors or out-and-out lies. So I can make good use of the facts they report, which a large, rich organization can easier provide than the alternative media.

In early March, the Washington Post ran an article about Iran which stated that “Iranian leaders … reiterated that the Holocaust was ‘a lie’.” The article then went on to add that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “repeated his assertion that the Holocaust is a ‘big lie’.” ((Washington Post, March 5, 2009)) That’s all we’re told. What is the poor reader to conclude but that some Iranian leaders must be amongst that much vilified and ridiculed group called “Holocaust deniers”?

What the article fails to mention is that these Iranian leaders use the word “lie” to refer to only particular features of the Holocaust. There is no report of any of them simply, clearly, unambiguously, and unequivocally asserting that what we know as the Holocaust never took place. Ahmadinejad, for example, has instead commented about the peculiarity and injustice of a Holocaust which took place in Europe resulting in a state for the Jews in the Middle East instead of in Europe. Why are the Palestinians paying a price for a German crime? he asks. And he wonders about the accuracy of the number of Jews — six million — allegedly killed in the Holocaust, as have many other people of all political stripes and nationalities, including the noted Italian author Primo Levi, a Holocaust survivor. Even Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority — Israel and Washington’s favorite Palestinian because of his opposition to Hamas, their least favored Palestinians — wrote in his doctoral dissertation: “The truth of the matter is that no one can verify this number, or completely deny it. In other words, the number of Jewish victims might be 6 million and might be much smaller — even less than 1 million.” ((The Middle East Media Research Institute, “Inquiry and Analysis,” No. 95, May 30, 2002; also see Wikipedia, entry for Mahmoud Abbas, “Doctoral Dissertation” section))

It is also worth noting that at the end of the Post article we learn that “a senior Israeli official in Washington, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not cleared to discuss such matters publicly” has asserted that “Iran would be unlikely to use its missiles in an attack [against Israel] because of the certainty of retaliation.” Really? That’s what I and others have been saying for years. It should have been the story’s headline, not the very last sentence, literally. Yet, we can be certain that Israeli and American officials and their disciples will continue to warn the world of the danger of Iranian missile attacks. So will the Washington Post, engaging in future omissions of its own news story.

What actually has long worried Israeli and US officials about possible Iranian nuclear weapons is not that Iran might attack anyone, but that Israel’s beloved security blanket — being the only nuclear power in the Middle East — would at risk, as might be Washington’s dominance of the area.

Later in March, the Los Angeles Times ran an obituary of Janet Jagan, the former president of Guyana and widow of Cheddi Jagan who had earlier also been president. The obituary says not a word about the fact that for 11 years, 1953-64, two of the oldest democracies in the world, Great Britain and the United States, went to great lengths in their repeated attempts to prevent the democratically elected Cheddi Jagan from occupying his office. ((Los Angeles Times, March 29, 2009. See William Blum, Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, chapter 16 for what was left out ))

I’ve selected these examples of omission virtually at random. If I wanted to report on each media omission concerning significant US foreign policy matters I could fill this newsletter each month with nothing else.

It happens that in late March the Washington Post also provided us with the less common out-and-out lie. In an editorial about the leftist former guerillas in El Salvador, the FMLN, winning the presidential election with their candidate Mauricio Funes, the Post said: “If Mr. Funes as well as the election’s losers now respect the rule of law, the result could be the consolidation of the political system the United States was aiming for when it intervened in El Salvador’s civil war during the 1980s. At the time, the goal of a successful Salvadoran democracy was dismissed as a mission impossible, just as some now say democracy is unattainable in Iraq and Afghanistan.” ((Washington Post, March 21, 2009))

The idea that the US intervention in the Salvadoran civil war stemmed from a desire to bring democracy to the country is so breathtaking in its audacity that it’s conceivable the Post editorial writer is suffering from early-stage Alzheimer’s; it’s wholly comparable to saying that the Apartheid regime of South Africa strove to increase harmony and equality between blacks and whites. In the process of supporting a Salvadoran government of remarkable tyranny, brutality and human-rights violations, the United States provided the country’s armed forces with a never-ending supply of funds, weapons and training that brought continual destruction and suffering to the people of El Salvador. The Post‘s “disclosure” will not send historians scurrying to rewrite their books. Nor can it serve to conceal the fact that the United States is not fighting for “democracy” in Iraq and Afghanistan any more than it did in El Salvador.

