Can Socialism exist in a free society?

Karl Marx: Nice idea, until people get involved.

Karl Marx: Nice idea, until people get involved.

Why is there not a single functioning socialist society on the planet? Why is that? The aims of socialism are noble enough, so why is it that we have never seen a single functioning socialist society? The hard left will tell you that it is because of capitalist intervention, as in, say, Chile, but even in Chile Allende had mass opposition against him to begin with, winning election with only 36% of the vote. In the 1988 referendum, 43% of people, not an insignificant number, actually voted to keep Pinochet in power. Hardly an overwhelming endorsement of socialism.  

Is it possible for a majority of a country to vote to implement a socialist society?

Of course it is. But here’s the problem: Is it possible for the society to function if there are people in that society who wish to maintain non-socialist values, such as the right to private property? The answer is no, it isn’t, and that’s where socialism has fallen every time. It’s an all-or-nothing project. You have to have massive consent in the country, and you can never arrive at that level of consent, because some people are willing to work harder than others, and socialism struggles to recognise that. Capitalism does recognise that, to such an extent that it is possible to have elements of socialism (Welfare state, the health service, CIE) exist within capitalist societies. But try to have capitalism exist within a socialist society, and socialism becomes overwhelmed by human action. Just look at nominally communist China.

For socialism to work, it almost needs an Israeli approach: A new country, founded by devotees, all singing off the same political hymn sheet. It also means, as we have seen from Eastern Europe to Vietnam to Venezuela to Cuba, that censorship and political suppression becomes the accepted norm, as any possible weakening of the mass consent needed, caused by debate or dissent, could wreck the whole project. 

Maybe if every socialist in Britain and Ireland were to move to Northern Ireland (which is practically socialist economically, anyway) they could “turn” the province into a socialist utopia. The non-socialists would flee, leaving the new socialist majority to welcome in socialists from the rest of the world and use Northern Ireland’s resources to build the New Jerusalem. Free from capitalism, the multinationals, and free to use the natural resources of Ulster for all, it could be a shining beacon to all.

It might work, in a commune/kibbutz modest living standards kind of way, but chances are that within a year, the f**kers would be drawing the dole in Dundalk as it dawns on them that someone actually has to make and sell something to pay for everything else, and let’s be honest, call centres aren’t exactly what Lenin had in mind. Most people are decent, and are motivated by more than just money. But how do you deal with the moochers and freeloaders that every free ride society attracts? Ireland is chock-a-block with them, and how will they react with the change from a capitalist society giving them handouts (the size of which they are unhappy with) to a socialist society where everybody is expected to contribute, indeed sacrifice for the common good? Consult “The Idiot’s Guide to Mass Motivation by J. Stalin” This is the other problem with socialism. Western socialists want socialism, but with a western consumerist standard of living. Problem is, there’s a reason why we only started driving Skodas after the socialism was taken out.       

All those people who say that the Irish working class should rise up should consider one thing: Even in this dark, dark time, over 55% of Irish voters are still expressing a poll preference for FF/FG values. Another quarter of them, at least, favour the Butskellism of Labour. Why is that? Could it be that deep down they know that democratic socialism is an oxymoron?   

3 thoughts on “Can Socialism exist in a free society?

  1. You’ve got it backwards. Take it from someone who lived in the labor output unit’s paradise of the German “Democratic” Republic, “real, living Socialism” that it was. Ultimately a free society can’t exist in socialism.

    If “the whole” is society, and the state is the channel through which society is served, and must be served over the individual interst, then the only possible outcome is for state to degrade the individual. I don’t care if it’s the “free income for everyone” Piraten-partei or Pol Pot… it’s just a sales pitch to command the fealty of the masses behind an overconcentrated power, which rather unsuspiciously, has that power over them.

    And no, Jason, there is no Socialist society that has a good human rights record. Even DEMOCRATIC Socialist societies ultimately degrade individual’s rights, and degrade their capacity to fend off unpopular power from above by constructing too many state managed social mechanisms. i.e.: education ideologically reinforcing it, grants only going to scholars who don’t oppose it… It might seem minor, but let a generation of it (and it’s hovel enducing economics) show what kind of cayenne-pepper-enema it invariably turns into.

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