Debate:The merits of communism

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The Reds (In General)[edit]

I didn't vote down the recent WIGO on that socialist sect but I thought compelled to say something on it and how rational wiki should approach socialism in general, having spent some time associated with/interested in the radical left when I was younger. Myself and most of those I knew who were involved in it were there because we didn't really know much about economics or philosophy, but did know that the world was a bad place and the "solutions" offered by the conservatives (the worlds always gonna be awful so you better see if you can make a buck out of it) and the increasingly centrist Rawlsians/Liberals (the worlds always gonna be awful but I better see you complaining anyway) didn't really deliver the goods, if you'd pardon the pun. Most of the institutions in the existing modern state that we were encouraged to worship; democracy, equality of opportunity, freedom and so on we (accurately) saw as a farce and (again, accurately) we understood that most who rejected radical change did so either for poor reasons or purely out of their own ideology. Eventually myself and many others (along with the leading lights of the far-left that remained after the Berlin Wall) realized that there were in-fact a minority who rejected anti-market and revolutionary policies for very good reasons, and so I packed it in and nowadays try and get involved in pro-reason movements and fighting (relatively, for an ex-socialist) small issues while grudgingly trudging through another Rawlsian sermon. Looking back I should have left earlier and I probably took the arguments of people who knew not a lot more than me about economics and philosophy too seriously. I also toyed around with anti-science of the lite-Feyeraband variety, but not in a way I regret much (Feyerabend, btw argues for removing control and standards in academia, not enforcing it); I still think that academics can be somewhat dogmatic and often run their own field poorly, but unless I actually know a lot about their discipline I take their word for it. The worst anti-scientism that I saw in the left was more of the creotard "scientists are too biased to accept we're right" kind than the Lysenko/creotard "scientists will accept we're right or else" kind.

At no time did I think Stalin or Lysenko were in any way admirable, and with few exceptions neither did any of the other radical-lefties or lefty-groups I knew of. I was not asked to sign up to a rigid set of beliefs, I always thought Capital along with a fair portion of what our intellectuals had written was tripe, and furthermore the debates I observed and engaged in would be considered very unorthodox by Soviet standards. So if the "irony meter" accusation here is implying that the radical left, including the wsws, supported or engaged in, or supports or engages in, anti-scientific activity in the aim of forcing scientists to believe this that or the other and forcing certain ideas on kids, like that in the Soviet Union under Stalin, then it is a false accusation. I'm with you if you want to hit loony-left claims as hard as those of the raving-right, but not if you want to take some very simple minded, the reds are dead so let's graffiti Stalin on their gravestones approach.

When Andy complains about censorship on Wikipedia or in the classroom, irony meters break because he actively censors his wiki and classroom, and if he didn't have a wiki and a classroom he would certainly support it. But I would think twice before reacting negatively to a well meaning conservative who worries about censorship by directing him to everyone's favorite World History Lectures. Bil08 19:17, 3 July 2009 (UTC)

Communist economic principles lead inevitably to the sort of mess that developed under Stalin and his successors, which is evidenced by the fact that every single communist state has gone, more or less, down that road; things really got bad in the Soviet Union only when Stalin started to move closer to Trotskyist economic theories by collectivizing farms. Thus, it can be concluded that any attempts by communists to disassociate themselves from the Soviet Union, no matter how fervently said communists despise the Soviet Union's policies, constitute a No True Scotsman.
As to the remarks about science, I submit that the only distinction between the "scientists are too biased to accept we're right" sort of people and the "scientists will accept we're right or else" people is that the latter have State power backing their convictions. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 21:50, 3 July 2009 (UTC)

Your remarks about science are very speculative and unhelpful, and serve to highlight the problems with your earlier remarks. If you declared to anybody who knew the slightest about philosophy/sociology of science that Gramsci/Feyerabend approaches to Academia and Science are just the same as Stalin's approach except Stalin was in power then you'd be in trouble. And if you were to further insist that people who like Feyerabend would have scientists imprisoned or killed if they had the opportunity then you'd be rewarded with something worse than a stern glare and a bit of venomous prose. As someone who's partial (though less nowadays) to Feyerabend himself you seem almost to be implicitly accusing me of being willing to kill people for not validating my beliefs if I had the ability. That's really annoying.

I am very tempted to write a particularly lengthly and disparaging section about your blatant guilt by association by lumping every socialist group in with Lysenko, but I think I'll cool down for a bit. Needless to say, I am extremely frustrated that, despite my attempt to explain the actual thought that went on in the radical left, you insist that I have some kind of unavoidable association or guilt to account for with every crime of the Stalinist system. Bil08 03:45, 4 July 2009 (UTC)

Perhaps, Mr. Bil, you would like to write an essay thingie on this? We loves to comment on essays. All mine sucked rotten eggs, but I tried ;) ħumanUser talk:Human 04:40, 4 July 2009 (UTC)
(EC) Madame, when we'll see men dying of starvation around us, your heart won't be of any earthly use to save them. And I'm heartless enough to say that when you'll scream, 'But I didn't know it!', you will not be forgiven.- Ayn Rand. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 04:50, 4 July 2009 (UTC)
I think it would be worth writing an essay on. I'd read it anyway. --PitchBlackMind 04:59, 4 July 2009 (UTC)

"Communist economic principles lead inevitably to the sort of mess that developed under Stalin and his successors, which is evidenced by the fact that every single communist state has gone, more or less, down that road" - that is a very, very big claim backed up by quite a small argument. In general, the directions communist countries took in the 20th century were not uncorrelated, seeing as how after 1917, nearly all others either looked to the USSR as a model or were supported from there. This makes it rather hard to take all of them as separate data points for the kind of hypothesis test you are implicitly suggesting. A second point could be raised that there were quite a lot of more peaceful and democratic people around who wanted a state-controlled and -owned economy, but they usually ended up dead instead of in power, i.e. the communists of the eastern bloc type may not necessarily be the only way that they can be, but they may have been selected for because they shot first. Be that as it may, your whole remark sounds about as convincing as fringe leftists' tirades that capitalism will always end up in fascism if times get tough. A lot of venom, ideology and shooting from the hip but no logic. Even if it were right that there was nothing useful whatsoever to be learned from Marxism (think about that what you want, I do not care), this is still poor for a person contributing to a *rational* Wiki. --Mintman (talk) 06:49, 8 July 2009 (UTC)

Shall we talk about the massive counterexamples such as China, Yugoslavia, Albania, etc., etc.? Also, my claim is nothing like the "fringe leftists' tirades" you referenced, the latter being disproven in an empirical fashion, since a proportionally small number of capitalist countries have fallen into fascism and those that have mostly dropped it again within a generation. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 19:56, 10 July 2009 (UTC)