The ideology of Barack Obama

In the past two months:

  • US Vice President Joe Biden was asked by reporters at a summit in Chile if Washington plans to put an end to the near-50-year-old economic embargo against Cuba. He replied “No.” ((Miami Herald, March 28, 2009))
  • Israeli authorities broke up a series of Palestinian cultural events in Jerusalem, disrupting a children’s march and bursting balloons at a schoolyard celebration. ((Washington Post, March 22, 2009)) There has not been, nor will there be, any embargo of any kind by the United States against Israel. Nor will President Obama make any comment about what he really feels about invading a children’s party and bursting their balloons.
  • The White House and the Pentagon appear to be having a competition over who can announce the most troops being sent to Afghanistan. Is anyone keeping a body count?
  • US drones continue to drop bombs on people’s homes and wedding parties in Pakistan. No one in Washington publicly admits to this or comments in any way about the legality or morality of it all.
  • Bolivia and Ecuador have expelled American diplomats for what their hosts saw as conspiring to undermine the government.

Any number of other examples can be given of how alike the foreign policies of the Bush and Obama administrations are, how little, if any, change has occurred; certainly nothing of any significance. Yet, my saying such a thing is precisely what most often bothers Obama supporters who read or hear my comments. They’re in love with the man with the toothpaste-advertisement smile, who’s “smart” (whatever that means), who plays basketball, and is not George W. Bush, and his wife who puts her arm around the queen of England.

Obama’s popularity around the world is enhanced, to an important extent, by the fact that he has endeavored to conceal or obscure his real ideology. As an example, in early March, in an interview with the New York Times, he was asked: “Is there a one word name for your philosophy? If you’re not a socialist, are you a liberal? Are you progressive? One word?”

“No, I’m not going to engage in that,” replied the president. ((New York Times, March 7, 2009))

The next day he called the Times reporter, telling him: “It was hard for me to believe that you were entirely serious about that socialist question.” Obama then gave the reporter several examples of why his policies show that he isn’t a socialist. ((New York Times, March 8 2009 ))

He didn’t have to convince me. Obama’s centrist bent is clear to anyone who bothers to look. But after the Times incident — which apparently bothered him — he may have felt the need to be more clear about his ideological leanings to avoid any further silly “socialist” episodes. The next day, meeting at the White House with members of the New Democrat Coalition, a group of centrist Democratic members of the House, Obama said at one point: “I am a New Democrat.” ((Politico magazine, online, March 10, 2009))

Most conservatives will probably continue to see him as a dangerous leftist. They should be happy that Obama is the president and not any kind of real progressive or socialist or even a genuine liberal, but the right wing is greedy.

William Blum is the author of: Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2, Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir, Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire. He can be reached at: Read other articles by William, or visit William's website.

38 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Don Hawkins said on April 5th, 2009 at 10:39am #

    William in just a few months maybe a year the smartest people the good guy’s will know if we will try and save the human race. How much good that will do knowing is the question as we almost never see the good guy’s on TV or hear what they say. Some of us make a point to find out the truth but only a few. So far this doesn’t look good but very bad for the human race. Of course a major weather event will happen event’s but by then to late. Bit of a problem.

  2. Michael Kenny said on April 5th, 2009 at 11:51am #

    A lot of what Mr Blum says about socialism is right but he falls into the classic “end of history” trap of seeing what he calls “capitalism” or “liberalism” and socialism (which, unusually for an American, he distinguishes from communism) as a closed set of immutable ideological alternatives which function like a see-saw: when one comes up, the other goes down. Capitalism is a relatively new ideology, arising in the 18th century, becoming the progressive ideology of the 19th and triumphing by the middle of the 20th, at which point, of course, it was supplanted as the progressive ideology by socialism, which had been challenging it from the mid-19th century, just as it had challenged 18th century absolutism. Logically, that process should continue, with socialism triumphing (which seems to be happening) and being, in its turn, challenged by a new ideology, which will build upon it just as socialism was built on liberalism. So goes the world!

    The other trap he falls into is the very US cold war propaganda he criticises. He assumes that Europeans were subjected to the same propaganda and therefore see “socialism” as a dirty word. That is utterly wrong. Socialism is a perfectly respectable ideology over here and even communism flourished in some countries. Nobody in Europe ever associated socialism with dictatorship. Quite the contrary! The definition of democracy young Brzezinski got is the classic European one, which he would have got anywhere in Europe. In Europe, the state is the protector of the people. If it doesn’t protect them, they just go and get themselves another state! The Germans overthrew Weimar, not because they loved Hitler, but because Weimar had failed to protect them. The French allowed Marshall Pétain to overthrow the IIIrd Republic in 1940 for the same reason. The peoples of Eastern Europe overthrew the communists for that reason also.

    The corollary of that is no “conservatives”, whether “English” or otherwise, were ever able to use socialism as a bogey man. The entire paragraph concerning the British Labour Party is thus pure fiction. The Labour Party was always proudly socialist until the Blair era and people voted for it on the strength of that. Equally, the poll Mr Blum refers to shows, not “a nostalgia for the old system”, but a hankering after the standard European system, which Americans seem to call “statism”, as distinct from the American system, utterly alien to the European mentality, which they got from their Yeltsin-era leaders. Indeed, Putin’s popularity stemmed, precisely, from the fact that he “re-Europeanised” Russia.

