Socialism is Good:
A Thought Exercise

Date: 12 June 2023

Author: Michael C.

Tags: Asia-Pacific, Philosophy

The logic of Marxism is the logic of human progress, and the ultimate trajectory of that progress towards the complete liberation of our species. That is, towards Communism. The working and oppressed masses, being the source of all progress and human development, are thus the principal subjects in the movement towards liberation; the people in general, and working people in specific, are the motive force of history.

Following this, from the Marxist viewpoint, “good” and “bad” are not merely relativistic terms, but are likewise not merely moralisms. Human progress towards freedom and liberation is “good”, and the final liberation of mankind as a whole (Communism) is the “ultimate good”. By the same logic, any force opposing such progress is “bad”, and the regression of human society away from such liberation — towards earlier forms of socioeconomic development (barbarism) — is the “ultimate bad”.

Socialism is good. This isn’t a new statement or slogan. In fact, in 1958 it was the title of a song (社会主义好) celebrating the Communist Party and its early achievements following the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

In contemporary Communist circles in particular, it’s the kind of statement that’s more likely to elicit quiet contempt than any other reaction; like proudly proclaiming that the sky is blue. While a vast number in western society have been propagandized to view the opposite as the case, those adhering to the socialist path believe it to be so true as to require no further consideration.

But further consideration is necessary. In light of common diatribes and statements about the nature of socialist development, it is very much worth further investigation. Of these further investigations, one very clear question comes to mind: is socialism “good” because it is socialism, or is it “good” because it improves the livelihoods of the working and oppressed people?

Socialism is good, socialism is good!

People of socialist countries have high social status.

Reactionaries are overthrown, Imperialism tucks its tail and flees.

The entire country is united setting of a tide in socialist construction.

The Communist Party is good! The Communist Party is good!

The Communist Party is a good leader for the people.

It keeps its promises and works wholeheartedly for the people.

Firmly adhere to the Communist Party in the assured construction, the assured construction, of our great motherland!

Socialism is good, socialism is good!

The people protect the socialist system.

The power of people is invincible, the resistance of reactionary cliques is destined to fail.

The cause of socialism will definitely be victorious, a communist society will definitely come true, will definitely come true!

The Communist Party is good! The Communist Party is good!

The Communist Party guides China on the way to power and wealth.

The power of people is invincible, the resistance of reactionary cliques is destined to fail.

The cause of socialism will definitely be victorious, a communist society will definitely come true, will definitely come true!

— Socialism is Good

If we say that the former is the case, that socialism is “good” because it is socialism, then we find ourselves trapped in a conundrum. In this circular logic where “socialism is good because it is socialism, which is good, because it is socialism, which is good…”, then we quickly approach two very serious problems:

It would seem clear, then, that it is not enough to merely claim that socialism is good in such a reductive and circular manner. So then what of our other option?

In the latter case, we say that socialism is “good” because it improves the livelihoods of the working and oppressed people, and represents the natural next step of socio-economic development in the progression of the human species following the era of capitalist imperialism, towards Communism. In this case, it is still possible for anything can be called socialism — rightly or wrongly, but only the things that improve the livelihoods of the working and oppressed people can be called “good”. This means that some things are “good”, but not socialist; and others may be socialist, but not “good”.

Having critically assessed both earlier options, we are now prepared to discuss their synthesis, and the position maintained by AES entities throughout the world today.

As relates to the arguments above and the options presented, some may say that the answer is neither, and that socialism is good because it is about liberation. However, this then begs a simple question: what liberation or freedom can exist for working and oppressed people if their livelihood is not improved? There is no freedom in destitution, and there is no liberty to be found in starvation. As another slogan goes, poverty is not socialism.

