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May Day in Madrid, 2006.
The dismal science
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Economic systems

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Major concepts
The worldly philosophers
Socialism is a scare word they have hurled at every advance the people have made in the last 20 years. Socialism is what they called public power. Socialism is what they called social security. Socialism is what they called farm price supports. Socialism is what they called bank deposit insurance. Socialism is what they called the growth of free and independent [labor organizations. Socialism is their name for almost anything that helps all the people.
Harry S. Truman[1]

Socialism is a wide movement proposing a fairly broad set of related socio-economic systems, generally based on social ownership of the means of production, as opposed to individuals personally owning them. There really isn't a strict definition, but at their core "Socialism" is any model where the working classes own the businesses. There's lots of room for interpretation of just who is the "working class" or what it actually means to "own" the businesses, which is why it's so broad. Some forms have the workers own only their own businesses (e.g., the Syndicalists), some forms have collective ownership over everything and/or include the entire population instead of only the people who are employed (e.g., Democratic Socialists). Some view "ownership" as not dissimilar to being a shareholder in an organization, where everyone gets a "dividend" in the form of general social programs via taxes levied on otherwise privately-run corporations (e.g., Social Democrats).

Numerous manifestations of socialism exist, with some forms advocating for voluntary cooperative enterprises within a market economy, while other forms advocate for a more comprehensive transformation with economic planning replacing capital marketsWikipedia and all means of production being held in common. Socialism typically opposes plutocracy yet often emphasizes in some form or another that people who work and produce value in society should be rewarded in monetary terms in accordance to their work-effort.

The question of whether the Marxist-inspired definition of socialism is economically feasible has been ongoing, with social democrats having abandoned this pursuit.

People who believe in socialism are referred to variously as "socialists" or "communists" — the technical difference being that socialists believe in socialism as an end in itself while communists merely see socialism as a "transitional phase" leading into the development of a "communist society", i.e. a classless, moneyless, and stateless form of social organization.Wikipedia Alternatively, the term communism has radical connotations, and is used to describe radical socialists, orthodox marxists, or generally the various groups born because of the 1917 revolution.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the founders of Marxism, a socialist courant, originally made a distinction to differentiate their own theories from previously existing utopian socialist theories.[2] Indeed, Marx wrote in 1875 of the "lower and higher phases of communism" in his Critique of the Gotha Program, but it was Lenin and the Soviets who reformulated this concept as the stages of "socialism" and "communism".[3] In Lenin's 1917 work The State and Revolution, Lenin mistranslated a German phrase of Engels and expressed the concept of the state "withering away" - that is not something that Engels ever wrote in relation to the state. Engels actually wrote: "Der Staat wird nicht abgeschafft, er stirbt ab", which literally translates as "The state is not abolished, it dies [out]".[4] As a matter of fact, both Marx and Engels used interchangeable the words "socialism" and "communism" to describe the classless, moneyless, and stateless form of social organization they advocated. In the aforementioned Critique of the Gotha Program, when describing the lower phase, Marx states that "the individual receives from society exactly what he gives to it" and advocates remuneration in the form of labour vouchers as opposed to money.[5][6] In the "lower phase of communism" (what would be called "socialism"), the state and money are already abolished after the revolution which instead must abolish capitalism and the private property,[note 1] but labour vouchers may be used ("To each according to his contribution") before reaching the "higher phase of communism" in which they are no longer needed and we have what is advocated by anarcho-communists ("From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs"). Hence, the "lower phase of communism" is more similar to what was called collectivist anarchism (with anarchist Mikhail Bakunin[7] advocating the abolition of class, money and state while using labour vouchers) rather than to states who claimed to have achieved socialism.

Alternatively, for most conservatives/libertarians, socialism is widely regarded as "when the gummint does stuff".[8]


The Paris CommuneWikipedia in 1871 was an early implementation of socialist ideas.

In the developed worldWikipedia during the Industrial Revolution, workers often felt underpaid for their labour, and dangerous working conditions became commonplace. While this has diminished in the developed world as society has become wealthier, multinational corporations have succeeded in expanding to less-developed countries where there are weaker working-rights laws and/or lower minimum-wages, allowing them to pay lower wages to workers in more primitive factories to potentially increase profits. Socialism has thus always found allies in the labour movement, including trade unions, but often as part of a "minimal program" within capitalism, distinct from socialism's ultimate goal of replacing capitalism with a socialist system.

