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(also at VOTS)

My socialism diary today was prompted by this otherwise laudable video, now making the rounds on Facebook:

Short synopsis: most people think the distribution of wealth is X, which isn't really half as skewed as it really is.  In reality, the top 20% own practically everything.  So we don't need "socialism" (defined here as total equality in ownership for everyone) if things in America are to be better.

My objection to this video, of course, has nothing to do with its rather accurate portrayal of the distribution of wealth under capitalism in America.  Rather, I disagree with its portrayal of socialism.  Let's go back to the definition of socialism that we find in the dictionary.  Merriam-Webster Online:

: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
When I am discussing public (or "collective or governmental") ownership of the means of production, I don't mean that everyone owns "the wealth" (and here I mean the means of production, not some definition of "wealth" that has been inflated by financial games) equally.  Rather, with socialism you have a new category of wealth, collective wealth, and the means of production falls entirely into this category.  

The author of the above video does not, unfortunately, envision a concept of collective ownership.  His purview is limited to the question of who owns what, without reference to the possibility that everyone might collectively own something, or rather a whole lot of somethings (the means of production).  In the absence of such a concept, I suppose that it's only natural that the video's author would misread the idea of "socialism" as "everyone owns everything equally."  Equality, however, does not mean collective control.  This is the main point, then: socialists do not seek to "make everyone equal."  Rather, they seek to form the public into a collective.

Let me suggest, furthermore, that the argument about whether "socialism" is or isn't about "equality" is an old one.  It dates back, at least, to Karl Marx's famous tract The Critique of the Gotha Program.  Marx's idea of a newfound communism, or rather what is often called "socialism," goes as follows:

What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally, and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges. Accordingly, the individual producer receives back from society -- after the deductions have been made -- exactly what he gives to it.
Marx, then, was interested in founding the new society on meritocratic principles -- he wanted the public (in charge of the new society) to give more to the deserving, to those who worked hardest and longest to build the new society.  It would not, then, be a capitalist society, in which the top 20% got everything because they (or rather for the most part the top 1% among them) owned everything.  Capiitalism, as McNamee and Miller have thoroughly demonstrated, is not meritocratic.  

Now, as for Marx's concept of a new society, its ultimate foundation was to be a society in which wealth was distributed "from each according to his (sic) abilities, to each according to his (sic) needs."  It was to be a society in which people didn't worry about the distribution of wealth, because the problem of social classes was to be solved once and for all.  In the beginning, however, Marx argued that the new society would have to consider a "right of inequality," in order to move into a collective consideration of contribution, and thereafter to move into a collective consideration of who actually needed what:

But one man is superior to another physically, or mentally, and supplies more labor in the same time, or can labor for a longer time; and labor, to serve as a measure, must be defined by its duration or intensity, otherwise it ceases to be a standard of measurement. This equal right is an unequal right for unequal labor. It recognizes no class differences, because everyone is only a worker like everyone else; but it tacitly recognizes unequal individual endowment, and thus productive capacity, as a natural privilege. It is, therefore, a right of inequality, in its content, like every right. Right, by its very nature, can consist only in the application of an equal standard; but unequal individuals (and they would not be different individuals if they were not unequal) are measurable only by an equal standard insofar as they are brought under an equal point of view, are taken from one definite side only -- for instance, in the present case, are regarded only as workers and nothing more is seen in them, everything else being ignored. Further, one worker is married, another is not; one has more children than another, and so on and so forth. Thus, with an equal performance of labor, and hence an equal in the social consumption fund, one will in fact receive more than another, one will be richer than another, and so on. To avoid all these defects, right, instead of being equal, would have to be unequal.
Socialism isn't going to be a society in which "everyone is equal," contrary to popular lore, because everyone isn't equal, and because everyone won't be equal.  Men can't get pregnant, short people can't reach as high as tall people, and those in northern climes must work harder to stay warm than those who live in the tropics.  Human inequality, then, is a fact of life.  Socialists have no problem with it -- their complaint is with class society, the concept of creating fixed inequality among people by dividing them into one class of triumphant owners and another, much larger, class of people just struggling to get by.

Socialism, then, will work to produce genuine public rule, without the class-stratified society of capitalism.  I've described the process, the how of socialism, in this diary here.

NB: The wealth apportionment described in the video above is a product of the normal operation of capitalism.  Under capitalism everything is a commodity, thus everything can be bought by money.  The power of money under capitalism, then, is its power to buy everything.  The principle is recursive, too: capitalism is the natural product of a society in which, according to common lore, "it takes money to make money."  So you want to regulate this?  The regulations, too, can be commodities which can be bought by rich people.

In light of all this, should we be at all surprised that the top 20% own practically everything?  They are merely parlaying advantages.

Misconceptions of Socialism diaries:

Socialism has never happened before

Socialism is like Sweden y'know.

Socialism is a utopian fantasy.

Socialism is dead/ Socialism is against human nature.

Omigod the Soviet Union!

To those who freak out about "socialism"

Originally posted to Postcapitalism on Mon May 13, 2013 at 12:44 PM PDT.

