"Narikin Tenka" (The reign of the nouveaux riches), authored and edited by historian Seiichi Imai, contains an account by a laborer in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, who told his children time and again: "You've got to resign yourselves to the misfortune of having been born into a family of destitute laborers. You are all destined to live the rest of your lives as a poor and uneducated lot."

But the man's sense of resignation to insurmountable poverty was blown away by the Bolshevik Revolution of Nov. 7, 1917.

Stunned to learn that the working class had become the ruling class, he hugged his children and gushed, "Hey, kids, you don't have to worry anymore. Even you'll be able to rule the world."

Born from the revolution exactly a century ago, the Soviet Union unfortunately deteriorated into a nation that could not be further divorced from the ideal of government for, by and of the working masses.

The same turned out to be the case with Eastern Europe's Soviet satellite nations and China.

Still, the existence of self-proclaimed egalitarian socialist states has influenced many countries for decades.

Britain became a welfare state immediately after World War II. This, aside from the fact that social reform was part of the British tradition, was apparently calculated to prevent communism from becoming established at home.

Welsh politician Aneurin Bevan (1897-1960), who was the minister of health under Prime Minister Clement Attlee (1883-1967), noted to the effect that Britain's becoming a welfare state was "proof" that communism could be held at bay by using democratic systems.

One of the influences socialism had on the world was to teach people not to embrace this system because of its ruthlessness. This is precisely why the collapse of each socialist state has been hailed as progress for humanity.

But after socialism ceased to be a rival system of capitalism, how truly have capitalist nations revered and protected equality and justice for their people?

My read is that socio-economic disparities are becoming cemented, dooming the offspring of the poor to remain poor. And this has become a universal problem in the world's advanced nations today.

I wonder if we are really better off now than that laborer in Sendai who was resigned to his insurmountable poverty prior to the Bolshevik Revolution.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 9

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.