I sometimes wonder whether the collapse of the Soviet Union was a disaster in the West.
Don’t get me wrong, I think communism as practised in the USSR was a hideous construct, and I think the World as a whole is better off without it.
However, when I blogged recently that salaries for ordinary people in the US have not risen in real terms in the past thirty years, it made me wonder whether the collapse of most communist countries throughout the eighties and nineties had anything to do with this.
In particular, I’m wondering whether it’s a combination of two factors.
Firstly, did the socialist parties (such as Labour) need to believe that a socialist country would be a better place than a capitalist one in order to try to achieve useful benefits such as worker protection, minimum wages, generous pensions and real annual pay rises? Was it because of the disappearance of the communist alternative that New Labour lost its soul?
Secondly, did the conservative and capitalist forces (such as large company owners and Tory politicians) need to fear the attractiveness of the Communist block in order to treat workers well? Would they have maintained good pensions and proper pay rises if they still feared a socialist revolution?
I hope the answer to these questions isn’t yes, because I would like to believe that a capitalist system can be created that benefits most people without making people elsewhere suffer.
However, capitalism was rather brutal until the early 20th century – when socialism and communism became influential – so perhaps the answer is no.