Previous posts in this discussion:
PostMarxism and Olof Palme (Massoud Malek, USA, 02/20/14 12:10 pm)
Marx and Engels argued that socialism (or communism; they used the terms interchangeably) could only be achieved in the most developed capitalist countries by peaceful means. But Lenin's socialism was a distortion of Marxism. The fathers of socialism never suggested that socialism could be achieved through a revolution or the dictatorship of one person or one group.
Marx believed that the wage system was the exploitation of the working class, which he called the wealth-producing class. Once workers were unable to work, they were just disposed of. He called capitalism the "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie." Contrary to Marx, Lenin rejected the view that the working class was capable of achieving socialism without dictatorship. He believed that workers should be exploited by the politburo. It is ironic that in a document for the First Congress of the Communist International, Lenin described bourgeois "democracy" as the dictatorship of the capitalist class over the exploited and oppressed, pointing to the violent suppression of US labor struggles.
Only one country in a brief period of time followed several principles of Marxism. Under Olof Palme, an outspoken critic of Soviet Union and European Communist regimes, Sweden became a Marxist society. Unlike Obamacare, which forces American citizens to buy health insurance from for-profit health insurance companies and penalizes workers and employers who reject this type of so-called universal health care, the public health system in Sweden became very efficient and truly universal. The welfare state was significantly expanded and job security was increased. Special help provided to the disabled, single-parent families, the low-paid, and immigrants. Finally, child care centers, social security, protection of the elderly, accident safety, and housing problems received special attention.
Unfortunately, Marx never mentioned that improving lives of the wealth-producing class would increase foreign debt and budget deficits in an advanced capitalist county. Thus, after Olof Palme's death, Sweden begged bourgeois dictators from far away lands to come and help the country keep its Marxist programs.
JE comments: I don't follow Massoud Malek's last point, but it has been a long time since Olof Palme came up on WAIS. I just checked, and they still haven't found who was responsible for his 1986 assassination. A question: if we exclude the elaborate conspiracy theory, has there ever been a higher-profile political assassination that was never "solved"?
Marxism; on the "Dictatorship of the Proletariat"
(Alan Levine, USA
02/21/14 3:30 AM)
Massoud Malek (20 February) makes a few key errors in his discussion of Marxism. Massoud writes that according to Marx, communism "could only be achieved in the most developed capitalist countries by peaceful means," and "the fathers of socialism never suggested that socialism could be achieved through a revolution or the dictatorship of one person or one group."
Not exactly on either point. Marx thought that communism might possibly come peacefully in a few advanced capitalist countries: England, the US, and Holland. But the "peacefully" here is the exception to his general rule. Marx's general rule was that a violent revolution would be necessary for communism to take place, and his admitting that it might come peacefully anywhere was a very late exception to his views, even for those few countries. Marx also argued that the revolution had to be global--it could not succeed in any one country or area. That was Stalin's innovation, although many other "fathers of socialism" thought it could exist in a single country. Not totally unlike Lenin, Marx also argued that the "dictatorship of the proletariat," as opposed to what he deemed the then existing dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, was a necessary in-between phase on the road to communism. Marx thought that the "dictatorship of the proletariat" would eventually disappear, although he never explained exactly how. Lenin's "dictatorship of the proletariat" is consistent with Marx's rhetoric, although perhaps not with the behaviors that Marx desired.
JE comments: There must be entire studies devoted to the "dictatorship of the proletariat," and I'm sure political scientist Alan Levine can recommend a book or two. But the D of the P presents an insurmountable roadblock in the Marxist/Leninst Utopian scheme. What incentive, other than violence from the old bourgeoisie or other, "less equal," proletarians, would the dictatorship have to dissolve itself? In historical practice, the answer would be "none."
- Socialism, Sweden, and Olof Palme (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 02/21/14 3:52 AM)
I have a few quibbles with Massoud Malek's (20 February) characterization of Marxism, Socialism and Communism in Sweden:
1. Massoud wrote: "Marx and Engels argued that socialism (or communism; they used the terms interchangeably)..." A strange statement--they most certainly did not use these terms interchangeably. Socialism is, according to Marx, the transitional stage which will inevitably come on the way to Communism. During the Socialist phase, private ownership of the means of production and market mechanisms in the economy are eliminated in favor of public or cooperative ownership of the means of production and planned production, wage and price levels, etc. The purpose of this is to get the "surplus value" created by economic activity away from "capitalists" and transfer it to the proletariat. As this process takes place, "exploitative" classes will disappear (into unmarked mass graves, with bullet holes in the backs of their heads, some wags will say), and with them, all class distinctions in society. When this process is complete, then Communism will come. During the Communist phase, the state will "wither away"--since there will be no more class enemies to coerce--and money will cease to exist. Note well that Marx and Engels considered these to be inevitable historical processes.
