Is there a better word for current day socialism in Europe?

It might be a bit hard to explain, looking at the definitions of the term Socialism:
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/socialism

It doesn't really fit what is currently done in Europe and other countries, as it heavily implies in all the definitions a complete control by the government of the means of productions while in practice what is done in those countries is redistribution of some of the property of the population and bodies working in the country by the government.

This is a pretty massive difference and very hard to differenciate, especially when it's used to promote the former case by existence of the latter.

Yes, it's called 'Mixed-Capitalism', where certain things (mostly important things) are controlled by the Government, while the rest is left to Private Enterprise. Most countries on the earth are Mixed-Capitalist states, very few nations are either Completely Capitalist or Completely Socialist.

Social democracy? The left wing parties in Europe tend to be described as social democrats.

Definition of social democracy

1 :a political movement advocating a gradual and peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism by democratic means
2 :a democratic welfare state that incorporates both capitalist and socialist practices

Brought to you by Merriam-Webster.

Personally, I'm always a little suspicious with something that has a double meaning even in a dictionary.

StatusNil:

Definition of social democracy

1 :a political movement advocating a gradual and peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism by democratic means
2 :a democratic welfare state that incorporates both capitalist and socialist practices

Brought to you by Merriam-Webster.

Personally, I'm always a little suspicious with something that has a double meaning even in a dictionary.

Yeah, words like lie and thrust is really shifty that way... But in the case of Social Democracy, it probably has to do with the fact that at the turn of the last century most Social Democrats really did intend to transition into socialism eventually. By the time they realized that the transition was not feasible and socialism not a particularly appealing end state, the party identity of social democracy was already so ingrained in the population that any change in name or label would have just been confusing. So instead people just accepted that Social Democracy was the mid-point between capitalism and socialism.

Yes, it's democratic socialism.

Mainstream socialist parties in (Western) Europe have mostly been around for about a century, and have always been committed to democratic socialism. Marxist-Leninists and other more radical socialists sometimes accuse democratic socialists of being revisionists, because they don't accept Marx' critique of democracy. The thing is, at this point all socialist movements are to some degree revisionist. It doesn't change the fact that they're also socialist.

And yes, there is something of a split within democratic socialism between those who believe in communism as the ultimate goal of socialist action and those who simply wish to create a more equal and just democratic society. In real terms it doesn't matter because if one accepts the Marxist view of stadial history communism (as the perfectly efficient distribution of resources) is inevitable. This is one area in which a lot of revolutionary socialists could be argued as revisionist, since they tend to believe revolutionary socialism (and communism) can be imposed onto societies which have not evolved through capitalism yet.

The Russian and Chinese revolutions both took place in underdeveloped and deindustrialized societies. In the case of the latter, the revisionism was taken one step further by making agrarian peasants the centre of the socialist project (whereas Marx saw it very much as the post-industrial working class). So yeah, revisionism all round.

evilthecat:
The Russian and Chinese revolutions both took place in underdeveloped and deindustrialized societies. In the case of the latter, the revisionism was taken one step further by making agrarian peasants the centre of the socialist project (whereas Marx saw it very much as the post-industrial working class). So yeah, revisionism all round.

Given the Soviet experience with redistributing land to the peasants and then allowing them to operate in a capitalist fashion, the Chinese approach makes a fair amount of sense.

In my experience, the dictionary definition of a political term becomes increasingly useless the more you learn about politics. There are nuances in the practical implementation of any ideology that defy the dictionary definition.

For example, 20th-century capitalism survived by adopting socialist reforms in the area of welfare and labor law. Pure, unfettered, dictionary-definition capitalism has not existed in the West for a very long time. It has been muzzled and regulated by the adoption of socialist principles, to the point where modern capitalism is a weird hybrid of the free market and the welfare state. And this state of affairs has persisted for so long that everybody simply assumes that ideas like the eight-hour-day, a minimum wage and worker's comp have always existed in capitalism, when historically they were once considered radical socialist proposals that were adopted by Western capitalism because they were good ideas. The result is that the US doesn't really know what it means when it says "socialism," nor does it really know what it means by "capitalism." So they deify the latter and vilify the former.

That said, my preference goes to democratic socialism. That's the term you're looking for.

In the US, we'd call it capitalism with a "social safety net".

It's still a capitalistic market economy, but you'll never have to worry about being so poor that your safety is at risk or that you'll wind up trapped in poverty.

bastardofmelbourne:
Pure, unfettered, dictionary-definition capitalism has not existed in the West for a very long time.

The Marxist definition of capitalism never stopped existing, the neoclassical or anarcho-capitalist idea never existed and isn't possible.

Europe has socialism? I mean, Western and Continental Europeans gave us the financial markets we use, the ideas of credit we employ, the broken basketcase legacies of nations that they colonised and then further split up, our military industrial complexes... Maybe I'm missing something here. Pretty sure half of Europe hasn't given us anything but mercantilism and capitalism.

