What is the socialist ideology? The shortest, most eloquent description comes from the novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand:
Socialism is the doctrine that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that his life and his work do not belong to him, but belong to society, that the only justification of his existence is his service to society, and that society may dispose of him in any way it pleases for the sake of whatever it deems to be its own tribal, collective good.
– For the New Intellectual, p.43 >>
The Socialist Party of America, however, describes its guiding ideology, objectives and moral justification in starkly different terms:
(T)o establish a radical democracy that places people’s lives under their own control – a non-racist, classless, feminist socialist society… where working people own and control the means of production and distribution through democratically-controlled public agencies, cooperatives, or other collective groups.; where full employment is realized for everyone who wants to work; where workers have the right to form unions freely, and to strike and engage in other forms of job actions; and where the production of society is used for the benefit of all humanity, not for the private profit of a few.
Both definitions cannot be true. Several facts are not in (serious) dispute:
- Under socialism, in all of its flavors — including its merging with fascism, in Nazi (National Socialist) Germany, and communism — an estimated 100 million people were murdered in the 20th century alone.
- Socialism has been so successfully “marketed” that in America, the freest, most prosperous nation in the world, more of those under age 30 support (what they think is) socialism, than (what they think is) capitalism.
- The socialist ideology has permeated both major political parties in America, and to a far greater degree, those in other Western nations.
So what really is the socialist ideology — and why has it been so successfully marketed, despite its horrific record of murder, destruction and terror?
On this page, we examine the socialist ideology through films — starting with those produced in the birthplace of modern socialism, the USSR, in the early 20th century. We hear the promises, the moral justification, and the condemnation of Western ideology, in the words of the socialists’ premier propagandists. We then see films that take account of the actual results of the socialist ideology being implemented, as often as possible, through eyewitness testimony, backed up by irrefutable documentation.
Introductory explanations of socialist ideology, by the Soviets themselves:
“Red Files: The Soviet Propaganda Machine” >>
Animated Soviet propaganda, Part 1: “American Imperialists” >>
Animated Soviet propaganda, Part 3: “Capitalist Sharks” >>
Socialist ideology in action: Its history, its clash with the West, and the 100 million lives it consumed in the 20th century:
“Heaven on Earth The Rise and Fall of Socialism” >>
“Communism – The Promise and the Reality” >>
“Stalin: Inside the Terror” >>
“Mao’s Bloody Revolution: Revealed” >>
More: Additional resources that document the terror, suffering and oceans of blood caused by the socialist ideology >>
“Red Files: The Soviet Propaganda Machine”
(PBS; 1 hour; Description from here) “The Soviet Propaganda Machine” reviews the USSR’s efforts to impart – and control – information. “It was like Big Brother telling you what you should know,” says one Soviet journalist.
The hour chronicles Soviet propaganda efforts from Lenin’s quashing of press freedom to attempts in the 1980s to keep the public in the dark about the war in Afghanistan. Interviewed: Russian TV journalist Vladimir Posner; former Secretary of State Alexander Haig; former Soviet broadcaster Joe Adamov; and former USIA director Abbot Washburn.
Special note: Click here to go to PBS’s deep investigative archive of Soviet documentation, photographs, interviews with propagandists, etc.
PROPAGANDA WAR: RED FILES from J. Mitchell Johnson on Vimeo.
Animated Soviet Propaganda, Part 1: “American Imperialists”
(10 minutes; Description from here) Unearthed from Moscow’s legendary Soyuzmultfilm Studios, the 41 films in ANIMATED SOVIET PROPAGANDA span sixty years of Soviet history (1924 – 1984), and have never been available before in the U.S. The set is divided thematically into four discs (available at Amazon), all dealing with different subjects of the Soviet propaganda machine… [It] is an invaluable resource that displays how one of the greatest and most reclusive powers wanted their people to envision the rest of the world. B&W and Color – 360min – In Russian with English subtitles. (Additional videos nearby in YouTube window)
(DISC 1) “AMERICAN IMPERIALISTS” contains seven films, almost all of which are drawn from the Cold War era. The recurring image is of the money hungry industrialist self-destructing because of his greed. (First episode is below; others are nearby in YouTube window; “Capitalist Sharks” is below that.)
Animated Soviet propaganda, Part 3: “Capitalist Sharks”
(27 minutes; Description from here) Part 3 of 4 of the documentary “Animated Soviet Propaganda.” From 1924 to perestroika the USSR produced more than 4 dozen animated propaganda films. They weren’t for export. Their target was the new nation and their goal was to win over the hearts and minds of the Soviet people. Anti-American, anti-British, anti-German, anti-capitalist, anti-fascist, some of these films are as artistically beautiful as the great political posters made after the 1917 revolution which inspired Soviet animation. A unique series. With a unique perspective. Includes interviews with the directors of the animated films which are still alive and commentary by a leading Soviet film scholar.
The following is a ten-minute excerpt; other segments of “Capitalist Sharks” are on right margin.
“Heaven on Earth The Rise and Fall of Socialism”
(4 hours; Description from here) Much of the history of the past 200 years revolved around a single idea. It was the vision that life could be lived in peace and brotherhood if only property were shared by all and distributed equally, eliminating the source of greed, envy, poverty and strife. This idea was called “socialism” and it was man’s most ambitious attempt to supplant religion with a doctrine grounded on science rather than revelation.
