This is a brief summary of an interesting essay written by a blogger (1). After distinguishing several kinds of socialism (see below), the author writes: "The American right wing engages in a massive game of equivocation, relentlessly blurring these distinctions; its rhetoric collapses them into a single confiscatory bogeyman, in which social democracy is the functional equivalent of Stalinism. This is why we need to know these different terms and start bringing them into our own vocabulary, so that we can be clear about what we're discussing even if our opponents aren't."- What follows are kinds of socialism, identified by the author.
1) The original meaning of socialism, he writes, "was synonymous with what we call collectivism today: a society in which wealth is equally distributed and property is community-owned. Under this sort of socialism, there would be no privately-owned property. Karl Marx took this concept of socialism, changed the unit of ownership from communities to workers' collectives, added atheism and called the result communism. He then used the word "-socialism" to refer to something else: state socialism, an intermediate phase between capitalism and communism . . . "
2) Soviet Socialism was based on Marx's idea. That system, according to the author, "is not in any way democratic, but rather totalitarian. Human rights are drastically curtailed; only one political party, the Communist Party, is permitted to exist; the party and the state operate as two limbs of a single entity; and all citizens are subservient to the party and the state." The system became extrememly brutal, as described in (2). I do not view socialism as an intermediate state between capitalism and communism. The basic difference between socialism and communism is that one advocates evolutionary social improvements while the other advocates revolution followed by proletarian dictatorship.
3) Naziism, so-called socialism, is compared to Soviet political ideology. The author writes: "German National Socialism (Naziism) was a totalitarian social and political system that had no elements of socialism in the original sense--ownership in the Nazi economy was purely capitalist, though its production agenda was planned centrally by the party and the state, as it was in the Soviet Union under Stalin and afterward."- These oppressive systems are then compared with what the author calls democratic socialism.
4) Democratic Socialism is just the opposite of totalitarian systems, as far as freedom is concerned. That system is not based on Marx's idea of proletarian revolution and dictatorship. Under democratic socialism, the author writes, "human rights and political freedom are not only explicitly retained but made the guiding vision of the state. In other words, increasing people's freedom is the reason for taking state control of the means of production; economic equality is put on the same footing as political equality."- Elaborating on this he writes that "social democracy doesn't disallow private ownership of personal property, or even private enterprise; it does, however, allow the state to take over ownership of industries if the private operation of those industries is harming the nation's overall economic well-being. This is what you've got in Sweden. The high taxes imposed under democratic socialism--half or more of a worker's income--raises the floor enough that poverty effectively ceases to exist. The trade-off is that luxury ceases to exist as well."-
5) West European Socialism is identified as "social democracy, which isn't socialism per se, but rather a combination of democratic politics and a capitalist market economy in which economic rights are given the same prominence as political rights."- That system has "some state-run industries (often infrastructural, such as transportation, power generation, telecommunications and the mail), but the preference is to let private companies do most of the work--with lots of government oversight."- Capitalist economy, powered by self-interest, is retained in Western Europe. This does tend to create inequalities. This tendency, however, is minimized by some state-run programs, and by labor unions, "robust defenders of employees' rights and privileges."-
At the end of his blog, the author observes that the US already has elements of social democracy. These elements, introduced by Franklin Roosevelt, are: "Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, TANF [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families], the VA, public schools and universities, and the good old U.S. Postal Service."- He believes that a universal, nationalized system of health insurance should be a key component of US social democracy. The ultimate expression of social democracy, he writes, "would be to create a society in which all the rights enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, economic as well as political, were enshrined in U.S. law. This would include full legal protection for labor unions and union organizers, equal pay for equal work, a livable minimum wage, poverty-eliminating income tax credits, elimination of sales taxes on food and clothing, and adequate public education for all children."-
Five people commented on what was posted by Geenius at Work. One of them wrote that public libraries are also "a great example of socialism in action."- Another suggested that the 70% the Scandinavian 40%/60% ratio would be the best. How should this be interpreted? Do percentages refer (a) to fractions of people emplyed in the two sectors, (b) to fractions of dollars they pay as salaries or (c) to something else? Replying to the article I posted the above summary (and asked for comments on the title of my note).
1) Geenius at Work, "The Time is Now ;"- 10/10/2008; posted on the website of Daily KOS
click here Ludwik Kowalski, "Hell on Earth: Brutality and Violence Under the Stalinist Regime;"- Wasteland Press, Shelbyville, KY USA