Monday, February 06, 2006

Unsubtle differences of Socialism, Marxism, Communism (Soviet Union)

Lots of comments on tim's blog and stumbling and mumbling's various posts that equate socialism with the Soviet Union.

Well they are not one and the same really. The Soviets had their very own interpretation. Ideologically it was Leninist-Marxism, with a particular variant being the dictatorship of the proletariat and a centrally planned state. They were rather big on that.

The central difference I can see on simple plain terms is that the Soviets model idealised the state role in that it would always act in the interests of the worker/proletariat. When in fact it turned into a partly self-serving elite.

And I wouldn't always say that socialism equates to Marxism either. Marx build on lots of other ideas and events, especially from England - the levellers, cooperative movements, chartists, etc.

I would really encourage some folks to read Marx's biography by Francis Wheen. Its illuminating. And also there are many objective history books about the Soviet Union - the stuff about the early days are interesting.

The worst thing you could do intellectually is not read about something because its against your values. If you really think that way, you should still know your enemy. The merits and impacts of socialism in reality are variable, but the idea still cuts it a lot with the masses and in terms of popular movements. Its still a powerful message - one that could, again, be expressed through armed insurrection in certain parts of the world. Property rights as a principle can always remain, but who holds the rights can always be changed with the help of a warm gun, and popular support.

PS I have been deriving some very interesting insights from some biographies of Wehrmacht (German) soldiers who served on the Eastern Front and grew to respect Russians/Soviets. Worth a read.

PPS I might do a future article on what the positive legacies of communism were. There are definitely some. Universal education and health care is a place to start.


Blogger Neil Craig said...

Heinlein, no fan of Marxism, said universal literacy (so that the people could read the red books).

I would also mentioning stopping Hitler which can justify all Stalin's atrocities on its own since a victorious Hitler would have been so much worse.

11:25 AM  

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