I mean, Western and Continental Europeans gave us Karl Marx, but nobody in Western and Continental Europe paid him any attention. They also gave us Nietzsche, who told us to burn down the marketplace to liberate mankind. But nobody listened to him, either. Just pretended to.

Seanchaidh:

The Marxist definition of capitalism never stopped existing, the neoclassical or anarcho-capitalist idea never existed and isn't possible.

You don't think Marxist structuralism, or Marxist theory could account for unfettered global trade and Taylorism? Taylorism itself is a structuralist approach to manufacturing and we can see its logical end point in automation.

Though I agree total automation is impossible. Capacity to generate energy commands a price, human or otherwise.

Moreover, equally possible is the idea that automation is merely about mass consumption items being produced at their lowest possible price point otherwise the inevitability of Taylorism itself is about cheapest production and heading ever towards hypothetical zero sum gains.

Not only that, you can point to the idea of that ships can't leave docks empty problem of total globalism and total production.

The reason why scrap iron is one of the most important export resources out of the U.S. is precisely so for a reason. You have tofill up those ships, or else shipping and consumption becomes economically unsustainable.

So your automated production is used to fll up automated trucks, to fill automated ships, to fill automated smelters, to provide automated resource supply, to automated factories, to fill up automated trucks ...I think you get the point.

Total automation is merely total equality ... but not in a very pleasant way. More in the 'life is cheap' way. Which you could argue is anarcho-capitalistic. Given there is such reduced demand for conventional, human-sourced energies, nothing to tax, and given way too much free time, means very few leashes on that big ball of chaos.

Or are you making a metaphysical argument that structuralism itself is at odds with metaphysical libertarianism?

Addendum_Forthcoming:
Europe has socialism? I mean, Western and Continental Europeans gave us the financial markets we use, the ideas of credit we employ, the broken basketcase legacies of nations that they colonised and then further split up, our military industrial complexes... Maybe I'm missing something here. Pretty sure half of Europe hasn't given us anything but mercantilism and capitalism.

I mean, Western and Continental Europeans gave us Karl Marx, but nobody in Western and Continental Europe paid him any attention. They also gave us Nietzsche, who told us to burn down the marketplace to liberate mankind. But nobody listened to him, either. Just pretended to.

Did you miss the Paris Commune of 1848? The German worker riots of the same decade? Or the fact that inter-war France was torn apart politically by the constant struggle between various coalitions of right wing and centrist parties as they tried to balance up the power of the French communists? The fact that the biggest obstacle to the NSDAP assuming power was the large presence of communist parties in all layers of German government? Or that Sweden for 70 out of 100 years in the 20th century were led by the Social Democratic party in majority or coalition governments (with the SDs as the major party)?

Western and Continental Europe led the charge on many capitalistic ideas, but it has also stood at the forefront of most socialistic ideas, like 8 hour work days, paid vacation days, parental leave from work, social safety nets, public health care and public access to higher education. Communism's cascade failure in Europe can be attributed partially to the discouraging example of the USSR, partially to an entrenched upper class (particularly in the UK and Germany) but mostly to the fact that social democratic reform turned out to give substantial benefits to the working class. Western Europe might never have gone full communist, but socialism certainly did prosper in most Western European political systems and brought about extensive socialistic reforms.

If anything, the current political instability (relatively speaking) in Western Europe can be partially attributed to the death of the social democratic ideal in many countries, which has left a void where collectivist-egalitarian ideals used to be.

Gethsemani:

Did you miss the Paris Commune of 1848?

Not to be obnoxious, but that's the Paris Commune of 1871. 1848 was the "February Revolution" and the "June Days Uprising".

Hard to keep track of these restive French, to be sure. Always out building barricades in the streets.

Gethsemani:

Yeah, words like lie and thrust is really shifty that way... But in the case of Social Democracy, it probably has to do with the fact that at the turn of the last century most Social Democrats really did intend to transition into socialism eventually. By the time they realized that the transition was not feasible and socialism not a particularly appealing end state, the party identity of social democracy was already so ingrained in the population that any change in name or label would have just been confusing. So instead people just accepted that Social Democracy was the mid-point between capitalism and socialism.

That may be, but it does give rise to some intimation of a slippery slope.

... Suicide?

But, as others have said, it's basically democratic socialism, which is a bit of an oxymoron, but, you get the idea.

It's socialism without the totalitarianism, but, with the social programs.

StatusNil:
Not to be obnoxious, but that's the Paris Commune of 1871. 1848 was the "February Revolution" and the "June Days Uprising".

Hard to keep track of these restive French, to be sure. Always out building barricades in the streets.

You're right, I got them mixed up.

StatusNil:
That may be, but it does give rise to some intimation of a slippery slope.

