The Last King of the Iron Curtain

Socialism was supposed to create a new socialist man—a fellow or gal whose labor was unalienated, who was freed from want, who had time off to read, to fish, to play, to parent. He would be healthier, longer-lived, better educated and wiser than his counterpart under capitalism. To a considerable degree, social democracy (or even its attenuated American cousin, New Deal liberalism) has accomplished some of those goals (higher pay, more time off, widespread education) if not all of them (unalienated labor, widespread wisdom).

But what the comrades used to call “true socialism”—that is, communism—not so much. And most certainly, not the creation of a new socialist man. If it had, thousands or millions of citizens in communist countries could be entrusted with the reins of government. Instead, leadership in the few remaining communist countries looks increasingly dynastic.
 
In North Korea, Kim Jong Il has been succeeded by his son, Kim Jong Un, even as Kim Jong Il succeeded his father, Kim Il Sung. In Castro, the incapacitated Fidel Castro passed the nation’s top spot to his brother, Raoul. This isn’t socialism; it’s monarchy. One can only imagine what Marx would say.  
 
Communist monarchies are a logical (though not inevitable) outgrowth of the extreme centralization of power to which communist systems are inclined. As Trotsky, in his (pre-Bolshevik) Menshevik phase famously remarked, the essence of Bolshevism was that the party substituted itself for the working class, the central committee substituted itself for the party, and the dictator substituted himself for the central committee. Under such a system, access to power and knowledge must be limited to a few, and the system can be easily destabilized when the issue of succession arises—which is why monarchial succession makes a certain amount of crazy sense. 
 
So the only new socialist man that Fidel Castro could find and trust was his brother. The only new socialist man that Kim Jong Il could find and trust was his son. So much, I guess, for the workers of the world. 
 
 

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