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Edric O

What is socialism?

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In recent years, I've seen many people throwing around the term "socialism" without actually knowing anything about what it means. Right here on the FED2k forums, Emprworm loves to call every one of his opponents a "socialist", but when I asked him to define socialism, he ran away and changed the subject.

I've often posted short definitions of socialism (to explain the differences between socialism, communism, and stalinism), but now I'll go into more detail. I want to clarify this matter once and for all.

Socialism is the system of political and economic democracy.

The purpose of socialism is to eliminate exploitation and poverty, and to use available resources with the maximum efficiency for the benefit of all human beings.

In socialism, the means of production are in the hands of the people (as opposed to capitalism, in which the means of production are in the hands of a rich minority). Or, to put it another way, the means of production are public property rather than private property. A socialist economy is a planned economy democratically controlled by the people, and which therefore produces what the people need, not what brings the greatest profit. This is economic democracy.

Economic democracy cannot exist without political democracy. A socialist state must therefore be a democratic one. When the people control the state and the state is responsible for planning the economy, then the planned economy will serve the interests of the people. Otherwise, the planned economy will only serve the interests of the state - and this is not socialism.

Socialists believe that the right to basic living standards (food, clean drinking water, basic housing, free healthcare and free education) is a basic human right - an integral part of the right to life. As such, a socialist system will provide those basic living standards to all its ctizens, regardless of any other considerations. Even the poorest people will have those living standards guaranteed. But above those standards, there is no limit to how rich a person can get.

Socialism does not make all people absolutely equal (that only happens in communism). Socialism only prevents them from getting rich from other people's labour. In capitalism, the owners of the means of production (company owners) can get ridiculously rich thanks to the work of their employees. Under capitalism, the richest people in the world are not the best doctors, or the most brilliant scientists, or the most dedicated workers. The richest people in the world are businessmen who own huge corporate chains and gain money through their employees' work, not through their own work.

In socialism, the richest people will be those who contribute most to society; those who work the hardest and are the most dedicated to their work. And although they will be rich, there will be no such things as billionaires.

In brief, there are 3 main features of a socialist system:

1. A planned economy (i.e. public ownership over the means of production)

2. A democratic state (i.e. the state must be the tool of the people)

3. Certain basic standards of living (food, drinking water, housing, healthcare and education) guaranteed freely and equally to all citizens.

And someone who is a socialist will support the following:

- democracy and transparency in all areas of government

- the nationalization of private companies

- public projects of all kinds

- free education and free healthcare

- high taxes for the rich, low taxes for the poor (in socialism, taxes would be flat; but in capitalism, a progressive income tax is necessary to make up for the huge social injustice)

- freedom of speech and liberty of the press

- separation of church and state

- minimum wage laws, welfare, social security, etc.

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CLEARING UP THE MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT SOCIALISM:

It is a common right-wing misconception that "socialism" and "big government" are the same thing. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, socialists have no love for authority of any kind. What socialists want is to give power to the people. A big democratic government is a way to achieve this. There are many types of democracy, some better than others, but the point is that the government must be a tool of the people. That is the basic principle of democracy, and also one of the fundamental premises of socialism. The government exists to serve the people, not the other way around.

Another misconception is the idea that the 3rd major feature of socialism (the fact that it guarantees certain basic living standards to all citizens) is somehow the only feature of socialism. That's why some people (not only right-wingers) are quick to qualify the European welfare states (particulary the Scandinavian ones) as "socialist countries" simply because they have high levels of welfare, world-class public services in education and healthcare, virtually no poverty, and so on. Of course these are features of socialism, but they are not enough to make a country socialist. Strong welfare states like Sweden or Denmark may be closer to socialism than any other western countries, but they are still far more capitalist than socialist. They have capitalist market economies, not socialist planned economies.

And on the same note, I'd like to point out that socialism is NOT all about redistribution of wealth or welfare for the unemployed. Rather than allowing the gap between rich and poor to grow and then taking from the rich to give to the poor, socialism prevents that gap from getting too big in the first place. A massive redistribution of wealth is only necessary in the transition between capitalism and socialism. Once socialism is established, it becomes impossible for the rich to exploit the poor, so there is no further need for any major redistribution of wealth. Also, socialism handles the problem of unemployment by giving people jobs (full employment is a feature of a planned economy) and using welfare only as a last resort. Don't get the wrong impression, however - strong welfare programs WILL always be present under a socialist system. But there will be far less people living off welfare than in a capitalist system, because everyone who is able to work will have a job.

