Socialism

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DEFINITION

Socialism is a 19th and 20th century economic and political system for social organization. The socialist paradigm is an equitably regulated relationship between capital and labour, to ensure money generated by the work of an individual is received by that person or their community (for providing services to the individuals). This contrasts strongly with profits going to private business owners or corporate shareholders.

"From each according to his ability, to each according to his contribution." - Karl Marx

SOCIALIST IDEALS

  1. Socioeconomics
    • Socialism is an economic system where everyone in society equally owns the factors of production. That ownership is acquired through a democratically elected government or through a cooperative or a public corporation in which everyone owns shares. The four factors of production are labor, capital goods, natural resources, and, in the modern era, entrepreneurship.
  2. Cooperation
    • Socialists assume that the basic nature of people is cooperative. They believe that this basic nature hasn't yet emerged in full because capitalism or feudalism has forced people to be competitive. Socialists argue that the economic system must support this basic human nature before these qualities can emerge.
  3. Valuation of Production
    • Factors of production are valued in relationship to their usefulness to people. Socialists take into account both individual needs and greater social needs. They allocate resources using central planning, as in a command economy. Examples of greater social needs include transportation, defense, education, health care, and preservation of natural resources.1 Some also define the common good as caring for those who can't directly contribute to production. Examples include the elderly, children, and their caretakers.
  4. Valuation of Work
    • Everyone in society receives a share of the production based on how much each has contributed. This system motivates them to work long hours if they want to receive more. Workers receive their share of production after a percentage has been deducted for the common good.
  5. Equality
    • Socialism is a system that shares economic output equally throughout the population. It values the collective well-being of the community, rather than individuals. The government distributes resources, giving it greater control over its citizens.
  6. Objectives
    • Under socialism, workers are no longer exploited because they own the means of production. Profits are spread equitably among all workers according to their individual contributions.
    • The cooperative system also provides for those who can't work. Socialism aims to meet everyone's basic needs for the good of the whole society.
    • The system eliminates poverty. It provides equal access to health care and education. No one is discriminated against.
    • Everyone works at what one is best at and what one enjoys. If society needs jobs to be done that no one wants, it offers higher compensation to make it worthwhile for people to take them.
    • Natural resources are preserved for the good of the whole.

EIGHT TYPES OF SOCIALISM

There are eight types of socialism. The eight types of socialism differ on how capitalism can best be turned into socialism, to what extent it should be transformed and which particular aspects of socialism should be prominent, which can be left as optional.

  1. Democratic Socialism
    • The means of production are managed by the working people, and there is a democratically elected government. Democratic planning is used for common goods, such as mass transit, housing, and energy, while the free market is allowed to produce and distribute consumer goods.
  2. Revolutionary Socialism
    • Socialism will emerge only after capitalism has been overthrown, although the revolution is not necessarily a violent one. The factors of production are owned by the workers and managed by them through central planning.
  3. Libertarian Socialism
    • Libertarianism assumes that the basic nature of people is rational, autonomous, and self-determining. Once the strictures of capitalism have been removed, people will naturally seek a socialist society that takes care of all, free of economic, political, or social hierarchies. They will see it is the best for their own self-interest.
  4. Market Socialism
    • Production is owned by the workers. They decide how to distribute among themselves. They could sell excess production on the free market. Alternatively, it could be turned over to society, which might distribute it according to the free market.
  5. Green Socialism
    • This type of socialistic economy highly values the maintenance of natural resources. Public ownership of large corporations achieves this. It also emphasizes public transit and locally sourced food. Production focuses on making sure everyone has enough of the basics instead of consumer products one doesn't really need. This kind of economy guarantees a livable wage for everyone.
  6. Christian Socialism
    • Christian teachings of brotherhood are the same values expressed by socialism.
  7. Utopian Socialism
    • This was more a vision of equality than a concrete plan. The idea arose before massive industrialization and would have been achieved peacefully through a series of experimental societies.
  8. Fabian Socialism
    • This type of socialism was extolled by a British organization called the Fabian Society in the late 1900s. It advocated a gradual change to socialism through laws, elections, and other peaceful means.

