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Argument: Genuine socialism has greatly improved societies

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One example of how genuine socialism has improved societies is the Spanish revolution. Even though it only lasted for 2 years before it was violently destroyed by a counter revolution conducted by a combination of fascists and statist republicans, the revolution was responsible for many successes. In Aragon, Levant and Castile there were about 1,650 collectives and more than a million people (Sam Dolgoff has estimated that 10 million participated wither directly or indirectly in the Spanish revolution) and 70% of the rural population of Aragon lived in Collectives (organised voluntarily). According to Dave Markland "agricultural production and deliveries were strongest in the anarchist areas" of Spain ("Spanish Anarchist through a Participatory Lense" in Real Utopia: Participatory Society for the 21st Century - edited by Chris Spannos). For example, In Aragon productivity rose 20% during the time of the revolution.

The revolution greatly improved the lives of the people in the anarchist (socialist) areas. According to Jose Peirats, "In Montblanc the collective dug up the old useless vines and planted new vineyards. The land, improved by modern cultivation with tractors, yielded much bigger and better crops. . . . Many Aragon collectives built new roads and repaired old ones, installed modern flour mills, and processed agricultural and animal waste into useful industrial products. Many of these improvements were first initiated by the collectives. Some villages, like Calanda, built parks and baths. Almost all collectives established libraries, schools, and cultural centres." According to Gaston Leval "the Peasant Federation of Levant . . . produced more than half of the total orange crop in Spain: almost four million kilos (1 kilo equals about 2 and one-fourth pounds). It then transported and sold through its own commercial organisation (no middlemen) more than 70% of the crop. (The Federations's commercial organisation included its own warehouses, trucks, and boats. Early in 1938 the export section established its own agencies in France: Marseilles, Perpignan, bordeaux, Cherbourg, and Paris.) Out of a total of 47,000 hectares in all Spain devoted to rice production, the collective in the Province of Valencia cultivated 30,000 hectares." According to Peirats again: "Preoccupation with cultural and pedagogical innovations was an event without precedent in rural Spain. The Amposta collectivists organised classes for semi-literates, kindergartens, and even a school of arts and professions. The Seros schools were free to all neighbours, collectivists or not" and "In distribution the collectives' co-operatives eliminated middlemen, small merchants, wholesalers, and profiteers, thus greatly reducing consumer prices. The collectives eliminated most of the parasitic elements from rural life, and would have wiped them out altogether if they were not protected by corrupt officials and by the political parties. Non-collectivised areas benefited indirectly from the lower prices as well as from free services often rendered by the collectives (laundries, cinemas, schools, barber and beauty parlours, etc.)." According to Leval "In the agrarian collectives solidarity was practised to the greatest degree. Not only was every person assured of the necessities, but the district federations increasingly adopted the principle of mutual aid on an inter-collective scale. For this purpose they created common reserves to help out villages less favoured by nature. In Castile special institutions for this purpose were created. In industry this practice seems to have begun in Hospitalet, on the Catalan railways, and was applied later in Alcoy. Had the political compromise not impeded open socialisation, the practices of mutual aid would have been much more generalised. . . A conquest of enormous importance was the right of women to livelihood, regardless of occupation or function. In about half of the agrarian collectives, the women received the same wages as men". And all of this was achieved while fighting a civil war and a against a counter-revolution, both of which caused massive drains on the resources of socialist Spain. Quotes taken from here. For detail on the efficiency of the Spanish revolution see "Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship" (the first chapter of Chomsky On Anarchsim) by Noam Chomsky. Chomsky proves case by case that the anarchist controlled areas were among the most efficient in Spain, as well as improving conditions the most for the workers and peasants.