2. Massoud further stated: "[Lenin] called capitalism the ‘dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.'" He did not, in fact. That's what Lenin called the Provisional Government after the February (1917) Revolution in Russia.
3. Massoud: "Under Olof Palme, an outspoken critic of Soviet Union and European Communist regimes, Sweden became a Marxist society." There is a lot wrong with this statement. First of all, Sweden's transformation to a welfare state democracy started long before Olof Palme. The transition started in the 1930s (Palme was elected Prime Minister in 1969). Second, Sweden has never been a Marxist state. The hallmark of Marxism is the collective ownership of the means of production; Sweden, unlike many other states, including most of Latin America at one time, has never had any kind of mass nationalization of companies, and this has never been in the program of the SAP (Swedish Social Democratic Party). Furthermore, Sweden has always been a strongly democratic society with a vigorous opposition, which has occasionally held power. It has never been part of the program of the SAP, at least since its earliest formative days, to eliminate democracy and to move Sweden down the path of Marxist historical inevitability towards Communism.
Marxism is a big tent, of course, with many different lines of thought calling themselves "Marxist", often with little in common with one another. There is a tendency called "Marxist Revisionism" which tries to reconcile Marxism with democracy and with peaceful, evolutionary transitions towards more socialist forms of government. It might be that some people who call themselves Marxists in this sense might consider Sweden to have a relatively nice form of government in this Marxist-Revisionist sense, but there is little to nothing in Sweden which is Marxist in any sense Marx would recognize. Sweden has strong guarantees of private property and lives off the profits of a strong private sector financed by strong, privately owned banks. Thanks to Olof Palme, a strong proponent of nuclear power, Sweden also has a highly developed nuclear power capacity, which together with hydro power produces about 90% of Sweden's electrical power, giving Sweden a great degree of energy independence. Olof Palme called himself a "Democratic Socialist," and not a Marxist. Despite the efforts of some "Marxist Revisionists" to harmonize the two tendencies, Democratic Socialism and Marxist Socialism are two very different things. Here you can read how Olof Palme described his ideology: http://www.vidqt.com/id/jQqZ8btcbyE?lang=en , and you can see what great distance he puts between himself and Marxist-Leninists.
So I don't think that one can call Sweden a "socialist" society in the Marxist sense, in any sense which Marx or Engels would recognize. Sweden is rather a "Social-Democratic" society in the Western European sense, not so much different from France, except that Sweden is a much smaller, and much more homogenous society than France, with a fairly strong consensus in favor of a very extensive welfare state (note, however, that there have been a number of market-oriented reforms, which have occurred in waves, over the last few decades in Sweden). This consensus is important, because it means that people consent to pay high taxes and consent to have limited opportunities to become truly wealthy, in exchange for a stable society with extensive social protections. This kind of "socialism" can only happen in a wealthy, highly developed society with a strong social consensus.
JE comments: Very informative response from Cameron Sawyer, and by the by, my thanks to Herbert Abrams for turning our discussion towards Sweden and the "Swedish model" of socialism. I'm still curious about my question of two days ago: What exactly do the Swedes live on? Here's an answer I found in a few minutes of Googling: refined petroleum products, medications, telephones, cars, and "wood sawn or chipped of a thickness exceeding 6 mm" (http://atlas.media.mit.edu/country/swe/ ). To these exports, we should add services of all types, what my late father (an industry guy) used to dismiss as "taking in each other's laundry."
Demographic Shifts in Sweden; the "Humanitarian Superpower"
(David Gress, Denmark
02/22/14 3:39 AM)
The brief descriptions of Sweden by Cameron Sawyer (21 February) and several others on this thread are spot on. As of about 1965.
Sweden today is a very different country from the free-thinking, homogeneous, well-organized, safe, disciplined, and opulent society implied by those descriptions. Of that society, only fragments remain. But neither is it of course a socialist hell-hole like Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge or the Soviet Union under Stalin or even like East Germany.
Olof Palme, the social democratic prime minister from 1969-76 and 1982-86, symbolized the transition. Somewhat like Salvador Allende, Palme was a guilt-ridden aristocrat with monumental contempt for all things traditional and conservative, including the country he had to call his own. His youthful anti-communism swiftly mutated into an almost fanatical hatred of the US and slavish worship of Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro, and others of their ilk.
In 1975, his government took one of the most fateful decisions in modern Swedish history in a decree permitting virtually limitless immigration primarily from poor and conflict-ridden countries. This measure was part of a vast ideological operation launched by Palme and his sinister advisor, Pierre Schori, to turn Sweden into a "humanitarian superpower." A country of eight million which had fought no war since 1814 and whose experience of real-world politics was, therefore, rather slim, was going to save the world from US imperialism and all other sorts of oppression. Just like that.
