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Op-Ed

Communism 101: Socialism by Any Other Name

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The election years are always accompanied by the polarization of the political discourse, which is used by politicians to mobilize their electorate. But sometimes political hysteria goes over the top, like what is happening right now among a Democratic Party that is radicalizing with breakneck speed.

The end of capitalism, social ownership of corporations, Medicare for all, free college education, federal job guarantee, open borders, strict gun control — the Democrats don’t shy away from positioning themselves as socialists anymore.

Indeed, an “S-word” that had been offensive ever since the end of the Cold War is becoming trendy again. An appeal of the socialist ideas is surging among the ordinary Americans, too. According to a recent Gallup poll, 57 percent of Democrats and 16 percent of Republicans have positive views of socialism.

When reading the platform of the rapidly growing Democratic Socialists of America organization, one may experience a sticky feeling of déjà vu. It all has been said many times before. It all has been tried.

Yes, there are social issues that need to be addressed, but socialist methods have been proved to be inefficient to fix them. On the contrary, they often either make things worse or create new problems on top of the existing ones.

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A little more than 100 years ago, the “Great October Socialist Revolution” started the largest socialist experiment on Earth. Obviously, most DSA members and far-left Democrats deny their sympathies to Soviet socialism and call it an “authoritarian communist state” while depicting themselves as true supporters of democracy.

All prominent ideologists of the class theory believed that socialism was the most democratic and fair system since it represents the absolute majority of people — workers and peasants, while capitalism only represented interests of bourgeoises.

The verbal equilibristics of the left must not deceive us: According to their own theory, socialism is just a transitional stage between capitalism and communism, or “communism lite.” Thus, it’s probably a good time to briefly review the basic principles of the Soviet socialism to understand a phenomenon of socialism better, and to decide if that is what we want for America.

Government: The constitution of the USSR declared that all power belonged to the people, that exercised it through the Councils of People’s Deputies. But very soon it became evident that was far from reality.
The democracy of the USSR was personified by the Communist Party, a super-organization that did not have any analogies in the world history. It was called a “leading and guiding force of the Soviet society and the nucleus of its political system.” By the mid 1920s, there were no other parties or political organizations left in the USSR.

Ultimately, the party and the state collided. The real power belonged to the so-called nomenklatura — a privileged bureaucratic group of party appointees, barely 1.5 percent of population, who ran all spheres of the country’s activities.

While proclaiming a classless, self-governed communist society an ultimate goal while viewing state structures as an apparatus of oppression, the USSR had transformed into a highly bureaucratic and over-regulated state.
All those who disagreed with being dragged into the communist paradise with the iron fist were punished. To a certain extent, the massive political repressions proceeded throughout the whole Soviet era, and cost the lives of nearly 20 million people.

The system that had been declared to present an unseen level of freedom and democracy turned into the very opposite of those ideals.

Economy: An ultimate economic goal of the USSR was a development of the communist society of the universal welfare. This goal was perfectly summarized by Karl Marx, who said, “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”

The USSR had adopted centralized administrative planning while nationalizing all means of productions and eliminating the private ownership in agriculture and any private enterprise whatsoever. Industrial manufacturing had been viewed as a priority of the economic development.

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As the result, the USSR soon became one of the most industrially developed countries. According to the economist Mathew Johnson, “The impressive performance was largely due to the fact that, as an underdeveloped economy, the Soviet Union could adopt Western technology while forcibly mobilizing resources to implement and utilize such technology […] However, once the country began to catch up with the West, its ability to borrow ever-newer technologies, and the productivity effects that came with it, soon diminished.”

It turned out that the tremendous mobilization and centralization could only be effective for a short period of time and worked best during crises, but was highly inefficient in the peaceful everyday life. Eventually, the economy entered a long period of stagnation as the system did not offer any motivation to increase productivity of labor. Simultaneously, the disproportion between the industrial production and production of customer goods remained extremely high — 2/3 to 1/3, accordingly.

The degradation of the nomenklatura directly affected the quality of the decision-making. The government was unable to adequately react to the challenges, such as dynamically growing consumer demand, decrease of the oil prices in mid-1980s, burden of the arms race, decrease of the labor efficiency in all sectors of the economy and many others.

Economic decline paired with the people’s fatigue from the political hypocrisy and farce, when the promised communism had been constantly delayed, and Party leaders were nearly worshiped by the official propaganda but were evidently pathetic and corrupted. The result was massive dissatisfaction with the existing system, and the USSR eventually collapsed.

Despite hopes and expectations, the downfall of the USSR did not lead to the automatic establishment of the Western-type capitalism, as the people who took over control were far from adept at free markets, human rights and democracy. Eventually, a “crony capitalism” meant to enrich only their rulers was established in virtually every post-Soviet country.

The USSR gave us a very important lesson on the mechanisms of a socialism, a highly undemocratic, unproductive and bloody system. That is why it is so terrifying to witness its raising popularity in the “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.”

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