Q: As you know, the Soviet Union existed for 70 years and its economy could not support itself. What makes you think that socialism in the U.S. is going to work better than it did in the Soviet Union?
A: We think that the Soviet Union did support itself, though there were serious problems in its economic system. The reasons for the “fall” of the Soviet Union are complex, and we don’t think they can be reduced to any simplistic “socialism failed” theory.
Some of the factors:
• an economy that didn’t take full advantage of the scientific/technical advances, especially computers,
• an inadequately developed socialist democracy,
• the constant economic, ideological, and political attacks by the imperialist powers, especially the U.S.,
• the military threats from the imperialist powers,
• insufficient ideological and political work,
• a blurring of the lines between political and administrative functioning — where administration substituted for politically winning the support of the people,
• and the betrayal of socialism by some of the leadership.
Polls show that a majority of people in the former Soviet Union still support socialism in some form, and reality shows that while a tiny minority of people have benefited to the tune of billions from the restoration of capitalism. For most people this has been a disaster. Infant mortality is up, suicide is up, people are dying sooner on average, poverty and unemployment and malnutrition are all astronomically higher.
No doubt, there were serious problems in the former Soviet Union, but a solution that is worse than the problems is no solution at all—capitalism has been a disaster for the majority of people in all the former socialist countries.
This is just a quick response — as I said, we see the situation as extremely complex. Here are several books I recommend to explore these issues more deeply: “Heroic Struggle, Bitter Defeat” by Bhaman Azad; “Blackshirts and Reds” by Michael Parenti; “Human Rights in the USSR” by Albert Syzmanski; and “Socialism Betrayed” by Roger Keeran and Thomas Kenny. While I don’t agree completely with any of these books, together they provide a much deeper, more nuanced understanding of both the accomplishments and the difficulties and challenges faced by developing socialist countries.
We invite readers to submit questions about the Communist Party USA, its basic policies, and a Marxist viewpoint on current social issues. The answers are provided by Marc Brodine, chair of the Washington State Communist Party. Questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.