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Martell Spy

Workable Socialism

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32 minutes ago, Gorn said:

Let's turn this question around a bit.

Here are the victims of White Terror and "collateral damage" of anti-communist wars in different countries (Wikipedia figures):

- Indonesia, 1965-66: 500 000 - 3 000 000

- Vietnam, 1960-75: 123 000 - 500 000 (not including disputed deaths from Agent Orange)

- Cambodia: around 60 000 (civilian casualties of US bombing)

- China, 1927-49: no reliable estimates, at least several hundred thousand

- Mozambique, 1975-92: at least 500 000

- Angola, 1975-2002: at least 100 000

- Chad, 1982-90: around 40 000

- Spain, 1936-45: 58 000 - 400 000

- Korea, 1950-1953: 74 000 - 230 000

- Russia, 1917-23: 20 000 - 300 000

- Haiti, 1957-86: 40 000 - 60 000

- Guatemala, 1960-1996: 140 000 - 200 000

- Salvador, 1979-92: 40 000 - 50 000

- South America during "Operation Condor": 60 000 - 80 000

- Finland, 1918: around 10 000

- Malaysia: 1948-60: around 5000

- Taiwan, 1949-87: 3000-4000

- Hungary, 1919-21: around 1000

Do you claim that deaths of these millions of people are justified to preserve your preferred system of society, government and economy?

Did you read what I said?  No, I’m not.  The older I get the more strongly I feel that violence outside of the context of self defense is very hard to justify.

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What OldGimletEye said in the beginning is the crux of every problem: there are just too many ways people see and define socialism that it's nigh impossible to discuss it with everyone involved thinking about the same thing. Does socialism include abolition of private property or not? Can it work alongside capitalism or not? Is it compatible with democracy or not? Ask 20 different people (even in this thread) and they'll give you 20 different threads. With all that in mind, some common grounds are necessary for this discussion, so I'll take this as a starting point:
 

10 hours ago, Martell Spy said:

The Nordic model. This is probably the most well-known model and the one that is seen as working fairly well. 

Socialist Firms. This is where workers own at least a certain percentage of the firm. I tend to think this would work pretty well, but is obviously opposed by the rich straight white males of the world. Because obviously they should own all the money in society and be able to rape or torture anyone they wish with impunity. Because anyone who is not a rich white straight male has no merit or value.

The Soviet model. This is the one that often gets brought up as an argument to how socialism is a failure. Communism, lots of goose-stepping, and violations of civil rights. I would note though it is the uniforms and the torture and the faces getting stomped in that terrify people. The people in cages, much like is happening in the U.S. right now. That is what terrifies people, and it has very little to do with how economics are arranged.

Nordic model - which is currently, IMO, one of the best - if the the best - economic systems Earth can offer right now. Every great idea (with regards to economy) left had during the last 2 centuries: fight against poverty, limiting the wealth disparity, workers' rights and unions, social state, regulated market etc. has been well incorporated with free market, private property and other tenets of capitalism. And it seems they've achieved a pretty good balance: Nordic countries are continuously at the top with regards to the GDP per capita, and more importantly their HDI, their reported levels of their citizens' happiness etc. Whatever they're doing, they're doing it right.

Socialist firms, where workers own at least a percentage of their company: in theory, this has the valid psychological background - people should work better and harder, and be less alienated - if they actively partook in the companies they work. In practice - it didn't work so well. A variant of this was tried in former Yugoslavia - they called it "self-governance", and it turned out that working in a company doesn't mean per se that you're qualified to successfully lead it. 

I'm even skeptical from a purely ideological point: namely that it makes workers happier and less alienated from their work. I'm interested, for example, if you rounded up thousands of successful, happy or fulfilled workers in carious companies and asked them about reasons for their job satisfaction. I'd speculate that almost none of them would cite I'm a shareholder in my company as their reason, instead noting stuff like: my job suits my interests and personality or I have a good salary or working atmosphere is great and similar reasons.

Soviet model - this one has conclusively been proven to not work, over and over and over again. It led to tens of millions of deaths of people supposedly killed in the name of perfect society to be: from malnutrition, gulags, political persecutions and other causes (and that's not even counting Stalin's incompetent leadership in WWII, causing way more Soviet deaths than it should). It violently dealt with anyone who dared to think differently - ridiculing traditionally left ideas such as inclusiveness and diversity of thought. It oppressed and violently subdued its client states who dared to rebel (like Hungary and Czechoslovakia). And though it did achieve some stunning successes in their space program, it came at the cost of welfare of ordinary citizens. American economy was strong enough to pump billions of dollars into space program and still work - Soviet economy wasn't.

