"Real Socialism" Has Indeed Been Tried... And It's Been A Disaster

Authored by Ryan McMaken via The Mises Institute,

May 5th marked the 200th Anniversary of Karl Marx's birth, and in spite of inspiring a wide variety of political movements that have caused countless human rights disasters, Marx continues to be an object of admiration among many intellectuals and artists. One such example can be seen in Raoul Peck's new film The Young Karl Marx which portrays Marx is a principled radical with a laudable thirst for justice

Fortunately for Marx the man and his reputation, he never personally gained control of the machinery of any state. Thus, the dirty work of actually implementing the necessary "dictatorship of the proletariat" was left up to others. And those who attempted to bring Marxism into the light of practical reality, quickly found that applied Marxism brings impoverishment and the destruction of human freedom. 

Nevertheless, after a century marked by brutal socialist regimes based on various interpretations of Marx's ideas, Marx's rehabilitation often rests on the idea that "real socialism" has "never been tried." That is, a truly "pure" socialist experience — as Marx presumably wanted — has always been tainted by the presence of bourgeois ideas or lingering capitalistic habits present in the state apparatus. 

A typical example of this sort of thinking can be found in Noam Chomsky's insistence that the obviously socialist regime in Venezuela is really "quite remote from socialism." And it's also notable in philosopher Slavoj Zizek's 2017 article " The problem with Venezuela’s revolution is that it didn’t go far enough" at The Guardian. 

In Zizek's view, it seems, socialism can work if the habits and customs of the status quo are destroyed utterly and replaced by entirely new ways of thinking. Or, as Zizek's describes it, old proverbs (i.e., modes of thought) must be totally replaced by new proverbs. For example: 

Radical revolutionaries like Robespierre fail because they just enact a break with the past without succeeding in their effort to enforce a new set of customs (recall the utmost failure of Robespierre’s idea to replace religion with the new cult of a Supreme Being). The leaders like Lenin and Mao succeeded (for some time, at least) because they invented new proverbs, which means that they imposed new customs that regulated daily lives.

Thus, the problem in Venezuela is not that countless private business have been seized, property rights been destroyed, and countless citizens deprived of basic freedoms. No, the problem is that the Venezuelan regime was too conservative and failed to implement a total break with the past. 

But how is that break from the past to be brought about? The truth lies in the language used by Zizek himself. It involves "enforc[ing] a set of customs" and "impos[ing] new customs." This, of course, is the language of coercion and violence. These new "customs" wouldn't have to be imposed, of course, if people wanted to adopt them voluntarily. 

From the point of view of the socialist purist, if only a new Lenin or a new Mao were to come along and try harder, well, then socialism might finally succeed. After all, as the satirical publication The Onion recently suggested, "Stalin Was Just One Great Purge Away From Creating Communist Utopia."

As hyperbolic as such a statement may seem, this idea nevertheless fundamentally describes the mindset of those who claim "socialism has never really been tried"; if socialism is to be implemented, something must be done to relieve people of their attachment to private property and all the other customs and ideas that get in the way of utopia. 

In practice, this has always meant using the power of the state to force a new way of life on people. Moreover, thanks to economic realities, it has also meant that the more socialism is applied, the lower the standard of living sinks. But — the thinking goes — so long as the socialist planners keep forging ahead, and refuse to be sabotaged by capitalist thought, then utopia can be reached. Yes, there will be a lot of suffering in the interim, but the ultimate payoff will be incalculably great.

Represented graphically, the idea looks like this: 

Both Marx and Stalin admitted this unfortunate "interim stage" was a problem. As Ludwig von Mises notes, Marx even had to invent a two-tiered evolution of socialism:

In a letter, Karl Marx distinguished between two stages of socialism — the lower preliminary stage and the higher stage. But Marx didn’t give different names to these two stages. At the higher stage, he said, there will be such an abundance of everything that it will be possible to establish the principle “to everybody according to his needs.” Because foreign critics noticed differences in the standards of living of various members of the Russian Soviets, Stalin made a distinction. At the end of the 1920s he declared that the lower stage was “socialism” and the higher stage was “communism.” The difference was that at the lower socialist stage there was inequality in the rations of the various members of the Russian Soviets; equality will be attained only in the later, communist, stage. 