It became the most popular political idea in history. Its provenance was European, but it spread to China and Africa, India and Latin America and even to that most tradition-bound of regions, the Middle East. While it never fully took root in America, its influence shaped the nation’s political debate. At its crest in the 1970s, roughly 60 percent of the earth’s population lived under governments that espoused socialism in one form or another. Then, suddenly, it all collapsed.
Because its goal proved so elusive, the socialist movement split and split again into diverse, sometimes murderously contradictory forms. There was Social Democracy, which insisted that only peaceful and democratic means could produce a harmonious commonwealth. There was Communism, which extolled the resolute use of force and dictatorship to propel mankind to a new way of life. There was Arab Socialism, African Socialism, and other Third World variants that sought to amalgamate western Social Democracy and eastern Communism. There was even fascism, which turned the socialist idea on its head by substituting the brotherhood of nation and race for the brotherhood of class. And there were those – from early American settlers, to the “flower children” of the 1960s, to Israeli Zionist kibbutzniks – who built their own socialist communities, hoping to transform the world by the force of example.
As an idea that changed the way people thought, socialism’s success was spectacular. As a critique of capitalism that helped spawn modern social safety nets and welfare states, its success was appreciable. As a model for the development of post-colonial states, the socialist model proved disappointing, fostering economic stagnation among millions of the world’s poorest people. And in its most violent forms, socialism was calamitous, claiming scores of millions of lives and helping to make the twentieth century the bloodiest ever.
Through profiles of the individuals that brought socialism to life, HEAVEN ON EARTH tells the story of how an idea arose, evolved, changed the world, and eventually fell.
HOUR 1: THE RISE (below)
HOUR 2: REVOLUTIONS
HOUR 3: THE COLLAPSE
“Communism – The Promise and the Reality”
(PBS, 5 1/2 hours; Description from here) This is a documentary that looks into how Communism started with Vladimir Lenin’s Bolsheviks revolution. Also offers testimony of members of the Red Guard, party activists, students, and workers striving to build a modern industrial state.
Communism is a social structure and political ideology in which property is commonly controlled. Communism (written with a capital C) is a modern political movement that aims to overthrow capitalism via revolution to create a classless society where all goods are publicly owned. Karl Marx posited that communism would be the final stage in human society, which would be achieved through a proletarian revolution and only becoming possible after a socialist stage develops the productive forces, leading to a superabundance of goods and services.
“Pure communism” in the Marxian sense refers to a classless, stateless and oppression-free society where decisions on what to produce and what policies to pursue are made democratically, allowing every member of society to participate in the decision-making process in both the political and economic spheres of life.
In modern usage, communism is often used to refer to Bolshevism or Marxism-Leninism and the policies of the various communist states which had government ownership of all the means of production and centrally planned economies. Communist regimes have historically been authoritarian, repressive, and coercive governments concerned primarily with preserving their own power.
1) Red Flag (below)
3) Brave New World
4) Great Leap Forward
5) Guerrilla Wars
6) People Power
“Stalin: Inside the Terror”
(BBC; 90 minutes; Description from here) “Stalin: Inside the Terror” is an intimate portrait of the greatest monster of the 20th century – to coincide with the 50th anniversary of his death in March 1953. Filmed extensively in Russia, this film reveals the life of a man who came to amass colossal power and exert malign influence over his country for more than 20 years.
Stalin emerged as the true victor of the Second World War, having gained a vast Empire in the East. But victory over the Germans was not enough, and his attitude towards the West was fueled by his growing paranoia. In Stalin – Inside the Terror access to a wealth of new material allows us to glimpse behind Stalin’s granite mask into his extraordinary private world.
“Stalin: Inside the Terror” is a BBC history documentary which gives the viewer new insights into the private life of Stalin.
“Mao’s Bloody Revolution: Revealed”
(BBC; 90 minutes; Description from here) “Mao’s Bloody Revolution: Revealed” is hosted by Philip Short, BBC correspondent and author of Mao: A Life. Bloody Revolution, can be divided into two parts. The first half of the documentary covers the course of the Chinese revolution up to the the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. The second half covers what is referred to as the Cultural Revolution decade of 1966 to 1976. About three-quarters of the the second half focuses on the height of the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1969 or 1971; the remaining time mostly focuses on 1971 to 1976 and Mao’s death.
“Mao’s Bloody Revolution: Revealed” contains much boilerplate anti-communism of the “Mao was a butcher” and “people ate their babies” variety that has been addressed numerous times and in different ways. The narrative of Bloody Revolution is a convergence of the official revisionist Chinese state’s account and traditional Western anti-communist ones.
“Lost Letters To Stalin Discovered in Moldovan Archive”
From Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (here): Hundreds of desperate letters written to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in the 1940s and 1950s have been found in Moldova’s National Archive. Faced with starvation and deportation, many Moldovan families appealed directly to Stalin for help. The letters offer fresh insight in to the trauma experienced by the Moldovan people during Soviet rule and shows how their pleas fell on deaf ears or provoked a cruel response. (Produced by Lyuba Shevchuk, RFE/RL’s Moldova Service and Stuart Greer, Multimedia)