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Look, socialism is the idea of a society based on sharing.  Is there something wrong with that?

The dictionary definition specifies a society in which the means of production is publicly owned.  Here's a good start:

any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
So what's the means of production?  It's the stuff for making the stuff you need -- the factories, the farms, and so on.  It's not your toothbrush or your teddy bear or even your pickup truck or your house.

And who's the public?  It's you, but mostly it's everyone.  It can be a collective, but a collective is really only a way of making sure everyone does something and everyone gets something.  It can be the government, but only if it's good government, and everyone is included -- everyone gets to decide, and everyone gets some.  If we really want socialism we search for a set-up that's fair.

It has nothing to do with the motivation for work, but rather with making sure everyone benefits from what everyone else does.

Think of the desire for socialism as based on what they taught you about sharing in Kindergarten.  Sharing is caring -- when you share, you show that you want the other person to be happy as you are happy.  Remember?  Sharing was a good thing in Kindergarten.  If there are only five tricycles for a class of thirty, everyone should get a chance to use them.  (And don't tell me that "we don't do things that way in America," especially when you're talking with me in the public library.)

Try to imagine a Kindergarten based on capitalism.  We'll give little Johnny all of the toys and all of the books, and everyone else in the class will have to give Johnny more toys and more books if they want to use any of that which is in Johnny's hoard.  And then when they're finished using them, they'll have to give them back to Johnny.  I'm sure everything will work out just fine.

Now what was the complaint about "socialism" again?

Originally posted to Postcapitalism on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 02:03 PM PST.

Also republished by The Rebel Alliance and Anti-Capitalist Chat.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Well, if Johnny has all the toys (6+ / 0-)

    I'm sure he earned them.

    The Class, Terror and Climate Wars are indivisible and the short-term outcome will affect the planet for centuries. -WiA "When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill..." - PhilJD

    by Words In Action on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 02:16:03 PM PST

  •  Well, now, you're bringing (16+ / 0-)

    logic to an ideology fight.

    You're right about socialism, and I agree with it mostly. But the GOP loves to point to things like... the failed Soviet system (actually a military oligarchy) or the corrupt and brutal Chinese system (again, a military oligarchy) or they like to compare it to Naziism (a quasi state-capitalist/fascist ethnocracy) --in fact, the compare it to any corrupt, top-down autocratic regime that bungled onto the world stage and committed atrocious acts on people. They compare it to everything except, frequently...

    ..actual modern socialist systems like those found across Europe and Scandinavia today. Oh, they talk about Greece and Spain and bemoan the failures of socialism while forgetting places like Norway, Finland, Sweden, Germany, etc. (Sure, Germany is very "capitalist", but compared to the United States, it is "socialist", and successful enough that despite its own problems, it is still able to float half the sick men of Europe).

    So the big howl and moan about socialism is how it is packaged and misunderstood by the ignorati (the GOP and Lolbertarians).

    •  scary "ism" words (12+ / 0-)

      In current American dialect it seems to me many folks use the word "socialism" to mean, approximately,

      a strange abstract concept we don't understand but that we've been conditioned to believe is Very, Very Scary
      But you all knew that.

      Good diary, concisely framed. Thanks for contributing it.

      Most models are wrong, but some are useful.

      by etbnc on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 02:48:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Northern Europe is not socialist (6+ / 0-)

      I own part of Nokia and the means of production there is certainly privately owned.

      Sweden, Germany et al are capitalist societies with a broad safety net.

      "The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason." - Thomas Paine

      by shrike on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 03:06:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  With universal health care... (5+ / 0-)

        ....government funded higher education, social safety nets (as you admitted), gun control, and corporate regulation that saved them from fully falling prey to the current economic collapse.

        In other words, a Stalinist hell!

        Don't let the blue eyes and blond hair fool you. Inside they are all a bunch of science believing Kenyans!

        Sure the means of production are not owned by the government, but is the government owned by the means of production? No? Then the Republicans call it socialist.

        •  Did you mean Keynesians? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dave in Columbus

          I think the Scandanvians have excellent social programs, but pretty soon it's going to be evident to a lot of people that core Europe is filled with Austrian economists worse than Milton Friedman.

