Ser Scot A Ellison

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

202 posts in this topic

23 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. 

I'm not claiming that.  I'm saying that where large scale violent attempts to impose socialism upon a society (a la Marx) have been tried the results have tended to be Totalitarian.  

Is the only "real socialism" Fabian socialism and all else need not be called "socialism"?

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Just now, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

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".

But Scot, the democratic system has 'led to' both fascist leaders. You seem to be selectively elastic in your inclusion, thus bordering on the fallacy yourself. Either a system is as it's defined to be or it's accountable for the historical manifestations that have occurred as a result. It can't be one for one system and the other for another. If Hitler and Mussolini don't fall under the democratic consequences umbrella, then autocratic despots don't get lumped in with socialism. 

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Just now, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

I'm not claiming that.  I'm saying that where large scale violent attempts to impose socialism upon a society (a la Marx) have been tried the results have tended to be Totalitarian.  

Is the only "real socialism" Fabian socialism and all else need not be called "socialism"?

It's not about 'real' or 'not real' socialism.  It's about how you define it.  You want it to be solely the takeover of production by the state, however socialism is actually defined that the state NOT be totalitarian.  So yeah... I actually would prefer if people would use the term correctly and call the forced takeover of industry by a state not controlled by the people what it is: totalitarian.  

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Fallacies are extremely overrated. E.g. I think it is not at all fallacious but perfectly fair to claim that Mormons are not real Christians because they do not affirm certain historical creeds. One can respond that this is too narrow a conception of Christianity but it is not at all an ad-hoc-move but has a clear, inambiguous and historically plausible principle for exclusion or inclusion.

Now there is probably no exact parallel to the Nicene Creed in Socialism. So it is considerably more difficult to in/exclude certain people, parties or regimes.

As others have pointed out, even disregarding the vagueness of what is meant with "socialism", the dictatorship of the proletariat was originally only seen as a short phase but de facto it was prolonged ad indefinitum. Even granting that such a dictatorship was necessary, it was originally thought not as dominated by one person or a small group but by councils (soviet means council) broadly representing most of the populace.

So while it seems odd to claim that regimes calling themselves socialist were not although they implented some features of theoretical or ideal socialism, it seems plausible that virtually all so-called socialist regimes ever in power were (often extreme) distortions of the theory/ideal from the very beginning and often became worse afterwards.

Are representative, faulty democracies like we have them today "true democracies"? Because a 400 BC Athenian would not have recognized them as such?

15 year olds not allowed to vote, don't they belong to the people? representation grossly distorting popular vote? etc.

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7 minutes ago, James Arryn said:

But Scot, the democratic system has 'led to' both fascist leaders. You seem to be selectively elastic in your inclusion, thus bordering on the fallacy yourself. Either a system is as it's defined to be or it's accountable for the historical manifestations that have occurred as a result. It can't be one for one system and the other for another. If Hitler and Mussolini don't fall under the democratic consequences umbrella, then autocratic despots don't get lumped in with socialism. 

What system are you referring to?  Democracy?  Sure, there can be a democractic choice to set aside democratic practices.  Why is that a contradiction?  In the sense that both Hitler and Moussilini used Democracy to gain power they were Democratic.  That they then chose to use Democratic institutions to eliminate Democracy is built into the system.  Once they ended democracy, legally or not, they were no longer "democrats".  

Are you saying that once Mao and Stalin used Socialism to aggrandize themselves and no longer worked for the true good of the people in their respective States they ceased to be Socialists?  Okay, when does that moment take place?  I understand that Marx and Engels saw the DoP as a temporary phase... how long can that phase exist and it still be called "temporary"?  A year, 5 years, 10 years?  When the DoP shift from being "temporary" to becoming one person milking it for their own gain?  I really don't know.

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10 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

I'm not claiming that.  I'm saying that where large scale violent attempts to impose socialism upon a society (a la Marx) have been tried the results have tended to be Totalitarian.  

Is the only "real socialism" Fabian socialism and all else need not be called "socialism"?

You want to tell me when Marx led a large scale violent attempt to impose socialism on a society, or was that just poorly phrased (or read by me)?  Because, again, Marx was not advocating for attempts to impose socialism.  The Communist Manifesto is similarly an analytical approach to class struggles rather than a call to arms, even with Engels' involvement.  Very briefly, at the end, there is a small discussion on the transition, but as a possible route, not as a template to be followed.  

Also, I addressed this already.  I'll quote it in full for you because you seemed to have missed it.  

"

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. 

"

I think I'm being pretty clear that Stalinism and Maoism were at least offshoots of socialism, and also that trying to insist that this is the case is innocently meaningless at best, but more often deliberately disingenuous.  

