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  • What is Socialism Nowadays (III)
Published 26 October 2014
Capitalism was an enormous step forward in human development when compared to slavery and feudal ages of mankind, but this does not mean we reached the end of the ladder.

Let us conduct a brief review of real socialism, a review that steps out from books to the real world.

Our first stop is in Russia at the end of the First World War, were the Bolshevik Party and others got rid of the Tsar and the royal family and soon thereafter defeated the bourgeois government of Kerensky, expelled the nobility that owned the land and proceeded to install a popular and socialist state.

Until then there was no other experience of a Socialist State. Yes, the socialist utopists wrote about it and the Jacobins of the French Revolution did apply some reforms of socialist inspiration that lasted very little time.  

When de October Revolution occurred, scientific socialism was implanted supposedly on a basis that was well established in Capital, that gigantic work of Marx and Engels that examined capitalism of the XIX century and in the Communist Manifest where they presented an economic, social and political program, which the Bolshevik party and Vladimir Lenin were the first to put in practice. In these books are the fundamentals of scientific socialism and it was the Bolshevik Party that gained power for the first time in the world in the name of Socialism, so the expectation then was that the program of the Communist Manifesto should deliver a State founded in a new order that would change the relations of production among classes and march towards Socialism. The admiration that all progressive people of the world had in what started to take place in Russia was very strong. Also strong was the determination of the conservatives of the dominant powers of the planet to eliminate the experiment from the beginning, because Great Britain, France, Japan and the U.S. gave weapons to the White Russians and deployed soldiers to fight and terminate the revolution. Only the determination of the people of Russia and their leadership with an army of five million soldiers confronted and defeated the rightist alliance.

Marx and Engels always predicted that the revolution will occur in countries with mature relations of production because of their industrial capacities, such as Great Britain or Germany. But this did not happen – it was in underdeveloped and feudal Russia that Socialism seized power.

So the theater of operations for socialism was quite different. There were only a few factories to change from private ownership to collective ownership and the main policy was to industrialize and resolve the ownership of land. Lenin understood clearly the nature of the problem, so along with the creation of the power of the soviets, which involved the direct commitment of the people in government and in legislation, the State – inspired by Lenin – created the New Economic Policy (NEP) to propel the creation of industries and campaigned for new investors (Armand Hammer was one of the capitalists who visited Moscow) and proposed different types of ownership of land so as to enhance agricultural production: i) state owned land with individuals who work the land for a salary; ii) land owned by individuals who had people working for them, and iii) collective ownership of land with the delivery of part of the production to the State and the rest to be sold for a price that involved a benefit (Koljos and Sovjos).

This policy lasted a few years. After Lenin died (1924) the NEP started to weaken and it was completely abandoned in 1928 with Stalin’s ascension to power, who claimed he was the true successor to Lenin proclaimed that it was time to move ahead and establish quinquennial central planning.

From then on the USSR grew industrially through the mandatory collectivization of work under the sole administration of the State. It became a super-power, a rearguard for world revolution, with many technological and scientific advances, with enhanced capacities for providing health, education, housing and other social benefits for its people. On the other hand, the colossal bureaucracy that went along with absolute state control of all economic activities (even the corner kiosk that sold flowers and newspapers were state owned), the lack of democracy, the abyss that rose between the leadership (nomenklatura) and the people, the incapacity to connect the people with the exercise of power, plus the sustained attack from western adversaries through multiple means and a mistaken decision that compromised their economy (the war in Afghanistan), terminated what was a wonderful social experiment that had captured the interest of millions of men and women from all over the planet.

In second place we will talk a bit about China, were the Republic was installed in 1912 by a popular movement that was guided by Sun Yat Sen’s Kuomintang to put an end to the millenary chain of mandarin dynasties that ruled the Empire. In the heart of this party coexisted three principal tendencies: the moderate and pragmatic one of Sun Yat Sen, the rightist and authoritarian one of Chiang Kai Shek, and the communists of Mao Tse Dong. The end of the Qing Dynasty was not immediate. There were two restorations between January, 1916, with Yuan Shikai and in June, 1917, with Zhang Xen. Both were controlled by the Chinese army.

