Socialists aim to transform society so that the means of production and necessary infrastructure are commonly owned property rather than the property of private individuals. The most foremost theoretician of Socialism was Karl Marx. Since Marx's death in the late 19th century, the socialist movement has diverged into a large number of different currents. The main currents are Social Democracy, Stalinism and Trostkyism.
Corruption of Socialism in Twentieth by Stalin
The experience of Stalin's regime and the rule of like-minded regimes in other countries has badly tarnished the reputation of socialism. However, those who maintain that Stalin's murderous police state is synonymous with socialism usually conveniently overlook the struggle that took place in the early years of the Soviet Republic. They also ignore the fact the by the middle of the 1930's nearly all of the original leaders of the Bolshevik Party as the Communist Party was known in 1917 had been murdered or imprisoned by Stalin. It would therefore seem reasonable to ask if the outcome of the struggle had been different and the majority of original leaders, rather than Stalin, had retained power, would the Soviet Union have ended up as it had.
In the last months of Lenin's life, as he was afflicted with terminal illness, he asked Trotsky to act to remove Stalin from his post as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). He also put these wishes in a letter to the Central Committee of the CPSU which was to become known as Lenin's Last Testament:
“Stalin is too rude and this defect, although quite tolerable in our midst and in dealing among us Communists, becomes intolerable in a Secretary-General. That is why I suggest that the comrades think about a way of removing Stalin from that post and appointing another man in his stead “
In spite of his written authority from Lenin, and his own immense prestige arising from his leading of the victorious insurrection in 1917 and the loyalty of the Red Army derived from him having led it to victory in the Russian Civil war of 1918 until 1921, Trotsky inexplicably failed to act upon Lenin's instructions, until it was too late.
Trotsky even ignored the appeals for support of leaders of the Left Opposition at the watershed congress of the CPSU in 1927. At that congress even Stalin appealed to Trotsky for his support. However Trotsky remained steadfastly neutral until only after Stalin triumphed at the congress.
Only then did he act in order to form an alliance with the Left opposition whom he had previously turned his backs on (described in "The Prophet Unarmed" the second of three volumes of Isacc Deutscher's volume biography of Trotsky).
After this, Trotsky belatedly launched his epic international struggle against Stalin. This ended for him personally when he was murdered in August 1940 in Mexico on Stalin's orders.
During the intervening years he set up a new international organisation the Fourth International to challenge the influence of the Third Communist International which had been corrupted by Stalin.
In spite of promising beginnings, the Fourth International ultimately degenerated and split into a number of small ineffectual sectarian organisation.
An exception to this trend was the Trotskyist party in Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon) They did form government after the Second World War but, like many other 'socialist' parties which have won government they had become corrupted and chose to leave the foundations of the capitalist system untouched, so the dream of socialism is no more a reality in Sri Lanka than anywhere else.
#SocialistCornucopianism" id="SocialistCornucopianism">Socialist cornucopianism
Socialist organisations have helped to compound humanity's problems by having denied the finiteness of the planet. This has its roots in Marx's polemics against Malthus's ideas. Marx considered that human creativity would increase almost indefinitely the productive output of humankind, but ignored the fact that seeming advances in human productivity were largely based upon the depletion of humankind's finite endowment of natural capital, in particular fossil fuels and metals. For the past decades this has manifest itself in vigorous opposition by socialist organisations (ironically, almost in concert with the most extreme of capitalist globalisers) against any restriction upon immigration. In th 1970's the United States then-Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party even published a pamphlet "Too Many Babies?: The Myth of the Population Explosion" which denounced Paul Ehrlich, author of "The Population Bomb" as a kind of latter day Antichrist incarnation of Thomas Malthus.
In spite of the socialist movement's ambivalent contribution to human progress, humanity's best chance thus far of being able to achieve a sustainable world in harmony with it's life support system would have been the preservation of the health of the Russian Revolution and its spread to other countries. In spite of the flaws of the leaders of the Revolution including Lenin and Trotsky, if the Stalin and his supporters had been removed from power as Lenin had earnestly requested, it seems plausible that many of the decent ideals of the original revolution could have been preserved. It would have been an example that many in other countries would have willingly followed. As it was, many attempts by Communist Parties did come very close to success immediately following the initial triumph of the Russian Revolution and throughout the 1920's.
#socialist-environmental-stewardship" id="socialist-environmental-stewardship">Would world-wide socialism have better managed our finite endowment of natural capital?
However, even a socialist world, in which the power of capitalists had been broken, would have eventually had to come to grips with the finiteness of the planet's natural resources and would have, in all likelihood, have fallen considerably short of the stated ideal of socialism of 'too each according to his need and from each according to his ability'.
However, in a world, whose fate was not determined to suit the selfish interests of a small greedy elite, the warnings of scientists about the threats of global warming, loss for biodiversity and overpopulation would have more likely been heeded in time for the necessary changes to have been made and an orderly power-down and global reduction in population lasting many centuries may have been achievable.
The nightmare scenario we now face of the complete breakdown of civilisation and possibly even of our planetary life support system may have been avoided.
See also Trotsky's Biggest Blind spot by Sandy Irvine downloadable as a 20 page pdf document from www.sandyirvine.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk. This document can also be viewed as a html document as "The Prophet Misarmed: Trotsky, Ecology and Sustainability" at www.whatnextjournal.co.uk