The first person who theorized of the initial concept of socialism was Henri de Saint Simon, a political, social, and economic philosopher. The term socialism itself was coined in 1832 by a follower of Simon, Pierre Leroux, when describing the system Simon had theorized.[9]

The founders of communism, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, played a major role in formulating the first in-depth and scientifically-based description of socialism combined with detailed description on how to achieve it, in comparison or previous versions that were vague or unrealistic. The Marxist-inspired definition of socialism is social ownership of the means of production. This is the dominant and most common definition of socialism accepted by Marxist socialists, many non-Marxist socialists, and capitalists. The vast majority of present-day socialists believe this would be best done by transferring ownership of the means of production and distribution (e.g., factories and railroads) to the working class. What this most often means in practice, however, is the transfer of the means of production to the state (the state, in turn, is supposed to foster the creation of a classless society and in time aid the 'withering away' of the state as the working classes eventually assume the means of production). The fact that this never happens — as states by their very nature exist to perpetuate their own power — is probably the most glaring and obvious internal contradiction in Marxist-inspired socialist dogmatism.

Disagreements with Marx's and Engels' revolutionary approach to achieving socialism occurred outside and then inside the Marxist movement. The most devastating internal condemnation of the revolutionary approach came from revisionist Marxist Eduard Bernstein, who had been a close friend of Marx and Engels and presumed heir apparent of their views, who came to believe that capitalism could be gradually reformed into socialism through reformist parliamentary means and he rejected class conflict. Bernstein's views formed the basis of the beginning of what is now known as social democracy. Among the social democratic parties, attempts to reconcile their reformist efforts with the prevailing post-war economic order, resulted in many of them redefining "socialism" to no longer mean social ownership of the means of production, but to a vaguer conception of "socialism" as support of social justice and acceptance of Keynesian capitalism.

The rise of popularity of neoliberalism promoted by people like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, resulted in a collapse in support of Keynesianism, leaving many social democrats in the political wilderness in the 1980s to mid-1990s. The British Labour Party had a Marxist-inspired definition of socialism until its new leader Tony Blair scrapped this definition and abandoned Keynesianism in favor of a watered-down definition of "socialism" that recognized "social interdependence of people." In the aftermath of the failures in neoliberal economies, the Third Way is viewed with disgust and contempt among many social democrats; many of them desire a neo-Keynesianism or post-Keynesianism, while more radical wings favor a restoration of a Marxist-inspired socialism based on social ownership of the means of production. One fringe ideology is "techno-socialism", the belief in completely robotizing and nationalizing the labor force and equally distributing the wealth.

Before Marx and Engels began writing, it referred largely to those ideologies that they referred to as "utopian socialism." Utopian socialists imagined a perfect egalitarian society, but couldn't figure out how to get there.[note 2]

Historically, most attempts to establish comprehensive planned economies have either collapsed for being politically unsustainable or resulted in horrifying dictatorships. Classical Marxists maintain that socialist planning can only become attainable once technology has advanced to a point where non-market planning becomes technically feasible and that the historical attempts to introduce socialist planning by Marxist-Leninist states in the 20th century happened in places insufficiently developed for socialism to be feasible. In the 21st century, however, a few countries in South America have taken up the socialist mantle again, partly because they began to perceive nationalization of foreign-owned infrastructure and of natural resources as a more expedient way of bringing wealth into those countries than getting more loans from the International Monetary Fund.Wikipedia However, in practice these new socialists (even Hugo Chávez, whose oil nationalization was not unprecedented) have not gone much beyond the social democracy prevalent in mid-20th-century Europe. In the Western world, socialism in a revolutionary sense has become a symbol of rebellion against the capitalist economic order, with radical-chic bohemians and hippies supporting socialist doctrine as an act of rebelliousness and righteous (sometimes) anger but still having difficulty envisioning a post-capitalist economy.


Armed communists march during the October Revolution.

Socialism can be divided into several branches, some of which are enumerated here.

Revolutionary socialism[edit]

Revolutionary socialists view social revolution as the primary way to transition from capitalism to socialism. Revolutionary socialists usually wait for 'revolutionary potential', which the current system of oppression is supposed to lead to.

Utopian socialism[edit]

"Utopian socialism" was used by Marx to refer to those who generally believed in a classless and stateless society but had not hammered out any specific theories for getting there. He analogized the difference between utopian socialism and his own theory with the difference between scientists and engineers: the scientists identify what can be done, and the engineers hammer out how to do it.

