Ser Scot A Ellison

Were Mao and Stalin Actually Socialists? (No True Scotsman)

202 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

I think that any political or economic system can be abused or suborned to empower an individual or a group.  Attempting to disclaim those who are horrible, within a given subset of people of a particular ideology, is the "No True Scotsman" fallacy.  

"No True Scotsman would ever litter... therefore you can never fault a 'Scotsman' for littering because littering removes them from the subset of people identified as Scotsman".  

This is done by advocates of particular political philosophies in order to remove the people they dislike, in this case Mao and Stalin, from the subset of people who are adherants to or advocates of that philosophy, in this case socialism.  So... were Stalin and Mao actually socialists?  I think they were they enacted polices that made the State the official owner of the "means of production" for their given States.  They also did nasty stuff and were in no way actual advocates of egalitaranism.  I think their economic policies put them pretty squarely within the socialist definition.  

So, are people going to attempt to define away those of a given political philosophy because they dislike what that person did?

Edited by Ser Scot A Ellison

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Socialism by definition is both the means of production controlled by the state AND the state run by the community as a whole.

Totalitarianism is also completely centralized economic policies, but without the pesky egalitarianism required to be socialism.  Seems to fit what they did a bit better, no?

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I don't know enough about the China situation, but the Soviet economy under Stalin wasn't what I'd call socialist. The state owned the means of production by the average Joe had zero control over them whatsoever. The workers were exploited worse than in almost any capitalist economy - they couldn't leave their job position without the permission of authorities, they couldn't change the city where the lived, for many years they were even sent to the GULAG if they were late for work several times. And the agricultural workers at state owned farms had it even worse, they were basically starving for large portions of Stalin's rule and were forced to work for a pittance.

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Posted (edited)

7 minutes ago, aceluby said:

Socialism by definition is both the means of production controlled by the state AND the state run by the community as a whole.

Totalitarianism is also completely centralized economic policies, but without the pesky egalitarianism required to be socialism.  Seems to fit what they did a bit better, no?

Ace,

So, Marx and Engles, who advocated State control of the means of production and talked about a "dictatorship of the proletariate" weren't socialists?  I think Stalin and Mao would claim that they were running the State for the community as a whole.  They just happened to be the ones at the top of the heap of people running the State.  

Edited by Ser Scot A Ellison

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7 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Ace,

So, Marx and Engles, who advocated State control of the means of production and talked about a "dictatorship of the proletariate" weren't socialists?  I think Stalin and Mao would claim that they were running the State for the community as a whole.  They just happened to be the ones at the top of the heap of people running the State.  

I think before we start ascribing 'who' is or is not a socialist we first need to agree upon the definition of socialism.  That should be our first step, then we can decide whether or not Marx and Engles fit the definition.

So it really comes down to whether you want to include the social and democratic aspects of socialism in its definition.  If you don't, which seems to be your take, then the term is pretty vague and includes lots of different ideals.  The conversation becomes a lot less interesting too since with so many ideals fitting the definition that the term basically becomes meaningless.

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Posted (edited)

Any Jordan Peterson fans? He has interesting things to say on this.

Edited by DunderMifflin

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The problem here lies in the way you frame the question. Invoking the "true Scotsman fallacy" is, imo, a fallacy here.
If I take the English wikipedia's definition, it reads: "Socialism is a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership and democratic control of the means of production"
According to this definition, any undemocratic control of the means of production is not socialism. There's little room for you to claim any kind of logical fallacy here.
Your argument only works if you want to define socialism as a purely economic system. Which is very far from how it is defined today, in social democratic countries especially.

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Posted (edited)

15 minutes ago, Rippounet said:

The problem here lies in the way you frame the question. Invoking the "true Scotsman fallacy" is, imo, a fallacy here.
If I take the English wikipedia's definition, it reads: "Socialism is a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership and democratic control of the means of production"
According to this definition, any undemocratic control of the means of production is not socialism. There's little room for you to claim any kind of logical fallacy here.
Your argument only works if you want to define socialism as a purely economic system. Which is very far from how it is defined today, in social democratic countries especially.

Rippounet,

You are defining away those socialists who believe in the "dictatorship of the proletariate".  Are you saying Marx and Engels were not socialists?  If so, you are using "No True Scotsman".  

As I pointed out in the other thread Definitions are not absolute.  They are an attempt to give a description of some idea.  Because an aspect of that idea does not fit the definition it doesn't mean that X is not X.  

For example.  The Christian faith has long been defined by the Nicean creed.  It explicitly specifies the belief in a trinitarian God.  I don't believe Mormons believe in Trinitarianism, on that basis I could attempt to claim that Mormons, based on the Nicean Creed are not Christians.  But to do so would be to run afoul of the NTS fallacy.  