          There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

          by upstate NY on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 08:20:40 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Compared to America, (0+ / 0-)

        Northern Europe/Scandinavia is capital-S Socialist. No matter how successful. clean, and fulfilled those countries are, no "real patriotic Amurrikun" would ever allow their systems to be imported here. Because... um... Jeezus would cry. Or something. ;-)

    •  Scandanavia, I agree with you (0+ / 0-)

      Germany, I don't. Germany's relationship to workers is worse than the USAs. Without a doubt, they have more social programs, for Germans. But they did a Gordon-Gekko job on East Germany with Treuhand, and the result is unemployment that far exceeds that in America. Many Germans have dead end jobs worse than we have here since they have no minimum wage. Now, overall, Germans don't have the poverty we do, but when you look at their national policies vis-a-vis the periphery, there surpluses are what drives imbalances elsewhere, since the currency union works to the benefit of their elite class. They've riven down wages with anti-worker reforms while the CEO's pay increases exponentially, and meanwhile their corporations and banks are in cahoots to launch vendor-financing schemes across Europe which have truly poisoned the EU. In many ways, the policies Pres. Obama has managed to enact here (the stimulus, Fed. easing) have held the social well-being of many Americans together, while Germany has rejected a banking union and instituted draconian measures that are not worthy of any democracy.

      Are they floating the sick men of Europe? If you follow the money, they are not. The sick countries are at primary surpluses, which means the money they get is rerouted to the banks. Greece doesn't even see any of the money since it's held in escrow in Brussels, and it's used to recapitalize German and French banks mainly. But where does the money come from? Only 23% originates in Germany, 33% from the IMF, and the rest from the other countries in the eurozone, but 55% goes into German banks. a good vendor-financing scam.

      I would not call Greece and Spain socialist countries either, since both their gov't sectors are not only below European averages, but below American averages (in terms of size and per capita spending). Greece, in particular, never had any social welfare programs to speak of. These are both countries with long traditions of oligarchic practices, right-wing governments, deep states and kelpto-corporate structures.

      There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

      by upstate NY on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 08:18:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the diary Cassi. (10+ / 0-)
    Look, socialism is the idea of a society based on sharing.  Is there something wrong with that?
  •  Wrong. There is No Such Thing as Society. (8+ / 0-)

    --Margaret Thatcher.

    Well that shows you what level of depravity we're up against.

    The oligarchs and the libertarians deny that we're a social species at all. Because the closer society comes to operating on that principle, the stronger the oligarchs get.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 02:42:33 PM PST

    •  the oligarchs have a society, though, (9+ / 0-)

      they're united in extracting every last bit out of the 99%.

      They cooperate in the great common enterprises of wealth/ resource extraction. They would have us believe that theirs is a Randian, dog-eat-dog world of pitiless competition. But among their own kind, they always seek to come to a mutually beneficial accommodation.

      They understand, as the 99% do not, that war among themselves is too costly. War among the 99%--that's just good business. But war among the 1% is too destructive to be countenanced. They do not war. They negotiate.

      The 1% think of themselves as super-people. They think of the 99% as some kind of subhuman species, like bugs.

      It makes no sense whatsoever for super-people to try to form a society with bugs, that protects the bugs' interests. Why on earth would super-people and bugs try to live in a common society? Absurd.

      What rights do bugs have? The right to be squashed when they get in the way of super-people, and the right to be exploited by the super-people whenever it's profitable. No others are needed.

      That's more or less where we're headed. And, as Orwell feared, such a world is actually very sustainable.

      "In America, the law is king." --Thomas Paine

      by limpidglass on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 02:56:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Oh Absolutely. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        But with climate change and resource bottlenecks, the numbers of the 99% could drop precipitously.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 03:56:59 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Heh (0+ / 0-)

      I recall how quickly she dropped this view when confronted by the poll tax riots. She nearly gave herself whiplash denouncing the rioters as enemies of society.

      Nothing human is alien to me.

      by WB Reeves on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 06:24:39 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  And yet, not everything is shared in kindergarten. (7+ / 0-)

    Only the things owned by the whole (well, by the school) are shared among everyone.

    If one child in the class has a bicycle, and another one doesn't, the kid with the bicycle isn't obligated to share his bike with the kid who doesn't have one.

