As a service to my readers, I herewith bring you a complete and unabridged list of successful attempts to create a functioning socialist society:
Thanks for reading!
So I have been told repeatedly by someone who believes that competition is destructive and should be prohibited by law. Competition makes businesses fight one another for clients, forcing the less able out of business and causing stress to businesses and their employees alike.
And I have to agree! Competition can be a real pain in the ass! Take automobiles, for example:
If it hadn’t been for his destructive competitors, Henry Ford Sr. wouldn’t have had to rebuild his assembly line (in fact he wouldn’t have needed to build the assembly line that allowed him to rationalize and pay his workers better than any other industrialist of his time). He, and his successors, could have continued building Ford Ts until this day. They wouldn’t have had to worry about research and development, if nobody had tried to drive them out of business by giving the public better cars. We would all have been driving Ford Ts, and liking it! (If we could afford them!) OK, they weren’t as fast, or as economical, as modern cars, and they were also somewhat less comfortable and less safe. But at least the workers at the Ford factories wouldn’t have had to worry about Chrysler coming up with a new, smart model and forcing Ford to “restructure” and lay off workers.
(Of course Chrysler wouldn’t be hiring workers either…)
The Soviets understood this and granted a state monopoly to the Lada factories, ensuring that everybody in the USSR could have a Lada, if they had the patience to wait their turn for 10 or 12 years. Or had friends in the Party. And the Lada was a great car, really. Especially if the only alternatives – the competition – were East German Wartburgs or Yugoslavian Yugos.
Best of all, with the state owning the monopoly they also proved that, without the state nobody would own cars at all!
Destructive competition like this permeates everything. For example computers. In 1985, Intel Corporation produced the first 80386 processors, enabling the creation of Personal Computers that were more powerful than IBM’s middleware computers, the so-called minicomputers. IBM Corporation wisely decided not to produce PCs with the i386 processor, staying with the old and trustworthy i286 to protect their lucrative minicomputer market. Which would have worked like a charm if an upstart company called Compaq hadn’t taken the opportunity to get the jump on “Big Blue” by being the first to produce the new and powerful 386 PCs. IBM, who had until then been the undisputed leader on the computer market, suffered a devastating blow to their prestige.
Without Compaq’s destructive behavior, IBM wouldn’t have had to lay off hundreds of thousands of employees over the next ten years, forcing those employees to look for jobs with more forward-looking companies.
(Of course they wouldn’t have had to compete on giving the consumers newer and better computers, either. But the i286 was a fine processor, really. Who needs megabytes or even gigabytes of memory, terabytes of disk space, internet connections, graphical operating systems, and all that stuff anyway?)
On the software side, two young upstarts named Bill Gates and Paul Allen introduced a graphical operating system called Windows, which quickly drove most of the text-based user interfaces out of the market – forcing PC owners to learn to use the new graphical user interfaces.
Telephones are another example of the evils of competition:
Up until the 1990s, the telephone companies in Denmark held a state-guaranteed monopoly on telecommunication services, with a number of regional companies being granted a monopoly in their separate regions. Then the European Union stepped in and ruined everything by liberalizing the market. Which of course was a disaster for the existing companies.
It had happened regularly that phone customers in Denmark received huge bills for making calls to expensive phone numbers, for example phone sex lines. If the clients denied having made such calls, they were nonetheless forced to pay their bills, or their phone lines would be closed. Courts routinely ruled in favor of the telephone companies, since they could prove that the calls had been made on the lines, while the clients couldn’t prove that the calls hadn’t been made from the phones in their home, but rather from switch-boxes in the street.
With competition, the phone companies could no longer blackmail their clients and set their own prices for their “services”. They even had to offer push-button telephones some 20 or 30 years after these had been invented. (What’s wrong with dials? Just askin’!) And only a few years later came the cellular revolution, enabling clients to bring their phones everywhere.
It’s all competition’s fault! Without it, we wouldn’t constantly have to adapt to new technologies. Businesses could continue to produce the same old stuff year after year after year. Society would be at a safe, comfortable, stable standstill.
But of course, the most stable of all conditions is “death”! Which is what awaits a society without competition.
In 1917, Russia was at war with Germany and the Austrian-Hungarian empire. Things weren’t going too well for the Russians, and in the end the people rebelled and demanded a cease-fire and peace negotiation. This led to the revolutions of 1917; the February revolution which happened in March, and the October revolution which happened in November. The latter brought about the “communist” regime which would plague Russia, and eventually the USSR and all of Eastern Europe, for the next 70 years.
In the West, the left wing was in ecstasy. Communism, they said, had finally triumphed, a new era was at hand! Things might be bad in Russia, but just wait and see – with Comrade Lenin in charge, things were about to change and soon Russia would have the world’s finest schools, universities, factories, hospitals … you name it!
(The right wing would also be in ecstasy, for different reasons; for the next 70 years they would have a scary picture and scapegoat with which to prove that their particular brand of collectivism was better than the left’s! But I digress…)
Lenin started by abolishing all property rights. Nobody could own anything, and everything belonged to the big happy family. This didn’t work out too well, and people were starving. Lenin concluded that people should be allowed to own a little, like a small piece of land, and some of what they produced.
Communists in the West were happy to hear this. “Comrade Lenin” may have gotten off to a bad start but had quickly corrected his error, and it would only be a matter of a few years before Russia would have the best and finest schools, universities, … etc.