Utopian socialism is also among the earliest forms of practiced socialism globally. A group known as the Owenites, followers of 19th-century Welsh social reformer Robert Owen, formed several utopian socialist communities organized along communitarian and cooperative principles. The most famous of the communities located in New Harmony, Indiana, was where Owen himself chose to reside. The Owenite communities largely failed in short order (New Harmony's Owenite community only lasted two years). Still, Owenism is largely thought to have been the first socialist movement in American history,[10] and former Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both attended his lectures.[11] While the Owenites largely failed in their goals, Owen's ideas on labor vouchers influenced later socialist thinkers such as Daniel De Leon, while the Owenites' most lasting legacy on the socialist movement is most likely the cooperative movement.[12]

Most utopian socialists believed in the term "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his need." This saying was coined by Marx but was a reference to a very similar quote from another revolutionary socialist, Louis Blanqui, which was itself an apparent paraphrase of Acts 2:44-45, which state:

And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.


Blanquism is described by Engels as follows:

Brought up in the school of conspiracy, and held together by the strict discipline which went with it, they started out from the viewpoint that a relatively small number of resolute, well-organized men would be able, at a given favorable moment, not only seize the helm of state, but also by energetic and relentless action, to keep power until they succeeded in drawing the mass of the people into the revolution and ranging them round the small band of leaders. This conception involved, above all, the strictest dictatorship and centralization of all power in the hands of the new revolutionary government.

Marx used the term "dictatorship of the proletariat" to differentiate Marxism from the Blanquist style of socialist dictatorship. This is why he mainly used the term when discussing the Spring of Nations and the 1871 Paris Commune, in both of which Blanquism was pretty influential.

Many Blanquists came to join the First International with Marx after the Commune was crushed, perhaps influencing later events. Specifically, Leninists and Trotskyists are put in a bit of a tight spot by the parallels between the above Engels quote and the unfolding of events during the Bolshevik Revolution; since this event had more of the characteristics of a coup than a popular revolution, the Leninists have a hard time explaining why their beliefs are Marxist and not Blanquist.

On the other hand, Stalinists would argue that these parallels were all fabrication by the oppressive bourgeois media and then send thugs to beat up anyone who said otherwise.


Marx and Engels.

Marx believed that all socio-political orders, except the mythical pure communism, were "dictatorships" in which one class dictated to the rest; the "bourgeoisie" (comprising those who owned their means of livelihood, from free farmers on up to prominent industrialists) was assigned that role in his characterization of capitalism. For Marx, socialism would not be any less a dictatorship, but it would be a "dictatorship of the proletariat" where the workers would dictate to everyone else.

The term "dictatorship of the proletariat" was initially coined to differentiate between Marx's idea of a grass-roots worker-run state and the more elitist ideas of Blanquism; but the "dictatorship" part is not meaningless since he said in the Communist Manifesto that this dictatorship would have to resort to "despotic" measures at first (e.g., control the army to conquer other capitalist territories).

But in his defense, he firmly believed that this despotism would be temporary since, in his view, the state was created by the existence of class differences, and the proletarian dictatorship's actions would eliminate these, thus eliminating the state.

The idea of a dictatorship of the proletariat was denounced by Mikhail Bakunin, Marx's contemporary. Bakunin believed that the state instituted classes rather than the other way around, so he asked his famous rhetorical question, "Over whom will the proletariat rule?" He rightly predicted that this state would grow a new ruling class, with the proletariat still ruled.

Marx used the term "socialism" to refer to this transitory dictatorial phase and the "pure communist" classless and stateless society that he believed would follow it. "Classless" and "stateless" were tightly bound together in Marx's theory, and "stateless" meant that there would be no armies or other extrinsic forms of class oppression in that there would be no armies or class oppression. Marx did not go into depth about what this would look like, presumably because he didn't know either; it would be decided by the workers after a revolution. Unfortunately for him, either the workers have never gotten around to doing this or have done so but have not acted how Marx thought they would.


Anarcho-syndicalist demonstration in Spain.

Although anarchism and Marxism share many common goals and enemies, they diverge on several points. The most notable is that anarchists believe that social classes are created by the state, rather than vice versa, so they aim to destroy the state and "build from the ashes."

Hence, unlike Marxists, they reject any attempt to participate in electoral politics, instead working entirely outside the system. One sometimes hears about anarchists bombing something or other or anarchists inciting a riot.

As opposed to Marx, Bakunin believed in the spontaneity of organization. A revolutionary organization has to come into existence during a crisis with little forethought, while Marx believed in foresight and planning in terms of a collective. Anarchists fault Marxist groups for sitting on their rears while anarchists and other groups are out on the front lines; for example, anarchists note that the Bolsheviks were opposed to workers taking strike action at the time of the Russian February Revolution.[13] Bakunin's view is currently reflected by modern Council Communists. He also believed in secret societies that could just mix with workers and that the people had a natural instinct to revolt, and thus it was not worth educating the workers or organizing them. He, therefore, accused Marx of “ruining the workers by making theorists out of them."