    And when the kids get grades (or gold stars or whatever) for their work, they're given those individually; the kid who's able to do her colors and shapes and numbers doesn't have to "share" her grade with the kid who hasn't figured them out yet.

    I see the latter as an entry-point to a good model for the kind of European style regulated-capitalist social democracy that I think serves humanity best, one in which everyone is taken care of and the necessities of life are everyone's birthright, but where those with entrepreneurial and creative spirits have the opportunity to reap the rewards for their individual initiative.

    "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

    by JamesGG on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 02:59:16 PM PST

  •  The first churches (4+ / 0-)

    mentioned in the new testament were based on socialism.
    They actually practiced what Jesus preached.

  •  A different perspective (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    limpidglass, isabelle hayes

    In my view, this is a dangerous description; and certainly not one of socialism:

    any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
    It is not the way socialism is practiced in the world -- or even a foundation for a workable society.

    Let's look at Einstein's definition:

    The workers share -- NOT in the means of production -- but in the work product itself.

    This produces liquid equity that immediately stimulates the economy, rather than long-term equity like owning .0001 percent of the factory, which has a fixed life span before obsolescence or the need to refit, swallowing equity.

    Let the factory owners own the factory (or the state or the public) and tax them on profits for redistribution to society as a whole. Let distributors distribute, and tax them their on profits.

    This is how socialism can work with either Communism or Capitalism for the betterment of the nation and its people -- and the fostering of innovation.

    It is also a way to avoid the trap of better productivity leading to job loss. Ignore the factories. Tax the robots for redistribution.

    Denial is a drug.

    by Pluto on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 04:03:32 PM PST

  •  Because everyone knows how societies that (0+ / 0-)

    called themselves socialist ended up. You could argue that it wasn't true socialism but it ends up pretty close to 'no true Scotsman' fallacy.

    Northern Europe is not socialism. It's mixed economy just like pretty much every other country in the world. You could legitimately argue that higher taxes combined with better safety net lead to a more equal society and that's beneficial for the society as a whole. But that's not socialism.

    •  State capitalism? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FG, aliasalias
      You could argue that it wasn't true socialism but it ends up pretty close to 'no true Scotsman' fallacy.
      Sorry, but the "no true Scotsman" fallacy applies to individuals, not to societies.  Start here:

      "There's nothing heroic about earning profit." -Odo, from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

      by Cassiodorus on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 04:32:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Why then the societies that start supposedly (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        socialist ended up as a state capitalism? Seems to be a trend. It's just too easy for people in power at the moment to grab total control and start using supposedly joint property for their own purposes. That's not to say that socialism the way you describe it is impossible. Small communities existed this way for centuries and quite a few businesses operate this way. But up to now it hasn't worked on larger scale.

        •  I have to imagine -- (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          2020adam, isabelle hayes

          that part of the reason has to do with the fact that the capitalist powers-that-be engaged Russia in a civil war.  Woodrow Wilson sent 50,000 US troops to battle the commies.

          "There's nothing heroic about earning profit." -Odo, from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

          by Cassiodorus on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 05:40:27 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  This is certainly true (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            but it is hardly sufficient to explain the disastrous failed experiment that was the Soviet Union. Neither do I think that the degeneration of the Chinese revolution can be dismissed by referencing the hostility of international capital.

            The refusal to to take a hard, unflinching, critical look at the manifest failures of statist socialism is an abdication of responsibility that no movement aiming transforming the world can afford to indulge in.

            If Socialism is to have any future as the force for human advancement that it once promised to be, it cannot turn a blind eye to the historic crimes and atrocities committed in its name.  


            Nothing human is alien to me.

            by WB Reeves on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 01:52:57 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  then maybe it was the embargo thereafter? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              WB Reeves

              As I suggested before:

              1) The Soviet Union and the PRC dupicated, in large extent, the authoritarianisms of earlier regimes.  Lenin himself admitted at the end of his life that the Soviet bureaucracy duplicated the Czar's police forces.  Mao was a Chinese Emperor.  The one factor that compounded this authoritarianism appears to have been modernization -- keeping people in line while making them consumers is something the emperors of old didn't try.