  3. Tennessee-Chavizta said on April 5th, 2009 at 2:50pm #


    In this special volume of the series, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez speaks to members of the international press core about the advantages of socialism over capitalism and explains why true democracy cannot exist under the latter. Taped … Full Descriptionon location in Caracas, this briefing is one that will never be shown on American network news and one that should be viewed by anyone who is intrigued by this controversial world leader.

    In this intimate conversation, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez discuss the pros and cons of socialism and capitalism. Using American-style capitalism as an example, he notes how a real democracy cannot thrive under such a system. War, dehumanization, and violence are but a few of its outcomes. Recorded in Caracas, this interview is a thought-provoking window into the mind of one of the world’s most prominent political leaders


  4. HR said on April 5th, 2009 at 3:24pm #

    Socialism? Bring it on. Kaputalism, including its much-worshiped, small-business practicioners, should be allowed to die its much-deserved and long-awaited death, without further delay.

  5. Max Shields said on April 5th, 2009 at 3:38pm #

    Michael Kenny,

    The problem isn’t whether socialism is a “good” ideology” or not in the eyes of say Europeans. The problem, or question, is whether our current problems are rendered solved by implementing socialism?

    The issue isn’t whether or not capitalism is a “good” ideology or not in the eyes of Americans, but whether it too can deal with, rather than make much worse, the situation we’re in.

    Exactly what socialism are we even talking about when we utter that word? Or for that matter, what capitalism are we talking about?

    Do either have anything to offer given the PROBLEM we face as a species? That is the most important question. Whether there is a hidden “boggeyman” behind either is just not the issue.

    We need to deal with the PROBLEM in all of its complexities and understand that neither socialism nor capitalism are the answers. I agree that socialism, in various forms exists, and the Soviet Union and China are but two variations. But where there are “parties” that represent ideas of egalitarianism or social justice and call themselves “socialists” or social democrats seems at best ephemerial. These parties and their ideologies have yet to right the ship of uneconomic growth. Europe may have a few more threads in its social safety net than the US, but it is still on the good ship globalization; it is just as swept up in the plunder, perhas with a degree or two less jubilance than the Yanks, but still….

  6. bozh said on April 5th, 2009 at 3:49pm #

    actually that largest gov’t that we ever had anywhere is the one in US.
    it is elected gov’t that contracts out governance for private profit.
    but the US gov’t had convinced much of US pop for need of smaller gov’t/governance and have conviniently omitted to tell folks that privatization of governace is governance.

    US governance even governs drug usage. it allows the drugs to come in and then wages a long- standing or even a perpetual war on drugs.
    and while home drugs get delivered at the door and street users get thrown in jail or are harrassed in endless number of ways.

    instead of having army, cia, fbi, city police inspecting boats, ships, planes and passengers arriving from abroad, cia and army are all over the place, hunting for a few terrorists to whose existence we have actually contributed or even caused.

    and as blum had noted, democracy can be equated with free higher education and heatlth- care.

    which, of course, the noveau riche [ the corporate sirs, lords, earls] fear as it means more of the of democratization and resulting in their falling dwn a bit from their lofty nests.
    thus warfare. thus crises; thus threats, evocation of grerat perils, etc.; you know, the usual stuff that always works. tnx

  7. bozh said on April 5th, 2009 at 4:07pm #

    the question arises, wld free higher education create more geniuses and people with expert knowledge?
    we can only find out if free education wld be instituted. will US ruling class ever allow free higher education? it hadn’t to date; thus lotsof potential talent is lost.
    but higher education for all wld mean probably a better education as well because most kids fromworking families wld demand they be educated and not miseducated.
    and education may lead to greater democratization process and eventual end to the dictatorship of a minority. tnx

  8. Brian Koontz said on April 5th, 2009 at 7:50pm #

    “This is another reminder that communism or socialism have almost always been given just one chance to work, if that much, while capitalism has been given numerous chances to do so following its perennial fiascos.”

    There’s never been a capitalist fiasco. The “fiascos” created by capitalism have never unduly harmed the capitalist class, so according to them there’s no problem.

    Capitalism *cannot* work for anyone but the capitalist class. It’s like saying socialism works for the wealthy.

    It’s not like the capitalist class will ever decide they created a “fiasco” and agree to move to some other system because “that works” – they define “works” as “what makes us money” – which is precisely what capitalism does.

    So capitalism does, absolutely work. That is to say, it destroys the world and kills millions and then billions of people, but it works because it makes capitalists money. Capitalists don’t care about the world – they care whether or not they have relative amounts of wealth and power. That occurs so capitalism is just fine and dandy, according to them.

