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Why hasn't communism or socialism worked?


OverSword

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Posted (edited)

It seems like the ideals of equality and security are the attraction toward a communist or socialist system, and that system should theoretically work best under a democratic government, in which the people play an active role and hold equal stakes in success.  But for some reason democracy does not ever flourish under these systems and the main equality is that most people are equally poor and afraid of authority and those systems are all seemingly eventually run by a strong man figure or dictator.  Any thoughts as to why this system has never made it past this flaw?

Edited by OverSword
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I suggest that it's the same reason all political, governmental, and economical systems eventually fail.... Greed.

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The egalitarian sales pitch starts out sounding wonderful.  IMO the mechanics would require intense social involvement and organization from the average citizen.   Also IMO human society is not capable of that amount of egalitarian coordination.

So it becomes a tool for the leaders who are going to bring about this state.  I don't think it can happen from the top if the population is waiting for instructions rather than acting in their own best interest.  And finally it devolves into a lullaby to calm the population as the leaders take all of the resources to "manage" them.  

And lest we get too smug, no system is immune to a distracting lullaby and a resource grab by the elite.   Also IMO If you are brave enough to take a close look, all the promises about inflation or bringing us to the promised land are those same sort of a song to keep us in control while our resources flow to the leaders.

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It could also be the case that such government has only been tried in populations that are accustomed to oppression and not participating in their own governing so it was difficult to encourage participation and easy to dictate.

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Human nature.  We are still a very immature species.

Socialism/communism are ideals and in theory can work in a small community.   But the larger the number of people involved, the larger the risk of someone with sociopathic tendancies (which are not uncommon) being involved, and such people will always exploit others for their own gain.  


 

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Posted (edited)

Hmmm, how do you combine democracy with socialism? In a true democracy, people can vote for whatever they want to. Sure, some people will vote for democratic socialism but that won't lead to a socialist state since the socialists will only govern now and then, and even when they do govern, they probably have to compromise with other non-socialist parties since it is very unlikely that they get so many votes so they can do whatever they want to.

Edited by fred_mc
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5 minutes ago, fred_mc said:

Hmmm, how do you combine democracy with socialism? In a true democracy, people can vote for whatever they want to. Sure, some people will vote for democratic socialism but that won't lead to a socialist state since the socialists will only govern now and then, and even when they do govern, they probably have to compromise with other non-socialist parties since it is very unlikely that they get so many votes so they can do whatever they want to.

Representative communism, the same way we have a representative republic.

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We do not and never had a democracy either.  It's another ideal.  Theoretically possible in a small community.  But impossible in a larger human society due to our immaturity and the prevalence of sociopaths. 

What we all have - to varying degrees - are oligarchies.     And if you don't belive me, try becoming a US or Russian president or UK Prime Minister or without money and very rich friends.

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3 hours ago, OverSword said:

It could also be the case that such government has only been tried in populations that are accustomed to oppression and not participating in their own governing so it was difficult to encourage participation and easy to dictate.

You might be on to something.  I have been reading about Russia out of curiosity since the Ukraine war started.  They are not just like us, and their history is very different.  Imperial Russia was  a land of multiple conquered people and a core around Moscow and a few other cities  that are the Russia people.  There was a rigid autocratic system with royalty on top and serfs on the bottom, who were not treated with any autonomy and few rights.  Beyond the core of Russia, what are now the independent Republics were once nations in their own right.  Siberia was and is used as a resource for resources and manpower.  Siberian villages are still being stripped of men by conscription in far larger numbers than in Russia  proper.

Even reading the current propaganda from Russian state sources, that attitude is clear. Nobody gets much respect, but ethnic Russians are spared a few of the hardships imposed on minority populations.  Maybe not so different in China.  An uneducated  population conditioned to following orders and with no dreams of improvement probably don't make good candidates for  operating their own collectives and keeping some of the prosperity for themselves.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Essan said:

Human nature.  We are still a very immature species.

