Few weeks ago, we discussed Capitalism, a system of government practised in the free world.
Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of production and their operation solely for profit. It is characterized by private ownership of property, capital accumulation, wage labour, a price system, competitive markets and voluntary exchange. Private individuals or businesses own and control capital and goods. Today, we shall take on Communism and Socialism as forms of government, the advantages and failures of these forms of government. Communism is a system of government based on the holding of property by the state, which controls the economy under a one-party political structure. Socialism on the other hand is a political, social and economic theory of social organisation which advocates that the means of production, distribution and exchange should be owned or regulated by the entire community, and not by individuals. COMMUNISM The Protestant Reformation was a revolt against papal abuse of power and privilege. Yet it unleashed a flood of ideas that went far beyond what the original Reformers anticipated. These ideas sooner or much later were to produce revolutions in fields other than religion. Not only did the revolt against Rome boost the development of capitalism, but it also contributed to innovations in the fields of science, technology and philosophy leading to godless beliefs. With the advent of the steam engine and machinery, capitalism spread out from the field of commerce into that of industry. The latter part of the 18th century and the 19th century saw the creation of huge factories requiring a large labor force recruited among peasants, craftsmen and even children. But capitalist “exploitation of man by man” led to the creation of workers’ movements and revolutionary philosophies such as communism. WHAT IS COMMUNISM? Theoretically, the term “communism” denotes “systems of social organisation based upon common property, or an equal distribution of income and wealth.” In current practice, communism is a system of government based on the holding of property by the state, which controls the economy under a one-party political structure. The concept of communism revolves around the theory or system of social organization in which all property is owned by the community and each person contributes and receives according to their abilities and needs. Communism seeks to create a classless society in which the major means of production such as mines, mills, factories and natural resources are owned not by private individuals but the public. Communism seeks to replace private ownership of properties, and control the means of production and the absence of social classes, money and the state. Propagated by Karl Marx, communism believes that inequality and suffering actually resulted from capitalism. According to its protagonists, communism is actually a higher advanced form of socialism. Communism is thus regarded as “revolutionary socialism” of Karl Marx. KARL MARX AND COMMUNISM Karl Marx, a 19th century thinker and writer often tended to use the terms communism and socialism interchangeably. In his book, “Critique of Gotha Programme” (1875), Marx actually identified two phases of communism that would replace or overthrown capitalism. The first phase would be a transitional system where the working class would control government and economy; and yet, still find it necessary to pay citizen according to how long, head or well they worked.
The second phase would be one where communism is fully realized. This would be the phase where there is no class division, or even government. In this phase, the production and distribution of goods would be based upon the principle of “from each according to his ability; to each according his needs”. This distinction was later to be copied by many Marxists, including Russian’s revolutionary “Vladimir Lenin” ORIGIN OF COMMUNISM The term “communism” came into focus in the 1840s. But Communist societies had been described as far back as the 4th century BCE when the great Philosopher, Plato, wrote the “Republic”. Plato had described an idea society in which the governing class serves only the interest of the entire community. This system was practised by the first set of Christians. In his book, Utopia (1516), the English Humanist, Thomas More, envisaged an imaginary society in which use of money is abolished, while all the people shall houses, meals, clothes, and other goods. Communism was, however, populated by Karl Marx, who carefully outlined this system of government with Fredrich Engels in the book, “The Communist Manifesto”, written in 1848. Marx’s embrace of communism was partly ignited by the inequalities caused by the industrial revolution. Lenin was later to argue in his “State and Revolution” book (1917) that socialism corresponded with Marx’s first phase of communism, why communism proper was that achieved in the second phase. Lenin and the Bolsheviks reinforced this distinction in 1918 (a year after they seized power in Russia). This is why communism is always identifies with the now defunct Soviet Union. It was later adopted by the People’s Republic of China. Thus, for much of the 20th century, about one-third of the entire world’s population was governed by communist regimes, usually single party that brooded no dissent or plurality of voices. Party leaders institutionalized command economies, in which the state controlled properly