That has nothing to do with evil capitalists sabotaging the glorious workers’ revolution (though in theory that has happened) or evil capitalist countries striking an economic blow against countries that embrace true equality (though in theory that has also happened).
No, mostly it has to do with the fact that every would-be socialist revolution is run by people, and by and large, in any sufficiently large sample size, you will find a pretty fair percentage of assholes in any social group.
Your glorious revolution is no exception.
So once one of the assholes gets a bit of power, and yes, there is power to be obtained in a socialist system, it all goes to pot. At which point someone in the audience screams out “but that’s not real socialism!” to which I reply mostly with incoherent screaming and smashing of furniture before I calm down and point out that the instant you make that statement, you are admitting that socialism is a utopian ideal and as such, cannot exist in the real world.
Now, if we accept the notion that there must be some level of hierarchy in order to make the system function because not everyone gets to write the next great socialist novel or bake the next great socialist cake; someone has to clean the next great socialist toilet, after all.
Once we accept that notion of hierarchy, then obviously we accept the notion of a power structure to accompany said hierarchy, and at that point, since humans are still humans, we have corruption, nepotism, political infighting, and generally all the various awful things that plague every form of governance, from national to corporate.
Incidentally, this is the point where most of the “Real Socialism Has Never Been Tried!” people lose me in their argument, because they seem to be pathologically incapable of understanding that a.) not all forms of labor require equal skill, and b.) not all forms of labor are equally desirable.
Because of those two factors, any “Real Socialism” will invariably wind up exploiting the poor guy who has to muck out the sewers. Unless these people are stupid enough to believe that he’ll just take his turn at sewer mucking duty and the next week he’ll be hand-crafting artisanally moistened towelettes, and the week after that he’ll be doing the survey work for the next big hydro-power project in the works.
No, he will not, because all he knows how to do is push shit with a broom.
Sure, he can be trained. So maybe he appears to be wasted in the shit-shoveling detail, so you pick him out of the sewers, clean him up, send him to school, and next thing you know he’s designing rockets to carry the glorious revolution to the stars.
Of course, now someone else is down there in the sewers, broom in hand.
“Real Socialism” terrifies me. Not because I’m possessed of any sort of blind faith in “the market”, mind. I’m a chronically depressed neurotic with crippling anxiety and self-destructive tendencies; capitalism is not really my friend.
In order to make “Real Socialism” work, you either have to make it NOT REAL SOCIALISM (i.e., a capitalist system with mechanisms to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor), or you have to construct a system that is so terrifyingly all-encompassing as to be the social equivalent of a boot stamping on the faces of all mankind… Forever.
We’re talking about a system that takes cradle to grave as a literal commandment, one that attempts to determine the individual aptitudes of every citizen within its grasp and puts them to work in a place that best suits society, and fuck whatever it is that that person actually wants from their life. “Real Socialism” is monstrous, the subjugation of the citizens before the all-encompassing will of the state. Anything less than that is not “Real Socialism”. It can’t be.
Now, I’m all in favor of systems of redistribution. If the argument is made that we’ve never tried “Real Socialism”, you can wager that we tried something damned close to pure capitalism a few times over the course of human history and oddly enough it always ends up with people starving and/or working to death. Sometimes simultaneously.
Not that “not-Real Socialism” has any better of a track record, of course.
Capitalism works as an economic system when it’s chained to democracy. When there are mechanisms in place to rein in its worst impulses, to prevent the rich from exploiting the poor to an egregious extent, and to protect the rich from being dragged out into the street and murdered by the poor when things turn ugly.
Socialism, on the other hand, is antithetical to democracy.
“But wait!”, you cry, “There’s no reason why you can’t have a socialist democracy! I mean, even Bernie says he’s a democratic socialist!”
Which is a nice way of saying that he’s not a “Real Socialist”. He has no interest in seizing the means of production, of placing the entire economy under government control, of eliminating poverty by dint of eliminating prosperity, nor of murdering anyone who dares to step out of line.
Mostly it just means that he wants a stronger social safety net, prisoner rehabilitation in place of incarceration, little things that fit neatly within the confines of democracy and are hypothetically part of a socialist agenda, but divorced from the fundamental conceit of total governmental control of everything.
I say that socialism is antithetical to democracy because the concept of an all-powerful state is itself antithetical to democracy. You can argue that if everyone gets a vote, everyone is equal before the law, but you can rest assured that in practice, not all votes matter, and that entrenched bureaucracies in our socialist utopia would pretty rapidly become the real government.
For democracy to function properly, it requires freedom. Perhaps not for everyone, but for the majority. For socialism to function properly, it requires subjugation. Perhaps not for everyone, but again, for the majority.
So no. “Real Socialism” has never been tried. It probably never will be tried; odds are good we’ll skip right past that particular stage since humans will always be corrupt and therefor we’ll never see a socialist system that is anything more than a glorified oligarchal kleptocracy.
But someday we’ll be able to have a robot down there shoveling the shit, and driving our trucks, and making our cars, and handling our knee replacements, and eventually the last winner of capitalism will look up from his spreadsheets, realize that he has all the money but everyone else is having all the fun, and just say “Fuck it, I quit.”