Socialism/communism are ideals and in theory can work in a small community.   But the larger the number of people involved, the larger the risk of someone with sociopathic tendancies (which are not uncommon) being involved, and such people will always exploit others for their own gain.  

You don't need to be sociopathic. You just need to be in charge of large sums of money, and someone you know, or your family, are in dire need, and it is easy to justify filtering money away for private use. Once you justify a life-saving operation, why not a yacht to recuperate on?

That's why we need the rule of law and the separation of powers in govt. Which communism doesn't supply, but a capitalist democracy does- or should do.

Edited by pellinore
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14 hours ago, OverSword said:

It seems like the ideals of equality and security are the attraction toward a communist or socialist system, and that system should theoretically work best under a democratic government, in which the people play an active role and hold equal stakes in success.  But for some reason democracy does not ever flourish under these systems and the main equality is that most people are equally poor and afraid of authority and those systems are all seemingly eventually run by a strong man figure or dictator.  Any thoughts as to why this system has never made it past this flaw?


There are many democratic socialist countries in Europe and the world and which are experiencing high prosperity levels and democratic leaders . The welfare systems ensure free housing, education and healthcare for the poor and needy, and this enables them to focus solely on their social and financial development.

They have a healthy combination of capitalism and socialism.

Capitalism ensures that the highly competent and skilled gets rich and their due.Socialism on the other hand ensures that the poor and needy gets the necessities of life to emerge as future capitalists themselves through education and work ethics.

 The danger of capitalism alone in a democratic nation however is plutocracy where powerful capitalists dictate the policies for a nation and the elected democratic leaders follow the script as they are dependent on the finances of the capitalists for their huge campaign costs and party funds. Such policies can be unethical and can be detrimental to the nation in the long run. 

Socialist principles empower the masses and help to check such policies, and ensure that the collective well-being is prioritized or at least balanced with respect to powerful plutocratic entities used to having their way.

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Socialism, full blown Socialism, that is, has failed in every country that's tried it. Those that linger on as some watered-down version of true Socialism, do so as parasites on the body politic of true Capitalist Democracies. Only in ideological fantasy does a government controlling everything ever work. Bolsheviks considered Socialism the framework on which to build Communism.

Three Nations That Tried Socialism and Rejected It | The Heritage Foundation

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On 3/16/2024 at 12:14 AM, Ajay0 said:

There are many democratic socialist countries in Europe and the world and which are experiencing high prosperity levels and democratic leaders .

In this case I’m not talking about social programs I’m referring to a system in which the government controls and owns the means of production. In other words socialist or communist as in the dictionary definition which is essentially the same for both. What are talking about is capitalism in which government runs a social safety net. 

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18 hours ago, Hammerclaw said:

Socialism, full blown Socialism, that is, has failed in every country that's tried it. Those that linger on as some watered-down version of true Socialism, do so as parasites on the body politic of true Capitalist Democracies. Only in ideological fantasy does a government controlling everything ever work. Bolsheviks considered Socialism the framework on which to build Communism.

Three Nations That Tried Socialism and Rejected It | The Heritage Foundation

Im theorizing that a reason these examples have all failed is because they were imposed on populations that have always lived under dictatorship making them reluctant to participate in their own governance out of fear and mistrust of any system. I’m questioning if that would be the result if the people were truly allowed and desired to participate and if the proper control’s against a strongman were built into the system. 
 Don’t get me wrong here, I’m a capitalist through and through I’m just theorizing. 

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2 hours ago, OverSword said:

Im theorizing that a reason these examples have all failed is because they were imposed on populations that have always lived under dictatorship making them reluctant to participate in their own governance out of fear and mistrust of any system. I’m questioning if that would be the result if the people were truly allowed and desired to participate and if the proper control’s against a strongman were built into the system. 
 Don’t get me wrong here, I’m a capitalist through and through I’m just theorizing. 