As a result, Sweden now counts 9.5 million residents, of whom 1.5 million are of foreign extraction and some significant portion thereof of singularly violent bent, as reluctantly collected statistics prove. The average Swedish woman now faces a 50 per cent chance of rape in her lifetime. And this in a country where the feminist ideology of gender rules absolutely supreme, allied to an equally uncompromising multiculturalism. Therefore inconvenient, even tragic, statistics are sent down the memory hole. Drive-by shootings and crowd assaults on passers-by in city centers, formerly utterly unheard-of, are now daily fare, yet journalists, almost uniformly leftist, openly refuse to report them or, if they do, they refrain from mentioning the ethnicity of the assailants in order not to nourish xenophobia, Islamophobia, and racism.
Just recently, the Swedish government issued an open invitation to any Syrian who wants to come to Sweden. He and his relatives are granted automatic residence with access to all public benefits. Housing nationwide is being confiscated to shelter the flood of asylum-seekers, running at about 60-70,000 a year now, while native Swedes suffer housing shortages, collapsing medical care, and general discrimination by the multiculturalist establishment.
Leftist anti-Semitism is also doing well, as the progressive elite enters into ever closer alliance with Muslim organizations. A very few squeaks of protest are being heard, which, however, only elicit the usual condemnations by journalists and politicians.
There is now little freedom of thought, speech, and expression in Sweden. Those who take a different view to the authorized one face firing, shaming, and physical assault. The examples by now run into the scores, if not hundreds.
That the Swedish economy nevertheless continues to function is a magnificent tribute to the law-abiding majority, but the signs are more than ominous of a coming total breakdown in order; indeed, this breakdown has already arrived in many districts, particularly in and near the larger cities, where police and fire departments refuse to go, and the locals administer their own "justice."
Jonathan Friedman, an American anthropologist whom I met once in his very red days, lived and taught for many years in Sweden and is a stellar example of a leftist mugged by reality. He wrote in 2005 that "the suppressed freedom of speech in Sweden is a symptom of something much larger and much worse, namely the last spasms of Western civilization." He has now escaped to the University of California-San Diego. Few are so fortunate.
JE comments: How many people can a "Humanitarian Superpower" take in before its society of tolerance is fundamentally altered? As David Gress points out, even raising such questions in Sweden can expose one to accusations of xenophobia.
As of December 2013, 50,000 Syrians had sought refuge in Sweden:
Sweden's Health Care is not "Collapsing"
(Herbert Abrams, USA
02/23/14 5:07 AM)
It would be comforting to view references that support David Gress's allegations (22 February) about Sweden with facts rather than blab about naked men. Has he been to Sweden recently?
Just one example: David talks about "collapsing health care." Data, rather than opinion? My Swedish friends consider their access, coverage, and quality of care as good as can be found anywhere in the world.
JE comments: "Collapsing" is a strong word, which David Gress seemed to apply as a general epithet for Sweden's emerging multicultural society. I haven't been to Sweden since 1985, but I'm sure it's a good place to undergo medical treatment or hospitalization.
Robert Whealey (next in queue) has also raised some questions about David's post.
- Sweden and "Left Anti-Semitism" (Robert Whealey, USA 02/23/14 5:57 AM)
There is much truth in what David Gress (22 February) writes about--multiculturalism, immigration, and rising crime rates in the West. Progressives have not thought much about what they mean by that word. However, I have two questions for David:
1. "Leftist anti-Semitism is also doing well [in Sweden], as the progressive elite enters into ever closer alliance with Muslim organizations. A very few squeaks of protest are being heard, which, however, only elicit the usual condemnations by journalists and politicians." Explain this with concrete examples.
2. "There is now little freedom of thought, speech, and expression in Sweden." Compared to which country? US? UK? Denmark?
JE comments: By "leftist anti-Semitism," might David Gress have been referring to a critical appraisal of Israel?
The perception that immigration brings crime is as old as immigration itself. Recall the "Irish Problem" facing the United States 160 years ago, which led to the rise of the "Know-Nothing" movement. I sense that this view is more prevalent in Europe today than in the US, especially in countries which even a generation ago were culturally homogeneous
- Sweden and "Left Anti-Semitism" (Robert Whealey, USA 02/23/14 5:57 AM)
- Sweden's Health Care is not "Collapsing" (Herbert Abrams, USA 02/23/14 5:07 AM)
- Socialism, Sweden, and Olof Palme (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 02/21/14 3:52 AM)