Even its supposed economic successes are dubious. I mean, just look at Germany: divided between capitalist and democratic and capitalist West Germany and Soviet puppet state East Germany. Both of them suffered collapse and huge devastation as a consequence of WWII, and both had to be built basically from the scratch. If Soviet economic system truly was superior, East Germany should have come out on top, right? Well, it didn't - by the time of 80s and 90s, West Germany was several times richer, while East Germany was the one who had to build a wall in order to stop its citizens from defecting. No wonder that Russia, along with former Soviet republics, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Romania, Albania, Poland, Bulgaria and Hungray all voluntarily abandoned communism the first chance they got in late 80s and early 90s.
 

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22 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Did you read what I said?  No, I’m not.  The older I get the more strongly I feel that violence outside of the context of self defense is very hard to justify.

But where does self-defense begin and end? US generals who bombed Cambodia genuinely believed they were defending the US from Communist aggression ("domino theory").

In the previous thread, you asked why Marxist regimes always turn authoritarian. The simple answer is that many of them did not. Allende was democratically elected in Chile and preserved democracy, and so did the Popular Front in Spain. In both cases, it did not end well for them. And people who opposed them were defending their property and their positions in the current system. Which, in their heads, was the same as self-defense.

Any transition to a socialist system will always be opposed by the people who benefit from the existing system. Peaceful change of government system in, say, Tsarist Russia was impossible, and once you the violence starts, it takes life of its own.

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19 minutes ago, Gorn said:

But where does self-defense begin and end? US generals who bombed Cambodia genuinely believed they were defending the US from Communist aggression ("domino theory").

In the previous thread, you asked why Marxist regimes always turn authoritarian. The simple answer is that many of them did not. Allende was democratically elected in Chile and preserved democracy, and so did the Popular Front in Spain. In both cases, it did not end well for them. And people who opposed them were defending their property and their positions in the current system. Which, in their heads, was the same as self-defense.

Any transition to a socialist system will always be opposed by the people who benefit from the existing system. Peaceful change of government system in, say, Tsarist Russia was impossible, and once you the violence starts, it takes life of its own.

Allende was a Marxist?  Did he plan on eliminating all private property or was he a softer Nordic style Socialist?  The same questions apply to the Popular Front in Spain.  If the answer is yes to both then you have identified Marxist regimes that didn’t go authoritarian.  

That’s what I’ve been asking to be identified for years. 

As to Self Defense, the older I get the more narrowly I want to define that concept.  The bombing of Cambodia and the US intervention in the Vietnamese Civil War are well beyond the pale in my view now.  

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Posted (edited)
12 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Allende was a Marxist?  Did he plan on eliminating all private property or was he a softer Nordic style Socialist?  The same questions apply to the Popular Front in Spain.

Yes, Allende was a Marxist. While he did not intend to eliminate all of private property, he did nationalize major industries (with little or no compensation to owners) and expropriated and redistributed large land estates. Popular Front of Spain wasn't Marxist, but it included Marxist elements who wanted to take it in that direction.

Also, a lot of regimes that ended up murderous and authoritarian weren't fated to become such. One of the very first things that Bolsheviks did after the October revolution was abolishing the death penalty, and Robespierre started out as a relative moderate who opposed wars of aggression and (again) death penalty.

Edited by Gorn

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Posted (edited)
30 minutes ago, Gorn said:

Yes, Allende was a Marxist. While he did not intend to eliminate all of private property, he did nationalize major industries (with little or no compensation to owners) and expropriated and redistributed large land estates. Popular Front of Spain wasn't Marxist, but it included Marxist elements who wanted to take it in that direction.

Also, a lot of regimes that ended up murderous and authoritarian weren't fated to become such. One of the very first things that Bolsheviks did after the October revolution was abolishing the death penalty, and Robespierre started out as a relative moderate who opposed wars of aggression and (again) death penalty.

Does the ease with which these humanitarians walked down the path to authoritarian killers not give you pause?  

