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Socialism

19 September 2018
13:58

 Socialism is when a population collectively owns and controls the means of production and
distributes the end result proportionally. In practise however, control is usually delegated to
the state. While the distribution usually comes in the form of underlying social welfare to
satisfy everyone's basic needs like housing, education and healthcare.
 The end all purpose is to guarantee a level playing field for members in a society, thereby
removing class distinction based on ownership. For example. In the US's capitalist society, high
quality education is expensive, meaning that those who can afford it are generally given better
opportunities. Those who can't are forced to compete at a material disadvantage. This leads to
class inequality, not on the basis of talent or ability, but on the generational wealth.
 By contrast, in countries like Finland, where high quality education is free, everyone is given
the same opportunity to succeed or fail regardless of their financial status.
 This may sound idealistic, but early socialism was predicate don the idea that if we could
eliminate classes and have true societal equality it would be a utopia. In fact, the earliest
modern form of socialism was called "utopian socialism".
 There are no 100% socialist countries, but rather different socio-economic systems with
socialist undertones.
 Even the union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which literally has the word socialist in the
same, has been called a far cry from "real socialism"
 Socialism has different forms such as social democracy, practised by Sweden and Bernie
Sanders and the Marxism-Leninism form of socialism used by the Soviet Union, China and
Cuba.
 A social democracy generally prioritises improving quality of life through equal rights and
opportunities bolstered by a state-run welfare system and on top of a capitalist economy.
 Social democracy = equal rights and opportunities, state-run welfare system and capitalist
economy
 Marxism-Leninism prioritises the infallibility of its dictatorship government. The rationale is
that any benefit to the state would also be a benefit for the people. However, in practise this
has meant that the ruling party can massively depreciate the population's standards of living
for the "good of the state".
 Marxist-Leninism = dictatorship of the proletariat and benefit to state = benefit for people.
 Although both strive for similar utopian socialist goals, the way they approach them is very
different. These examples show that socialism (along with its logical extreme, communism)
may be backed by rational theory, but requires rational practise to go along with it.
 Socialist democracies make up the happiest countries in the world. Other socialist-leaning
countries like China and Cuba suffer from terrible human rights abuses like modern slavery and
censorship.

Capitalism
 Capitalism is an economic system but it is also a cultural system. Capitalism is also a cultural
system, rooted in the need of private investors to turn a profit.
 Capitalism is one of the most universally loved and hated economic social systems.
 Since about the 14th century, modern capitalism has been rapidly expanding its reach. Some
would say that it has become a necessary competitive tool within a global economy, and point
to its success as a productive and innovative system.
 Others say capitalisms end result causes class inequality, worker exploitation and stifles
freedom.
 Simply put, capitalism is a social and economic system where both the means of production
and any associated trade are privately owned. This is opposed to other systems like socialism,
communism and fascism.
 Generally societies tend to be mixtures of different systems, and pretty much every country
is a mixture. So why is capitalism so pervasive?
 Capitalism grew directly out of failed middle age feudalism. The lords would own land and
set the rules whereas the serfs would live on that land and work the farms in exchange for
protection by the lord. However, since each system was self-contained, neither the lords nor
the serfs had any incentive to work harder than they had to. A serf could never surpass a lord,
and everyone was essentially set for life. in short, feudalism meant there was no financial
competition, and without competition, there was no reason to innovate technology or improve
their society.
 When the serfs finally had enough of being self-sufficient slaves, and revolted, it left a new
class of farmers competing with each other to sell the crops they had previously exchanged for
land and protection.
 This was the birth of modern day capitalist markets, and the quote "almighty dollar", which
allowed serfs to become lords themselves if they were competitive enough in the marketplace.
 In turn, lords would pay their workers instead of offering housing and protection,
transforming a collective into a system of individual self-responsibility.
 While not everybody agrees with capitalism's effects on society, its difficult to argue that
capitalism doesn’t have a massive impact on societies that implement it.
 Essentially, capitalism grew to be what it is today because it is an attractive offer. It says that
if you are able to outwit your competition, you'll get more money, and money can buy you
more options. You don’t have to work the fields anymore, instead you can pay people to do
that for you. That process incentivises innovation and hard work.
 However, if you don’t manage to outwit you competition, you may end up in a worse place
that if you had never competed to begin with.
 That is the inherit basis of inequality and the source of most capitalist critiques. It also
promotes financial gain as the most effective sought after tool for how we measure success.
 Capitalism: financial gain = success.
 Many countries have attempted to combat the negative aspects of capitalism while
promoting the positive. Left-leaning countries like Sweden are championed because they
soften the blow of failing in a capitalist system through social welfare.
 Other countries attempt to remove capitalism entirely, the USSR for example, tend to suffer
from a lack of incentive, and subsequently must use force as motivation.
 Countries that prioritise capitalism above social protections, like the united states, tend to
suffer from some of the nastier side effects, like high rates of poverty and inequality.
 Clearly capitalism comes with its pros and cons, as is the case with most political systems.
Whether it is worth it or not will probably depends on someone's values and priorities.