Certainly, which is one of the reasons that the Social Democratic movements in Europe have been struggling for the last fifteen years or so. As their politics have evolved it has also moved every further from the Socialism aspect and more towards centrist-liberalism, giving rise to vote base disillusion. As someone who used to call myself a Social Democrat and was a registered party member (spooky, I know), I'm sadly familiar with the political slide of Social Democracy.

renegade7:
In the US, we'd call it capitalism with a "social safety net".

It's still a capitalistic market economy, but you'll never have to worry about being so poor that your safety is at risk or that you'll wind up trapped in poverty.

Which seems like a totally good idea. It's just that a safety net often seems to take on an aspect of a dragnet in practice, meaning that it catches people in it and doesn't want to let go. And that's just the nature of things, obviously there is the basic justification that government aid needs to be closely supervised so that it isn't abused.

So I'm not knocking the concept totally, and actually have had to rely on the odd safety net on more than one occasion in my own life. But it does come with a downside of semi-institutionalizing overreach.

Gethsemani:

Certainly, which is one of the reasons that the Social Democratic movements in Europe have been struggling for the last fifteen years or so. As their politics have evolved it has also moved every further from the Socialism aspect and more towards centrist-liberalism, giving rise to vote base disillusion. As someone who used to call myself a Social Democrat and was a registered party member (spooky, I know), I'm sadly familiar with the political slide of Social Democracy.

It can slide in either direction, like something on top of a well-oiled pyramid.

Dunno about spooky, though. In my extended Leftist phase, I used to look down on Social Democrats as the hypocritical part of the petit bourgeoisie. But in retrospect, I may have just been another poser malcontent, and professing radicalism was freedom from realistic responsibility.

StatusNil:

Dunno about spooky, though. In my extended Leftist phase, I used to look down on Social Democrats as the hypocritical part of the petit bourgeoisie. But in retrospect, I may have just been another poser malcontent, and professing radicalism was freedom from realistic responsibility.

I was not necessarily referring to being a Social Democrat, more to being a registered party member, a term that for me has connotations towards the USSR or Nazi-Germany.

Gethsemani:

Did you miss the Paris Commune of 1848? The German worker riots of the same decade? Or the fact that inter-war France was torn apart politically by the constant struggle between various coalitions of right wing and centrist parties as they tried to balance up the power of the French communists? The fact that the biggest obstacle to the NSDAP assuming power was the large presence of communist parties in all layers of German government? Or that Sweden for 70 out of 100 years in the 20th century were led by the Social Democratic party in majority or coalition governments (with the SDs as the major party)?

Western and Continental Europe led the charge on many capitalistic ideas, but it has also stood at the forefront of most socialistic ideas, like 8 hour work days, paid vacation days, parental leave from work, social safety nets, public health care and public access to higher education. Communism's cascade failure in Europe can be attributed partially to the discouraging example of the USSR, partially to an entrenched upper class (particularly in the UK and Germany) but mostly to the fact that social democratic reform turned out to give substantial benefits to the working class. Western Europe might never have gone full communist, but socialism certainly did prosper in most Western European political systems and brought about extensive socialistic reforms.

If anything, the current political instability (relatively speaking) in Western Europe can be partially attributed to the death of the social democratic ideal in many countries, which has left a void where collectivist-egalitarian ideals used to be.

Well .... ehhh?

I mean, the thing is New Zealand and Australia were the first places in the world to have voting for women, the universal age and invalid pension, etc.

During the Great War, Australia was the only major participant of the conflict who didn't use conscripted troops. So every person of the 35% of all males aged 20-44 were volunteers. The thing is, these social conventions aren't exactly 'socialist'. Because Australia, in the same fashion, went practically tariff free since 1996.

Free market through and through, save for a select few industries. And the only reason why that is is because supplying people medicine or electricity, or communications out to isolated little towns in the middle of the desert is economically unviable for privately owned industry. Australia has the most comprehensive aeromedical service in the world for a reason.

Massively impressive feats of 'socialist enterprise' ... but Australia is a diehard supporter of free trade, and more often than not this commitment to free trade has often come at the costof seemingly sabotaging Western military interests in the Asia-Pacific region. Like Australia allowing Chinese industries to rent out the Darwin Port System right next to the massive U.S. military base which caused Obama to be thoroughly annoyed at us for awhile. Or like more expansive free trade agreements with China and prodding the U.S. on the quiet that a debtor nation shouldn't be trying to exclude China from the TPP talks.

The Australian colonies and their subsequent transformation into states and towards federation look unlike the U.S. for a particular reason (Unlike the U.S. which has tiny little states that are landlocked). You'll notice that every Australian state and territory has access to deepwater harbours. Access to water was considered damn near a right so a state could conduct international trade.

Australia is a child of late-modern European ideas of trade that had shifted away from traditional ideas of mercantilism. Australia is and was symbolic of many of the European movements of the time of its Federation. And there is a reason where our diehard attitudes of free trade, market libertarianism come from.

