We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

The appeal of Millennial Socialism rests on the delusion that the democratic, bottom-up socialism Millennial Socialists aspire to is a fundamentally novel aspiration, and that nobody in history has ever tried to build anything like this before.

But it is not a new aspiration. This was precisely what Chávez’s and Maduro’s “21st Century Socialism” was also about, which is why it used to be so popular in the West. A moratorium on the V-word would just play into the hands of those who now want to pretend that none of this ever happened, and that “Millennial Socialism” is novel, untried and untested.

So no, I absolutely won’t stop banging on about it, and if you don’t want to hear it, tough luck, because I’ll bore you with it anyway. We shouldn’t stop banging on about Venezuela until the Left stops banging on about socialism.

Kristian Niemietz

14 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Flubber

    Well Venezuela has progressed to the death squad stage. How long before the bodies start piling a la Holodomor?

    https://www.smh.com.au/world/south-america/venezuela-death-squads-kill-young-men-and-stage-scenes-un-report-20190705-p524bs.html

  • Umbriel

    I don’t think it’ll quite go Holodomor, ’cause that was directed at a region and people who had remained relatively prosperous and outside the Soviet system, and I don’t think there’s anything like that in Venezuela anymore.

    With death squads rather than mass starvation, the heaps of bodies remain smaller, and I think the country just ends up looking like a bigger, somewhat better educated, Haiti.

  • I’ll take this opportunity to remind people that Zimbabwe is another good example – with the advantage that anyone who denies that socialism caused the disaster can reasonably-enough be asked if that means they prefer the only obvious alternative explanation. (By the standards of woke argument, that one is a slam-dunk: explaining that it was Mugabe’s socialism that reduced the country from its relative high at the start of majority rule to its absolute low of today is almost PC in that particular context. Pity the actually-PC could hardly care less.)

  • Lee Moore

    “Bottom up”socialism is way older than Chavez.

    “ALL POWER TO THE SOVIETS”

    And the inexorable path from local soviets to a top down Soviet Union was clearly marked. You can’t have socialism without force, and you can’t have competing bottom up units of force, or else you get unending civil war. You need to co-ordinate the local soviets. That was the core of the Bolshevik heresy – the only way to translate Marxism into reality is to organse it top down. The forces of history are ill disciplined and easily distracted. They need to be led. And he who leads is King.

  • Lee Moore

    Another good example is Burma. I remember clicking on links on the BBC site many years back. In earlier pieces, dealing with the general structure of Burmese government, and not covering the total economic clustermultiplication, Auntie didn’t mind mentioning the Burmese Road to Socialism, and Ne Win’s enthusiasm for price controls.

    But in later pieces when the focus was on authoritarianisn, poverty and general beastliness, Auntie had allowed socialism and price controls to sidle off the stage. The cause of Burmese poverty was now a matter of “military dictatorship.”

    Nor let us forget Tanzania and ujama. Collective farms are always a winner.

  • Lee Moore (July 6, 2019 at 8:12 am), Burma is complicated by the fact that, around the time the Soviet Union fell, when the shine was off socialism a bit, there was a coup in Burma (not that unusual an event), replacing a load and proud socialist tyranny with something perhaps a little less easily classifiable – but “military dictatorship” could do. I’ve certainly met lefties insisting Burma hasn’t been socialist since those lefties were purged. (I’ve also met those pointing out that lefties are always purging each other and the degree of state control of the economy remained high.)

    All I’d say is, if you plan to cite Burma as simply and explicitly socialist in the noughties, when the beeb indeed was not in the business of reminding us it ever had been, have your proof ready. I lack the links to crush a denial as I could any denial of socialism in Zimbabwe. (Commenters, on either side of the argument, if you happen to know, by all say and/or link.)

  • Stonyground

    Sweden is the one that is usually cited by lefties when they have been backed into a corner. My understanding was that Sweden was fairly socialist until the late 1980s and then became less so as the economy was circling the drain. I believe that it is currently a free market economy but has a very generous, and presumably expensive, social welfare system.

  • Mugabe called himself a Marxist-Leninist when he needed help from the USSR and an African Nationalist when he didn’t.

    During his later years and under the guardianship of his wife Grace Zimbabwe became more of a Kleptocracy, but it always followed the usual socialist models of state control which is the key.

    Under dictator-for-life Emmerson “The Crocodile” Mnangagwa you’re not exactly seeing any substantive change, just another iteration of the tired old slogans and policies.

    The poor of Zimbabwe never get anything more than a few meagre handouts at election times and the party elite still drives around on ever decaying roads in huge air conditioned limousines.

    Call it what you like, but Zimbabwe looks like a dictatorship thin coating of socialism / Pan-African Nationalism just for appearances sake.

  • Mr. Caligari

    If you read Marx and other socialist authors carfully, you’ll see a core different to the liberal tradition.
    This core is the question of political power.

    No socialist has ever ask the question: “What would happen if the socialist gouverment use his power in a badly way?”
    If the government has both control over the economy and over areas of power, then the possibilities for corruption are limitless.

  • Paul Marks

    Good post.

    As for “bottom up socialism” – it normally turns out to be a product of the elite, including the “Woke” billionaires and “Woke” corporations.

    How young (and not so young) “Social Justice” people can think they are “rebels” when they are doing what their teachers and college professors (and the media – and the “Woke” mega corporations) tell them to do, passes all understanding.

