Friday, April 20, 2018

Socialism is once again in vogue. Why?

Socialism is extremely in vogue. Opinion pieces which tell us to stop obsessing over socialism’s past failures, and start to get excited about its future potential, have almost become a genre in its own right.

For example, Bhaskhar Sunkara, the founder of Jacobin magazine, recently wrote a New York Times article, in which he claimed that the next attempt to build a socialist society will be completely different:
This time, people get to vote. Well, debate and deliberate and then vote—and have faith that people can organize together to chart new destinations for humanity. Stripped down to its essence, and returned to its roots, socialism is an ideology of radical democracy. […] [I]t seeks to empower civil society to allow participation in the decisions that affect our lives.
Nathan Robinson, the editor of Current Affairswrote in that magazine that socialism has not “failed." It has just never been done properly:
It’s incredibly easy to be both in favor of socialism and against the crimes committed by 20th-century communist regimes."
When anyone points me to the Soviet Union or Castro’s Cuba and says “Well, there’s your socialism,” my answer […] [is] that these regimes bear absolutely no relationship to the principle for which I am fighting. […] The history of the Soviet Union doesn’t really tell us much about “communism” […]
I can draw distinctions between the positive and negative aspects of a political program. I like the bit about allowing workers to reap greater benefits from their labor. I don’t like the bit about putting dissidents in front of firing squads.”
Closer to home, Owen Jones wrote that Cuba’s current version of socialism was not “real” socialism—but that it could yet become the real thing:
“Socialism without democracy […] isn’t socialism. […] Socialism means socializing wealth and power. […]
Cuba could democratize and grant political freedoms currently denied as well as defending […] the gains of the revolution. […] The only future for socialism […] is through democracy. That […] means organizing a movement rooted in people’s communities and workplaces. It means arguing for a system that extends democracy to the workplace and the economy.
And Washington Post columnist Elizabeth Bruenig wrote an article with the self-explanatory title It’s time to give socialism a try:
Not to be confused for a totalitarian nostalgist, I would support a kind of socialism that would be democratic and aimed primarily at decommodifying labor, reducing the vast inequality brought about by capitalism, and breaking capital’s stranglehold over politics and culture.
Despite differences in style and emphasis, articles in this genre share a number of common flaws.

Read the rest here.


evagrius said...

Typical arguments. Mistaking authoritarian/despotic government with socialism. Overlooking the "socialist" countries of the Nordic sphere, as well as "socialists" countries like France and Germany and even Canada which has socialist elements in its makeup.
Please refrain from posting such tripe.
It took me three days before mustering the courage to read/view such tripe.
And, of course, the author does not examine the flaws/failures of free market capitalism which are evident everywhere.
None of this has anything to do with Orthodoxy.

Deacon Nicholas said...

Orthodoxy has something to do with everything.
In this case, it happens that socialist regimes have violently persecuted the faith. It's not accident, comrade.

evagrius said...

Huuuh.....I think you mean "authoritarian dictatorships" posing as socialist...I don't perceive such persecution in the socialist countries of Norway, Denmark, etc;, think again on your definition of "socialist".
It really would be nice if there was a clear definition of socialist, but then, there isn't one for capitalism either.

DogoCanario said...

Thank you for your comment, Deacon Nicholas.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

These Nordic myths keep popping up. Sweden was an economic basket case by the late 80's. It was saved by sweeping free market reforms in the 90's coupled with the gutting of the country's national defenses. Norway is supported by North Sea Oil and the fact that like Denmark and much of Western Europe they are a de-facto military protectorate of the United States with military budgets that are a joke. It is surprising how much money you can suddenly throw at free... everything if you don't have to worry about pesky things like national defense. Britain was a socialist country, and an economic basket case through the 1970's. It was saved by Margaret Thatcher. Today France, a socialist country, is the sick man of Europe. Germany, its national health insurance aside, has never been a socialist state.

Socialism is an inherently oppressive system as it wields the power of the state on behalf of one group against another. The level of repression will vary depending on how much redistribution the group in power wants. But it is always repressive.

rick allen said...

"Socialism is an inherently oppressive system as it wields the power of the state on behalf of one group against another."

That is certainly true. But it is true of all earthly governments. As St. Augustine observes in The City of God:

"But the earthly city, which shall not be everlasting (for it will no longer be a city when it has been committed to the extreme penalty), has its good in this world, and rejoices in it with such joy as such things can afford. But as this is not a good which can discharge its devotees of all distresses, this city is often divided against itself by litigations, wars, quarrels, and such victories as are either life-destroying or short-lived. For each part of it that arms against another part of it seeks to triumph over the nations though itself in bondage to vice. If, when it has conquered, it is inflated with pride, its victory is life-destroying; but if it turns its thoughts upon the common casualties of our mortal condition, and is rather anxious concerning the disasters that may befall it than elated with the successes already achieved, this victory, though of a higher kind, is still only short-lived; for it cannot abidingly rule over those whom it has victoriously subjugated."

Much can be said against socialism, as much can be said against communism, capitalism, fascism, democracy, syndicalism, anarchy, hereditary monarchy, oligarchy, aristocracy, or any of the various real-world systems that seek to combine them in various ways to produce an optimally just secular order. But I don't think that it's quite fair to condemn socialism for a feature it shares with all the others. Nor do I think that the Christian faith requires a Christian to adhere to a particular political ideology, though Christian ethics requires every Christian to refuse to conform to whatever particular injustice that any concrete political ideology requires. Hence our uneasy relationship with any form of the "earthly city."

DogoCanario said...

So the Orthodox have suffered equal persecution under the other forms of government? Not quite fair for the Orthodox to condemn socialist regimes?

evagrius said...

Well, I think you all can enjoy the wonderful free market capitalism of the U.S. to your heart's content....

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Overlooking the "socialist" countries of the Nordic sphere, as well as "socialists" countries like France and Germany and even Canada which has socialist elements in its makeup.

None of these countries are socialist. If you are able-bodied and at least average intelligence, you are expected to work and contribute taxes. There is widespread private ownership of property and the means of production. Public ownership is the exception in a few narrow sectors. A generous welfare state is enabled by the fact that the US maintains the defense umbrella for Europe, as if it's still 1948.

Could American-style frontier-capitalism be better? Sure--people are greedy and stupid. But socialism doesn't work. Period. Publicly socialized institutions can exist only in a few dependent sectors via transfer payments from private actors in the free market.

evagrius said...

It's as I've written. "Socialism" is a term with limitless definitions depending on the user.