Ancient Athens is revered as the birthplace of both democracy and all of Western civilization. During its democratic period of the 5th and 4th century B.C. both its power and cultural achievements were at their height. Even the word “democracy” (demokratia, literally “people power”) is rooted in the Classical Greek language. But in 338, Phillip II of Macedonia (Alexander the Great’s father) conquered Athens and much of the rest of Greek world. It was under Macedonian rule off and on until 228, and democracy was never to take hold again in the Greek classical period.
Also, Ancient Rome was first ruled by a king but then also moved to a democratic, republic-form of government. But in the latter stages, power struggles amongst the elite led to the tyrannical rule of Julius Caesar. And you know what that led to from the pages of The 12 Caesars.
So, what is the point of this shockingly short and incomplete summary of the democratic periods of both ancient Athens and Rome? The reason is that the American Founding Framers took their inspiration from the Classical period in creating and founding the United States of America. They did not say, “Democracy failed in Athens and Rome, therefore we should throw into the dustbin of history.” No, they saw the good and bad parts of each period and drew from the best of their ancient liberal values.
The most often used criticism of radical leftist political philosophies is, “Communism failed in the USSR. It will never work.” But does that mean we should throw way the whole model? I do not believe so. The Founding Framers learned from the failures of the ancient democratic regimes of both Athens and Rome. Therefore, should we never try to install a radical leftist government again if we learn the lessons of the failed Communist experiments of the past?
I hope you answer, “NO!”
In my previous post, I expressed the opinion that a major mistake made by Communist nations, both past and present, is that they moved too fast to make radical economic changes after their respective revolutions. Stalin’s “Five Year Plans”, Mao’s “Great Leap Forward”, and the very radical economic and societal moves made by Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge left tens of millions dead. What I propose instead is that once a revolution is won here in the U.S., and a vanguard/transition party is established, we then move slowly into a socialist system.
Now, we can make major societal changes regarding human rights issues like LGBTQ issues, women’s equality and abortion rights, and of course, minority rights. And we should also start socializing major industries, like utility companies, the medical system, and other day-to-day human rights issues. But the last thing we want to do is something as radical as eliminating the money-based system or forcing people into collectives.
The reason for this is because the people are not yet informed about the nature of the Socialist/Communist system as of today. We need to create a new hegemonic culture based on equality and the new government-to-citizen relationship first. Italian scholar and Communist Antonio Gramsci iwrote about how capitalism is the hegemonic culture. So everything we know is based on that brutal system and, therefore, it is hard to think outside of it, especially in America where the entire history of our young nation is nothing but capitalism. We don’t have the history of a feudal system. Other nations do. So they have something to fall back on, culturally. So that’s why we need a vanguard/transitional party so immensely.
In conclusion, we must make a gradual change in our economic system. This will help the masses ease into a new leftist system. I arrived at this notion because, according to scholars, it took France’s democratic system to work itself out all the way from the storming of the Bastille in 1789, until 1898. So we must be patient and live with a gradual economic change. Plus, Ionce comfortable with the socialist system, the masses can then move into a Communist system for they will be educated in terms of the next steps towards emancipation.
So we cannot have a radical economic change in the U.S. after a far left revolution. The people need to be eased into a new system. Then we will be ready for a Communist system in the a post-socialist stage… even if it takes 100 years.
As I have put forth in my previous posts, a socialist government is the best political system to be realized today in the interests of the 99%. But if we are going to move towards having the power taken back from the rich and given to its rightful owners, the workers, we must avoid making the mistakes made by Communist countries today and in the past.
One of the most dangerous actions taken by the radical leftist governments of the past is that they tried to realize unrealistic goals too soon. E.g., China had its “Great Leap Forward,” the Soviets under Stalin always put forth these “5 Year Plans” that hurt the Russian people at the hands of Stalin’s vain attempts at greatness, and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia killed over a million of their countrymen partially due to economic reforms. And these often just occurred to catch up with capitalist countries in the areas of industry, science, military, and infrastructurevtoo fast. Foolish.
The are two reasons why this is true, namely:
- Revolutionaries have no idea how to run a country. This often leads to unspeakable hardships and suffering for the reasons mentioned above in the pursuit of grand ideals.