Edited by Ser Scot A Ellison

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47 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Ace,

So, Marx and Engles, who advocated State control of the means of production and talked about a "dictatorship of the proletariate" weren't socialists?  I think Stalin and Mao would claim that they were running the State for the community as a whole.  They just happened to be the ones at the top of the heap of people running the State.  

Scot, the 'Rule of the Proletariat' wasn't designed as a phase of actual socialism, but rather as an ephemeral autocratic transition team to set up the mechanisms whereby Socialism would then be implemented. Think of it like a Roman dictatorship (though for structural rather than military reasons) during the Republic or the mechanisms of a Regency or the temporary authority lawyers/executors have between death and disbursement. 

Now many would say this phase is the Achilles' heel in the communist system, but that's a separate discussion. 

 

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1 hour ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

I think that any political or economic system can be abused or suborned to empower an individual or a group.  Attempting to disclaim those who are horrible, within a given subset of people of a particular ideology, is the "No True Scotsman" fallacy.  

"No True Scotsman would ever litter... therefore you can never fault a 'Scotsman' for littering because littering removes them from the subset of people identified as Scotsman".  

This is done by advocates of particular political philosophies in order to remove the people they dislike, in this case Mao and Stalin, from the subset of people who are adherants to or advocates of that philosophy, in this case socialism.  So... were Stalin and Mao actually socialists?  I think they were they enacted polices that made the State the official owner of the "means of production" for their given States.  They also did nasty stuff and were in no way actual advocates of egalitaranism.  I think their economic policies put them pretty squarely within the socialist definition.  
 

You are misunderstanding the argument. Map and at least young Stalin had beliefs.

 

But the actual argument is that their countries where not communist, as that is defined as a form of anarchism in Marxism. Rather than as a country run by a party that calls itself communist, for example China. 

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5 minutes ago, James Arryn said:

Scot, the 'Rule of the Proletariat' wasn't designed as a phase of actual socialism, but rather as an ephemeral autocratic transition team to set up the mechanisms whereby Socialism would then be implemented. Think of it like a Roman dictatorship (though for structural rather than military reasons) during the Republic or the mechanisms of a Regency or the temporary authority lawyers/executors have between death and disbursement. 

Now many would say this phase is the Achilles' heel in the communist system, but that's a separate discussion. 

 

Nevertheless, it is an aspect of socialism that has let to autocratic rule in many places that claim to be "Socialist".  Are you willing to disclaim Marx and Engels because of the "Dictatorship of the Proletariate"?  

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5 minutes ago, Rippounet said:

The problem here lies in the way you frame the question. Invoking the "true Scotsman fallacy" is, imo, a fallacy here.
If I take the English wikipedia's definition, it reads: "Socialism is a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership and democratic control of the means of production"
According to this definition, any undemocratic control of the means of production is not socialism. There's little room for you to claim any kind of logical fallacy here.

Which is a little weird because there are a ton of socialist schools that don't require democratic control, they're just not actively being pushed by any existing groups that I know of.  So yeah, I think you could easily classify several figures as part of or descended from socialist thought without having to accept that their ideology should have any influence on our thought process or operating definitions of socialism (as a shorthand for some variant of democratic socialism).  Just like you can be a theocrat and abhor liberation theology, or accept that the Prosperity Gospel (or Orthodox, or Presbyterianism, or whatever) is Christian without having to accept that the Prosperity Gospel somehow defines or influences all of Christianity.  Its a deliberate blurring of terms and expansion of the word "socialism" that's a major part of this confusion.

In short, Scot, there are two arguments at once.  Whether it is a "no true Scotsman" or not is pointless because both groups are using different definitions.  One is trying to assert that Maoism and Stalinism somehow reflect on and define "socialism" as a whole simply by labeling them socialist, and another is trying to refute that by saying that Maoism and Stalinism don't influence their branch of socialist thought without stating why or attacking the facile premise.  One is a propaganda attack and the second group, realizing that conceding that Stalinism may be descended from socialism is a bad move politically, are trying to argue against the intent of the first argument, rather than the actual wording.  

And, I'd question what seems like an fascination with "No True Scotsman" (and logical fallacies in general).  Definitions change, albeit slowly.  If the defintion of "Scotsman" becomes "one who does not litter" than "no Scotsman would litter" is true by definition.  A Scotsman (one who does not litter) who litters is a contradiction in terms.  And, just because an argument resembles one formed by a logical fallacy does not mean it is actually false.  You don't get to yell "no true Scotsman!" at something and end your argument there.  In fact, doing so is, itself, its own fallacy.  

But, since you asked, I think the argument you're referring to was an example, yes, in that it was attempting to assert that Stalinism was not socialism by saying no socialist would do ___ when ___ does not by definition refer to socialism.  The argument being made, however, was not that, but that Stalinism is not democratic socialism.  The terms were just conflated.  