Public healthcare does not socialism make.

You can explain public healthcare through purely an economic gaze.

Australia is impressively rated the 3rd best medical healthcare system in the world. But we still only pay a quarter that of what your average American pays for. The thing is, public healthcare can be seen as socialist, but when you treat it as merely a corporatisation, or public contract, by a group of people seeking the best outcomes for as little money as possible... at best it's just a cost saving measure.

Australian healthcare makes sense in terms of rational consumption. And rational consumption is no more socialist than economic theory concerning fungibility.

We don't provide extensive public healthcare because of some fanciful ideas ofsocialism... we do it because it makes people happier, it means people can spend more money, and it costs us less than the alternative.

As an antipodean, of one of the youngest countries in the world that was the product of European expansionism. Europe's 'greatest' contributions to the rest of the world was mercantilism and capitalism.

Which is unfortunate given the majority of people don't live in Europe. And while you can point to minor skirmishes with left wing ideas, like the Paris Commune of 1871. Or the Italian CNT before Mussolini. The most enduring of these have been mercantilism, capitalism and the military industrial complex.

Let's not mince words. A Paris Commune, or colonization of Indo-China region?

German Public Education... or the Great War?

Paris Commune meant something if you were Parisian. The occupation and conquer of various Siam peoples means something if you live in the rest of the world.

Seanchaidh:
Given the Soviet experience with redistributing land to the peasants and then allowing them to operate in a capitalist fashion, the Chinese approach makes a fair amount of sense.

Well, it was kind of an unmitigated disaster which lead to the deaths of tens of millions of people.

Basically, Mao was suspicious of cities and urban industry because he saw it as hierarchical. His alternative was to try and get peasants to create their own cottage industries in their rural collectives, particularly steel. Obviously, untrained peasants working in backyard furnaces couldn't produce good steel, and yet meeting their steel quotas pulled them away from agricultural production, leading to food shortages and catastrophic famine. Collectives had to give fixed food quotas to the state for feeding the urban population, which meant they bore the brunt of the famine while still having to work to produce enough food to meet next years targets. Obviously, starving and weakened workers weren't particularly productive so the situation continued to get worse and worse.

evilthecat:

Well, it was kind of an unmitigated disaster which lead to the deaths of tens of millions of people.

Basically, Mao was suspicious of cities and urban industry because he saw it as hierarchical. His alternative was to try and get peasants to create their own cottage industries in their rural collectives, particularly steel. Obviously, untrained peasants working in backyard furnaces couldn't produce good steel, and yet meeting their steel quotas pulled them away from agricultural production, leading to food shortages and catastrophic famine. Collectives had to give fixed food quotas to the state for feeding the urban population, which meant they bore the brunt of the famine while still having to work to produce enough food to meet next years targets. Obviously, starving and weakened workers weren't particularly productive so the situation continued to get worse and worse.

To be fair, by the time of the Kuomintang's end, the average life expectancy of the Chinese was 35. Life was already incredibly cheap, and by the time of his writing things like On Contradiction the average person was going to work fed on millet cakes. Which is already a recipe for disaster. People were going to die regardless of whatever reorganization one was going to attempt. And the rice blight that plagued the nation was going to reap terrible tragedy by the time of the next couple of sowings and harvests.

When people talk about Mao, they seem to forget that life was already incredibly cheap, that people lived lives of Confucian-driven superstition and social ideas that practically eliminated half of the total potential workforce from being abything more than menial labour, and educational services were only on offer to those that could actually afford to buy research materials to pick up what were unstandardized literary texts from a multiplicity of different dialects.

People were going to die, and the people themselves knew that. That were well accustomed to it.

You need iron for ploughshares, even pig iron sill do. You need prople working the land when facing persistent famine, and so you need work teams to cover shortfalls in labour caused by said famine. You need prople to put the boot into Confucian tutors and install educators that will teach men and women so long as they have the desire to learn. Comparatively, the Chinese suffered less than Indians did under the yoke of British masters during the Second World War, and yet they didn't have anywhere near the comparable obstacles the Chinese mainland did.

evilthecat:

Seanchaidh:
Given the Soviet experience with redistributing land to the peasants and then allowing them to operate in a capitalist fashion, the Chinese approach makes a fair amount of sense.

Well, it was kind of an unmitigated disaster which lead to the deaths of tens of millions of people.

Yeah. So was the Soviet experience with agriculture, because it wasn't collectivized to start with (which might have saved the revolution in 1917, but was a problem later.)

bastardofmelbourne:
In my experience, the dictionary definition of a political term becomes increasingly useless the more you learn about politics. There are nuances in the practical implementation of any ideology that defy the dictionary definition.

I feel that what you have proven is that it's not the definition that's wrong, but the people. The ideaology is what it is. It was created, defined, and released into the knowledge pool. What you have said is that it was ignored by people who didn't read the manual. As with all things that do not possess wills of their own, it's not their fault, but of those who wield them improperly.

