This is a companion post to Is Capitalism Evil? Are Capitalists Evil? Capitalism is not doing very well by us in recent decades, so many people are looking to alternatives. Socialism and Communism are alternatives – how do they compare?
Evil here means anti-life. It means a soul-destroying system that elevates a few bad people and crushes the hopes and dreams and lives of most everyone else. Evil hurts and kills people, and even wrecks the very means of life.
First off, let’s dispense with Communism. Everywhere it has been tried on a large scale, it has turned into a murderous dictatorship. Russia, China, and North Korea are the obvious examples. (I’m leaving Cuba out as a special case because of the decades-long US embargo.) Whatever the fine words about creating a worker’s paradise, all turned into totalitarian dictatorships that killed millions of their own citizens.
The Soviets intentionally starved millions of Ukrainians during the Holodomor. Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party starved an estimated 30 million people to death. The reason both man-made famines happened is because a psychopath became the leader, and, well, that’s what he wanted to do.
Concentrated Power is Concentrated Evil
Communism has a fatal flaw in that it concentrates power first in the hands of a few, then in one man’s hands. Stalin was the undisputed ruler of the USSR until his death, and it looks very likely that Xi Jinping will essentially be the Emperor of China until his demise.
Any system that concentrates power is going to have problems. The problem is not simply that power corrupts, but that it attracts the corrupt. The worst kind of people are drawn to power, because it allows them to practice their vices and perversions without consequences. This is why some child molesters seek to become coaches and team doctors. Others become politicians or CEOs.
What is Socialism?
The theory behind socialism/communism is that class warfare drives most of our problems and it must be eliminated – classes must be eliminated. What Marx and the socialists miss is that class is simply one more way the sociopaths use to divide us. There is nothing special about rich versus poor. All divisions between people are artificial and usually ginned up by sociopaths in order to divide and conquer. The only real division between people is between those with a conscience and those without, between the normal humans and the sociopaths, between Homo sapiens and Homo sociopathicus.
Many of us have no idea what socialism is or is not, thanks to years of nonsensical propaganda from American right-wingers who call everything they don’t like communism or socialism. The right is terrified of any potential alternative to unregulated capitalism, so they demonize those alternatives at every opportunity.
Let’s say that Communism is State Socialism, where the people/government own pretty much every ‘business.’ These enterprises build what a central planning committee tells them to make, from tanks to tea cups. There is no need to make a profit, or even any concept of that. Workers are paid, but their needs are less because the state provides housing, health care, post-secondary education, and many other services for ‘free,’ meaning at no cost to the user. People don’t buy houses, the government provides one for everyone, for example.
Some readers are thinking this sounds like a big improvement on the market capitalism of the USA, where there are 33 empty homes for every homeless person, and parts of it are. Unfortunately, concentrating power results in very evil people sooner or later getting that power and abusing it in horrible ways, so that ‘free’ Soviet apartment ultimately came at a very high price.
In addition, a few people became phenomenally rich and powerful, while Soviet citizens lived a very materially impoverished life compared to people in the West. I remember a Hungarian friend who grew up under Communism telling me he went to the giant department store called GUM in Moscow, expecting to see a vast array of things for sale. Instead, for coffee cups, he said there was one style and size only: hundreds and hundreds of plain white coffee cups.
Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it’s just the opposite.
Socialism Is What It Is
But is there a softer side to socialism, one not prone to corruption and abuse? That’s what today’s socialists claim, but even a quick looks shows they are dangerous people who cannot be allowed near power. Here is the socialist magazine Jacobin defending the Berlin Wall:
The Glory of the Berlin Wall
For anyone unfamiliar with the Berlin Wall, here’s what Jacobin is defending:
- Millions of East Germans escaped this paradise of “modest prosperity and social equality” before the wall was built
- At least 140 people died trying to cross over the wall to escape
- East Germany remains behind West Germany in many ways to this day
I could find no record of anyone dying to get into Communist East Germany, or wanting to go there to live, at all. I’m sure there were a few, but clearly Communist East Germany was not a good place if the Communists had to build a wall to keep citizens from fleeing. You would think that would be self-evident, but not to the Jacobin which appears to be trying to whitewash Communist history.
Socialism Requires Sacrifice Zones
Capitalism requires “sacrifice zones,” where one people and region are exploited so other people and regions can take what they have and pollute freely. For example: Canadian mining companies are infamous for polluting and poisoning people in their South American mines. Chinese manufacturers are notoriously polluting and cancer rates are rising fast in the areas when manufacturing is concentrated.
Oops, did I say Chinese manufacturers? Looks like glorious socialism also favours sacrificing some for the good of the many. The Jacobin defends this in an article about the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).
Someone always has to pay for sweeping social change, for modernity and progress. And someone – or some officiating entity of someones – has to to decide who it will be.Jacobin No. 45, Spring 2022, page 169.