Nothing good lasts forever, and in 1924 Lenin passed away. By this time Russia had changed its name to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or “Soviet Union”. Western left-wingers were sad to see that the Soviets Union still didn’t have the world’s best factories, hospitals, schools, etc. but were still biding their time. After all, the Tzar had left a terrible mess and it would take a few more years before… etc.
(“Soviet” is Russian for “Council”, since the new-born workers’ and peasants’ paradise needed to be ruled by a set of councils who knew better than the people what was best for the people. This often turned out to be what was best for the council members…)
It took some years of internal bickering, and I’m sorry to say that a lot of people died. But in 1928 a new leader finally emerged from the fray to seize control of the free and happy people of the USSR. His name was Josef Stalin, and left-wingers of the West bid him welcome. Lenin had been a rather weak leader, they would tell you, but Stalin was just the man needed to whip things (and people) into shape.
Stalin got off well with the first five-year plan to double the industrial output of the Soviet Union! (“See?” asked Communists in the West. “Only a few years now…”) Unfortunately, the next five-year plan didn’t go too well, and it was found that this was caused by sabotage by Stalin’s political rivals in the party. This was quickly proven, because the guilty reactionaries readily confessed their crimes after only a bit of pressure (OK, torture) by Stalin’s secret police.
Western Left-wingers regretted that such hard-handed methods were necessary but these reactionaries *did* sabotage the great Soviet Union and delayed the day when the USSR would have the world’s finest… etc. Fortunately, without the saboteurs in their midst, it was a matter of years, if not months, before… etc. In the meantime at least comrades in all countries could agree to denounce the National Socialists in Germany.
At least until news of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty emerged in August of 1939. Then it became clear that the National Socialists were ALSO comrades! Soon they became comrades-in-arms with the invasion of Poland but this was only necessary to bring about the happy day when the Soviets would have… etc.
Sadly, the war delayed the happy day. Not least after the new German friends double-crossed Stalin and Molotov by invading the workers’ paradise in June of 1941. The subsequent four years of warfare cost 28 million Soviet citizens their lives – even more than Stalin had managed to
kill purge! Western left-wingers mourned the loss of life and property which would delay the day when the USSR would finally overtake the evil West and have the world’s finest hospitals, banks, schools, factories, … etc.
In fact the happy day didn’t arrive until 1953 when Stalin finally died and was succeeded as
dictator General Secretary by Nikita Khrushchev. The Western left were happy to see the end of Stalin, who clearly hadn’t been the right man after all, since the USSR, contrary to expectations, still didn’t have the world’s finest… etc. But NOW, with Khrushchev, it would be a matter of a few years. Of course some doubters were beginning to emerge but they were easily denounced as “not true socialists” or “class traitors”. Worse, dissenters were emerging in the new happy Communist states of Eastern Europe, and in 1956 it proved necessary to invade Hungary and suppress the reactionary forces there (this would repeat itself in Czechoslovakia in 1968). But such use of force was necessary if the socialist states should ever overtake the evil capitalists and achieve the goal of having the finest factories, hospitals, …etc.
Unfortunately, Khrushchev proved a bit too aggressive for the job, especially when speaking to the United Nations…
In 1964 it proved necessary to replace him with Leonid Brezhnev, a pragmatic “Apparatchik” who would rule the Soviet Union until his death in 1982. Western left-wingers bid him welcome – it was by now clear that Khrushchev was not the man who could ensure … etc. but with Brezhnev in charge, this would be a matter of a few years.
Sadly, the world’s best factories, schools, hospitals, etc. didn’t materialize before Brezhnev’s death, nor during the interregnum of his short-lived successors Yuri Andropov, Konstantin Chernenko, and Andrei Gromyko. Sad that they were so short-lived, as all had been predicted to realize the day when the Soviet Union would have the world’s finest … you should know the drill by now. Gromyko was succeeded by Mikhail Gorbachev who would surely have made the dream come true, except the Soviet Union collapsed during his reign.
Which is sad because left-wingers will still assure you that it collapsed under the pressure of relentless Western propaganda, NOT because it was a hopeless mess such as liberalists, conservatives, capitalists, capitalist lackeys, and other reactionaries claim!
Bring back the Soviet Union, and in a few years it will prove itself by having the world’s finest schools, universities, factories, hospitals, etc. etc. etc.!
Today’s biggest piece of news in Denmark must be that leading members of the far-left political party “Enhedslisten” (literally, The Unity List) expects a revolution (link to article in Danish) within the next 20 years.
According to the article, Hans Jørgen Hvad of the party’s executive committee prefers a non-violent revolution: “It will happen through general strikes and occupations. It will not be something you can vote for. But in principle the revolution will be non-violent”.
Some of the objectives of the revolution will be to nationalize the banks and shut down the stock exchange, and to disband the police and military. Another member of the executive committee, Kathrine Toft Mikkelsen, explains that companies should be made public or be controlled by the employees.
Private property rights to means of production will be suspended; however we will be allowed to own some property, according to Kathrine Toft Mikkelsen:
“Of course one is allowed to own one’s own toothbrush.”
I am so relieved!
I would be even more relieved if these people would study some history; for example the history of the Soviet Union or the German Democratic Republic. Or take a look at what happens in socialized countries like North Korea or Zimbabwe.
The “Enhedslisten” received 6.7 percent of the public vote in last September’s general election, giving them 12 members of parliament. Current polls give them twice that. Their rise comes mostly from discontended voters from the more moderate left-wing parties.
I just hope voters will take the time to read the party’s political program and listen to what its leading members say before the next general election.