FalloutJack:

bastardofmelbourne:
In my experience, the dictionary definition of a political term becomes increasingly useless the more you learn about politics. There are nuances in the practical implementation of any ideology that defy the dictionary definition.

I feel that what you have proven is that it's not the definition that's wrong, but the people. The ideaology is what it is. It was created, defined, and released into the knowledge pool. What you have said is that it was ignored by people who didn't read the manual. As with all things that do not possess wills of their own, it's not their fault, but of those who wield them improperly.

This is a wholly useless manner of thinking about ideologies. Ideologies evolve and terms of description shift. And there is no reason they shouldn't, people think new thoughts about the same things.

FalloutJack:

bastardofmelbourne:
In my experience, the dictionary definition of a political term becomes increasingly useless the more you learn about politics. There are nuances in the practical implementation of any ideology that defy the dictionary definition.

I feel that what you have proven is that it's not the definition that's wrong, but the people. The ideaology is what it is. It was created, defined, and released into the knowledge pool. What you have said is that it was ignored by people who didn't read the manual. As with all things that do not possess wills of their own, it's not their fault, but of those who wield them improperly.

I disagree. Ideologies and people are both imperfect, but only the latter can alter their behaviour to account for the imperfections.

Following any political ideology strictly to the letter is bound to end in catastrophic failure, because no abstract ideological principle can survive extended contact with the demands of ordinary, boring reality and its ordinary, boring problems. And it's the people that define the ideology, not the other way around; there is no rule that says the people can't change the ideology if they feel that it needs changing.

Seanchaidh:
Snip

bastardofmelbourne:
Snip

Ah, but when an ideaology is too different from from the definition, it hasn't evolved, it's become a new one altogether. I'm not against adaptation, but when you change enough of the rules, it's time to admit you just want a new rule book. This is, of course, different from mere compromise to suit your own ideaology, when you're really still looking out for your own.

The Lunatic:
But, as others have said, it's basically democratic socialism, which is a bit of an oxymoron, but, you get the idea.

Social Democracy and Democratic Socialism are not the same thing.

I thought about it and Social Democracy is a really shitty term for 2 reasons:
1) It's kinda ignores the massive impact of capitalism, feels like trying to put only socialism in the description to hog all the glory.
2) Either an oxymoron (since Socialism is the rule of the people) or admission to guilt that socialism will always end in dictatorship.

I'd just go capital-socialist countries.

Late stage capitalism, or the Left works.

Addendum_Forthcoming:
You need iron for ploughshares, even pig iron sill do. You need prople working the land when facing persistent famine, and so you need work teams to cover shortfalls in labour caused by said famine. You need prople to put the boot into Confucian tutors and install educators that will teach men and women so long as they have the desire to learn.

The problem is, the PRC overproduced pig iron, and while ploughshares were needed, traditional blacksmithing techniques could produce them without the need for intensive steel production. What China needed, ultimately, was not impossible quantities of ploughshares but tractors, and as a base for the growth of other industries small village furnaces were a terrible idea because they couldn't steel of high enough quality. However, they produced vast, vast quantities of it at a time when food supplies were barely existent and the labour could have been better used.

Mao's motivations were not based on any kind of pragmatic idea of trading short term hardship for long term success, but on an ideological belief in the inherent quality of the ordinary rural peasant and a deep distrust of technical knowledge and expertise as 'bourgois' qualities (these were, of course, the same qualities which would be actively purged during the cultural revolution). The idea of ordinary people making steel in their backyards was a fantasy, but it's a fantasy which played to Mao's idealism over more sober ideas.

Compare the great leap forward to the first two five year plans. In human terms, this was not a good time to be a poor peasant in the Soviet Union. Millions died from starvation, and many, many more lives were upended as traditional social networks and institutions which had governed life for centuries was suddenly overturned. However, thanks to the plans the Union went from being a barely industrialised agricultural society to a major industrial power (which would ultimately be able to match and surpass Nazi Germany) in the space of a decade. Pragmatically, Stalin's cruelty may well have saved the world.

Basically, it's one thing to say that life is cheap, but that doesn't excuse (even contextually) selling lives for ideas alone, or on faulty reasoning.

Addendum_Forthcoming:
Comparatively, the Chinese suffered less than Indians did under the yoke of British masters during the Second World War, and yet they didn't have anywhere near the comparable obstacles the Chinese mainland did.

