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15 July 2019

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Donald

The important distinction is between democratic socialists who want to acquire power peacefully and the ones who prefer a violent revolution. The latter type always leads to disaster. The former type might fail, but can be voted out of office.

And within the category of “ democratic socialism”, much of the time they aren’t really talking about governments owning the means of production, but only a bigger social welfare state. Medicare for all, for instance. Bernie Sanders is actually an FDR style liberal Democrat.

Sean McBride

Socialism is a pseudo-rational secularist cult, disguised as a "scientific" doctrine, distinguished by its inability to learn from its long succession of disastrous economic and social experiments all around the world for the past 100 plus years.

Socialists keep making the same mistakes over and over again, with the same bad results every time, justified and rationalized by the same irrational excuses.

It's amazing that these people keep popping up, from one generation to the next, completely oblivious to the well-established track record with regard to socialism and all its Marxist variants. Clearly one is dealing with a psychological phenomenon (problem) here -- a fundamental mind-warp than includes elements of messianism, grandiosity and infantilism.

Peter C

Few if any societies are devoid of any elements of socialism. Publically funded primary and secondary education, mail delivery, garbage collection, police and fire departments, and public roads are all beneficial to society. In the US, Medicare and Medicaid are generally considered to be good things, and it puzzles me that so many are vehemently against extending public medical care to the entire population. Such individuals likely have been duped by the insurance and drug industries and their minions.

PJustison

We have seen in history the malign effects of both unfettered capitalism, and of pure ideological socialism. Before any regulation of the economy in the USA, we had – children working in mines and factories; severe environmental degradation; frequent economic collapses; rapacious monopolies; dangerous drugs such as thalidomide; etc. And there has been no example of a socialist economy humming along without the concomitant severe repression of individual rights.
Either theory of organizing the economy needs modification from the pure state to work in humanely. Once when asked my politics I respond semi-facetiously – “Progressive capitalist or pragmatic socialist, not sure which.”

Dave Schuler

IMO one of the confounding issues is weak, ambiguous, or incorrect use of terminology. So, for example, homogeneous consensus-oriented societies with strong social safety nets even though they may refer to themselves as "socialist" are actually highly capitalistic. They're just small homogeneous consensus-oriented societies with strong social safety nets.

EVERY large multi-ethnic multi-confessional country that has adopted socialism has adopted a form of Stalinism.

Outrage Beyond

Re:

"I am somewhat surprised to learn from your comments how many SST regulars are sympathetic to socialist goals and proposed measures in society and government."

I posit that such sympathies, which, as reported in the media, are also reflected in public opinion polls, particularly polls of "millennials," are a natural reaction to the present-day pathologies of capitalism.

In no particular order:

Crony capitalism; monopolies, duopolies, and other such market-dominating companies; Wall Street parasites and other rent-seeking vermin; the military-industrial complex; bailouts and similar "socialism for the rich"; and the many other indicators of one set of rules for the wealthy and well-connected, vs. a savage Hobbesian style of capitalism for those starting from scratch.

When the game is rigged, and most people know it's rigged, they want something different. Opinion polls don't reflect nuance; only the desire for something different, which is expressed as "socialism" but generally without defining it with any precision.

I note that two of the most popular government programs in existence, namely, Social Security and Medicare, are socialist in nature. With that said, they are hardly Marxist, although young people forced to pay into these schemes might regard them as Marxist, or simply as scams. Some might also describe the US military as the largest socialist enterprise in existence in the USA.

Basic solution? Level the playing field, break up the Wall Street parasite institutions, conscript all the Beltway Bandits into the military (no more outsourcing) and nationalize the war profiteers. While we're at it, close the overseas bases, cut the war budget by half, then by half again, and use the money to invest in infrastructure, manufacturing, education, healthcare, and other areas where the country as a whole will get something in return, rather than most of it going to a tiny coterie of fat-cat parasites.

eakens

The peoples's desire for socialism is but a mere symptom of the failed state when it comes to protecting the family unit and the well-being of its citizens. Layer on top of this the endless amounts of jealousy things like facebook and instagram feed, and you have a large part of this generation who are fighting to get on equal footing when it comes to their purchasing power of crap.

I'd like to be a glass half full type of person, but the reality is that it is going to take a very material event for so many people to realize what's important and that they've been screwed over by corporate and foreign lobbying, and brainwashed by corporate technocrats who think they can solve people's problems by putting a gadget on their wrist or in their ear or pocket.

The only solution to this problem has to do with educating a country's citizens about history and the important of upholding laws. But we're past the point of no return as those sitting on school boards, commissions, and running the teachers unions are ignorant of both.