The differing definitions of the state led to disputes over methodology and the "dictatorship of the proletariat," as noted above. For example, Bakunin said, “There are about forty million Germans. Are all forty million going to be members of the government?” to which Marx's response was, “Certainly, because the thing starts with the self-government of the commune," apparently supporting a federated bottom-up system of communes as anarchists proposed.

Bakunin also concluded that under Marxism, the state would be no different than that under capitalism and that Marx simply wanted to make it stronger. This is partly because there are many contradictory views in Marx's writings, for instance, supporting central state ownership and planning from above in the Communist Manifesto, similar to what actually happened in the USSR and the other "socialist" states.

Marx also criticized Bakunin by saying that the latter believed in a universal revolution that included the lumpenproletariat (beggars, etc.) and the peasant farmers and the workers. In contrast, Marx had ruled the first two of these groups useless for revolution. Marx thus accused Bakunin of superficiality: knowing many political phrases but not believing in the existence of false consciousness or making any detailed study of economic conditions.

Bakunin responded by predicting that Marxism would lead to a new despotic "Red bureaucracy" that would be far more dictatorial than a capitalist system; this has been an accurate description of every self-described communist state.


Reformist socialists tend to reject the call for revolution and instead choose to work within the current system in order to change it. Most reformist socialists advocate social democracy instead of full nationalization of all industry while others advocate social ownership (cooperatives) in a market economy.

Ethical socialism[edit]

Ethical socialism is a form of liberal socialism that argues that socialism is necessary because it respects human rights, social justice, and civil rights. The ethical socialist may find capitalism to be an oppressive force and therefore believe that socialism is the best alternative. They are more lenient on private property, however, because of their belief in individual freedom.

Liberal socialism[edit]

Liberal socialists (contrary to claims of the Republican Party) are not opposed to capitalism and tend to favor a mixed economy. They support government intervention in the market and a strong welfare state, and might adopt social democracy as their platform. They differ from ethical socialists by stressing economic growth instead of morality. They may support the Third Way over social democracy.

Market socialism[edit]

Market socialism believes that markets (distributing goods and services according to competition and supply and demand) is the optimal or realistic model of socialism. They believe that the ownership system of capitalism "distorts" the market through surplus value and alienation and therefore should be replaced by cooperatives (enterprises organised democratically) that would operate in the market system instead, in order to have a "freed market". [14] There are many versions, from John Roemer's coupon socialism where everyone has a share in the stock market to David Schweickarts economic democracy which has coops and a "rent" on capital to provide revenue for societal funds [15] to Branco Horvats Illyrian model of market socialism, which is an open and free market,[16] to a "Pluralist Commmonwealth" where Community enterprises, cooperatives and credit unions form the basis of a socialist society[17] . They are some of the economic models pushed by market socialists, with other theorists such as Richard Wolff.

Democratic socialism[edit]

Democratic socialism is not socialism that is democratic, as socialism is intended to be inherently democratic. Democratic socialism is simply socialism that is obtained through democratic means. Democratic socialists advocate for socialization by electing socialist leaders through the ballot box instead of through violent revolution. Democratic socialists believe socialization should happen through an accountable democratic government instead of a dictatorship that claims to have their people's best interests in mind (like the Soviet Union, Cuba, China, etc..). In the beginning of the Soviet Union, the Mensheviks supported a similar idea of socialism being achieved through democratic multi-party coalitions, but they were crushed by the Bolsheviks led by Lenin that prefered a one-party state. The term has often been used to refer to social democracy. Still, they are very different philosophies: social democracy looks to reform capitalism. In contrast, democratic socialism (in the long term) looks to abolish it, specifically by having a mixed economy of nationalized industries to provide for needs and worker cooperatives to provide for things in the market, though some have supported decentralized planning. Bernie Sanders has described himself as a democratic socialist. However, his most advertised tenets (a $15 minimum wage, subsidized college, Medicare for all, campaign finance reform...) are more social democratic than democratic socialism. However, he has supported worker cooperatives,[18] which is a democratic socialist thing to do. Other big-name self-described democratic socialists include Hugo Chávez (who supported worker-owned cooperatives although he did ugly, undemocratic things), Mikhail Gorbachev (who tried to reform the Soviet Union into a democratic state but ended up collapsing it), and Jeremy Corbyn (the British Bernie Sanders who's a bit more explicit in his denunciation of capitalism). Plenty of folks have declared democratic socialist views but have had their views whitewashed with time, including Nelson Mandela, Albert Einstein, Mahatma GandhiWikipedia, Helen KellerWikipedia, Martin Luther King, and George Orwell.

