Why Did Socialism Fail?

by Craig Collins

By the mid-20th century, Marx’s conviction that socialism was destined to replace capitalism appeared to becoming reality.  In 1956, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev was so confident that history was on his side, he boasted that socialism would soon bury capitalism.[1]  Most of the Eurasian land mass was governed by communist parties that claimed to be building socialism.  U.S. propaganda films depicted maps of a malignant red menace spreading around the world.

Back then, the globe was commonly divided into three worlds: the developed capitalist nations became known as the first world; the second world encompassed the self-proclaimed “socialist” nations of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union; and the third world included Europe’s former colonies in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.  In China and several other third world countries, communist-led national liberation movements were driving out Western imperialism and endeavoring to transform their backward peasant economies into modern socialist states.

However, even then, there were clear signs that genuine democratic socialism had failed to materialize.  While the Marxist leaders of the second world claimed to be building socialism, the authoritarian, centrally planned industrial states they ruled bore little resemblance to the egalitarian, working class democracies Marx and Engels had in mind.  By the latter half of the 20th century, working people throughout the second world, from Hungary and Czechoslovakia to Poland, were openly rebelling against the “socialist workers’ states” that claimed to represent them.

In hindsight, with the heavy ideological fog of the Cold War behind us, it is obvious that the state-run industrial systems that both sides mislabeled socialist were never working class governed democracies.[2]  So actually, socialism didn’t fail—it never existed.  But that doesn’t explain why the powerful state-run industrial societies of the USSR, Eastern Europe, and China—that everyone had falsely branded socialist—failed to thrive and eventually reentered the world capitalist system.

This turn of events was especially vexing for old school Marxists and communists.  They wanted to believe that these statist industrial societies were genuine socialist democracies at the vanguard of history, leading humanity down the evolutionary road toward classless communism.  After all, why would a socialist nation, supposedly run by and for working people, ever choose to reverse the course of history and rejoin the capitalist system?

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An Unobtrusive Conversation with Dr. Joe Forgas

Journey2Psychology, A Project by: Dr. MIchael Gordon
Mike Gordon is travelling across the world to converse with influential Psychologists and discover the stories behind their work.
This journey will form the basis of a book from political animal press
follow Dr. Gordon’s travels in full at Journey2Psychology

As a young man, Dr. Joe Forgas risked his life and liberty to travel from soviet-controlled Hungary to Australia. In doing so, he eventually forged a career that spanned the social and cognitive domains in Psychology, he became an authority on how affect influences decision-making, and he brought an unique voice and influential perspective to Psychology. With studies on three continents, and active collaborations around the world, Dr. Forgas continues to be at the forefront in this era of multidisciplinary theorizing and rapidly shifting paradigms. I’m pleased to be able to share some of the life, works, and ideas from my conversation with Dr. Forgas!

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Social Contract Theory

By: David Antonini from 1000-Word Philosophy

When you make an agreement of some significance (e.g., to rent an apartment, or join a gym, or divorce), you typically agree to certain terms: you sign a contract. This is for your benefit, and for the the other party’s benefit: everyone’s expectations are clear, as are the consequences of failing to meet those expectations.

Contracts are common, and some influential thinkers in the “modern” period of philosophy argued that the whole of society is created and regulated by a contract.

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Stoicism & the Destruction of Man

By: Glen Paul Hammond

Recently, the American Psychological Association (APA) took aim at “traditional masculinity” by, amongst other things, criticizing “stoicism” as one of its problematic characteristics (APA Guidelines 11). But the essence of stoicism, and our understanding of it, stems from a philosophy that is meant to allow the individual to reach their full potential as a human. What follows, then, is an argument for both the preservation of stoicism and its maintenance in the concept of masculinity.

In its most basic form, rationality or reason is the hallmark of Stoic philosophy. Speaking from this perspective, Epictetus (55-135 AD), the famous Stoic philosopher, described a human being as “a rational animal, subject to death” and so encouraged people to focus on the instrument of reason as a means of distinguishing themselves from the beasts without it. Failure to do so is to let the human inside of you perish.

