Socialism and Communism Seeking Utopia
Socialism defined • Text: “An ideology arguing that citizens are best served by policies focused on meeting the basic needs of the entire society rather than on serving the needs of individuals as individuals.”
Socialism’s emergence • Liberal political parties in 19th century Europe failed to address the desperate needs of working people. • Classical liberalism views poverty as an individual choice or failure, not the result of social structures. Also suspicious of big government. • Socialism provides a different conception of individual responsibility & of government.
Socialism In England, socialism became a political movement in 1884, with the creation of the Fabians, who provided the basis for the new Labour Party. Many Labour governments since, including the current government of Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Socialism’s principles • egalitarianism or equality. Humankind will be unified and cooperative, once wealth is owned and used for the common good. Capitalism exploits the very people who create society’s wealth. • Moralism. Division of rich & poor is evil; capitalism is fundamentally unjust. Instead, the ideal future emphasizes peace, social justice and true liberty for all.
Social democracy • A variation on socialism that argues that socialism and democracy can work together. Example: British Labour Party. • Change comes through peaceful democratic processes like elections. • Democratic governments should promote economic - as well as political - freedom & equality.
Social democracy • Socialist political parties compete and win office in every western democracy except the United States. • Argentina Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Fiji, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Malaysia, Netherland, Puerto Rico, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Venezuela. • Why might this be so? What’s different about the U.S.?
Democratic Socialists of America • “Democratic Socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few…. many structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed … so that ordinary Americans can participate in the many decisions that affect our lives.” • http://www.dsausa.org/dsa.html
Social democracy’s similarities with Marxism • Sees capitalism as exploitive, leading to social injustice and extreme income inequality. • These economic conditions have adverse effects on ordinary working people – in terms of physical health, psychological well-being, housing, education, etc.
Social democracy’s similarities with Marxism • Both ask the question: why should those who provide the money (capital) receive all the profits, and those who provide the labor receive none of the profits? • It is labor, after all, that turns raw materials (including cash) into something with greater value.
Social democracy’s differences from Marxism • Private property not abolished, but the public should control the use of property and make necessities available to all. • Individual rights not abolished but should complement other important values such as concern for others. • Change can occur through an evolutionary process that uses democratic means.
Marx’s view of social democracy • Karl Marx said social democrats were naive to think that “enlightened capitalists” would join with workers to form a new society. • Violent revolution was inevitable.
Karl Marx • German political thinker in 19th century. • Did most of his work in Britain. • Influenced by German philosopher Hegel. • Published Communist Manifesto in 1848 with co-author Frederick Engels. • Wrote multi-volume Capital (Das Kapital), starting in 1867.
Karl Marx Studied British economic records for 20 years to develop theory that everything is based on the economic system: politics, law, social structures, family relations, even religious belief.
Define Bourgeois: modern capitalists who own the means of production and therefore get to keep all the profits. Today, this would include major stockholders in corporations.
Define Proletarians: modern wage laborers who sell their labor to live and don’t get any of the profits that they help to create. This includes everyone who is not a stockholder or owner of capital, even professionals who work for a salary.
Karl Marx’s key ideas Economic systems go through historic cycles. Over time, an economic system becomes rigid and cannot adjust to new technologies, so a new system emerges, with new class relations and oppression. Someday, a perfect classless society will emerge and there will be no further cycles.
Marx’s key ideas 1. Slave system gave way to feudal economy 2. Feudal economy broke down with growth of manufacturing, towns, navigation & transportation, emergence of middle class 3. Industrial capitalism emerged, with only two classes: proletariat and bourgeoisie.
Industrial Capitalism – Negative Effects • Destroys important human values, replacing even religious belief with naked exploitation. • Undermines an individual’s sense of personal value in one’s work. • Undermines human relationships; all relationships are based on cash. • Destroys human freedom. The only freedom it protects is free trade.
Industrial Capitalism – Positive Effects • Unprecedented exploration and technological advancements. • War less likely. • Urbanization opens people’s minds to new ideas. • Economic production centralized, leading to favorable conditions for communism to emerge.
From Communist Manifesto “The bourgeoisie … has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from theidiocy of rural life…. The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productiveforces than have all preceding generations together… railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalization of rivers.”
Communist Revolution Inevitable Capitalism creates huge factories. Workers become concentrated and begin to organize for legal reforms (higher wages/better working conditions). Their effort fails. Fierce competition between capitalists leads to new technologies, which leads to lower costs.
Communist Revolution Inevitable In the competition, some capitalists go bankrupt & have to become workers, and many workers lose their jobs as new technology replaces them. (Consider reports that U.S. workers’ productivity is going up. Fewer workers are making more goods, which means technology is replacing them.)
Communist Revolution Inevitable • Greater numbers of people permanently unemployed. Misery widespread. • Fewer people can afford the products of capitalists, so fewer companies survive. • Class struggle reaches a climax. • Conditions now ripe for revolution. The proletariat, having nothing to lose but their chains, rise up.
Communist Revolution • Revolution will eliminate private property. No longer will man have the means of exploiting another man. • Bourgeoisie will fight, so revolution will be violent. • A dictatorship of the proletariat will follow to weed out remaining capitalist elements.
The Worker’s Utopia • In the end, a classless society with no more oppression or internal contradictions. • People will be free to choose how they labor, and can be creatively productive. They will be able to live to their fullest potential. Consider the description in Marx’s Communist Manifesto in 1845:
The Worker’s Utopia • “In communist society, …nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes,… to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, … without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.”