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MC,

I'm saying that Mao and Stalin existed in the universe of socialists.  Not that all socialists, because they are socialists, believe in Mao and Stalin.  The latter assertion would be clearly fallacious.  Maoism and Stalinism, are in my opinion, subsets of the entirety of socialism.  

I certainly prefer "Democractic Socialists" to the more aggressive types who like Mao and Stalin but that doesn't mean Mao and Stalin aren't socialists.

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How exactly was the Soviet system under Stalin a "dictatorship of the proletariat"? It was ruled by the party leaders who certainly weren't members of the proletariat in any sense.

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3 minutes ago, David Selig said:

How exactly was the Soviet system under Stalin a "dictatorship of the proletariat"? It was ruled by the party leaders who certainly weren't members of the proletariat in any sense.

David,

So, by your definition, the Soviet Union was never socialist?

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1 minute ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

MC,

I'm saying that Mao and Stalin existed in the universe of socialists.  Not that all socialists, because they are socialists, believe in Mao and Stalin.  The latter assertion would be clearly fallacious.  Maoism and Stalinism, are in my opinion, subsets of the entirety of socialism.  

 

This is almost word for word what I said, and have been saying, all thread. 

I just am annoyed at people who make the argument as if it is in any way meaningful at all, and at people who attempt to deny it rather than attacking the pointlessness of the argument.  Because while you may not see or mean to imply the connection, the vast majority of the time people (including the person who started the USPOL derail) are doing it with the intent to conflate democratic socialism with Stalinism.  Your argument falls under the "innocently meaningless" part of my spectrum, most fall under "deliberately disingenuous."

Basically, you're right but who cares and Rip is technically wrong but mostly right when he's attacking the implied argument rather than the stated one.  Also you talk about logical fallacies too much.  

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Posted (edited)

37 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

David,

So, by your definition, the Soviet Union was never socialist?

Not what he said.  If you're going to be pedantic and quibble about definitions to terms that we haven't all agreed to the same definitions of, at least be correct about rephrasing other people's arguments.  

e:  Also, one could argue that the Soviet Union was not accurately Stalinist, given when Stalin died.  Even if we accept (and we shouldn't) that Stalin accurately and entirely created his ideal country, the Soviet Union wasn't only ruled by Stalin.  

Edited by MerenthaClone

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26 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Are you saying that once Mao and Stalin used Socialism to aggrandize themselves and no longer worked for the true good of the people in their respective States they ceased to be Socialists?  Okay, when does that moment take place?  I understand that Marx and Engels saw the DoP as a temporary phase... how long can that phase exist and it still be called "temporary"?  A year, 5 years, 10 years?  When the DoP shift from being "temporary" to becoming one person milking it for their own gain?  I really don't know.

It's immediate.  Once they have aggrandized themselves and the people no longer have a say, it ceases to be socialism.  Just as it ceases to be democracy once you use it to instantiate a dictatorship.  Promising to go back to socialism eventually doesn't mean it's socialism.  

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4 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

David,

So, by your definition, the Soviet Union was never socialist?

I feel we're talking past each other, but I'll repeat; yes they were under that umbrella, but that doesn't really say anything about the umbrella in the way you're suggesting it does. But IF it did, then you'd need to be equally elastic for the consequences of all other systems if you wanted to approach making a point. Which you don't because then you suddenly revert to defining a system by it's intent/ideal/rhetoric rather than it's consequences.

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18 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

No.  I don't.  I simply think Rippounet 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".

The mere fact that "dictatorship of the proletariat" means nothing like what you think it means is enough to invalidate your whole line of argumentation. Clearly, Stalin and Mao completely betrayed Marxism at least.
Whether they were "socialists" or not still depends on what definition of socialism one uses.

18 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

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?

Why would my opinion on such subjects matter? Tbh I never gave it much thought. As I said before in France we define socialism as being the sum of a great variety of schools of thought so there's no need to really look for "true" socialism. There's Owen, Fourier, Proudhon, Marx... and so many others. I believe one of the common points such thinkers have however is that they envisioned democratic systems of government. I'm not aware of any 19th century socialist who advocated an undemocratic form of control or government, are you?

If not, the question then becomes, was Stalin and Mao's betrayal of the initial tenets of socialism enough to redefine the meaning of the word? This is more or less what we're actually arguing. I would tend to define socialism by its 19th century origins. You would tend to use the historical record of the 20th century to say that socialism includes undemocratic systems of government. Neither of us is fundametally wrong, all we have to do is identify the source of our semantic difference.