Partial Capitalism Works Better Than Partial Socialism

Note, however, that capitalism doesn't suffer from this problem. If we take a middle-of-the road interventionist economy and start introducing partial, half-way free-market liberal reforms, does this cause the economy to collapse? 

Certainly not. Indeed, everywhere we look and find a relatively less socialistic economy, the less poverty and more prosperity we find.

Historically, this is obvious. The countries that embraced free trade, industrialization, and the trappings of market economies early on are the wealthiest economies today. We also find this to be the case in post-war Europe where the relatively pro-market economies such as those in Germany and the UK are wealthier and have higher standards of living than the more socialistic economies of southern Europe — such as Greece and Spain. This is even true of the Scandinavian countries like Sweden, which, as Per Bylund has noted, historically built its wealth with a relatively laissez-faire regime.

We see this phenomenon at work in comparisons between West Germany and East Germany. In West Germany after World War II pro-market reforms helped usher in a period of immense economic growth — with only half-way reforms. By abolishing price controls and other government-imposed restraints on the economy, the Germany economy took off while more socialistic economies — like that found in the UK at the time — were more stagnant. 

Obviously, in the case of Germany, the West German state did not adopt "pure" capitalism. They merely adopted relatively more laissez-faire. And the economy expanded. In fact, according to Hans Sennholz, the West German state rather accidentally stumbled upon its free market reforms. And yet, we call the results "the German economic miracle." 

Other examples can be found across Eastern Europe and Latin America. Where markets are more relatively free, the higher the standard of living, and the greater the economic growth. Capitalists aren't forced to make excuses about how "real capitalism has never been tried" — even though purely free markets have never existed anywhere. 

200 years after Marx, though, every new Marx-inspired failure causes his defenders to resort to this same excuse again and again. One can only hope that 200 years from now, they've given up. 


FireBrander Free2beFree Sun, 05/06/2018 - 12:10 Permalink

Socialism "has bee tried" about as much as Free Market Capitalism...

There is no Golden "ism" to guarantee an economic Utopia; outside of theories in textbooks...they all look good on paper.

No matter which "ism" you pick, the end result is the average person is screwed and a few people are insanely wealthy...wash, rinse, repeat to infinity.

"ism's" fail because they neglect to properly deal with Evil/Greed...even when an "ism" takes aim at it, Evil/Greed always finds a way around the rules.

Best bet...keep the Government small, all real power over your life local, and carry a gun to keep your neighbors honest.

In reply to by Free2beFree

ThinkerNotEmoter FireBrander Sun, 05/06/2018 - 12:24 Permalink

"But... but.. but... The **smart** people like The Bern, Hillary(!), or Dear Leader Obama weren't in charge when these people tried and failed.  If we ("the ones we've been waiting for") do it, it will work.  That I become a wealthy, connected, Socialist elite without having to work and produce something of value for a living is just a side bonus (reference The Bern Feel for example). Now get your ass out there and work so that I may rule over you."

In reply to by FireBrander

J S Bach CheapBastard Sun, 05/06/2018 - 13:22 Permalink

It's funny how Marx, the father of Communism - that system of governance which is responsible for over 100 million innocent goy lives being lost - is lauded and praised.  It's also funny how Hitler, the father of National Socialism - that system of governance which is the natural antidote to Communism - is vilified and scorned.  Some know why this is.  Karl was one of (((them)))... Adolph was not.

In reply to by CheapBastard

Kelley J S Bach Sun, 05/06/2018 - 13:40 Permalink

The difference between Stain and Hitler is that Stalin would shoot you dead with his left hand. Hitler used his right.

We sense you are a Holocaust denier as well. Let's see how much self control you have. Will it be five paragraphs with three links? You know you want to do it! 'Educate' us all now.  