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ABOUT EMPRWORM'S POST BELOW:

Emprworm's reply is a clear example of why this topic was necessary. All he knows about socialism is what he picked up from the obsessive propaganda with which the American people is bombarded every day by Fox News and the other loudspeakers of this planet's capitalist masters. Emprworm was never able to provide a definition of socialism when I asked him about it. Even now, he closes his mind and refuses to listen to the voice of reason, while crying for the oh-so-romantic ability to fail. Of course, it's easy to cry about your ability to fail and learn and grow, when you sit in front of a computer enjoying your expensive toys and comfortable lifestyle. It's so easy to cry for the ability to fail when you don't know what failure means. When you don't have to watch your children slowly fade away as they beg for food which you cannot give them, when you don't have to watch your wife having the life slowly sucked out of her by malaria, when you don't have to watch your own flesh decomposing around an infected wound which you cannot treat because you have no money. It's so easy to cry about the evils of socialism when you don't have to worry about where your next meal will come from. It's so easy to talk about "opportunity" when you're not one of the people who've spent a lifetime working their hearts out, only to be spat on by their obscenely rich capitalist overlords.

Yes, indeed, it's so easy to enjoy all the benefits of a mixed economy when you forget that the only reason why you're not a soot-covered worker toiling in a sweatshop is because thousands of socialists have spilt their blood for your rights.

The freedom to learn, to grow and to develop your full potential as a human being is not given by a system that turns you into a nameless drone working in a cubicle, a system of ruthless exploitation and injustice, in which the many work for the pleasure of the rich and privileged few.

Anyone who has spent a few years actually working for one of the great capitalist companies or corporations can't help but smile at Emprworm's naive and romantic portrayal of this system. You can't help but be amused when you know that Emprworm's beloved "sea" is nothing more than a puddle of acid and toxic waste.

Socialism is what allows the human mind to roam free. Socialism is what allows the human being to learn and develop and to grow. Socialism releases man from his chains. No longer trapped in a savage struggle for his very survival, man is finally free to follow his true destiny - to choose his own path in life, no longer bound by financial constraints; to learn for the sake of learning rather than to ensure his survival; to make his dreams reality, to be anything he wishes to be. Socialism means diversity and creativity. No longer enslaved by capital, the human mind is free to develop in a million ways, to realize its full potential, to turn dreams into facts of life.

What is socialism? Socialism is freedom.

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For one time, I must admit something fair about you, Emprworm, your post shows some nice style...

BUT

your amazing blind fanatism let me think you drank well the obscurantist theories of the right-wing, that is to say rich people who doesn't want to fall in an average.

Average is the best solution of equality, and socialism just want to approach it, (not impose it, like communism). You talk about freedom to fail, poetically it's fine and I agree, but practically, when you really are in a situation of failure, especially because of mighty companies, you won't call it freedom!

All that you say is almost right for communism, or sovietic socialism, not for the democratic socialism perfectly showed by Edric.

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I do not believe your statements to be valid. You cry for the ability to fail, but ignore the fact that capitalism often forces failure. In order for a man to succeed in a capitalist system, he must be efficient. Adam Smith spoke of the importance of corporate efficiency, and decried government interference with the same. His belief was that an efficient company---that is, one that exploited its workers---would produce inexpensive wares which the exploited workers could easily purchase; that the individual company's pursuit of its best interests would therefore benefits the community. The individual strives for his own betterment, and the natural by-product of his quest is a stronger community.

But of course, empirical evidence shows this to be false. In order for the individual to succeed, to achieve maximum efficiency, he must abuse the worker. The abused worker does not have the same opportunities as the wealthy capitalist, and his ability to take risks and fail becomes lesser and lesser as time goes on. Furthermore, not everyone starts with an equal opportunity for success in a capitalist system: a child raised in the ghetto, given no education, abused by his father (an alcoholic, thanks to the fact that he's a member of the oppressed proletariat), &c &c, does not have the same opportunity to succeed that a child raised in an upper-middle-class suburb, with all the privileges that entails, has.

Even more significant is the fact that class conflict is directly or indirectly responsible for countless other injustices. Social problems often have their roots in economic problems, most especially class friction. Take crime, for example. The hypothetical child that I indented above is very likely to become an alcoholic, just like his father. He's likely to be dissatisfied with his lot in life. He's likely to take cues from his environment---which, by definition, is rife with illegal activity---and see crime as the only way to escape poverty (or at least as a temporary release from it). Under a socialist system, this injustice is avoided. The child's father can receive free treatment for his alcoholism. The child can receive an excellent education, no matter where he lives. He can develop into a functioning member of a socially free society.