              2) Said "socialist" systems didn't exist in isolation from the larger world-system -- they offered, as Wallerstein suggested, a "mercantilistic semi-retreat" from the world-system as a whole for a system developing independently of global capital.  It's not as if the Soviet Union could have avoided participation in a breakneck modernization path when its rivals in Nazi Germany and the United States were busy developing armies of global conquest and (in the case of the US) atomic weaponry -- and it wasn't likely that the Soviet Union was going to agree upon breakneck modernization democratically, given the international isolation of the USSR and the complete lack of a democratic tradition after 400 years of Romanov rule.  

              Given all that, the Russian revolutionaries were, as Boris Kagarlitsky argues, mere "Jacobins," and the version of "socialism" they offered was a complete failure by any metric we might establish through the writings of Antonio Gramsci (as Kagarlitsky also points out).  So much so that the Soviet Union's bad end was established in reality before its de jure end when the leadership switched sides and declared themselves to be capitalists.   They missed their two big chances to do anything positive with socialism by crushing the revolts, both socialist, in Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968.  The formal structure was abolished more or less because Gorbachev was not the capitalist Deng was in China.

              What I find bizarre is the whole matter of why the capitalists still feel free to point fingers at the Soviet Union and the PRC when their own backlog of atrocities was quite immense.  See, e.g. the Middle Passage, Pakistan, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Congo, Guatemala, and so on.

              "There's nothing heroic about earning profit." -Odo, from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

              by Cassiodorus on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 08:44:34 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Cass (0+ / 0-)

                The arguments above suffer from anachronism. The Bolshevik regime had been in place for 15 years prior to the Nazi assumption of power Germany. During this period there was no build up of military forces in either Germany or the US and certainly no A bomb program. Yet the degeneration of the Bolshevik regime was even then apparent to many observers.

                Accelerated industrialization of the Soviet economy was first proposed in the early 20's but was rejected by the Bolsheviks and it's proponents silenced. This policy was suddenly reversed at Stalin's behest in 1928, leading to the forced collectivization and "super" industrialization he'd previously opposed. This reversal led directly to the massive famine in the Soviet Union of '32-'33.

                Again, these events all preceded German and US military build-ups. They could hardly be the cause of the Bolshevik's drastic policy change since they hadn't yet occurred.

                Arguing that the crimes and atrocities of Capital justify or excuse the crimes and atrocities committed in the name of Socialism isn't going to be very convincing to anyone whose concern is the well being of themselves and their families rather than historical comparisons.

                While I've long been an admirer of Boris Kagarlitsky, I have to point out that being schooled in Soviet style history wasn't the best preparation for assessing that history. That said, the Bolsheviks made no secret of considering themselves the inheritors of Jacobinism. They saw no contradiction between Jacobinism and Bolshevism.

                For myself, I think the best chance for the Soviet Union came and went far earlier.      

                Nothing human is alien to me.

                by WB Reeves on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 11:40:24 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  One further point (0+ / 0-)

                The Cordon Sanitaire of the Soviet Union was effectively broken by the Treaty of Rapallo in 1922. Ironically, this resulted in Germany becoming the USSR's economic window to the west and greatly aided that country's military development.

                Nothing human is alien to me.

                by WB Reeves on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 11:49:42 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  No, it happened even before the civil war started. (0+ / 0-)

            And it was primarily a civil war. International involvement didn't change the nature of the Soviet government.

    •  And -- (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FG, aliasalias
      Because everyone knows how societies that (0+ / 0-)

      called themselves socialist ended up.

      They ended up repeating the absolutism of the previous regime.  Oh, sure, we should be rightly concerned that, should the US become socialist, the national security state won't go away, and the government will continue to spy on everyone while declaring continuous war on the world.  But a whole lot of us don't seem to care a whole lot about that happening under capitalism now, and it is happening now.

      "There's nothing heroic about earning profit." -Odo, from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

      by Cassiodorus on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 04:45:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  i'm reading david nasaw's bio of joe kennedy & (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    am at the part where fdr's first term has resulted in a lot of legislation that ws bankers & the rest of the plutocrats don't like, & surprise, surprise they used the same terms as today's rw-ers do in trashing anything that's not pure market-based capitalism, especially (gasp!), socialism.

    die-hard conservatives have a problem with anything that's not unlimited greed.