In reply to by J S Bach

two hoots Kelley Sun, 05/06/2018 - 14:14 Permalink

New world order would most likely set a goal of pure Communism (under a different name) with the pains to get there as an asset because it would decrease the population and later, when pure, have the controls to starve the rest.  To them capitalism provokes over population, taxing of resources, pollution, disease, waste, landfills, water loss, smells, graveyards, homeless, overuse of parks and lands, crowded beaches, airports, everything they don't like.  

In reply to by Kelley

MrBoompi CheapBastard Sun, 05/06/2018 - 13:55 Permalink

The bankers and industrial oligarchs supported the Bolshevics, the Chinese communists, and Hitler.  There are a lot of reasons to hate "lefties", but the globalists could care less if a country is capitalist, socialist, communist, a dictatorship, a monarchy, or a theocracy.  As long as you obey and play by the rules they're OK with you.  

In reply to by CheapBastard

RAT005 FireBrander Sun, 05/06/2018 - 12:25 Permalink

Govt.'s only necessary functions are border control, no counterfeiting, and property rights in every manner. Everything else is scope creep. And that definition ensures small government.

I'll recycle my early thread position to mention greed is not evil. Some people might benefit from not being greedy while others might benefit from being greedy.

In reply to by FireBrander

RAT005 The_Dude Sun, 05/06/2018 - 13:03 Permalink

Agree that is is very close, but if I have 10 gold tokens and they are suppose to be worth something, someone distributing counterfeits of them "is their business" but undermines mine.  If the gov. is minting gold tokens, it is in everyone's critical interest to prevent counterfeits.  I'm just one little guy, I can't stop it, but the gov. can be powerful enough to stop it.  I can't protect the rights of my money against a group funded by counterfeiting.

A little tangent from your comment: rape can be defined as a property right violation, pollution can be defined as a property right issue, deliberate harmful influence of children can be defined as a property right issue.

In reply to by The_Dude

adampeart FireBrander Sun, 05/06/2018 - 13:11 Permalink

Yes, yes, keep believing evil(a bullshit construct in the first place) and greed need elimination in order for everything to go swimmingly for everyone. It’s much easier to accept that those attributes of humanity will always exist and “equality” is an irrational and unattainable ideal intended for true believers in unicorns.

In reply to by FireBrander

Manipuflation FireBrander Sun, 05/06/2018 - 14:36 Permalink

I actually upvoted you FireBrander.  I did have to read what you wrote twice though.  You did NOT advocate socialism or capitalism.  You said to keep government small and maybe that is why you are at about 50% red/green because remember half of the the citixens(sic) work for the .gov and they sure as hell are not going to cut their own throats at the expense of doing what is the correct thing to do.

In reply to by FireBrander

css1971 FireBrander Sun, 05/06/2018 - 12:52 Permalink

Laissez-faire existed in the west as a dominant philosophy till about the mid 1920s.

Post that time, outright full on socialism and the "middle way" - fascism - started to be implemented. "The New Deal", was the implementation of fascism in the USA, and the end of free market capitalism.


I don't believe the end of Laissez-faire and universal suffrage are remotely coincidental.


If you think inequality is a problem then you need to reduce the size of markets and maximise the number of markets. Markets naturally benefit "middle men" most of all as they form hub/spoke networks, and as the hubs, they benefit from both sides. This is where the Pareto distribution kicks in btw, it's the maths.

Amazon and whomever was financing Amazon obviously completely understand this btw. Where the market is the entire world, there will be a couple of companies which dominate the entire planet and become the middle men for everyone.

In reply to by FireBrander

rf80412 css1971 Sun, 05/06/2018 - 13:11 Permalink

If you think inequality is a problem then you need to reduce the size of markets and maximise the number of markets.

This mirrors what GK Chesterton once wrote: “The problem with capitalism is not too many capitalists, but too few capitalists."

