state socialist societies
state socialist societiesthe centrally directed socialist societies which emerged in the 20th century after revolutions or movements led by political parties adhering to communist or socialist political thought. The societies covered are diverse and include the USSR from 1918 to 1991; most Eastern European societies from 1948 until 1989; contemporary People's Republic of China, Cuba, Vietnam, Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, North Korea, Mongolia. Many of these societies are, however, currently
experiencing rapid change such that precise characterization and labelling is increasingly difficult.
There is much debate about the character of these societies which are more generally known as communist (see COMMUNISM). Some observers claim a more accurate characterization is TOTALITARIANISM, since these societies share features with nonsocialist societies without parliamentary democratic practices and institutions such as fascist states (see FASCISM). However, this tends to deny any distinguishing role for SOCIALISM in the formation and operation of these states.
Those commentators who saw the commitment to socialism – principally the abolition or severe curtailment of private productive property – as a differentiating feature of these states, found difficulty in reaching any clear agreement as to their precise nature. Some, following TROTSKY, argue that they fell well short of the ideals of a communist society, through their overcentralized and undemocratic political systems, their nationalistic rather than internationalistic policies, the privileges and often personal wealth of their political leaders, and the stagnation of their economies (see also STALINISM). This led to various terms, such as state capitalism, degenerate workers’ states, and bureaucratic socialism (see Fig. 32) which denied their claim to being socialist. Others claim that they were forms of society sui generis which can be located neither within any Marxist scheme of classification (capitalist, socialist, communist, or transitional between these), nor within any existing non-Marxian typology of societies, such as democratic versus totalitarian. Nevertheless, their centralized state systems, their ideological commitment to some variant of communism or socialism, and the curtailments of private productive property, all pointed to some justification of the term 'state socialism’ or state socialist societies’ as a general term (see Post and Wright, 1989).