And again, much of that can be attributed to obscene economic mismanagement by colonial authorities and overt, ideological racism by the British establishment. To be fair, colonial India was tightly intergrated into a colonial global trade system which the war had disrupted, so we can blame a little of that failure on the war, but for the most part it was just incompetence for which people can rightly be held to account. I think the same is true of the Great Leap Forward.

evilthecat:

The problem is, the PRC overproduced pig iron, and while ploughshares were needed, traditional blacksmithing techniques could produce them without the need for intensive steel production. What China needed, ultimately, was not impossible quantities of ploughshares but tractors, and as a base for the growth of other industries small village furnaces were a terrible idea because they couldn't steel of high enough quality. However, they produced vast, vast quantities of it at a time when food supplies were barely existent and the labour could have been better used.

... Yes, technically? You have to remember that iron is important in numerous aspects of village life however. Silo construction, (crappy) nails for building, pest resistant pens that will repulse wild dogs or the like getting into coops. Moreover it became a versatile trade good for touring Red Army brigades to pick up, deliver to better smelters for further processing, in exchange for helping villages that had been cleared out by Kuomintang conflict, banditry, or IJA aggression. There was a shitload of land in the North/Northeast that were largely emptied of people, and you need at least a high quantity of iron sheeting if you're expecting millions of people to go back to these emptied villages and cultivate land. Resettling people there means a high demand for sheet iron.

Moreover how exactly do you think they were going to get these tractors or even diesel? The Army engineers and mechanics had cannibalized heavier IJA transport trucks and other vehicles into earth movers. Diesel has a life expectancy of roughly two years with special additives they use to keep it partly resistant to hygroscopic forces that would otherwise eventually foul engines, plugs and carburetors.

Tractors were a big thing concerning The Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, in fact during my Chinese Media of the 20th century elective I did way back when during my first degree, we explored historical aspects of Chinese films of the era circa 1910s to 1990s.

A movie called Breaking with Old Ideas stands out particularly. One of the principle characters is a 17 year old person who wants to study applied veterinarian science and tractor construction at a local 'Labour University'. The aged (and hinted to be former Confucian) tutor shook his head at application to the village school, but this travelling representative of the party lifts his (student's) hand and says; "The callouses on his palm is his entrance exam." It was a pretty high budget (at the time) piece of propaganda for outlying Mao's Cultural Revolution, in a time when media was (even more) highly controlled.

The thing is they didn't have many trucks for soldiers.... much less the road networks to support it. Mechanization became a later aspect of Maoist China, however. And efforts were made even in the latr 50s to try to transform subsidised iron and steel works to the process of producing earthmovers and the like.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FAW_Group

Which began in 1953 as a consolidated public transit and earth moving motors company. Focussed majoritively on making parts for existing machines left over by the war that were cannibalized into light buses and trucks.

That was one of the first motor industries created during the first year of China's Five Year Plan.

In fact, also interesting, in that same movie it makes a big deal for this new graduate overseer of the labour university who rock climbs, navigates rivers on foot rafts, etc... all so he can get to this isolated village labour university. Now you could write that off as; "Of course the heroic labourer-soldier who fought the Japanese was a brave, hardworking, physically fit person who put himself through dangers just to get to his students!" But the real message it was conveying is a graphical examination that infrastructure was lacking...and China's mainland terrain is not a thing to sneeze at.

I don't know, I found it interesting. Kind of a running theme of 50s and 60s Chinese media. Soil, rock, rivers, forest.

I will say Mao lived too long... if he died in 1966 he would have been remembered as a war hero and basically father of late-modern China. Even the failures of TGLF, there is reasonable understanding the country was still suffering the hardship of post-colonialism.

Somtimes people live too long.

Mao's motivations were not based on any kind of pragmatic idea of trading short term hardship for long term success, but on an ideological belief in the inherent quality of the ordinary rural peasant and a deep distrust of technical knowledge and expertise as 'bourgois' qualities (these were, of course, the same qualities which would be actively purged during the cultural revolution). The idea of ordinary people making steel in their backyards was a fantasy, but it's a fantasy which played to Mao's idealism over more sober ideas.

I think you're reaching here. For example, The White Haired Girl. Infamous Peking-era piece. The insinuation is quite clear, the revolution needed to go to all people, every person, everywhere. The enemy wasn't merely the Japanese, it wasn't merely the landlords, it was superstition and systemic oppression. This is principally why he wanted revolutionaries to go to the countryside. Go to the places where women are treated like garbage simply on the basis of superstitions and 'counter-revolutionary' ideas of blocking equality of education, work and social responsibility.

So no ... I don't buy that argument Mao disliked knowledge. He disliked superstition. He disliked the Confucian tutor, and sought to replace them. He dislike the Taoist, and sought to have them chastised by unhappy crowds who 'recognized their anti-revolutionary attitudes'. If he 'disliked' knowledge, he wouldn't have massively expanded public education to men, women and children equally. In fact it was counter revolutionary and thoroughly chastised to keep daughters out of public education.

He disliked the vague academia of insulated, sterile tutors in cities. He disliked the idea that education should be divorced from praxis and realities of improving the lives of the rest of the social unit. Mao was all for teaching people medicine and how to repair tractors, however. He made it free.

