Has Socialism Been Defeated by Capitalism?

Topics: Socialism, Communism, Planned economy Pages: 10 (4013 words) Published: May 29, 2006


One of the events that have most affected history in the past century has been the end of the cold war and the collapse of state communism of the Soviet Union. After years of a psychological and physical barrier between Western and Eastern Europe, and, in a broader picture, the "East" and "West" in the whole world, the Perestroika at the end of the 1980´s, leading to the fall of the Berlin wall, changed the climate of global politics, economy and ideology. When Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union in 1985, the economy and politics of its Socialist States were already going downhill and few socialists in capitalist countries continued to believe that Soviet-style communism was a model to emulate (Newman 2005:129). Today, nearly two decades later, the belief that socialism, and communism in particular, have lost the fight to capitalism is widely spread. In a world where the USA is the most powerful country and we talk about "westernization" in terms of way of life, ideology and politics, Marx's theories seem no longer applicable. On the other hand, many authors and activists criticise the nature of capitalism, claiming that it leads to inequality and exploitation and that socialism still plays an important role in today's politics and struggle for a better world. Thus, to what extent can one argue that socialism is "dead"? How relevant is the socialist ideology today? What aspects of the ideology can be applied to "modern" society and which will only remain a memory? In the following essay, I shall find possible answer to these questions looking at publications by different authors and current affairs. Not only is it often assumed that the collapse of the USSR stands for the end of socialism. There has even been the claim that this historical event marked the end of history. In his infamous and much criticized article published 1989, Fukuyama argues that in the time he wrote it, ‘what we may be witnessing Is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government' (Fukuyama 1989:4). The author does not necessarily mean that nothing "new" is going to happen in the world, or that problems such as poverty and wars will disappear from the earth. He is rather referring to the fact that in the future, history will not be characterized by ideological struggles or the birth of a major political ideology that will change the world, and that therefore, the West has ideologically arrived to the highest point of evolution and that the rest of the world will sooner or later adapt to it's political system. As Krishan Kumar puts it, ‘Fukuyama projected a triumphant Western civilization whose principles now held undisputed sway the world over. The contest of ideologies, the substance of "history" as Hegel understood it, was over. The West had won and history was now at end'. He goes on further adding that ‘all of the really big questions had now been settled. The world had agreed that what the West had accomplished over many centuries of struggle – the establishment of liberal democracy and free markets – was the best possible system for mankind; all that remained – history as "events" – was for those societies that had not yet reached that goal to strive to arrive here' (Kumar 2000:60-61). According to Fukuyama, what implies the end of history is the actual end of socialism. Even though Fukuyama's argument is highly controversial and has been criticized by many, he is not the only one with the opinion that socialism no longer enjoys the presence it used to have. Even Eric Hobsbawm who is not as drastic as to claim that socialism is dead, still observes that ‘the end of the Cold War proved to be not the end of an international conflict,...

Bibliography: · Bertram, C & Chitty, A., 1998, ‘Introduction ' to Has History Ended? Fukuyama, Marx, Modernity, edited by Bertram, C & Chitty, A., Ashgate Publishing, Aldershot, Hants.
· Fukuyama, F., 1989, ‘The End of History? ' in The National Interest, 16.
· Hobsbawm, E., 1995, Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, Abacus, London.
· Kumar, K., 2000, ‘Post-history: living at the end ' in Understanding Contemporary Society: Theories of the Present, ed. Browning G., Halcli A. & Webster F., SAGE Publications, London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi.
· Lane, D, 1996, The Rise and Fall of State Socialism, Polity, Cambridge.
· Newman, M, 2005, Socialism – A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press Inc., New York
· Pierson, C, 1995, Socialism After Communism – The New Market Socialism, Polity Press, Cambridge
· Wolff, J., 2003, Why Read Marx Today?, Oxford University Press, Oxford & New York.
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