Sun Yat Sen returned to China in 1916 and resided in Canton, a city that functioned as the capital of the Republic. The major problem was the control that War Lords had over a large part of the territory, a matter that had to be confronted and solved. Sun tried to get aid from the occidental powers but it was denied, so he turned to the USSR and received a positive answer. This meant the strengthening of the communist wing of the Kuomintang and perhaps, to balance things, Sun Yat Sen named Chiang Kai Shek Director of the Whampoa Military Academy whose anticommunist stance was surely known by him.

Sun Yat Sen fell sick with liver cancer and in short time passed away, on March 12, 1925, initiating the Civil War between Chiang’s nationalist faction of the Kuomintang and the Communists led by Mao Tse Dong. This disrupted the original plans to fight the War Lords, because, although Chiang Kai Shek gathered an army to go after the War Lords, fighting between the nationalist and communist faction broke out.

The civil war started in 1927 and went on until 1950, months after Mao Tse Dong proclaimed The Popular Republic of China on October 1, 1949. Chang Kai Shek established himself with his followers in the island of Taiwan and maintained hostilities against continental China with the express support of the U.S. Armed attacks targeted public buildings, soldiers and the local leadership of coastal sites. The U.S. ordered the VII Fleet to protect Taiwan to avoid a Chinese invasion of the island, a threat that the Popular Republic of China held until the U.S. threatened to use atomic power against the mainland. This situation lasted from 1950 until 1960, although isolated incidents occurred after that period.

What China faced when the Revolution was put into place was a devastated territory because of the fighting against the warlords – first a civil war between factions of the Kuomintang, later between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party, then the war against Japan and, finally, once Chang Kai Shek was defeated, for another ten years, the skirmishes with the army of Taiwan and the U.S.

The factories installed in Manchuria were dismantled by the Soviet Union and brought to the USSR, taking advantage of the presence of the Red Army to defend its territory from the Japanese during the war.

This is the scenario: land devastation, severe underdevelopment and almost 700 million people to feed. Yet the socialist revolution happened. Again predictions failed.

With Mao as the maximum leader of the Revolution the policy of the Great Leap Forward was initiated to ramp up agricultural production and industrialization but it was not as successful as expected and Mao Tse Dong lost leadership within the Party to Liu Shao Shi and Deng Xiao Ping. In 1966, Mao fought back with the support of radical party leaders and the youth of the movement (Red Guards) and retook control of power, and starting the period of the Cultural Revolution that lasted until the IX Congress of the Communist Party in 1969 but truly ended in 1976, when Mao died and his lieutenants of the Band of Four were arrested.

Deng Xiao Ping returned to power and started economic reforms to create new industries and reanimated production in those that already existed. In a very practical approach attention was directed to the economy and no reforms of the political structure were made. Deng pronounced a famous phrase to justify his approximation to western world: “No matter what is the color of the cat if anyway he will hunt mice.”

At this stage we should remember the New Economic Policy (NEP) of Lenin – perhaps searching for the same purpose – and also the Perestroika of Gorbatchov, who passed economic reforms while changing the political structure of the USSR and with it provoking the collapse of soviet state.

The new economic policies of China are based on i) the end of collective production of land and a return to individual production with the obligation to deliver a part of the output to State institutions and the rest subject to particular appropriation in the open market; ii) facilities for foreign investment; iii) creation of Special Economic Zones (SEZ), iv) encouragement of national entrepreneurs.

We may also add that during recent years many state factories have been privatized. Roughly, we can say over 30% of the Chinese economy is state owned (energy, petroleum, mining, banking, services) and contributes with 40% to the GDP. Most private participation in the economy lies in the manufacturing sector.