Libertarian socialism[edit]

Libertarian socialism is the most anti-authoritarian form of socialism. It's often used as a synonym for anarchism. However, not all anarchists subscribe to socialist thought and some self-described libertarian socialists, such as Daniel De Leon, reject elements of anarchism. Libertarian socialism often takes elements of democratic socialism, such as decentralized planning and self-managed workplaces, to their extreme while also opposing things such as police and prisons, hoping for a community-run "restorative justice" system, and hoping to make as many decisions as possible through consensus by assemblies and councils. The former British Labour Party leader Michael Foot described himself as a libertarian socialist in a 1965 interview where he stated that he believed in socialism that was designed to "get the greatest (amount of) freedom for individuals".[19]


Parade in East Berlin, 1951.

It is claimed by anti-Soviet socialists that the Soviet Union under Stalin was a departure from socialism, on account of the means of production being in the hands of the state instead of the workers. It is occasionally referred to as "state capitalism," "bureaucratic state despotism," or a "degenerated worker's state," by Trotskyites. Anarchists, most of whom were opposed to Lenin's takeover from the outset, would also refer to Lenin's Russia as "state capitalist"; even he himself did. In fact, the system in use in the Soviet Union was a form of "State Socialism", which they officially called "Marxism-Leninism". This system has some similarities with "State Capitalism", with the latter being used primarily by those that are critics of the Soviet kind of Socialism.


See the main article on this topic: Obamunism

Recently, the right wing in the US has been trying to redefine the term "socialist", with the desired meaning being, "a person who flouts the Republican party line on more than two issues."[20] U.S. President Barack Obama has become the poster-boy for this sort of "socialism" (despite having no socialistic tendencies, except for advocating a state owned health care option), as also discussed below, though he does not stray too far, too often from the Republican Party Line considering he's a New Democrat.


Technosocialism is a belief held by some futurists. It is the belief that eventually, we should socialize the entire economy (duh), but unlike other forms of socialism, says that instead of a human workforce, the entire economy should be automated, and the output distributed equally through universal basic income.


National Socialism[edit]

While one might assume that the Nazis are socialist based on their name alone, there's a huge piece that prevents this from being so; Nazi ideology includes the existence of "slave-races" who would perform all the menial tasks a society would need, while the "superior" Germans would have generous social welfare and careers for themselves only. While social welfare is indeed a key aspect of Social Democracy and it's indeed possible to have a stratified society in most versions of socialism, the core concept is that everyone has some "ownership" over their place of employment, whether that's via the workers owning the business directly or everyone getting a share of the profits via taxes and wealth redistribution. Nazism lacks even this most rudimentary requirement. In theory, Nazi ideology would have all the slave-races exterminated eventually with only the Germans remaining, at which point one could argue that the Germans would live in some bizarre form of Social (non)-Democracy and thus be some bizarre/vile form of socialism... until they just declared that the grey-eyed and/or strawberry-blonde Germans to be insufficiently German and they are back to slavery again.

Socialism and political parties[edit]

Socialist International[edit]

Logo of the social democrat Socialist International

The Socialist International is a worldwide federation of socialist political parties, mostly consisting of democratic socialist, labor, and social democratic parties. Over thirty nations are governed by a Socialist International member-party, such as France, Iceland and South Africa. These parties are in practice social democratic or even Third Way/liberal and in recent years have experienced spectacular collapses in the face of polarization.

Communist internationals[edit]

There have been a number of communist internationals. The First International was founded in the 19th century, but dissolved in the midst of the Bakunin-Marx infighting; the Second International followed, but dissolved in the midst of infighting over support of World War I; the Third International (Comintern) was a Soviet-funded body dissolved in World War II. The Fourth International, a Trotskyist organization, still exists.

American Democratic Party[edit]

Some people say that the Democratic Party in the United States are socialists, specifically Barack Obama and the 2008 version of Hillary Clinton. The Democrats are centrists, at most center-left. If they moved left enough even to approach socialistic beliefs, even so far as such factions as the right wing of the Socialist Party USA, they would start being ignored by the Biased Conservative Media.

