Tag: Soviet Union

Does socialism encourage laziness?

Does socialism encourage laziness? Featured

Hello Comrade, when you have a chance, kindly reflect on the common assumption that socialism encourages laziness.

Great thanks Comrade and here is my brief reflection on the assumption:

The laziness trope is often used as a way to kind of discredit socialism overall. However, there’s some truth to this. In the experience in the Soviet Union and Cuba and Eastern Europe, there was a point in the development of socialism where workers were less motivated than certainly everyone that imagined what socialism would be thought would happen.

Now, before getting into that, let’s look at, first of all, the increase in productivity and the growth of the economy, industrialization in the Soviet Union during the 1920s on was astounding. The fact that this semi-feudal country industrialized so quickly that it actually could fend off this highly developed industrial power of Nazi Germany, and eventually win that war, the extent to how hard people worked and how much they sacrificed to be into that position, you can’t call that laziness. Let’s not forget the Soviet Union got to space before the United States. In a very short amount of time after World War II, the Soviet Union built a nuclear weapon to counteract the nuclear threat of the United States, and the extent to which it was an offensive threat to the United States and that the Soviet Union was in a defensive position.

When people have a guaranteed job and you can never get fired, when people have a guaranteed standard of living, they have healthcare, they have schooling, there’s no fear of poverty, which is more or less what there was in the Soviet Union, people get lazy. And if there’s no competition, like if everyone gets paid the same no matter how hard you work, then why work hard?

The Soviet Union was incredibly innovative. Some of the most amazing inventions came out of the Soviet Union, including, if you go back to the beginning, the Soviet Union gives birth to modern film making and so on, and all kinds of developments in the sciences.

So if you look at the stages of the Soviet Union, for a long time, it was very productive, as you see, what I said about taking on Germany and getting to space and so on. And then also, in certain sectors of the economy, it remained very productive, especially the sciences. The Soviet Union was able to compete with the United States in the development of technology.

But on this one specific thing – and it’s a complicated subject, we can’t get into it all now – but there was something that developed in the Soviet Union, and it happened in Cuba, and to some extent in Eastern Europe. When you got to the level of the factory floor and much of the working class, kind of everyone got paid the same. And it kind of didn’t matter if you worked hard or didn’t work hard, and there was a lot of resentment. Workers that did work hard, were motivated, were definitely pissed that this person over there was having a cigarette half the day and nothing happens. And then it was difficult to fire somebody and even discipline them, because ideologically, this was supposed to be a worker’s state and all the rest. And one of the reasons that is because the bureaucrats, especially, to maintain their own positions of power, didn’t want to piss off sections of the working class. And a lot of them believed in this theory too, that you pay everyone the same because that’s the socialist ideal. Except it’s not. There’s absolutely no reason under socialism why everyone should get paid the same. And in fact, they didn’t. In the Soviet Union, the artists got paid more, filmmakers got paid more, the party leaderships got paid more. It’s not like everyone got paid the same, it was mostly in the working class you didn’t have hardly any variance. But there’s no reason why that needs to be.

If we go back to what Karl Marx said, socialism is not the same – and there’s so much misconception of what communism is because of the Cold War and all the rest. But if you take what Marx and Engels thought communism was, communism is when the state withers away and isn’t there anymore because there’s no classes anymore, because the whole point of the state is to be coercive.

And if you don’t have distinctions in classes, you don’t need cops, you don’t need armies. So communism is this ideal kind of utopia. Who knows if human society ever gets there, but that’s the theory. It got all demonized because they called the Soviet Union communism because the Soviet Union sometimes called themselves that, but it wasn’t.

So under communism, the tagline is, “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.” Because this ideal state, where there’s no classes, everyone is highly motivated, but not everyone is equal in ability. Some people run fast, some people run slow, some people are smarter, some people can do this and that. So everyone gives what they have to give, but everyone gets what they need. That’s this utopian state of communism, and that was the ideal. But socialism, the slogan was, the tagline from Marx was,

“From each according to their ability, to each according to their work.” You don’t work, you don’t get. So that was not what was followed. This idea of having the same wage did demotivate people.

In Cuba people became so educated, they didn’t want to do agricultural work. They didn’t want to go work in the fields because people were learning sciences and medicine. And in those areas, Cuba excelled. They have a pharmaceutical industry in Cuba that competes at a world level. Though when it came to when you have such an educated population, a lot of people didn’t want to do that kind of work.

But it also was the same thing, with everyone kind of getting paid the same, and they were resentful about that. People said, ‘Well, why should I work hard when they don’t?’ But there’s no reason for that. This isn’t something inherent in socialism. You can have competition between workers, you can pay people more for more productivity. This is not a state where you get what you need, it’s an economy where you get how you work.

Moreover, even capitalist countries somehow faced some similar challenges when it came to social security. There are some people who were satisfied just sitting at home drinking, producing children and collecting social security for each child and didn’t want to work. It seems, regardless of the social and economic system, this is the side effect of providing social security beyond a certain optimal level.

Socialism is not promoting laziness, it does not say that you can live off other people’s work while sitting at home collecting welfare. You will not get paid if you do not work. People will say that socialism is just giving someone money that they didn’t earn. This is wrong, you still have to work.

So it’s a complicated, long story. Well, comrades, for now we’re going to have to leave it here.

Fred M’membe

Mwika Royal Village, Chinsali

Can socialism really work in Zambia?