This is a question of harms vs. benefits. If you choose to call a lack of economic freedom for certain individuals one of the harms, fine. But the benefits created by that minor restriction of freedom defy description, and are unquestionably good. Weighing the two, a rational person should reach the conclusion that restricting economic liberty is the most effective way to create a functional free society.

Edit:

Looks like Edric has shown us some real eloquence here. As always, it's wonderful to read what he's written.

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"But of course, empirical evidence shows this to be false. In order for the individual to succeed, to achieve maximum efficiency, he must abuse the worker. "

hogwash!!!

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Eloquent? Eloquence is achieved through a rational, well-constructed argument which appeals to intelligent thought. Not through an emotional outcry about how socialism is evil because it doesn't allow a poor child the "opportunity" to starve to death.

It's so easy to cry for the ability to fail when you sit in front of a computer enjoying your expensive toys and comfortable lifestyle. It's so easy to cry for the ability to fail when you don't know what failure means. When you don't have to watch your children slowly fade away as they beg for food which you cannot give them, when you don't have to watch your wife having the life slowly sucked out of her by malaria, when you don't have to watch your own flesh decomposing around an infected wound which you cannot treat because you have no money. It's so easy to cry about the evils of socialism when you don't have to worry about where your next meal will come from. It's so easy to talk about "opportunity" when you're not one of the people who've spent a lifetime working their hearts out, only to be spat on by their obscenely rich capitalist overlords.

It's so easy to enjoy all the benefits of a mixed economy when you forget that the only reason why you're not a soot-covered worker toiling in a sweatshop is because thousands of socialists have spilt their blood for your rights.

Yes, Emprworm, there's nothing easier than talking about your ability to fail, to learn and to grow in capitalism when you never experienced the horror of failure, when you don't know that the only thing you may learn is that your life is a meaningless speck of dust to be exploited and thrown away by the capitalist beast, when you are ignorant of the fact that the only thing you may grow into is the position of a lowly slave trapped under the weight of a monstrous heirarchy.

Socialism robs a man of his ability to dream of a life he'll never have. Dreams and empty fantasies are the only things capitalism gives you to mask the cruel reality. Socialism makes it so that a poor hungry child will no longer only dream about food - he will actually have food.

Socialism releases man from his chains. No longer trapped in a savage struggle for his very survival, man is finally free to follow his true destiny - to choose his own path in life, no longer bound by financial constraints; to learn for the sake of learning rather than to ensure his survival; to make his dreams reality, to be anything he wishes to be. Socialism means diversity and creativity. No longer enslaved by capital, the human mind is free to develop in a million ways, to realize its full potential, to turn dreams into facts of life.

What is socialism? Socialism is freedom.

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And that was my way of showing that I will not be outdone by a worm. 8)

I am, however, considering moving both Emprworm's post and my own to a specially created topic for such things - since this particular thread was meant for cold, rational discussion, and not a contest of literary talent.

hogwash!!!

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I have never heard of a corporation that has not abused its workers in order to succeed. As Edric pointed out, the fact that the abuses have become less blatant is thanks to the work of socialists in the past. Who led the earliest unions? Who fought for the natural rights of workers, to end the injustices of the Carnegies and Rockefellers of the world? Men like Eugene V. Debs. Socialists like Eugene V. Debs.

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Socialism is derived from old thoughts, which sparked the french revolution in 1789. Main motto was "liberty, equality, brotherhood". Let's have a look on it.

- democracy and transparency in all areas of government

- the nationalization of private companies

- public projects of all kinds

- free education and free healthcare

- high taxes for the rich, low taxes for the poor (in socialism, taxes would be flat; but in capitalism, a progressive income tax is necessary to make up for the huge social injustice)

- freedom of speech and liberty of the press

- separation of church and state

- minimum wage laws, welfare, social security, etc.

If government is to be transparent, it must be monitored. That's against equality. Or do you mean that every citizen should be monitored? Same with nationalization. Democracy is the best tool of jealous masses. And enemy of those, who have ideas. Eliminated any initiative for myself. Education and healthcare. How would you pay it? Ah, I see, taking from rich. Again against equality. But even this source isn't unlimited, how our socialist few decades ago already found out. Freedom of speech, nice. With all companies in hands of state, I can perfectly imagine how they criticize owners... Church and state, does that mean that we will be banished from citizenship? Etc...

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Of course socialism is derived from old ideas - and capitalism is derived from even older ones (Adam Smith, the American Revolution, etc.).