    Both capitalism and socialism work. But they work for different people who hold different values.

    As for Soviet communism – it’s similar to modern American capitalism except instead of a few decision makers in society (major multinational corporations) there’s just one (the state, a corporate monopoly). What killed Soviet communism were the policies of the Soviet state – it’s death was not the fault of communism.

    The same holds true for capitalism. If capitalism dies one day it will not be the fault of capitalism but the fault of the *treatment* of capitalism by decision makers. For example, there’s nothing in the laws of capitalism that states that mega-banks must be given trillions of dollars by taxpayers. That’s a policy decision.

    Capitalism, like socialism or communism, is a tool that can be used wisely or poorly.

    We may find, hopefully not before it’s too late, that the best system incorporates elements of capitalism, socialism, and communism.

  9. Hue Longer said on April 5th, 2009 at 9:47pm #

    communism and socialism (whatever definition one wants to use for these) never failed on their own. capitalism from outside and within has always contributed to that failure

  10. Andres Kargar said on April 5th, 2009 at 11:50pm #

    As I’ve mentioned before, compared to capitalism or other previous economic systems, the time-period socialism (or whatever you might call this system-in-transition) existed was only a blink of an eye. Moreover throughout history, humans have never created a model (or come up with an invention) which did not need refining and adjustment. To expect things otherwise would be silly.

    Why is socialism inevitable? Because the people will find ways to make it possible? What is their driving force? Class struggle and the fact that capitalism, in its irrational development and behavior will lead to its own destruction, and if left unchecked, to the destruction of the world.

  11. Deadbeat said on April 6th, 2009 at 4:19am #

    Max Sheilds writes…
    Exactly what socialism are we even talking about when we utter that word? Or for that matter, what capitalism are we talking about?

    The rhetorical question being asked by Shieldsists clearly indicates their lack of knowledge about Capitalism and their desire to confuse and confound readers. There is only ONE kind of Capitalism. Capitalism as a economic system is inherently unfair and only benefits the Capitalist class. It main features is the exploitation of workers and the extraction of surplus value from workers.

    There is only one kind of Socialism which is economic democracy. Economic democracy means participation and education thus for Shieldists to spew such rhetoric is to spew FUD and hope that they can sow enough fear and doubt as to have workers turn away from the development and refinement of ideas that works to serve their interest.

    Many such Shieldists exist on the “Left” in order to retard solidarity which is the only way that change can be affected. Shieldists also use the Fallacy of the Middle Ground to position themselves as “rational” and “thoughtful” thinkers when in reality their agenda is to promote doubt and confusion.

    Therefore it is extremely important for Leftist not only to call out Shieldsists but to reach out to workers, especially the most oppressed workers, and to engage in a real participatory discussions and debate.

  12. Deadbeat said on April 6th, 2009 at 4:27am #

    I agree that socialism, in various forms exists, and the Soviet Union and China are but two variations.

    Another Shieldist fallacy. The USSR and China represents State Capitalism not Socialism. The problem is rather evident that Shieldists do not have an in-depth understanding nor comprehension of Socialism.

  13. Don Hawkins said on April 6th, 2009 at 4:55am #

    a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole. I don’t know how this will play out but one thing for sure we are out of time. The community as a whole and that would be all communities on planet Earth need to work together. That’s what we have been trying to do not really. We need to keep it simple at first think not for profit. Oh no how could I go on oh you could go on.

  14. AaronG said on April 6th, 2009 at 5:11am #

    Capitalism is failing (the human race in general, not the top 3% living off of our sweat). It is failing because a few greedy men at the top are exploiting their fellow humans.

    Socialism has failed in the past. It has failed because a few greedy men at the top exploited their fellow humans.

    Same result. Different name.

    I know some progressives will say “but pure socialism has not had a chance to flourish. Russia wasn’t a good example of socialism because of a few bad apples.” Exactly my point. Humans have, are, and will always exploit their fellow man (regardless of the term applied to its economic or political model) until it is stopped. Venezuela is arguably the best modern example of socialism at work. Question: When will Venezuela reach a point where we can call it “pure socialism”? Probably when the negative right wing influence (including America) is removed. When will that happen…………………..? Correct answer.

    Idealogies belong in the universities as useless theories. A Congolese kid dreaming of his next meal wants to see something work in practice. As he walks past a fruit tree he doesn’t need some well-educated mathematician or economist to tell him that he can’t eat the fruit because he doesn’t have some coins in his pocket. The kid simply expends some energy by reaching out and picking and eating the fruit.

    All current economic models are holding back the human race from flourishing. They have to be removed.