Are the Bolsheviks and the Jacobins not responsible for the deaths they caused and the terror they sought to inspire?

Edited by Ser Scot A Ellison

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Posted (edited)
34 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Does the ease with which these humanitarians walked down the path to authoritarian killers not give you pause?  

Are the Bolsheviks and the Jacobins not responsible for the deaths they caused and the terror they sought to inspire?

They are fully responsible for their actions, but the causes of those actions are inextricably tied to their historical context. It cannot be boiled down to "if Marxism, then authoritarianism".

Edited by Gorn

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Posted (edited)

Other things matter than just the economist system. Historical context matters, as was just mentioned. Graft capitalism on to a country with high corruption and no strong law and order tradition. It can lead to severe problems.

 

Another approach might be more direct democracy. Referendums and initiatives work great here.

Edited by Martell Spy

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5 minutes ago, Martell Spy said:

Other things matter than just the economist system. Historical context matters, as was just mentioned. Graft capitalism on to a country with high corruption and no strong law order tradion can lead to severe problems.

 

Another approach might be more direct democracy. Referendums and initiatives work great here.

I think one of the biggest problems we face is the Supreme Court's unrealistic views about money and political speech. One of the points for free speech is the search for truth. But in their view rampant amounts of money in the political process doesn't distort that. I think that is just crazy.

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11 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Does the ease with which these humanitarians walked down the path to authoritarian killers not give you pause?  

I have a bit of time, so I'd like to try to answer this.

Why do socialist experiments seem to always turn into authoritarian nightmares? The short answer is that they don't. They do so on large scales, when socialism is implemented at once in multiple fields on entire nations. On small scales or in limited fields they work well, and even excessively well in some cases. What actually produces authoritarianism isn't a given economic system, it's concentration of power. The real question here would be why socialist leaders find it so difficult to avoid concentration of power.
Conservative-minded folk would suggest that concentration of power is inherent to socialist systems because socialism runs counter to human nature and requires strong power structures to be implemented. Funnily enough I would say that this isn't exactly false, just a bit misleading. In order to have "workable socialism" you need the citizens or workers to be able to exercize their control over both politics and production. This turns out to be near impossible on large scales or multiple fields at the same time. Why? Because not only does it require the citizens or workers to have a very high level of education in both theory (economic/political theory) and practice (the production itself), it also requires permanetly renewed involvement in the project.
No nation has ever taken the time to lay the necessary educational bases for socialism before attempting to implement it.
In other words, socialism is demanding for the individual. Incredibly so. By contrast our capitalist consumerism-oriented representative democracies require minimal involvement. A different way to put it is that delegating political power and/or control over the means of production is easy. Add to that the fact that consumerism-oriented capitalism provides the individual with a lot of benefits (/goods) on a daily basis and it's easy to understand why so few people are really willing to work towards socialism. Heck, an internet conversation doesn't count, being an activist socialist would be a full-time job. Most of us are pefectly content to only have to be politically active every few years.
So why even have the conversation? Because consumerism-oriented capitalism turns out to be unsustainable, so we're looking for alternatives. Capitalism without consumerism doesn't sound as hot... So we're wondering what socialism could offer us. Not because we've suddenly become enlightened beings, but because we have become aware that the very growth and innovation that are capitalism's main selling points are directly linked to its unsustainability. In fact, if we want to save ourselves we might have to envision negative growth ("de-growing" in French) or "shrinking" the economy. We might even have to resort to... localism: short circuits, especially short food supply chains. And that would be compatible with socialism.
The only question imho is whether we can make it in time given all the obstacles in our way: lack of "socialist" education, individual laziness (including intelelctual laziness), decades of relentless right-wing propaganda, existing power structures... The list goes on and on. Not to mention the fact that it entails giving up our current way of life, making significant sacrifices in our day-to-day life, learning to cooperate with our neighbors...

I truly believe there is no alternative (ha!), but there's no guarantee that humanity will rise to the challenge. Right now it seems much more likely that instead we will revert to our nationalistic impulses and fight each other for whatever remains of our burning civilization.

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I'm interested in why there is the assumption that capitalism is unsustainable? What about it is unsustainable? 

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2 minutes ago, Heartofice said:

I'm interested in why there is the assumption that capitalism is unsustainable? What about it is unsustainable? 