In fact, a movie that came out that was all about showing the virtues of the Cultural Revolution, was precisely about showing the redemption of a veterinarian and tractor mechanic being trained in just those things at the labour university in the village. How he spurns his father trying to talk him into professionally desexing unwanted gene stock of pen held pigs for money outside the village. Instead, he casts down his wallet full of coins and banknotes and decides to work in the village for free.

Mao had no problem with technical skills. He had a problem with people using them in a fashion that sought to take talent out of the village and make one's skills and their purchase more mercenarial. He dislike bourgeois attitudes to education. Not knowledge. Being a 'peasant hero' didn't mean unskilled. It meant marrying your skills to the betterment of the commune and liberating oneself from traditional attachments when they would compromise this.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breaking_with_Old_Ideas

I think we have to be very careful judging Mao as anything less than a man of his time and place. This was a person that lived through two wars, he was gifted at military tactics, understood logistics if his actions and operational planning can speak for itself, and he was a middling structuralist philosopher. All of which doesn't really paint the idea he had his head in the clouds and can't understand tactile ideas of industry.

You can hedge your bets and say he was gambling ... but when you compare his other industrial policies (the wandering Red Army medic program, patient transport to field hospitals, etc) that did contribute great successes to living standards and disease management, and for the first time prevented peasants dying from simple things like influenza outbreaks and appendicitis. It's hard to say he was merely a fantasist.

There is a reason why many mainland Chinese families still remember Mao warmly even if they supported a Deng Xiaoping revisionism (even movies in the post Gang of Four era don't display Mao as bad... merely that a new way is needed, such as One and Eight). A good pro-Deng film to watch. It's adequate to call him a leader of hard men and women, not a politician in times of peace and plenty. You can compare him favourably to the actions of his contemporaries like Churchill, who willingly starved millions and caused more war casualties on British subjects than the indirect and direct war prosecution of the combined actions of the entire Axis forces.

Moreover, Mao wasn't a Leninist... he wasn't a conventional communist in the sense that he *hated* the big city model as you rightly put forward, but I think we're being uncharitable saying he wasn't a realist. He was a successful leader of soldiers (people expected and damn near required to be sacrificed upon the altar of victory) in possibly the worst suffering theatre of the Pacific War (and arguably the entirety of WW2) ... that would breed hard hearts, not flightful minds.

We have to separate the realities that he knew about, from the optics he cultivated so that people would follow him to Hell and back if necessary.

Compare the great leap forward to the first two five year plans. In human terms, this was not a good time to be a poor peasant in the Soviet Union. Millions died from starvation, and many, many more lives were upended as traditional social networks and institutions which had governed life for centuries was suddenly overturned. However, thanks to the plans the Union went from being a barely industrialised agricultural society to a major industrial power (which would ultimately be able to match and surpass Nazi Germany) in the space of a decade. Pragmatically, Stalin's cruelty may well have saved the world.

Basically, it's one thing to say that life is cheap, but that doesn't excuse (even contextually) selling lives for ideas alone, or on faulty reasoning.

But you're comparing two different people. In two different environments. Barring the Allied Intervention in Russia of 1918 the Soviets could reorganise what was largely untouched countrysides. They could build railways, megafactories, and practically pillage Western ideas of engineering. They had copious access to raw materials, and they could mechanize.

The Soviets beat Western forces... and actually consolidated ground and territory.

The flipside of that is China... where Mao inherited not only an invaded country, but one fully in the throws of two civil and international conflicts that immediately plagued the nation-to-be. Remember, China at the time didn't even have a solid understanding of its geographic borders even. And was riddled on all sides by multiple powerful Western colonisers. There were four European powers claiming massive stretches the coastline, and one claiming almost half the stretch of the Yangtze valley. Shanghai and the local cantons was still split up between 11 individual international state interests by 1949.

So with all of this naked expansionism and borders that could at best be described as 'liquid' (Tonkin, An Nan Suzerainty (afterwards Annam), etc...), how exactly did you expect the first years of communist rule to look once the Kuomintang was overthrown? After all, the Kuomintang did fuck all to curb constant border skirmishes, banditry, invasion, or land disputes. Hell, I'm not even including ethnic divides in Western China... You effectively had entire regions populated heavily by Iranic ethnic groups living within the old Qing imperial boundaries and once that fell by the time of the Xinhai revolution, they were left in a sort of limbo state ...

Putting aside all of these questions of how you can't compare the Soviet situation to China... only 4 years before the rise of Khrushchev, you had European and U.S. interests still squabbling over patches of Chinese rivers, coasts, farmland, islands, and deep sea ports. By the time of Yeltsin and the formal collapse of the U.S.S.R, China was/is set to become the world's foremost economic power and wielded far greater political capital and leverage in the international community than the U.S.S.R could ever dream of.

