It is unfortunate, but many times, it is necessary to learn the hard way what works and what does not. Vladimir Lenin, who initially sought and succeeded to implement communist Marxism into Russian government and way of life, rather quickly saw what happens when you go full-communist: starvation, suffering, torment, and miserable death, not just for citizens but for the country that implements it as well.
March of 1921 was a rather important time in the history of the Soviet Union. Following an unsuccessful invasion of Poland in 1920, the Soviet Union was teetering on the precipice of total economic collapse. The farmers were unproductive and starving, as was the general population. To make matters worse, hungry Soviet sailors were getting irritated with the Bolsheviks and their authoritarian ways, mounting the Kronstadt Rebellion and demanding, among other things, freedom of speech and assembly (ironically, considering these guys were self-admittedly faithful to Marxist communism).
That rebellion was quickly put down, but Lenin wasn’t unaware of what was happening. The Soviet Union, which was only a few years old by that point, was dying under its putrid system of government which killed all economic incentive. Without economic incentive, a nation cannot survive.
So, Lenin, on March 21st, 1921, began to implement the “New Economic Policy” (NEP), which began to undo the effects and causes of the misery of the previous four years, at least to an extent. The New Economic Policy, simply, is the very system which Lenin was previously staunchly against and launched a revolution to defeat: capitalism. Even Lenin was aware of what this was, proclaiming a partial restoration of “a free market and capitalism”, in his own words.
Of course, he wasn’t completely reversing course on the communist and Marxist ideology. Lenin was still a communist at heart and wanted as much communism as he could realistically implement in the Soviet Union. It’s just that he at least had enough rationality to recognize that the amount of communism he was implementing was literally killing his very country.
It’s possible that he learned, rather quickly, that it was impossible to implement communism in full without seeing extremely negative side-effects such as your country going broke. That may just be because communism only leads to such negative side-effects and it is an absolute pipe dream for it to even remotely work.
The idea that everyone is equal and gets equal results might be appealing to some, but that is simply not how the world works. We might try and treat each other equally as much as we can, but there will always be some amount of hierarchy which is impossible to overcome, no matter the economic system in place.
In a (usually) capitalist America, you have hierarchies in government, at work, on the streets, etc. There is the President of the United States (a position currently vacant, both legitimately and intellectually), with the VP underneath, and the executive branch which serves under the POTUS. There is Congress which has Senate Majority and Minority Leaders, as well as a Speaker of the House and a Minority Speaker. In companies, there is the CEO/president (not always the same person or position, though), other executives, middle-managers, etc. On the streets, there are the police, who have the authority to arrest people, etc.
What I just described as a usual occurrence in a capitalist country also happens in a completely communist country. There is the head of state and whoever is underneath him, there is the police on the streets, and there are bosses in companies (government-owned, but still) who have higher rank than those below.
It is quite literally impossible for there to be complete equality in terms of how one treats another, because some will have higher positions than others. It is even more impossible to attain equal results. Not all farmers will produce the exact same amount of produce to (be forced to) share with “the people” (i.e., the government).
Ultimately, what communism results in is authoritarianism from those who are in charge and misery for those living under it.
Ludwig von Mises put the distinction between capitalism and socialism most eloquently:
“A man who chooses between drinking a glass of milk and a glass of a solution of potassium cyanide does not choose between two beverages; he chooses between life and death. A society that chooses between capitalism and socialism does not choose between two social systems; it chooses between social cooperation and the disintegration of society. Socialism is not an alternative to capitalism; it is an alternative to any system which men can live as human beings.”
Those who claim “real communism/socialism has never been tried” fail to understand that, yes, it has been tried multiple times by multiple people in multiple countries, and the results are always similar: misery, to different extents. The only difference between a communist country like the Soviet Union and a communist country like China is the amount of capitalism they chose/choose to implement. China is a bit more capitalistic than the Soviet Union ever was, but even China tried full-on Communism decades ago and it failed too.
They are still communists, don’t misunderstand, as they are ruled by authoritarians in the CCP and there is very little social freedom to speak of. But economic freedom is at least a bit more prevalent than what it was in the Soviet Union, and it has allowed China to be at least somewhat economically decent. They still artificially inflate their GDP by constructing ghost cities no one will ever live in (something which will eventually come to bite them in the rear), but they have more relative economic freedom that the USSR did.
And those who claim “real communism/socialism has never been tried” also fail to understand that what they desire is nothing but a pipe dream that, when tried, leads to the destruction of a nation in a fairly quick manner. In about a decade, Venezuela went from being highly prosperous to destitute, where their currency is literally more valuable if used to create fashion accessories than for their intended use.
All countries which turn towards socialistic policies inevitably see the results of such socialism, and can only stay afloat due to the capitalism that still remains untouched by them.
The Foundation for Economic Education gives us just a few examples of societies which turned towards communism (or something akin to it), to one extent or another, and which failed as a result:
“Ancient Rome’s Republic began its deadly experiment in democratic socialism in the 2nd Century B.C. It began as a welfare state, degenerated into a regulatory nightmare and finally collapsed into an imperial autocracy. Legislative assemblies voted into office by the Roman electorate constructed the socialist edifice brick by brick. Rome was not built in a day, but concentrated state power had no trouble tearing it down completely.”
“The Pilgrims of Plymouth, Massachusetts famously tried another version of democratic socialism seventeen centuries later. It was the communal variety, in which they placed the fruits of their labors into a common storehouse and then distributed it to each other equally… Starvation forced them to scrap it rather quickly in favor of private property.”
That story in particular we have shared with you time and time again, particularly around Thanksgiving.
The FEE also notes how the Germans elected Adolf Hitler and his National Socialists, Great Britain and Scandinavia adopted welfare state socialist policies following World War II and all had suffered as a result, and New Zealand was bogged in socialistic regulatory madness but largely got rid of such policies which have since freed its economy.
To different extents, socialism and communism have been tried, and even the ones that got just a taste of it ended up suffering as a result. Even then, they were still far better off than those which dove headfirst into communism like the Soviets and Chinese, who quickly saw how dangerous it was and needed to reign it in at least a bit.
“Real” communism has been tried by many, and they have seen their newly formed nations dying just as quickly as they were created. All forms of socialism stifle the economy and bring about suffering.
The antidote, as Lenin seemingly came to learn 100 years ago, is capitalism. Ironically, had he not died just a few years later and Stalin not taken power and gotten rid of NEP by re-socializing the economy, it’s possible that the Soviet Union might have been better off throughout its entirety. It wouldn’t have been great by any means, of course, as they still would have had some amount of communism, but they likely would have been more akin to modern-day Russia and China – still communist (not that Russia calls itself that, and are more oligarchical, but they pretty much are still that with the little capitalism they implement), but not so much that they are on the brink of death.
Surely, if even one of history’s most notorious communists learned that full communism brings economic death, then so can others in a far easier manner. I would hope that Americans who are misinformed about what socialism is and does don’t have to drag us through the lethal dangers of full communism before they learn that it doesn’t work.
“An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.”
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