Why are the Democrats not socialist? Well, it's quite simple. Rather than going into every single way in which they're not, let us look at possibly the most important aspect of socialism, i.e. common ownership of the means of production and thus the abolition of class. The Democrats do not support this, hence are not socialists. At the very most, they would support a welfare state.

The only mainstream American politician approaching socialism on the federal level is Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who self-identifies as a democratic socialist, although he does caucus with the Democrats out of convenience.

Some Democrats, such as former Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich (notwithstanding his swing to the right in recent years), may adhere to social democracy. Social democracy being a "middle-way" between democratic socialism and capitalism (the stuff you see in Scandinavia).

British Labour Party[edit]

Historically, the Labour Party were social democrats, or 'reformists', and Labour governments have made some lasting changes in terms of universal welfare, especially the founding of the National Health Service.

"New Labour" (Tony Blair etc.) were arguably conservatives in all but name, and indeed much has been said about the similarities between their policies and those of Thatcherism.[21][note 3] Clause IV of the Labour Party's constitution, which expressed a long-term commitment to redistribution of wealth and common ownership of the means of production, was rewritten in 1994, under Blair's leadership, as a more vague expression of striving for equality, causing some internal conflict and outrage from "Old Labour" socialist members of the party. In 2015, many social democrats won Labour Party contests, signaling a return to the left; there was only one actual socialist who was elected to leadership, however, although being the leader of the party, he (Jeremy Corbyn) does have a lot more say in party policy. In the run-up to the 2017 General Election the party published a report entitled Alternative Models of Ownership which tried to envision economic and business models without traditional capitalists; even though it ran its most left-wing campaign in years, envisioning more state-run corporations, universal welfare programs and public services, the party stopped far short of actively railing against capitalism in general, and in fact tried to court some businesses over Brexit.

What is socialism?[edit]

Where do the means of production go?[edit]

Even with non-dictatorial forms of socialism, when it comes to redistributing the means of production, "working class" has in practice generally meant the government; indeed, socialists have been found protesting the sale of government-owned companies to their workers, as in the worker buyout of the British National Freight Corporation under the premiership of Margaret Thatcher.[22]

In their defense, these privatizations were simply the sale/distribution of shares of stock to the workers, with nothing preventing the workers from then selling the shares at a higher market price to a conventional capitalist later on (which almost invariably happened). The predominant form of "privatized socialism" would be cooperatives, under which workers own the firm for which they work and cannot sell or transfer their ownership -- it's tied to their job.

Financing entrepreneurship[edit]

It is an axiom of socialism that on Day 1 of access to power by a truly socialist government, the stock exchanges would be burned to the ground, and all the brokers would forfeit their dishonest monetary gains and be sent to the streets to beg.

This raises the question of how useful entrepreneurship would then be financed. The obvious pragmatic answer is that community-run (mutual) banks would store and lend credit for investment in said community, which would operate as a not-for-profit and be managed democratically, as opposed to profit-driven banks run by shareholders. The standard answer is that, if people have investment money to spend, it should be funneled through a state-maintained industrial fund, that would decide where to invest the dosh in the best interests of society as a whole. The opportunities for corruption in such a system are too obvious to be worth detailing. In practice, the sad truth is that entrepreneurship based on disparities in social power does not thrive under socialism, except as a part of the black market.

The forms of socialism and/or anarchism that advocate for the abolition of the money system entirely would find this problem non-existent for the most part, but a system like that would require either extreme isolation or a global socialist revolution. The former isn't possible or even remotely beneficial for other aspects of society, and the latter tends to go south about four seconds after it begins.

Socialism and religion[edit]

Marxism explicitly criticizes religion, with Marx referring to religion as "the opium of the people"[note 4] to which a pre-socialist state of existence has given rise. Communists have made heavy persecutions of churches when in power, and in some cases even banned religion altogether. Anarchists are also known for their anti-clerical church-burning activities (although not all anarchists perform such behavior, and some are actually Christians themselves).

But Marx did not advocate the banning of religion, instead saying that it is simply a way to cope, and to see something bright at the end of the tunnel when one is faced with the injustices of feudal and capitalist society, and says that the criticism of religion is thus the criticism of the conditions that breed it.

There are also currents of religious socialism, as will be mentioned right now.

The first socialist?[edit]

"Jesus Expels the Moneylenders from the Temple" by Giovanni Pannini.