Can socialism really work in Zambia?

We keep on being asked in radio and television interviews if socialism can really work in Zambia having ‘failed’ in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and other East European socialist states is often cited as an example of the impossibility of socialism by those opposed to socialism.

The wrongs, abuses and mistakes that were committed in those states are also used to generally vilify socialism.

To explain this, I turn to the issue of hypocrisy in the Christian church and how some have tried to use it to dismiss and discredit Christianity. There’s a very strong similarity in terms of arguments and way of reasoning used to raise doubt about Christianity and socialism.

We are told in Matthew 7:3-5, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

With these witty but also biting words, Jesus causes his listeners – then and today – to carefully examine their own lives. Are we going about accusing others of minor shortcomings when, in fact, we ourselves are ignoring our own behaviour? If so, we are hypocrites? Once our hypocrisy is removed, then we are in a position to help others.

Unfortunately, one obstacle to the acceptance of Christianity that is often raised is provided by Christians themselves. Phrased in many ways, the core of the objection is, “If Christianity is true, why are there hypocrites in the church?” In other words, if Christianity is really supposed to change people, then why do some who profess to believe in Jesus set such bad examples?

But what’s a hypocrite?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines hypocrisy as follows: “The assuming of a false appearance of virtue or goodness, with dissimulation of real character or inclinations, especially in respect of religious life or beliefs; hence in general sense, dissimulation, pretence, sham. Also, an instance of this.” It defines hypocrite in this manner: “One who falsely professes to be virtuously or religiously inclined; one who pretends to have feelings or beliefs of a higher order than his real ones; hence generally, a dissembler, pretender.” The Compact Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), s.v., “hypocrisy,” “hypocrite.”

In simpler terms, a hypocrite is someone who not only does not practice what one preaches, but a person who does the opposite of what one preaches. A parent holding a beer and smoking a cigarette who admonishes a child not to drink or smoke, for instance, may be viewed as being a hypocrite by the child.

Similarly, critics of Christianity who raise the hypocrisy objection usually point to some moral failure in the lives of Christians they know as examples of Christianity being false or at least highly suspect. “See!” they exclaim. “There goes another hypocrite in the church! How can I believe Christianity if the church is full of hypocrites?”

“Hypocrisy” or variations of it appear 17 times in the NIV translation of the Bible. Often it is Christ calling people hypocrites (see, for instance, Matthew 6:2, 5, 16; 7:5; 15:7; 22:18; 23:13, 15; 23:23, 25, 27, 29; 24:51; Mark 7:6; Luke 6:42; 12:56; and 13:15). “You hypocrites!” in fact is a recurring phrase.

Was Jesus guilty of pointing out the speck in someone else’s eye when in fact he had a plank in his own? Not at all. Christianity does not stand or fall on the way Christians have acted throughout history or are acting today. Christianity stands or falls on the person of Jesus, and Jesus was not a hypocrite. He lived consistently with what He taught, and at the end of His life, He challenged those who had lived with Him night and day, for over three years, to point out any hypocrisy in Him. His disciples were silent, because there was none. Since Christianity depends on Jesus, it is incorrect to try to invalidate the Christian faith by pointing to horrible things done in the name of Christianity.

Whether or not Christianity is true does not depend on how its adherents behave. This, of course, does not excuse hypocrisy in the church, but neither does it mean that hypocrisy is sufficient reason to dismiss Christianity. Second, Christ was not a hypocrite in any sense of the word. Often even critics agree with this point, exalting the high moral standards of Christ without understanding His larger claims. Third, seemingly hypocritical behaviour on a large scale, such as the Inquisition, does not invalidate Christianity, either. Again, this does not excuse hypocritical behaviour, but separates it from the centre of Christianity: Christ and His claims.

Are all Christians hypocrites? Not at all! In fact, the history of the Christian church is filled with examples of selflessness, courage, moral action and reform and many other positive influences on the world. These are not the acts of hypocrites, but of sincere believers transformed by the resurrected Christ and moved by the Holy Spirit to “do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31).

The church is a work in progress, and so are its members. Like a cathedral that may take decades or centuries to complete, the process is long and arduous, but someday it will be complete and stand as a beautiful testimony to the power of Christ to transform lives for the better. Remember, too, that only some professing Christians act hypocritically. What about all those who do not? What about all those who consistently live out the love of Christ in the world?

Until the church and all followers of Christ are glorified, there will, unfortunately, be hypocrites in the church. What’s important to remember, however, is that this does not negate Christianity or the claims of Christ. In addition, accusations of hypocrisy assume that there is a moral standard that hypocrites break. But where does this standard come from? In this sense, the hypocrisy objection actually supports the reality of a transcendent, moral lawgiver (that is, God), rather that argue against Him.
We must also remember that, biblically speaking, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24). In other words, no one is perfect and all are dependent on Christ for redemption, salvation and growth in spiritual maturity.

On the one hand, Christians should not act hypocritically, lest we provide critics with a flimsy reason to reject the gospel message. On the other hand, critics should know better than to attempt to throw out Christianity and all of Christ’s claims on the basis of the hypocrisy objection.

The viability and validity of socialism doesn’t depend on what happened to socialism in the Soviet Union and other European socialist states and the behaviour of socialists in those countries and others in the world. The validity and viability of socialism here depends on the omnipotence of the socialist doctrine because it is true. What was deformed and killed was socialism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and not socialism here or elsewhere in the world.