Communism, Marx and Lenin


 Karl Marx was a German philosopher in the 1800's, who, in his communist manifesto and
other writings, created the philosophical underpinnings for communism. Vladimir Lenin who
led the Bolshevik Revolution created, essentially, the soviet union. He was the first person to
make some of Marx's ideas more concrete.
 Rather than examining individual behaviour, Marx and Friedrich Engels looked at economic
classes and argued that history was explained by the conflict between workers and property
owners. This process would inevitably lead workers to overthrow their bosses, ushering in a
new stateless and classless system called communism. Marx followed this up with Das Kapital.
Political movements spawned by Marxist economics challenged Adam Smith's view that
individual self-interest serves the common good. The end result was two main camps: free
market capitalism supporting private property, and communism, advocating collective
ownership of the means of production.
 Karl Marx himself viewed communism as a progression from capitalism through socialism to
communism.
 The problem he saw with capitalism was that when you have private capitalism, the people
who start accumulating some capital (land, factories, natural resources etc) make the labourers
who don’t have as much capital work for a very small wage and so any excess profits that come
out of this arrangement will go to the owner of the capital. Because these labourers won't be
able to get their wages to go up because there's so much competition for them.
 What Marx did not think about was how the competition could perhaps go the other way,
where a collection of people could perhaps own reasonable amounts of capital, and they
would then compete for the labour of the workers. This would mean the labourers wages
could go up and they could eventually accumulate their own capital. However, what Karl Marx
says has relevance. If the bourgeoise have all the leverage, they will end up with more capital,
and therefore more leverage and therefore be able to keep the proletariat on a basic wage so
that they can never acquire capital for themselves. So in Karl Marx's point of view, the natural
progression would be for the proletariat to start organising into unions so they could
collectively tell the bourgeoise who owns the land or factory that they will not work, or they
world strike, unless their wages were increased or they were given better working conditions.

 When we start talking about collectivism, we move towards socialism. Karl Marx didn’t like
the high concentration of wealth.
 The issue is that private property is that it is inherited so it isn't based on any type of
meritocracy but rather inherited wealth. For example, in the French revolution there are many
generations of nobility regardless of how incompetent each generation would be. They had so
much wealth that they were essentially in control of everything, and the people with no wealth
had to work for them. This type of wealth disparity can lead to revolutions.
 Another principle of moving in the socialist direction is a kind of redistribution of wealth.
 In socialism, you can still have private property but the government takes on a bigger role.
One of the roles of the government is to redistribute wealth. Also, the government starts
having control of the major factors of production. e.g utilities or large factories etc are in the
hands of the government or in the "hands of the people", and since redistribution is occurring,
you don’t have huge amounts of wealth in the hands of few people.
 The theoretical communist state is a classless and stateless society in Marx's point of view.
 In capitalism we had classes (the class who owns the capital and the labour class -
bourgeoise / proletariat division) that eventually led to socialism due to the tension and
eventually a classless society where you have a very equal, collective society where everyone
has ownership of everything and society somehow figures out where things should be
allocated.