Or in my home province, BC New Democratic Party, a putatively democratic socialist party, is in power. After campaigning against a massive dam that would destroy some of the best farmland in Canada, they gained power and did an about-face, now supporting the dam. (Proving socialist politicians are as much liars as capitalist ones. Turns out they lied about many things.) They campaigned against the dam because of the very high cost, the destruction of farmland, the theft of Indigenous land, and the environmental impact. None of those changed once elected.
The BC government is brazenly opening a pathway for resource extraction in the face of a mounting climate crisis, and at the expense of the well-being and territorial rights of Indigenous people.
It seems the socialists also don’t care much about people or planet.
Socialists are Colonizers, Too
One of the great complaints against capitalists has been their colonization of the world. They have enslaved, murdered, and driven Indigenous people from their lands in order to exploit the resources. The socialists have no problem doing the same. Russia is currently attempting to colonize Ukraine. The stated goals are clear: elimination of Ukraine as a country and as a people. Russia’s actions clearly bear that out – they are engaging in mass state terrorism to achieve their ends.
Russia may no longer be remotely socialist, but for some reason many socialists support Russia in its attempt to colonize another country, to destroy people, to force them to live as the colonizer demands. Here is a Canadian eco-socialist, the leader of the Green Party of Quebec, from his comfortable and safe home, telling Ukrainians to surrender:
Russia’s most recent demands for a neutral and non-nuclear status for Ukraine, its demilitarization, its denazification, as well as the recognition of Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk are reasonable demands that should be accepted by the Western countries and the Ukrainian government.
Here is Dimitri Lascaris, a Canadian human rights lawyer who came in second in the race for the leadership of the Green Party of Canada:
I, too, believe that Ukraine’s government should negotiate with Russia, and that it should make major concessions in order to secure peace for its people.
It’s as though these people do not understand what being colonized means, or perhaps they just don’t care because they’re pro-Russia. To be colonized is to be erased. Your history, your people, your rights, even your family. Ask the Indigenous people anywhere in the world what colonization means.
There is no thought in Jacobin of making change without sacrificing some people and places. Somebody has to pay for their Utopia. There are some other oddities scattered throughout this magazine of socialists:
- “As the Marxist metalsmith and theorist…” (pg. 13) – First, there is no such thing as a “Marxist metalsmith.” That’s either bad writing or Marxism run mad. I think it’s the latter, because next:
- the author drops in an entirely unnecessary reference to Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach, which seems sheer Marxist snobbery.
- Further, the article generally disparaged scientists and praised engineers, for example: “…it wasn’t through the abstract study of thermodynamics that the locomotive was invented but through the work of ordinary engineers who had a problem to solve.” Any engineer worth his or her credentials is well aware of the amount of science that underlies their field. Solar panels require university researchers doing pure research, that feeds applied scientists developing proofs of concept, that feeds engineers developing commercial versions. Anti-intellectualism seems common on both the far left and far right, for the same reasons – they’re afraid of smart people who can pick their BS apart.
- And, in an article praising a mammoth government project, the author runs down government Research and Development (R&D) because it never produces anything. Like, say, the Internet or insulin.
Fools to the Left, Jokers to the Right
If you keep going politically left or right, you’ll end up at roughly the same place. The Horseshoe Theory says that far left and far right both turn into dictatorships, and it really doesn’t matter exactly what type they are. Political scientists have some criticisms of the theory, but practically speaking it is obviously true enough. The differences between the regimes of Putin, Jinping, Bolsonaro, and Trump are different only because of opportunity, because of the systems constraining them. They are all sociopaths.
This is the real lesson of the Horseshoe Theory and political extremism: whether the extremists it enables are far left or far right is a lot less important than the fact they are extremists.
Wherever state socialism is tried on a large scale, such as the former Soviet Union or the current China, it simply concentrates too much power in the hands of too few. Those few are or become deeply corrupt and even evil. They will not hesitate to sacrifice citizens either in service of their grand plans or because they stand in the way.
Capitalism also concentrates power, as we have seen in the US, Canada, and other countries that are now considered largely oligarchies. The inevitable outcome is a Trump or other populist sociopath who claims to be the only one who can restore the nation to glory.
Moderation in All Things
So yes, socialism is an evil system. We know this because of what we have seen it do, not because of theory. Same for capitalism. Both spin out of control into a de facto oligarchy led by a sociopath. Theorists can attempt to explain this repeated pattern away all they want…but it is a repeated pattern.
The only systems known to not devolve into rule-by-psychopath are social democracy using well-designed proportional representation (i.e., not Israel), and tribal systems. Both systems have a history of stability, though tribal systems won’t help much with our large societies. Tribal people were well aware of sociopaths had ways of dealing with them, up to and including killing them.
We may not want to kill the sociopaths, but we need to imprison them or otherwise protect ourselves from them. Instead, we promote them to the highest positions of power. Socialism and capitalism both enable evil to prevail.