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Socialism: what it is, and what it isn't.

Chimera
Posts: 178
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8/22/2014 8:06:51 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
Every time that I go onto the internet looking for socio-political/economic theory, I see so many people equating the economic system of socialism with totalitarian dictatorship and command economy. As well as constantly strawmanning the position of the socialist left. So, I've decided to make this topic to clear up misconceptions on socialism and it's many child theories such as communism, anarchism, state socialism, etc. in as basic a way as I can.

To begin, when someone says the term 'socialism', they aren't specifically referring to the Soviet Union. The USSR, China, North Korea, etc. are all forms of state socialism (which isn't really a form of socialism, and has more in common with capitalism), which was a theory formed by Karl Kautsky. State socialism involves having the state own the means of production, instead of private entities. This itself has more in common with a capitalist mode of production (which is vertically organized, and centrally planned) than with a socialist mode of production (which is horizontal, and decentrally planned).

Socialism itself however, advocates for workers control of the means of production (aka workplace democracy). Workers would produce wealth within a production facility or worker's cooperative, and would pursue this with a constantly exchanging labor division, as well as democratic action and what to produce and when. Good examples of this include FaSinPat [] (aka Fabrica sin Patrones, or Factories without Bosses in English) in Argentina, as well as the Mon<x>dragon federation of worker cooperatives in Spain[].

As for what to do with this wealth, this is where most of the different sects of socialist economics begin to disagree. Some socialists believe that a free market could be used to distribute wealth (Mutualism), whereas others believe an approach could use an artificial market alongside wages that are delivered (in labor vouchers) based on labor-time/amount of labor done (Anarcho-collectivism). Some more revisionist circles of socialists pursue ideas like social democracy, which, through parliamentary reform, would pursue the implementation of socialism, in coalition with an 'either/or' dynamic between capitalism and socialism.

However, one of the more popular ideas within socialism (specifically revolutionary circles of socialism), is the theory of communism. Which itself is a very broad term (though, not as broad as socialism). Communism, in the basic sense, proposes the foundation of a stateless, classless, moneyless society, where wealth is distributed (via a socialist mode of production i.e. worker's common ownership of the means of production) based on needs. Communism itself, is a form of socialism that is (mostly) used in conjunction with revolutionary socialism.

The many forms of revolutionary socialism can be divided into two major camps: Libertarian/ communism, and Authoritarian socialism. These two ideologies split due to having differing ideas on how to implement a socialist/communist society.

Before I begin however, I would like to define the term 'state'. A 'state' will be defined as how it is by the Marxist analysis of the term, that being any organization of class rule or any organization that is used by one class against another. However, the 'State' will refer to the Max Weber's analysis of the term, that being(which is a centralized ruler-ship that must legitimize it's own rule by enforcing a monopoly on the use of violence, which is perceived to be legitimate, over a given area or populace)

Authoritarian socialism, as the name implies, is the foundation of a communist society through the use of revolutionary workers control of the 'State', this control itself being achieved through revolution. This being done through one or multiple 'socialist/communist parties' taking control of the administrative capacities of the 'State'. To clarify, the 'State' itself can be considered a 'state', but is a 'state' that is controlled by the bourgeoisie. The main point of Authoritarian socialism, is to take the 'State' and put it into the hands of vanguard parties, that are meant to represent the interests of the working class. Good examples of attempts at authoritarian socialism include: the USSR, China, North Korea, Cuba, former Soviet bloc states, and so on. Marxist-Leninism, Maoism, Stalinism, Hoxhaism, Juche (and in some instances, Trotskyism) and the like are all child ideologies of authoritarian socialism.

Libertarian socialism however, is a different style of communism. It entails the abolition of the state in favor of the use of one or multiple 'states' such as syndicalist labor unions, armed militias, federations, and workers councils. Instead of taking 'State' power for themselves, Libertarian communists organize from the bottom-up towards a social revolution, and immediately replace it with a society based on non-hierarchical free associations. Forms of Libertarian communism include Libertarian Marxism, Autonomous Marxism, Council Communism, Communalism, Inclusive Democracy, Participism, Situationism, and Anarchism (such as Mutualism, Individualist anarchism, Anarcho-collectivism, and Anarcho-communism). Real-world examples of this form of revolutionary socialism, or had libertarian socialism as an underlying ideological force , include the Paris Commune (before the Blanquists took over), The Free Territory in Ukraine from 1919-1921, The Kronstadt Uprising, Kim Chwa Chin's rebellion against the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1929, Revolutionary Catalonia from 1936-1939, Israeli kibbutzim (disregarding the Zionist elements), and communes during the 1956 uprisings in Hungary.