Would be news to me that China did not have soviet funds, advisers and ideological influence. They broke with Moscow later, just as Yugoslavia. Of Albania I would not even be aware that it ever was anything but a bloc state controlled by the USSR, but I could be mistaken. Anyway, your claim, if I did not misunderstand it, is that "communist economic principles inevitably lead to a dictatorship". This sweeping assertion is hard to stomach, I simply see no direct connection between the question of whether the big industries belong to the state or private shareholders and the question of whether you have a one party rule or democratic elections. The only possible angle I can imagine is the obvious problem that the moment a government tries to nationalize central parts of the economy, the owners, who do have a lot to lose, will mobilize all their financial and political resources to sabotage it. If their resistance necessarily leads to a breakdown of public order or even civil war (Chile, Iran, various third world countries where the US helped install a right-wing dictatorship to avoid expropriation of their companies, etc. pp.), then it could be argued that communists can only implement their economic model after such a breakdown and devolution into an undemocratic state has occurred - but I image this is not what you are trying to assert, and it would also not be the fault of the communists. So could you please explain what you mean? Or define communist economic principles - maybe I am even arguing against a strawman all the time? What exactly precludes a democratic country from nationalizing all important industries? In the worst case, if your constitution explicitly forbids that, all you would theoretically need is a 67% majority (which admittedly is unlikely, but still possible). Tangentially, I would also like to submit the leftist counter-argument that real democracy is impossible in a capitalist society because of the concentration of wealth in the hands of few who can use this huge financial advantage to buy more advertising hours, bribe more politicians and just generally blackmail the government ("if you do this, I move my production to India") than the masses of people in or out of paid work. This argument makes intuitive sense and has the advantage of an obvious mechanism of action, something you still have to present for your assertion. Mintman (talk) 08:51, 12 July 2009 (UTC)