    The “Social Justice” crowd are not “rebels” – they are conformists, and their “New Freedom” (a slogan made up in the time of Woodrow Wilson – so hardly new) is just SLAVERY, state despotism.

    The tyranny advocated in “Philip Dru: Administrator” (1912 – by “Colonel” House, the “other self” of Woodrow Wilson) or in “Looking Backward” (the 1880s – the Bellamy cousins, Edward and Francis with their “National Socialism) is tyranny – using the words “freedom” and “liberty” endlessly does not make it any less about tyranny.

    President Calvin Coolidge was quite right to condemn the “Progressives” as wanting to “progress” to the tyranny of Louis XIV (the “Sun King”), and late Roman Emperors, and even worse tyranny.

    There is nothing “bottom up” about any of this – as can be seen, for example, by investigating the funding of the “Community Organisers” of Chicago.

  • Stonyground

    Is it just me or does any one else think that “Bottom Up Socialism” sounds as though it has something to do with spanking?

  • Paul Marks

    The British case.

    Herbert Spencer was quite right to denounce the “New Liberals” of the late 19th century as trying to create state power vastly worse than which the “old” liberals worked to roll back.

    Such “New Liberal” thinkers as T.H. Green (Oxford) and “New Liberal” politicians such as Sir William “we are all socialists now” Harcourt were certainly dreadful – and how they turned liberalism on its head (turning a movement for lower government spending, lower taxes and less regulations, into a movement for higher government spending, higher taxes and more regulations) was utterly disgusting.

    However, I think the problem goes back much further – as even in the early 19th century those liberals who fell under the influence of “13 Departments of State” Jeremy Bentham, tended to cite (positively) the very thinkers the old Whigs had (rightly) regarded as their enemies.

    When people start to positively cite such thinkers as Sir Francis “New Atlantis” Bacon, or his servant the arch defender of state despotism (and denier of human personhood) Thomas Hobbes, or the hostility to the very existence of the human person (the “I”) to be found in David Hume (what J.S. Mill calls the “light of Hume” in relation to the human mind is the very thing that a traditional Whig would have considered the DARKNESS of Hume), then something is very wrong – not just politically (hence J.S. Mills semi opposition to private landowners and industrialists – and his support for “bottom up” socialistic ideas of coops and so on), but also philosophically.

    James McCosh and other “Common Sense” philosophers were quite right in pointing out that one can not get to the politics of the Bill of Rights (British or American) from the PHILOSOPHY of Jeremy Bentham or James and John Stuart Mill – that their PHILOSOPHY leads to a very different place (it leads to the New Atlantis of Sir Francis Bacon, the state despotism of Thomas Hobbes, the 13 departments of state controlling all aspects of life of Jeremy Bentham).

    The attack on the human person (the soul – in the Aristotelian sense) that one finds in Hobbes, Hume, Bentham (and even Herbert Spencer?) leads to very bad politics – however much Herbert Spencer may have, quite sincerely, opposed that bad politics.

    To bring things into the modern world – F.A. Hayek was fond of pointing out that he shared much of the philosophy of the modern collectivists and that in him this philosophy did NOT lead to political collectivism.

    What the late Professor Hayek did not grasp was that it was not everyone else who was being inconsistent – it was HIM who was being inconsistent. The philosophy that he shared with the collectivists (such as the denial of human agency – free will, moral persohood) naturally led to the political collectivism he witnessed in the establishment all around him.

    The horrible politics of people such as Prime Minister May and the rest of the establishment stems (directly or indirectly) from horrible (false) philosophy.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “When people start to positively cite such thinkers as Sir Francis “New Atlantis” Bacon, or his servant the arch defender of state despotism (and denier of human personhood) Thomas Hobbes, or the hostility to the very existence of the human person (the “I”) to be found in David Hume (what J.S. Mill calls the “light of Hume” in relation to the human mind is the very thing that a traditional Whig would have considered the DARKNESS of Hume), then something is very wrong – not just politically (hence J.S. Mills semi opposition to private landowners and industrialists – and his support for “bottom up” socialistic ideas of coops and so on), but also philosophically.”

    Possibly the reason for that is that nobody who has read those authors deeply enough to be aware they even held those opinions bothers to give references, or explanations?

    J.S. Mill semi-opposed private landowners and industrialists? I don’t recall ever hearing that said before, and I don’t see how it can be derived from what I do know of what he said. I expect I’m missing a big slice of context. But since you don’t say what specifically you’re talking about, or give me any route to find out, I can’t be convinced. On the face of it, it looks plainly false – the sort of accusation made by a dishonest political opponent, without justification. And without any argument or references to back it up, it will likely be dismissed as such. Someone is very wrong – but without presenting evidence to back it up, people will naturally assume it’s you.

    However, I’m not quite ready to dismiss it just yet, am always happy to learn something new, and I’m curious about what your evidence is. Would you care to explain?

    Where did you get the idea that Bentham, Mill, etc. supported state despotism, or denied human agency? How does the denial of human agency – free will, moral personhood – naturally led to the political collectivism?

  • Runcie Balspune

    It just seems so horribly obvious that having lots of people try different ways to resolve problems at their own expense, with the winner’s strategy being adopted by everyone, is so much better than a small group of people making centralized decisions that can go badly wrong, and then repeating the same. It never fails to amaze me that educated people with access to almost limitless information, can come to the opposite conclusion.

    No socialist has ever ask the question: “What would happen if the socialist government use his power in a badly way?”

    The question should be “What happens to the non-socialists?”

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