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Running Down a Dream with Dr. Allison Harvey

Journey2Psychology, A Project by: Dr. MIchael Gordon
Mike Gordon is travelling across the world to converse with influential Psychologists and discover the stories behind their work.
This journey will form the basis of a book from political animal press
follow Dr. Gordon’s travels in full at Journey2Psychology

Scalable, accessible, affordable interventions define the aims of Dr. Allison Harvey‘s research with mental illness.  She is a professor at the University of California — Berkeley, the Director of the Golden Bear Sleep and Mood Research Clinic, and an award-winning scholar who is partnering with community clinics across northern California to work towards the realization of those aims. Sleep, that mundane and requisite activity that occupies close to a third of our entire lives, is profound in its impact on our health and well-being. The research of Dr. Harvey and her colleagues explores that relationship and uses interventions for improved sleep as a pedestal to broadly improve psychological well-being on a scalable, accessible, affordable level. The impact of Dr. Harvey’s research is so clear and I am happy to share these excerpts from our conversation with you!

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Abraham Lincoln’s Request

Don’t Feed The Animals, A Series of Satirical Musings by: Josh Lorenzo

Dear Modern Republican Party,

Seven score and fourteen years ago, I went to the theater and apparently died for nothing.

A few years before my untimely demise, I warned that a house divided against itself cannot stand and then I went out declared a little something called the Civil War. You may have heard of it. That’s right, I decided to protect this house! And after the bloodiest four-year period in the history of our country, I thought that all of that sacrifice and loss of life was going to be worth it. I’d managed to preserve the union.

But it’s looking like that decision was pretty stupid.

You see, you refer to yourselves as the Party of Lincoln. Well, I am here to tell you that you are not the Party of Lincoln. I knew the Party of Lincoln, and you, ladies and gentlemen, are not it!

Do you think I would’ve jeopardized the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, including my own, over the course of a bloody four-year war, had I known the Grand Old Party would eventually be reduced to this?

Like I would’ve reared us through tremendous trials and tribulations just so you could act like petulant children a mere century and a half later. Believe me, there were plenty of nights as Commander-in-Chief when I was tempted to simply drop out of the Civil War, emancipate the tequila from mother’s liquor cabinet, and anger tweet about how putrid James Buchanan was. It would’ve been so easy to simply opt out of leading – to declare that the preservation of this union was wholly unnecessary. How easy it would’ve been to blame the other side for everything that ailed us as a nation. But no, I let the better angels of my nature dissuade me from doing that, and I tried to steer this country through its darkest time just so all of you could have a promising future.

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Plato’s Crito: When should we break the law?

By: Spencer Case from 1000-Word Philosophy

Plato’s Crito describes a conversation that takes place in 399 B.C.E. in an Athens prison, where Socrates awaits execution.

Not long before, an assembly of more than 500 Athenian citizens convicted Socrates of corrupting the youth and impiety, essentially failing to respect the gods of the city. Socrates denied these charges. Moreover, he insisted that his public philosophizing, far from being subversive, was for the benefit of Athens and in the service of the god Apollo.

The jury wasn’t convinced, however, and found him guilty. They were further incensed when, during the sentencing stage of the trial, Socrates suggested that his “punishment” should be a lifetime supply of free meals at the prytaneum, or central hearth, an honor typically reserved for Olympic champions and the like. These antics did not play well and Socrates received the death penalty. A religious observance delayed the execution for a few weeks, but it now appears imminent.

Enter Crito, a friend with deep pockets and deeper affection for Socrates. Early one morning, Crito shows up at Socrates’ cell with an escape plan. He bribed the jailer and, with the help of other friends, has arranged for Socrates to be whisked away to Thessaly, another Greek city-state. There Socrates can live out his remaining years in exile with his family, who will also leave Athens. Everything has been taken care of except for the hardest part: convincing Socrates to agree with the plan (43a-44b, 45c).

Anyone who knows Socrates knows that this isn’t going to be easy. Crito is determined to save his friend’s life, however, and so he comes armed with a battery of arguments. Crito knows that Socrates isn’t afraid of death, and so he wisely appeals to considerations that are the most likely to resonate with Socrates: his sense of honor and his obligations to others.

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Violence in the Gay Community: Ending the Silence

By: Connie Woodring

Focusing on homophobia and its violent consequences against gays by heterosexuals has been important for several decades, but violence within the gay community itself has been given much less attention. This article hopes to shed some light on the subject.

When one considers the high incidence of battering in gay relationships, one wonders if there are more love crimes than hate crimes in this population. David Island and Patrick Letellier, co-authors of Men Who Beat Men Who Love Them: Battered Gay Men and Domestic Violence, note that the likelihood of homosexuals being involved in domestic violence is twice what it is for heterosexual couples and that domestic violence is a primary health risk for homosexuals, ranking only behind AIDS for males, cancer for females and drug abuse for both.[1]

Obviously, violence against homosexuals is not confined to heterosexual perpetrators. Domestic violence also occurs in the gay community, but evidence of it is only beginning to be studied because statistics on gay and lesbian domestic violence have only been collected since 1987.