    Sometimes the best solutions are simple. Just ask the kid what he wants and provide it.

  15. Andy said on April 6th, 2009 at 5:20am #

    I’ve lived in China since 2001. It’s got lots of features that are similar to the USA these days.

    A large capitalist economy that is mentored by the state, through which it dumps all costs and losses on the public. Then the whole thing is sold on nationalism and security.

  16. Wingnut said on April 6th, 2009 at 5:46am #

    Hi gang!

    Deadbeat said: There is only one kind of Socialism which is economic democracy.

    I’m not exactly sure what that means… but… there are two primary kinds of socialism, and only one gives economic/empowerment “democracy”.

    True socialism is NOT an economic system. It is the abolishment of ownership and money (economies). Its not STATE ownership, either. Its NO ownership. I don’t think its ever been attempted… but maybe by Quakers and Amish to a degree.

    Half-socialism, uses economies, hierarchies, and ownership, state or private or Team World or whatever. So, there’s so-called socialisms that still use economies, and REAL socialisms that use no money or monetary discrimination. Although the USA military supply system currently uses a capitalism underbelly, its a monetary-discriminationless and ownershipless socialism on the user side. So is the USA public library system. No monetary discrimination is seen in either.

  17. Max Shields said on April 6th, 2009 at 6:30am #

    Wingnut, the socialistic ideal you describe doesn’t/hasn’t exist(ed). Why is that?

    I think if we peel back the problems we can actually begin to solve them. But as long as we go for the easy refrains about an ideal as if it could be plugged and played to our collective delight, we will be forever lost.

    There is no single form of “socialism”. It doesn’t take much understanding of world social structures to realize that. Deadbeat seems to be lack sensiblity of discernment. It is simple black and white.

    I can look at Venezuela and see some very promising developements; but to say this is some kind of ideal socialism is just delusional. Cuba has moved to a more mixed economy. It is a small island with a version of socialism which is differenct than any where else on the planet. That’s perfectly fine by me.

    We cann live with important shared values of peace and justice and the sanctity of all forms of life, and not have cookie cutter social constructs. There are constructs which are, as you say wingnut, hierarchical and thus pathological. These are the constructs that lead to war and hegemony; of domination, driven by greed and fear.

    These tendencies (and they are not alien to the species, let’s not be so naive as to think that there isn’t a mass market for them) must be rooted out for what they are.

  18. bozh said on April 6th, 2009 at 7:04am #

    interpersonal relationship in e. europe had changed in ’90 because of at least several factors:
    1) strong antipathy for the interrelationship set up by socialists/communists.
    2) assiduous propaganda about communists being godless.
    3) incessant demonization of that structure of governance and society.
    4)USSR less developed industry and at onset of socialism a pristine economy.
    5) constant military threat by the west.
    6)enormous fear among the ruling and sacerdotal classes that democratization process may soon get underway if socialism is not destroyed.
    7) need of many people to worship individuals such as john waine, pope, et al. in short, most people everywhere are cultists.
    not enately, tho, but by ‘ learning’.
    from whom? clergy with their jesus and politicians/schooling/media by lifting people to lofty heights; making them into our saviors. tnx

  19. Max Shields said on April 6th, 2009 at 7:13am #

    bozh, the trends in Europe are much like those in the US. The two are imperialistic entities, one sown to the hip of the other. We lean this way, they follow.

    There was Thatcher and Reagan. Then Blair and Clinton/Bush. The Brits have shaped their policies to those of the US. We see Sarkosy in France which was a blend of Bush (for the French); who will shape himself around the new prez of US. As will Merkel.

    The peoples of these nations have disagreed with their gov’ts most vehemently when the gov’t didn’t bring home the goods.

    Americans have been sheep, dismantling unions and social safety nets with glee; voting in the very pols that do such things. America has been a me nation, prone to “I got mine, you get yours” culture of hyper-consumerism.

    But when the bottom falls out of the boat, when the bubble that was fabricrated from the git-go is burst…then, maybe real change will come rolling in. But habits take a while to die; and we have a prez attuned to the nuance of appeasement.

  20. Eric Patton said on April 6th, 2009 at 8:38am #

    “Socialism” is not a well-defined term. “Participatory economics” (or “parecon”) is, and it deserves to be explored.

  21. bozh said on April 6th, 2009 at 9:48am #

    i agree. in many lands too many people like the lordship of the lords rather than the lordship of the people.
    they think that severe competition, individualism, saviors of all kind bring us wealth and security and not the entire people or as i often say, one and the only genetic pool we have.
    but these people choose parasitic class of life to lead us; ignore the fact that a human to be fully human must be interdependent.
    a person cannot live with bread or goodies alone. a person must fully inherit the right to work; to be involved, educated, looked after; in short, to belong and to be valuable.
    do not stars at their gatherings give us that beautiful eyeshine while speaking so charmingly? they do! because they feel/think important/needed/valuable!
    and why are we so sullen. ride a bus or go to a mall and one will see no smiles, no charm; one sees only gloom and doom.
    tnx O, oh lord of ours, for maintainig the old order.

