Ilya Somin, a professor of law at George Mason University, writes at the Washington Post that it’s important to remember the abuses of communism as we do for fascism, for the same reason — so history doesn’t repeat itself.
The horrendous history of China, the USSR, and their imitators, should have permanently discredited socialism as completely as fascism was discredited by the Nazis. But it has not – so far – fully done so.
Just recently, the socialist government of Venezuela imposed forced labor on much of its population. Yet most of the media coverage of this injustice fails to note the connection to socialism, or that the policy has parallels in the history of the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, and other similar regimes. One analysis even claims that the real problem is not so much “socialism qua socialism,” but rather Venezuela’s “particular brand of socialism, which fuses bad economic ideas with a distinctive brand of strongman bullying,” and is prone to authoritarianism and “mismanagement.” The author simply ignores the fact that “strongman bullying” and “mismanagement” are typical of socialist states around the world. The Scandinavian nations – sometimes cited as examples of successful socialism- are not actually socialist at all, because they do not feature government ownership of the means of production, and in many ways have freer markets than most other western nations.
These are excellent points. But it is also true that capitalism seems joined at the hip with imperialism, genocide, and mass poverty, with slavery of one kind or another endemic to capitalist societies the way hip dysplasia is common to some breeds of dogs.
So if both socialism and capitalism are broken, then what?
Somin makes another point that’s inarguably true: The Great Leap Forward and other abuses of communism must be remembered because their survivors are still alive, and deserve respect and financial compensation.