My latest on Pieria calls for a reconsideration of the simplistic ‘Berlin Wall’ narrative:
In my opinion, this view rests on a highly selective interpretation of events. It requires that we gloss over two major historical points: first, the historical circumstances of existing communism; second, the history of capitalist countries. It fails to acknowledge the fact that existing socialism occurred primarily in undeveloped countries, which we would naturally expect to exhibit lower standards of living than developed ones. It ignores the deliberate campaign of destruction and sabotage toward the socialist states by the capitalist states, a process comprehensively documented by US foreign policy critic William Blum (Blum, 2003). It also requires that we define past and present abuses of capitalist states as somehow ‘outside’ capitalism, in order to place ourselves above the (real or imagined) abuses of the communists…
…given the way the communist ‘laboratory test’ was constructed, how could [things] have been any other way? After all, the USA’s policy of “strangling” socialist states was not limited to the USSR but extended across the globe, taking place in dozens of countries: Italy, Guatemala, the Congo and Uruguay, to name a few (Blum, 2003). Bearing this in mind, what would you expect those who managed to fend off these attacks to look like? Would you expect them to be soft, peaceful and democratically minded, or to be dictatorial, uncompromising and military-minded? The leaders and regimes which were not ruthless – such as Patrice Lumumba, the PKI, Jacobo Arbenz and Salvador Allende – paid a price for their humanity: they were killed or exiled, and their countries were taken over by west-friendly dictatorships. For this reason, evaluating communism or socialism based only on the regimes which survived is essentially a sampling bias.
I have already had someone on twitter charge that I am blaming both capitalism and communism’s problems on capitalism. This isn’t the case: social science is a matter of understanding structure versus agency, and the communist countries were born into a world where structure heavily inhibited their development. Meanwhile, it seems that capitalism retains its undesirable characteristics even when it is unchallenged (pre-1917 and post-1991). Its proponents attribute this more to agency than structure; I disagree. However, I am merely calling for a debate of this sort, so we can move away from disingenuous ‘Black Book of Communism’-style kill count porn.