Also republished by Anti-Capitalist Chat, In Support of Labor and Unions, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This (13+ / 0-)
    Socialism isn't going to be a society in which "everyone is equal," contrary to popular lore, because everyone isn't equal, and because everyone won't be equal.  Men can't get pregnant, short people can't reach as high as tall people, and those in northern climes must work harder to stay warm than those who live in the tropics.  Human inequality, then, is a fact of life.  Socialists have no problem with it -- their complaint is with class society, the concept of creating fixed inequality among people by dividing them into one class of triumphant owners and another, much larger, class of people just struggling to get by.
    Excellent description of how the caring for others accept that things will never be equal, and the attitude that the objective is only to make it better for all.

    Thanks Cass

    There are no sacred cows.

    by LaEscapee on Mon May 13, 2013 at 12:51:57 PM PDT

    •  Exactly! (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MsGrin, rat racer, JerryNA, Kevskos

      Socialism essentially means that the rich will always be rich because that's what's important to them, but no one will die of starvation or go without necessary medical care.  Socialism means everybody gets to live at least a decent life.  Simple, really....

      Dream on, dream about the world we’re gonna live in one fine day…

      Liberal = We're all in this together
      Conservative = Every man for himself
      Who you gonna call?

      •  The problem is... (6+ / 0-)

        those rich people achieve wealth on the backs of the poor. In true socialism, it would be difficult if not impossible to achieve vast wealth, since that only occurs by stealing wealth from others by monopolizing the means of production, thus forcing people into wage slavery, as well as debt slavery.

        Take away profit at worker's expense, and that massive wealth owned by a few won't exist, since worker exploitation will be eliminated.

        Socialism is much more than providing a safety net.

        "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

        by ZhenRen on Tue May 14, 2013 at 01:35:48 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The second million (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JerryNA, zett, Kevskos

          should be just as difficult to make as the first, not half as difficult.  

          Better yet, make it twice is difficult: those who think they are super-smart or super-hardworking should be able to handle it.  

          And yet, this is one thing my barber doesn't seem to get.  

      •  It doesn't mean the rich will always be rich (3+ / 0-)

        In fact there won't be anyone who is rich in the way we think of it right now. The rich as a class wouldn't exist in a society based on merit.

        If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

        by AoT on Tue May 14, 2013 at 09:58:16 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I just drove on a (15+ / 0-)

    socialist road to pick up my spawn from the socialist learning facility.

  •  A very good point (11+ / 0-)

    and an excellent refutation of the caricature of Marx's thinking that far too many accept as fact.

    Marx has been pilloried and defamed as a impractical idealist precisely because he was the opposite: a hard headed realist.

    It's that realism that threatens the comfortable and complacent.

    Nothing human is alien to me.

    by WB Reeves on Mon May 13, 2013 at 01:05:11 PM PDT

  •  i love to see such diaries on kos (7+ / 0-)

    because a better democrat is a socialist, i.e. wants a social safety net (which is what a socialist govt would provide) and free education for everyone

  •  Just a few questions because (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rat racer

    I found your diary difficult to follow.

    First, why refer us to an online dictionary for the meaning of "socialism," especially one written in terms of collective or governmental ownership of the means of production and distribution of goods?

    Second, how do you square calling Marx "meritocratic," at least as the concept is commonly understood, with his famous dictum (which you quote), in his Critique of the Gotha Programme, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!"?

    Third, if the history of movements and governments that have called themselves socialist over the past 200 years has taught us anything it is that there can be no socialism without democracy. Why is democracy not part of your definition?

    Shalom v' salaam; peace and wholeness

    by another American on Mon May 13, 2013 at 02:52:35 PM PDT

    •  NB: (5+ / 0-)

      1) Can you suggest a more fitting definition?  This is merely one entry in an encyclopedia of misconceptions of socialism.

      2) Reading the first part of the Critique of the Gotha Program will clear up this problem.  The "famous dictum" is what Marx imagined for a "higher stage of communism."  The meritocracy is what Marx imagined for the birth-stages.

      3) Reading my last diary will clear this up:

      Third, each government would set up a scheme for genuinely PUBLIC control over the means of production.  This would have to mean that everyone would be given the right to participate in basic production decisions.  There might be votes, but votes (as David Graeber points out in his book on democracy) are in themselves not ways of establishing people power -- there would have to be some elements of consensus process added to the processes of public control.  (If some of you were still wondering, this is why the Occupy movement was run with a consensus process in place.)
      I did cite this diary here, did I not?

      "It takes great courage to see the world in all its tainted glory, and still to love it." Oscar Wilde

      by Cassiodorus on Mon May 13, 2013 at 03:14:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  A little OT (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AoT, zett

        but just an observation.

        Consensus requires a shared  sense of priorities. Absent this, consensus is unworkable.

        Nothing human is alien to me.

        by WB Reeves on Mon May 13, 2013 at 04:06:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The concept is that... (7+ / 0-)

          there should be dialogue to arrive at the widest consensus, not just rote voting.

          The objective  is to achieve the widest agreement possible, not just settling for routine majority rule of 51%. Consensus above 90% may not always be possible, but when votes are taken, it should only be after all have had the opportunity to raise points and objections, with debate, airing everything, so that it truly is a community decision, not just a power play of getting 51%.

          Sometimes slim majorities are the best that can be achieved, but the goal is to reach for greater consensus.

          My take on this from an anarchist perspective.

          "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

          by ZhenRen on Mon May 13, 2013 at 07:48:26 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I would add that consensus is about airing (9+ / 0-)

            all concerns and objections and offering up creative resolutions to get to what people can "live with." Not just what they prefer.