Lars

As one who grew up in a society that was dominated by Social Democrats, I know that they did grow Sweden rather well in the post war era and the growth was very even. But in the middle of the 70's, they hit a ceiling and it became harder to keep it up. Their movement also split between the young people who became radicalized by the Viet Nam war and the unions that were more interested in further economic growth. Thus, a hybrid system started to take hold, since many wanted to "pursue happiness" on their own and no longer through the "collective". Something some economists call "a post materialistic society" was created, which means that nobody had to work for food or shelter and only for personal satisfaction. This did wonders for education and productivity and created some of the most prosperous societies. Much of this was also created in the neighboring countries.

There is already some socialist features in the US and it is just a matter of who benefits. Crony capitalism, with its lobbying, is one such feature. It should not come as a surprise that many young people are turning away from capitalism, since they can look around themselves and see the downside of it.

There has been a huge increase in both public and private debt in this country and it has gotten to the point of where it is impossible to pay it off. The only remedy will be to socialize (monetize)it and again, who will benefit? It will be a harsh and disagreeable process and I seriously doubt that our dysfunctional political system will be able to handle it well enough.

In the Chinese manner, we are living in "interesting times" and they are surely going to become even more interesting.

GeneO

I do not favor socialism. On the other hand I do not favor Social Darwinism or 'survival-of-the-fittest' moral theory as it is sometimes called. And I have faith that neither do an overwhelming majority of Americans.

Our elite seem to favor corporate socialism. Why should Archer Daniels Midland and the other agribusiness giants get subsidies from our tax money? I will gladly support farm subsidies to small farmers - although I doubt they still exist after being squeezed out by Corporate-Ag that get entitlements paid with your and my tax dollars.

Why should Wall Street gang-banksters be able to privatize their profits yet socialize their losses and impose those losses on the rest of us? If they rate bailouts the so do Mom & Pop vacuum repair shops. 'Too big to fail' my a$$.

Why should Amazon and WalMart and other 500 companies who give their employees zero benefits get supersized tax breaks not available to the rest of us? They dump their employees on the public dole, which all of us here end up paying for.

Get rid of corporate socialism and crony capitalism! I never understood why the corporate welfare circus clowns never had to pee in a cup.

Eric Newhill

Outrage Beyond,
I am always curious as to the origin of perspectives such as yours, that America and capitalism are so "pathological" and destructively crushing to the working man/woman.

I know a lot of blue collar types. They learned a trade and/or skill. They have homes. They have new trucks. They even buy modest boats for pleasure. They occasionally go on cruises for vacation.

Who are these people - this alleged critical mass - that are barred from enjoying a standard of living that is substantially higer than what most people in the world today - and certainly most everyone historically - ever could?

How is hurting, say, the blue collar people I know, if someone else has a 7 figure income? Money supply is not finite, you know. New money/wealth gets created.

In fact, many, if not most, of the champions of socialism in the US are fairly well to do. I think there is something else driving them.

More generally, socialism is not just an economic system. It is an overarching ideological system wherein competence and achievement are disincentivized because it go against the myth of born equality. It can get you killed. That is a major source of socialism's destructive force.

Eliot

“Socialists keep making the same mistakes over and over again, with the same bad results every time, justified and rationalized by the same irrational excuses.”

Sean,

Humans are prone to thinking in religious frames, and that’s just as true of the secular left as anyone. Indeed, their devotion to the one true belief rivals that of the most devout Mullah. They don’t appear to understand this though. I believe this ignorance makes them doubly dangerous, because they simply do not understand themselves, and thus do not have self control, self mastery. Compare that to a well educated theologian who would have studied the genealogy of his beliefs.

- Eliot

kapimo

As far as I understand it, socialism would be a society with the rule of justice (and protection of the weaker), with therefore some common properties (infrastructures used by all). Nothing to do with the rule of law, when the law favors the strongs.

Marx’s form of socialism (« communism » and consequent demands as expressed in the end of the second section of the « Communist Manifesto ») seems to be derived from the Bavarians illuminatis program (the same people that helped create the jacobinist club (masonist federation) during the french revolution). One critical point is « no more private ownership ».
I believe socialism as expressed by Marx (international communism) was never actually implemented in Russia. What was implemented was a kind of communist regime under strong external constraints/threats, that rapidly fought against the internationalists (Trotskystes) and that was re-inforced by the « patriotic war » against the nazis, even though some internationalist structures managed to survive WWII.

Similar models of wannabee communist local regimes were implemented in China, Viet-Nam, Korea, Cuba etc… Some « marxist/communist » regimes were also set-up in Eastern Europe. Most of those supposedly socialists « marxists » regimes finally disintegrated (helped by some external forces), as they for most of them failed to develop and sustain meritocracy and failed to fight corruption (and for other reasons). China regime didn’t fail, as it managed to develop meritocracy and evolved (allowing private ownership) toward (non-marxist) socialism.

