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Human Nature is Selfish, Socialism is Bad

Updated on July 4, 2012

As a communist perhaps the most flawed “argument” I regularly encounter concerns human nature. The premise takes many variations, but generally may be expressed as “communism or socialism cannot work as human nature is selfish”. Indeed, this very week while partaking in communist party street activity our group of comrades were approached by an immigrant from the United States (Yes, white middle-class Americans can be immigrants too). His first objection raised was the go to phrases of the anti communist. “Stalin killed millions”, he decried. That would be unlike the 12 million slaves killed in transit from Africa to the US, that would be unlike the murder unleashed in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and others by the United States, but I digress.

Eventually, he moved on to the issue of human nature. With all the brashness and self-confidence in the world he assured us (without any evidence of course) that human nature is selfish, therefore we cannot build socialism. He then talked….and talked…..and talked, very loudly and at great length regarding society’s ills only being fixable by way of personal responsibility. A typical bourgeois argument.

Some problems emerge however, and these should be glaringly obvious. How can personal responsibility be exercised by a race, by beings whoms nature and very essence is selfish? How one cannot recognize this self-contradictory logic is beyond belief. If our very essence is selfish it makes no sense that we would operate with personal responsibility (personal responsibility implies a degree selflessness - that we will act with a greater good or the good of others in mind).Obviously, we would not and certainly not in the absence of coercion eg socialist governance.

“Government is not the answer” says the false consciousness soaked proponent of the market. But we communists, we socialists do not say government is the answer. No, we say “the organized working class is the answer”.

But also, to say human nature is selfish is to imply that human nature is static and fixed. Therefore, the essence of the greatest scientific and philosophical minds is the very same as early caveman, Adolf Hitler had the same nature as Mahatma Gandhi, the investment banker acts with the same altruism as Mother Theresa. Similarly, if our nature is selfish then why is the existence of a tribal/communal mode of production fully observed as historical fact?

One’s own observation is that the fellow described in this meeting (and the many others like him) is indicative of an education which imparts “knowledge” from above with empty sloganeering as opposed to equipping the masses with the tools to discover and labour for knowledge in an independent, logical and scientific manner. But, this is as an all together other issue for another hub on another day.

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    • Josak profile image

      Josak 4 years ago from variable

      Almost as bad as the "communism/socialism is welfare/entitlement" well put and you have saved me the trouble of writing the same hub. Voted up and etc.

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      “Stalin killed millions”, he decried. That would be unlike the 12 million slaves killed in transit from Africa to the US, that would be unlike the murder unleashed in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and others by the United States - So, do we just overlook mass murder because it has happened in so many cases and it is still happening?

      "human nature is selfish, therefore we cannot build socialism" - I also disagree with this statement. Human Nature is what we do with it. Nurture/Education is what matters and what builds the human character. We shape it to be what we want it to be.

      And we certainly can build effective social systems. I have been saying this so much, I feel like a broken record sometimes: "We are social animals; we live in these things called societies and so logic would insist that we should put in place social systems as well, in terms of our economic models."

      “Government is not the answer” says the false consciousness soaked proponent of the market. But we communists, we socialists do not say government is the answer. No, we say “the organized working class is the answer” - I would say that Unity, co-operation, compassion, understanding, responsibility and acceptance are some of the answers needed for a better existence for all of us.

      "equipping the masses with the tools to discover and labour for knowledge in an independent, logical and scientific manner"- I do see this as something on which we should work on. Therefore, I think education is the key to many of our problems.

      Much food for thought here. Thank You for putting this article together.

      All the best!

    • Comrade Joe profile image
      Author

      Comrade Joe 4 years ago from Glasgow, United Kingdom

      My point was not intended to be understood as to overlook mass murder because it has happened in other cases. I was trying to highlight, and probably failed in this, that there is a double standard at play when it comes to anti-communists. They always attack on the basis of Stalin or Mao killed x amount of people. If a pacifist aimed that criticism at us, I may give more credence to their criticism. But I cannot accept that criticism being made by a proponent of a system with at least an equally bad record. It is just the blind double standards displayed by this particular line of criticism i wanted to bring attention to.

      Cheers

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Greetings again Comrade Joe,

      thank You for the conversation.

      The reason why I mentioned the gulags and the countless murders which took place during the purge, was because if I was to label myself from a political perspective, I would most likely fall under the category of a socialist. As such, I appreciate the work of Karl Marx and the communist ideology.

      What I do not appreciate is tyranny. I do not think Marx spoke about the need for a dictatorship in a communist system. With that in mind, I probably can say that all attempts in the past, at establishing a communist state involved dictators, people being oppressed, killed, etc. This has tainted the ideology of communism so bad that saying that I am a socialist might even sound worst to some people than if I said I was a sorcerer. I find myself doing damage control on part of communism and socialism because of the atrocities caused by people such as Stalin, Mao, Kim Il Sung, Nicolae Ceausescu, etc.

      So that is why, I try to be as straight-forward as possible and I am of the opinion that true communism was never actually put in practice.

      Just my opinion. I was certainly not here to bash either the ideology of communism or socialism. I just wanted to point-out that there have been some grave mistakes made in the past. It is also my opinion that we should learn from those mistakes and see how we can build on the ideas and practices which history provides for us.

      All the best!

    • Comrade Joe profile image
      Author

      Comrade Joe 4 years ago from Glasgow, United Kingdom

      I wouldn't classify the Soviet system as a dictatorship in the sense of having an all powerful leader with all power invested in them. It was quite different to a typical dictator like Franco or Suharto. No Soviet leader, not even Stalin enjoyed that luxury. If he did people like Khrushchev would not have been in positions of power, they would have been removed, or at least rendered politically obsolete.

      What the USSR was, is a dictatorship in the Marxist-Leninist sense of the dictatorship of the proletariat: dictatorship of the working class through it's party.

      On the issue of Marx, I think this extract from the Manifesto, points to the Soviet system being one he would have generally endorsed.

      "The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible. Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property".

      My own view is that the Stalin period, although wildly exaggerated in terms of perceptions of cruelty, is that it was a historical necessity. Without safeguarding the revolution it would likely have went the way of any other number of failed socialist revolutions.

      On the point that communism was never achieved anywhere, I don't think any Leninist could argue otherwise. I may be arguing technicalities here but Marxist-Leninists hold that communism cannot possibly be built in only one country, only socialism can be built in that way. So the aim of a Soviet Union or Cuba is to build socialism individually. Only when the global balance of forces swing in favour of the communists can the final transformation be made. So i wouldn't ever say the USSR or any other country achieved communism, but they have built socialist societies, of course with imperfections, but socialist systems all the same.

    • Marquis profile image

      Marquis 4 years ago from Ann Arbor, MI

      Stalin also waged war against the Church using militant atheism ways.

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