Sunday, April 20, 2008

What Is Today's Socialism?

Few socialists today equate socialism with a centralized public ownership and planning of the economy. Or to put the point in broader terms, few socialists conceive of socialism only as a "mode of production".

If socialism had to be characterized in a single phrase it would be a movement of human liberation, in which the transformation of the economic system is only one element, and itself gives rise to diverse choices in the construction of a different type of socialism.

In reality, scientific socialism - articulated in the work of the Bolsheviks - set out to achieve state power and transform the economic system, to destroy the rich potential of the instruments of the popular struggle and liberation created in revolutionary Russia. The tyrannical rule of the Soviet party system was exactly as Trotsky had predicted years earlier, and something the Russian anarchists had understood well. Though socialists today do not echo Lenin's order for "unquestioning submission to a single will" in the "interests of socialism", do they not appeal to the same transformation of the economic system as one of the primary elements to further the interests of socialism?

It should not be surprising that after a hundred years of socialist failure, socialism is still primarily sought out in terms of transforming economic systems through involuntary distributionist planning as a "mode of production", though socialists themselves rarely equate socialism with centralized public ownership and the like?

That is, today's 'democratic socialists' are loathe to equate their visions of society in scientific socialist terms, but scientific planning is still central to their thesis. And where voluntaryist popular struggle fails and continues to fail - and we should wonder why - the democratic socialists have become the managers of the increasingly centralized state capitalist systems: the managers of the corporate economy, the arbiters of state power, the bureaucrats inside the ideological institutions. In summary, 'the people's representatives'.

Bakunin once said, "the people will feel no better if the stick with which they are being beaten is labeled 'the people's stick.'"


Muser said...

Interesting post. Soviet-style socialism collapsed, and capitalism seems to be devouring resources too fast and creating a chasm between rich and poor; then there's the military/industrial complex, which seems to need war. Sweden's famous "middle way" seems to work--but only for 8 million people. They have privately owned companies but state-controlled (or at least managed) health and education; good on the environment. But only 8 million, alas.

Acumensch said...

Still, there's a lot of things about Sweden that aren't mentioned. It's a genetically homogeneous society (and historically successful communes have largely been homogeneous) but it has increasingly become aggravated by immigration.

I think borders are fictitious, but also wonder how homogeneity increases cooperation. It seems rather racist and xenophobic, yet also true in many places.

Sweden was also very capitalist until the 60s once it had created the industries it needed to sustain itself.

At its beating heart, however, Sweden is a 'welfare state', a state distribution model, and there are many dangers with this model. This state is a relatively new apparatus in human history, and most were setup for security reasons. These quickly become warfare states when that security dissolves. There are also no options anywhere, since state-bordered territories are ubiquitous, for exempting yourself from state obligations in order to setup non-state distributions and non-state cooperation.

In general I'm not concerned so much with what 'works' - like the fact that Sweden 'works' - but whether the process of working is just as well. I'm really opposed to judging things by their conclusions. That said, whatever is just has to 'work' also otherwise it would collapse.