It's quite interesting, in fact, that nearly all the major political ideologies we have today were created in the 19th century, or even before that.

The French Revolution was a bourgeois revolution, and although some of its ideas can be characterized as "proto-socialism" (Libert

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I've edited my first post to include a comment on Emprworm's rant. I've also noticed that my description of socialism is quite incomplete, so you can expect further edits in the future (in other words, watch the first post: it might not be the same as the last time you looked at it).

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I did not ment with "old" thought nothing obsolete. In fact, democracy is old as humanity itself and we don't look upon it by such view. But let's get to important points. Transparent means that everyone knows how does it work. But ruling isn't only sitting in parliament and pressing the voting machine. Most of political relations are done privately, with that I have experience. You see in TV only official meeting, where two people agree on something. However, agreement was done already before, ie they went on beer and wrote something. Should this be also transparent? That's an attack on privacy!

You say this would enpower law and will of people. We can say the will of people may be to force you to show how you share your bed with girl. Even that can enlarge equality, she isn't only your own... If all others want to see it, you can't take that right from them. With "oppressors, exploiters and tyrans" annoy other ones. Pub rioting named  "Jew-hunts" here already stormed towns around whole Europe, just because others knew not how to pay their debts and jealed on Jews that they could use it.

For what are ideas which are unprofitable? Human is specifical that he does many unnecessary or even fully senseless things, but that we call hobby, and that's a thing of free time. Not work. Are you referring to research of marxistic dialectics?  ::)  Taking from reach means at first TAKING. Steal. Theft. Robbing. If state should rob rich ones, it would be for equality, if everyone would be robbed. Fact, that when you'll come you plan to change law, from which free trade and financial capital would be illegal doesn't justify it either. For acts, which became legislatively crimes after they were comitted you can't be punished. That's against logic.

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Caid, government transparency is the exact REVERSE of government surveillance. There's a difference between the people knowing what the government is doing and the government knowing what the people are doing. In any democratic system (and therefore in any socialist system), the people should be aware of the government's activities, and how the government spends their money. And they should be involved as much as possible in the government's decision-making process.

But if you can't see the difference between what the government is doing and what you are doing in bed with your girlfriend... then you should forget about the whole transparency issue altogether.

Ideas that are unprofitable may well save the lives of millions of people. Suppose 100 million poor people were infected with a deadly virus. Developing a cure would be unprofitable, since those people are too poor to pay for it. So a profit-driven capitalist economy would simply let them die. A socialist planned economy, on the other hand, would make it a high priority to find a cure and save those people.

As for taking from the rich, keep in mind that in a capitalist system, the rich got rich by exploiting the work of others. So the redistribution of wealth means taking stolen money from the thieves and giving it back to the people who earned it.

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I should also mention that I have finished updating the first post of this topic, so now it should be a comprehensive guide to the basics of socialism.

The following paragraphs were added:

The purpose of socialism is to eliminate exploitation and poverty, and to use available resources with the maximum efficiency for the benefit of all human beings.

***

In brief, there are 3 main features of a socialist system:

1. A planned economy (i.e. public ownership over the means of production)

2. A democratic state (i.e. the state must be the tool of the people)

3. Certain basic standards of living (food, drinking water, housing, healthcare and education) guaranteed freely and equally to all citizens.

***

It is a common right-wing misconception that "socialism" and "big government" are the same thing. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, socialists have no love for authority of any kind. What socialists want is to give power to the people. A big democratic government is a way to achieve this. There are many types of democracy, some better than others, but the point is that the government must be a tool of the people. That is the basic principle of democracy, and also one of the fundamental premises of socialism. The government exists to serve the people, not the other way around.

Another misconception is the idea that the 3rd major feature of socialism (the fact that it guarantees certain basic living standards to all citizens) is somehow the only feature of socialism. That's why some people (not only right-wingers) are quick to qualify the European welfare states (particulary the Scandinavian ones) as "socialist countries" simply because they have high levels of welfare, world-class public services in education and healthcare, virtually no poverty, and so on. Of course these are features of socialism, but they are not enough to make a country socialist. Strong welfare states like Sweden or Denmark may be closer to socialism than any other western countries, but they are still far more capitalist than socialist. They have capitalist market economies, not socialist planned economies.

