What is 'Socialism'?

Socialism:  Socialism describes any anti-liberal, totalitarian ideology that rejects the fundamental presuppositions of Egalitarian Universalism, and believes an individual derives their value from the group or state. 

 

Socialists hold group or state interests as having highest value, with individual rights being subservient to state or group interests.  Socialism prescribes social justice based on arbitrary group identities and assigns class guilt as the worst form of offence.  Socialism rejects the concept of individual competence and rejects formal equality in favour of the concept of equity, meaning equality of outcome, with the goal of societal homogeneity.  Socialism exists on a scale of egalitarianism, from extreme egalitarianism (Marxism and/or neo-Marxism) on one end, to extreme anti-egalitarianism (Fascism and/or neo-Fascism) on the other.  Bolshevism, Trotskyism, Menshevikism, Stalinism, Maoism, Italian Fascism, French Fascism (Petainist Fascism), National Socialism (Nazism), Democratic Socialism, etc. are all derivatives of theoretical Marxism.

Socialism, in it's general form, has been a feature of human societies as long as recorded history.  Most tribal societies, and the hereditary monarchies that developed from them, place the tribe, state or kingdom in a position of sovereignty over the individual.

 

In philosophical terms, socialism bears closer resemblance to the medieval feudal system than any other.  In feudalism, the serfs belong to the land and the bulk of their labour belongs to the land, and by extension, the aristocratic landlord.  The functional reality is that individuals outside the ruling elite belong to the ruling elite, albeit indirectly; slavery in all but name.  In socialism, the individual belongs to the collective and their skills and labour are similarly owned by the collective.  Therefore, by extension, the individual and their labour belongs to the ruling elite.  Therefore, despite being superficially different from feudalism, socialism is functionally the same; the individual belongs to the ruling elite, serfdom in a slightly altered form.

In the modern context, Socialism emerged as a reaction against liberalism.  If Classical Conservatism (itself an evolution of tribal socialism) was the political reaction of the hereditary aristocracy to the threat of liberalism, modern socialism was the political reaction of the hereditary middle class to threat of liberalism.  

 

Most modern Socialist movements have their roots in the 19th century writings of Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels.  Rooted in the social constructionist ideas of Jean Jacques Rousseau and the dialectic 'clash of opposing forces' of Hegelian philosophy, Marx and Engels adopted a hypothesis of historical materialism that proposed that human societies and their cultural institutions (religion, laws, morals, etc) were an outgrowth of collective economic activity.

Marx and Engels postulated that all human activity and interaction boiled down to economics and socio-economic class provided the appropriate framework through which human society should be viewed, critiqued and changed.

Marxism:  The hypothetical ‘pure’ form of extreme egalitarian socialism.  Marxism is a totalitarian ideology.  Marxism aims to create societal homogeneity through inclusion and consequently, coerced conformity to state sanctioned ‘ideals/values’ of equity.  Marxists reject divisions based on identities other than socio-economic status, dividing society into polarization based on bourgeoisie; property owning class, and proletariat; working or labour class.  Traditional Marxists tend to support an extreme economic model in which the means of production, as well as the output of production, is collectivized in the hands of the state.  The Soviet Union and Maoist China, along with many smaller nations, adopted this economic system.

Marxism, in common with most socialist philosophy, is a reaction against the foundational principles of liberalism.  Critically, Marxism rejects the concept of Egalitarian Universalism and, consequently, the idea that all humans share equal intrinsic value.  Where Liberalism defines individuals as being equally valuable and the group or state deriving its value from the individual, Marxism defines individuals as intrinsically valueless, deriving their value from the group or state.

Marxism began as, and has remained, predominantly a movement of the middle class.  When the Enlightenment and Industrial revolution heralded the arrival of liberal economics, the generation of wealth through freely negotiated provision of economically valuable products or services created a level of economic mobility hitherto unseen in human history.  No longer was the socio-economic conditions of one's birth a limit to one's life potential and the early industrial revolution saw significant numbers of working class people, slaves and serfs only a few decades before, rise up the socio-economic spectrum through a combination of work ethic and talent combined with acquired knowledge and skills.  