So please, don't just equate something as incredbily broad as socialism and equate all forms of socialism with authoritarian socialism and the USSR. Doing so is just blatant intellectual dishonesty.
Chimera
Posts: 178
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8/22/2014 10:06:24 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 8/22/2014 8:06:51 PM, Chimera wrote:
Every time that I go onto the internet looking for socio-political/economic theory, I see so many people equating the economic system of socialism with totalitarian dictatorship and command economy. As well as constantly strawmanning the position of the socialist left. So, I've decided to make this topic to clear up misconceptions on socialism and it's many child theories such as communism, anarchism, state socialism, etc. in as basic a way as I can.

To begin, when someone says the term 'socialism', they aren't specifically referring to the Soviet Union. The USSR, China, North Korea, etc. are all forms of state socialism (which isn't really a form of socialism, and has more in common with capitalism), which was a theory formed by Karl Kautsky. State socialism involves having the state own the means of production, instead of private entities. This itself has more in common with a capitalist mode of production (which is vertically organized, and centrally planned) than with a socialist mode of production (which is horizontal, and decentrally planned).

Socialism itself however, advocates for workers control of the means of production (aka workplace democracy). Workers would produce wealth within a production facility or worker's cooperative, and would pursue this with a constantly exchanging labor division, as well as democratic action and what to produce and when. Good examples of this include FaSinPat [1] (aka Fabrica sin Patrones, or Factories without Bosses in English) in Argentina, as well as the Mon<x>dragon federation of worker cooperatives in Spain[2].

As for what to do with this wealth, this is where most of the different sects of socialist economics begin to disagree. Some socialists believe that a free market could be used to distribute wealth (Mutualism), whereas others believe an approach could use an artificial market alongside wages that are delivered (in labor vouchers) based on labor-time/amount of labor done (Anarcho-collectivism). Some more revisionist circles of socialists pursue ideas like social democracy, which, through parliamentary reform, would pursue the implementation of socialism, in coalition with an 'either/or' dynamic between capitalism and socialism.

However, one of the more popular ideas within socialism (specifically revolutionary circles of socialism), is the theory of communism. Which itself is a very broad term (though, not as broad as socialism). Communism, in the basic sense, proposes the foundation of a stateless, classless, moneyless society, where wealth is distributed (via a socialist mode of production i.e. worker's common ownership of the means of production) based on needs. Communism itself, is a form of socialism that is (mostly) used in conjunction with revolutionary socialism.

The many forms of revolutionary socialism can be divided into two major camps: Libertarian socialism, and Authoritarian socialism. These two ideologies split due to having differing ideas on how to implement a socialist/communist society.

Before I begin however, I would like to define the term 'state'. A 'state' will be defined as how it is by the Marxist analysis of the term, that being any organization of class rule or any organization that is used by one class against another. However, the 'State' will refer to the Max Weber's analysis of the term, that being(which is a centralized ruler-ship that must legitimize it's own rule by enforcing a monopoly on the use of violence, which is perceived to be legitimate, over a given area or populace)

Authoritarian socialism, as the name implies, is the foundation of a communist society through the use of revolutionary workers control of the 'State', this control itself being achieved through revolution. This being done through one or multiple 'socialist/communist parties' taking control of the administrative capacities of the 'State'. To clarify, the 'State' itself can be considered a 'state', but is a 'state' that is controlled by the bourgeoisie. The main point of Authoritarian socialism, is to take the 'State' and put it into the hands of vanguard parties, that are meant to represent the interests of the working class. Good examples of attempts at authoritarian socialism include: the USSR, China, North Korea, Cuba, former Soviet bloc states, and so on. Marxist-Leninism, Maoism, Stalinism, Hoxhaism, Juche (and in some instances, Trotskyism) and the like are all child ideologies of authoritarian socialism.