The problem is, however, that you accuse others of "defining away those of a given political philosophy because they dislike what that person did" when Stalin or Mao's betrayal of the political philosophy they were claiming to advance is very well established and rather uncontroversial. In other words, you're accusing people who are familiar with the original tenets of socialism and the historical chronology of using a logical fallacy, which is... paradoxical?
If I turn the tables on you for a bit... If you are using dictators who betrayed their own cause to redefine the meaning of that cause. Aren't you the one who's using a fallacy here? Shouldn't the burden of proof be on you to show that Stalin and Mao were socialists, by using socialist writings that predated them to establish links? And good luck with that!

Chomsky explained it a whole lot better than I ever could:
https://chomsky.info/1986____/

Quote

Since its origins, socialism has meant the liberation of working people from exploitation. As the Marxist theoretician Anton Pannekoek observed, “this goal is not reached and cannot be reached by a new directing and governing class substituting itself for the bourgeoisie,” but can only be “realized by the workers themselves being master over production.” Mastery over production by the producers is the essence of socialism, and means to achieve this end have regularly been devised in periods of revolutionary struggle, against the bitter opposition of the traditional ruling classes and the ‘revolutionary intellectuals’ guided by the common principles of Leninism and Western managerialism, as adapted to changing circumstances. But the essential element of the socialist ideal remains: to convert the means of production into the property of freely associated producers and thus the social property of people who have liberated themselves from exploitation by their master, as a fundamental step towards a broader realm of human freedom.
[...]
The Leninist antagonism to the most essential features of socialism was evident from the very start. In revolutionary Russia, Soviets and factory committees developed as instruments of struggle and liberation, with many flaws, but with a rich potential. Lenin and Trotsky, upon assuming power, immediately devoted themselves to destroying the liberatory potential of these instruments, establishing the rule of the Party, in practice its Central Committee and its Maximal Leaders [...]

 

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Posted (edited)

Ripp-

An element to, say, Lenisism that also needs to be accounted for is that it was birthed in war and immediately deemed an existential threat by the surrounding governments. Thus it is IMO hard to distinguish what Lenin's actual aims would have been had he not had to assume a war mentality from the start. I think of the French Revolution and Terror, and then from there to Napoleon or, say, the Japanese internment camps as democratic illustrations of the same adaptation due to circumstance that throws the system on its head.

Lenin is harder to figure in this sense than, say, Stalin. He remains enigmatic to most historians, and I'm never entirely sure where the 'real' man can be found. Kinda rambling.

Edited by James Arryn

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Isn't it incorrect to say that in the Soviet Union (at least under Stalin and after him) or in Mao's China that the state owned and controlled the means of production? The Communist party owned and controlled the means of production. But the Communist party isn't the state, despite the demand of its leaders that the state and the CP are one and the same. The state is the land, the people and the system of government, it is not the people who are in government. Indeed under ideal socialism there is no party, because ownership by the state implies a unified kind of democracy where individuals are chosen to lead from the body of the people and not sub groups who identify themselves as a faction within the body politic. So I would argue that no state that has a party in control of the state can be a socialist state.

I would also argue that democracy is absolutely essential to socialism and cannot be separated from it. A person rises to a position of political leadership either by being chosen by the collective will of the people, or by conquest, or by inheritance. Attaining leadership by conquest or inheritance is antithetical to socialism. Socialism's only theoretical legitimate recourse to violence is the violent overthrow of a non-socialist system, if all non-violent attempts to institute a socialist order have failed. But therein lies the problem, a military order is by its nature dictatorial (though shalt follow orders of your superiors), so if a military means is used to overthrow a non-socialist system and install a socialist system then the leaders of the overthrow are running things non-democratically and people being who they are such leaders are not willing to simply give up power and leave it in the hands of the people, especially since the people were mostly illiterate peasants. This therefore means that attaining a socialist state through violence is a subversion of socialism at the outset and thus dooms the resulting state to immediately divert from socialism into totalitarianism. 

Ergo Mao and Stalin as creatures of and perpetrators of communist party rule over their respective countries cannot be socialst.

 

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8 minutes ago, The Anti-Targ said:

Isn't it incorrect to say that in the Soviet Union (at least under Stalin and after him) or in Mao's China that the state owned and controlled the means of production? The Communist party owned and controlled the means of production. But the Communist party isn't the state, despite the demand of its leaders that the state and the CP are one and the same. The state is the land, the people and the system of government, it is not the people who are in government. Indeed under ideal socialism there is no party, because ownership by the state implies a unified kind of democracy where individuals are chosen to lead from the body of the people and not sub groups who identify themselves as a faction within the body politic. So I would argue that no state that has a party in control of the state can be a socialist state.

