Socialism

The red flag is the symbol of socialism/communism

The philosopher Karl Marx stood as a towering figure over the politics of the 20th century. No one had as much influence on the changes that happened in these years. In Russia Marxists (communists, bolshevists) took power and founded the Soviet Union in 1917. In Western Europe and the US communist and socialist parties gained influence, and communist and socialist trade unions became strong. Later, in 1949 China had its own communist revolution.

The capitalists in the western world became afraid of a revolution in their own countries after the Russian revolution, and acted in a very social way towards the workers, to deter them from revolution. In western countries working conditions improved, and even in developing countries things went for the better. The world economy and political climate of the cold war (rivalry between capitalist countries lead by the USA and communist countries lead by the Soviet Union, with some proxy wars in developing countries like Vietnam and Angola) proved not so bad for some developing countries. Kamuzu Banda got a lot of financial support in exchange for his political support for the capitalist block. This way he could keep the economy going in spite of inefficiencies caused by nepotism, corruption and incompetence.

Deng Xiao PingIn the 1980s it became clear that the communist economies were not working well, and the capitalists became bolder, under leadership of UK Prime Minister Thatcher: they fought trade unions, working conditions deteriorated, and inequalities soared. Meanwhile the Soviet Union slowly collapsed, while in China Deng Xiao Ping reformed the communist economy , more in line with capitalism, while keeping communist control of politics. This is a balancing act that goes on until today. The problem in the Chinese model is soaring inequalities combined with communist lack of basic freedoms like freedom of expression, freedom of association, and democracy.

Orthodox Marxism is not very popular today, though the basic idea that a small group of people gathers more and more riches while a growing group of people becomes poorer and poorer seems to describe the world economy of today very well.

In the early 20th century, a schism in the Marxist movement came about when the Eastern European Marxists went communist, and staged the Russian Revolution, while the western European Marxists went socialist and improved working conditions step by step through democratic (social-democrat or labour) parties and trade unions. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 communism is not very powerful any more, but socialism is still a force world-wide. We can see that in the French and Italian Socialist Parties as well as the British Labour Party. Even in the US, where socialism has been very small since the 1950s there is a socialist candidate in the Democratic Party: Bernie Sanders.

Socialists feel the State has a duty to take care of the less privileged in society. This means the State has to redistribute income, power and Knowledge to the poor. This can take the form of socialized medicine (free health care), which exists in Malawi, but the quality is very poor. It can take the form of well subsidized education. In Malawi education is subsidized but the budgets have been undermined by inflation, and recently the DPP government managed to cut the education budget by a whopping 40%. This creates all kinds of unwanted situations that undermine quality. If you want your child to be educated in Malawi, you have to send it to a private school, and cough up the costs. Also the DPP government has raised secondary school fees by 200-400% which makes them unaffordable for all but the wealthy. The school fees for teacher training went up by an astronomical 15000%! This clearly shows that the DPP has no priority for education, no matter how many nice titles Arthur Peter Mutharika has as “champion of education” and such. The neglect of education and health care are clearly anti social policies of the DPP government: they feel the patients and learners will have to cough up the cost of the services themselves and those who do not have the money will have a hard time. This is neo-liberal (a new form of classic liberal) thinking, not even social liberal. Here clearly the DPP government is pushing its budget problems on the poor, which is anti socialist. But if they were really liberal, they would improve the business climate, by reviewing the regulatory system so businesses have more liberty to operate (and create jobs!), improve the working of the judiciary to create a level playing field, and lower taxes to improve profitability and attract Direct Foreign Investment.

In the Malawian context a socialist politician would strive to improve public education and health care, lower income inequality, and provide better services to the poor in general. This can be paid for with a zero-tolerance-on-corruption policy and higher taxes on the rich. Also water and electricity provision would be improved. Escom would not be split and privatized, PPPs would not be seen as a miracle solution to all problems. A socialist policy needs a strong, vibrant and efficient public service, which means for socialist policies to work the public service in Malawi would have to be completely reformed, but not necessarily downsized. It would have to get a lot more work done with the same people, especially implementation wise. Policies are being designed and launched, but after the launch implementation is slacking. That needs to change for any type of politics to work, but since socialism requires a big and active government (as opposed to liberalism, which looks to a small and passive government) with socialist policies it is even more important to have the government system working efficiently.

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