China: The Cultural Revolution occurred after their split with Moscow.
Albania: Read the link.
Besides the fact that a communist system is explicitly a dictatorship, there are, as I mentioned, economic reasons that communism goes that way: Red revolutionaries — not democratic-socialist reformers — take over a country on the basis of a lot of wild promises about what communism will bring. They proceed to disregard every economic law in the book and a few that are not. Consequently the country's economy crashes like a light bulb on concrete. People notice that the wild promises are not being fulfilled, thus depriving the government of their claim of power. Thus, the revolutionaries have no choice but to counter that the promises are being fulfilled and deal with anyone who claims otherwise by shooting them.
Roughly the same thing happens with democratic socialists (note, for instance, the colossal mess they made of a large number of Western economies in the 1970s). However, democratic socialism has exactly one merit, viz., that the people maintain the democratic right to give the socialists the boot. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 21:45, 12 July 2009 (UTC)
Okay, that is a possible mechanism. It has to be added, however, that real life communist dictatorial regimes usually came to power not after elections in a working democratic framework, but they replaced other dictatorships or monarchies, and usually rose out of war or civil war. This is not the situation where you can expect the victor to be democratic and tolerant, be they pro-free-market or pro-command-economy. They also generally rose in societies that were much less developed than, for example, western Europe, so that even if liberal, market-friendly democrats had won, their concept probably would not have worked anyway. Think of foisting a parliamentary or presidential republic onto Great Britain in 1006, or Afghanistan today, and imagine what will happen.
Not everybody who calls themselves a communist or socialist would agree with your definition, and not everybody who uses the phrase dictatorship of the proletariat sees this as a dictatorship in the usual sense of the word (just like words like "capitalist", "bourgeoisie" and "surplus/Mehrwert" have completely different meanings for a Marxist and their opponents). What you are saying, then, is that dictatorial communists inevitably install a dictatorship. Point taken. If the guys from this socialist sect the whole discussion started with express admiration for Stalin or their desire to build gulags then there are good reasons to bash them for their totalitarian tendencies. But if somebody calls themselves communist and says that we should not suppress scientific research, what is the problem? I have not really checked, but they might not be Stalinists, and lumping all "reds" is just as helpful as lumping all "greens", from ELF to Gore. Also, if people who call themselves communists argue that we were better off nationalizing banks and insurance companies, please address their ideas rationally by offering economic counterpoints. I am seriously getting tired of the "the GDR was dictatorial, therefore we must privatize all companies that exist whether it makes economic sense or not" canard in my home country's political discussion. There is simply no connection between these points.
"note, for instance, the colossal mess they made of a large number of Western economies in the 1970s" - okay, this sentence is so weird that it is really hard to address. You must have an extremely biased view of European politics, even if you should be a European yourself. Mintman (talk) 08:45, 13 July 2009 (UTC)
ListenerX, I just realized by one of your earlier comments that you may be a Randinist, and that makes it extremely unlikely that we will ever find enough common ground to resolve anything. So let me simply say this: One of the most problematic aspects about human cognitive processes is that we all tend to search for an easy explanation, a one-size-fits-all solution, a golden bullet argument, even and especially when life is much too complex for this approach. There are people who self-identify or can be identified as communists or socialists who had one clear thought in their lives - "capitalism leads to poverty and injustice", follow this up with the golden bullet suggestion "we can rectify this by expropriating all means of production" and then try to apply this one imagined solution everywhere and always and at the cost of other values and aims, ending up with a system where every family farm and corner shop is run by the state and probably a dictatorship because the stupid system would not work as envisioned. Then there is the other kind of people (and there is a lot more of them around at the moment) who had a different clear thought in their lives - "communism as practiced in the eastern Bloc and China was terribly inefficient", follow this up with the golden bullet suggestion "therefore we must run everything with markets and private ownership" and then try to apply this everywhere and always and at the cost of other values and aims. It should be a no-brainer that this approach is just as silly. One clear idea does not make a rational mind, nor is it enough to build an adequate model of how society operates or should operate, no matter which idea it is; the world is much too complicated for this. There might yet something to be learned from schools of though that you, judging from the above, have decided to reflexively disregard as worthy of attention because you perhaps think you have found your golden bullet. The criterion to evaluate them should be the evidence for and logic of their individual claims, and not seeing red whenever a certain label comes up (no pun intended). Mintman (talk) 12:15, 13 July 2009 (UTC)
The Russian Provisional Government, from which the Bolsheviks seized power, was not particularly dictatorial; nor was the Republic of China before the communists started insurrections and other troubles.
I have said it above and will say it again: Every trial of communism has ended in economic disaster, not just the ones in the Eastern Bloc and China, so it is quite proper to disregard Red economists as one would regard any other crank theory that was plucked out of the air. When a country's economy goes down the tubes under communist leadership, heads will roll; those communists who do not support strong-arm methods will be swept aside quickly. They could be replaced by the ones who do support strong-arm methods, as happened after most of the communist revolutions, or they could be replaced by a non-communist opposition. Something similar happened in the 1970s with economic policies ranging from Keynesian to socialist (I was thinking specifically of the U.S.'s stagflation, the U.K.'s "Social Contract" and the Winter of Discontent, and the excessive taxation and state control in the Netherlands prior to the 1980s).
From an economic standpoint, whether the State owns a business concern or whether it is in private hands does not matter quite so much as whether or not it is permitted to play by market rules and not subject to a centralized planning apparatus. Those communist countries that have rolled back the dogma and adopted limited capitalism or "market-socialism" have had some improvements on that basis.
With reply to your "golden bullet" remarks: No, I am not an Objectivist. Capitalism is not my "golden bullet," but it is the only modern economic system in which the practice came before the theory, not to mention the only one with much of a successful track record. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 01:35, 14 July 2009 (UTC)
Capitalism has a good track record, provided it is heavily regulated, as in every country in which it has been tried. Has capitalism actually ever been implemented anywhere? The theories of laissez-faire and libertarianism etc have never actually been implemented as far as I know. Do you have any example? Mixed economies is the rule. Dendlai (talk) 04:28, 14 July 2009 (UTC)
Definitions again. A Marxist basically defines capitalism as a system where part of the surplus is invested in capital (such as machines) in order to systematically increase your competitiveness and output for the next production cycle, and where a large mass of free people not owning the means of production are forced to work for for a relatively small class of owners (=capitalists) to meet their livelihood. (Forced not because of serfdom but because you do not have any other means to earn your living.) This as opposed to, for example, a system where the workforce is not free (slavery), or one where virtually everybody is a subsidence farmer, or one where the means of production are owned by everybody (socialism). In this sense, capitalism has been implemented. Mintman (talk) 12:57, 14 July 2009 (UTC)
This is not the place to discuss economic theory, I imagine, so I will not even try it here. The starting point was how to deal with "reds" in general, and I submit that reflexively bashing, say, Marxist economists or philosophers without countering their individual arguments is less reasonable than in the case of, say, AIDS denialists. For one thing, socioeconomic ideas are much harder to put to the test due to the huge number of variables that are in play. In biology, it is relatively easy to build an isolated system to put a physiological or even an ecological or evolutionary question to the test (a.k.a. experiment). But it is unrealistic, not to say unethical, to simply try out all relevant economic ideas. You would usually have to erect a dictatorship and isolate the country from the rest of the world, and even then you would only have one data point and could not correct for the influence of other inherent/historical qualities of the system that you use. For what it is worth, eastern bloc communism was such an experiment, and yes, it demonstrated that their specific way of implementing a command economy does not work, at least in direct competition with capitalism. But as always in science, that is all that follows.
Now comes the second point: even though nobody has yet demonstrated a system that is more competitive than capitalism, it also does not necessarily follow that (1) it is the best for individual human well-being, (2) it is sustainable in the way it is working today, (3) it is the most just system, (4) Marxist criticism of its inherent tendency to produce over-accumulation crises every few years is wrong, or (5) Marxist criticism of concentration of power in the hands of company owners is wrong. These are points that are simply not off the table in the way that a connection between vaccination and autism is off the table after a few studies that demonstrate the lack of connection, and brushing them off the table because of Stalin is just as ridiculous as disregarding all legitimate criticism of entanglements between pharmaceutical corporations, medical doctors and health experts in politics just because it also happens to be a talking point of anti-vaccination cranks. Again, it really should not be so hard: telling somebody who says that they have this simple economic idea to solve all troubles of mankind that they are simpletons for this and that reason is one thing (and I do the same with supporters of the free-market-makes-everything-better idea!), but what you do is smear by association. Mintman (talk) 12:57, 14 July 2009 (UTC)
I think this debate deserves to be preserved and continued elsewhere (IE move to debate space) so it doesn't vanish into the archives here. Title ideas before I come up with one of my own? ħumanUser talk:Human 04:02, 18 July 2009 (UTC)
Dendlai, I am not a supporter of the theoretical unregulated capitalism, as I hope my remarks on how "the practice came before the theory" make clear. Kindly refrain from employing such a false dichotomy again.
Mintman, I shall be repeating myself only one more time on this point, so I will set it in capital letters this time. IT WAS NOT JUST STALIN. EVERY SINGLE TIME COMMUNISM HAS BEEN TRIED IT HAS FAILED IN A SPECTACULAR FASHION. THIS INCLUDES SEVERAL COUNTRIES THAT TOLD MOSCOW WHERE TO SHOVE IT.
I notice that most of the arguments above do not actually deal with the merits of communism, but are instead simply bashing capitalism, mostly based upon how it is (mis)characterized by slimeball politicians who are having a difficult time owning up to a certain economic reality that was best summed up by Jesus when he said, "For ye have the poor always with you." Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 16:28, 20 July 2009 (UTC)
Excuse me, but you seem to be the one who does not understand what others are saying. I do not deny that all attempts have failed so far. I would not even call myself a communist in the way that I define the word; but what I do is very strongly reject the obviously implied notion that everybody who wants to create a classless society with communal ownership of the means of production is a dishonest crank. I refrain from using all caps in the hope that you can extract useful information from a normal sentence (even though you have so far not got it), but would also like to repeat the central point that was raised at the start of the discussion: just because somebody wants such a classless society does not mean that they are Lysenkoists. This is what you were going at, and this is the point of contention. It is also not a No True Scotsman, quite in contrast to what you wrote. A No True Scotsman would be saying "Lysenko and Stalin were no REAL communists, because obviously all real communists are pro-science". On the other hand, somebody explicitly saying "I am a communist and I, personally, am pro-science" is not. Maybe they could be called naive, or deluded (I do not think so, but do not want to go on a tangent here), but vilifying them by saying they simply MUST be Lysenkoist, no matter if they explicitly champion the opposite position, is dishonest and betrays ideological blindness on your part. And even if it a classless society is impossible and any attempt to reach it will fail (again, I this does not imply agreement), this would not mean that a person who explicitly champions a democratic classless society can automatically be vilified as undemocratic. I hope that it has now finally sunk in what the discussion was originally about - okay?
That being said, I have browsed though their site a bit and must admit that this particular group may not be very worthy of being defended here (as opposed to other Marxists or the school of though in general). There is a lot of stuff on that site that is hilariously illogical - their discussion of the French government's attempt to ban the burka left me dumbfounded for its idiocy. You can find so many legitimate targets of scorn there that it really makes me wonder why you picked one of their most sensible pieces as a WIGO clogosphere entry!
