… is from page 21 of Kristian Niemietz’s 2019 book, Socialism: The Failed Idea That Never Dies:
Over the past hundred years, there have been more than two dozen attempts to build a socialist society. It has been tried in the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Albania, Poland, Vietnam, Bulgaria, Romania, Czechoslovakia, North Korea, Hungary, China, East Germany, Cuba, Tanzania, Benin, Laos, Algeria, South Yemen, Somalia, the Congo, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Mozambique, Angola, Nicaragua and Venezuela, among other countries. All of these attempts have ended in varying degrees of failure. How can an idea which has failed so many times, in so many different variants and so many radically different settings, still be so popular?
DBx: How indeed?
Niemietz directly takes on, and thoroughly debunks, the popular retort that none of these schemes was truly socialist. As he points out for most cases, when each scheme was launched western intellectuals embraced it as – and referred to it as – socialist. These intellectuals assured the world that this and that glorious attempt to improve the economy by giving to the state enormous powers to allocate resources would prove the superiority of socialism over decrepit, failing, irredeemable capitalism. It is only after each such scheme not only failed to deliver its promised material bounty, but also showed itself beyond any doubt to be tyrannical, that intellectuals denied that it was ever “true” socialism.
But let us, for the moment, pretend that intellectuals are correct in their assertion that none of these attempts to implement socialism actually followed a recipe that, in the end, is discovered to have been that for “true” socialism. The case for socialism remains demolished: Any system that is so difficult to implement despite all the trying is not a feasible system for real-world human beings. And because these many failed attempts to implement “true” socialism not only do not increase prosperity, but also generate grotesque poverty mixed with state brutality, socialism is far too dangerous a scheme to be tried. If socialism works only when implemented just so and with no imperfections – if slight deviations from perfect implementation result not in slight deviations from perfect prosperity and equality but, instead, in the actual horrors that the world has witnessed – socialism is not for this world.