There’s a trite belief among dogmatic capitalists that socialists are concerned with the collective at the expense of the individual. Capitalists care about you, they say — socialists only care about “society.”
My last column proved this to be false. Capitalist labor is physically and mentally exhausting, and art and leisure has mostly been denied to workers. Labor degrades the individual and diminishes their intellect.
So, what’s the socialist alternative? When capitalists say socialists don’t care about the individual, they’re either lying or they’re ignorant. Socialist writers and philosophers have long expressed one of socialism’s goals is to create conditions for individual prosperity.
In his essay “The Soul of Man under Socialism,” Irish playwright Oscar Wilde wrote that private property stifled the creativity of artists by reducing them to degrading wage-labor. In these conditions, artists can’t create but instead must waste away at work.
The philosopher Karl Marx had similar ideas. He wrote, in current society, most people do one job for their entire lives, crippling any physical or intellectual development they might have.
For Marx, a post-capitalist society would allow people to do “one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as [they] have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.”
Clearly, capitalists who claim socialists don’t care about the individual haven’t done their homework. But perhaps these critics mean various socialist societies have failed to live up to their goals. Let’s examine this.
The Soviet Union is often thought of as a gray, joyless place. George Orwell’s “1984” may be responsible for this. But this isn’t true. The Soviet Union was rife with art and culture.
The U.S.S.R. gave the world “Socialist Realism,” a style of art that depicts ordinary working people both how they currently live and what the future could offer. This style has often been dismissed in the West for being propagandistic, but that criticism is unfair.
Socialist Realism art is quite beautiful in its honesty and ambition. An example of this is the statue “The Motherland Calls,” which is the largest statue of a woman in the world. The statue features a heroic-looking woman wielding a massive sword. It was built to celebrate the triumph of the Soviets over the Nazis and can only be described as awe-inspiring.
Socialist societies have also excelled in other forms of art and recreation. “The Cranes Are Flying” is a groundbreaking Soviet film that tells the tragic love story of Veronica and Boris, who were separated by World War II. It won the Palme d’Or at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival (and it’s on HBO Max!)
In athletics, Soviet hockey was marvelled around the world. The Soviet Olympic hockey team was so good that the one time the U.S. managed to beat them, the story was turned into a film and declared a “miracle.”
And for gamers who hate sports, socialism has something for you, too. After all, “Tetris,” one of the most popular and beloved video games ever made, was a Soviet game.
In my last column, I argued capitalism stalls the intellect of workers. Socialist societies have always tried to combat this, making advances in education and technology a priority.
When socialists came to power in Cuba, illiteracy was over 23%, and only a few years later illiteracy was less than 4%. Cuba can also be praised for its revolutionary advances in healthcare, such as their development of a lung cancer vaccine.
The People’s Republic of China can make similar boasts about their technological achievements. Back in October, the Pentagon’s former software chief Nicolas Chaillan admitted China was much farther ahead of the U.S. in technological developments of things such as Artificial Intelligence.
Socialists, with their improvements in education and technology, cultivate both society and individual development. Whether it be in the arts and leisure activities or in science, socialists wish to improve the lives of all individuals. Instead of ignoring their achievements, we should celebrate and learn from them.
It’s true that socialist societies, past and present, have not always lived up to their ideals. It’s up to us now to learn from their mistakes and try to emulate their successes in our society.
Jared Quigg (he/him) is a sophomore studying journalism and political science.