Thursday, March 6, 2008

"Socialism: an obituary for an idea"

Following passages appear in an essay by Irving Kristol, titled- Socialism: an obituary for an idea.

True, there is a dwindling band of socialist fideists who keep insisting that we must not judge socialism by any of its works. The Soviet Union, they tell us, is not "socialist" at all; nor is China, or Cuba, or Yugoslavia, or Hungary, or all those other "people's democracies." Neither, of course, are such regimes as exist in Peru or Syria or Zaire, whose claims to socialist legitimacy are not to be taken seriously. As for western countries with social-democratic government, such as Britain or Sweden -- well, they get a passing grade for "effort" but it seems that they are insufficiently resolute or intelligent to bring "true" socialism about.

This is all quite ridiculous, of course. Socialism is what socialism does. The plaintive lament of the purist that socialism ( or capitalism, or Christianity) has "never really been tried" is simply the expression of petulance and obstinacy on the part of ideologues who, convinced that they have a more profound understanding than anyone else of the world and its history, now find that they have been living a huge self-deception. People who persist in calling themselves socialist, while decrying the three quarters of the world that has proclaimed itself socialist, and who can find a socialist country nowhere but in there imaginings -- such people are anachronisms. As such they do serve a purpose: They help the historian and scholar understand what socialists used to think socialism was all about. One could discover that from reading books, to be sure, but it is sometimes enlightening to interview an actual survivor.
I couldn't find the original article online, but if you're interested you might want to read this book, chap. 24 p 301. It was originally published in The American Spectator, Oct 1976.

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