Discussing violence in the lesbian community has been, until recently, politically incorrect because many feminists have believed women are not violent unless really pushed and that they certainly would not raise a fist to their sisters. However, in her 1992 book, Violent Betrayal: Partner Abuse in Lesbian Relationships, Claire Renzetti notes that 47% of lesbian couples studied had experienced violent episodes,[2] and in 1996 a San Francisco study of six major U.S. cities found that violence occurs in 25-35% of all same sex relationships.[3]

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Democratic Socialism: An Impossible Dream? II

An Article in Two Parts, by Craig Collins 
Read Part One Here 

Part Two: Energy & Economics Shapes Politics

The first part of this article asserted that, contrary to the prevailing mythology on both sides of the Cold War, socialist revolutions never succeeded in creating genuine democratic socialism. Then, several insufficient explanations for why socialist revolutions failed to produce socialism were critiqued. Finally, a more comprehensive hypothesis was offered: Perhaps a rapidly expanding, multi-state, globalized industrial economy—powered by an energy base of fossil fuels—is incompatible with nationally restricted efforts to bring it under genuine democratic control. Part Two will explore this hypothesis in more detail and consider its implications for building genuinely egalitarian, democratic societies in a post industrial future powered by renewable energy.

In hindsight, it appears that the physical constraints and social requirements imposed by globalized industrialism foster undemocratic, hierarchical economic relations resembling either corporatist or statist political economies that resist bottom-up, democratic governance. This is the most feasible, comprehensive explanation for the failure of democratic socialism in both emerging and mature industrial societies. The other piecemeal theories discussed in part one are partially accurate, yet limited, derivatives of this pervasive, underlying restriction on genuine economic democracy.

The problem solving theoretical principle known as Occam’s razor (or the law of parsimony) considers the strongest theory to be the one that provides the simplest, most comprehensive explanation in line with the evidence.[1] The conclusion that economic democracy is incompatible with the hierarchical, vertically organized structure of industrial production meets these criteria.

By its very nature, fossil-fueled industrialism promotes extensive, highly integrated economies of scale that require top-down managerial direction. Complicated, highly mechanized, global chains of industrial production frustrate nationally confined, workplace-centered economic democracy. They require an managerial elite to oversee the planning, administration, and supervision these technologically elaborate, vertically integrated operations. Therefore, it becomes virtually impossible to govern these political economies in a decentralized, democratic manner—especially when chains of production override and transcend national borders.

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Dr. Bower Among the Giants

Journey2Psychology, A Project by: Dr. MIchael Gordon
Mike Gordon is travelling across the world to converse with influential Psychologists and discover the stories behind their work.
This journey will form the basis of a book from political animal press
follow Dr. Gordon’s travels in full at Journey2Psychology

Scio (pronounced SIGH-oh, with a little sigh) is a sleepy little town in eastern Ohio. People who remember Gordon Bower as a child in 1930’s Scio probably would conjure up memories of a young pitcher destined for the big leagues. Maybe they’d remember Gordon and his older brother and sister running around their family’s store, Bower’s Merchandise Mart. Dr. Bower would eventually become the youngest Psychologist inducted into the National Academy of Sciences, a formative scholar with his research on memory, affect-memory interactions, computational modeling and simulation of mental events, and many other scholarly areas. He would help lead psychology into the modern age as an APS president, and would lobby for the field as the Chief Science Advisor to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). He would become known as much for this tremendous research as his efforts mentoring/training an incredible cohort of influential psychologists in the next generation: from John Anderson (Carnegie Melon University) to Andrea Halpern (Bucknell University) to Doug Hintzman (University of Oregon) to Robert Sternberg (Cornell University) and many, many others.

Dr. Bower is a truly monumental figure in Psychology and it is quite a wonder that no one has ever noticed this before me! (He wrote silently and then paused for a moment to laugh. Only funny to me?)

In point of fact, just about everyone in Psychology has recognized Dr. Bower’s tremendous accomplishments and there are extensive records documenting the major contributions and life events of Dr. Bower. If one had an interest in putting together a biography of Dr. Bower, one would not be disappointed in the fantastic stories, rich background, and thoughtful reflections from him, his notable students, Stanford University records, and the scientific organizations that have sought to honor him.

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