Like it or not, most people are Marx's proletariat: i.e. they do not own any part of the means of production - not even a family farm - and subsist entirely by selling their labor to someone, either a boss or a client.  Since capitalism rewards the ownership of capital above all else - the more capital you own, the more money you make, and the more capital you can buy, rinse and repeat - as ownership of the means of production is INEVITABLY concentrated into fewer and fewer hands, it takes on the characteristics of a monopoly: everyone who must sell their labor is forced to sell it on terms set exclusively by those who buy labor.  Some of these buyers might be generous and even paternalistic, but most are not ... if only because they cannot afford to be.

In reply to by css1971

Victor von Doom rf80412 Sun, 05/06/2018 - 21:53 Permalink

Production is NOT inevitably concentrated into fewer and fewer hands.

It happens not because the masses don't own any of the means of production - but because they do not strive to do so.

Most people are poor and stay poor because they never do anything to improve their lot.

Think about it - does the average person invest in stocks/real estate etc? No, but they churn out Marxists who hate those that have had the self discipline to invest.

It's just as Free2beFree says, " Socialism is for lazy useless freeloading trash, and the people who want to have total control of them. " Spot on.

In reply to by rf80412

Farqued Up FireBrander Sun, 05/06/2018 - 13:07 Permalink

Free Markets has no -ISM. Let's try that.

It's all about control, and let's point the baton at the main perpetrators, our gated neighbors, the Babylonians. The Rosenbergs were executed and they didn't do nearly the damage their kin, the banksters, have done since.

Of course Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, Mao, Castro, ad nauseum were experts at formulating ways of murdering people, proletariat and bourgeoise alike. Any commie that says that "it hasn't been tried yet" is really saying that they killed 100 million and it still didn't work. What they are now saying in their ivory towers of tenure is that for it to succeed they will have to kill everyone and absolutely forbid any kind of market forces to exist. Of course the superior Babylonians and tenured ones are superior and must control it. They have destroyed the best control that they could ever hope to have, Christianity, and one day when they have enlightened out of the Chosenite dogma, a rock or machete will suffice to get a gun and ammo. The stupid pricks are doomed and had better kiss the asses of the 96%. Also, their poor brothers, the wandering Gypsies keep moving to avoid lynchings. Hide and watch the upper crust Gypsies move along to the Orient when the USD goes to toilet paper. 

"It's against the law to throw the currency in the toilet" read signs in Zimbabwe shitters. Coming Soon!!

The state must own everything and dispense according to what's left after the Tenured Commies have consumed and confiscated all they can eat and haul off just like cockroaches. And, just like cockroaches, as a famous coach once said, paraphrasing, "it ain't what they eat and haul off, it's what they fall in and fuck up". How true.

In reply to by FireBrander

Radical Marijuana FireBrander Sun, 05/06/2018 - 22:36 Permalink

Yes, there is only one political system: organized crime.

"Real Socialism"  has NEVER been actually tried, nor could its idealized form, according to dictionary definitions of what "Socialism"  is supposed to be, ever actually exist.

Articles associated with the Mises Institute tend to be some of the stupidest ones published on Zero Hedge. The article above keeps that tradition going.

"Free market capitalism"  is nothing more than cruel joke give that the overwhelming vast majority of the public money supplies are created out of nothing as debts, while governments enforce those frauds by private banks. That kind of MAD Money As Debt is actually NEGATIVE CAPITAL.

I agree that:

There is no Golden "ism" ...

The only things which actually exist are the dynamic equilibria between different systems of organized lies operating robberies. Governments developed as the biggest forms of organized crime, dominated by the best organized gangsters, who are currently the banksters.

Those who describe their versions of organized lies operating robberies as "Socialism" tend to be even more outrageous hypocrites than those which pretend that their system is "Capitalism." Both tend to be egregiously out of touch with the real social facts, which are that some people specialize in robbing other people, while all people live as groups of reproducing robbers.

The only theoretically possible better political system would necessarily be better organized crime, which would enable better murder systems to back up better money systems. (Where "better" is operationally defined as greater of use of information through greater consciousness.) Of course, since that appears politically impossible, the default is for various systems which are actually based on enforcing frauds to be operated by the best available professional hypocrites. It is within that context that those who claim they are "Socialists" are usually even more extremely hypocritical than those who claim they are "Capitalists."