Libertarian socialism however, is a different style of communism. It entails the abolition of the state in favor of the use of one or multiple 'states' such as syndicalist labor unions, armed militias, federations, and workers councils. Instead of taking 'State' power for themselves, Libertarian communists organize from the bottom-up towards a social revolution, and immediately replace it with a society based on non-hierarchical free associations. Forms of Libertarian communism include Libertarian Marxism, Autonomous Marxism, Council Communism, Communalism, Inclusive Democracy, Participism, Situationism, and Anarchism (such as Mutualism, Individualist anarchism, Anarcho-collectivism, and Anarcho-communism). Real-world examples of this form of revolutionary socialism, or had libertarian socialism as an underlying ideological force , include the Paris Commune (before the Blanquists took over), The Free Territory in Ukraine from 1919-1921, The Kronstadt Uprising, Kim Chwa Chin's rebellion against the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1929, Revolutionary Catalonia from 1936-1939, Israeli kibbutzim (disregarding the Zionist elements), and communes during the 1956 uprisings in Hungary.

So please, don't just equate something as incredbily broad as socialism and equate all forms of socialism with authoritarian socialism and the USSR. Doing so is just blatant intellectual dishonesty.

Sources:

1- http://en.wikipedia.org...

2- http://en.wikipedia.org...<x>dragon_Corporation

Fixed.
sdavio
Posts: 1,798
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8/23/2014 10:27:50 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
It is authoritarian at base to remove someone from the product of their labour. A system built on a foundation of removing people from the choice of how their labour is manifested is an authoritarian system in principle. If I build something which improves the method of production, then someone else wishes to use it rather than me, a system which forces me to share it, and which disallows me from charging interest, even though I used my own labour to create it and they did not, is a system which allows for authority. Others may take advantage of me by using the time I took building those means of production to do what they like, then having the same advantage with none of the work. It is inimical to those who wish to improve.
"Logic is the money of the mind." - Karl Marx
charleslb
Posts: 4,740
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9/5/2014 3:50:05 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 8/22/2014 8:06:51 PM, Chimera wrote:
Every time that I go onto the internet looking for socio-political/economic theory, I see so many people equating the economic system of socialism with totalitarian dictatorship and command economy...

An excellent post. I would merely emphasize that authentic socialism would be a form of life fundamentally antithetical to state tyranny, that it would finally operationalize the idea of democracy and make a point of applying it in the economic sphere.
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
Greyparrot
Posts: 14,268
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9/5/2014 3:52:57 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 9/5/2014 3:50:05 PM, charleslb wrote:
At 8/22/2014 8:06:51 PM, Chimera wrote:
Every time that I go onto the internet looking for socio-political/economic theory, I see so many people equating the economic system of socialism with totalitarian dictatorship and command economy...

An excellent post. I would merely emphasize that authentic socialism would be a form of life fundamentally antithetical to state tyranny, that it would finally operationalize the idea of democracy and make a point of applying it in the economic sphere.

Hi Charles!
charleslb
Posts: 4,740
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9/5/2014 4:04:45 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 9/5/2014 3:52:57 PM, Greyparrot wrote:
At 9/5/2014 3:50:05 PM, charleslb wrote:
At 8/22/2014 8:06:51 PM, Chimera wrote:
Every time that I go onto the internet looking for socio-political/economic theory, I see so many people equating the economic system of socialism with totalitarian dictatorship and command economy...

An excellent post. I would merely emphasize that authentic socialism would be a form of life fundamentally antithetical to state tyranny, that it would finally operationalize the idea of democracy and make a point of applying it in the economic sphere.

Hi Charles!

Howdy.
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
AnDoctuir
Posts: 11,060
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9/5/2014 4:05:04 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 9/5/2014 3:52:57 PM, Greyparrot wrote:
At 9/5/2014 3:50:05 PM, charleslb wrote:
At 8/22/2014 8:06:51 PM, Chimera wrote:
Every time that I go onto the internet looking for socio-political/economic theory, I see so many people equating the economic system of socialism with totalitarian dictatorship and command economy...

An excellent post. I would merely emphasize that authentic socialism would be a form of life fundamentally antithetical to state tyranny, that it would finally operationalize the idea of democracy and make a point of applying it in the economic sphere.

