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Forum:I am Socialist, and here is why

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I do NOT like the socialist Libya under DJ[1] Gaddafi. However, it is not a Social DEMOCRATIC system.

I, like most western socialists, are Social Democrats. It says that buinesses should be controlled democratically, the workers control the buinesses. Democracy is good, it worked for government. Why can't it work for buinesses?

Also, a conservative would say "All RationalWikians are liberals, and thus socialists". However, we know that isn't true. Colbert|FanThere are socialists than there is everyone else. 19:21, 9 March 2011 (UTC)

Not all self-identifying socialists think businesses ought to be controlled by the workers - that's more of a communist position. Now, simply saying that democracy works for government and then asking why can't it work for business is just lazy. You're going to have to put in more effort than that. Firstly, there are many types of democracy. How do you see businesses being controlled democratically? Would the employees vote for a CEO? How much control would the investors have over the business? Most importantly, what incentive does an investor have to put money into a company when the fate of the company will lie in the hands of employees who have little experience in business, finance, and law? ONE / TALK 13:00, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
Social Democrats, no matter whether of the European or another variety, do not aim for "democratic control" of enterprises. That would necessarily entail abolishing existing property rights through collectivization or nationalization, as you can't have people owning something, yet leave them with no control over it. What Social Democrats stand for is a more even distribution of the spoils generated by a market economy, asserting employees' rights and preserving upwards social mobility. They've been quite successful in achieving these goals even while respecting private owner- and entrepreneurship. Röstigraben (talk) 13:15, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
ColbertFan's idea seems to be basically industrial democracy, syndicalism, etc. I support the idea of a certain number of seats on the board of directors of a corporation being set aside for representatives elected by the employees; I believe they already have such a system in some European countries, such as Germany. (((Zack Martin))) 06:45, 13 August 2011 (UTC)

How is Gaddafi a socialist in any way?! Libya is a typical capitalist state with a small minority in Tripoli exploiting the natural wonders of the rest of the country. By the way there is a significant difference between democratic socialism and social democracy (which actually does not want to replace capitalism with socialism, but wants to make it less cruel). --Rastko (talk) 06:05, 13 August 2011 (UTC)

Socialism. Democracy. Liberalism. Communism. Conservatism… Such interesting words aren’t they? Well yes, that’s exactly what they are. Words. Words have meanings. Meanings that can change. Once upon a time the word “Fuck” simply meant “to hit something”.

It is very dangerous to think that one’s own definition of a word is automatically the definition of the rest of the world of that word. Especially if it comes to political terms. Gadaffi’s socialism was a colourful (yet overly green) blend of quasi socialist-ish ideas and Islamism. It’s easy to think up something and give it a catchy name that would appeal to the working peoples. People like Hitler understood this very well.

A good example is the word “democratic”. I guess we could generally summarise that it has something to do with “the rule of the people” whatever that may imply. It might mean as much as “(all) the people govern everything in society, without the meddling of rulers or leaders.” Or it could mean something like: “people chose representatives that will look after their interest and rule in their stead”. Places like North Korea (officially the DEMOCRATIC people’s republic of Korea) or East Germany (the German DEMOCRATIC Republic) seem to stretch the meaning of the word even further along the lines of something like: “A group of guys (yes, mostly dudes) ruling over a society in the interest of the people… or at least what they say they think is the interest of the people”.

Now, Socialism… What about that? It seems to me that definitions are even stretchier then democracy for this one. I think it is important to study the history of that word to get any clue on what it is. This is my interpretation:

First of all, to me socialism is synonymous with communism and to a large degree with anarchism. Socialism and thus communism are by definition democratic (as in, the people rule over themselves without the meddling of rulers), and therefore anti-authoritarian, and anti-hierarchic. Basically socialism, communism and anarchism are the ideas that we should get rid of hierarchical society. And that this is indeed possible.

Now, one might classify the above definition as the most “pure”, “extreme”, or “radical” definition of socialist ideas. I myself prefer “radical”. Radical socialists, communists and anarchists seek to overthrow the current, in their eyes unequal social structure and replace it with an egalitarian social structure. Moderates might seek to file out the sharp edges of inequality that come forth from the society we live in, but not attack the basic engine of society. It has become custom to call moderate socialists “socialists”, or “social-democrats” and radical socialists “communists”. Although historically even the term “social-democrat” was used to describe radical socialists, and therefore the words are rather interchangeable.

Of course, when we talk about socialism, we can’t avoid Karl Marx as a major theoretical contributor to the subject. As far as I understand it, he saw Capitalism as a great leap forward for mankind in the since of social equality and prosperity in comparison to previous modes of production. Yes, that’s right folks, Marx praised capitalism for the progressive role it has played in history. However, he then continued to point out that in the way capitalism works has a limit to it’s role as a social equaliser. Capitalism divides society along economic lines, producing an industrial elite aka the capitalist class aka the bourgeoisie who possess and control all the means of production, and those who do not: the working class aka the proletariat.

The essence of Marxism is the idea that all (social) life is first and foremost based on economics, and that the arrangement of the economy dictates the arrangement of society. This idea is of course materialist in the philosophical sense, and has many parallels with the basics of evolutionary biology. Marx was therefore rather exited and delighted when Darwin published his work.