And on the same note, I'd like to point out that socialism is NOT all about redistribution of wealth or welfare for the unemployed. Rather than allowing the gap between rich and poor to grow and then taking from the rich to give to the poor, socialism prevents that gap from getting too big in the first place. A massive redistribution of wealth is only necessary in the transition between capitalism and socialism. Once socialism is established, it becomes impossible for the rich to exploit the poor, so there is no further need for any major redistribution of wealth. Also, socialism handles the problem of unemployment by giving people jobs (full employment is a feature of a planned economy) and using welfare only as a last resort. Don't get the wrong impression, however - strong welfare programs WILL always be present under a socialist system. But there will be far less people living off welfare than in a capitalist system, because everyone who is able to work will have a job.

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Caid, government transparency is the exact REVERSE of government surveillance. There's a difference between the people knowing what the government is doing and the government knowing what the people are doing. In any democratic system (and therefore in any socialist system), the people should be aware of the government's activities, and how the government spends their money. And they should be involved as much as possible in the government's decision-making process.

But if you can't see the difference between what the government is doing and what you are doing in bed with your girlfriend... then you should forget about the whole transparency issue altogether.

Ideas that are unprofitable may well save the lives of millions of people. Suppose 100 million poor people were infected with a deadly virus. Developing a cure would be unprofitable, since those people are too poor to pay for it. So a profit-driven capitalist economy would simply let them die. A socialist planned economy, on the other hand, would make it a high priority to find a cure and save those people.

As for taking from the rich, keep in mind that in a capitalist system, the rich got rich by exploiting the work of others. So the redistribution of wealth means taking stolen money from the thieves and giving it back to the people who earned it.

For me it is no difference whether government or some boulevard magazine spies me. As well as it is no difference whether I have a secret discussion with political opponent or sex. For example one politician in Slovakia, who shows himself in media as a fanatical leftist told me in friendly discussion that he was going to one city to "spread leftist demagogy". He thought it as a joke, but imagine press would hear it.

To manufacture some antivirus medicine is very costly. Structure of virus is so small, that it is hard to make an antibioticum, which wouldn't significantly harm the body as well. Most cures for virological diseases are only against symptoms. Without government or WHO support there can be no solution even in socialism. Costly to make enough antidote, economically impossible to make only painkillers.

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"Without government or WHO support there can be no solution even in socialism"

But that's the point. In a socialist system, the government can and will give support to something, and funds from general taxation will be used on general health. In a capitalist system, it definitely won't happen, becase the government keeps as much as possible away from public responsibility.

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But then you negate true form of socialism, where sense of government is perishing! Socialism has to lead the country to antiutopical communism or remain in blind way as it did here.

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"But then you negate true form of socialism, where sense of government is perishing!"

The government still exists in socialism, but as it moves towards communism it is more and more encompassed by the community as a whole (as I understand it).

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That was my point. If there has to be a government to still enforce some limiting financial restrictions as taxes for welfare, there is no perspective it will fade in time.

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"If there has to be a government to still enforce some limiting financial restrictions as taxes for welfare, there is no perspective it will fade in time."

Could you rephrase this? I can't work out what you mean, unless you mean literally:

'Provided government is needed to enforce taxation, it will eventually make all points of view fade.'

Which makes no sense.

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"If there has to be a government to still enforce some limiting financial restrictions as taxes for welfare, there is no perspective it will fade in time."

[snip]

'Provided government is needed to enforce taxation, it will eventually make all points of view fade.'

Which makes no sense.

As far as I understand it, he seems to be saying that provided government is needed to enforce taxation, we can see no way in which the NEED for government will fade in time.  Ie, as long as government has a legitimate function, it will remain.  Only when it is no longer needed, will it fade away.

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As I said before, Caid, you don't seem to understand what I'm talking about when I mention government transparency. What the hell does "spying" have to do with it? Transparency means that in any democratic system (and therefore in any socialist system), the people should be aware of the government's activities, and how the government spends their money. And they should be involved as much as possible in the government's decision-making process.

Regarding your second point, Nema already answered it. Keep in mind that a socialist economy is a planned economy, run by a democratic state, which organizes production according to need.

How is the state supposed to fade away, then? Simple: Representative democracy is slowly replaced by direct democracy, and the role of the state (as an organizer and co-ordinator) is taken over by the people themselves. The need for taxation dissapears when private property dissapears. In socialism, the state is necessary because private property still exists. In communism, the state has no function any more.

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Well... doesn't anyone have any comments to make, or questions to ask?

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I think you have talked them to death, either that or they have all become socialist and faded away!  ;)

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If only he put as much effort into Dune Editing as he did Communism, he never going to achieve anything like converting countries to communism so he might as well try and achieve something in the capitalist world he lives in.

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