BULLSHIT MACHINE

The terminology of political and social discourse is vague and imprecise and constantly debased by the contributions of ideologists of one or another stripe. Still, these terms have at least some residue of meaning. Since its origins, socialism has meant the liberation of working people from exploitation. As the Marxist theoretician, Anton Pannekoek observed, “this goal is not reached and cannot be reached by a new directing and governing class substituting itself for the bourgeoisie,” but can only be “realized by the workers themselves being master over production.”

Mastery over production by the producers is the essence of socialism, and means to achieve this end have regularly been devised in periods of revolutionary struggle, against the bitter opposition of the traditional ruling classes and the ‘revolutionary intellectuals’ guided by the common principles of Leninism and Western managerialism, as adapted to changing circumstances. But the essential element of the socialist ideal remains: to convert the means of production into the property of freely associated producers and thus the social property of people who have liberated themselves from exploitation by their master, as a fundamental step towards a broader realm of human freedom.

"Failure to understand the intense hostility to socialism on the part of the Leninist intelligentsia (with roots in Marx, no doubt), and corresponding misunderstanding of the Leninist model, has had a devastating impact on the struggle for a more decent society and a liveable world in the West, and not only there. It is necessary to find a way to save the socialist ideal from its enemies in both of the world’s major centers of power, from those who will always seek to be the State priests and social managers, destroying freedom in the name of liberation." -- Chomsky

FURTHER READING

Association of socialism with the Soviet Union [communism] and its clients [Cuba, North Korea] serves as a powerful ideological weapon to enforce conformity and obedience to the State capitalist institutions, to ensure that the necessity to rent oneself to the owners and managers of these institutions will be regarded as virtually a natural law, the only alternative to the ‘socialist’ dungeon. Authoritarian leadership thus portrays itself as socialist to protect its right to wield the club, and Western ideologists adopt the same pretense in order to forestall the threat of a more free and just society. This joint attack on socialism has been highly effective in undermining it in the modern period

Case Study: US Socialism

Look out for the following propaganda indoctrination techniques:

  • associating socialism and communism as if they're synonymous
  • conflating socialist 'look after citizens' with 'central authoritarian opposition to free markets (and therefore freedom)'
  • appropriating the concept of 'equality' as a criteria for basic human rights (see Roosevelt's Second Bill of Rights) instead defining it by 'equality of outcome' i..e.. anti-individual, anti-private business, corrosive to citizen rights and freedom

Definition

As a political ideology, socialism emerged as a rival to classical liberalism in the 19th century. It was a political response to the often-horrific conditions of industrial workers in the advanced capitalist countries and laid claims to representation of the working class. Although it spawned many variants, socialism sets forth the following basic arguments. First, the free market (capitalist) system so adored by classical liberals is not free at all. Disproportionately few property owners wield true economic power and use their ownership of the means of production to exploit hired workers. Second, the democratic system is mainly a façade for the economic elite. Given the true foundations of power in society, formal legal and political opportunity is not enough. Only when those who work for wages wield economic power will society find true equality and freedom.

Origins of Socialism

Although it developed independently as the outgrowth of the practical concerns and political interests of industrial workers, socialism is influenced by the powerful theory of Karl Marx. Marxism views history as being driven by the struggle of economic classes. The socialist tradition splits into those designating themselves as Socialist or Communist. The main difference between the two groups lies in the Communists' claim to follow a more pure version of Marxism while the Socialists have greater openness to working within the political framework of liberal democracy, for example, by contesting elections and following constitutional processes. Communists were traditionally more likely to believe in the inevitability of armed revolution to establish an egalitarian society.

As its name implies, socialism holds that the economy should be managed in the interest of society as a whole. Where Adam Smith viewed market forces as an ultimately benevolent invisible hand, socialists see many market failures that are not self-correcting. Low wages, unhealthy or dangerous working conditions, pollution of the environment, unemployment, and insufficient vacation time are all problems that socialism sees as fit for state intervention. Like classical conservatism, socialism accepts the responsibility of government to take care of society's less fortunate but goes much farther by elevating equality as a cardinal value. Like classical liberalism, socialism advocates the separation of church and state.

