I often here both the political left and right boast about the failures and successes of what they conceptualize as a socialist country. The structure of this conceptualization seems to be just a modern nation state starting from the 20th century and ending in the current era that have a socialist political composition. What said composition looks like seems to be a grey area that is debated among the respected advocates of the idea of "socialist countries". For Stalinists what they call "actually extant socialism" are the existing countries in which the proletariat has usurped political power. These are namely North Korea or Cuba with maybe Venezual depending how generous said Stalinist wishes to be. For the typical right winger any dictatorship that the western media decides to label socialist or communist effectively is an example of a country with the political composition of socialism. I often find myself taking third positionist like stances where I disagree with both sides. On this issue I can not in any honesty say that there is an exception. Actually extant socialism or the Socialism of that Latin American dictator you can't remember the name of seem to equally fall under the category of fantastical and ridiculous. There are namely two reasons why I think this. Firstly, socialism is not a mode of organization that can be relegated to a certain nation. It by definition constitutes a completely new epoch of production in and of itself which to get to we must completely re-organize all social relations and as Marx said destroy all existing conditions. Secondly, the very structure of the nation is that of the capitalist mode of production.
socialism as a new epoch all together:
Socialism has been maligned and thrown through the mud of misrepresentations and misunderstanding for about it's entire existence. Socialism if it were to be defined by any single definition that is posited for it it would have more definitions then the amount of stars in our ever expanding universe. That being said socialism is most definitely not defined by the collective multitude of all definitions that it is thought to hold. Rather it is defined by a single and simple concept. Socialism firstly is the a modal for the reproduction and organization of society at large. This lends itself to why exactly socialism can not be attained within a country. Socialism as the specific mode of societal administration is the complete lack of oppression, the complete lack of outside coercion, and the full expression of all of women's productive capacities and desires. Socialism specifically is categorized by the full and unrestrained common control over societies productive forces. There is a brilliant piece by Enrich Fromm that highlights this in all of it's truthful glory. I will provide a quote from that peice; "For Marx, socialism (or communism) is not flight or abstraction from, or loss of the objective world which men have created by the objectification of their faculties. It is not an impoverished return to unnatural, primitive simplicity. It is rather the first real emergence, the genuine actualization of man's nature as something real. Socialism, for Marx, is a society which permits the actualization of man's essence, by overcoming his alienation. It is nothing less than creating the conditions for the truly free, rational, active and independent man; it is the fulfillment of the prophetic aim: the destruction of the idols." It would be mistake to not quote Marx on the subject as well so I will provide a quote from him as well;
"In fact, the realm of freedom does not commence until the point is passed where labor under the compulsion of necessity and of external utility is required. In the very nature of things it lies beyond the sphere of material production in the strict meaning of the term. Just as the savage must wrestle with nature, in order to satisfy his wants, in order to maintain his life and reproduce it, so civilized man has to do it, and he must do it in all forms of society and under all possible modes of production. With his development the realm of natural necessity expands, because his wants increase; but at the same time the forces of production increase, by which these wants are satisfied. The freedom in this field cannot consist of anything else but of the fact that socialized man, the associated producers, regulate their interchange with nature rationally, bring it under their common control, instead of being ruled by it as by some blind power; they accomplish their task with the least expenditure of energy and under conditions most adequate to their human nature and most worthy of it. But it always remains a realm of necessity. Beyond it begins that development of human power, which is its own end, the true realm of freedom, which, however, can flourish only upon that realm of necessity as its basis." I will again quote Fromm one more time just to give you the best idea possible of what I am talking about; "Marx expresses here all essential elements of socialism. First, man produces in an associated, not competitive way; he produces rationally and in an unalienated way, which means that he brings production under his control, instead of being ruled by it as by some blind power. This clearly excludes a concept of socialism in which man is manipulated by a bureaucracy, even if this bureaucracy rules the whole state economy, rather than only a big corporation. It means that the individual participates actively in the planning and in the execution of the plans; it means, in short, the realization of political and industrial democracy. Marx expected that by this new form of an unalienated society man would become independent, stand on his own feet, and would no longer be crippled by the alienated mode of production and consumption; that he would truly be the master and the creator of his life, and hence that he could begin to make living his main business, rather than producing the means for living. Socialism, for Marx, was never as such the fulfillment of life, but the condition for such fulfillment. When man has built a rational, nonalienated form of society, he will have the chance to begin with what is the aim of life: the "development of human power, which is its own end, the true realm of freedom." Marx, the man who every year read all the works of Aeschylus and Shakespeare, who brought to life in himself the greatest works of human thought, would never have dreamt that his idea of socialism could be interpreted as having as its aim the well-fed and well-clad "welfare" or "workers' " state. Man, in Marx's view, has created in the course of history a culture which he will be free to make his own when he is freed from the chains, not only of economic poverty, but of the spiritual poverty created by alienation. Marx's vision is based on his faith in man, in the inherent and real potentialities of the essence of man which have developed in history. He looked at socialism as the condition of human freedom and creativity, not as in itself constituting the goal of man's life." From this we can infer that socialism has not ever existed and will not ever exist unless the scope of existing class society is abolished, productive relations and thus all social relations completely rearranged, and the new epoch of communistic production and social relations birthed. Unless you believe destroying all existing relations and conditions and completely starting a new with a completely different set of social relations and conditions is possible within the confines of a single nation state then I suggest we stop talking about "socialist countries" or "extant socialism" as serious fact right away.
nations as tools of capital:
The modern nation state is in essence tangled up with the modern order, as a structure it exists as the incarnation of the modern political scene of the last few hundred years. To talk about nations in any other context would simply not be informed. This is our first clue as to bourgioes nature of the nation. The modern form of political composition in the last few hundred years, the global political scene as it were is described by bourgioes relations of property. The existence of the class without property and the class with that is compelled to sell it's labor power to class with property out of lack of property. On it's own this is completely inconsequential to proving my point, but coupled with other evidence it is a window into the bourgioes nature of the nations and it's operations.
Rosa Luxembourg gives the example of Poland. She notes how the national sovereignty, development, and subjugation ebbed and flowed with the trends of capital at any given time. She noted how sometimes Poland was prohibited by global capital to retain some amount of national sovereignty, but the movement capital had other interests Poland would become subjugated. This lends itself as Luxembourg goes on to show to the whole history of the nation itself, the history of the entanglement of the nation and bourgioes society.
The nation is in fact the economic and over all cultural tool of bourgioes society. It exists to perpetuate the control of the the global bourgioes over the global working class and thus exists to re-organize society and revolutionize production to the needs of capital and of the desired amount of surplus value extraction expressed by the bourgioes classes. The nation itself is an agent of bourgioes society. If this is the case then how can we speak of socialism confined to nations?
The moral of the story is pretty obvious, if we wish to critique, advocate for, generally analyze socialism, we must recognize that thinking socialist countries can or do exist is completely out of the universes in terms socialism as it is actually constituted as way of organizing and administrating production.