Prior to the rise of liberal economics and liberal democracy, the middle class was relatively small, exclusive and held a privileged place in late medieval society.  Some middle class families managed to rise to aristocratic class through warfare and plunder and, being part of the 'landed gentry', were relatively safe from being usurped by the 'great unwashed' of the serf or working classes.  The creation of new forms of capital under liberalism rendered the ownership of land significantly less influential, both economically and socially.  For the first time in history, the traditional middle class faced the prospect of experiencing significant loss of status and influence.

Liberal economics proved to be a boon for the working class, with the English working class doubling their average wealth in the last 50 years of the 19th century, a rate of wealth generation unseen in prior history.  Unfortunately for many of the hereditary middle class, the potential for success in a meritocratic system such as a free market, is matched by a similar potential for failure if they lacked the work ethic and talent to compete.  As such, the hereditary middle class was rapidly being eclipsed and replaced by the working class, who were elevating themselves to middle class wealth and status despite their humble origins.

Within the hereditary middle classes, this lead to a growth in bitterness and resentment toward the economic system that was rapidly replacing them with people they considered to be their social and intellectual inferiors.  The evidence, of course, was telling a different story, but hundreds or even thousands of years of hereditary privilege had bred a level of intellectual and social arrogance and blindness that, to this day, has proven difficult to erase.

The ideology of Marx offered an attractive mechanism through which the 'working class' could be re-confined to their 'proper' place in society, as serfs working for the 'greater good' of society.  Of course, every middle class socialist arrogantly believes that they define the 'greater good' and should occupy a privileged place in such a utopian 'workers paradise'.  'Greed', the want of unearned wealth or privilege; and it's old friend 'Envy', the want of wealth or privilege properly earned by others, are two of the oldest motivations in human history.  

'Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy.' - Sir Winston Spencer-Churchill, 28 May 1948

In the 17th through 19th centuries, liberalism threatened to, then did, upset the old order.  In a free market and liberal democracy, heredity was no longer a defence from the consequences of laziness or incompetence.  To this day, the free market continues to expose and punish both laziness and incompetence, fueling successive generations of hereditary privileged elites fearful of losing their unearned socio-economic position.  Statistically, a significant proportion of hereditary wealth fourth generation, the third generation usually loses it and the social position that comes with it.

 

The group of privileged middle class who arrogantly assume they are superior and deserve their privileged status without effort are not the majority, most privileged young people embrace the fruits of their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents efforts and strive to pass on a greater legacy to the next generation.  However, a loud and politically motivated minority carry the arrogant assumption of hereditary privilege and embrace socialism as a vehicle through which to repress their competition. 

 

Nowhere is has this movement held greater traction than in the hallowed halls of academia, where the assumption of intellectual superiority dominates.  Blinded by their own arrogance, these academic elites find it difficult to face the reality that the successful plumber, electrician, business owner or farmer might actually be smarter and wiser than they are.  There is an old adage that 'Those who can, do.  Those who can't, teach.'  While obviously a broad generalisation that is grossly unfair to many academics, those in academia to whom the phrase actually applies, have some cause to resent a system that defaults to rewarding merit above all else.

'The most fundamental fact about the ideas of the political left is that they do not work. Therefore we should not be surprised to find the left concentrated in institutions where ideas do not have to work in order to survive.' - Thomas Sowell

 

Thus, in the universities of Imperial Russia populated by Russia's young inheritors of the fruits of the labour of others, was born the 'socialist intelligencia' of Lenin's Bolshevism, but more of that in another article.  Every nation that has adopted a variation of Marxism has ended up with a society that looks suspiciously like a medieval feudal kingdom.  Some have maintained the pretence of something different for longer than others, but in the end the inevitable sandstorm of history erodes away the façade and a feudal system is laid bare for all to see.

Socialism, in the unforgiving glare of a full sun, is simply a glossy new cover on the oldest book in history.  A thin veneer of 'niceness' glued over millennia of tyranny and oppression.

Reading List:

'Communist Manifesto'  - Karl Marx & Fredrich Engels, 1848

'Das Kapital' - Karl Marx, 1867-1883

'Gulag Archipelago' - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Last Edited - 27 Dec 18