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Throughout the rise of the modern era, the ideals and values of the socialist “welfare state” become increasingly important and attainable as systematic oppression increases alongside the growing working class. In the highly-developed industrial west, massive work forces turned to organized Labour Unions as an alternative to socialism in establishing and protecting the rights of the working class. Within the early 20th century, many countries who had recently gained independence from colonizing countries turned to socialism as a tool to stimulate the economy and establish egalitarianism. Although the idea of socialism remains a plausible goal with seemingly unlimited potential, modern applications of socialism have failed throughout post-colonial societies because of socialism’s inability to maintain a functioning government or the popular support of citizens.
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Founded in the wake of the Industrial Revolution’s increasingly oppressive treatment of workers, the concept of socialism was developed as social construct to protect the urban working class of western industrial society. According to Karl Marx, the German philosopher credited with the creation of socialism, “socialism [was] to develop first in one of the highly developed capitalist countries of Western Europe, with their extensive industrial production and large urban proletariat,” (Erol). Although socialism has been applied throughout the world, the ideal conditions for its establishment were available to very few countries, as only the most highly developed industrial, capitalist societies had the conditions for socialism to naturally arise. Therefore, Marx’s specific vision of socialism is not universally applicable to all countries as his ideal socialism emerges from prerequisites presented only by industrial society. Another condition imperative to the emergence of socialism is the tenuous existence of “class struggle, in which [Marx] predicted that capitalism would destroy itself… Just as the capitalist class had overthrown the feudal aristocracy, it in turn would be displaced by the proletariat” (“The Big Question”). Without the class struggle between the owners of industry, the bourgeoisie, and working class, the proletariat, Marx’s vision of socialism is not able to manifest itself in any society. Consequently, the countries lacking the formation of classes and class struggle will not be able to directly apply Marx’s socialism to the subjective conditions of their own reality and find success. The rarity of societies containing Marx’s ideal prerequisites of socialism reveals the selective status of functioning socialism, and its inability to be directly applied in countries without defined class struggle or developed industry.
Following the establishment of the USSR as a world power, African socialists unsuccessfully attempted to directly apply western socialism to their poor, recently liberated countries. According to James Forman, author of Socialism: Its Theoretical Roots and Present-day Development, the conditions apparent in Africa differed too greatly from that of Western Europe’s for Marxist socialism to succeed in its direct application. The ideal, european “conditions for increased industrial and agricultural production based on the socialist model were not applicable in poor African countries”(Forman). The rigorous requirements for functioning socialism display the failure of western socialism in Africa as very few African countries have industrial or agricultural production developed enough to support increased production introduced by socialism. In the direct establishment of western socialism in Africa, the application of socialism fails to meet the subjective conditions of Africa’s reality. Although the system of socialism may be functional and successful when properly applied, African governments’ poor integration of socialism into society is to blame for the dysfunctional presence of socialism in Africa. Furthermore, the many issues of European socialism applied in Africa lie at the foundations of socialist ideology. For example, “European socialism was based on the class struggle of workers and farmers against the bourgeoisie. [But] In Africa, there was neither a strong industry, nor an organized workforce”(Deutsche). Therefore, to attempt to establish western Socialism in Africa is pointless and impossible as if true socialism arises through fist of the proletariat, in a country without a significant industrial workforce socialist revolution is not plausible nor desirable in the way Marx envisioned. (africa wants socialism for different reasons from marx)
Post-colonial countries find success with socialism only by altering Marxist Socialism to suit the subjective conditions of each country. Instead of waiting for the proper conditions of Western socialism to emerge from his poor, post-colonial Cuba, Marxist revolutionary leader Che Guevara believed “Revolutionaries must create ‘subjective’ conditions for revolution rather than awaiting the proper objective condition” (America). This quote reveals that socialism can be successfully achieved without the “proper” conditions when subjective conditions for socialist revolution are artificially implemented. Unlike Venezuela’s attempt at socialism, Cuban socialism was a striking success due to good leadership with socialist ideals based in reality rather ideals. Another adaptation from western socialism in Cuba was Che’s recognition that “rural peasantry, rather than the urban proletariat, was the seedbed of socialist revolution”(America). Like Africa, most of post-colonial Latin America lacked a substantial urban workforce but instead had rural peasantry. Instead of waiting for industry and proletariat to accumulate and grow within the country, Che adapted to the unique conditions of Cuba and adjusted socialism to suit Cuba’s personal reality. Through Che’s examples of the the subjective conditions of Cuban socialism, it is evident that Marx’s vision of socialism is but a singular, recommended form of socialism, as Che proves socialism is functional without developed industry or urban proletariat. Ultimately, socialism is applicable and capable of success in similar countries with similar conditions as long as socialism is suited to the individual and unique conditions of each country.
Western Socialism proves itself invaluable to restoring equal distribution of wealth when applied and implemented according to the necessities of the working-class. However, when economic and governmental power is stripped from the working class, socialism fails as it is no longer represents the values and ideals of the proletariat . For example, in Venezuela socialist regime leader Hugo Chavez has destroyed the once thriving country through implementing destructive socialist policies without regard for their impact on Venezuelan citizens. The widespread nationalization of private industry was implemented in order to restore government control over Venezuela’s economy and to support the economy. But according to Venezuelan expatriate Daniel Di Martino, the “widespread nationalizationdestroyed production in affected industries because no government has the capacity to run thousands of businesses or the profit motive to run them efficiently” (Martino). The rapid and poorly initiated nationalization of industry has led to adverse effects that continue to punish the Venezuelan economy today. The poor leadership of the regime is directly to blame for the collapse of the once-successful Venezuelan industrial economy, acting without the approval or admission of the citizens and ignoring the issues that arise consequently. In neglecting to address the economic and practical issues of necessary infrastructure, the Venezuelan Socialist regime leaders reveal functioning socialist society cannot be attained until the issues and realities of the working class are realized by the government as societal issues in a communal reality. Similar to nationalization of industry, regime leader Chavez sped and initiated “expansive welfare programs and massive public-works projects” which “provided ever-growing opportunities for still greater corruption. Printing money to pay for endless state programs unsurprisingly led to high rates of inflation” (Martino). Although welfare programs and public-work projects are a beneficial and essential part of socialist society, in Venezuela the inappropriate expansion of public-works during a time of massive economic inflation acted as a large factor in the failure of Chavez’s socialist regime. Alongside this, introducing new government positions allows the opportunity for further corruption. Ultimately, socialism is only successful when it represents the ideals of the working class, not just the powerful bourgeoisie.
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Overall, Marxist socialism has been repeatedly implemented in post-colonial societies, and has only found significant failure and the destruction of stable economies. As idyllic and perfect as socialism seems, it is a broken system that cannot maintain longevity or stability in any country. Through the ruin of Latin American and Africa by way of socialism, it becomes evident that Marxist socialism is an economically non-viable system that must not be directly implemented without significant revision in countries without industrial society or defined class struggle. To conclude, as necessary as the protection of workers’ rights is within a society, such action cannot be achieved solely through the implementation of socialism. As socialism can be used as a tool to implement egalitarianism, it also enables authoritarianism and can strip power from the classes it was intended to protect. The recent failures of socialism should open the eyes of proletariat around the world, to perceive the truth that Marxist socialism is not directly applicable in Western or post-colonial society, and realize the system as a tool for development, not the solution to injustice.
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