  22. bozh said on April 6th, 2009 at 10:06am #

    eric patton,
    in respect, i say that no ideology can be defined. thus it is best to leave the word like “socialism” undefined.
    in addition, each person defines any ism in his/her way; it is usually a very short verbal explanation. and one admits that everybody is right by own definitio; thus all argumnets stop and we can live a little.

    all a person needs to know is that no ism can be explained; the process of explaining wld include explaining every word in the first definition/explanation and then words of the explanation of words need also defining; and so on; it’s process that never ends.
    that is why people argue for a life time about undefinable terms.

    of course, it is OK to use words like fascism, capitalism, judaism if one keeps in mind that they cannot be elucidated.
    in short one can use them as short cuts. tnx

  23. Dave Silver said on April 6th, 2009 at 11:49am #

    Unfortunately there are many “Left” perspectives like neo(revised)
    Marxism, New Left and Social Democratric that peddle anti-communisn in a Left disguise
    using code words like pluralism democratisation and on the cutting
    edge “Stalinism.”

  24. Hue Longer said on April 6th, 2009 at 3:27pm #


    judging a socialist or communist state based entirely on its failures or even successes ignores the fact that outside influences were there to make sure it didn’t succeed. When under economic siege Cuba- with all its poisoned crops and espionage- is viewed this way it makes the patronizing of their small achievements look just as bad as blaming their government for any failures

  25. Deadbeat said on April 6th, 2009 at 3:57pm #

    AaronG writes…

    Socialism has failed in the past. It has failed because a few greedy men at the top exploited their fellow humans.

    WRONG. It was not the same result because it what existed was not Socialist. Just like the United States lables itself a “Democracy”. Just because the U.S. is not a democracy doesn’t debase striving for democracy. The same is true about Socialism.

    Also I agree with Hue Longer observation that attempt at Socialism was thwarted by the Capitalist class to make sure it couldn’t succeed. His example wrt Cuba is correct and the U.S. attempts to destory their political economy.

  26. bozh said on April 6th, 2009 at 4:23pm #

    well, asocialism or caste system was built over millennia; to obtain free education, healthcare, more or much more egalitarian structure of society, right to work, avoiding warfare, etc., might take centuries and even millennia or until caring one for another seeps dwn to the bones and every cell of peoples bodyminds.
    too many people love fascism; these people are snobs, supremacist, jingoistic; thus retard a better life for all.
    in today’s society, almost none enjoy a true rest from fears, anger, hatred.
    if we keep breaking the laws of nature, it will punish us. global warming is mainly due to humans using and wasting too much; i don’t think nature likes that.
    vengeance is mine says the nature or reality! tnx

  27. Max Shields said on April 6th, 2009 at 5:56pm #

    The issue with Cuba and the US has little to nothing to do with socialism. It has to do with defiance. Cuba dared defy American imperialism, the Munroe Doctrine and the notion of American/US Exceptionalism.

    Castro turned to the Soviet Union and Marxism after the Revolution. The embargo holds in part because of the American/Cuban lobby, but mostly because Cuba did not fall in line with US dictates.

  28. AaronG said on April 6th, 2009 at 6:34pm #


    You claim that the “socialist” experiments did not fail because they “were not Socialist”. That is exactly my point. This idealogy only exists in a theoretical bubble like in a laboratory. That is no good for people who are suffering. My point is, whatever “ism” we have tried throughout the ages the following is an historic fact: man has dominated man to his injury. A group of men have always grabbed power to suit some agenda, regardless of the label we give it – democracy, monarchy, anarchy, socialism, communism, dictatorship, neoliberalism etc are all just various forms of failure and exploitation of people (some obviously better than others!). I think we aren’t digging deep enough when we comment on the “isms”. We aren’t being dissident enough. We should disregard the label and look at the power structures behind the label. Using this analysis we could conclude that America and China DO have a lot in common…..the elites in both countries worship power and the dollar/yuan.