"Unlike classical liberalism, socialism endorses not only equality of opportunity but also equality of results." - Texas College, Government Class Textbook (2020)

Socialists are more likely to accept the principle of progressive taxation, with higher income earners paying more in taxes, due to considerations of fairness. "Think about it," says the Socialist. "If you work for a large corporation are you in any sense equal to the CEO? Does the CEO work so much harder and efficiently than you that he deserves to make 350 times what the average salaried worker makes?" Such outcomes are neither natural nor the simple outcome of individual choices.

Socialism accepts the responsibility of government to provide a variety of services to the poor and working classes and so embraces the welfare state. Socialism supports government employment programs, universal health care, and generous payments to the unemployed or disabled. Although enthusiasm for such a policy has waned considerably in recent decades, socialism used to stand for the nationalization, or government ownership, of major industries in the economy. Marx's saying "from each according to ability, to each according to need" cogently captures the spirit of socialist ideology. Put another way, in striking a balance between equality and freedom, socialism favors equality while classical liberalism favors freedom.

Influences of Socialism

Socialism's influence on the politics and culture of most democracies, with the exception of the United States and Japan, is deep and persistent. European countries, in particular, reflect socialist policies. Europe's eastern half underwent an unsuccessful forty-year experiment with communism. More benignly, countries of Western Europe such as Sweden, France, and Germany implement socialist priorities through state ownership of major industries, high levels of public employment, strict legal requirements providing job security, and extensive welfare states. Workers in most European states get several weeks of guaranteed paid vacation. In France, most workers are limited to 35 hours of work per week.

Tellingly, every country in Europe has an influential Socialist party that contests and wins elections. Once considered one of the most conservative states, Spain is currently run by the Spanish Socialist Party. Britain's socialist-inspired party, Labour, governed that country 1997 to 2010. The developed world is not the only place where socialism's legacy is important. India spent decades of uninterrupted rule by a Socialist political party. Senegal's young democracy in Western Africa recently emerged from four decades of Socialist rule; its government still employs approximately forty percent of the official workforce and controls major industries.

Indoctrinating Americans

In America, by contrast, socialism's influence has been relatively feeble. Trade unions did and do exist in the United States but never came under the sway of Marxist doctrine. While a Socialist party does exist, and has even fielded candidates for the US presidency, it never achieved electoral success at the national or state level. The Roosevelt administration introduced welfare policies similar to, if less extensive than, those found in Europe during the 1930s, but only as a response to the Great Depression, war, and as a matter of pragmatic politics. Marxism has never flourished in the United States outside of the university subculture. Socialist ideas have always seemed like fish out of water, never capturing the popular imagination. A partial explanation is our country's long Cold War struggle with the communist Soviet Union. This military, economic, and above all ideological struggle went far in discrediting socialist theory.

"Yet socialism's failure to sink roots in America is also a tribute to the overwhelming dominance of classical liberalism. Belief in individual responsibility, belief in economic success for those who work hard, and a distrust of big government have severely handicapped socialism's ideological challenge. Americans are more likely to admire businesspersons and entrepreneurs than vilify them. Indeed, it is hard to imagine the almost cult-like celebrity of a Warren Buffet or Donald Trump in any other country but the United States. Americans are more concerned about acquiring private property than making sure it is equally distributed."

Socialism's fortunes have recently waned outside the United States as well. Experiments with state ownership of the economy, such as those in France, India, and Sweden failed to sustain attractive growth rates after the 1970s and left countries less competitive in a globalized market. Socialist parties have toned down both their ideological rhetoric and policies in response to an evolving world economy. The continued appeal of socialist values in other countries, however, still explains wide differences between politics in America and the rest of the world because it has dramatically reset the baselines of political debate. The political values of a conservative in Britain or France are much more likely to appear liberal in the United States.