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Mon Mar 11, 2019, 03:25 PM

What is Capitalism? What is Socialism?

Oooh boy, is this a complicated subject, and a warning, boring as hell as well.

First things first, some basic, and I do mean bare-bones basic definitions:

Capitalism: An Economic system where the means of production is controlled by and owned by a few private owners for profit and accumulation of Capital.

Socialism: An Economic system where the means of production is controlled by and owned by workers, usually non-profit.

Note, in either case, the state doesn't necessarily have to exist, having publicly owned sectors of the economy, for example, certain heavy industries, public utilities, etc. is not Socialism because the workers in these industries/companies don't own the means of production directly, otherwise public sector unions wouldn't have to be a thing.

Now, within these definitions there are a LOT of variations, under both economic systems, especially how they relate to the state and the role of government.

In Capitalism, you have An-Caps(not true anarchists), Libertarians, Liberals, Keynesians, Social Democrats, Fascists, etc.

In Socialism you have Anarchists, Libertarian-Socialists(think Zapitistas), Democratic Socialists, Anarcho-Syndicalists, Communists, etc.

Generally speaking the spectrum from Authoritarian to libertarian, in the political sense, can vary a lot. Though the trend in Capitalism is a more vertical power structure whereas Socialism favors a more horizontal power structure. The problem is that our views of both are skewed heavily by our current place in time and what was necessary to get here.

If you were to go back in time 100 years ago, Capitalism has, so far, lead to worst outcomes that Feudalism for the majority of the population of the world. It took the struggle and death of thousands of workers in Europe and the Americas to get the nominal social democracies we have now that makes Capitalism palpable for the majority of the population in those countries. Even then its far from complete.

Of course, also about 100 years ago, the so called Ur-example of socialism came about, at least the first that was long term and on the nation-state level. The Soviet Union was born from a civil war that saw them have nearly no allies, fighting against an incompetent and autocratic feudal lord, and they industrialized quickly after that. But, feeling they were under siege since the beginning, and thanks to some of the actions of countries in the west, Stalinism reigned supreme, and he was no better than the Czar. This formula was then repeated on a worldwide level through Maoism, Pol Pot, North Korea, etc. Autocrats and authoritarians seized on an opportunity to rule their nations with an iron fist, and used Socialism as a vehicle to do so. Similar to how Fascists did the same with Capitalism.

There were and are other examples of Socialism that exist, most on small scales because neither the Soviets nor the Capitalists liked competition when it comes to economic systems, and most were ruthlessly crushed through military campaigns and coups when they were attempted elsewhere. There are exceptions, the Republic of Nepal comes to mind, though it arose after the Soviet Union fell, forming a new constitution and Democratic Republic through consensus of its two Communist parties and coalition governments in 2015. Socialist and Communist parties also have played a part in coalition governments and electoral majorities in nations such as in South Asia, Europe, South America, Africa, etc. There are also democratically controlled autonomous areas in nations such as Mexico that govern themselves on some type of Socialist principles.

Not saying any of these are perfect, but claiming that Socialism leads to Authoritarianism is no more true than it is for Capitalism.

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Reply What is Capitalism? What is Socialism? (Original post)
Humanist_Activist Monday OP
crazytown Monday #1
Humanist_Activist Monday #2
crazytown Monday #3
procon Monday #4
hunter Monday #5

Response to Humanist_Activist (Original post)

Mon Mar 11, 2019, 03:42 PM

1. "The state doesn't necessarily have to exist"

IRL the State always exists.

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Response to crazytown (Reply #1)

Mon Mar 11, 2019, 03:48 PM

2. In isolation, as a thought experiment, the state isn't necessary is the point.

In practice, its most likely necessary.

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Response to Humanist_Activist (Original post)

Mon Mar 11, 2019, 04:08 PM

3. United Kingdom Labour 1945

“The Labour Party is a Socialist party and proud of it”

After 1945, Labour nationized the Bank of England, the coal mines, civil aviation, cable and wireless services, gas, electricity, health, railways, road transport and steel. These industries were integrated into a national plan.

You argue this is not socialism because the workers did not directly own the enterprises/ industries in which they worked. Neither did the workers in the Soviet Union.

But in other words, the closest thing to Democratic Socialism in the real world does not pass the test so that the world has never seen ‘real’ socialism at scale.

Never mind that the Labour Party was a workers party where power was shared directly the Trades Unions.

At best, your definition of Socialism is eccentric.

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Response to crazytown (Reply #3)

Mon Mar 11, 2019, 04:55 PM

4. Modern versions of socialism have been adapted by many countries

with a democratic governments to successfully serve their needs. These endless rationales over obtuse academic arguments to lock in single definition of socialism or democratic socialism, is not as important as the impact it has on people.

There's no one size fits all version of either capitalism or socialism. Look at the goals and outcomes of the prosperous countries that have designed their own customized blends of democracy and capitalism with socialism. It doesn't matter what label gets attached, those countries found workable solutions by offering a wide variety of social services to benefit the needs of their citizens while regulating capitalism and the obscene perks awarded to the wealthy and Big Biz. Socialism has proved to be a very flexible tool in leveling the playing field and uplifting people by finding ways to offer them expanded opportunities to succeed.

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Response to Humanist_Activist (Original post)

Mon Mar 11, 2019, 05:15 PM

5. All the "isms" are make-believe and easily corrupted.

If a society isn't corrupt, if nobody is punished for pointing out their society's flaws, if everyone has good food, comfortable shelter, appropriate medical care, if literacy and numeracy approach 100% limited only by rare forms of physical disability, then a society is successful and may call itself "civilized."

The U.S.A. is not a civilized nation.

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