The discussion seems to have shifted (or been purposefully derailed?) to the merits of communism, though, and thus the following continues that part of the debate. Of course I will criticize capitalism. One only needs to open a newspaper to see that the current system leaves quite a lot to be desired in terms of humaneness, sustainability and stability against over-accumulation crises and economic bubbles; unless, of course, one explains all failures by claiming that we have not deregulated and privatized enough! The big question is only if crippling problems like poverty, the need to grow at all costs, and the corruption of democracy through the concentration of economic power in a few private hands can be solved within capitalism. If you think they can, good. If you do not think they can, then you can either take the defeatist position that it is unpleasant but still the only system that really works (whatever that means, then - perhaps only that it out-competes all others), or you become something in the spectrum of socialist, marxist, communist, anarchist, etc. I do not allege that I have a perfect, working concept of a new, better society here in my head, and I would be quite skeptical of people who claim to have. But blind pro-capitalist triumphalism solves none of the aforementioned problems, and I think that we humans should be able to rationally build a better society in the future than one in which we voluntarily subject our very welfare to the whims of market processes, and in which the ultimate question is always "can we earn money with it?", not "do we need it?" or "is it worth the side-effects?"
Because it seems to be one of your favorite points, it should also be stated that the idea that capitalism "just developed naturally, as the only modern economic system" (paraphrasing), is naive to the highest degree. If you mean by that that it did not have its own Marx who outlined the whole thing en toto, note that Marx also did not propose five year plans, outline how to organize kolchoses, etc. If you mean by that that capitalism did not have its Lenin, e.g. a person who erected a dictatorship, let us say in Britain, and then tried to implement a fully developed capitalism in ten years, well, fine. But do you honestly think that, in all the centuries leading up to today, no king ever made laws that explicitly favoured this new economic model? Do you honestly think that capitalism was introduced without violence and revolutions? To jump-start capitalism, you need a certain minimum threshold of capital accumulation, and this was typically accumulated by the use of force. You need a workforce that is legally free but so destitute that it needs to sell its labor, and generally subsidence farmers were brutally dispossessed before they would migrate to the cities and work for a factory owner. Then you need to break the political power of the landed aristocracy who have a very different economic model, which basically everywhere except in Britain made some kind of violent revolution necessary. And do you also honestly think that the USA could have a working capitalism today if your ancestors had not systematically destroyed the native Americans' way of living and taken their land from them? Did all this just gently happen? A liberal democracy with more or less free markets seems to be a good political system to go with a fully developed capitalism, one that can afford a reasonably wealthy middle class, but this economic system gets started as bloody and ruthless as every other, by employing force to change the economic rules and to redistribute (in this case, primarily concentrate) wealth. --Mintman (talk) 21:02, 20 July 2009 (UTC)
...is a dishonest crank. Allow me to clarify what I think on this matter. I think that anyone who in this day and age claims any merit to communist economics either (1) has all their sensory orifices sewn shut, or (2) is a filthy lying slimeball who probably has a serious envy problem. This is the common view taken of creationists here on the Wiki, but unfortunately it seems that some have freed themselves from the dogmas of one Red only to fall prey to the dogmas of another.
...one of their most sensible pieces... They tar the idea that science and reason have limits as "reactionary;" not even scientists are of that opinion.
...just because somebody wants such a classless society does not mean that they are Lysenkoists. True. However, if they start getting all high-handed like the Trotskyists do about how those who are Lysenkoists are No True Communists, I must object.
You need a workforce that is legally free but so destitute that it needs to sell its labor... Um, you are describing reality here; one can either work for a living or be a parasite upon those who do. With regard to people taking factory work only when evicted from their farms, this does not gel in the case of the U.S. in the early 19th century, in which most farms were in freehold, but industrialization occurred nonetheless.
Do you honestly think that capitalism was introduced without violence and revolutions? No, but I notice that: (1) the revolutions that were the steps toward introducing it (the American Revolution, the Spring of Nations) are fondly remembered today; (2) the people waging those revolutions were not attempting to install capitalism, as the leaders of the communist revolutions were aiming to install communism; (3) capitalism developed in several countries without any revolutions at all, and there was very little violence during the Autumn of Nations.
But do you honestly think that, in all the centuries leading up to today, no king ever made laws that explicitly favoured this new economic model? Given that its practice predated its theory, I hardly see how one could think otherwise.
...and to redistribute (in this case, primarily concentrate) wealth. If you seriously think capitalism increased the concentration of wealth at its adoption, I suggest that you read a little about what preceded it.
In your continued criticisms of capitalism, you speak of "humaneness," "sustainability," and "stability," and "a better society;" these are terms that people have a difficult time even defining, let alone working out how they are to be realized. An ideal plucked out of the air is rather a lame hammer to use against the practical track record of capitalism. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 04:44, 21 July 2009 (UTC)
I notice that most of the arguments above do not actually deal with the merits of communism, but are instead simply bashing capitalism. Well, it would help if your bashing of communism included any theoretical reasoning of why it failed. It is also very unclear what you mean by capitalism. You seem to be saying that any economy where at least some of the production is in private hands, for profit, is capitalist. Even if it's heavily regulated. If that is the definition, it is fairly useless. If not, could you please explain what your definition is? Your repeated claim that "the practice of capitalism predates the theory" is hard to evaluate in any way at all without knowing what you mean by capitalism.
And personally, I believe communism failed because it is utopian in nature (if reality introduces a problem, solve it by dogma). And the west succeeded because it is pragmatic (if reality introduces a problem, solve it by doing what you think will solve it). Dendlai (talk) 11:47, 21 July 2009 (UTC)
True. However, if they start getting all high-handed like the Trotskyists do about how those who are Lysenkoists are No True Communists, I must object. Right, but that is not at all what you wrote above.
It is also very unclear what you mean by capitalism. QFT! The same goes, im my opinion, for your definition of communist economic principles. Maybe we are mostly in agreement all the time? Nonetheless...
I am again at a loss where to start with all the whooly definitions and historical misapprehensions flying around. You honestly seem to be under the impression that capitalism just gently happened, without anybody ever forcefully changing the rules of the game in economy and politics, without there having been polarized and often violent struggles of interest which rules should be implemented etc. Maybe you have a definition of capitalism that conveniently excludes all but liberal democracies, in which case you would not only confuse economic and political models, but also try to eat your cake and have it too, as in that case theory definitely came before practice. If not, if you share the definition of capitalism as an economic system, only complete historical blindness could explain the idea that it was introduced naturally and gently.
the revolutions that were the steps toward introducing it (the American Revolution, the Spring of Nations) The American Revolution did not bring the colonies significantly closer to capitalism than they were. Again you might confuse economic and political systems. If you want the central military conflict that broke the shackles of an existing legal framework put on further capitalist expansion, try the civil war, which transformed a slavery-based economic system into a capitalist one. Here, some might be under the misapprehension that somebody critical of capitalism should not see it that way because capitalism = bad but abolishment of slavery = good. However, Marxists are quite clear on the point that capitalism is a huge step forward for mankind in comparison to all that came before, from the perspectives of both economic productiveness and personal liberty; they only assume that history will not end there, but that something else will come after it, once we have progressed enough. Phrased in that way, it might become clear that it sounds less like utopia or denialism, but more like a no-brainer. The naivite enters only when Marx assumes that (1) the next step of our social development must necessarily be classless and (2) this next step could be achieved as quickly as perhaps during his own lifetime. That something will come after it, and that it has to be fought for to be realized, is nevertheless quite logical, as all social improvements throughout history have been violently opposed by those who stood to lose from a particular improvement.
are fondly remembered today see immediately above, and obviously all successful revolutions are afterwards fondly remembered. The French are very proud of their revolution despite the terror that came out of it. If the Russian revolution is seen as less good an idea, that might have something to do with the fact that not the revolution itself, but a subsequent coup and civil war decided the course of history. I would also like to ask some Russians about that, e.g. if they think that a victory of the white forces and a reinstitution of zarism would have been a more desireable outcome at the time. Just saying.
Um, you are describing reality here; one can either work for a living or be a parasite upon those who do. You still seem unclear about the definition of capitalism. Yes, in every economic system throughout history everybody had to work for their living. Point is, there were systems where virtually everybody was a subsidence farmer, and thus owner of their own little part of the means of production (in that time, only a patch of land and the necessary tools). Not being without possessions and not being forced to sell your labor to a capitalist is the operative difference here which makes such a system "not capitalism". You need some way to dispossess large parts of these people to turn such a system into capitalism, and that is obviously a concentration of wealth. Then there were other systems where most people were slaves or serfs, or all land belonged to the state (Inka empire, ancient Egypt, etc.). Do you see the difference? In these cases, the people did not have the legal freedom to sell their labor, ergo, "not capitalism", and you would have to defeat the class owning their labor to introduce capitalism.
With regard to people taking factory work only when evicted from their farms, this does not gel in the case of the U.S. in the early 19th century, in which most farms were in freehold, but industrialization occurred nonetheless. That is correct, immigration of dislocated and impoverished people from Europe supplied the proletariat of the New World, but that does not make the conditions from which people were fleeing any more pleasant.
If you seriously think capitalism increased the concentration of wealth at its adoption, I suggest that you read a little about what preceded it. Another misapprehension. Capitalism is a much higher concentration of wealth in the sense of means of production per number of owners. (This is also related to a common misunderstanding of Marx' use of the term exploitation, by the way.) There were times in Europe when most people had a plot of land, a workshop if they were an artisan in the city, or nothing except maybe for some tools if they were an itinerant worker. Note that goods for consumption do not count here, as nice as they are, because they do not generate wealth, they are no means of production. On the other side, there were early proto-capitalists who had proto-capital in the form of the first manufacturies, ships, a bankhouse, shares in somebody else's enterprise etc. That is much more than what the itinerant worker has, but you can easily visualize that it is still not a lot of capital, nor does it translate into a lot of political influence. Today, in capitalism, the vast majority of people have nothing except for goods of consumption. These have increased manifold, of course; now it is mobile phones, TV sets, microwaves etc. instead of just a few clothes and earthen kitchen equipment, but they are still consumed, and they are utterly negligible in comparison to the huge proliferation of means of production - the most you can usually expect to leave behind at the end of your life is a house. If you are a typical person, you do not own anything that can help you generate your own wealth or make you independent, not even a plot of subsidence farmland or your own tools, you can only sell yourself to a capitalist (or work for government, for completeness). In contrast, a capitalist may now have five huge factories with automated assembly lines that churn out goods per day that his predecessor a few centuries back would not have produced in a decade, or an international investment consortium fielding enough money to buy any third world country's ruling party from the spare change box, or oil fields in ten different countries, or a bunch of transport ships one of which could carry the mercantilist's entire fleet in its cargo bay. Of course this is a huge concentration of wealth, the discrepancy has increased, and the dependency of the have-nothings on the capitalists' goodwill and willingness to actually hire them has increased manifold, even if the have-nothing now have color TV. You may think that the normal state of things, but it is a fact that they are not, from a historical perspective, and they need not be in five hundred years. --Mintman (talk) 16:55, 21 July 2009 (UTC)

