The Socialist Phenomenon, by Igor Shafarevich

 

Introduction

The word "socialism" often implies two quite different phenomena:

- A doctrine and an appeal based on it
- A "social" structure that exists in time and space

The most obvious examples include Marxism as contained in the "classic" writings of Marx and others and the social structure that existed in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the People's Republic of China (PRC). Among the fundamental principles of the state doctrine in these two countries is the assertion that the connection between the doctrine and the social structure is very simple.

On the one hand, it is asserted, there is a scientific theory which proves that after achieving a definite level in the development of productive forces, mankind will pass over to a new historic formation; this theory points the way to the most rational paths for such a transition. And on the other hand, we are assured, there is the embodiment of this scientific prognosis, its confirmation.

As an example of quite a different point of view we cite H. G. Wells, who visited Russia in 1920 and, though infected by the worship of socialism instinctively refused to accept Marxism, in this sense reflecting the antipathy toward all scholastic theories typical of an Englishman.

In his book Russia in the Shadows, Wells writes: "Marxism has always been a theory of revolution, a theory not merely lacking in creative and constructive ideas but hostile to creative and constructive ideas."

Wells describes the socialism that governed Russia as "... in so many matters like a conjurer who has left his pigeon and his rabbit behind him and can produce nothing whatever from the hat."

From this point of view, Marxism does not set itself any goal other than that of preparing for the seizure of power. The state system established as a result is therefore defined and shaped by the necessity of holding power. Since these tasks are entirely different, the official theory and the actual implementation have nothing in common.

It would be incautious to take either of these assertions on faith. On the contrary, it would be desirable, first, to study both "socialisms" independently, without any a priori hypotheses, and only then attempt to come to conclusions about the connections that exist between them.

We shall begin with socialism understood as doctrine, as an appeal. All Marxist doctrines have a common core - they are based on the complete rejection of the existing social structure.

They call for its destruction and paint a picture of a more just and happy society in which the solution to all the fundamental problems of the times would be found.

Furthermore, they propose concrete ways of achieving this goal.

 


 

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