Are you a socialist?
The Truth About Socialism, and Other Tall Tales
Of late there seems to be considerably more discussion about socialism. Many people make wild claims such as "no socialist country has ever done well", and that socialists want to "steal your money". These statements are fine to make, but can they be substantiated, are they based in fact, or is it just propaganda demonizing something that is not understood.
I have a confession to make, and I make it here, I am a socialist through and through. I stand by my beliefs and remain steadfastly socialist. That being said I have never once voted for a socialist party, or have I, hard to say what's the definition of a socialist party? The problem is its not a question of which parties are socialist and which aren't, the problem is that no one seems to be really certain what socialism is. Perhaps by the end of this lens you will see what I mean, and perhaps by the end of this lens I will have you convinced that you too are a socialist, you just didn't know it.
The Red Scare
McCarthyism is alive and well, and if you doubt it just search on google for socialism and a list of those who someone has labelled "socialist" in a negative light will show up without much effort. Socialism is a dirty word to many, its the worst insult some people can imagine. I would like to clear the air a bit, information is power, and as such I think information about what Socialism really is will do this.
Bill Maher Weighs In
What Socialism Isn't
Recently a message has been circulating Facebook and other social media sites that supposedly demonstrates the dangers of socialism. This is the message as I first saw it:
Think about this…
An economics professor at Texas Tech said he had never failed a single
student, but had once failed an entire class.
The class (students) insisted that socialism worked since no one would be
poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer. The professor then said,
“OK, we will have an experiment in this class on socialism.”
“All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so
no one will fail and no one will receive an A.”
After the first test the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The
students who had studied hard were upset while the students who had
studied very little were happy.
But, as the second test rolled around, the students who had studied little
studied even less and the ones who had studied hard decided that since
they couldn’t make an A, they also studied less. The second Test average
was a D.
No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around the average grade was an
The scores never increased as bickering, blame, name calling, all resulted
in hard feelings and no one would study for anyone else.
To their great surprise all failed. The professor told them that socialism
would ultimately fail because the harder people try to succeed the greater
their reward (capitalism) but when a government takes all the reward
away (socialism) no one will try or succeed.
To me, this tale of the professor demonstrates, very clearly, what people are afraid of, and I don’t blame them. If I truly thought that that’s how socialism worked I would fight it too. Now I have no doubt that the story is purely allegorical and not based in actual fact, otherwise the professor of the story would be in hot water on a number of issues, the main problem he would face is that most job reviews for teachers are partially based on grades, if an entire class failed administrators almost always view it to be a failure of the teachers and NOT the students. The real sticky part is that the story doesn’t describe socialism at all, or even communism for that matter (although it is closer to communism).
If you examine the tale of the professor you’ll notice some assumptions that must be made about socialism in order for it to be a true experiment in socialism making the grade the equivalent of cash one must assume that in socialism everyone, CEO or garbage collector or unemployed, makes exactly the same amount of cash per year. This simply doesn’t hold true when examined up close. Even in the most extreme examples of socialism the redistribution of wealth is not absolute, it is not even across the board. Karl Marx, in Communist Manifesto stated “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”. Marx intended that socialism would allow people to reach their full potential pursuing their talents and the state would provide what was needed for this.
This seems a simple concept and it seems to suggest everyone receives exactly what they need to survive and no more, but this is not the case at all. In a true communistic state the state would provide any worker with all the tools and comforts to be the most effective at their job.
Another common thing I see regarding socialism is people stating that democracy is so much better than socialism and communism. This I find one of my biggest pet peeves.
Read on to find out the Truth about Socialism and stop buying into the demonized view of socialism.
Socialism Vs. Democracy
Many have tried to rail against socialism by listing the benefits of democracy, however this is simply wrong, oh democracy is a great system I have no beef with democracy. The problem is that democracy system of government, while socialism is not, there is nothing conflicting about a completely democratic AND completely socialist government, at least not in theory (we’ll get to that later). Socialism is simply not a governmental system, that’s the long and the short of it. Socialism is an economic theory/method, and that’s all it is. In very socialist platform there is nothing that indicates that socialism and democracy cannot coexist, The Communist Manifesto makes no mention at all of the system of government, he’s not interested in it. Socialists by definition aren’t all that interested in the system of government, but more about the common man, that is the very reason for the existence of the common man.
A more fitting comparison is Socialism vs. Capitalism, that is a fair comparison.
So What Is Socialism?
Socialism is, as I have stated, an economic method a means of which the wealth of the nation are distributed. In the most extreme models of communism the wealth is not just divided between the people evenly, and while ownership is abolished in communism that doesn't mean you can't acquire things "Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society; all that is does is to deprive him of the power to subjugate the labor of others by means of such appropriation" (The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx).
What socialism does is distribute wealth in a manner that benefits the society as a whole. Every single government of the world practices socialism to one degree or another, they collect tax and distribute these funds as they feel necessary in order to benefit the country as a whole.
I am not trying to make you communist, just trying to raise awareness that communism is simply the most extreme form of socialism, and its sorely misunderstood. Every single government HAS to be at least partially Socialist. Socialist is simply the process of thinking what’s best for the society BEFORE thinking whats best for the individual, it does not mean not thinking about whats best for yourself. A socialist is not automatically a communist any more than a capitalist is automatically a fascist. So I will repeat myself one more time, Socialism is not the scary monster trying to destroy democracy, democracy and socialism are not mutually exclusive.
© 2014 Jeff Johnston