Well, I did say that intellectual laziness was one of the obstacles... <_<

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7 minutes ago, Heartofice said:

I'm interested in why there is the assumption that capitalism is unsustainable? What about it is unsustainable? 

A possibly simplistic answer, but endless growth and accelerating concentration of wealth both seem to be core requirements, and neither can last forever.

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1 hour ago, Knight Of Winter said:

Even its supposed economic successes are dubious. I mean, just look at Germany: divided between capitalist and democratic and capitalist West Germany and Soviet puppet state East Germany. Both of them suffered collapse and huge devastation as a consequence of WWII, and both had to be built basically from the scratch. If Soviet economic system truly was superior, East Germany should have come out on top, right? Well, it didn't - by the time of 80s and 90s, West Germany was several times richer, while East Germany was the one who had to build a wall in order to stop its citizens from defecting. No wonder that Russia, along with former Soviet republics, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Romania, Albania, Poland, Bulgaria and Hungray all voluntarily abandoned communism the first chance they got in late 80s and early 90s.

I... I actually really don't want to get involved in this thread at all, but I'd like to elaborate the German perspective a bit, if only to encourage people to think about specific policies instead of catchphrases.

West Germany had a lot of advantages when compared to the GDR. It was three times the size and had its own industrial centers more or less intact, compared to the GDR which was cut off from the Silesian heavy industry that went to Poland and then had much of its infrastructure dismantled by a Soviet Union starving for resources after the heavy losses it suffered during the war. The GDR started out economically broken and starving (the latter reinforced by the haphazard collectivization of the farming sector that was nowhere near as genocidal as to how it went in the Soviet Union, but still pretty bad). Western Germany then was propped up by the US as an important Cold War ally, receiving enormous funds for its rebuilding efforts. The GDR didn't receive that much help. The Soviet Union was more interested in organizing the produce of the Warsaw Pact members than actually investing into them, at least not to a degree comparable to the Marshall Plan. Throughout Eastern German history, its economy was always slowly building up, but continuously strangled by the central planning economics. If you listen to the people living and working there, you always hear the same stories about factories standing still because of constant resource shortages of the most basic resources. There was constant scarcity and then the diversion of these scarce resources to... well, on paper more important things, but this scarcity also birthed rampant corruption that further screwed over the central plans. The whole economic system was simply unfeasible.

Now to Western Germany. I must admit, I might be biased, but that bias stems from the observation that the economic system worked and worked well. The Erhard era were probably the most influential with full embrace of the Freiburg school of economic thinking. This means 'social market economy' which seems to be a totally alien concept to American politics. The idea that for a free market to create opportunities for everyone it needs checks and balances to both prevent single players to rig the game in their favor and help other players to join the game: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_market_economy

Funny how that was implemented by a conservative government, but conservative governments implementing watered-down left leaning policies in order to out-compete the social democrats is a sport with a history going back to Bismarck himself. The result of this system was certainly not perfect. The unemployment rates were fluctuating and there were several harsh recessions, but throughout much of the post-war history this ordoliberal model in combination with the lucky political situation (including the creation of the European Union) that helped facilitate our high focus on exports brought steep economic growth without much of the exploitative downsides that usually arise. Of course it also gave rise to the prominence of German car manufacturers and the stranglehold of their lobbyists in modern decision-making.

In fact the last few decades, especially after the reunification, were the most troubling to watch in how ordoliberal policies were rolled back in favor of neoliberal make-believe ideas that never work. Starting with privatization of public institutions that cause public spending to explode. Oh yeah, privatization of the railway network sure saves money and increases service on paper, when in actuality having a monolithic profit-maximizing company running all trains in the country causes it to squeeze all the money out of the existing rail network while barely making an effort to invest, forcing the government to pump far more money into it to keep it barely functioning than while it was in public hand. Same thing to public housing. Privatizing that hoping that companies will build new houses to move with the demand when in reality they are happy to just raise the rents to ridiculous degrees to maximize profits from what they already got. See a pattern? Those things are bloody money sinkholes. This shit needs to be reconsidered if we don't want our public spending to further explode while all remaining public institutions get starved of investments because of it.

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23 minutes ago, Rippounet said:

I have a bit of time, so I'd like to try to answer this.