            I don't think it's as critical to have an agreed upon set of priorities as it is to have an agreed upon mission and an agreed upon set of base principles about how best to work together on decision-making.

            •  Right... (6+ / 0-)

              And when the basic "cell" or participatory community (of a larger federation) makes decisions for itself, the members obviously have something in common by virtue of their free association together. When people self-manage the workplace, for example, they are bound together by their work, and thus as a natural consequence will share the same environment, along with similar needs, which makes consensus easier. Hence the term "affinity group".

              Which is why bottom up organizing works so much better. When people are experiencing similar realities and pressures, they tend to find agreement easier.

              "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

              by ZhenRen on Mon May 13, 2013 at 11:36:18 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  This is certainly a laudable ideal (0+ / 0-)

              but the origins of the consensus model are a bit more mundane. It's development on the US left was largely a response to the ability of so-called vanguard organizations to dominate and/or seize control of existing coalitions, running roughshod over any interests that deviated from their own organizational agenda.

              Consensus proved it's worth as a defense strategy in such sectarian struggles but its other claims are more problematic.

              OWS marked a major effort to apply the consensus model to a burgeoning mass movement. The results weren't particularly encouraging. Many, rightly or wrongly, point to it as a cause, even the primary cause, of the movement's fragmentation and marginalization.

              Whether that judgement is correct or not, it is important not to make a fetish of any theoretical model of organization.  

              Nothing human is alien to me.

              by WB Reeves on Tue May 14, 2013 at 11:58:54 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Graeber wrote a commentary about consensus (4+ / 0-)

                Which addresses some of your points. He also goes into some of the historical antecedents to American use of consensus as used in OWS. I think it can serve as a good contrast or rebuttal to your issues with it.

                Here's an excerpt, but the short article should be read in its entirety.

                David Graeber: Some Remarks on Consensus

                1) CONSENSUS IS "A WHITE THING" (OR A MIDDLE CLASS WHITE THING, OR AN ELITIST FORM OF OPPRESSION, ETC)

                The first thing to be said about this statement is that this idea is a very American thing. Anyone I mention it to who is not from the United States tends to react to the statement with complete confusion. Even in the US, it is a relatively recent idea, and the product of a very particular set of historical circumstances.

                The confusion overseas is due to the fact that almost everywhere except the US, the exact opposite is true. In the Americas, Africa, Asia, Oceania, one finds longstanding traditions of making decisions by consensus, and then, histories of white colonialists coming and imposing Roberts Rules of Order, majority voting, elected representatives, and the whole associated package—by force. South Asian panchayat councils did not operate by majority voting and still don't unless there has been a direct colonial influence, or by political parties that learned their idea of democracy in colonial schools and government bodies the colonialists set up. The same is true of communal assemblies in Africa. (In China, village assemblies also operated by consensus until the '50s when the Communist Party imposed majority voting, since Mao felt voting was more "Western" and therefore "modern.") Almost everywhere in the Americas, indigenous communities use consensus and the white or mestizo descendants of colonialists use majority voting (insofar as they made decisions on an equal basis at all, which mostly they didn't), and when you find an indigenous community using majority voting, it is again under the explicit influence of European ideas—almost always, along with elected officials, and formal rules of procedure obviously learned in colonial schools or borrowed from colonial regimes. Insofar as anyone is teaching anyone else to use consensus, it's the other way around: as in the case of the Maya-speaking Zapatista communities who insisted the EZLN adopt consensus over the strong initial objections of Spanish-speaking mestizos like Marcos, or for that matter the white Australian activists I know who told me that student groups in the '80s and '90s had to turn to veterans of the Maoist New People's Army to train them in consensus process—not because Maoists were supposed to believe in consensus, since Mao himself didn't like the idea, but because NPA guerillas were mostly from rural communities in the Philippines that had always used consensus to make decisions and therefore guerilla units had adopted the same techniques spontaneously.

                ...
                Just one telling example. Justine Tunney recently wrote a piece called "Occupiers: Stop Using Consensus!" that begins by describing it as "the idea that a group must strictly adhere to a protocol where all decisions are unanimous"—and then goes on to claim that OWS used such a process, with disastrous results. This is bizarre. OWS never used absolute consensus. On the very first meeting on August 2, 2011 we established we'd use a form of modified consensus with a fallback to a two-thirds vote. Anyway, the description is wrong even if we had been using absolute consensus (an approach nowadays rarely used in groups of over 20 or 30 people), since consensus is not a system of unanimous voting, it's a system where any participant has the right to veto a proposal which they consider either to violate some fundamental principle, or which they object to so fundamentally that proceeding would cause them to quit the group. If we can have people who have been involved with OWS from the very beginning who still don't know that much, but think consensus is some kind of "strict" unanimous voting system, we've got a major problem. How could anyone have worked with OWS that long and still remained apparently completely unaware of the basic principles under which we were supposed to be operating?

                "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                by ZhenRen on Tue May 14, 2013 at 12:54:21 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I don't see that these extracts (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  zett

                  address the substance of my points at all, with the exception of Graeber's personal anecdote. That made me realize that I erred in in using OWS as shorthand for the Occupy Movement as a whole. While OWS specifically may not have attempted to use absolute consensus, that wasn't the case with my local assembly.

