Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Heywood: Socialism

This article couldn’t be more familiar to me. My high school politics textbooks are pretty much the same with it, though in Chinese. Those principles are exactly how I’m educated: always skeptical about industrial capitalism, always believe community and co-operation are better than individuals. But we don’t stress on class conflict or social commitment to egalitarianism as much as before, because these ideas caused horrible chaos in social practice. We are still struggling with the problem of national property privatization today.

Marx is the most important contributor to socialism, who is like a ghost I could never get away from. I wish I wouldn’t need to learn Marx any more when I got out of China, but now I’m still reading and writing about him, as he’s also very influential in Western countries. He warned that “capitalism was unstable, doomed because of conflict between bourgeoisie and proletariat.” Though history didn’t follow the way Marx predicted, I believe it’s not because Marx made a mistake, but capitalism changed itself because of Marx. That’s how those modern social democratic countries come from. To the opposite, China has adopted economical capitalism since 30 years ago. Hence, there’s an ironic saying in China today that “if you want to see socialism, go to north Europe; if you want to see capitalism, come to China.”

Marxism is said to be too idealistic and utopia, which is very attempted while “dangerous,” because “he said little about how this goal could be achieved in practice.” That’s where things become very problematic. In both Soviet Union and China’s practices, I wouldn’t say they’re completely failed, but they did cause huge sacrifice and social turmoil.

There’s an interesting observation at the beginning of the article, that socialism established “itself as a major political force in virtually every part of the globe, with the exception of North America.” I remember there’s a German named Wemer Sombart wrote a book about this topic: “why there is no socialism in America?” How could America be an exception? Is that saying liberalism and conservatism here are strong enough to resist any other kind of ideology? I couldn’t really figure it out.

1 comment:

Daniel Brown said...

It's interesting to read an outsider's perspective on this. I feel like growing up with these ideas presented to you in the same way I was presented with liberal ideas gives you a unique opinion on the matter. What you say about history reacting to Marx and therefore changing from the way he predicted is a good point. Perhaps, had Marx kept his ideas to himself, he would have been right.

I found myself struggling with the same passage about socialism not taking foot in North America. Maybe this is due to the way in which America was founded, with the revolution primarily focused on liberal ideals. Still, it seems odd that we would be completely impervious to Socialism while countries all around the world have adopted it.