I would also argue that democracy is absolutely essential to socialism and cannot be separated from it. A person rises to a position of political leadership either by being chosen by the collective will of the people, or by conquest, or by inheritance. Attaining leadership by conquest or inheritance is antithetical to socialism. Socialism's only theoretical legitimate recourse to violence is the violent overthrow of a non-socialist system, if all non-violent attempts to institute a socialist order have failed. But therein lies the problem, a military order is by its nature dictatorial (though shalt follow orders of your superiors), so if a military means is used to overthrow a non-socialist system and install a socialist system then the leaders of the overthrow are running things non-democratically and people being who they are such leaders are not willing to simply give up power and leave it in the hands of the people, especially since the people were mostly illiterate peasants. This therefore means that attaining a socialist state through violence is a subversion of socialism at the outset and thus dooms the resulting state to immediately divert from socialism into totalitarianism. 

Ergo Mao and Stalin as creatures of and perpetrators of communist party rule over their respective countries cannot be socialst.

 

So a "Socialist" Revolution that is successful but doesn't have the support of the majority of people in a given state, by your definition, cannot be socialist regardless of the ideals the successful revolution espouses.

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2 minutes ago, The Anti-Targ said:

Isn't it incorrect to say that in the Soviet Union (at least under Stalin and after him) or in Mao's China that the state owned and controlled the means of production? The Communist party owned and controlled the means of production. But the Communist party isn't the state, despite the demand of its leaders that the state and the CP are one and the same. The state is the land, the people and the system of government, it is not the people who are in government. Indeed under ideal socialism there is no party, because ownership by the state implies a unified kind of democracy where individuals are chosen to lead from the body of the people and not sub groups who identify themselves as a faction within the body politic. So I would argue that no state that has a party in control of the state can be a socialist state.

I would also argue that democracy is absolutely essential to socialism and cannot be separated from it. A person rises to a position of political leadership either by being chosen by the collective will of the people, or by conquest, or by inheritance. Attaining leadership by conquest or inheritance is antithetical to socialism. Socialism's only theoretical legitimate recourse to violence is the violent overthrow of a non-socialist system, if all non-violent attempts to institute a socialist order have failed. But therein lies the problem, a military order is by its nature dictatorial (though shalt follow orders of your superiors), so if a military means is used to overthrow a non-socialist system and install a socialist system then the leaders of the overthrow are running things non-democratically and people being who they are such leaders are not willing to simply give up power and leave it in the hands of the people, especially since the people were mostly illiterate peasants. This therefore means that attaining a socialist state through violence is a subversion of socialism at the outset and thus dooms the resulting state to immediately divert from socialism into totalitarianism. 

Ergo Mao and Stalin as creatures of and perpetrators of communist party rule over their respective countries cannot be socialst.

 

A democracy requires someone to be elected in free and fair elections.  Someone could easily be a military leader, lead a rebellion, institute a system that creates (sufficiently to be called a democracy) free and fair elections, and then be elected into power subsequently.  It would be a democracy, no? It isn't common but I don't think your conclusion is valid.  "people being who they are such leaders are not willing to simply give up power and leave it in the hands of the people," This is not a sufficiently compelling argument.  Being birthed from military conflict does not automatically invalidate a country from being socialist any more than it invalidates a country from being a democracy.  

We also need to define "democracy".  Anarcho-socialists descended from Proudhon could be in some ways to be described as "democratic" but would be opposed to a democratic state, but would still be socialists.  At this point we've expanded the definition of democracy to be so broad as to be as diluted as the "socialism" we're all arguing about.  Which is understandable, because you're coming at this from the idea that "democracy" is a settled argument and trying to staple something else onto it, namely socialism.  

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1 minute ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

So a "Socialist" Revolution that is successful but doesn't have the support of the majority of people in a given state, by your definition, cannot be socialist regardless of the ideals the successful revolution espouses.

Not so much the revolution as the state/government thereafter. Like an individual can establish a commune, but can't by definition run one, for a rough example. 

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6 minutes ago, James Arryn said:

Not so much the revolution as the state/government thereafter. Like an individual can establish a commune, but can't by definition run one, for a rough example. 

Wait, so a Revolution can be socialist without the support of the majority of the people for the revolution?  How does that gel with the insistence that Democratic principles have to apply for a State to be truly socialist?  If the Socialist revolutionaries gain control of the state but don't have the support of the majority of the people in the State do they cease to be socialist when they use the mechanisms of the State to impose socialist programs upon the State and the majority of the people who do not support them?

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