Hi Charles!

^
!!!!
charleslb
Posts: 4,740
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9/14/2014 2:53:49 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
It's of course a quite commonly held view that communism went off the rails, in terms of respect for Western democratic values and human rights, and in its lapses from sanity and decency in cases such as Stalin's "Great Terror" and Pol Pot's holocaust (actually, Pol Pot was pretty much ignorant of Marxist-Leninist theory and owed most of his mentality to certain negative aspects of Khmer culture), and that it therefore must somehow be hard-wired to produce such catastrophic results. But to draw this conclusion (as we're inescapably indoctrinated to do in a capitalist culture) is in fact to commit a fallacy, the fallacy of irreformability. The fallacy of irreformability is simply the poorly reasoned belief that a philosophy is inextricably tied to past shortcomings and sins, irreformably locked into always reproducing them. Yes, this is certainly a fallacy that we're encouraged to commit in the case of communism (even though many of communism's alleged failings and evils can in fact be ascribed to other factors; such as, to mention just one, the active hostility of the West, which produced the Soviet system's preoccupation with security and defense that tragically caused it to degenerate into a militaristic police state), resulting in our invalidly dismissing it as an eternally bad idea because of some historically conditioned instances of its unsavoriness. Recognize this fallacy in your own thinking and don't continue to fall for it folks; open your minds to a potentially beautiful alternative to the gaudiness, baseness, and cruelty of capitalism and give authentic communism a fair chance!
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
suttichart.denpruektham
Posts: 1,115
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9/14/2014 12:20:01 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 8/22/2014 8:06:51 PM, Chimera wrote:
Every time that I go onto the internet looking for socio-political/economic theory, I see so many people equating the economic system of socialism with totalitarian dictatorship and command economy.

Except of Libertarian Socialism, I saw most of your description on various sect of socialism still orbiting around what most people tend to associate with socialism, totalitarianism and command economy.

No matter how you put it, you are going to need some degree of command economy to create any form of common ownership of production system. And command economy can't existed without certain degree of totalitarianism, totalitarianism over the rich doesn't make it democracy. Even Libertarian (socialism) need it to instigate their artificial syndicated of labour union, through some form of state-sponsored unionisation of workforce, otherwise it would have happened by now if they can be formed naturally in free enterprise environment.

In short, I believe people's association totalitarianism and command economy with socialism is not far off from reality. The more socially orientation you've become, so did your authoritarianism and centralized economy. Sometime that won't bring you to the point of becoming "totalitarian state" but certainly doesn't counted more toward individual freedom and free enterprise.
charleslb
Posts: 4,740
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9/14/2014 2:58:42 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 9/14/2014 12:20:01 PM, suttichart.denpruektham wrote:

In short, I believe people's association totalitarianism and command economy with socialism is not far off from reality. The more socially orientation you've become, so did your authoritarianism and centralized economy. Sometime that won't bring you to the point of becoming "totalitarian state" but certainly doesn't counted more toward individual freedom and free enterprise.

Excuse me, but you're in fact committing the fallacy of irreformability that I refer to above, thinking in terms of socialism being locked into past discredited forms and definitions. Well, in actuality socialism can most certainly be reformed and reconceptualized into something that would deliver on its promise and not deliver us into the hands of statist technocrats and tyrants.
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
suttichart.denpruektham
Posts: 1,115
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9/15/2014 12:06:33 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 9/14/2014 2:58:42 PM, charleslb wrote:
At 9/14/2014 12:20:01 PM, suttichart.denpruektham wrote:

In short, I believe people's association totalitarianism and command economy with socialism is not far off from reality. The more socially orientation you've become, so did your authoritarianism and centralized economy. Sometime that won't bring you to the point of becoming "totalitarian state" but certainly doesn't counted more toward individual freedom and free enterprise.

Excuse me, but you're in fact committing the fallacy of irreformability that I refer to above, thinking in terms of socialism being locked into past discredited forms and definitions. Well, in actuality socialism can most certainly be reformed and reconceptualized into something that would deliver on its promise and not deliver us into the hands of statist technocrats and tyrants.

In what? Are you saying you can reorientation private industries without any degree of government intervention?