 Marx's view of things never became concrete until Lenin put them to practice (Marxist-
Leninist).
 Marxism is the pure, utopian, equality seeking, abundant belief.
 Utopian society = a classless society where everyone is equal and leading a rich, diverse
fulfilling life. Usually viewed as highly unrealistic and negative.
 The dialectic is an important term commonly employed by Marxists. In basic language, the
dialectic is a process that drives social change.
 Based on the dialectic, a new stage of history will arise when a proposition is confronted by
an opposite. In other words, communism would therefore emerge from the confrontation
between capitalism and socialism. This view is central to the Marxist conception of the world
and its emphasis upon class conflict and revolution. Marxists also believe that society would
reach the end of the dialectic in which the consciousness of the individual would match that of
society. This is otherwise known as the end of history and by implication represents the end of
ideological debate.
 Historical materialism states that the material conditions of the mode of production
determines its organisation and more importantly its development i.e. how goods are made
influences society, and how society changes over time.
 Historical materialism is also central towards a Marxist conception of the political world.
Historical relationships between the social classes and the political structures that support
those relationships are founded on and reflect economic activity within any given society. In
the words of Marx and Engels, historical development can be understood via the notion of
class conflict. Under capitalism, the owners of the means of production exploit those who work
the means of production.

 Leninist is the more practical element of communism. After the 1917 Bolshevik revolution in
the Russian empire they had to run a government. So, a state was ran based on Marx's ideas of
communism.
 In a Leninist philosophy (here we start to see tension with the ideas of democracy) a party
system is needed. He called this the vanguard party, which is the leading institution. This
vanguard party creates this constant state of revolution, and guides society (be the parent of
society) and take it from capitalism, through socialism to this ideal state of communism.
 As it is hard to know when you reach the state of communism, the Leninist state is in a
constant cycle of revolution.
 A Marxist-Leninist state is can be defined by a party system where you have one dominant
communist party that acts in the interest of the people. The negative here is, how do we
actually know if they are acting in the interest of the people, and if they actually are competent
and what means are there to do anything if they are misallocating things, or corrupt or if there
is only a one-party system.
 The largest existing communist state is the People's Republic of China. Although it is
controlled by the Communist Party, in economic terms it's really not that communist anymore.

Keynesian Economics
 John Maynard Keynes was an economist.
 Keynes argued that market economies don't self-correct quickly because prices and wages
take time to adjust.
 He claimed that during recessions it is necessary for the government to get involved by using
monetary and fiscal policy to increase output and decrease unemployment.
 Keynes wasn’t supporting communism, but his views directly challenged classical economists
who saw government intervention as universally harmful for the economy.
 Keynes' ideas, combined with the ever-present Marxist critique, opened the door to more
and more government involvement.
 In stark contrast to concepts such as class consciousness, historical materialism and the
dialectic, Keynesian economics is associated with the moderate strand of socialist thought.
 Social democrats seek to implement economic strategy shaped by the thoughts of Keynes
 Although Keynes was a liberal, his arguments in favour of state intervention can also be
applied to those on the centre-left of the political spectrum.
 Keynesianism is based upon the assumption that the government should intervene within
the economy to mitigate the problems of market failure.
 In the context of socialism, Keynesian economics can be used to implement policies with
equality and social justice.
 Also consistent with the social democratic position upon the view that ‘the man in Whitehall
knows best.
 Provides an intellectual challenge to laissez-faire economics and entails a firm rejection of
the planned economy advocated by Marxists.
 It favours a mixed economy with a role for both the public and the private sector and rejects
the unregulated free-market approach associated with those on the libertarian-right of the
political spectrum and the far-left stance in which the state allocates resources.
 Keynes wanted to uphold capitalism and prevent a drift towards a planned system on
common ownership. Keynesianism thereby offers a half-way between these two alternatives.

