David Friedman writes:
I know of only one occasion in modern peacetime history when large numbers of people starved although food was available. It occurred under an economic system in which the decision of who needed food was made by the government. Joseph Stalin decided how much food was needed by the inhabitants of the Ukraine. What they did not 'need' was seized by the Soviet government and shipped elsewhere. During the years 1932 and 1933, some millions of Ukrainians died of starvation. During each of those years, according to Soviet figures, the Soviet Union exported about 1.8 million tons of grain. If we accept a high figure for the number who starved—say, eight million—that grain would have provided about two thousand calories a day to each of them.Haiti in the past produced enough food for their own population, but now their food producing capacity has been undermined. Leftist governments were deposed in favor of right wing governments that favored free trade with the US. Meaning the importation of subsidized US agricultural products. This has decimated Haitian food production.
In Tanzania children fight over what little rice is available while cargo plane after cargo plane is loaded with fish taken from Lake Victoria and shipped to Europe where it can fetch an impressive price. It's more profitable to serve it in upscale European restaurants than to feed starving Africans. On capitalism the goal is profit, not fulfillment of need, so this is our expectation. India is a net exporter of food while 350 million go hungry. Brazil and other places are likewise net exporters of food while millions go without.
This does not change what Stalin did. But we must be clear about what the argument is. Friedman sounds like he's objecting to socialism. He's quoting Orwell and Marx. Is his criticism of socialism or is it of state capitalism, which is what Stalin represents? And if it's state capitalism, who are the advocates of that view?
It grates the socialist when he hears the implication that the Soviet Union represented socialism. What is socialism? Worker control of industry. How much worker control existed in the Soviet Union? About zero. This is why people like Noam Chomsky railed against the Soviet Union when it existed. This is why his books were banned by the Soviets. Chomsky has only been barred from entering countries to give lectures twice. Once was recently when he was barred by Israeli security from entering the West Bank to deliver a lecture. The only other time was when he was barred from entering Soviet controlled Czechoslovakia. He was hated by the Soviets, and with good reason. He objects to their economic arrangement since he advocates worker control of industry, not state control.
But doesn't the USSR acronym include socialism? Sure. And the R is for Republic. Was the Soviet Union a Republic? They applied the socialist label because of its positive connotations, just like they applied the Republic label. But the USSR represented neither.