EZ edit button[edit]

Definition of capitalism: You will see a definition in our capitalism article, in the section, "What exactly IS capitalism?" An economic or political system that regards departures from these principles as the exception rather than the rule is capitalist.

I will repeat that no historically significant revolution or war had the explicit aim of introducing capitalism, as the October Revolution and the Soviet campaign in World War II had the explicit aim of introducing communism. If you dispute this, please provide an example of such a revolution or war.

The American Revolution did not bring the colonies significantly closer to capitalism than they were ... try the civil war. I said that the American Revolution was a step toward introducing capitalism through its classical-liberal ideals. It was a consistent application of those ideals upon which the moral impetus for the Civil War was based.

Phrased in that way, it might become clear that it sounds less like utopia or denialism, but more like a no-brainer. If you paint Marx's ideas in such abstract terms that the ideas being described are no longer unique to Marx, of course you will get "no-brainers" from that.

...obviously all successful revolutions are afterwards fondly remembered. Tell that to the people who have fled Cuba in massive numbers since the revolution there, or the Iranians who speak of the revolution there as "promising heaven, but delivering hell on earth." And before you speak of "a revolution betrayed," keep in mind that the people who led those revolutions and the people who led the "betrayals" were one and the same.

...virtually everybody was a subsidence farmer, and thus owner of their own little part of the means of production... Um, no. Before the advent of capitalism, most farmers worked land that they had on leasehold from the lord of the manor, while most artisans were journeymen who were subject to the master of their shop and to their guild. In the theory of feudalism, the king was the only one who had any alodial land title.

...immigration of dislocated and impoverished people from Europe... Labor for the first wave of industry in the U.S. (which happened before the Civil War) was not supplied by immigrants, but by the children of American free-farmers; consider, for example, the system at Lowell, Massachusetts.

Another misapprehension... Does not all this blather rather contradict the position of Marx you stated, that capitalism is better than feudalism? And where do you get off drawing such a sharp line between consumer goods and the means of production? Most of the software industry was started by people who had nothing at their disposal but their own home computers — consumer goods. Many people start other small businesses using these same consumer goods. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 06:13, 28 July 2009 (UTC)