The experience with Socialism in Sweden has many lessons to teach.

How Sweden Overcame Socialism - WSJ

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On 3/16/2024 at 3:51 AM, OverSword said:

Why hasn't communism or socialism worked?

This usually requires agreement on definitions which can vary greatly, as people usually choose one that suits their pov. Communism is ultimately a stateless society which could probably never work at nation level anyway. It's pie in the sky stuff.

But if you don't think China has been a success (or a form of socialism), what metric are you using? The world's most powerful economy in real terms (in PPP they overtook the US in 2014) who doesn't conduct business by military invasions, sanctions or coups to get its way. It's people seem happy enough. Standard of living keeps rising. It appears they learnt a lot about what not to do from the Soviet experiment.

One problem is that these systems are often the result of huge turmoil when things get so bad that civil war, revolution and even proxy war (eg Vietnam) is resorted to and can last a while. The vacuum and instability is usually filled with harsh dictators/govts who feel the need control things with an iron fist. As well as the normal tendency of all forms of govt for corruption.

The US led west often makes it its mission in life to cause them to fail also (greed caused them to wait until far too late with China).

Regardless of how you feel about governance (I don't support any type of govt in the world at the moment) in purely economic terms the worlds two modern miracles have both been socialist and had this as their genesis. After the Russian revolution they went from a poor nation of agrarian peasants to a superpower rivalling the US within a matter of decades (and had to win a major war in Europe at huge cost along the way). China also rose to the world's foremost industrial and tech superpower (despite what western propaganda might say) also within a matter of decades. It seems state planned economics has huge advantages over western style economics. Probably why the west resorts to exactly that style when their economies fail (or in times of war, or when banks collapse), to get them back on track.

Quote

It seems like the ideals of equality and security are the attraction toward a communist or socialist system, and that system should theoretically work best under a democratic government, in which the people play an active role and hold equal stakes in success.

As Churchill said...democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other ones they tried...But this not only overlooks why they failed (usually had more than a little help), but rather boastfully defines modern western governance as democratic.

So called Democratic Socialist governments have been the most successful IMO, in any sociological sense. Most notably in certain Nordic/Scandinavian countries before neoconservative social and economic ideology took over the west.

There is also the fact that for countries of strategic or resource importance to the west (US and UK), they simply won't allow such governments who don't play ball. As shown in Iran when the democratically elected Mossadegh govt won the right to nationalise their oil resources. It didn't last long and was replaced in a UK/US financed coup with a puppet dictatorship (only cost 10 million according to Kermy Roosevelt). Similar thing happening in Venezuela at the moment where the US wants a right wing govt sympathetic subordinate to US corporate interests. Such countries usually get sanctioned to oblivion also. Wonder why they fail?

The ancient Greeks knew quite well what the systems based on popularity contests result in (corrupt oligarchies) and why they could never amount to a democracy.

Do any Europeans remember voting for von der Leyen? With leaders in places like France, Germany, UK and Japan regularly having approval ratings in the low 20%s how could these be considered democracy? Boerbock claimed openly that she "didn't care what the people want" regarding a German foreign/finance policy that seemed quite clearly not in their best interests. Democracy? 

In the US out of 260 million odd adults, there is only a real choice between 2...between a corrupt warmonger with dementia, or a shonky real estate salesman with a terrible case of NPD. If that's the best you can do, is that really a democracy in any meaningful sense? Galloway put it quite eloquently re the UK, but it's much the same throughout the west, where the choice amounts to choosing between "two cheeks of the same ****". Or Billy Tweed "I don't care who does the electing, as long as I do the nominating".

Despite having every advantage and all of the resources and power to mold the world any way it wants and scupper all forms of govt it opposes, western democracy itself has been failing and in decline for decades.

Quote

 But for some reason democracy does not ever flourish under these systems and the main equality is that most people are equally poor and afraid of authority and those systems are all seemingly eventually run by a strong man figure or dictator.  Any thoughts as to why this system has never made it past this flaw?