A form of real socialism as defined early (« improvement for the benefit of all » and rule of justice for most) was fascism (National-socialism), in Italy and Germany, that really fought to submit the capitalists under the power of the country rulers, country rulers who created and used financial tools to strongly develop the economy for their people (notably big infrastructures).

As a conclusion, I would say that marxism is primarily a kind of internationalism that never was really tested. Most of the supposedly «socialist » regimes in history were effectively from the « marxist » school (abolition of private ownership, that was partially circumvented by local oligarchies/mafias), never really implemented the internationalist side of the marxist ideology, and most of them failed. National Socialist regimes that didn’t abolish private ownership (Germany, Italy, Irak, Syria, Venezuela etc…) certainly had better results and were better example of successful «Socialism». The best example of a successful socialist state was probably Thomas Sankara's regime in Burkina-Faso.


Andrei Martyanov (aka SmoothieX12)

Socialists keep making the same mistakes over and over again, with the same bad results every time, justified and rationalized by the same irrational excuses.

Actually, what is happening now in Russia could also be termed (very-very broadly) as "socialism". But it seems many "critics" of this "socialism" fail to understand why one of the major Russian proverbs of the last few decades is: everything you (communists) told us about communism was a lie, everything you told us about capitalism was truth. And then, of course, there is this issue of war, especially WW II without which any (I underscore it--any) discussion on the issue of whatever goes in the West in general, and the United States in particular, under this moniker of "socialism" or "communism" is an absolute waste of time. For starters, the main tenet of Marxism (in reality Hegelianism) is "practice is the main criterion of the truth", hence immortal Clausewitz' "It is legitimate to judge event by its outcome for it is the soundest criterion". The "left" which US have is not "socialist"--it is just another belch of neo-liberal economics aggravated with insane (and suicidal) cultural policies.

turcopolier

GeneO
Amazon pays its employees well and provides them a lot of benefits. The protests against Amazon today are over complaints for high productivity demands by the company.

turcopolier

kapimo

do not post coments more than once. All comments are moderated. The Nazis were not a socialist party. The title was a misnomer.

Pirate Laddie

Amazon's pay scale is under some discussion. Among the benefits that many workers at Amazon "enjoy" is being eligible for public assistance and food stamps. The question before the Committee should be "what happens when the excrement falls into the fan once again?" Remember, it was the federal government and it's related financial institutions (FED, etc) that kept the whole system from melting down, now twice in the past 25 years. Does anybody in the audience believe that things will work out "as well" next time?

rjh

I used to have this discussion with a history professor (an ultra academic type). He had a simple (but useless) definition:

If the organization can trace its ancestry to the First or Second International, it's OK to call it socialist. If not, it's not socialist.

By that standard NAZIs were not socialist. We would debate Mussolini's fascists, given Mussolini's origins and split from the Italian Socialists. The Italian Socialists were very definitely traceable to the International. It raised the interesting question of how to categorize splinter groups that diverge significantly.

This is "useless" in that it does not consider the policies recommended or performed, but it is a very clear separator of socialist/communist from other groups. It also does categorize the Nordic countries as socialist (based on the Swedish socialist party participation in the Second International). This is despite current policies in the Nordic systems that are a combination of highly capitalist structures with a very large welfare state.

Fred

Peter,

Waste Management, hq in Chicago, is a multibillion dollar company and there are plenty like it in the trash and recycling industry. We built private roads once upon a time and most of the railroads are public companies and not government run.

Fred

Swedish teens were radicalized by the Vietnam war? That's a new one. How many refugees from the south did they take in, or did that concern have to wait for more enlightened leadership?

Fred

GeneO,

Amazon pays well and provides benefits; they just expect results.

Eliot

“In fact, many, if not most, of the champions of socialism in the US are fairly well to do. I think there is something else driving them.”

Eric,

I’m reminded of Patrick Lee Fermor.

“Socialism sounded gray and without charm and Labour M.P.s conjured up visions of steelrimmed spectacles, homespun cloth, and cocoa and seed-cake and long killjoy faces bent on dismantling-what? Here an odd medley of targets would be bandied across fifth-form studies: What indeed? Why, the Empire, for a start! The Fleet! The Army! Established religion- "except Methodist chapels,"' Gibraltar, the Lords, judges' wigs, kilts, bearskins, public schools, Latin and Greek, Oxford and Cambridge-"the Boat race too, most likely"; "county cricket for a cert." - steeplechasing, shooting, fox-hunting, flat-racing, the Derby, betting, country-life, farming- ("I'd bet they'd plough up everything for swedes and beetroots if they got the chance!") What about London? Why, the Palladium and the Aldwych would be turned into lecture halls or bloody temperance canteens.”