                  In our case, the repeated use of individual blocks paralyzed decision making until the assembly gave the effort up as a bad job. Wrangling over this contributed heavily to fragmentation and relapse into apathy.

                  This underlines the reality that no one, neither Graeber or myself, can accurately generalize about the practice of the Occupy Movement as a whole based entirely on personal experience. That sort of definitive summing up would require a wide overview taking into account a myriad of local experience.  

                  I'd add that references to traditional peasant and village level forms of consensus doesn't really tell us much about the development of the consensus model in the context of US political history.

                  Nothing human is alien to me.

                  by WB Reeves on Tue May 14, 2013 at 01:30:44 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Certainly... (4+ / 0-)

                    The consensus model was applied differently, according to the understanding of participants in different cities. In fact, it was never expected to be one-size-fits-all.

                    It required experimentation and adaptation. Americans are so accustomed to top down hierarchical models, and being led by a few, that some individuals weren't willing to try a new approach, but for many of us who stuck around, it was a wonderful way of self-managing.

                    What city were you in? How often did you attend meetings? Some people gave up after one or two exposures.

                    In Portland, which had one of the largest Occupy populations, we adapted the model frequently. I personally found it to be one of the most liberating experiences I've ever had, but I do think the approach takes some personal adjustments (especially in the size of one's ego) and many weren't willing to be patient enough to work out the wrinkles.

                    "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                    by ZhenRen on Tue May 14, 2013 at 01:46:00 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Atlanta (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      zett

                      My own experience with consensus decision making dates to the 1970's. Our Indymedia collective used a form of limited consensus so there's that as well.

                      I didn't attend as many general assemblies as I would have liked but I kept in close contact with those who did. I did witness the attendance at them shriveling from hundreds to a handful though.

                      Nothing human is alien to me.

                      by WB Reeves on Tue May 14, 2013 at 02:18:07 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I understand (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Cassiodorus, Brown Thrasher

                        It's a pity that happened, because I think there is much to learn from direct democracy approaches. I notice Graeber said in his article that with numbers beyond 20 or 30, achieving absolute consensus becomes more difficult.

                        Also, regarding anarchists, not all think consensus in large numbers is workable, but the spirit of listening to all sides, breaking down the barriers of factions, giving each person a voice, using recallable and mandated delegates, and participatory democracy is the ideal, even if absolute consensus becomes impractical in larger groups.

                        In Portland, we adopted a spokes-council model which seemed to help. Smaller working groups and affinity groups (with from as little as 3 or 4 persons up to 20 or so) would use the consensus approach, and would select a delegate or two to attend a spokes-council meeting (which was open and everyone could attend) and the delegates would, in turn, try to use consensus, but in the end sometimes a simple vote was taken and accepted. But everyone tried to honor consensus as much as possible and understood its value.

                        The delegates could not make decisions, but rather would continually go back and confer with their respective groups during the meetings and were mandated/directed to vote according to the consensus of the smaller group. If a delegate ignored the group, inserting his or her own opinions (which occasionally did happen), they could be easily replaced, or rebuked and reminded of the group's intentions.

                        "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                        by ZhenRen on Tue May 14, 2013 at 02:41:27 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  In the spokes-council model (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Brown Thrasher

                          there were many groups which sent delegates to the council. Probably something like 15 or more groups made up the community. Anyone was free to form an affinity group.

                          "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                          by ZhenRen on Tue May 14, 2013 at 02:45:27 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                  •  Oh, and did you read the entire article? (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Cassiodorus, Brown Thrasher

                    My excepts were merely teasers to get people to click on the link. The article isn't long, and there are some good points he made that aren't in my excepts.

                    "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                    by ZhenRen on Tue May 14, 2013 at 01:48:13 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

      •  The coercive impulse that lurks (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        WB Reeves

        in the desire for consensus is in tension with democracy. To those who demand decision-making by consensus, I say, By all means, try to persuade me. But if I hold to my own opinion, don't hammer at me with the need for consensus. And so long as minority rights are respected, don't use the idea of consensus to frustrate the majority. Bad as it is with a 60-vote requirement (illegitimately) imposed by Republicans, imagine a Senate that could decide matters only by consensus.

        Shalom v' salaam; peace and wholeness

        by another American on Mon May 13, 2013 at 05:40:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Can you tell us -- (4+ / 0-)

          about your experience with "the coercive impulse that lurks in the desire for consensus" in general assemblies in the Occupy movement?  I attended plenty of them, and I experienced no "coercive impulse" in any desire for consensus whatsoever.

          In voting, on the other hand, there is plenty of coercive impulse.  Observe, for instance, the tenor of discussion at DailyKos.com in an election run-up.

          "It takes great courage to see the world in all its tainted glory, and still to love it." Oscar Wilde

          by Cassiodorus on Mon May 13, 2013 at 07:53:09 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Irrelevant! (0+ / 0-)

            Most families get on great until there's some money to split up.

            Occupy only had to deal with short term problems and long term wishes and wants.  Had they actually won anything valuable the squabbles would have begun.

            If the anarchists were to "win out" and be in charge of the country what would they do with those who still held out for "government?"