Again, Democratic Socialism has been by far the most successful form of govt (for the masses) IMO.

It's worth noting that what many would consider the most destructive govt of all time (Nazis) arose out of what was considered quite an enlightened western democracy and had quite a lot in common with other western powers. So it hasn't all been wine and roses either. The Brits probably don't need mentioning, but the US itself rose to prominence on the back of genocide, slavery and land theft via military action (though more successful than the Nazis).

Had they (Nazis) won in the east and gained unfettered access Soviet resources they would have been a juggernaut and probably still be the world's superpower, the Deutschmark would probably be the world's monetary unit. This was the immediate fear of the west. What they also had in common (with the Nazis) apart from militarism, colonialism and genocide was an open and irrational fear and hatred of socialism/communism. That's why much of the US and western effort towards the end of the war was aimed at containing and undermining the soviets, although it's not spun that way.

It's still all about Empires and hasn't really changed that much over the centuries, whether a monarchy, a dictatorship or a faux democracy.

I see this as part of natural evolution, a long and hard won struggle from slavery--> feudalism--> more acceptable form of feudalism (which we have at the moment)--> something better?

We need change. With the obvious and continuing US decline and rise of the global south it will be interesting which way things go. I would be happy enough to try genuine democracy at the moment.

 

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On 3/16/2024 at 6:48 PM, Hammerclaw said:

Socialism, full blown Socialism, that is, has failed in every country that's tried it.

Has full blown Capitalism ever succeeded?  Not sure the degree to which it's ever been tried actually.

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32 minutes ago, Liquid Gardens said:

Has full blown Capitalism ever succeeded?  Not sure the degree to which it's ever been tried actually.

Capitalism is better to harness, not lead to the slaughter. Full-blown capitalism is always successful, as wild beasts are without taming. A Democracy has to harness and regulate it, so it doesn't run roughshod over the people and better serves their needs. The Gilded Age was about as full blown as capitalism can get.

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1 hour ago, Hammerclaw said:

A Democracy has to harness and regulate it, so it doesn't run roughshod over the people and better serves their needs.

Agreed.  I'm not sure the extent to which this is accurate political philosophy-wise but I think regulation is considered by some to be more in line with 'socialism', which if so is a little ironic that Capitalism needs potentially 'socialistic' adjustments in order to 'succeed'.  Also, to those who think simplistically that 'socialism is bad' (not you), one way that capitalism doesn't always 'succeed' is that it can ironically encourage those who have been run roughshod over to promote socialistic/anti-capitalist ideas in response; not sure but I think sympathy/encouragement of 'socialistic ideas' may be slightly up in the US (especially if you don't actually use the word 'socialism').

To me it just goes back to all things in moderation, the most successful setups seem to be a combination of the two philosophies.

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2 hours ago, Liquid Gardens said:

Agreed.  I'm not sure the extent to which this is accurate political philosophy-wise but I think regulation is considered by some to be more in line with 'socialism', which if so is a little ironic that Capitalism needs potentially 'socialistic' adjustments in order to 'succeed'.  Also, to those who think simplistically that 'socialism is bad' (not you), one way that capitalism doesn't always 'succeed' is that it can ironically encourage those who have been run roughshod over to promote socialistic/anti-capitalist ideas in response; not sure but I think sympathy/encouragement of 'socialistic ideas' may be slightly up in the US (especially if you don't actually use the word 'socialism').

To me it just goes back to all things in moderation, the most successful setups seem to be a combination of the two philosophies.

Lack of moderation is a problem with everything.

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Posted (edited)
12 hours ago, Horta said:

But if you don't think China has been a success (or a form of socialism), what metric are you using?

