Socialism in the streets
With the Los Angeles Times asking if the “Occupy Wallstreet” movement is in its waning months after less than a year of protest, it looks as if things around parks across the nation maybe getting back to normal, maybe… But the protests and its counter-reactions brings to light a deeper truth: movements may come and go, but the struggle between the haves and have nots will always exist. Many people have tried to reconcile the difference of owners and workers with socialism. For those that have attempted the bridge, their efforts have always seemed to come up short.
Getting A Grip:
For us to properly understand the modern incarnation of the struggle, we must look at two opposing schools of thought. These two schools have framed the argument as we know it and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. They are Capitalism verses Socialism.
These two schools form different conclusions to just about everything. From property rights, gun control, and wealth distribution – the two will having differing, passionate, and mostly reasoned arguments. For the purpose of this talk and in order to make the distinction even more apparent, we will be looking at John Locke and his views on natural law. To many, he is the grandfather of American democracy. His views shaped the ideals of many of the founding fathers. And even though there are those that more fully embody modern capitalism, it is his concepts that set the stage for their later work and I feel that it is his ideas that best frame the debate for individual verses social rights.
But first, let’s focus in on socialism and what it means to be a socialist.
Socialism and Collective Rights:
SOCIALISM: A theory that advocates the collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of products and goods. It champions the idea of public rather than private ownership. In this philosophy, the people have communal control of property and the natural resources within their territory. Since no individual truly lives or works in in and of themselves, but rather lives and works in cooperation with others, no one can claim true ownership of anything. And, since everything that an individual produces is in some way a product of the society, everyone who contributes in the production of a good or product is entitled to a share in it. Society as a whole, therefore, should own or at least control property for the benefit of all its members.
It should be noted that there are many varieties of socialism. Socialism first came to prominence in Western thought when talked about by Karl Marx. He envisioned socialism as being a transitional step in-between Capitalism and Communism. He theorized that for a time, before his communistic utopia could be realized, there would still need to be an unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done by the individual. He envisioned a socialistic governmental system that would be set up to help the society transfer from a society of personal property to that of communal property.
Yet, as we saw from the history of the U.S.S.R., the transfer of power to the people is tricky. Once someone has power, they are reluctant to let it go. The Soviets did set up their socialist government, but it was never taken down. In fact, all attempts to transfer a society from a socialist to a communist state have failed. Those countries that that have formed governments under the guise of a communist revolution have normally devolved into a totalitarian state.
But that is not to say that all socialist countries are the same as the now defunct Soviet Union. Many European countries and Asian countries are democratic socialists in that the government controls varying degrees of services, production, and manufacturing, but the governments are functioning democracies. They see government as playing an active role in the security of jobs, wages, benefits, and healthcare – among other things.
So What Do We Say About Socialism
Since socialism stresses the interdependency of the human experience, it emphasizes the need for collective effort to make an individuals life safer, healthier, happier, and more productive. Albert Einstein noted in the May 1949 issue of the Monthly Review:
It is evident, therefore, that the dependence of the individual upon society is a fact of nature which cannot be abolished—just as in the case of ants and bees.
Einstein went on to talk about how capitalism erodes the soul of man. He saw capitalism as economic anarchy and nothing more than a wild west in which fierce competition stripped people of their hard earned work and gave it to the most ruthless. He went on to say:
I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.
The ideal of socialism, in Einstein’s view, is to secure the livelihood of every adult, make certain the education of every child, provide for the care of the elderly, and make certain the health and defense of all citizens. To provide space for every person to pursue their given abilities and live a life of contentment and satisfaction.
But this vision of the future begs one question: does socialism provide the necessary structure to make the dream a reality? In the next post I will be talking about capitalism and individual rights in order to provide a contrast. Comment below, give me your thoughts on socialism, has helped or hurt in places like France, Spain, Greece, and Japan? Also, make sure you take the poll. Although anonymous, it helps give a great visual on where, you, the reader, stand on the political and economic spectrum.