"I will repeat that no historically significant revolution or war had the explicit aim of introducing capitalism" British imperialist mercantilism notwithstanding? ħumanUser talk:Human 06:34, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
(1) Mercantilism is not capitalism. (2) What the British imperialists introduced was not terribly capitalistic, as the colonial subjects had much property nicked from them and were permitted neither ownership, nor much in the way of rights on what they did own. (3) The British imperialists were not aiming to introduce capitalism, but to get hold of natural resources. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 14:56, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
You will see a definition in our capitalism article, in the section, "What exactly IS capitalism?" Okay, that was interesting, but it confuses more than it helps. On the one hand, the definition under that subheading is so vague that it does not say anything about the particulars of capitalism as an economic system in contrast to say, liberal philosophy. Heck, it does not even mention capital! On the other hand, the implied definition of the article as a whole seems awfully exlusive where it implies that the US and Singapore are the prime examples, and everybody else is not really entirely capitalist (or something like that?). Suffice to say, the Marxist definition of capitalism is markedly different, which might help to explain on what grounds a Marxist critizises it.
I will repeat that no historically significant revolution or war had the explicit aim of introducing capitalism. Yes, I agree completely if you mean by that that nobody tried to implement a fully formed system in total, in ten years or whatever, and I have already written so much. What I am arguing is that there once was a feudal system, and now there is a capitalist one, and the, yes, often stepwise introduction of the latter had to be achieved against the political, legal, and often violent resistance of the aristocracy, while at the same time farmers had to be forced into penury, workers had to be violently kept from organizing into unions (or even sabotaging machines which put them out of work) to get the new system running in the first place. Along that way, most of the world was turned into colonies for cheap resource acquisition, and entire ways of living were eradicated to make room for private property farmland. This is also part of the track record of the economic system capitalism, unless you pull a no true scotsman by redefining capitalism into happy feelgood land.
If you paint Marx's ideas in such abstract terms that the ideas being described are no longer unique to Marx. Did you read him? At all? Or do you just infer his ideas from the craziest Trotskyist that you have ever met? A lot of novel ideas that Marx had have, in principle, been incorporated into social and historical sciences, even though a lot of people would not admit, or perhaps even know that. Take for example what he called historical materialism - the idea that it is our way of living and conducting our economic affairs that shapes our views of the world, that our economic interests shape our ideologies, that the systems of government that we build are dependent on the underlying class structure of our societies. Meaning, for example, that you cannot foist a parliamentary democracy on a hunter-gatherer society or medieval Europe, but that you need a well-off, educated and numerically large middle class to make that work. Meaning that a trader in capitalism with a high likelihood becomes a free-market liberal because it is in his best economic interest, and not by chance or because this ideology is rationally superior, and his worker neighbor has a higher likelihood to become socialist because of his experiences and economic interests, and not because he is evil or stupid. This may sound self-evident today, but it was not always (nor is it to everybody today, it has to be admitted). Before Marx formulated this materialist view, and before it was carried into academia by people influenced by him, the standard ideas were that history was simply a collection of battles won by the better general, or by the "superior race".
Tell that to the people who have fled Cuba in massive numbers since the revolution there, or the Iranians who speak of the revolution there as "promising heaven, but delivering hell on earth. Point taken.
Um, no. Before the advent of capitalism, most farmers worked land that they had on leasehold from the lord of the manor, while most artisans were journeymen who were subject to the master of their shop and to their guild. In the theory of feudalism, the king was the only one who had any alodial land title. Well, there were other systems before feudalism, and feudalism was different from one place to the other, even between northern and southern Germany, etc. The definitional difference to capitalism should still be clear.
Does not all this blather rather contradict the position of Marx you stated, that capitalism is better than feudalism? Better is a difficult question. It is, according to him, the necessary, next step in the development of human society, that's it. I think he saw it as a progress because it is more productive and provides more personal liberties; at the same time he regarded it as prone to instability through economic crisis cycles and prone to self-destruction in the long run through monopolization and the impoverishment of huge numbers of people. At least on the last count he was wrong.
And where do you get off drawing such a sharp line between consumer goods and the means of production? Most of the software industry was started by people who had nothing at their disposal but their own home computers — consumer goods. Many people start other small businesses using these same consumer goods. I was somewhat fearing that you would come with one of these dishwasher to millionaire stories. It is clear that capitalism as practiced in most countries gives you a much better chance to better your position that in feudalism, where it was basically zero. However: how many dishwashers made it, in percent? And does the fact that sometimes a new face joins the ranks of the capitalists change anything for those who don't? They do not become any less dependent, and the imbalance of power is ever more increasing. Key word here for example: too big to fail. By now, there are a few companies in every country that have become so influential and/or indispensable that their respective home countries will do virtually everything to support them, market rules, social contracts and environmental statutes be damned. If they don't, the company could wreak havoc with the whole economic system, in the worst case fail, and this warps all democratic processes. And this is not an accident that could have been avoided by more regulation, but a necessary consequence of the competitive nature of capitalism and economics of scale. If you had not allowed your country's company to become so bloated in the first place, it would have been out-competed by a bigger one from another country.
Mercantilism is not capitalism. I must say, I do not see it as so markedly different, but rather as a proto-capitalism, while much of the surrounding society was still feudal. Definitions again... See, what I am trying to do here is not convince you or anybody else that capitalism is crap, and that we should all study our Marx and plot revolution. I am simply trying to show that socialist / marxist ideas are considerably more complex and less irrational than you give them credit for. If I could get you from automatic bile spewing mode to "aha, I think they are still wrong, but now I understand why they can rationally take this position", this would be all I hope for. And a lot of this hinges not on easily demonstrated facts as in physics or medicine, but on definitions, interpretations of how history and society function, and value judgments. --Mintman (talk) 22:12, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
Suffice to say, the Marxist definition of capitalism is markedly different, which might help to explain on what grounds a Marxist critizises it... I am not in the least interested in Red definitions; sneaky redefinition of words is something with which Reds are intimately acquainted. But central to communist philosophy is the abolition of capitalism as it is defined on our capitalism page, because Marx said, "The theory of the communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property."
Yes, I agree completely if you mean... I agree that capitalism came up against the resistance of aristocrats, etc. I disagree with most of the rest, based on the example of early U.S. industry that I mentioned above, and also noting that the colonial campaigns and land clearances were more the doing of the aristocrats and such types (see, for example, the Scottish Highland Clearances) than anyone acting in the name of capitalism or liberalism.
Did you read him? At all? I did read the Communist Manifesto a while ago, and have had his core principles explained to me by people from across the political spectrum, so I think I got an accurate picture out of all that. But, again, the idea that societies progress, or the idea of the equality of all people, are not unique to Marx.
A lot of novel ideas that Marx had have, in principle, been incorporated into social and historical sciences... I know that, and think that communism and its derivative philosophies have made a real mess out of academic world. Fortunately, people in actual scientific fields kept their hair on and remained apolitical, so I only had to deal with this when stepping out of my own discipline.
You cannot foist a parliamentary democracy on ... medieval Europe... Does a Swiss Landsgemeinde not count as a parliament?
His worker neighbor has a higher likelihood to become socialist... Wishful thinking; socialism is accepted to a much higher degree among academics than among workers. This meant that as soon as communists started losing free elections, the concept of "cultural hegemony" had to be expounded.
...the standard ideas were that history was simply a collection of battles won by the better general... I dislike historical materialism because while the field of history previously dealt mostly with facts, Marx's ideas introduced unfalsifiable speculation on a large scale, like Karl Popper said. Also because it turned out to be historical revisionism when people put it into practice.
The definitional difference to capitalism should still be clear. Can you name a feudal country in which farmers had their farms in freehold, or artisans were not mostly journeymen?
I was somewhat fearing that you would come with one of these dishwasher to millionaire stories. Pardon me; was I talking about millionaires? I brought up the software industry as an example of average consumer goods being used as a means of production; all my talk there was about small businesses. Some people have gotten rich off of software, but it is not only Reds who are opposed to software copyrights — the legal instrument permitting this.
...how many dishwashers made it, in percent? As many as reality dictates can lead up large commercial or industrial concerns employing many thousands of people; this is not everyone. Is it such a travesty that some people get rich and others do not?
And does the fact that sometimes a new face joins the ranks of the capitalists change anything for those who don't? Yes. The "capitalists" are not under those conditions permitted to dictate who is and is not allowed to join their ranks, which is a very sharp contrast to the previous economic elites.
If they don't, the company could wreak havoc with the whole economic system, in the worst case fail, and this warps all democratic processes. No, it warps the Reds' idea that the democratic will and the survival of a large company are not one and the same thing. Consider: In the U.K. after 1984, the British Coal Corporation, then controlled by a government deemed hostile to workers' interests, started closing large numbers of economically unviable collieries. People were very angry at this; British Coal, the people agreed, was too big to fail.