Why do socialist experiments seem to always turn into authoritarian nightmares? The short answer is that they don't. They do so on large scales, when socialism is implemented at once in multiple fields on entire nations. On small scales or in limited fields they work well, and even excessively well in some cases. What actually produces authoritarianism isn't a given economic system, it's concentration of power. The real question here would be why socialist leaders find it so difficult to avoid concentration of power.
Conservative-minded folk would suggest that concentration of power is inherent to socialist systems because socialism runs counter to human nature and requires strong power structures to be implemented. Funnily enough I would say that this isn't exactly false, just a bit misleading. In order to have "workable socialism" you need the citizens or workers to be able to exercize their control over both politics and production. This turns out to be near impossible on large scales or multiple fields at the same time. Why? Because not only does it require the citizens or workers to have a very high level of education in both theory (economic/political theory) and practice (the production itself), it also requires permanetly renewed involvement in the project.
No nation has ever taken the time to lay the necessary educational bases for socialism before attempting to implement it.
In other words, socialism is demanding for the individual. Incredibly so. By contrast our capitalist consumerism-oriented representative democracies require minimal involvement. A different way to put it is that delegating political power and/or control over the means of production is easy. Add to that the fact that consumerism-oriented capitalism provides the individual with a lot of benefits (/goods) on a daily basis and it's easy to understand why so few people are really willing to work towards socialism. Heck, an internet conversation doesn't count, being an activist socialist would be a full-time job. Most of us are pefectly content to only have to be politically active every few years.
So why even have the conversation? Because consumerism-oriented capitalism turns out to be unsustainable, so we're looking for alternatives. Capitalism without consumerism doesn't sound as hot... So we're wondering what socialism could offer us. Not because we've suddenly become enlightened beings, but because we have become aware that the very growth and innovation that are capitalism's main selling points are directly linked to its unsustainability. In fact, if we want to save ourselves we might have to envision negative growth ("de-growing" in French) or "shrinking" the economy. We might even have to resort to... localism: short circuits, especially short food supply chains. And that would be compatible with socialism.
The only question imho is whether we can make it in time given all the obstacles in our way: lack of "socialist" education, individual laziness (including intelelctual laziness), decades of relentless right-wing propaganda, existing power structures... The list goes on and on. Not to mention the fact that it entails giving up our current way of life, making significant sacrifices in our day-to-day life, learning to cooperate with our neighbors...

I truly believe there is no alternative (ha!), but there's no guarantee that humanity will rise to the challenge. Right now it seems much more likely that instead we will revert to our nationalistic impulses and fight each other for whatever remains of our burning civilization.

I don’t know that I can disagree with anything you’ve said.  Top down heavily centralized control in almost any context is problematic.  It is the centralization of power that allows for abuse to grow. Local communities choosing to enact Socialism, more power to them.  

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Posted (edited)
10 minutes ago, Liffguard said:

A possibly simplistic answer, but endless growth and accelerating concentration of wealth both seem to be core requirements, and neither can last forever.

Yes, resources are finite.  Unrestrained, expansion turns humanity into a plauge of locusts working to strip everything from the planet, the catch is, we cannot move on.

Edited by Ser Scot A Ellison

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2 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Allende was a Marxist?  Did he plan on eliminating all private property or was he a softer Nordic style Socialist?  The same questions apply to the Popular Front in Spain.  If the answer is yes to both then you have identified Marxist regimes that didn’t go authoritarian.  

That’s what I’ve been asking to be identified for years. 

As to Self Defense, the older I get the more narrowly I want to define that concept.  The bombing of Cambodia and the US intervention in the Vietnamese Civil War are well beyond the pale in my view now.  

A socialist government elected democratically and that did not become autocratic?  The answer is Saskatchewan.  Tommy Douglas,  Kiefer Sutherland's grandfather, did just what you asked.

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38 minutes ago, Heartofice said:

I'm interested in why there is the assumption that capitalism is unsustainable? What about it is unsustainable? 

Concentration of capital is the problem. Throughout history this was seen as a problem and different cultures have devised solutions to the problem. West coast indigenous people's lived with much wealth due to plentiful resources and had potlatches to redistribute the accumulated wealth. Death taxes will help here in our culture.

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Is a constitutional republic that practices capitalism destined to genocide and having an effective caste system?  It's certainly the case in US history.  Way better than Marxism!

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