A Lesson for Socialists; Capitalism Is the Creative Force

Article excerpt


Forty-five years ago this month, history's most notable attempt to resolve socialism's inherent contradiction began. It failed, as all attempts had previously and all have since. It failed because socialism fundamentally means repressing capitalism and capitalism remains irrepressible. Still, the attempt and its outcome are valuable reminders of how far the world has come, and how quickly it could regress.

On Jan. 5, 1968, Czechoslovakia's Communist Party elected Alexander Dubcek its leader. Over the next eight months, Dubcek would attempt to take what today appear mild steps toward political democratization and economic decentralization. He termed it socialism with a human face, and in his day it was radical itself.

What came to be termed the Prague Spring was an effort to resolve socialism's inherent contradiction: a managed economy without a repressed citizenry. The left, despite every practical failure in this effort, has always clung tightly to the theory that this could, and will eventually, happen.

Dubcek's dream ended with Brezhnev's doctrine: On Aug. 20, 1968, the USSR intervened militarily to stop capitalism's advance within its sphere of influence.

Despite Russia's tanks, what ultimately undermined Dubcek's experiment was socialism's economics: to build an advanced socialist society on sound economic foundations. This oxymoronic goal also would undermine the USSR two decades later.

The problem is that socialism means thwarting capitalism, yet capitalism is the only sound economic foundation existing today. In order to work, socialism requires forcing the individual to avoid the natural inclination toward the marketplace. In other words, it can only exist through repression.

Since its rise, capitalism has proven the most powerful creative force history has ever seen. Far from sowing the seeds of its own destruction, as Dubcek's Marxist masters believed it would, capitalism has prevailed over every system that has tried to supplant it.

In order to force the economic system from its natural course, the state must apply force to its economic actors. …