And this is not an accident that could have been avoided by more regulation, but a necessary consequence of the competitive nature of capitalism and economics of scale. A consequence of the laws of economics, you mean; laws that Reds perpetually attempt to ignore, failing every time.
I do not see it as so markedly different... Mercantilism holds that all trades are win-lose and advocates zero imports. On the other hand capitalism sees most trades as win-win and calls for free trade among countries. Big difference.
If I could get you from automatic bile spewing mode... Save the presuppositionalist bunk for someone with no experience of debating creationists; they will fall for it much more easily. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 06:03, 30 July 2009 (UTC)
I am not in the least interested in Red definitions. That is a pity, because you are in no position to understand, much less criticize somebody's ideas before you understand what they are talking about. No wonder you like to use the word "blather" so much, you really do not understand a word it seems. sneaky redefinition of words is something with which Reds are intimately acquainted. Funny. I am not saying that the Soviet propaganda machine did not do that, but what I mostly see in discussions like this, here in the western world, is the other way round. Marx defines capitalism (and it may well be that he was the one who introduced that word, so his opinion should be the starting point) as an economic system with a certain way of producing goods, certain rules of ownership, and legally free workers, and then criticizes this system, all this before democratic governments become the standard, by the way. Then a, let us say, late 20th century capitalism apologist comes and redefines capitalism to mean western style, liberal democracy so that they can then assert how stupid Marx must have been to criticize that, even though he never meant that. This is sneaky redefinition at its finest. Another interesting case is how Marx defined the word capitalist to mean the owner of capital, and now it has been redefined to mean an adherent of free-market-policies, even if they only own a shirt, leading to a lot of befuddlement in discussing the whole thing.
Marx said, "The theory of the communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property." Far as I know, this always referred to the means of production, and not to your clothes, car or washing machine. But what do I know, I am only a lying red, and I really want to take grandma's house away from her but am too deceitful to say it, ain't I?
I disagree with most of the rest, based on the example of early U.S. industry that I mentioned above, and also noting that the colonial campaigns and land clearances were more the doing of the aristocrats and such types (see, for example, the Scottish Highland Clearances) than anyone acting in the name of capitalism or liberalism. So let me get this right - you disagree that the introduction of the capitalist system caused suffering because there were a few cases in which it did not? And if you still have a monarchic government that pushes through with the capitalist accumulation, it is not really capitalism? You see, this is why definitions matter, and why if you bash a commie for being anticapitalist you have to keep in mind what they mean by that. If you defend only western democracies, I have no problem with that. But I thought you were defending capitalism all along. If you only criticize dictatorial socialists, I have no problem with that. But it very much sounds as if you hate everybody who uses a label in the "red" spectrum.
I did read the Communist Manifesto a while ago. As the name says, this is a political pamphlet, and not the heavy tome in which he and Engels explained their philosophy, economic criticism, historical analyses, etc. You cannot expect it to be intellectually satisfying or to make a complete case if you consider the format and intended target audience.
Fortunately, people in actual scientific fields kept their hair on and remained apolitical, so I only had to deal with this when stepping out of my own discipline. I too am a natural scientist, and I see it more this way: we use a materialist approach more or less from the beginning, but Marx was one of the first to apply one consistently to history and sociology. He made mistakes, his followers made mistakes, but his contributions, especially seen in the context of his era, cannot simply be discarded as completely worthless in the history of ideas.
Does a Swiss Landsgemeinde not count as a parliament? Okay, and a hunter-gatherer tribe can either elect their war leader or have him inherit the position. But try imagining the medieval German empire introducing a democracy and you will see what I mean. With the technology and stratification of society we had then, this could only have worked on an extremely local basis. If you want to build a larger state, you had to centralize and become less democratic, and unfortunately being a larger state often allowed you to crush the smaller ones. Switzerland was a comparative exception because they were at the forefront of the evolution of military technology at the moment they scrapped feudalism, and the natural defensibility of the Alps may have helped.
Wishful thinking; socialism is accepted to a much higher degree among academics than among workers. Today, and in very prosperous countries. Things were the other way round in the 19th century, and less workers are socialist today not because they have somehow magically received better ideas (idealism), but because they do not need to fear anymore that tomorrow there will be no lunch on their table (historical materialism). Of course, if people are unhappy with their situation in the present, socialist ideas are not the only ones that you can sell to them, religion also seems to work quite well by providing an escapist solution instead of a political counter-strategy. But that does not change the fact that you will have a hard time to convince a factory owner to become an anarcho-syndicalist, or a Bolivian miner to become a libertarian.
The definitional difference to capitalism should still be clear. Can you name a feudal country in which farmers had their farms in freehold, or artisans were not mostly journeymen? First of all, this is not that important anyway because a serf in feudalism was bound to the land. Even if they were not the de jure owners of that land, they still could not easily be separated from it and thus their source of sustenance, especially if the feudal lord wanted to avoid setting a precedent for the destabilization of the feudal system. Apart from that, traditional germanic and celtic ways of living before the introduction of full scale feudalism had a lot of freemen, and elements of that lifestyle survived to varying degrees. I know that one of my ancestors bought a patch of land in the late middle ages, for example, so obviously he was a farmer, but not a serf.
I will not respond to the rest of your defense of capitalism except by saying that I agree with most of your eulogies. It is a definite improvement on all that came before, I simply hope we can improve even more, and I am still not totally convinced that it will maintain its human face in the future, in the absence of a red threat forcing capitalist governments to bribe the masses with welfare. At least my personal experience is that, ever since I became politically aware in the early 1990ies, European politics have seen a constant downward spiral of social security, job security and the percentage of the GDP GNP (oops) that is paid as wages. If this was only a necessary step to reachieve our competitiveness (as you seem to imply), should we not some day reach that point where we can stop? Problem is, the ideal wage level from the individual capitalist's perspective is zero, their ideal environmental regulations are none, and their ideal welfare system is none, and they constantly lobby in that direction because it is in their objective individual economic interests. They do not stop just because the other side suddenly says, well, you are right, socialism is a bad idea, now pretty please would you perhaps pay the workers enough that they can survive and maybe even buy your products? You treat this whole issue as a purely objective process, as if some scientists had conducted a study and decided that capitalism with such and such parameters is the best system. In fact, politics is a much messier place, and the current outcome is not the product of a singular rational decision, but of ancient and ongoing conflicts of interest played out in the economic, political, military and legal spheres of our society. You will not have a good mental model of society if you treat it like a physical or biological lab experiment, just like a communist militant does not have a good mental model of pure science if they treat it like a political ideology.
A consequence of the laws of economics, you mean; laws that Reds perpetually attempt to ignore, failing every time. Again with the indiscriminate lumping of everything red, argh. Apart from that, the interesting questions posed by Marx and "the reds" are if there are not some laws of economics that (1) lead to cyclical self-destruction of the much-vaunted free market system and/or (2) lead to impoverishment. You can answer these questions with no, or you can answer them with yes but we can regulate against that. But if you answer them with yes and the problem lies in the system itself, then you might not only feel justified to ignore, that is break, these laws of economics, but also feel morally obliged to do so. Submitting to the invisible hand of the market just because that is a kind of natural mechanism is, from that perspective, no more logical than scrapping those expensive and tiresome vaccine research programs because natural selection will take care of humanity's health anyway. I just hope that the yes, but we can regulate against it answer is the right one.
Mercantilism holds that all trades are win-lose and advocates zero imports. On the other hand capitalism sees most trades as win-win and calls for free trade among countries. Big difference. Big difference, right, but you are describing individual economic strategies and foreign trade philosophies, not economic systems, as in who owns what, how is the economy organized, and what are the rules for the interaction of owners and the workforce. Seriously, on that level, you could speak of Keynesianism not being capitalism.
If I could get you from automatic bile spewing mode... Save the presuppositionalist bunk for someone with no experience of debating creationists; they will fall for it much more easily. I am at a loss to understand what you are trying to say here. It is a mere manner of factual observation that you argue in a tone of unwarranted aggressiveness - nobody here is defending the Gulag, you know. Constantly being told that all "the reds" (whoever that is, but I am pretty sure it includes me) are deluded, dishonest, anti-democratic cranks pretty much sounds like bile, especially because I think that there are only very few major differences between your position and that of a democratic socialist, some of them probably based on definitional misunderstandings, some on the mental model of how society works, and some on moral value judgements, e.g. how much inequality do we want to tolerate. Except for the latter, all of these could be discussed rationally, but for that to happen, you first of all have to take the other's position seriously. That you believe "reds" do not deserve being taken seriously is, of course, the crux of the whole discussion. --Mintman (talk) 12:52, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Sublime commentary[edit]