Civilization was primarily made and maintained by its murder systems, since the history of warfare was the history of organized crime on larger and larger scales. It now looks to be NOT possible to have any genuinely rational public debates regarding political economy because of the long history of the biggest and best organized gangsters dominating society, such that the biggest bullies' bullshit has been built into the basic structure of the dominate natural languages and philosophy of science.

One of the corollaries of the civilizations operating according to the principles and methods of organized crime is that those civilizations become as dishonest as humanly possible regarding themselves. Although it is theoretically possible to better understand human beings and civilizations as manifestations of general energy systems, because the central core of those manifestations has become excessively successful organized crimes, it is politically impossible to sustain any relatively rational public debates.

Governments developed as military organizations, which necessarily survived the long history of warfare. However, the majority of citizens do not understand, as well as have been conditioned to not want to understand, that they are members of an organized crime gang called their country. Governments can NOT be kept small, since they survive by backing up bigger lies with more violence.

People are taught to think and communicate about political economy issues using the DUALITIES of false fundamental dichotomies and the related impossible ideals. All publicly significant religions and ideologies are forms of controlled "opposition" to the central core of triumphant organized crimes, whose excessively successfulness have resulted in Globalized Neolithic Civilization manifesting runaway criminal insanities.

Unfortunately, "carry a gun to keep your neighbors honest"  has become nostalgic nonsense. What actually exists now are globalized electronic monkey money frauds, backed by the threat of force from apes with atomic weapons. Given those facts, anyone who still thinks and communicates in old-fashioned ways which were developed back when there were only paper money frauds, backed by gunpowder weapons, is orders of magnitude in the wrong ball park.

The essential issues are about exponentially advancing technologies enabling sociopolitical systems based on being able to enforce frauds to become about exponentially more fraudulent. Since it was series of intellectual scientific revolutions and profound paradigm shifts in physical science which enabled technologies to become many orders of magnitude more capable and powerful, the only remotely possible ways to cope with the development of a political economy based on electronic money frauds, backed by the threat of atomic weapons, is for political science to go through series of intellectual scientific revolutions and profound paradigm shifts.

However, as the articles republished on Zero Hedge tend to reveal, while those from Mises Institute show that in some of the worst ways, there does not seem to be any reasonable chance that enough people are able and willing to change the ways that they think and communicate about politics. Rather, the only publicly significant phenomena are the parroting of various old-fashioned religions and ideologies, by those who admire that kind of nostalgic nonsense.

In reply to by FireBrander

slightlyskeptical UmbilicalMosqu… Sun, 05/06/2018 - 13:27 Permalink

No one is arguing the fact that veterans deserve health care. People have a problem with the fact that it doesn't extend to anyone else. A consistent approach would be for the VA to take of war injuries, etc. and then let the veterans take care of their of their own separate health care needs. We lose our jobs we lose affordable health care. 

In reply to by UmbilicalMosqu…

slightlyskeptical UmbilicalMosqu… Sun, 05/06/2018 - 13:27 Permalink

No one is arguing the fact that veterans deserve health care. People have a problem with the fact that it doesn't extend to anyone else. A consistent approach would be for the VA to take of war injuries, etc. and then let the veterans take care of their of their own separate health care needs. We lose our jobs we lose affordable health care. 

In reply to by UmbilicalMosqu…

Victor von Doom UmbilicalMosqu… Sun, 05/06/2018 - 22:31 Permalink

" Veterans have more right to medical care than you have for breathing productive people's air. "

Really? Ask yourself this question:

If a man creates something with his own two hands, and if anyone else was involved in the process and  have been payed in full; to whom then do the profits belong?

If you have any sort of moral fibre in you at all you would say to the man that did the work.

Veterans are pulling health care extorted from productive people. They have no "right" to it at all. None of us do.

Whether you think they are the protectors of the country or servants of a criminal organization is irrelevant. The fact is - their pay as soldiers and the welfare they receive afterwards are the product of State sponsored extortion.