  •  GOPers don't mind socialism, they mind sharing it (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, isabelle hayes

    That's why they want to keep all hate Godless Commie stuff for people (currently) age 55 and over for voters who tends (and strongly) to vote Republican.

    And why they want to bar access to that same public largesse for everyone else.

    And that's just the most obvious example.

  •  There are many ideas of socialism (4+ / 0-)

    ...from anarchists who oppose all states in principle, to stalinist totalitarians.  

    I use "the golden rule applied to political economy", but I like your first effort "a society based on sharing" a little better than the dictionary definition.

    A common definition is collective ownership and democratic control, all of whose terms raise further questions.

    I'm a democratic socialist, who accepts the need for governments to resolve interdependencies beyond the human scale - metropolitan, national, global. But I understand the risks of public bureaucracies becoming unaccountable, or captured by monied private interests.  

    I also am aware of the history of failure of many local utopian and cooperative experiments, but there are many successful if imperfect examples to build on. Working democracy is a necessary condition for socialism, otherwise a self selecting elite will rule in their own interest.

    IMHO socialism as an ideal can be approximated but never fully achieved, because human diversity will tend to undermine equality.

    In practice, modern societies are arenas of struggle between capitalist and socialist principles, producing mixed economies, with the balances of capitalist and socialist sectors varying in time and space. Northern European countries have done the best, but have far to go; there are many successful examples on the local level.

    Evern the US, where capitalist ideology has been hegemonic, has major socialist components to build on - much of the welfare state created in the progressive era, new deal and great society eras is more socialist than capitalist, and was anticipated in Socialist Party platforms.

    There's no such thing as a free market!

    by Albanius on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 06:00:55 PM PST

  •  Our schools are socialist (0+ / 0-)

    I'm not anti-public school or pro-homeschool or anything, it's just the way it is, John Taylor Gatto's Underground History of American Education explains our system, how we came to use a Prussian model and why, [It] held a clear idea of what centralized schooling should deliver.

    It was funded by the men who needed it to be that way.

    It is what it is. It is socialist for a reason.

    Wade A. Carpenter, associate professor of education at Berry College, has called his books "scathing" and "one-sided and hyperbolic, [but] not inaccurate"[6] and describes himself as in agreement with Gatto.
    I read the book for what it's worth. What can you do about our schools now?

    Blockquote is from here.

    Gatto's page is (not up to date I think) linked above, click on men.

    A good horse is never a bad color.

    by CcVenussPromise on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 07:29:16 PM PST

  •  it doesn't seem to me that a society (0+ / 0-)

    based entirely on sharing would be any more feasible or sustainable, our immune from corruption, than a society based entirely on competition and private ownership.

    "Let's do this!" - Leeroy Jenkins

    by AaronInSanDiego on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 10:15:57 PM PST

    •  Which is why we need both (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      isabelle hayes

      Depending upon the sector, it can be more or less socialist, as appropriate. Natural resources, utilities? Public ownership. Entertainment, factories? Private ownership. And so forth, with some sectors being a mix, like mail and package delivery.

      Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

      by Simplify on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 11:40:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Maybe you'd prefer to teach the Kindergarten (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WB Reeves

      run on capitalist principles?

      I fail to see why oligarchic economics has any advantages for the great mass of people over democratic economics.

      "There's nothing heroic about earning profit." -Odo, from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

      by Cassiodorus on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 08:15:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm not sure that reducing Socialism (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    isabelle hayes, AaronInSanDiego

    to a species of altruism is either accurate or tactically smart. For me the core of Socialism is the recognition that civilization, society, all the structures that make individual achievement and fulfillment possible, are collective endeavors. It follows from this that the benefits wrought by collective action ought to be available to all who contribute and not expropriated as the privilege of a favored few.

    Understood in this way, Socialism is the extension of the democratic principle to our social and economic life. It is the liberation of humanity from the dictatorship of exploitation and want.

    Without such liberation the notion of individual freedom is doomed to be what it has become in our present day: a hollow boast that serves as a figleaf for the tyranny of a privileged minority.

    Nothing human is alien to me.

    by WB Reeves on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 02:47:55 AM PST

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