Today, 20th of August, 2021, Estonia happily celebrates the 30th anniversary of the restoration of independence. Estonians should not forget that the USSR collapsed but the socioeconomic regime on which it was based, namely socialism, did not disappear as an ideology and is creeping back disguised in many forms but leading toward the same disastrous economic results that Estonians personally suffered. From the Centre for Free Economic Thought, we would like to send merry congratulations to Estonians – and a stark warning.
Estonia first emerged as an independent state as a result of the collapse of the Russian empire, at about the same time that Lenin rebranded the Social Democratic party into the Communist party, in a militant push to implement his urgent vision of Marxist socialist ideology. After the Russian civil war, the newly created Union of Soviet Socialist Republics became the first formally socialist state in history, indeed the first in a catastrophic sequence of countries adopting socialist ideals and leading their populations to wholesale misery and death.
Was that communist regime much different from the moderate socialists they left behind, or from the present-day social democrats or socialists by any other name? I would suggest that the fundamental difference is that of time preference: Lenin felt much higher urgency to implement Marxian doctrines than present-day socialists and adopted the most despotic methods available, as suggested by Marx’s writings. Leninist communists would impose the dictatorship first and then indoctrinate the proletariat about their own dictatorship. Modern-day socialists take a more roundabout and incremental strategy, twisting democracy against its own subjects for the same final despotic ends. ‘Social democrats’ and ‘democratic socialists’ are perhaps more Marxian in the sense of manipulating the popular ideology first, and then letting things deterministically flow toward socialism on their own. As F.A. Hayek pointedly remarked, socialists can be found in all parties. Marx can be read in many ways, and none has ever led to a good place.
While socialist regimes around the world keep condemning their subjects to misery, imprisonment and death, modern-day Western countries insist on curbing the intellectual and economic freedom that gave rise to their economic and cultural riches. At the moment, most of the Communist Manifesto’s ten guidelines (or ‘commandments’, for those who realize the religious nature of socialism) have been fully or partially implemented in the non-socialist, ‘liberal’ or ‘capitalist’ world. The so-called ‘third way’, the pastiche of despotic interventions intended to hamper the free market until oblivion, is the socialist euphemism that drives the world down the road to serfdom. Interventionism leads to socialism; there is no coming back from its vicious spiral to totalitarianism.
Estonians achieved freedom on two momentous occasions, both times running away from absolutist regimes not of their own making. This time around, the end of freedom and prosperity might not come from a foreign aggressor but from Estonia’s own neglect: failing to detect and repulse the slow but consistent adoption of interventionist measures towards centralized planning and ultimately total power in the hands of a few politicians and their cronies dictating how everybody (except themselves) should live. Socialism is theoretically and practically impossible, morally unacceptable, and it has been historically proven catastrophic, as Estonians should know and remember well. Thirty years should not be enough time to forget.
Juan Sáenz-Diez is the director of the Centre for Free Economic Thought at the Estonian Business School as well as a PhD student and lecturer in economics and finance. His research interests include management and automation of professional service firms, wealth management, and Austrian Economics.