Another case is Kerala, at state of 30 million people in southern India, that has been socialist for many years, beginning in 1957 when the communist party won the election and "advanced many programs for the poorest sections of society". Kerala then began to progress towards socialism and "many reforms and programs to redistribute wealth" followed and "in the 1980s an LDF Ministry had experimented with local initiatives in cooperative farming, environmental projects, local planning assemblies and elected District Councils to try to decentralize the bureaucratic State government and bring political power to more local levels." This all culminated in 1996 when the “People’s Campaign for the Ninth Plan" resulted in a "decision to devolve 35% of the state development budget down from a centralized bureaucracy to local communities where local people could determine and implement their own priorities. Later known as the People’s Plan Campaign (PPC), Kerala’s experiment radically improved the delivery of public services, brought about greater caste and ethnic equality, facilitated the entry of women into public life at a much greater pace and enhanced democratic practice. By the third year the Campaign began to generate local employment utilizing and improving upon the famous Grameen Bank micro credit idea to bring households above the poverty level." The first stage of this consisted of "local assemblies in each of Kerala’s 14,149 village wards and urban neighborhoods. Each assembly had 1,500 to 2,000 voting age members (age 16 and above) ... Politicians were banned from taking more than 30 minutes for speeches and the main business was to break down into small groups in individual classrooms to focus on particular areas for planning such as agriculture, safe drinking water, animal husbandry, improving the status of women and former untouchable caste members, industry, health services and the like. These discussion groups were intended to bring out the felt needs of the people attending. The small groups reported back to the plenary session later in the day." The next stage involved each community "writing a local community self-report" which were "the basis for the development seminar, attended at the all village level – about 10 wards per village or urban neighborhood – where task forces were elected to begin to draft project proposals based on the felt needs expressed in the first round of local assemblies ... in the first year of the PPC 150,000 projects emerged from the local communities of which about 68,000 were implemented. A key feature at the last stage of planning was that about 4,000 retired engineers, doctors and other experts volunteered to assist at no pay in making technical evaluations needed in many of the projects." Each community has control of its budget (35% of the state budget goes to this) and "in Kerala local communities are grouped into “blocks,” sets of 2 to 13 communities recognized by the Indian national government for delivery of certain project funds. The 152 blocks group into taluks or subdistricts and into 14 districts." The theory that Kerala has been using is that “...decisions should be made at the lowest level of government authority competent to deal with them ... leading to the consequence that ... Decisions should constantly move closer to the people most affected by them.” This has resulted in a situation where "several local communities for example improved the supply of medicines at the local Primary Health Center (PHC). This made it possible for the taluk level hospitals to spend more of their allotments on fixing up the surgery rooms or adding MRI machines or outpatient public health projects requiring greater resources than a village or urban neighborhood could provide ... One village constructed a bridge to facilitate foot and bicycle traffic over a major river where people had been demanding the Public Works Department do it for years. One town developed an innovative suicide prevention program while another linked up with a team of local scientists to create one of the most promising biological mosquito control projects anywhere internationally. Several communities developed highly efficient techniques for social auditing by which decisions about beneficiaries were made publicly thus helping to prevent corruption and favoritism. One village created an innovative “labor bank” system for regularizing employment of farm laborers and for smoothing out work patterns over the farming year." People in Kerala have been "putting together Neighborhood Groups (NHGs) of about 40 households. These groups evolved from meetings to discuss local problems to rotating credit associations – called “thrift collection” in Kerala – to nuclei from which small-scale micro-credit cooperative businesses could be launched. Using the thrift funds as startup capital, local cooperative banks would issue credit to groups of ten to twenty households, usually represented by an adult female, to manufacture soap, school supplies, umbrellas, some electrical equipment and processed foods. According to the current LDF Minister for Local Self-Government Institutions, Paloli Mohammed Kutty, as of 2006 across Kerala 3.8 million households (possibly 40% of all households – RWF) belonged to 179,000 neighborhood associations. Many of these NHGs have grown into production cooperatives that are bringing thousands of households above the poverty line ... the Kerala unemployment rate has dropped from 19% to 9%. (Quotes from [1]). As a result of socialism, Kerala has become the most democratic place in India, and along with the Zapatista areas of Chiapas probably the whole world.

