What Is Socialism?

By Allen Gindler

The word socialism has been around for quite a while.  It would seem that everything should already be transparent with the meaning of this word.  Alas, every new generation of troubled hearts constantly refers back to the notion of socialism in an attempt to excavate more sense out of the concept than has already been revealed theoretically, practically, and historically.

The modern meaning of socialism often runs along the lines that it is a politico-economic theory in which the means of production, wealth distribution, and exchange are supposed to be owned and regulated by the community as a whole.  The above-mentioned characterization of socialism emphasizes its important economic features; however, it cannot be considered a comprehensive definition.  The wording implies a narrow understanding of socialism from the point of view of materialist and positivist currents of socialism but does not fully encompass features exhibited in anti-materialist, anti-Cartesian, and Kantian members of the socialist family.

What is the purpose of socialism?  The great minds of antiquity often dreamed of a community or state that would be the epitome of fairness, justice, and prosperity.  Such objectives could be traced to religious texts, folklore, mythology, and the earliest philosophical tractates.

The ancient Hellenic philosopher Plato described in his “Politeia” how the essence of the ideal state is “worthy of the gods.”  He envisioned a perfect society ruled by philosophers who did not have private possessions or families in order to eliminate any temptations from personal enrichment and distraction from public affairs.  In his imaginary state, it is not the individual who has the real value, but the human society; thus, he advocated for complete subordination of the individual to the collective.  The latter condition is nothing more than the collectivization of consciousness.

Plato crystallized a picture of the fair and harmonized human society, which had not been and could not be created by societal evolution, thus it had to be built according to a predetermined plan.  This plan included such measures as abolishing private property, collectivizing individuals, governing through elites, and raising the moral foundations of society.  Remarkably, many generations of prominent socialists, including Karl Marx himself, recognized Plato’s description as the genuine socialistic society and entertained ideas of incorporating some of his provisions, including the most controversial ones, into their own theoretical works.

Since Plato’s celebrated work, the development of socialist thoughts has revolved around two main subjects of socialization: private property and consciousness.

The materialist camp of socialists builds its theoretical provisions on the idea of the elimination of private ownership of the means of production, creating instead socialized property on the level of the whole community or a significant part of it.  For example, guild socialists sought to collectivize factories and plants to work for the benefit of the individual guilds.  Social Democrats preferred to subdue a significant chunk of private property to the state directly or indirectly throughout the wealth redistribution schemes and regulations.  Communists stand on the position of complete expropriation of private property in favor of the state.

The representatives of anti-materialistic, anti-positivist socialism, such as Italian fascists and National Socialists of the Third Reich, closely followed Plato’s way of reasoning and directed his activity on the socialization of individual — i.e., the subordination of the individual to the collective.  They also appreciate the notion of elites’ governing people as Plato envisioned.

Communists, likewise, had their say on the issue of the collectivization of individuals.  They suggested that the process of the socialization of means of production and wealth redistribution would be performed under the supervision of the proletarian dictatorship, and communal ownership of the material wealth would lead eventually to the collectivization of consciousness.

Different degrees and subjects of socialization in conjunction with various methods of governing and wealth distribution have created a multitude of socialist currents.  Thus, anarchists stand for a minimal scale of the economic planning that occurs sporadically between voluntary associations of toilers.  Communists insist on comprehensive government planning at the global level.  The rest of the socialist currents fall between these two extremes.

The problem of wealth distribution is one of the central themes of socialism.  After all, socialization was thought of as a means for achieving an ultimate goal: a fair wealth distribution among people.  Thus, some currents of socialism stand for an equal wealth distribution among people.  Communists propose, as the end goal, distribution according to any needs; Social Democrats correlate distribution with a personal labor contribution but introduce various equalizing policies.

Thus, we are ready to unveil the general notion of socialism.

Socialism is a set of artificial socio-economic systems that embody a lofty aspiration of people to achieve a just and prosperous society, which is characterized by a degree of socialization of property and consciousness, scales of economic planning, and wealth redistribution and imposed onto the community by the revolutionary or governmental elites without the consent of the population.

One can object that sometimes, socialists gain power through the democratic election procedure.  Unfortunately, as a rule, the masses have no idea what they are voting for in a sense that socialist policies lead to entirely opposite results of the ones proclaimed.  People react to the populist and emotional appeal of socialist slogans.  Therefore, people’s consent is not genuine, but is manipulated by the skilled politicians of the Left.

A precise description of any theoretical or institutionalized socialist ideology can be derived from the general definition because it incorporates the most important, distinctive factors of envisioned societies.  Indeed, if we dial the knobs of the “socialization of property and consciousness, scale of economic planning, and wealth redistribution” to their maximum values, we will arrive at the essence of communism.

That is:

Communism is a man-made socio-economic system that embodies a lofty aspiration of people to achieve a just and prosperous society.  It suggests a full socialization of private property, complete collectivization of consciousness, worldwide economic planning, and wealth redistribution according to any needs and imposed onto the community by the revolutionaries without the consent of the population.

The generalized definition emphasizes the main paths to socialism that have been known since antiquity.  Regardless of peculiarities of different flavors of socialism and an intraspecific struggle among various socialist currents, all of them are artificial creations that run contrary to the evolutionary process of societal development.  Indeed, history shows that socialism has not occurred naturally, but instead was forced upon society by revolutionary elements.  The implementation of socialistic ideas of different kinds by various nations has falsified the concept of socialism.  Unfortunately, social experiments were conducted on living, unsuspecting people, accompanied by death and suffering of millions of innocent souls.

Notwithstanding, unbridled maximalists negate numerous facts of the failed implementation of the socialist idea by the previous generations.  They put the burden of the failures on the careless implementers of the past rather than on the futility of the undertaking because of the fallacy of the idea itself.

The truth is, socialism is the dead end of the evolution of humanity.  It has to be avoided at all costs.


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