          •  I wasn't speaking of (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            WB Reeves, socindemsclothing

            the Occupy movement. But over many years I have participated in too many meetings where the stated or tacit ground rule that the group would decide only by consensus on the one hand gave extraordinary power to a dedicated (disciplined?) minority to coerce a less committed majority (if only by outlasting its members) while on the other hand leading members of a minority, who were entirely willing to be outvoted, to feel a strong moral pressure to satisfy the majority by agreeing not only that the majority had the right to decide but that it actually was right.

            Shalom v' salaam; peace and wholeness

            by another American on Tue May 14, 2013 at 06:14:21 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  What were the context of these meetings? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Brown Thrasher

              Business, activism, other things?

              The ISO standard is determined by consensus and they have a pretty good track record. I can see what you're talking about as a problem in some cases, but that's true of most everything. And if people are intent enough on stopping something then there isn't a whole lot to be done.

              If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

              by AoT on Tue May 14, 2013 at 11:14:45 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  This short article by Graeber (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Cassiodorus, Brown Thrasher

              delves into consensus and dispels some of the myths about the intentions of its use by Occupy.

              And he points out that consensus was never held to be the ONLY form of direct, grassroots democracy.

              Worth a read.

              http://occupywallst.org/...

              "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

              by ZhenRen on Tue May 14, 2013 at 01:12:24 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  I think what's missing here is that when a (9+ / 0-)

          group determines to make decisions by consensus, it isn't about the final vote. It's about learning how to be respectful of all concerned and to become better at generating creative resolutions that everyone can live with.

          We simply wouldn't have the same people in the Senate if we were a society based on consensus. Nothing would look the same.

      •  Perhaps I'm misreading (0+ / 0-)

        what Marx says, or what you wrote.

        You wrote: "Marx, then, was interested in founding the new society on meritocratic principles." From this I understand you to be saying that Marx wanted (was interested) to found a new society "on meritocratic principles." In short, he favored the meritocratic idea.

        But between the passage quoted in your diary and the "from each/to each" dictum, I see Marx referring to the arrangements you he "was interested in founding" as "these defects." Put otherwise, his support for meritocratic principles seems half-hearted, at most.

        In all events, time has proven Marx a man of the 19th century, remarkable in some ways, to be sure, but hardly the measure of all things, even socialism.

        Shalom v' salaam; peace and wholeness

        by another American on Mon May 13, 2013 at 05:52:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Think of it this way -- (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          shaharazade

          Why would Marx want to begin the new society on meritocratic principles?  One simple answer would be that he wanted to reward those who did the most to create this new society, and as an incentive for everyone else to do the same.

          "It takes great courage to see the world in all its tainted glory, and still to love it." Oscar Wilde

          by Cassiodorus on Mon May 13, 2013 at 07:58:33 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  One problem: (6+ / 0-)

            Who decides which persons are deserving of greater merit, and which behaviors should be incentivized?

            One would need a state to do this, it seems. I'm thinking of the peasants in Bolshevik Russia whose agricultural produce was appropriated for urban workers who were considered more deserving and vital, and the peasants were left to go hungry, deprived of the fruits of their own labor.

            And who decides which qualities have more merit? The person who provides levity to the workplace with humor, even if they are less energetic, may be just as vital to a functioning team as the most productive worker. The strong person endowed with brute strength has a place along with the person with a brilliant intellect.

            So when we begin to reward some behaviors, who decides which ones have more merit?

            "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

            by ZhenRen on Tue May 14, 2013 at 12:44:32 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  To determine merit there must be a purpose (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              zett

              toward which activity is directed. The relative merit then would be in the contribution toward enactment of progress in the direction of the purpose. Many purposes can be imagined. If simply focused on the machine of production with a goal of more then those who contributed the most to creating more would be perceived as being most meritorious. If focused on the health of the whole system, as best we can understand it, processes that produce enough with less work might be seen as meritorious. making or teaching others to make music or write poetry might be seen as valuable if it related to a purpose. It gets more complicated with more complicated purposes.

              Love = Awareness of mutually beneficial exchange across semi-permeable boundaries. Political and economic systems either amplify or inhibit Love.

              by Bob Guyer on Tue May 14, 2013 at 06:51:26 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  This could open the door (4+ / 0-)

                to elites deciding to give themselves more merit and thus more rewards, creating a hierarchy of merit. So, I'm wondering how this would be decided, and by whom?

                It could make people feel manipulated, as if a grand orchestrator were moving them about like pawns in a chess game. Too much like capitalism, and the overarching state.

                "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                by ZhenRen on Tue May 14, 2013 at 08:15:25 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  This is a practical problem. (0+ / 0-)

                  I"m sure there's a solution.

                  "It takes great courage to see the world in all its tainted glory, and still to love it." Oscar Wilde

                  by Cassiodorus on Tue May 14, 2013 at 08:35:57 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Imagine... (5+ / 0-)

                    A group of workers self-managing an industry. They are discussing and forming consensus on which work and which persons will be afforded more merit, and yet each person (presumably) has an equal voice in deciding this scale by direct democracy.

                    Will they willingly and democratically decide that some members are more valuable than others? And if this is true, will this lead to some members having a greater influence in decision making, if their decisions/work/contributions produce more in the workplace?

                    See where this leads? If we reward merit, do we reward better decision makers? Give them more authority? Once we go down this path, the whole thing unravels into hierarchy. And hierarchy is not compatible with consensus, unless it is a body of elites forming the consensus.