while bureaucrats determined wages, prices and other means of production and distribution of services and goods. These systems were grossly inefficient, leading to their eventual breakdown. Today, only China, Cuba, Laos and Vietnam, practice communism, even with full adulteration of the original Marxist ideol ogy. Marx, Lenin and Stalin would chuckle in their graves at this form of communism. It is thus clear that Marxism was targeted at abolishing the bourgeoisie (who owned the means of production and earned surplus profit) and replace it with the Proletariat (who sold their labour to the bourgeoisie). Leon Trotsky opposed Stalinism, but embraced Leninism. Maoism (named after Chinese leader Mao Zedong) was crafted after Marxism-Leninism. SOCIALISM There are three types of socialism. Namely, Utopian socialism; Leninism and Marxism Leninism. Socialism advocates collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods. In a socialist set up, there is no private ownership of property. It is a transitional period between capitalism and communism. The four factors of production which in a socialist order are collectively owned by everyone are labour, capital, goods and natural resources. ORIGIN OF SOCIALISM The word “socialism” comes from the Latin word “socius”, meaning “companion.” It was first used in England at the beginning of the 19th century, and a little later in France. It was applied to the social theories of Englishman Robert Owen (1771-1858) and Frenchmen Saint-Simon (1760-1825) and Charles Fourier (1772-1837). Owen criticized the capitalist organisation of industry, based on competition and on the exploitation of the workers. He recommended a cooperative system in which men and women would live in “Villages of Unity and Cooperation, enjoying the fruits of their labor in both agriculture and industry”. Several Owenite communities were set up in Scotland, Ireland and even in the United States. But they eventually disintegrated. In France, Fourier advocated the creation of model communities called phalansteries, consisting of people who would work according to their preferences. Unlike Owen, who accepted state intervention to set up his “villages,” Fourier believed his system would work on an entirely voluntary basis. Moreover, members of his communities would be paid according to their efforts and would be allowed to own property. Fourier thought he had discovered a social organization that corresponded with men’s natural desires in their search for happiness. Fourierist communities were actually set up in Europe and in the United States. But they also failed. Nearer to modern socialism were the ideas of Frenchman Saint-Simon. Saint Simon
advocated the collective ownership of the means of production and their administration by experts in the fields of science, technology, industry and finance. Saint-Simon believed that cooperation between science and industry would produce a new society in which people would have equal opportunity of finding prosperity according to their abilities and the amount and quality of their work. Although more respectful of individual freedom than communism, socialism has not succeeded in bringing about international peace and happiness. Why?
WHY SOCIALISM FAILED
For one thing, socialism has not proved itself more powerful than nationalism.
Concerning the Second International, a federation of Socialist parties and trade unions founded in 1889, we read that it “issued many moving and stirring manifestoes against war, but when war broke out [in 1914] it disclosed its paralysis.
Most of its national components sided with their own governments and abandoned the idea of international working-class solidarity.”(Encyclopedia Britannica).
Since then, the socialist movement has continued to be fragmented and to mean different things to different people.
The name “socialist” is used by various governments throughout the world, some of which differs very little from progressive conservative governments; whereas others are authoritarian and even totalitarian.
The word “socialist” has therefore lost much of its meaning for many sincere people who thought it would lead to a worldwide brotherhood in a classless society of material prosperity and happiness.
Little wonder that French trade-union leader Edmond Maire wrote in “Le Monde”: “The historic failure of the labor movement in its ambition to build socialism . . . [has] led a number of militantsboth workers and intellectuals to give up even the long-term hopes. . . .
The young appear to be particularly affected by this weakening of the socialist hope.” Thus, whether it is by means of capitalism, communism or socialism, mankind’s quest for a system that will bring material prosperity and real happiness has failed. American sociologist Daniel Bell admits: “For the radical intelligentsia, the old ideologies have lost their ‘truth,’ and their power to persuade. Few serious minds believe any longer that one can set down ‘blueprints’ and through ‘social engineering’ bring about a new utopia of social harmony”.
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
The theory of Communism may be summed up in one sentence: Abolish all private property. (Karl Marx).
Fellow Nigerians, synergise with me every week, to put our heads together on how to retool Nigeria.
Right here on “The Nigerian Project”, by Chief Mike A. A. Ozekhome, SAN, OFR, FCIArb, LL.M, Ph.D, LL.D.
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