In reply to by UmbilicalMosqu…

robobbob FireBrander Sun, 05/06/2018 - 19:12 Permalink

do you understand what a contract or obligations are? of course not, you're a marxist.

honor, duty, sacrifice aside, vets have fulfilled a CONTRACT, a written one in fact, surrendering a segment of their lives for the risks and difficulty of military service in exchange for  contractual OBLIGATIONS to the vets; direct pay for services rendered, and assorted CONTINUED BENEFITS in the future.

there is NOTHING SOCIALIZED about the VA. It is delivering PAYMENT for SERVICES RENDERED. they are collecting something THAT IS OWED TO THEM by CONTRACTUAL AGREEMENT.

The disastrous mess that often occurs at the VA is exactly what happens when a government is involved with attempting to deliver services.

In reply to by FireBrander

Victor von Doom FireBrander Sun, 05/06/2018 - 22:05 Permalink

" Republicans are 1000% AGAINST "Socialized Medicine"...yet they will fight to their Political Death defending, and "Fully Funding", the VA Medical system...which is TRUE, 100%, Textbook "Socialized Medicine"...explain that one... "


The Republicans are part Socialist like all "mainstream" Western political parties today. This does not vindicate their stance - it condemns them.

In reply to by FireBrander

robobbob FireBrander Sun, 05/06/2018 - 18:59 Permalink

actually no.

a horse in a capitalist system would understand his relationship to the pigs. use his every means, such as unique skills, knowledge, labor output, of either exacting concessions from the pigs, negotiating with a neighboring farmer for better terms, or accumulating capital to leave the farm and buying his own farm, or a combination of those.

marxists of every stripe not only use coercion to keep the horse from doing any of those, but prevent him from even knowing that it is even possible, often involving a gun, a cattle prod, or psych drugs.

In reply to by FireBrander

Victor von Doom FireBrander Sun, 05/06/2018 - 22:02 Permalink


Remember the horse in animal farm. He worked himself to death for the Capitialists.

The real issue is that Capitalism was never about the proletariat or the good of the people. It has always been about turning the stupid goyim into slaves.

Works both ways; doesn't it..."

No - it doesn't. The "proletariat" in Capitalism are free to elevate themselves by investing in stocks/real estate etc.

Not so the poor slobs that suffer under Communism.

One provides the chance at prosperity, the other doesn't.

That most of the "proletariat" chose to not avail themselves of the avenues of success is their choice and their fault.

In reply to by FireBrander

Endgame Napoleon Heros Sun, 05/06/2018 - 12:52 Permalink
  • Bigly, taxpayer-subsidized industries experience America’s socialism-for-some system in a bigly way that turns the marriage of socialism and capitalism into low-risk riches for a few. 
  • Small, American shopkeepers experience capitalism in its full, tumultuous brutality, and only a few truly small businesses survive and / or thrive, mostly due to independent wealth or secondary income streams from spouses or ex spouses—i.e. sources of income that have no connection to the business in and of itself.
  • Womb-productive, single women——-working part time to stay under the rock-bottom-low earned-income limits for multiple monthly welfare programs and the cut off for EITC refundable child tax credits up to $6,431, and legal / illegal immigrants in households with male breadwinners and US-born kids——experience the multi-cushioned comfort of socialism for some and the mostly rigged, mostly un-free labor market in the USA.
  • Single, childless individuals——the only group in the USA with near-zero access to monthly welfare and near-zero progressive-tax-code handouts——-comprise the only group in the USA, experiencing the full brutality a truly free labor market, particularly when rent consumes more than half of one stream of earned-only income in the states across the Southern USA, where per-capita income is between $18 and $20k. 


In reply to by Heros

PrivetHedge Free2beFree Sun, 05/06/2018 - 16:17 Permalink

Seems to work well for Iran.

True socialism doesn't involve a Rothschild Central Bank and so all the true socialist countries like Cuba etc are under constant attack from the pharisees.

Capitalist America on the other hand is a disaster, people are loaded with debt, many are homeless and the corporations are raping the land with their chemicals and wars.

This article appears to be designed by Ryan to single out those countries the pharisees want to destroy.

In reply to by Free2beFree