                    "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                    by ZhenRen on Tue May 14, 2013 at 08:48:54 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

          •  You still haven't explained how defects, as Marx (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            AoT

            calls (what you call) meritocratic principles can be something he was interested in as the foundation of a new society. In the preceding paragraph of the Critique, Marx writes that making the distributional rights "proportional to the labor they supply" (original emphasis) "tacitly recognizes unequal individual endowment, and thus productive capacity, as a natural privilege. It is, therefore, a right of inequality, in its content[.]" This does not read to me like an endorsement of meritocratic principles, which in the very next paragraph Marx calls "defects."

            Nor is this a uniquely Marxist perspective. John Rawls, observing that the distribution of natural assets--what Marx called "unequal individual endowment"-- is arbitrary, writes in A Theory of Justice "no one deserves his place in the natural distribution of assets any more than he deserves his initial starting place in society."

            Without having to get to socialism (although not inimical, I think, to social democracy), much less a higher stage of communism, Rawls presents justice as fairness as a frameowork for reconciling, in lexical order, liberty, a fair equality of opportunity, and the difference principle.

            Shalom v' salaam; peace and wholeness

            by another American on Tue May 14, 2013 at 06:10:21 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Your point about democracy (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shaharazade, socindemsclothing

      being essential to socialism is well taken.

      Nothing human is alien to me.

      by WB Reeves on Mon May 13, 2013 at 04:02:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  For what it's worth (7+ / 0-)

      It wasn't Marx who came up with the famous dictum:

      From each according to his ability, to each according to his need
      Rather, it was socialist Louis Blanc, whose work predates Marx.
      Although Marx is popularly thought of as the originator of the phrase, the slogan was common to the socialist movement and was first used by Louis Blanc in 1839, in "The organization of work".
      It's worth pointing this out if only to stress the point that Marx didn't invent all socialist thought.

      Several strains of socialism exist, with Marxism being the most well known, but there are differences between them.

      "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

      by ZhenRen on Mon May 13, 2013 at 07:38:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Socialism: Workers Own Means of Production (6+ / 0-)

    This ought to be drilled into people's heads, but unfortunately, most people in the U.S. think socialism is an evil system designed to rob them. Thanks for putting one in for truth and justice.

    •  Exactly, its not collective but cooperative (0+ / 0-)

      No modern day socialist wants collectivism in the sense of the Soviet Union.  They don't want the government to own everything and hand out "stamps" to people to "purchase" things made by the government.  

      The model most commonly discussed is that of a cooperative.  In a cooperative, the workers own the business.  But it's still a business that competes against other businesses and money is still made.

      It gets more murky when you bring in the notions of finance, investment markets, etc... I never was clear how finance fits into a cooperative model.  I would think not very much because the cooperatives would likely not go public or they would lose their power to control their business.

      "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Rianne Eisler

      by noofsh on Tue May 14, 2013 at 04:44:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Socialism (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, socindemsclothing

    It's what Jesus would do.

    "Political ends as sad remains will die." - YES 'And You and I' ; -8.88, -9.54

    by US Blues on Mon May 13, 2013 at 08:03:19 PM PDT

    •  Uhhh.....maybe.... (0+ / 0-)

      1.  I think Jesus was not an organizer who thought about ownership of the means of production.  Remember the lilies of the field.

      2.  There were several Christian Communes (Christian Communists!) in the US in the early 1800's.  They either disbanded over religious arguments or succeeded, split the profits and rejoined society.

  •  Our public assets are actually much more (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bob Guyer, tardis10, shaharazade, AoT, zett

    extensive than is generally recognized. For a while there was an effort to assign monetary values to all the built assets of local and state governmental entities in the interest of constructing capital improvement budgets for the long term. I suspect the whole enterprise ran afoul of the industrial depreciation habit, which has the value of everything decreasing over time, even when it doesn't wear out.
    There has been all kinds of linguistic slight-of-hand to make private corporations seem public and public corporations, along with their belongings, virtually disappear. Perhaps it all served the interest of making handing resources and assets over to private corporations under the mantle of "privatization" look like wealth was being created out of thin air, rather than being doled out, as tradition demands, to special interests and selected friends.
    The Park Service collecting fees is a quasi tax, but a private concession is creating an income stream. That both are using a public utility (money) to account for enterprise is conveniently overlooked because public is bad and private is good. And private property is best of all in an ownership society because it serves as a sop for the fact that natural persons are disrespected behind the convenient fiction that to own is good when, in fact, ownership is a bundle of obligations, which are owed to a community dedicated to protecting what you own.
    Owing and owning are a pair. The Cons don't "get" that, I suspect, because they don't recognize connections.

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Tue May 14, 2013 at 05:06:55 AM PDT

  •  as I've always said, government ownership of (6+ / 0-)

    the means of production doesn't mean diddley doo without worker ownership of government.

  •  corporations are really the best socialists (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AoT

    The most ironic thing about the 21st century mega-corporations is that they have accomplished nearly everything that the radical Socialist Party of the 1910’s wanted to do.

