Noam Chomsky

One of the issues which has devastated a substantial portion of the left in recent years, and caused enormous triumphalism elsewhere, is the alleged fact that there’s been this great battle between socialism and capitalism in the twentieth century, and in the end capitalism won and socialism lost—and the reason we know that socialism lost is because the Soviet Union disintegrated. So you have big cover stories in The Nation about “The End of Socialism,” and you have socialists who all their lives considered themselves anti-Stalinist saying, “Yes, it’s true, socialism has lost because Russia failed.” I mean, even to raise questions about this is something you’re not supposed to do in our culture, but let’s try it. Suppose you ask a simple question: namely, why do people like the editors at The Nation say that “socialism” failed, why don’t they say that “democracy” failed?—and the proof that “democracy” failed is, look what happened to Eastern Europe. After all, those countries also called themselves “democratic”—in fact, they called themselves “People’s Democracies,” real advanced forms of democracy. So why don’t we conclude that “democracy” failed, not just that “socialism” failed? Well, I haven’t seen any articles anywhere saying, “Look, democracy failed, let’s forget about democracy.” And it’s obvious why: the fact that they called themselves democratic doesn’t mean that they were democratic. Pretty obvious, right?

Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power, New York, 2002, p. 145