Evolutionary socialism
 Each strand of socialist thought seeks a transformation in the economic structure of society.
However, there is considerable disagreement amongst socialists over the means towards
building a better alternative to capitalism.
 According to revolutionary socialists, the transformation of society lies in the hands of the
proletariat. As a result of class consciousness, the gravediggers of capitalism will finally realise
their shared common interest in the overhaul of an economic system built upon exploitation.
After the short-lived creation of a dictatorship of the proletariat and the collapse of capitalism,
class conflict will come to an end. As the state is an instrument of class control, it too will also
collapse as predicted by Friedrich Engels (“when freedom exists there will be no state”).
 Democratic socialists however endorse the parliamentary route towards a socialist system.
By gaining an electoral mandate from the people, a socialist government could utilise a system
based upon parliamentary sovereignty to implement a programme of nationalisation,
centralisation, protectionism and co-operatives run by the workers. Such measures can be
achieved on an evolutionary basis. In doing so, there is no need for the bloody revolution
prescribed by Marxists. The democratic process therefore offers the most preferable route
towards a socialist economic system.
 In contrast to their more left-wing brethren, social democrats endorse a far less radical
approach. Those on the centre-left of the political spectrum advocate gradual and piecemeal
tactics towards lasting social change.
 Social democracy is at heart a moderate form of socialism that seeks to persuade people as
to the merits of incremental steps. For instance, social democrats argue that paying workers a
decent wage helps to raise productivity and reduce the number of hours lost due to staff
absences. Indeed, there are many organisations who actively promote opportunities for their
workforce. Even with the recent trend towards globalisation, the concept of corporate social
responsibility and conscious capitalism has become an increasingly important business
strategy.

Third Way Socialism


 Is a political and theoretical perspective that seeks to modify left-wing ideas towards the
economic and political realities of globalisation.
 This centre-left way of thinking advocates a balance between rights and responsibilities and
a combination of social justice alongside market-oriented economics.
 The welfare-state should provide a 'hand up not a hand down'
 Strong emphasis upon stakeholding (where businesses have a responsibility to various
groups rather than just 'fat-cats' at the very top).
 In ideological terms, it is closely related to the concept of communitarianism which
emphasises the interest on communities and societies over those of the individual and seeks to
reinvigorate social democracy.
 Whilst in government, New Labour introduced a whole raft of policies and measures
consistent with the promotion of left-wing ideology. For instance, the rate of income tax on
high earners was raised in order to fund policies such as the minimum wage and the
Educational Maintenance Allowance. In the jobs market, the Labour government sought to
remedy areas of market failure via the welfare-to-work programme (with policies such as Sure
Start, tax credits and the adaptation of the Social Chapter into UK law). New Labour also
increased the level of government expenditure on essential public services.
 On the other hand, it could be argued that a government shaped by the third way
abandoned socialism. With the benefit of hindsight, it is significant to note that the old Clause
4 (which pledged the party to large-scale nationalism to ensure that workers received the full
fruits of their labour) was watered down in one of Tony Blair’s first acts as leader. During his
time in office, Blair was fully committed to privatisation, deregulation and the marketisation of
the welfare state. Crucially, there was little or no progress towards a more even distribution of
wealth. Despite a widespread belief that Gordon Brown was further to the left than Blair, he
also adopted policies shaped by third way thinking.

Key Thinkers
Karl Marx
 The contribution of Karl Marx can essentially be divided into two parts; a critique of
capitalism and a prescription for a better society built around common ownership of the
means of production.
 He condemned capitalists as parasites upon the toil of others.
 Under capitalism, the bourgeoisie have every possible incentive to extract the maximum
level of surplus value from their workers. If they do not, another capitalist rival surely will. The
exploitation of the proletariat is thereby an inevitable consequence of capitalism. There is no
room whatsoever for capitalism to adopt a more humane system.
 Social democrats are therefore flawed in their assumption that capitalism can be tamed by
state intervention.
 Equally, democratic socialists are also wrong to believe that a parliamentary route is available
for the advancement of socialism because the wealthy will never allow people to vote away
their wealth. Marx could hardly be clearer on this point. Only a revolution will lead to a better
economic system and a better world. Not only was this necessary, it was inevitable
 “the history of all hitherto societies is the history of class conflict.”