    The Socialist Party wanted to eliminate the private ownership of capital and replace it with collective ownership; today the corporations are not owned by individual proprietors, but by a collective body of shareholders. The Socialist Party wanted to remove ownership from management and introduce managers who held their position by election, rather than by ownership; today the corporations are run by professional managers who are hired by a board of directors that is elected by the shareholders. The Socialist Party wanted to eliminate economic competition and replace it with economic cooperation; today the corporations have become vast interconnected networks who own parts of each other through cooperative joint projects and multilateral ventures. The Socialist Party wanted to replace what they called the “anarchy of the marketplace” with planned economic production over long-term goals; today corporations try in every way to eliminate the shocks of market uncertainty by long-term planning. The Socialist Party wanted to eliminate national borders and replace them with internationalism; today the corporations have become multinational, have built up a global economic framework, and have made national boundaries economically irrelevant.

    In essence, the corporations have already socialized the entire process of production.

    Another utopian goal of the Socialist Party was “world government”, and once again, the corporations are today moving along the same path. The corporations have already built international economic structures—the WTO, IMF and the various free trade agreements--and these already have control over national economic policies and legal veto power over national laws.

    Along with the buildup of international economic power must inevitably follow the buildup of international political power. Just as the “nation” has become irrelevant economically and has been replaced by international economic structures, so too has the   “nation-state” become irrelevant politically, and will inevitably be replaced by international political structures—and the corporations have already begun that process.

    The task that remains is to now socialize DISTRIBUTION, and that can only be done by decoupling distribution from "income".  In a world where mechanization, automation and computerization make increasing proportions of actual workers superfluous and un-needed, economies everywhere will be faced with the task of allowing people who have no jobs (and who never will have any) to still receive the things they need to live. (The alternative is to allow the continuing existence of a large mass of desperate people who have no means to make a living--a disastrously unstable situation.) They will be forced to do that either by massive social-welfare programs, or by massive government employment. And the corporados, if they want economic and political stability, will have no choice but to support and help build that system.

    In the end, the corporations will build the entire socialist economic structure for us.  All we will have to do is kick out the leadership and replace it with directly elected representatives.

    •  With that amount of heirarchy (4+ / 0-)

      kicking out the leadership without destroying the organization just isn't going to happen. It's been built up in a manner that removes accountability from the equation. There's certainly punishment for those who have the temerity to resist, or to simply be poor. The parallels between ends of the socialist project and the realities of the neoliberal project seem a bit to close for me to believe it's really just one big coincidence. There really is a lot of power in the socialism model and what the current stage of capitalism has done is used a model of sharing ownership to eliminate accountability instead of eliminating scarcity.

      The primary problem with the view that we've got this all set up correctly and we just need to change the leadership is that the way we produce things is not sustainable and it is not possible to do it without oppressing workers. As a system it necessitates poor wages and poor working conditions. Not because the leadership is bad, but because that is the nature of the system.

      It is not, unfortunately, just a matter of getting the right people in there to fix things, it's a matter of overhauling the entire system from the ground up.

      If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

      by AoT on Tue May 14, 2013 at 12:08:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  am not sure "total equality" is actually (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AoT, WB Reeves, socindemsclothing, zett, Tork

    achievable under any political system. However, the premise...that socialism is primarily designed to bring about greater equality, is absolutely true. It's stretching the truth to say that any political philosophy could bring about a perfect state of equality. There are likely to always be some inequalities in every society, human beings being as they are. The goal should be greater equality for all, especially for middle income and lower-income groups who
    have been shafted time and again.

  •  Good dairy (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, Brown Thrasher

    interesting discussion. Thanks Cassiodorus.

  •  Who controls deciding how to use the wealth? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Th3Drizzle, misslegalbeagle

    First, I think it's necessary to point to a positive example of where socialism has actually succeeded, since merely pointing out that the Soviet Union didn't do it right does not constitute a proof that it can be done better.

    Setting that aside, who is in charge of deciding how to employ the collective wealth? In a capitalist system the decisions are made by the individual owners of that wealth. If they choose well (or are lucky, or whatever) they are rewarded with more wealth, and if they choose poorly they typically lose some of that wealth, letting somebody else decide how to employ it. The whole theory behind capitalism is that this process tends to produce long-term good decision making about how to employ your capital. While it is clearly the case that the fruit of the capital are not evenly distributed, it seems equally clear that the overall level of wealth has risen under the system. Other than the homeless, most Americans today are better off than virtually everybody in the working class 100 years ago.

    In a socialistic society, the government has to have some sort of means for deciding how to employ the wealth. There is never going to be broad concensus on what to do (and if there is you will never see truly novel improvements in how to use the wealth since most people will dismiss them as impractical), and without the stick of economic success/failure to decide who is making better decisions you end up with raw political power plays. It seems clear to me that this is exactly what happens in most totalitarian states - those who control the police/military are able to remain in power even when their ability has been proven to be minimal.

    I think that having this discussion is a good idea, since capitalism clearly isn't perfect, but so far it seems that you're a little short on the practical details of how this would really work.

    •  NB: (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Brown Thrasher, MrJayTee
      First, I think it's necessary to point to a positive example of where socialism has actually succeeded, since merely pointing out that the Soviet Union didn't do it right does not constitute a proof that it can be done better.
      Why should we start from the assumption that social innovation is impossible?  See my previous diary (linked above).
      Setting that aside, who is in charge of deciding how to employ the collective wealth?
      The public is.  This is the trick -- creating mechanisms for the exercise of the public will.
      I think that having this discussion is a good idea, since capitalism clearly isn't perfect, but so far it seems that you're a little short on the practical details of how this would really work.
      First off, am I obliged to repeat the "practical details" discussion every time I post a diary about socialism?  Please read the last diary, and, if you can, the ones before it.  