This specific line of reasoning — and these precise slogans (both that socialism is good and that poverty is not socialism) — were the topic of harsh criticism and debate in the People’s Republic of China since at least the early 1950’s; not merely the cultural revolution, as many mistakenly believe. The process of socioeconomic development in the PRC echoed that of the Soviet Union some two or three decades earlier, and would be echoed again in the following decades in Vietnam, Laos, Korea, and Cuba. What we see in these histories is not the failure of socialist progressive development — reverting back to capitalism — but rather the progression of imperialized socioeconomic conditions towards the lower stages of socialism, reaching the “upper limits” of uneven global development in the age of nuclear imperialism. What the our Chinese, Lao, Vietnamese, Korean, and Cuban Comrades have found is that, in a global socioeconomic order aligned under the hegemony of US imperialism, which is maintained through various machinations (from the International Monetary Fund to Mutually Assured Destruction), the advent of Communism — which is international in character — is not yet completely applicable to national conditions. In other words, Communism is not the natural next phase of human socioeconomic development; the next phase is instead what we in the English-speaking world refer to as “lower socialism.” In this phase we see a dual purpose: first, the ushering in of the new age of internationalism, superseding the age of imperialism at the global level, and second, the advent of lower socialist (or, to quote Mao Zedong and Kaysone Phomvihane, “state capitalist”) socioeconomic reforms at the national level. It is then through the contradiction of these dual spheres in the new era that we see the emergence of higher socialism, ultimately Communism.

In the present international conjuncture, national features and conditions peculiar to each country become a more and more important factor in the elaboration of the policies of every communist and workers’ party. At the same time, Marxism-Leninism remains the unshakable basis of the common struggle of all parties, exchange of experiences on this struggle keeps its full meaning and questions arising for this or that party is in no way this or that party’s ‘own concern’, but has vital connection with the international proletariat as a whole.

— Ho Chi Minh, 1956

Similar to our earlier remark that accidental qualities of a thing are not the same as a thing itself, the process whereby a thing is achieved is not the same as the thing itself, either; the outcome of a process is greater than merely the sum of its component parts. This is the materialist dialectic, that the synthesis is not merely the basic outcome of the thesis and antithesis, but the simultaneous "combination" and "abolition" of both components into a new whole (“aufheben”). In other words, the terms socialism and Communism are also used to refer to the processes of achieving those socioeconomic stages — the period of developmental contradiction between theses and antitheses — as well as the nouns used to refer to the specific stages themselves — the syntheses. This linguistic confusion thus conflates socialism with the process of achieving socialism, and Communism with the process of acheiving Communism; in both cases it is of vital importance for Marxists especially to understand that these different usages indicate very different things, despite being the same words.

Returning then to our original question, we can see that socialism is good remains a factual statement, as the process of socialism — the progression of human socioeconomic conditions towards socialism — is good; likewise, the state of socialism — of having achieved a classless, moneyless, borderless global society — is also good. Likewise, we see that the process of socialism is good not merely because it is “without error,” but because it is oriented towards the progression of humanity towards the final synthesis (Communism). In this way we see what our AES Comrades mean when, for example, the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) refer to their system as “fundamentally socialist,” or, the Communist Party of China (CPC) refer to their economic system as “socialist-oriented.” And finally, it is in that synthesis where both the positive and negative aspects of the process of socialism are "combined and abolished" into a new whole — human liberation, socialism as a noun — and is therefore also good.

This then brings us to the final point: what if, as many say, all of the AES countries in the world today (China, Cuba, Korea, Laos, Vietnam), are in fact not socialist in any sense of the term?

If this were true, then we could assess very clearly, based on material realities of the world that we are living in, that “socialism” had become a wholly hollow and meaningless term in all senses — linguistically and ideologically — and that its only usage as either verb or noun would be to refer to the greatest tragedy to ever befall mankind; that is to say, the loss of all hope for a better future. For, if we take this logic of “no true scotsman” to its natural conclusion, then the only ideologically sound conclusion must be that the international brotherhood of the working class has failed, and the light of human creativity and progress has been extinguished for all time.

The material realities visible around the world today, however, indicate that this is very much not the case, and the immortal science of Marxism-Leninism informs us very clearly that so long as human beings remain on this planet, it never shall be.

In conclusion, socialism is good.