In defense of socialism
Ever since the media reported how millennials are embracing socialism, there's been a non-stop parade of "Don't you know how bad socialism is?" articles in the press. In these articles you find claims like “the only thing that has ever raised large numbers of people from abject poverty is capitalism”.
I was reading one of those articles when I came across this.
Above all, consider the socialists’ vaunted concern for poverty. Yet socialism has a record of making rich countries poor, while capitalism has a record of making poor countries rich. The most relevant example today would be Venezuela, which was until fairly recently the wealthiest country in South America.
With both of these claims there is no effort to provide proof. Nor will there be because they are both wrong.
Hugo Chavez was elected President of Venezuela in 1999. The GDP of Venezuela tripled under his version of socialism.
Now many will point out the very real and serious economic and political problems in the country today, but that doesn't change the fact that the original claim was wrong.
Now let's examine the other claim about “the only thing". Consider the Soviet Union.
The economic story of the Soviet Union is actually a story of an amazing accomplishment.
In 1921 the Russian economy was nonexistent, having barely survived being invaded by Britain and the U.S. They were under a permanent global embargo, and the population was almost entirely illiterate.
The Soviet Union should have collapsed, especially when the Nazis killed 20 milllion. Instead, 40 years later they were the first nation to put a man into space, and undeniably raised tens of millions out of poverty.
Their economy only collapsed when they embraced capitalism.
Any time that you mention anything positive about the Soviet Union there is always the "But the atrocities" reaction. Without denying that there were atrocities, that's still a non-denial of the facts above.
The assumption is that you don't care about the welfare of the victims of the Soviet Union. Once again, these people don't bother to actually ask what the former citizens of the U.S.S.R think.
The majority of Russians polled in a 2016 study said they would prefer living under the old Soviet Union and would like to see the socialist system and the Soviet state restored.
According to the poll conducted by the Levada Center, over 50 percent of Russian citizens believe the collapse of the Soviet Union was bad and could have been avoided. Only 28 percent of the population surveyed felt positive about its collapse, while 16 percent were unable to answer such a complex question.
That is not the only poll showing that former citizens of the U.S.S.R prefer living under communism.
In fact, polls show that a plurality of people in Eastern Europe also prefer living under communism.
Right-wingers generally ignore these polls because they have no explanation for them.
To a lesser extent, Cuba also fits outside of the anti-socialist story.
Sure, Cuba is hardly wealthy, but it has outperformed capitalist Honduras and El Salvador, despite a brutal 60-year embargo.
Finally, I must address the various communist atrocities.
There is no doubt tens of millions died under communism, so there's no reason to artificially inflate the numbers.
However, there is good reason to distinguish between deaths from killing and deaths from other causes, which the anti-socialists don't do except when it comes to capitalist countries.
For instance, the Irish famine, WWI, and the genocide of the native Americans happened under capitalist nations. Yet few attribute these examples (and countless others) to capitalism, which is a double standard.
But let's overlook the double standard for the moment and look at examples that can't be brushed off.
Specifically, the Dutch East Indies Company, the British East Indies Company, and King Leopold's Congo Free State.
All three were for-profit capitalist companies that were responsible for the brutal deaths of tens of millions in India, Indonesia, and central Africa.
I've seen capitalist apologists jump through mental hoops trying to rationalize how a capitalist company that issues stock and pays dividends wasn't actually capitalist. These same apologists will shed crocodile tears over the victims of socialism.
Then there is this at one end of Wall Street.
No other capitalist enterprise was ever so profitable than the slave trade.
Some capitalist apologists try to say that the trade in slaves wasn't capitalism because the slaves were coerced, but that only shows that they don't understand capitalism. All that matters in capitalism is the free trade of the buyers and sellers, what the commodity wants (i.e. the slaves, livestock, etc.) is irrelevant to capitalism.
Thus capitalism is directly responsible for the deaths and enslavement of countless millions, but we all pretend this undeniable fact isn't true. Racism didn't cause slavery. Capitalism did.
It's virtually impossible to calculate the number of people killed by capitalism, but the number dwarfs the victims of socialism without a doubt, as long as you use consistent standards.
This doesn't excuse the crimes of socialist governments, but we are talking about comparing a socialist mugger to a capitalist serial killer.
Of course all of this is outside of the Overton Window, and beyond the ability of many Americans to even consider.
In America today, socialism equals Big Government, while capitalism equals freedom.
Nevermind that the first versions of socialism were anarchism, and the examples of the Dutch East Indies Company, the British East Indies Company, and King Leopold's Congo Free State prove that private enterprises are just as likely to repress, exploit, and murder as Big Government.
Just ask the slaves.