I’m not a socialist. Really.
Strangely enough, people feel a need to talk about socialism by adding a disclaimer to indicate that they are not, in fact, socialists. Have you ever wondered why?
And in corollary, have you ever wondered why Americans have such a disdain for the very concept of socialism?
Understanding socialism, this has often caused me to question why people have such criticism for the concept, especially considering the fact that the majority of people who think ill of it are generally the people who might benefit from it the most. But they hate it. With a passion.
Like it’s evil or something. Like communism. Yeah, communism, that evil governmental style that Satan brought up from the depths of Hell. You remember that one, right? The government that put Russians into decades of peril. That one. Or Cuba. Or China. Yeah, that evil government.
Strangely enough, it’s another government that the majority of Americans would actually benefit from, if they only gave it a chance. But they won’t. Because it’s evil. Like socialism.
So, let’s talk about these two and see why we think they’re so bad.
What is socialism? Well, it’s a government where industry is owned by the people and the government does what’s best for the general good of the people within that system. This means that prices don’t get raised to make profit for a tiny few people who benefit, but that the prices remain somewhat solid and static so that everyone benefits over the long term. Housing doesn’t increase in price, and the people all seem to make the same amount of money.
That’s kind of what communism is, too, except what has happened over time is that the two systems of economics have become fused together so that people think they’re the same thing, and people also think that they’re actually governments, when in fact they’re actually economic systems that governments can adopt.
That’s kind of important, but people don’t seem to understand that. They’re not governments. They’re economic systems.
Why they get their sheer negative impression is because they were often adopted by people who instituted governments that are pretty crappy. The Russians adopted communism (and socialism) under the state of totalitarianism (one party in charge and one party making all the decisions, and thus, getting all the benefits). So, whenever we think about communism, we think about Russian communism.
The Chinese adopted a similar style of government when they embraced communism (or socialism, as it was hard to really tell it apart). Again, an oppressive government using communism, or socialism, doesn’t exactly help to see the benefits of such an economic system.
And yeah, the North Koreans and the Cubans adopted communism, too, with, again, an oppressive government.
Now, not every government that adopted communism or socialism was an oppressive government. Some of the Scandinavian countries have been socialism for decades, and they have done very well. A few European countries have dabbled in it over the years successfully as well.
However, the United States is famous for looking at the failures of specific countries and then announcing their governmental system (or their economic system) is a complete failure. Thus, under no circumstance should we think about adopting anything similar.
But we wouldn’t. We’re the United States, not Russia. We have completely different values and laws. If we adopted socialism, it would be within the constitutional protections of our system of government. The only thing that would change is how money is handled.
If you read Karl Marx (the strange step-child of the Marx brothers…no, he wasn’t one of them), he proposed the idea that AFTER capitalist systems ran their system to their eventual conclusion (conglomerate monopolies where a few companies pretty much controlled everything, like Amazon, Apple, Murdoch and Koch), the people would then reclaim these industries for their own and overthrow the oppressive hand of the few owning everything. He assumed this would naturally happen.
But it hasn’t. And one of the reasons is that the masses just aren’t pissed enough yet. Or they’ve become complacent, happy to be entertained, or numbed, by media, Kardashians, and video games. But even Marx would argue that eventually those influences won’t be strong enough and enough disparity will exist, and the only choice will be for capitalism to be overthrown, or it will become super-oppressive as a response to a mass that refuses to be the fodder for corporate overlords.
Socialism, on the other hand, offers a softer approach to the overthrow. You see, in communism, there’s an assumption that the overthrow of capitalism is the result of actual beheadings and physical assault. With socialism, it’s the system allowing for a slow movement from corporate ownership to ownership of the people with the corporate leaders accepting such change in leadership to avoid the violent overthrow that will come if such compliance is not made.
In the end, the people begin to benefit from the system as they are now the owners of their work, not the instruments only (with no benefit to being the reason the business actually prospers).
Historically, the only way the people with business power have responded to this sort of thought is to ridicule it and treat it as I discussed in the beginning of this essay. Usually, there’s been no need to do so because the conversation has never risen to much more than a whisper, specifically because people always just assumed that socialism was bad, and thus, not necessary to even discuss.
But that’s starting to change because people are starting to become more educated, and with education comes a realization that the majority is not part of the class that is benefiting from the majority of the work. Large corporations are benefiting, and so are the leaders of those organizations. The people doing the grunt work are still getting mostly grunt pay, yet they are needed for the organization to survive and thrive.
Strangely enough, we probably wouldn’t have seen any of this coming to the forefront if it wasn’t for impacts like Occupy Wall Street, which has faded from view, and the occupation of the White House by the ultimate do-nothing, self-claimed billionaire with a history of cheating his way through affluence, appointing other very rich people to positions of power, even though they hae little to no knowledge of the jobs they have been chosen to fill.
So, we’ve started to see a new line of people appearing who represent those same criticized minorities, yet seem to be thriving. People like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (reduced to AOC because people are too lazy to try to actually learn her name), Elizabeth Warren and a few other lesser names, are now representing the ideas of socialism, whereas anyone claiming such a name, like Bernie Sanders, were immediately subjugated to irrelevancy and dishonor.
But those names are becoming stronger because people no longer just cast off socialism as “that bad government” that they don’t really know anything about. Recently, I actually heard someone say “but didn’t the Nazis have ‘socialism’ in their name?” as an actual argument against socialism. As most Internet users understand, the second you have to invoke Nazis or Hitler, you’ve already lost the debate.
So, what has changed?
Like I said earlier, the real change is not in the concept of socialism because it hasn’t changed a single bit. What has changed is the education of the American people. Conservatives have been fighting for years to keep the educational levels of the people either low, or focused only on vocational education (so they can serve the industry masters), but our educational levels have increased so that more and more people are understanding that things aren’t right, but also starting to see that the answers aren’t going to be found in counting on the government to get things right.
That was part of the reasoning why Obama was pushed into office in a wave of support. When his administration didn’t supply the immediate answers and results, people actually voted with enough support to put in Trump, who vowed to “drain the swamp”, which, as expected, he did not do.
This means we’re heading into another election where people will probably throw out Trump and put someone else in who they hope will “fix the problems in Washington”, and when he or she doesn’t do just that, we’ll end up in another situation where people start to realize that the problem isn’t the people we put into office. It’s the system that allows anyone into that office in the first place. When people start to see that, we’ll start to see more and more stories about how socialism really isn’t that bad, and that perhaps there are some solutions to be seen by looking at that.
We kind of felt that in the 1930s, too. We kind of forget that. it’s why we have Social Security and any type of health care. But we’re pretty good at forgetting these sorts of things.
We’ll see another backlash, and then we’ll see at least another 20 years of people arguing what’s best for us, when in reality, it’s going to be about what’s best for those people running for office.
Socialism isn’t that bad. We’re just not smart enough to realize that yet.
But we will be. Or we’ll choose something much more oppressive. And those in charge will point at socialism and say it was responsible. Even if it wasn’t.
But people will believe it. Because people are still fundamentally stupid.
And easy to manipulate.
Until they aren’t.
And then they’re dangerous. But by then, it’s usually too late to do the right thing.