I’ve heard the claim that ‘real socialism has never been tried’ countless times. Real socialism, as envisioned by Karl Marx, needs no government, and thus there is no oppressive state available to kill the hundreds of millions of people killed in the name of socialism through the 20th century. The claim, however, that ‘real socialism has never been tried’ is false. Every country that has tried socialism tried to do is in accordance with Marx’ vision, but they failed, such that anyone who wants to make a factual statement about socialism would say, ‘real socialism has never been achieved.’
‘Real socialism’ not only never has been achieved, but it never will be. ‘Real socialism’ is impossible to implement.
Socialism destroys all incentives to produce, and while it is possible for a totalitarian government to use violence (or the threat thereof) as an incentive during Marx’ ‘Dictatorship of the Proletariat’ stage, moving any further requires the elimination of the state. Without a state, there is no body available to use violence as an incentive. Profit does not exist under socialism, so without violence as an incentive, there is absolutely nothing incentivizing the public to work. Socialism could only work if people were driven more by the desire to help other people than they are by the desire to help themselves and their immediate families. Ironically, if people were more driven by the desire to help others than by the desire to help themselves, then there would be no calls for socialism; if socialism were possible, it would not be helpful, and to the degree that socialism may be helpful, it is not possible.
What is possible is the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, led by a Stalin, a Castro, or a Mao, and enforced by the brutal murders of hundreds of millions of people. Stalin, Castro, and Mao did not consider themselves evil for murdering hundreds of millions of people, either. These men understood that the wealth of a nation is not determined by what it can consume, but rather by what it can produce. It is physically impossible to consume what is not first produced, and as a consequence it is easy for the Dictatorship of the Proletariat to label anyone who does not willingly produce for free as also being against the state. The desire to benefit personally from work is subversive to a social system that views personal benefit as being wrong. Stalin and Mao could thus sleep soundly at night under the belief that, while they may have been killing hundreds of millions of people, they were only killing the hundreds of millions who stood in the way of the socialist ideal.
I read an interesting piece by a Doctor Thaddeus Russell in which Dr. Russell argues that libertarians should be postmodernists. It was an interesting piece because, on the one hand, it is perfectly logical to subscribe to a libertarian worldview through a postmodernist lens. It was also however a flawed piece, as it focuses too heavily on postmodernist beliefs, and not heavily enough on postmodernist motivations. Postmodernism is not a belief system so much as an anti-belief system. Postmodernists reject objectivism and rationality. Postmodernists believe that all facts and truths are subjective. The question Dr. Russell should ask, but fails to, is that of who might find postmodernism attractive.
Postmodernism offers nothing to those who believe in things that are objectively true. Gravity, for example, can be measured and quantified. Gravity is objectively true, and as such those who believe in gravity are more apt to measure and quantify its effects than to call gravity a subjective construct, as a postmodernist would do. Postmodernism is attractive to those who believe in things that are objectively false, and since socialists are the economic version of the Flat Earth Society, it is not surprising that socialists would find postmodernism attractive: postmodernism gives socialists the ability to rationalize a belief in socialism in spite of the fact that objective truth tells us that socialism will always fail.
Society cannot consume that which is not produced, and this is its fatal flaw. Socialists do not see this flaw only because they view production as a constant. Socialism concerns itself only with distribution, and assumes production as a given. By assuming that production never changes, socialists look for the most equitable way to distribute that which is already produced, with absolutely no thought as to what might, or might not, be produced in the future. Once the Dictatorship of the Proletariat is established under a Mao, or a Stalin, it becomes evident to the nation’s leaders that they need production to continue if they are going to have anything available for people to consume, and since profit is not available to incentivize work, the only tool left is the threat of violence. While some of the people Stalin and Mao killed were killed for purely political reasons, the vast majority who were killed were guilty of nothing more than a lack of desire to work for free, which is of course antithetical to the socialist ideal of a world without greed.
Another problem with ending the Dictatorship of the Proletariat is that the people running the Dictatorship of the Proletariat are greedy, just like everyone else, and have no incentive to end their own dictatorship. Bernie Sanders has three houses. Does Bernie Sanders ‘need’ those homes? I’m sure Bernie believes he needs them, but Bernie produces nothing of value, and as such the US taxpayer is paying for Bernie Sanders to have three houses. All of the money we make to support Bernie Sanders is money that we cannot use to benefit ourselves, and while I think Bernie Sanders is a true believer in the economic version of flat-earthism, I am also confident that should Bernie Sanders get his wish, he would continue to believe that he needs to live a lavish lifestyle, while the rest of us do not.
Many who believe in socialism are simply utopian dreamers. It is easy to like the dreamer, and easy to appreciate some of the artwork that comes from their dreams. John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ is a wonderful song. What the art ignores is that John Lennon also had a penitent for beating his wives, and lived a lifestyle that would never exist in a world where his imaginings were real. Even the most ardent supporters of socialism are incapable of living up to its standards. These people are however capable of establishing the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, and then of crushing society under their collective boot heels.
Those who crush others under their boot heels claim that they are doing it in the name of socialism. Those who see people crushed claim that those doing the crushing are not ‘real socialists,’ and then pretend that next time things will somehow magically work better. What we need people to learn is that there is no such thing as ‘real socialism,’ and as such, the Dictatorship of the Proletariat is as close to the real thing as anyone will ever see. All of the unicorns and pixie dust that comes after the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, are impossible to achieve, and though believing in socialism may not make someone evil, actively advocating for it does get people killed.
There is no such thing as ‘real socialism’.