      Secondly, is it really my responsibility to have everything worked out in advance?  Certainly a genuine socialism would leave major details up to the will of the people.

      "It takes great courage to see the world in all its tainted glory, and still to love it." Oscar Wilde

      by Cassiodorus on Tue May 14, 2013 at 11:42:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's not your responsibility, but you can't (0+ / 0-)

        shut down questions just because you don't have an answer.  Working out the nuts and bolts is a huge obstacle.  It's very easy to say "the people decide," and another thing to put it into effect.  

      •  Incremental approach vs. Giant Leap Forward (0+ / 0-)
        First, I think it's necessary to point to a positive example of where socialism has actually succeeded, since merely pointing out that the Soviet Union didn't do it right does not constitute a proof that it can be done better.
        Why should we start from the assumption that social innovation is impossible?  See my previous diary (linked above).
        I have seen at least some of your previous diaries, but since they are closed for discussion I'm responding here.

        We didn't move from feudalism to capitalism in one quick change. Rather, small bits of capitalism were allowed to start in limited cases, beginning with the notion of paying your liege in cash rather than direct goods and services. After this was worked out in detail we slowly saw the introduction of independent merchants, and to a limited extent free farmers who paid rent but did not have to swear allegiance to an overlord.

        So, you don't have to have all of the answers worked out, but if you don't have them worked out what makes you think that they will in fact function? It seems to me that identifying a small step towards your ultimate goal would allow time to make these decisions (and recover from the mistakes along the way) without throwing everything into turmoil on the premise that The People Will Make The Decisions.

        As one example, we do see more social safety nets in places like Scandinavia, where private enterprises control most of the means of production but are required to kick a substantial amount of profit up to the government so that they can work on redistributing some of the wealth to the needy.

        •  I do have a diary on Sweden: (0+ / 0-)

          http://www.dailykos.com/...

          My friend Jason W. Moore, who has lived and worked in Sweden for quite some time and whose theories have much to teach me, agrees with my conclusions.  Sweden is capitalist.

          As for the idea that:

          We didn't move from feudalism to capitalism in one quick change.
          If you are looking for people who employ the principles of socialism in their everyday business, there are communes and co-operatives, but arguably there is no sign just yet of any sort of transition period out of capitalism.  Rather, it appears as if capitalism is going to continue to decline without there being any sort of alternative system waiting in the wings.  See e.g. Gopal Balakrishnan:

          http://newleftreview.org/...

          We are entering into a period of inconclusive struggles between a weakened capitalism and dispersed agencies of opposition, within delegitimated and insolvent political orders. The end of history could be thought to begin when no project of global scope is left standing, and a new kind of ‘worldlessness’ and drift begins. This would conform to Hegel’s suspicion that at this spiritual terminus, the past would be known, but that a singular future might cease to be a relevant category. In the absence of organized political projects to build new forms of autonomous life, the ongoing crisis will be stalked by ecological fatalities that will not be evaded by faltering growth.
          The future, then, looks to me like a great, gray, interim period.  I wish that I felt that it had more to offer us; I'm hoping there's some form of socialism on the other end of it.

          "It takes great courage to see the world in all its tainted glory, and still to love it." Oscar Wilde

          by Cassiodorus on Wed May 15, 2013 at 02:45:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Perhaps one sign is where capitalism is propped (0+ / 0-)

            up by social programs as in the New Deal and nationalization of industries, which baby steps were stopped by Vietnam and the class war organized by Justice Powell. An access to giving birth to socialism, would be in restoring the relationship of voters to Congress by ending money in politics and limiting the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

  •  Almost-socialist Tar Sands (0+ / 0-)

    Venezuela has announced a renovation of Poerto La Cruz refinery to process its own Tar Sands crude oil deposits in the Orinoco region, which, when completed, will refine 210,000 barrels of Tar Sands crude daily.

    Orly, it isn't evidence just because you downloaded it from the internet.

    by 6412093 on Tue May 14, 2013 at 03:56:39 PM PDT

  •  many socialist don't want collective ownership (0+ / 0-)

    as in government ownership.  Rather they are for cooperative business where workers own a share of the business and have equal say in decisions.  I think the notion of collectivism is worn out and really not something that most on the left want.

    "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Rianne Eisler

    by noofsh on Tue May 14, 2013 at 04:36:33 PM PDT

    •  As others have pointed out -- (3+ / 0-)

      The global corporate, financial, political, mass-media and owning-class elites themselves form a collective, observable through secret societies, discussion groups, annual conventions, and interlocking corporate boards of directors.

      If "most on the left" don't want collectives of their own, then what do they want, and what makes them a "left" for wanting whatever it is that they do indeed want?

      "It takes great courage to see the world in all its tainted glory, and still to love it." Oscar Wilde

      by Cassiodorus on Tue May 14, 2013 at 04:46:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  one easy explanation of the income disparity (0+ / 0-)

    if you asked people, they probably think incomes follow a normal distribution with mean and median roughly equal. if you just showed them a graph of the beta it actually follows and how far apart the mean and median actually are, it's like 43 and 26 or something, which is worlds apart in the practical sense, and you show how the median actually gives a better picture of the situation (you may have to explain what median and mean are), i think it would open a lot of eyes.

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