I would say the metric is repression.  If your system requires government mandated thought control like they have in China (think social score and laws declaring anything Xi says the truth) then it's a failure.  As far as your comments about economic miracle for China I would state that without the industrial know-how and moving jobs to Asia for cheap labor from the West that does not happen.  In other words China owes any prosperity is has to capitalism.

12 hours ago, Horta said:

Again, Democratic Socialism has been by far the most successful form of govt (for the masses) IMO.

I don't think that you can actually label a country with a strong social safety net as socialist according to what I laid down for this discussion.  The countries you are referring to are capitalist.  Otherwise well thought out post.

Edited by OverSword
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2 hours ago, Liquid Gardens said:

Agreed.  I'm not sure the extent to which this is accurate political philosophy-wise but I think regulation is considered by some to be more in line with 'socialism', which if so is a little ironic that Capitalism needs potentially 'socialistic' adjustments in order to 'succeed'.  Also, to those who think simplistically that 'socialism is bad' (not you), one way that capitalism doesn't always 'succeed' is that it can ironically encourage those who have been run roughshod over to promote socialistic/anti-capitalist ideas in response; not sure but I think sympathy/encouragement of 'socialistic ideas' may be slightly up in the US (especially if you don't actually use the word 'socialism').

To me it just goes back to all things in moderation, the most successful setups seem to be a combination of the two philosophies.

I don't think that regulation qualifies as socialism.  In socialism the government on behalf of the population controls the means of production (and pretty much anything else) If the population were free and had the means to monitor and correct/redress corruption at the managerial governmental levels it could possibly work as well as anything we currently have.  I would predict economically that it would have less potential for dynamic growth than our current system though.

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On 3/15/2024 at 1:18 PM, Alex_Rogan said:

I suggest that it's the same reason all political, governmental, and economical systems eventually fail.... Greed.

@OverSword This.

Like MLK said. The profit needs to be taken out of poverty.

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3 hours ago, Liquid Gardens said:

Agreed.  I'm not sure the extent to which this is accurate political philosophy-wise but I think regulation is considered by some to be more in line with 'socialism', which if so is a little ironic that Capitalism needs potentially 'socialistic' adjustments in order to 'succeed'.  Also, to those who think simplistically that 'socialism is bad' (not you), one way that capitalism doesn't always 'succeed' is that it can ironically encourage those who have been run roughshod over to promote socialistic/anti-capitalist ideas in response; not sure but I think sympathy/encouragement of 'socialistic ideas' may be slightly up in the US (especially if you don't actually use the word 'socialism').

To me it just goes back to all things in moderation, the most successful setups seem to be a combination of the two philosophies.

There's also confusion between the terms Socialism, which is a dogmatic political system, sort of "Communism with a Human Face." (Czechoslovakia 1968) and the term Socialist, referring to any government program, proactive in the care and maintenance of citizen's needs (Social Security, Medicare, etct.).

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44 minutes ago, Hammerclaw said:

There's also confusion between the terms Socialism, which is a dogmatic political system, sort of "Communism with a Human Face." (Czechoslovakia 1968) and the term Socialist, referring to any government program, proactive in the care and maintenance of citizen's needs (Social Security, Medicare, etct.).

True, I would think that the Socialism-as-dogmatic-system includes the Socialist-as-govt-programs definition within it.  I didn't really ever study politics at any length but seems like the opposite of Socialism is sometimes Capitalism and sometimes Democracy, which although often linked and overlap are technically different things.

I know almost zero about it but I've always wondered about how well Vietnam fits in the 'Communism is bad' thesis.  During the war we lost lots of young Americans, killed/participated in killing hundreds-of-thousands of Vietnamese, committed plenty of war crimes, and bombed and burned the everloving hell out of their country... all in a failed effort to prevent them from becoming the rather (or 'relatively') 'successful' Communist country they are today?  I plead total ignorance on the details, but I don't seem to hear much about how oppressed the Vietnamese are or about massive injustices, and it looks like the Dept of State has given them a safety rating of 1 for travelers which is the best.

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