Socialism need government intervention, and government intervention works best in totalitarianism - it's a simple fact. How far have gone in to totalitarians is another story, most of the people will be fine if you just went at the level of the Nordic Nations, most wouldn't be happy if you've become Singapore, and definitely not happy if you've become North Korea.
charleslb
Posts: 4,740
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9/15/2014 12:53:17 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 9/15/2014 12:06:33 AM, suttichart.denpruektham wrote:
At 9/14/2014 2:58:42 PM, charleslb wrote:
At 9/14/2014 12:20:01 PM, suttichart.denpruektham wrote:

In short, I believe people's association totalitarianism and command economy with socialism is not far off from reality. The more socially orientation you've become, so did your authoritarianism and centralized economy. Sometime that won't bring you to the point of becoming "totalitarian state" but certainly doesn't counted more toward individual freedom and free enterprise.

Excuse me, but you're in fact committing the fallacy of irreformability that I refer to above, thinking in terms of socialism being locked into past discredited forms and definitions. Well, in actuality socialism can most certainly be reformed and reconceptualized into something that would deliver on its promise and not deliver us into the hands of statist technocrats and tyrants.

In what? Are you saying you can reorientation private industries without any degree of government intervention?

Socialism need government intervention, and government intervention works best in totalitarianism - it's a simple fact. How far have gone in to totalitarians is another story, most of the people will be fine if you just went at the level of the Nordic Nations, most wouldn't be happy if you've become Singapore, and definitely not happy if you've become North Korea.

Firstly, I must repeat again that your thinking is rigidly locked into a quite cliched, Cold-War conceptualization of socialism. And secondly, the North Korean system isn't even based on any kind of a communist model, rather it was in fact inspired by Japan's WWII-era fascist system.
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
suttichart.denpruektham
Posts: 1,115
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9/15/2014 11:25:31 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 9/15/2014 12:53:17 AM, charleslb wrote:
At 9/15/2014 12:06:33 AM, suttichart.denpruektham wrote:
At 9/14/2014 2:58:42 PM, charleslb wrote:
At 9/14/2014 12:20:01 PM, suttichart.denpruektham wrote:

In short, I believe people's association totalitarianism and command economy with socialism is not far off from reality. The more socially orientation you've become, so did your authoritarianism and centralized economy. Sometime that won't bring you to the point of becoming "totalitarian state" but certainly doesn't counted more toward individual freedom and free enterprise.

Excuse me, but you're in fact committing the fallacy of irreformability that I refer to above, thinking in terms of socialism being locked into past discredited forms and definitions. Well, in actuality socialism can most certainly be reformed and reconceptualized into something that would deliver on its promise and not deliver us into the hands of statist technocrats and tyrants.

In what? Are you saying you can reorientation private industries without any degree of government intervention?

Socialism need government intervention, and government intervention works best in totalitarianism - it's a simple fact. How far have gone in to totalitarians is another story, most of the people will be fine if you just went at the level of the Nordic Nations, most wouldn't be happy if you've become Singapore, and definitely not happy if you've become North Korea.

Firstly, I must repeat again that your thinking is rigidly locked into a quite cliched, Cold-War conceptualization of socialism. And secondly, the North Korean system isn't even based on any kind of a communist model, rather it was in fact inspired by Japan's WWII-era fascist system.

Actually, I think the general concept of both Fascism and Communism is very similar. Fascism is a political concept that aim at maximizing control of centralized state which are done through various form of command economy (mostly through government sponsorship and regulation of key corporations) as well as rigid political control.

Communism is an economic system that employed command economy to archive economic equality within their society (a goal also share to some degree by socialism in general) which are implement by government control (by distributing resources to the perceived need).

Concept vise, both of this system are practically doing the same thing, only their ultimate goal is different. Fascism use command economy to enhance political unity, communism used authority to archive economic stability, what else are the differences?

And North Korea is still far from even Imperial Japanese style command economy. Private enterprises can legally existed within the Imperial Japanese model, in fact, many of them are very powerful corporations which can even influences their government to significant degree. North Korea doesn't have a single private corporation, North Korean government has full control over every agencies state-owned corporation - not the other way around. North Korea don't have any financial institution, they produced as per central government planning, etc. Such a extreme measure wasn't exist in Imperial Japan.