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2 minutes ago, Stalker said:

You are misunderstanding the argument. Map and at least young Stalin had beliefs.

 

But the actual argument is that their countries where not communist, as that is defined as a form of anarchism in Marxism. Rather than as a country run by a party that calls itself communist, for example China. 

Stalker,

They instituted centralized control of their respective economies.  They created State ownership of the means of production.  That's socialism.  Now they justified their totalitarian rule with the "dictatorship of the Proletariate".  Why should socialists now claim they weren't "really" socialist when Marx and Engels were talking about the "dictatorship of the Proletariate" back when they were writting in the 1860s.  Aren't the totalitarian socialists states that grew up from the writings of Marx and Engels the evolution of what they were looking for?

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15 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Nevertheless, it is an aspect of socialism that has let to autocratic rule in many places that claim to be "Socialist".  Are you willing to disclaim Marx and Engels because of the "Dictatorship of the Proletariate"?  

As a consequence, no. But I mean...do you see Hitler and Mussolini as Democratic?

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Posted (edited)

50 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

You are defining away those socialists who believe in the "dictatorship of the proletariate".

No, you're the one who has a problem understanding what the expression means. The "proletariat" was the working class, which at the time meant 99% of people. Marx clearly defined "dictatorship of the proletariat" as meaning "complete political democracy."

Also, socialism existed before Marx.

Edited by Rippounet

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12 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Stalker,

They instituted centralized control of their respective economies.  They created State ownership of the means of production.  That's socialism.  Now they justified their totalitarian rule with the "dictatorship of the Proletariate".  Why should socialists now claim they weren't "really" socialist when Marx and Engels were talking about the "dictatorship of the Proletariate" back when they were writting in the 1860s.  Aren't the totalitarian socialists states that grew up from the writings of Marx and Engels the evolution of what they were looking for?

Scot, I don't know how much of Capital you've read, but it wasn't a roadmap so much as a prediction of what will happen given certain conditions.  As such they weren't "looking for" anything.

But since I argued about definitions above, I'd argue that they were using "dictatorship" to refer to Cincinattus, and therefore imply a transition phase.  I would also argue that implying that because Stalin justified his actions with Marx's words means that Marx intended and wished for that to happen is incredibly lazy thinking. 

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Posted (edited)

10 minutes ago, MerenthaClone said:

Scot, I don't know how much of Capital you've read, but it wasn't a roadmap so much as a prediction of what will happen given certain conditions.  As such they weren't "looking for" anything.

But since I argued about definitions above, I'd argue that they were using "dictatorship" to refer to Cincinattus, and therefore imply a transition phase.  I would also argue that implying that because Stalin justified his actions with Marx's words means that Marx intended and wished for that to happen is incredibly lazy thinking. 

This is also true, Marx was largely saying what he thought 'would' happen/was beginning to become inevitable as opposed to saying what rules ought to be implemented in what way. Now along the way we get a pretty clear idea of his ideals, but MC makes an important distinction that often gets overlooked. 

Moreover, he thought Russia a terrible place for communism to occur, as it's stage of development, population etc. would render the system necessarily autocratic just to implement. And, too, Lenin's Testament specially warned against Stalin as leader because of how autocratic/despotic he would be and thereby hijack the communist process. So, even in advance Stalin was viewed as No True Socialist, Scot, which kind of defies the fallacy.

Edited by James Arryn

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26 minutes ago, James Arryn said:

As a consequence, no. But I mean...do you see Hitler and Mussolini as Democratic?

No.  I don't.  I simply think Ripponuet is elevating the level to which democracy must be present in a socialist society in order to define away those socialists who've engaged in less than democratic actions as "not socialists" the same way a Scotsman who frowns upon littering disclaims littering Scotsman as "not Scotsman".

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Posted (edited)

24 minutes ago, Rippounet said:

No, you're the one who has a problem understanding what the expression means. The "proletariat" was the working class, which at the time meant 99% of people. Marx clearly defined "dictatorship of the proletariat" as meaning "complete political democracy."

Also, socialism existed before Marx.

So is Marx a socialist or not?  Or are you defining "socialism" as only being the calm reasoned socialism of the Fabian variety.  All else can't be socialism?

Edited by Ser Scot A Ellison

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19 minutes ago, Rippounet said:

No, you're the one who has a problem understanding what the expression means. The "proletariat" was the working class, which at the time meant 99% of people. Marx clearly defined "dictatorship of the proletariat" as meaning "complete political democracy."

Also, socialism existed before Marx.

You know that it's ok for other socialists to be wrong, right?  Like, they can still be socialists and share some core ideas and still be very, very wrong about implementation, tangential ideas, intertwined ideas, or the interpretation or importance of any of the above?  It doesn't make them not socialists, it just makes them wrong.  

Fwiw, I think that a democratic model is probably the best one, but I don't think it is a requirement for something to be "socialist".  

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