We'll give you a few hints: he is generally portrayed as a tall, blue eyed white man with long hair, wearing a flowing robe, or nailed to a cross, although he was more likely short, had short hair, brown skin, brown eyes and would have never worn a robe, as it would have been a terrible hazard in his carpentry work. A few quotes:

  • Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.- Matthew 19:24 (KJV)
  • Do not store up your treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart is also.- Matthew 6:19-21
  • No man can serve two masters. For a slave will either love the one and hate the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.- Matthew 6:24
  • Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.- Matthew 19:21
  • Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'- Matthew 25:34-40
  • The love of money is the root of all evil."- 1 Timothy 6:10
He's got your back!

As recounted in Acts 2:44, the early Christian church practiced a form of religious communism with "all things common." Today, there are many Christian socialist throughout the world, particularly in South America, which hold that the teachings of Jesus Christ and Marx line up nicely, and see Christ as a great social reformer and the first socialist agitator. However, these people have been criticized for equating the poor, spoken of at length by Jesus, with Marx's proletariat; specifically, Jesus said, "For the poor always ye have with you" (John 12:8), while Marxism aims to do away with the proletariat altogether. There are also small Christian groups such as the Hutterites who also practice a form of voluntary religious communism. Monasteries and other similar religious institutions may also do so.

Oddly enough, his message has been largely ignored by some of his North American followers, who seem to think he was actually ye olde Ronald Reagan or a long-haired John Galt. Cognitive dissonance sure is great, isn't it? Although in their defense, Jesus never said give your money to the poor through government. He talked about private self-decided socialism. Of course, they don't do that either.

Socialism and patriotism[edit]

Socialism and patriotism/nationalism are typically in opposition and socialists are generally against the concept of nations, seeing them as an unnecessary division. Many socialists instead strive for "internationalism." To quote Eugene V. Debs, early leader of the SPUSA (he started as a social democrat, and then turned to socialism along the lines of De Leonism. He ran for President while locked in jail for protesting against the first World War), "I have no country to fight for; my country is the earth, and I am a citizen of the world." They often view patriotism and nationalism as simply ways to divide the working class, like racism and sexism.

This has, unfortunately, led to some people using socialism as a front to push hatred of whatever ethnic group they can paint as coterminous with whatever class of people are judged to be the "oppressors" this week; the bloodiest example of this was Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. It is also seen in some left-wing anti-American sentiment, as criticized in the Euston ManifestoWikipedia.

On the flip side, many leaders of "actually existing" socialist countries have promoted nationalism however. Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, for instance, as well as probably most other Latin American socialists, has definitely played on nationalist appeal.[23] Gamal Abdel Nasser promoted Arab nationalism.

Socialism and revolution[edit]

While socialism is revolutionary, in that it seeks to change the mechanisms of society, it does not necessarily require violent revolution. Many socialists support a revolution through the ballot, while others, such as De Leonists, advocate both industrial and political organization (although they may still think that "where the ballot is silenced, the bullet must speak").[24]

Interesting facts[edit]

While it may appear surprising to some, there are many socialist economic models, with socialist central planning only being one of the many.

Ricardian/Smithian socialism[edit]

There's a socialist economic model which relies on free markets, inspired by the teachings of Adam Smith and David Ricardo. It's known as Ricardian socialismWikipedia. In this case, a free market economy exists, with the means of production being owned by those who use them to produce products and services. That is - the employees of the firms own and operate the firms, kind of like cooperatives. Even Marxian economists, like Richard D. Wolff, advocate this model.[25]

The Lange model[edit]

Another example of market socialism,[26] the Lange model, takes its name from the Polish economist Oskar Ryszard Lange (1904-1965).[27] In this system, the state operates a market economy. In other words, the state owns the means of production, but they operate according to the laws of the market – prices are set freely, and efficiency is maximized. This means that there would, hypothetically, be no shortages and long waiting queues (such as occurred in Soviet-type economies), since the price mechanism would re-establish the equilibrium of supply and demand. The main advantage of such an economy is that the state can easily use the entire profits of the industry, as well as its budget, to make massive investments into the economy, research and development, and medicine, presumably leading to high rates of economic growth, high scientific and technological innovation, and growing life-expectancy. One major criticism of the Lange model suggests that governments, regardless of political orientation, tend to allocate resources on the basis of political power and expediency, rather than on the basis of market forces, so it is highly dubious that the massive investments presumed to be made under this system would be effective or efficient allocations. Another critique states that state ownership of the means of production can only be enforced by the continuous use of force by the state. For example, any time an individual started any private enterprise, such enterprise must either be seized by the state, or shut down, or individuals must be prohibited by threat of force from starting any private enterprise for such a model to function.

Decentralized planning[edit]

Then, there's decentralized planning. Basically, it is pretty much what its name suggests – economic planning performed in a horizontal, more democratic and decentralized manner.

