What is socialism? 140

What is socialism?

Never mind dictionary definitions. Rather ask, what does a socialist state do?

It controls the resources of a nation and allocates them as it chooses.

More fully: In a socialist state, resources are controlled by an all-powerful central agency, the government, and distributed according to the arbitrary decision of the most powerful person or persons in that government.

Widely, “socialism” is thought of as a creed of equality, as is “communism”.  It is to achieve their high ideal of equality that socialists and communists favor the forced collection and allocation of resources.  If they achieve a kind of equality, it is only and always an equality of misery. For this they have many explanations and excuses, but no remedy.

The difference between socialism and communism is often said to be a difference of degree, or manner of enforcement. In common parlance, at least in the West, “socialism” refers to a similar but milder, less oppressive, system of collectivization.  West European states were happy to call themselves “socialist’, and saw the self-described “communist” states, chiefly the Soviet Union, as their enemies.

In the Soviet Union, however, “socialism” and “communism” were commonly used interchangeably, as synonyms. In Marxist theory, “communism” is an ideal that will be realized when the state – ie government – has “withered away”.  But withering away is not on the agenda of any existing socialist government, nor is likely to be.

In fact, most forms of collectivism can  justifiably be called “socialist”.  (An exception is Islam.) The collectivist idea is that the society, not the individual, is important, so the citizenry must be organized. The organization must be enforced, whether harshly or temperately.  Most self-described “socialist” states consider their rule not only temperate but positively beneficent, while they see “communist” states as cruel and oppressive.

But the word “socialism” cannot bear a connotation of beneficence. Nor does it always imply equality.

Remember that the Nazis were self-described socialists: national socialists. Nazi is the short name for the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.  And of course the Nazis saw themselves as beneficent – to those they counted as worthy of existence, the “Aryan” Germans. They had a tender care for their citizens. In the Third Reich official collections were taken up for the poor to keep them warm in winter (the annual “Winterhilfe” charity drive).  But nobody thinks of the Third Reich as a kindly state, or one that did humankind any good. And its rulers scorned the notion of equality, either between persons or between nations.

So one clear distinction that does exist among socialist states is that some are ideologically egalitarian – eg Soviet Russia, Maoist China, Castroite Cuba – and some are non-egalitarian – eg Nazi Germany.

The Soviet communists considered themselves international socialists – even when Stalin declared his policy to be for a time  “socialism in one country” (the one country being the USSR). The Marxist ideological vision was and remains a world government controlling the world’s resources – a vision now justified in the name of environmentalism.

The biggest political divide comes between collectivism and freedom. Or rather, since a totally free country does not exist, between those who hold collectivism as an ideal, and those who want every individual to be free.

While it is true that a totally free country is nowhere to be found, such a thing could exist. It would not be an anarchy, because freedom is a product of civil order, and  is only possible under the rule of law. Everyone’s freedom should be limited only by everyone else’s, but the protection of every individual, his person, property, and freedom, requires the rule of law.

The USA was as free as any country has ever been, more so than any other large nation. (Small areas have been freer, such as Hong Kong, which was legally under British rule and could rely on the protection of law, but was free of taxes and all the harm that ensues from taxation – such as regulation of trade, and welfare.)

Now Americans are losing their freedom rapidly, since they voted Democratic socialists into power in Congress, and a Marxist-trained “community organizer” to the presidency. He has packed fellow socialists into his administration. Some declare themselves to be “Maoists” or “communists”.  All of them are collectivists.

It will take a hard fight to recover the liberty that has been lost, but for those who want to be free, it’s a battle that must be won.

Jillian Becker    August 13, 2010