Category Archives: Socialism

Socialism (2nd)

In what passes for intelligent political discussion in America, socialism has no redeeming characteristics.  It’s consistently slandered as a direct, unqualified, implacable threat to all we hold dear.

If that’s so, how does one explain that christian democrats and social democrats have functioned in coalition for years governing the German Federal Republic? ¹

Granted that no human system is or ever will be perfect, one has to admit that overall, Germany is a well-ordered, prosperous state, with national and local government maintaining mostly straightforward relationships with the electorate, including regular elections.

All socialists believe that capitalism is inherently unjust and unsustainable over the long haul, and should be replaced.

There are, however, differences in method.

Social democrat is a term for socialists who seek to reform capitalism bit by bit.  As proved by years of modern German political history, social democrats affect change through German democratic processes, which include, don’t forget, risking their access to political power in legally mandated regular elections.

Democratic socialists,² on the other hand, point out flaws in capitalism in an effort to gin up support for an all-out change in the economic system, placing the means of production under public control, again using democratic methods.

These socialists are not communists.  They don’t foment revolution.

When they lose at the ballot box, they do what other politicians do—conduct a postmortem and try again.

While we’re at it, lets briefly consider something critics of socialism seem to have forgotten—or perhaps like to ignore?—the direct influence of socialism on the American Democratic party during the Progressive Era, and on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Legislative results of that influence include the eight-hour work day, unemployment insurance, and Social Security.

How bad is that?

God help us if socialists ever get political power ?

Maybe not.

¹  Political parties active in The German Federal Republic include:  Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU);  their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU); their coalition socialist party partners, the Social Democrats (SPD)the opposition Greens; and the liberal Free Democrats (FDP).

² A word or two about Bernie Sanders: He calls himself a democratic socialist. His policies much more closely resemble those of social democrats. I think he selected the title “democratic socialist” because it sounds better.

Additionally, it’s been said that, as a matter of election tactics, he should drop the “S” word because it freaks out politically naive voters, and instead, present himself as advocating “catch-up” with other nations whose people already enjoy the benefit of programs he consistently advocates.

Socialism (1st)

Separating Wheat From Chaff

To be useful, any discussion of socialism and communism must amount to more than parroting right- or left-wing talking points. As intellectual activity, such parroting ranks just a bit higher than digesting ones breakfast while mistaking that process for thought.

A simple exercise in logic:  All dogs are four-footed animals, but not all four-footed animals are dogs.

Equally true:  All communists are socialists, but not all socialists are communists.

What’s the difference?  And does the difference make any difference?

Let’s talk.

A common misunderstanding—There are no real varieties of socialism.  Any apparent differences are mere window dressing.  In the end, they’ll all resolve into Marxism-Leninism—A Russian-style communist revolution, with concomitant destruction of capitalism, private property, markets, democracy and religion.

At the opposite end of the nonsense spectrum we find socialism touted as a panacea for all of life’s ills.

So the truth is..?

In 1919 communists split with all other socialists over the question of democracy.  Communists reject democracy in favor of destroying capitalism “by all available means”, pointedly including military force, to be accompanied by imposition of a “dictatorship of the proletariat.”

That other socialists have strongly supported democracy is not commonly understood. Critics of socialism don’t seem too eager to remind us of this—quite the contrary.

“(Democracy)…is both a means and an end.  It is the weapon in the struggle for socialism and the form in which socialism will be realized.¹ (my italics.)  Socialist and democratic socialist parties gave and give strong support to democratic forms of government, particularly in Europe following  WWII.

Communism is incompatible with democracy.

Socialism is not.

Incidentally, these names, “socialist”, “democratic socialist”, “social democrat”, etc., are not mere sloppy word salad.  They are labels for varieties of socialism indiscriminately lumped together in what passes for intelligent political discussion.

Please consider that the next time a pollster reports high levels of support for “socialism”.

For the most part, I think it fair to say that neither the pollsters nor those they poll know what they’re talking about.

More on socialism shortly.

¹ Eduard Bernstein (01/06/1850 – 12/18/1932) one of the fathers of democratic socialism.