Computer-operated economies[edit]

See the main article on this topic: The Venus Project

Socialist economic models which rely on supercomputers to do the planning have also been proposed. The author of this section had talked to an economics professor about the feasibility of such a model, with the response being that the research in this area was abandoned in the late 1980s, when it was shown that planning a modern economy using supercomputers would require around 20 years (with the use of Leontief's input-output model), using the computer technology of that time. The professor questioned said that he got this information from a lecture given by a Polish professor of economics in the late 1980s. However, the processing power of supercomputers had increased by a factor of over ten thousand since then, so such models can now be considered as being more realistic.

Notable proponents of socialist theories[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. In The German Ideology, Marx describes communism not as "a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence [i.e. capitalism]" (see "Karl Marx. The German Ideology. 1845 - Part I: Feuerbach"). Marx further wrote that "the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves" (see "The International Workingmen's Association, General Rules, October 1864"). Indeed, The Communist Manifesto proclaimed: "The theory of Communism may be summed up in one sentence: Abolish all private property". However, note that while in capitalism, private and personal property are considered to be exactly equivalent, in socialist, Marxist, and anarchist philosophies the distinction between private and personal property is extremely important:
    • Personal property includes "items intended for personal use" (see "Eight myths about socialism—and their answers"), e.g. clothes, homes, vehicles, and sometimes money (see "African Socialism". p. 25). It must be gained in a socially fair manner and the owner has a distributive right to exclude others.
    • Private property is a social relationship between the owner and persons deprived (not a relationship between person and thing), e.g. artifacts, factories, mines, dams, infrastructure, natural vegetation, mountains, deserts, and seas. Marxism holds that a process of class conflict and revolutionary struggle could result in victory for the proletariat and the establishment of a communist society in which private property and ownership is abolished over time and the means of production and subsistence belong to the community. In this context, private property and ownership means ownership of the means of production, not personal possessions.
    • To many socialists, the term "private property" refers to capital or the means of production, while "personal property" refers to consumer and non-capital goods and services (see "What is the difference between private property and possession?" and "End Private Property, Not Kenny Loggins").
    As stated in The Communist Manifesto of 1848: "The distinguishing feature of Communism is not the abolition of property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property. But modern bourgeois private property is the final and most complete expression of the system of producing and appropriating products, that is based on class antagonisms, on the exploitation of the many by the few." (Communist Manifesto, Chapter II.) In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property" (see "Communist Manifesto (Chapter 2)").
  2. It has been suggested that Marx and Engels did not improve upon that state of affairs.
  3. On the other hand, they dramatically increased the level of public expenditure. Following the 2008 recession, the proportion of public spending in the economy hit 50% of GDP. How this level of state intervention in the economy can be considered "conservative" is anyone's guess (then again, see Dubya).
  4. Some context: in Marx's time, opium was seen (and actually is) a very effective painkiller, and at the time there was nothing more effective that opium, so he's not saying that religion is a dangerous drug, but rather a painkiller used to cope with pain.


  1. Rear Platform and Other Informal Remarks in New York by Harry S. Truman (October 10, 1952) Harry S. Truman Library & Museum, National Archives.
  2. "The Socialist Industrial Union Program of Daniel De Leon".
  3. Vladimir Lenin. "The State and Revolution — Chapter 5".
  4. Friedrich Engels. "Friedrich Engels - Die Entwicklung des Sozialismus von der Utopie zur Wissenschaft - III"
  5. Karl Marx. "Critique of the Gotha Programme".
  6. "The Gotha and Erfurt Programs".
  7. See the Wikipedia article on Mikhail Bakunin.
  11. Rowland Hill Harvey (1947). Robert Owen: Social Idealist. University of California Press. pp. 99–100.
  13. "An Anarchist FAQ – Appendix 4.1 – Appendix — What happened during the Russian Revolution?".
  14. [1]
  15. [2]
  16. [3]
  17. [4]
  18. "Worker-Owned Businesses".
  20. "Some Conservatives Push a 'Purity Test' for GOP Candidates".
  21. "Thatcherism and New Labour: "The similarities between Thatcherism and New Labour are more important than the differences".
  22. "The Impact of Privatisation: Ownership and Corporate Performance in the UK".
  23. See Chávez in some sort of goofy flag costume.
  24. See "The Socialist Industrial Union Program of Daniel De Leon".
  25. "Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism".
  26. See the Wikipedia article on market socialism.
  27. See the Wikipedia article on Oskar R. Lange.