The Ghosts of Socialism, Rise! Magazine
Not My Socialism!
Those to the right of us socialists, i. e. liberals, democrats, republicans, and so on, share many misconceptions about socialism. The misconceptions can be chalked up as either the product of lifelong bourgeois propaganda or, in most cases, a faulty dialectical train. To address all the misconceptions of socialism in a single essay would be incredibly daunting, I will just give heed to one: the idea that socialism is any, and basically every, action undertaken by a state with taxpayers’ funds.
President Obomba–oh, I mean, Obama–fell under an eight-year-long foreseen shellfire from republicans and conservatives. We have all seen the silly memes of Obama labeled a communist, leading the workers like Comrade Lenin, his arm outstretched in a romantic gesture of revolutionary style. His failed state-oriented Obamacare and defense of social safety nets, apparently, is communist “asf.”
Bernie Sanders should also come to mind. His wont of labeling himself a “democratic socialist” not only brought socialism, as a term, into mainstream political discourse for the first time since the beginning of the last century, but he has further created a bastardization of socialism that might never go away–rightists once again were able to apply more fuel to their preconceived notions of socialism, and edgy millennial liberals are now more than certain that socialism is just free health care and taxing the rich (with a pinch of ethical imperialism).
The rightists who speak ill of Obama’s and Sanders’ “socialist” platforms, do so to defecate over socialism. But the liberals and democrats who gesture towards state-overseen adventures as actual socialism, do so to praise socialism–at least their heart is in the right place, right? Liberals and Democrats love listing the postal service, social security, roads, free education, and healthcare, etc., as being examples of socialism. Some take it further: they will claim that the U.S. military because it is funded with taxpayers’ money, is also a socialist institution. Can you believe that! The military, which manifests imperialist aims, a socialist institution! (Cue Marx rolling in his grave.)
If indeed free health care is socialism, then that would mean the Ancient Egyptians were practicing socialism. How does Comrade Pharaoh sound? The workers who helped make regal tombs, with their pristine sense of artsy being valuable, had doctors, check-ups, and paid leave endowed by the state, in order to make sure they lived long enough to finish their designated projects. This, on the historical timeline, is the oldest documented case of a state-sponsored health care plan.
If indeed public roads are socialist, then that would mean the ancient Romans were fierce socialists. The Central Treasury of the Roman Empire was responsible for funding various kinds of roads and canals, all of which at the expense of the taxpayers. And the Roman military was, greatly so, funded by the pockets of the Roman citizens. In that mutual mode of logic, Comrade Engels once wrote in 1877:
“…since Bismarck went in for state-ownership of industrial establishments,
a kind of spurious socialism has arisen…that without more ado declares all state ownership, even of the Bismarckian sort, to be socialistic. Certainly, if the taking over by the state of the tobacco industry is socialistic, then Napoleon and Metternich must be numbered among the founders of socialism. If the Belgian state, for quite ordinary political and financial reasons, itself constructed its chief railway lines; if Bismarck, not under any economic compulsion, took over for the state the chief Prussian lines, simply to be the better able to have them in hand in case of war, to bring up the railway employees as voting cattle for the government, and especially to create for himself a new source of income independent of parliamentary votes — this was, in no sense, a socialistic measure, directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously. Otherwise, the Royal Maritime Company, the Royal porcelain manufacture, and even the regimental tailor of the army would also be socialistic institutions.”
Then what the hell is socialism? And don’t socialists advocate social safety nets and free, like, everything?
Socialism is a socioeconomic system whereby the means of production are collectively owned by society, for the benefit of society. The practice to build socialism, then achieve communism, within Marxist-Leninist theory, does entail a use of the state, nationalization of resources, and state-sponsored programs.
So, you may ask, how could the USSR have been socialist, with their free healthcare, but not Ancient Egypt? How could Mao’s China have been socialist, with their free education, but Bernie’s call for free education would not be socialist?
The eventual goal of the socioeconomic policies is what determines the assigned terminology of the ideological and political framework. If the capitalist superstructure is retained in a given country, wherein the goal of liberation from capitalism is not subscribed to, while social safety nets are funded by the capitalist system of exploitation, that would be un-Marxian, a perversion. If one were to call for taxing the rich, distributing it to the poor (which is a morally nice thing, don’t get me wrong), and not suggest toppling away the capitalist superstructure, then that would merely be a Bernie-like social democracy, still with ethical imperialism.
If one were to merely advocate for free education, an education steeped in bourgeois propaganda, that is inherently biased to the nature of socialism and communism, that whitewashes the imperialist crimes of genocide and economic exploitation, that would not attempt to install a “sense of responsibility for…fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success” to sculpt a new man for the future society, how could such a thing be socialist in nature?
In the US, if indeed Obama was a Communist-in-Chief, we have not seen the means of production owned by the workers, any types of workers’ councils, a vanguard party or federation of unions leading the way to communism, or any basic tell-tale signs of class consciousness being administered from the desk of the Oval Office. All we see is the preservation of imperialism and individualism, of the Two-Party Dictatorship.
When I whistle like a bird–that does not mean I am a bird. When a liberal talks like a socialist–that does not mean they are a socialist.