- A Time of Gifts

It seems that they always want to dismantle society, and rebuild it along authoritarian lines. I don’t know where that comes from.

Is it ultimately about envy? And their desire to supplant the ruling class?

I don’t know.

- Eliot

rho

If you want to think about all the different concepts systematically, you have to separate the economic dimension from the political system dimension:

Communism: Politics - Utopian classless society, no government. Economy - No private property, everything is shared, no markets, no money.
Soviet-Union-Style "Socialism": Politics - One-party dictatorship (possibly with a democratic facade, like in the Warsaw Pact countries). Economy - Command-and-control economy, private property, markets but with price controls.
Sweden-Style "Socialism": Politics - Democratic. Economy - Capitalist market economy, private property, no price controls, high taxation funding a big, redistributive welfare state.
Nazi-Style "National Socialism": Politics - One-party dictatorship, no elections. Economy - Capitalist market economy (at least initially), private property, gradual introduction of more and more command-and-control elements, especially once war preparations started and in connection with rationing of goods.

One big problem in transitioning from the Soviet "Dictatorship-of-the-Proletariat-variety-Socialism" to Communism, as Marx had theorized about it, is obviously that the ruling class itself in Socialism is not very much interested in giving up its grasp on government power, especially not if it rules effectively unopposed in an authoritarian dictatorship. There is also quite a lot of resistance from the general population in giving up the concept of private property completely.

Now, are AOC and her gang proper "Socialists", and if yes, in what exact meaning of the term?
Politics - Democratic, for now (?). But they are already at the point where they denounce everyone who disagrees with their agenda as "nazis" (Trump) or "white supremacists" (Pelosi), which indicates quite an authoritatian streak and shows me that they are not interested in making compromises with other political factions, but that is something that is absolutely necessary in a democratic political system. Quite possible that they would want to abolish democracy (of course, they would frame it as fighting those evil nazis and white supremacists) if they ever get into power.
Economics - In my opinion, just an incoherent mess. The "Green New Deal" is an extensive wishlist that includes many extremely expensive projects (free healthcare, free college, 100% renewable power generation, while still being "affordable", upgrading every existing building in the USA to the highest energy saving standard within the next 10 years, "eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, industry, manufacturing and agriculture as much as is technologically feasible") that could realistically only be funded with massive tax increases and even then they might be impossible to achieve unless a command-and-control system is imposed on the economy (e.g. "Guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States" - And from where do you get the tens of millions of extra construction workers that would be required to renovate every existing building in the USA in the next 10 years?). No details on cost in the plan, the idea seems to be that the project could somehow pay for itself or that the government could print as much money as required - which would lead to hyperinflation. At least that implies no plans to abolish money itself or the concepts of private property and the market economy per se.

My take is that the AOC gang is so radical and at the same time so inept, that they might end up damaging democracy and the economy at the same time if their harebrained scheme is put into effect.

rho

Lars,

what exactly happens in Sweden if you are able, yet "unwilling", to work? Does the state leave you alone while continuing to pay welfare to you? Or do they start to send social workers to you in an effort to re-educate you?

"There has been a huge increase in both public and private debt in this country and it has gotten to the point of where it is impossible to pay it off. The only remedy will be to socialize (monetize)it and again, who will benefit? "

Not quite. You could also get rid of the debts through the bankruptcy proces. Still harsh and disagreeable, but an entirely different mechanism from bailouts or monetisation via inflation.

rho

Peter,

"In the US, Medicare and Medicaid are generally considered to be good things, and it puzzles me that so many are vehemently against extending public medical care to the entire population."

Getting seemingly free stuff always sounds nice. How are you going to cover the trillions of $ that it will cost to pay for it? Do you want to use rationing to keep the costs under control, kind of like in UK, where you might have to wait for months or years until you get a slot for an operation at a government-funded NHS hospital?

It's feasible to organise the system this way, but you have to be honest enough to mention it when you propose the "free stuff" and what consequences it has to tax rates or to the healthcare system itself.

Godfree Roberts

Confucian socialism was well established 2200 years ago:

Now to have states, families, and selves is to allow each individual to maintain a sphere of selfishness. This infracts utterly the Universal Principle, gongli, and impedes progress..Therefore, not only should states be abolished–so that there would be no more struggle between the strong and the weak–but families should be done away with, too, so that there would no longer be inequality of love and affection among men. Finally, selfishness itself should be banished, so that goods and services would not be used for private ends..for the only true way is sharing the world by all alike, tienxia weigong. To share everything is to treat each and every one alike: there should be no distinction between high and low, no discrepancy between rich and poor, no segregation of human races, no inequality between sexes..All should be educated and supported with the common property; none should depend on private possession..This is the way of the Great Community, dàtóng, which prevailed in the Age of Universal Peace.

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