The thing that sets Marxist socialism apart from previous, utopian kinds of socialism is that it seeks to firmly base itself in economics and the scientific method, hence the term “scientific socialism” as opposed to “utopian socialism”. Marxism tries to make a prediction and set up guidelines how to transform society from a capitalist one to a socialist/communist one. But it specifically does NOT specify how this society looks, it only outlines it’s economic basis. So no blue Mao-suits required for the road to socialism.

So, what is NOT socialism? It’s surprising to see that so many people today still regard the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, and even North Korea as socialist. Or at the other end of the spectrum, see Sweden or even Germany as model socialist nations, or even the Democratic party in the US as a vanguard of the world socialist revolution.

The most enduring myth about socialism is that it’s aim is to give the state more control over the economy/society to ensure the welfare of “the people”. It’s not surprising that this is such an enduring myth about the legend, seeing that post WWI social-democracy tried to utilise the state as a kind of dispenser of welfare for the working class, and the fact that the Stalinist regimes were sate-ist into the extreme. However, when one studies the subject a little more carefully, one will see that (radical) socialism fiercely rejects the notion of state. Arguing that the state is the institution aimed at controlling the underclass for the benefit of the upper class. A device for oppression, an intrinsically hierarchical aspect of society. Socialists, Communists and Anarchists fight therefore for a stateless society. One of the main disagreements between anarchists and socialists/communists is over the role the state plays in the transitional period between capitalism and communism. Socialists argue that the capitalist state should be overthrown, and temporarily replaced by a state controlled by the working class, in effect the new ruling class. This state will then function to safeguard the revolution against the old elite, wich might still muster forces to restore the old order. After the treat of counter-revolution has subsided the state will lose it’s function and therefore cease to exist, as there are no longer classes in society that “need oppressing”. Anarchists argue that the state should be destroyed and no attempts be made to build a worker’s state, as the apparatus of a state will always lead society to regress into a hierarchical structure.

So, what happened in Russia then? It’s obvious from even limited observation that the USSR and it’s political offspring, including the PRC, Cuba, Vietnam, East Germany etc. that, seeing as the state played a central role in these societies, that something was deeply amiss if one insists on classifying them as “socialist states”. I think that those places were and are profoundly un-socialist and deeply counterrevolutionary, even reactionary. Seeds of this reaction were actually sown during the Russian civil war, which followed the revolution of 1917. Even though the Bolshevik forces were victorious in that civil war, Soviet society became deeply militarized and traumatised by the experience. The country lay in ruin, and the revolution elsewhere in Europe, for example in Germany, ended in failure. This led to the isolation of the worker’s state in Russia, which quickly led to reactionary forces to take over and crush the organisations of the working class. (it’s important to remember that many posts in the Red Army were filled with old tsarist officers). In the end the counter-revolutionary forces got the upper hand with Joseph Stalin as their front man, and the revolutionary aspirations of the Russian workers were crushed. Of course, Stalin and his buddies made sure to keep the veil of socialism and the revolution around them to mislead the people. People who didn’t buy this deception were put to “good use” in the gulag labour camps, if they didn’t get lead in the first place that is. Then the Stalinist clique went on to dislocate the entire world communist movement through their major influence in the Komintern, the international affiliation of communist parties.

The so called “communist states” then, are not at all an example of socialism. In many ways they were as reactionary as the fascist regimes of Europe and South America. They were the product of a revolution that stagnated and collapsed under the weight of counter-revolution.

Then there is the issue of Social-Democracy and Social-Reformism. As I pointed out earlier, the term “Social-Democracy” originally meant just the same as “communism” it was just a synonym. At it’s foundation, the Social Democratic Party of Germany was a radical revolutionary party, and we must not forget that the Bolsheviks were actually “the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party”. However, over the cause of the 20th century Social-Democracy became exclusively associated with social-reformism. At first this meant that it was better to gradually transform (reform) society from capitalism to communism, but later became to mean the idea that one should seek to soften the harsh realities that capitalism produces by regulating the market and provide social security for the working class. The first idea, that one should try to gradually change society instead of revolutionarily overthrow it could still be considered to be somewhat genuinely socialist or Marxist. The latter idea is however un-socialist as Marxists would argue that as long as there is a ruling class (the capitalists) and a state, then there will be inequality in society, and the rulers might at any moment take back concessions won trough strikes and social struggles. I would argue that a welfare state is in fact another tool for the ruling class to keep the workers quiet. Feeding them with social security to prevent them from rising up to claim true freedom from wage-slavery.

Marxists do not believe in the state regulating the economy for the benefit of the working people. Neither do they believe in the state as a kind of mediator between the working people and big business. It might work in the short term, but in the long run the fundamental mechanics of capitalist commodity economy will always lead to social instability and serfdom. Therefore the notion that socialists should have any interest in bringing more control to the state is ludicrous. To the contrary, Socialist should seek to weaken the state as it is an apparatus with which the bourgeoisie (the ruling class) enforces it’s socio-economic dominance on society.

That’s enough for now I guess… Feel free to ask questions.

Regards, Bobby Siecker --Rombrecht (talk) 04:16 CET, 14 December 2012 (UTC)