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Jul 4, 2006
by Dr. Rainer Zitelmann SEPTEMBER 03, 2019

Why Socialism Is the Failed Idea That Never Dies


More Than Two Dozen Failed Experiments

Over the past hundred years, there have been more than two dozen attempts to build a socialist society. It has been tried in the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Albania, Poland, Vietnam, Bulgaria, Romania, Czechoslovakia, North Korea, Hungary, China, East Germany, Cuba, Tanzania, Benin, Laos, Algeria, South Yemen, Somalia, the Congo, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Mozambique, Angola, Nicaragua and Venezuela, among others. All of these attempts have ended in varying degrees of failure. How can an idea, which has failed so many times, in so many different variants and so many radically different settings, still be so popular? (p. 21)

This is the central question asked by this extremely important book from economist Kristian Niemietz, who works at the London Institute for Economic Affairs. He manages to provide the answer to his question in one sentence:

It is because socialists have successfully managed to distance themselves from those examples. (p. 55)

As soon as you confront socialists with examples of failed experiments, they always offer the following response: “These examples don’t prove anything at all! In fact, none of these are true socialist models.” During the “heyday” of most of these socialist experiments, however, intellectuals held quite a different view.

When the Experiment Fails: “That Was Never True Socialism”

In his thorough historical analysis, Niemietz shows every socialist experiment to date has gone through three phases.

During the first phase, the honeymoon period (p. 56), intellectuals around the world are enthusiastic about the system and praise it to the heavens. This enthusiasm is always followed by a second phase, disillusionment, or as Niemietz calls it, “the excuses-and-whataboutery period.” (p. 57) During this phase, intellectuals still defend the system and its “achievements” but withdraw their uncritical support and begin to admit deficiencies, although these are often presented as the result of capitalist saboteurs, foreign forces, or boycotts by US imperialists.

Finally, the third phase sees intellectuals deny that it was ever truly a form of socialism, the not-real-socialism stage. (p. 57) This is the stage at which intellectuals line up to state that the country in question—for example, the Soviet Union, China, or Venezuela—was never really a socialist country. According to Niemietz, however, this line of argumentation is rarely presented during the first phase of a new socialist experiment and becomes the dominant view only after the socialist experiment has failed.

Nowadays, Western socialists do not even attempt to oppose real-world capitalism with historical examples of socialism. Instead, they put forward arguments based on the vague utopia of a “just” society. Sometimes, they cite “Nordic socialism”—i.e. the variant of socialism that emerged in countries like Sweden—as an example, although they completely forget that the Nordic countries, having learned from their failed socialist experiments of the 1970s, have long since abandoned the socialist path. Today—despite having higher taxes—they are no less capitalist than, for example, the United States.

In the author’s place, I would have dealt explicitly with “democratic socialism,” which has also always failed miserably. After all, the policies pursued by socialists in Great Britain and some high-profile members of the Democratic Party in the United States, namely very high taxation on the rich and a high level of state regulation of the economy, has certainly also been seen before in democratic countries, including Sweden and Great Britain in the 1970s. But even these experiments, despite not ending in totalitarian rule or even mass murder, were catastrophic for the economy and led to stubborn declines in prosperity.

Socialists who criticize Stalinism and other forms of real-world, historical socialism always fail to analyze the economic reasons for the failures of these systems. (p. 28) Their analyses attack the paucity of democratic rights and freedoms in these systems, but the alternatives they formulate are based on a vague vision of all-encompassing “democratization of the economy” or “worker control.” Niemietz shows that these are the exact same principles that initially underpinned the failed socialist systems in the Soviet Union and other countries.

When contemporary socialists talk about a non-autocratic, non-authoritarian, participatory and humanitarian version of socialism, they are not as original as they think they are. That was always the idea. This is what socialists have always said. It is not for a lack of trying that it has never turned out that way. (p. 42)
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Sep 2, 2016
I always keep it simple why socialism can never work, ever. Human beings = round peg and socialism = square hole. Humans cannot implement it the way it is on paper because humans are designed to not do well with absolute power. I don't care how well the intentions are in the beginning


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Jan 22, 2009
Socialism is a scam, pure and simple. The masterminds behind every "socialist" movement know it's a scam, but they are masters at propaganda. They want to be at the top of a centralized, totalitarian government so that they can become wealthy and powerful, and make slaves of all their enemies. With complete control of the media, they won't get caught (like if Clinton had won in 2016). The people they indoctrinate with the propaganda are dupes (Lenin's "useful idiots") who do their bidding and get the feelz from their imagined moral superiority.
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