Thursday, 7 July 2011
DOES SOCIALISM HAVE A FUTURE?
How can any informed person today, when Fidel Castro has passed the torch to Raul and Communism in the East Bloc is over, possibly praise the election of a Communist president, even of a small EU country like Cyprus? Like Positivism, Marxism coming out of the Enlightenment is an anachronism. By contrast, Liberalism that has been around since the Glorious Revolution seems relevant because regimes rest on its principles.
As an ideology Marxism is a varied as Liberalism but it has been associated with failed Stalinist regimes. Marxism translated to regime was tested and proved that it could not withstand the test of time after a few decades, though Marxism as an ideology has never lost its appeal. By what right do people vote for Communist candidates after the fall of Communist regimes? How dare people cling to a discredited ideology associated with disruption, if not destruction of the bourgeois social order?
The answer for those advocating some version of Marxism in different countries around the world rests in the reality that the various political regimes under which capitalism has operated in the past 500 years have always left people hungry for social justice, a quest as true and timeless today as when Thomas More wrote UTOPIA.
From the French Revolution of 1789 to the environmental movement of today, leftists have contributed to everything from worker and child safety, 8-hour work day, social security, rights of women and minorities, etc. Above all, the left has kept bourgeois political parties a bit less hostile to labor and minorities, it fought against extreme right wing regimes, and tamed the capitalist system so that it does not leave as many destitute in soup kitchens, back alleys sleeping in cardboard boxes, etc. This does not mean that leftists once in authority have not behaved like any other sovereign leader mesmerized by the trappings of power.
Without minimizing crimes and misery caused by Communist regimes in the 20th century, can any one claim that the world has experienced five hundred years of bliss under capitalism? What of the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the 17th and 18th centuries, opium trade and its small wars that gave Europe colonies and sphere of influence in Asia in the 19th century, mining workers from the Appalachian region to the Ural mountains in the late 19th century? Can capitalism best serve humanity in the future?
The harmonious function of political economy is partly predicated on a large segment of the population believing that the existing social order and economic system offer hope, and that fundamental change would pose unacceptable risk. To what degree does capitalism offer hope at the local and national level and as a world-system? Functioning under the umbrella of disparate political regimes capitalism appeals to the narcissistic aspect of human nature and thus maintains its appeal in the age of materialism.
Although capitalism entails geographic and social inequality, individuals indoctrinated under this system internalize failure and attribute fault to themselves when the system fails. To define success when the system has failed him, the individual may look outside the social order, falls into despair, or becomes physically and psychologically unbalanced in varying degrees. Does Socialism have any prospects for replacing capitalism, given that Communist regimes have failed?
There is undoubtedly a universally-held view that it is somewhat embarrassing perhaps even a stigma to praise Communists. Marx was a genius, but he was a product of the Enlightenment and placed his trust in reason more than the Liberals. A progressive ideology to succeed as regime, it must take into account the irrational propensity in human nature along with each country’s history, traditions, and social structure. Whereas liberal thinkers have historically reduced individual human beings to scientific objectivity, Marxists have refused to deal with human subjectivity. Only when there is a new synthesis of Marxism and Existentialism rooted in each country’s culture, traditions, and above all needs of all the people and not just the bourgeoisie can there be a successful leftist regime in the future.