- The three countries outlined above, i.e., Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China, and the Khmer Rouge’s Cambodia, were ruled under brutal dictators, or very small groups of leaders, who ran authoritarian governments. They involved purges, gulags, and mass murders of so-called “enemies of the people.” And these things are still taking place in North Korea under the rule of the Kim family and their latest criminal, thug leader, Kim Jong Un.
But in terms of the socialist experiment in Cuba, we could learn a lot of positive things from them. The U.S. capitalist media would have you believe that the Castros are no different than Stalin or Un, but what they don’t report are the great strides towards equality taking place in the small island country. E.g., they have redistributed land to the peasants through land reform. Once the Cuban peasants were slaves to rich plantation owners, but as a result of the revolution, the land owned by the corporations and plantation owners has now been divided amongst the people who work the land. And that is just one example of the successful reforms. They have also gotten away from just being a sugar-dominated economy and even become a powerhouse in the research and development of new medicines that are often purchased, yes, by the U.S. government.
Yet this has succeeded by not having some grand goal of building a developing country into a society where they are immediately just as technologically advanced as the U.S. These are examples of how ideas and policies could be learned from a socialist society to be translated instilled in a more equal America.
So in conclusion, the brutality of Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China, and Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge is due to harsh authoritarian governments, not an attempted realization of a fully socialist society. These dictatorships had vain rulers trying to advance mostly Third-World countries into global players too fast. Yet we can look to somewhere like Cuba for positive ideas to enact here in the U.S. in pursuit of a more egalitarian society.
Over the past few months, I have been publishing a podcast on working class issues. Yet I returned to Sparking The Left because the number of listens were very low. But in some episodes I began with editorials trying to convey the radical-leftist approach. So I’ll be posting a few of the essays here, in easy to understand language, to outline STL’s far-left point of view:
As I have stated above, this blog now comes from a radical leftist point of view. And I know what people think of when hearing of far-left governments:
- Mass starvation
But those are results of authoritarianism rather than a radical-leftist government (another post for another time).
A true form of socialism, much less communism, has yet to be practiced in history. And what a true form of a radical leftist system is about is putting power in the hands of the workers. Workers should own the companies they work for because they are the ones who are engaged in the labor.
Right now major stock holders on Wall Street own and control the factories and corporations. But they do nothing but sit and collect the profits while we get the crumbs. They don’t unload trucks, sort freight, work a cash register, fill orders, or what-have-you, for often more tha
n 40 hours a week. The fruits of our labor have been usurped from the rightful owners; and that is us, the working class.
Now, I hear you saying, “How can a corrupt system like ours ever turn over all of the power to the workers?”
The answer is we smash the current capitalist oligarchy; or our so-called democratic system.
It must go.
Now which form of a far-left government we construct is up for debate. And in all honesty, I’m not sure which one it should actually be. But what I do believe right now is socialism is the best form of government we have available to us at this time.
So, in general, we must leave behind the Gulags, purges, and mass starvation, and enact a socialist government. Though it sounds extreme to complete this feat, but our current so-called democratic system must be smashed.
Any ideas or thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
We just wanted to re-post that we have provided the inaugural paper for our “New Work” section here at Sparking The Left: a brief primer on social movement theory from a sociological perspective.
Social movement theory is an important topic, and all those engaged in activism stand to learn a great deal from it. There is a vibrant academic community rigorously analyzing social movements and much is still to be learned. Yet, this is only a primer that will get you thinking about social movements and the dynamics present within and inside of the milieu around them.
It is an academic paper with cited sources from peer-reviewed journals, but do not be intimidated. I made it as accessible as possible.
You will be able to find the piece in its entirety beneath the “New Work” tab at the top of the STL homepage, but you can find the introduction below:
Below you will find a brief introduction to social movement (SM) theory and its main tenets from a sociological perspective. I include the three dynamics that serve as the foundation in the studies of SMs today: resource mobilization theory, political process theory, and framing processes. Hopefully this paper will inspire you to do some of your own research if you plan on engaging in contentious politics. I believe that all actors practicing collective action would be much aided with such a line of research.
All of the referenced material here can either be found in a downloadable .pdf format at Google Scholar or cited for reading at your local university’s library.