A former Chinese ambassador to my country on one occasion explained that the application of these capitalist measures was in order to receive financial resources to increase production and technology and to enhance the development of the backward provinces of China. He also said that the Special Economic Zones were confined to coastal provinces.

Now, in the third place we have to bring in Cuban Socialist model. For fifty years the Cuban Revolution has shown a remarkable resemblance to soviet socialism, despite the fact that certain changes have taken place recently that point toward an opening to market reforms, such as the acceptance of entrepreneurs in the services sector of the economy, the capacity for farmers to sell part of their production on their own, and the approval of a law for Foreign Investment that establishes guarantees for the investor. It is true that Cuba marches slowly in making these reforms because of the particular situation of State security that the nation has with regard to the U.S. Definitely the U.S. is a permanent threat to Cuba’s security and the reason goes beyond what could be the true intentions of the White House, the State Department or the Pentagon to disrupt the model. The real thing is that a large community of Cuban exiles lives in Florida whose electoral power has shown to be a key factor for winning national elections and these exiles from prerevolutionary Cuba have political and economic power that can be seen in both chambers of Congress. This means in the practical world of international relations: a blockade that tries to isolate Cuba from the rest of the world, sanctions on Cuban personnel and Cuban goods, harassment in international entities, and the always pending menace of invasion.

After we have done this brief and comparative study of Socialism as a political, economic and social phenomenon that existed in Russia and exists in China and in Cuba; we may try to conclude about the common aspects that we find in each case, most of all emphasizing reforms introduced in order to save the model.

1)In all cases, the economic reforms are directed to reintroduce forms of capitalism that do not change the nature of the socialist society as a whole. For example, the soviet conception by which all means of production of goods and services have to be state-owned so that the Government is the entity that distributes the benefits to all members of society. This is challenged by the Chinese and the Cubans when they introduce reforms in order to save socialist society as a whole. We observe that socialist Russia ceased to exist, while China and Cuba remain.

2)The key does not lie in the political reforms but in economic reforms. The reason: Russia tried political reforms (Perestroika and Glasnost) but only caused a catalyzing effect that precipitated the end of the Russian Socialist State. This does not mean that political reforms are not necessary, but remember we are talking here about real socialism, the one that exists or has existed. We are not including in this chapter of the essay the new proposed models of open political societies such as those of Chile that lasted a few years and that of Venezuela which battles to consolidate even after 15 years in power.

3)So far Socialism has risen in underdeveloped countries against the predictions of Marx and Engels. Could this mean that the maturity of the productive relations between the factors of capital and labor are not the cause that provokes the transition from capitalism to socialism and instead it lies in the conditions of poverty and misery of the inhabitants of a territory?

4)Is it valid to think that while most of the countries of the planet have economies organized within the capitalist system; those States that follow the socialist path, in order to survive or at least to sustain the commercial connection with others have to accept some sort of open market behavior?

This and other questions have to be solved in order to succeed in finding a way to construct socialism and to overcome the heavy load of alienation that capitalism necessarily causes because it is a tool of domination of a few owners of means of production over the working class and the middle class, both affected by this instrument (alienation) that distorts the most noble essence of human beings.

Capitalism was an enormous step forward in human development when compared to slavery and feudal ages of mankind, but this does not mean we reached the end of the ladder. There must be something else beyond capitalism that is far superior because it would allow for a better blending of men and women in society due to the fact that work is not only a factor of production but also a social phenomenon to which every person has access and where no one suffers exploitation from an owner of means of production. As far as we know, socialism is the system to replace capitalism and to abolish the enormous differences between those few who receive a big part of social income and the vast majority that divides up what remains.

Taking in consideration all that we have said above, in the next and last chapter of this essay, we plan to expose and explore some ideas about what to expect from socialism as the next stage in the development of human beings in society.

Ccs. Oct. 9th, 2014. 


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