    Max Shields makes a similar point above in respects to Venezuela and Cuba (keep it up Max, I value your comments). In Venezuela’s case, you can’t simply transpose the “socialist” model from the laboratory directly onto a functioning country. There are certain powerful entities that won’t FULLY allow this to happen. Yes, these entities may creep into the background for a while after their failed coup, but they’ll be back. They have bigger and nastier friends than Hugo does. And they wanna make sure that this socialist experiment fails. Or else……

    By the way, an old textbook has some simple and interesting thoughts on the matter:

    But that by means of an equalizing YOUR surplus just now might offset their deficiency, in order that their surplus might also come to offset YOUR deficiency, that an equalizing might take place. Just as it is written: “The person with much did not have too much, and the person with little did not have too little.” 2Cor 8:14,15

  29. Hue Longer said on April 6th, 2009 at 9:49pm #


    I don’t care much for labels but between you and me we can use them to make a point about something. Whether the US looked across the water and noticed some happy utopia that needed crushing or were responding to defiance isn’t the point I was making. Whatever one wishes to call Cuba or Vietnam or Greece; and no matter how close to a popular definition of whatever ism they are/were…..Their dissident failures and successes were not going on without the hand of the US trying to ensure only failures.

    I always find it odd that even leftists begin with the personal “failures” or the dishonesty of mission statements of these places without first (if ever) addressing Jumbo shitting in the living room. Bloom pointed it out in a piece some years back–here he didn’t.

  30. KRGallen said on April 6th, 2009 at 10:57pm #

    The guy who said that some mixture of capitalism, socialism and communism may be what works and the guy who said ultimately it comes down to stopping the few exploiting the many–regardless of labels–seem to be correct. Really, you could recast this whole discussion in terms of spirituality or psychology, i.e., the few are insane for exploiting the many; the potentially good are insane for selling out; the many are just insane because they don’t know how to protect themselves, etc. It all seems to come down to basis questions: let’s get people fed; let’s house them; let’s stop killing millions of people for a buck and destroying the future, etc., etc. No debate, right? Focus on that, use trial and error, and don’t get mezmerized by labels. The mezmerization, a form of conditioning–bad conditioning, which is why we are in this mess, as J. Khrisnamurti well discussed (the spiritual lingo), is part of the problem of our getting this worked out. Just do what is right, however that can be done at the time.

  31. Deadbeat said on April 7th, 2009 at 3:33am #

    AaronG writes…

    [Socialism] only exists in a theoretical bubble like in a laboratory.

    Then by your own argument Democracy exists in a theoretical bubble like in a laboratory. However people who are suffering do have an understanding of what Democracy is and they know that it is not reaching them. Therefore by your own argument you think we aren’t digging deep enough when we comment on the “isms”.

    The problem is you want to run from the ideas and tenets of Socialism rather than fight and struggle for them. Replace Socialism with Democracy (which is an “ism”) and you’ll see the absurdity and fallacy of the Shieldsists argument.

    The problem is the indoctrination and propaganda especially the Cold War rhetoric and against Socialism and the neo-liberal arguments of the past 30 years. Clearly Socialism ADDRESSES POWER, and EXPLOITATION and INEQUALITY. Perhaps you should educate yourself as to what Socialism means before you interject your rhetoric.

    The rhetoric of Shieldsists is to confound and to confuse workers and to pose as Leftist rhetoric while simultaneously debase Socialism as merely another “ism”. Socialism is WELL DEFINED and understood. The problem, AaronG, is that you lack a historical perspective and have been indoctrinated into believing the distortions that the ruling class has put forth and cowardly “leftist” like Max Shields who promote in classic Chomskyesque fashion fear uncertainty and doubt (FUD) rather than clarity.

    For example the NAZI party of German labeled themselves “National Socialist” (which for Socialist is an oxymoron) . Did that represent Socialism? Of course not. Does the Democratic Party represent Democracy? Of course not.

    The problem for people who are suffering that you are concerned about is that the Left HAS NOT acted with Socialist ideas and tenets otherwise Socialism would be unambiguously EMBRACED by people who are suffering and there would be real SOLIDARITY. However the “Left” has allowed themselves to be ACTORS in RETARDING solidarity and this phony discussion on “ism” is one that will RETARD building solidarity among the people who are suffering.

    And going back to Hue Longer observation, if we take a look at the Black Panthers and see how they ENGAGED the community and were trusted by the community, their building solidarity with the community was seen as a THREAT to the U.S. and had to be destroyed by COINTELPRO. They were clearly Marxist and embraced a Socialist program, ideas, and tenets. Did Socialism fail or did the ruling class exercise their power to CRUSH them?

    In Venezuela’s case, you can’t simply transpose the “socialist” model from the laboratory directly onto a functioning country.

    What is going on in Venezuela is a STRUGGLE from the GRASSROOTS to move their nation towards Socialism. Chavez is doing this by by building coalitions and in stages. He calls his vision “21st Century Socialism”. But the point is that he is laying out a vision that his supporters CAN STRIVE TOWARDS. That’s the point. There MUST BE IDEOLOGY that paints a pictures of the kind of society that people are STRUGGLING toward. This is how you MAINTAIN SOLIDARITY. Otherwise what you will have is temporary alliances that will eventually breakdown and easily be defeated.