As well as greatly increasing the level of democracy in Kerala, socialism there has been a massive success and in terms of social indicators. Kerala is beginning to look like a developed country, even though it began as one of the poorest regions in impoverished India. Life expectancy at birth in Kerala is 75, compared to 64 in India and 77 in the United States. "After the latest in a long series of literacy campaigns, the United Nations in 1991 certified Kerala as 100 percent literate ... Kerala's birth rate hovers near 18 per thousand, compared with 16 per thousand in the United States--and is falling faster ... In 1981, Kerala's [PQLI - "physical quality of life index"] score of 82 far exceeded all of Africa's, and in Asia only the incomparably richer South Korea (85), Taiwan (87), and Japan (98) ranked higher. And Kerala kept improving. By 1989, its score had risen to 88, compared with a total of 60 for the rest of India. It has managed all this even though it's among the most densely crowded places on earth." Kerala’s infant mortality rate is 15.3 per 1,000 births versus 57.0 for India and 7 for the US. There are over 2,700 government medical institutions in the state, with 330 beds per 100,000 population, the highest in the country need. With virtually all mothers taught to breast-feed, and a state-supported nutrition programme for pregnant and new mothers, infant mortality in 2001 was 14 per thousand, compared with 91 for low-income countries generally. According to the India State Hunger Index Kerala is has the second-lowest level of hunger of any state in India (after Punjab), the lowest under 5 mortality rate (less than half that of the next lowest - Tamil Nadu) and is ranked as the second best in India for overall performance with regards to hunger (after Punjab) - this is all despite the fact that it used to be one of the poorest and hungriest states in India. The increase in literacy was the result of a "pilot project began in the Ernakulam region, an area of 3 million people that includes the city of Cochin. In late 1988, 50,000 volunteers fanned out around the district, tracking down 175,000 illiterates between the ages of 5 and 60, two-thirds of them women. The leftist People's Science Movement recruited 20,000 volunteer tutors and sent them out to teach. Within a year, it was hoped, the illiterates would read Malayalam at 30 words a minute, copy a text at 7 words a minute, count and write from 1 to 100, and add and subtract three-digit numbers. The larger goal was to make people feel powerful, feel involved; the early lessons were organized around Brazilian teacher Paolo Freire's notion that the concrete problems of people's lives provide the best teaching material. "Classes were held in cowsheds, in the open air, in courtyards," one leader told the New York Times. "For fishermen we went to the seashore. In the hills, tribal groups sat on rocks. Leprosy patients were taught to hold a pencil in stumps of hands with rubber bands. We have not left anyone out." For those with poor eyesight, volunteers collected 50,000 donated pairs of old eyeglasses and learned from doctors how to match them with recipients. On February 4, 1990, 13 months after the initial canvass, Indian prime minister V.P. Singh marked the start of World Literacy Year with a trip to Ernakulam, declaring it the country's first totally literate district. Of the 175,000 students, 135,000 scored 80 percent or better on the final test, putting the region's official literacy rate above 96 percent; many of the others stayed in follow-up classes and probably had learned enough to read bus signs. The total cost of the 150 hours of education was about $26 per person. Organizers knew the campaign was working when letters from the newly literate began arriving in government offices, demanding paved roads and hospitals" - this was part of what led to the People's Plan Campaign. See [2] for more details. Overall, Kerala's experiment with socialism has been massively successful, in democratising, developing and in increasing social indicators. And all of this was done from nothing and with almost no outside assistance - a truly remarkable achievement. For more detailed information on the successes of socialism in Kerala see Kerala:The Development Experience: Reflections on Sustainability and Replicability edited by Govindan Parayil and Striving for sustainability: Environmental stress and democratic initiatives in Kerala by Srikumar Chattopadhyay and Richard W. Franke.

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