I'd say it's working out pretty well for them... It's not the China Mao would have wanted, but it's not the China we would have had without Mao.

Keep in mind, China's living standards did improve under Mao. In terms of life expectancy it doubled. In terms of raw production and beating famine, it was successful. I find it odd you point to the Soviet's capacity to mass industrialize, despite having a 30 year advantage of reorganisation by the time Mao had truly solidified a hint of an idea of a unified China... yet not recognize the power that is China, which has become a center of world trade off the strong basis of the mass industrialization that was his policies.

The effectiveness of the Chinese public education system was a crowning achievement. The establishment of the mobile medical service saved countless people and improved longterm productivity rates. The heavy focus on regional based industries to meet regional solutions also help pave a strong tradition of road, bridge and rail workers that China had none of is also a remarkable achievement.

While it might pain our more humanist intentions, sometimes you need strong leadership to survive what is, now, unthinkable hardship and suffering. I doubt many countries would have survived to maintain their sovereignty, much less personal sanity of the masses, in its stead.

And again, much of that can be attributed to obscene economic mismanagement by colonial authorities and overt, ideological racism by the British establishment. To be fair, colonial India was tightly intergrated into a colonial global trade system which the war had disrupted, so we can blame a little of that failure on the war, but for the most part it was just incompetence for which people can rightly be held to account. I think the same is true of the Great Leap Forward.

The Great Leap Forward did not meet all its goals, no. But was anybody realistically expecting it to? The two Five Year Plans hardly prepared adequately the Soviets to meet the Wehrmacht... but given that we can forgive the immensity of the challenge of successfully turning back of the largest invasion in all human history, we bite our tongues. The Great Leap Forward was never going to achieve a worker paradise. Half of China was still undocumented people that were tallied up in terms of rough numbers rather than actual names, with actual patient and familial histories.

But then again it's not like you can sell that to the people that; "You know what? Millions will die. Millions more will suffer. But through direct control of regional assets, collectivization and new standards of industrial management to transform wasteful private assets into centres of industry that can meet the challenges of a hostile world that still laye beyond our doorstep ... we need to take this step."

No, you're going sell it as; "Fucking rainbows for everybody. Red rainbows. Best kind of rainbow."

As awful as TGLF and Cultural Revolution were, they none the less saw the largest, most rapid increase in life expectancy the world has ever known. Literacy rates skyrocketed. Women readily received tertiary education. A standardized, national language was cultivated ... the first time in two thousand years. You saw the nations first mass road and bridge building program that linked people to more efficient distributive services. Medical staff and teaching staff trebled and quadrupled in a decade and a half.

That wasn't a fluke, and such rapid social evolution doesn't come without a price. People need to remember ... Australia, Canada and New Zealand are the only really successful nations that survived post colonialism without horrific hardship and incessant warfare.

No other European colonized or puppet-state. Only three modern nations of a world that was occupied, brutalized and exploited survived their postcolonialism without civil and international conflicts. And if you include the wars British imperialists dragged fledgling nations like Australia through, perhaps the most accurate number is two ... and depending on the specifics of independence, and the length of time, one... and if you disinclude all the nationswhich still have eurocentric ideas of laws, customs, interpersonal relationships, trade, and governance? Well, zero.

We shouldn't look at China in any different a lens to the hardships that other nations suffer in terms of their postcolonialism.

Let's not have magical ideas about the shape of the world European imperialism left us with. The first half of the 20th century was a worldwide shitshow for a reason.

Nearly all of Australia's neighbours are 75 years or younger.

Thailand is the only country in all of Southeast Asia and Oceania to never have been conquered and utterly colonized, and even then it didn't stop the British and French taking half their stuff for almost a century.

I'm surprised Southeast Asia and Oceania haven't had a major war between eachother given that seemed to be the modus operandi of post-European colonialism in every other region of the world save Antarctica. Not that there hasn't been some 'interesting' potential escalatory flashpoints, mind.

When you compare China's postcolonial period to the rest of the world, you start to see some pretty dire predictions it should have been worse.

Do you kind of get why people might look at Mao and not see the same arguments typically eurocentric academics put forward? It kind of deserves a roll of the eyes... a certain tone deafness that doesn't realize that where China was is where so many postcolonial nations-to-be found themselves in and the results of that are predictable.

I think you're comparing apples with oranges. Not to sound condescending, but I find it's a troubling comparison numerous European academics make ... only to find out that none of them have actually wandered about Southest Asia and the Far East. Actually visited the historical battlefields first hand. Seen the places where the revolts happened. Read the stories and talked to the families who went through it all.

It was a different frontier with different challenges.

It's an intellectual sin, because given the minute age since the postcolonialism of the East many of these people are still alive. And since when did it become admissable to ignore first hand resources? It is thoroughly researchable, and many will talk your ear off just getting a chance to make sure lessons of the past aren't so quickly forgotten or divorced from the human experience.

 

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