The 20th century witnessed the great struggle between capitalism and communism. While the capitalists held on to the wealthy states of Western Europe and North America, there were tendencies toward communism in the majority of the world, in which widespread poverty made the egalitarian beliefs widely accepted. In today’s post-communist world, many nations have accepted socialism — defined as a set of economic policies preached by the communists — without the same absolute power structure and state control that existed in all former communist regimes. The historical trend shows that the creation of a new socialism is necessary to prevent the reoccurrence of communist-inspired violence and instability that result in more poverty.
The lack of equal opportunity for all people is the fundamental reason for communist revolution throughout the developing world in the last century. In all such states, the people had no opportunity for advancement in the economic hierarchy, thereby placing them in a situation where they had nothing to lose in destroying the government already in place. The phenomenon is best exemplified by the Communist Revolution of China, which ended in 1949. Under the capitalist Nationalist government that was in place, the urban elite prospered with foreign investment while securing their higher social status with the monopoly of the large businesses and the minimal higher education system. However, the peasantry was heavily taxed to finance the burden of the continued war with Japan while corrupt officials and large rural landowners allowed little benefits to trickle down to the majority rural population at the time.
With no source for education, the poor were destined to remain poor as they farmed their meager land or faced heavy exploitation as migrant workers in the cities. With desperation building up within the impoverished, only a brilliant leader — such as China had found in Mao Zedong — is needed to transform them into a formidable anti-government force. China was not an isolated case; Lenin in Czarist Russia, Ho Chi Minh in French-controlled Vietnam and Castro in Batista’s Cuba all saw the same inequalities between urban elites and the rural majority. Ironically, the ensuing fights to end such inequality only led to the destruction of infrastructure and outflow of capital with the exile of urban elites and foreign companies, precipitating in greater poverty and extermination of any opportunities to gain economic wealth. The lack of socialist policies in many capitalist countries is the root cause for the instability and poverty brought on by communist-inspired violence.
The threat of violence due to inequality is very much alive in the world of today, especially among the developing countries, exemplified by such groups as Maoist guerrillas in Nepal and rioting Algerian youth in the major cities of France. The only effective way to prevent such instability and violence is to implement a specific set of new socialist policies for the legal residents of the country.
For one, the quality of required education received by all children must be equalized. Today, the difference between the elite private schools and urban public schools in America has never been greater. To alleviate the situation, the government needs to either nationalize all private schools and fund them equally among each other or privatize all public schools and financially assist poorer students.
Second, the joblessness of able-bodied workers must be changed through government-funded job-training programs and job placements. Cutting social welfare payments for many unemployed able-bodied persons would provide funding for these programs. The combination of two policies can effectively prevent the unemployment of many who would otherwise contribute to the country’s economy.
Lastly, all residency requirements for employment should be abolished. Economic flexibility can greatly reduce unemployment in some areas by filling labor shortages in other areas. Eventually, government spending on social welfare, education subsidy and job training programs will decrease significantly with the newly found financial independence of many previously unemployed and their posterity. Guaranteeing equal opportunities, the state can effectively lower unemployment, preventing the sense of economic desperation of the impoverished in order to generate stability and productivity.
Since the rise of the Soviet Union at the beginning of the last century, the word “socialism” has always suggested the subsequent support of communist policies. However, socialism need not be represented by financial subsidy to the jobless or free procurement of such services as medical care and education that countries such as Sweden have interpreted it to be. It is the role of the government to guarantee a job for all who can and wishes to work, thus preventing wealth concentration in the hands of the few and the abandonment of the poor generation after generation.
On the other hand, it should be realized that new socialist policies are not a guarantor of national income. The government’s duty ends at pointing the people in the right direction; it is the responsibility of each individual to take that path and work hard.
Xiaochen Su is a sophomore in Davenport College.