    What Sheidsists like yourself do not realize is how to effectively build and maintain SOLIDARITY. Shieldsism is at best extremely naive and at worst a well disguised form of anti-socialist rhetoric.

  32. Deadbeat said on April 7th, 2009 at 3:40am #

    AaronG writes…
    Yes, these entities may creep into the background for a while after their failed coup, but they’ll be back. They have bigger and nastier friends than Hugo does.

    It is clear Aaron has drunk the Shieldists kool-aid. One of the fallacies of Shieldsism is failing to do in-depth analysis. What Aaron neglects is WHY Chavez survived the coup and why the U.S. has been unsuccessful in toppling him. The same analysis BTW would be needed for Castro as well. Clearly Venezuela is in a much stronger position then Cuba ever was and still is.

  33. Deadbeat said on April 7th, 2009 at 3:52am #

    Here’s a pretty good presentation on what Socialism is…

    Socialism vs. Capitalism. (Part One)

  34. Max Shields said on April 7th, 2009 at 5:16am #

    Hue Longer,

    I don’t disagree that the US is every where but ideology is less the empire’s interest. I think that’s an important distinction (not to mention the topic of Blum’s article here). Whether the US goes into Afghanistan, Iraq, or funds killing squads in Central America, ideology is only a pretext for power and domination.

    Because there are those, like Deadbeat, who seem to have a rosy colored view of socialism as a simple flip whereby workers “rule”, racism is a thing of the past and we all sing kumbaya, there is another “conversation” at play here.

    The implementation of an “ism” is not going to “give” anything. We are going to look square at the problems and work to determine root causes. The US is a preditory State. If it called itself a socialist state, it would still be a preditory state. (It calls itself a free democracy for christsake!) Yes, the labels are worthless.

    That’s not to say that we should avoid all labels, but rather be very wary of them, particularly as they come into favor and are coopted. Once we get the Owellian wheels rolling which end is up and which is down becomes anybodies guess.

    To stir a steady course through the morase of disinformation and propaganda, stick to the problems, keep labels minimal but use until they are corrupted (which happens as soon as they gain popular traction). I don’t think popping from US economic collapse to the socialist “life boat” is smart – in fact it seems rather reactionary, and relatively thoughtless.

  35. Max Shields said on April 7th, 2009 at 5:19am #

    correction: that’s “steer a steady course…”

  36. bozh said on April 7th, 2009 at 7:48am #

    to me, the greatest ill that befell us was a few people’s usurpation of communal life or our well-functioning kommunities; i.e., kommunism.
    it probably started with shamanism; which later evolved into more subtle and vitiating cults.

    had our ancestors understood what shamans/priests were up to, the classful order may have been prevented. however, when one observes what the same shamanistic process in US had been doing for 4 centuries, one can also see that 98% of usans have not noticed anything amiss.

    this may have happened to our forebipeds. for if they had realized what the sacerdotal and shamanistic classes were up to, they wld have killed all of them.
    and today we wld, in morto, given them the highest honors. but in ‘eternity’ of time, the slaughter of shamans might still happen.
    either that or threaten them with exile to moon where they can chant all those lamentations, halftruths, lies, etc. tnx

  37. Garrett said on April 7th, 2009 at 8:16am #

    KR wrote, “let’s get people fed; let’s house them; let’s stop killing millions of people for a buck and destroying the future, etc., etc.”

    Precisely. It’ll be tough enough accomplishing those things without putting a label on it…a label that many react to viscerally.

  38. Max Shields said on April 8th, 2009 at 5:11am #

    While I DB and I disagree on the process of thinking through a problem (perhaps even the identification of the problem itself), I will say, contrary to his rhetoric demonizing my attempts at looking squarely at the problem, that we agree on one very important point: solidarity.

    Without a community, connected throughout the landscape, near and far, there will be no real change.

    We have fundamental social structures which inhibit this community from forming deep ties and creating a powerful movement.

    I do not think this should be a movement based on the past, on single issues, on racism (per se) or on workers’ rights (per se). What fractures this movement is that it is always pigeon-holed. Coalitions must be built and sustained. A means of transforming and reconfiguring the local power structures, to make them more participatory and democratic. Build out from there. The notion of grand marches, have long past as a means of creating effective and enduring change. If those happen from a deep connection, or through a broad and deep movement then marches can be useful. But as relatively spontaneous events, they are simply marginalized and filtered to the point of wasted energy (like the sun’s energy hitting a desert).

    The forces beyond our control, the dissolution, the collapse of this social structure is in process. How it will play out will emerge. But action can be taken, and taken now to have in place a connected and thoughtful purposeful movement. The alternative is simply more concentration of power and tyranny of a very few.