Wow. RobS (talk) 02:29, 13 August 2009 (UTC)
Great site, innit? ħumanUser talk:Human 02:33, 13 August 2009 (UTC)
Now, now. Don't make fun. In that one post, Rob managed to contribute more useful material than he ever has on RW, CP and WP combined! --Kels (talk) 05:17, 13 August 2009 (UTC)
I wasn't mocking, I like Rob. Now, you, on the other hand, are being a meanie to him! I just loved the one word response to the very interesting wall of text in the previous five screenloads... ħumanUser talk:Human 05:34, 13 August 2009 (UTC)
He didn't make any spelling mistakes, either. 10/10.
Does anyone else think that debating ListenerX on anything in any way involving economics is a bad idea, because the slightest hint of mixing socialism in will get you labelled a "Red" and thus you and any argument you can summon summarily dismissed?
My two cents on the whole thing: I agree with Tom Clancy when he said[citation needed] that everyone is in favour of theoretical communism. That is, the idea of everyone having everything they need, but when you get into the nitty-gritty, human nature makes it difficult to work in practise. I think capitalism in a welfare or democratic socialist state (so that if people don't succeed, at least they don't fail very hard) is the best way to go, harnessing the efficiency of the free market to supplement the efforts of the state in aiming for a favourable outcome for everyone. Of course this requires checks and balances both on government and market, and democratic oversight of the government, two things which were never really included in previous communist governments due to demagogues rising to power during revolutions and establishing political systems designed to keep them in power, which is obviously no part of communist theory (the demagogues, not the revolution, and the revolution should have been thrown out since it's obviously an outgrowth of Marx' natural idealism) WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 05:42, 13 August 2009 (UTC)
Rob was probably just shocked that it took so many paragraphs to debate communism. He would've just pasted a picture of Alger Hiss on the page, end of debate.--الملعب الاسود العقل You are everything you are nothing at all 05:52, 13 August 2009 (UTC)
Also, I think debating ListenerX about economics is a bad idea simply because he's more educated (and smarter) than me. I'd get annihilated in that debate or a science debate, the latter probably with anyone here. I did learn a ton by reading this page though so that counts for something.--PitchBlackMind Please don't spoil my day, I'm miles away 06:01, 13 August 2009 (UTC)
Great site, innit? ħumanUser talk:Human 06:54, 13 August 2009 (UTC)
NO, Human, It's not. Go away! :P PBM, you say he's smarter and more educated than you, but his arguments all seem to boil down to "Totalitarian dictatorships failed even when they called themselves communist, therefore communism doesn't work". I'm only halfway through my degrees and even I can see that the question is more nuanced than "REDS ARE IDIOTS". WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 09:54, 13 August 2009 (UTC)
Any modern political system has to strike a balance between individual freedoms and the duty to society. Either extreme, communism or libertarianism sounds fine in principle but, in practice leads to the unacceptable because of the lack of balance. Communism lacks the freedoms and leads to totalitarianism. Libertarianism lacks the duties and leads to social dawinism (sorry, couldn't find a better phrase off the top of my head) Bob Soles (talk) 10:41, 13 August 2009 (UTC)
I find "injustice" is a good summary... and yeah, I prefer a balance of positive and negative freedoms, but it's people who won't touch social welfare programs with a three-metre pole who are making it so hard to bring the US into the 19th, 20th then 21st centuries (and yes, just today I was told that US politics are essentially 18th century in character) WazzaHello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me... 11:50, 13 August 2009 (UTC)
Wazza, remember that the simplicity of an argument does not categorically make it invalid; if my argument boils down how you say it does, then I would reply that the objections raised to it boil down to, "No true communist would ever approve of a dictatorship!" This ignores the fact that a very large number of communists call themselves Leninist or Maoist — follow the philosophy of the dictators. (Not to mention that you are breaking the irony meter, given that you vastly oversimplified "theoretical communism" by calling it "the idea of everyone having everything they need.") Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 15:09, 13 August 2009 (UTC)
A good idea can be simple, yes, but a truly intelligent human being is expected to have a differentiated worldview - hopefully consisting of lots of good ideas - and the ability to perceive shades of grey. Or red, in this case. Yes, the socialist movement has historically been so heterogeneous that such a generalizing summary as given by Wazza is probably the best you will get (although I think that "want to minimize economic inequalities" is a better definition). There were, and partly are, those who wanted a strong state, and anarchosyndicalists; voluntary society dropouts, reformers and revolutionaries; christian utopian and atheist "scientistic" communists, like Marx; dictators and radical democrats. That is why we have terms like Marxist, Maoist or Trotzkyist, because they are often ideologically at loggerheads and need to be differentiated. The same goes for other movements, by the way - in the late 19th century Germany had a nationalist-liberal, a leftist-liberal and a free-market-liberal political party. Some of them may be selected for because their ideas are more appealing to voters, or because they are strategically more viable in a civil war situation, so that it is easy to fall to a spotlight fallacy, but that does not mean that the others do not exist. Lastly, nobody here has pulled the No True Scotsman defense, see above, me and Bil08 simply objected to you cherry-picking the worst of this continuum of political views to smear all of it, and to your slippery slope rhetoric. --Mintman (talk) 21:12, 13 August 2009 (UTC)