Beatrice Webb
 Beatrice and Sidney Webb wrote the original Clause 4 of the Labour Party’s constitution. For
many years, this served as a reference point for the Labour Party both in opposition and in
government.
 The original Clause Four pledged that Labour would “secure for the workers by hands or by
brains the full fruits of their industry.” It also committed the party to gaining “the most
equitable distribution therefore that may be possible upon the common ownership of the
means of production, distribution and exchange.”
 Tony Blair replaced Clause Four with a new formation that described Labour as a democratic
socialist party committed to serving the interests of “the many, not the few.”

Rosa Luxembourg
 Rosa Luxembourg was a Marxist intellectual who played an active role within left-wing
politics throughout her life.
 She believed that the evolutionary path towards socialism was insufficient given the extent
to which capitalism was built upon exploitation of the working-class. The only means by which
a genuine socialist society could ever emerge was via a revolution based on class
consciousness.
 Unlike many other Marxists, she warned that the dictatorship of the proletariat would be
replaced by the dictatorship of the party, which would in turn be replaced by the dictatorship
of the central committee. That said, she was a true believer in revolution as a catalyst for social
change. Indeed, she believed that the age of revolution against the bourgeois social order had
finally arrived.
 Luxembourg also defended the Marxist conception of history driven by dialectical
materialism.
 “freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently.”
 society based around a slavish adherence to social conformity will stifle individualism. She
also adds that “freedom is how free your opponent is.” Such arguments have more in common
with John Stuart Mill than any figure from the left of the political spectrum. Rosa Luxembourg
was also a feminist who put forth the observation that “all war is male.”

Anthony Crosland
 Anthony Crosland was a British politician closely associated with the social democratic strand
of thought.
 Crosland firmly believed that socialism could be achieved via humanising the capitalist
system.
 As with the Webbs, Crosland was a member of the Fabian Society and believed that socialists
must adopt to changing circumstances.
 Crosland could be said to exemplify the main tenants of social democracy and the
parliamentary-style of socialism of the post-war consensus (in which he said that Britain had
“ceased to be a capitalist country” due to the policies implemented by the Attlee government).
This is an argument that would never persuade a democratic socialist or a revolutionary
socialist, but one that makes sense in the context of what social democrats seek to achieve.
 Crosland was only interested in that which would improve the lives of working people. For
instance, he downplayed public ownership of the means of production and instead prioritised
the end of poverty and better public services. Crosland was also a key figure behind the move
towards comprehensive education during the 1960s and 70s.

Anthony Giddens
 Anthony Giddens is one of the most prominent thinkers behind the third way, a philosophical
approach that shaped those policies implemented by New Labour (1997-2010).
 Giddens and others sought to reinvigorate social democracy in the context of globalisation.
 He described the third way as a modification of social democratic thinking in which the
welfare system would be restructured to give people ‘a hand-up, not a hand-out.’
 It also entails a fairer redistribution of wealth whilst avoiding the punitive levels of taxation
that tainted the previous Labour governments of the 1970s. Another core aspect of the third
way is the notion of stakeholding. The term seeks to move beyond the narrow concerns of
shareholders and the belief that the profit motive should be the only legitimate concern of the
private sector.
 Whereas old Labour was ideologically wedded towards equality and social justice, new
Labour sought to emphasise stakeholding. The third way also sought to rebalance the
relationship between benefits and obligations with an emphasis upon benefit recipients
accepting responsibility for their own behaviour. Welfare payments should therefore be tied
towards appropriate behaviour with sanctions imposed on those who acted irresponsibly.
 This emphasis upon active welfare rather than passive welfare was a key feature of third way
thinking. The aim of such an approach was to ensure that those who claimed benefits made
efforts to escape the poverty trap. The pragmatic mantra of New Labour in the field of welfare
policy suggests an ideologically-light approach.
 Giddens himself fully recognised the flaws with the left-wing approach to welfare policy,
with its emphasis upon universality and recipients claiming something for nothing. Indeed, he
is quoted as saying that “all welfare states create problems of dependency, interest-group
formation and fraud.” Yet unlike figures from the New Right, Giddens believed passionately
that welfare policy should be mended rather than ended.