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As either the transitional stage to communism or legitimate socio-economic ends in its own right.
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#632612
General summary:

A) The definition of Socialism
B) The Socialist FAQ
C) The trends of Socialism
D) The details of the Socialist economic doctrine
E) The Library

The definition of Socialism
Version 1.0 :: text by Maxim Litvinov

    Socialists believe that a state is first and foremost responsible for the provision of social justice and equitable outcomes. In the traditions of Marxist thought, Socialists recognise an ongoing struggle between the working classes and the ruling élites who effectively enthral them through the undue power and influence that they wield. Because of the lopsided nature of the relationship between these two groups, Socialists are skeptical about a free and unfettered market ever providing a just outcome and are strongly disposed to intervention in the prevailing economic system to ensure a more equitable distribution of resources. For ‘softer’ socialists, this means the embracing of a democratic welfare state where governments safeguard basic standards of education, health and welfare for all citizens, while for revolutionary socialists this entails promoting an overthrow of the present order in the interests of providing true ownership of labour to each and every person.
Last edited by Adrien on 14 Sep 2006 19:13, edited 3 times in total.
User avatar
By Adrien
#968152
The Socialist FAQ
Version 2.0 :: text by Adrien

Summary:

#Fundamentals:
-What are the origins of the socialist thought?
-For what does socialism strive?
-In today’s terms, when did it get independant from communism?
-In today’s terms, when did it get independant from social-democracy?
-Okay, so what does socialism stand for?

#Socialisms through History?
-Was the USSR a ‘Socialist’ country? To what extent?
-Was the Chile of the ‘Unidad Popular’ and Salvador Allende a socialist country?
-Were/Are the Scandinavian countries ‘Socialist’ countries in your eyes?
-Are the countries with ‘Socialist Parties’ in power automatically ‘socialist’ countries?

#The Relevance of Socialism to Today’s World
-So what is today’s system based on, and what is the problem?
-That is for the South, what are the consequences in the North?
-You present a terrible picture, how come we’re not already in Socialism?
-How is Socialism and Socialist theory relevant?
-Is it an ideology for the First or the Third World?
-So what is Socialism based on and what does it change?

  1. Fundamentals

    # What are the origins of socialist thought?
    If it is to be said that the breakdown of the feudal order began as early as the second half of the 17th C, then socialist thought emerged during the Industrial Revolutions of the 19th C. Both of these events really polarised society into two categories – the ‘exploiters’ living off profit, and the ‘exploitees’ forced to sell their work at miserable rates. Not only were wages low, however, but general living conditions were abysmal and as such the system deprived workers of both their liberty and their dignity. That is why thinkers, whose spirits were shocked by the discrepancies between blatant social inequalities on the one hand and newly-acquired capacities to increase standards of living on the other, started denouncing the system in place and promoting alternative, humanist and positive solutions.

    # What does socialism strive for?
    As its name suggests, ‘Socialism’ is a model of society , and before that a model of ideology, that puts the emphasis on the principle of social justice, on the welfare of the society as a whole, and not on one individual’s success at the expense of others. But it’s not only taking a moral stance towards today’s model of society; It is also questioning its foundations and searches to change its institutions - its tools.

    While early ‘Utopian’ Socialists wanted isolated and private initiatives, in the form of autonomous cooperatives of production or communities for instance, which often failed in front of an entire society’s system, the ‘Scientific’ Socialism of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels proposed to bring Socialism to the scale of a revolutionary State policy. Furthermore, it is important to say that Socialism is also, and even more so in these times of massive globalization, an internationalist doctrine, which means that the interests of citizens around the world are not to be thought as those of a given nationality opposed to neighbouring nationalities, but as those of a social group that ignores borders and opposes another social group, that of the financial elites. We might add that nowadays, the group of financial elites also ignores borders.

    Such an approach dismisses all kinds of nationalisms, xenophobias and racisms. Also, if it can be applied at the scale of one country or an association of countries, it is meant to be - and can be - implemented in the entire world, from what is called the ‘West’ to the ‘Third World’ with equal success, thus creating by the way a worldwide society in which wars are contained by the absence of conflicting imperialist interests.

    #In today’s terms, when did Socialism became independent from Communism?
    It is true that during the 19th C and the beginning of the 20th C, ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ were mostly two names for the same ideological stream. But two parallel movements grew out of this stream: a movement in favour of revolutionary change and a movement in favour of a peaceful and democratic (ie institutional) change. The two main turning points sealing the independence of the two movements are October 1917 as it imposed de facto revolutionary socialism as a legitimate ideology, and 1919 with Lenin’s ‘21 points’, which provoked across Europe the creation of Communist Parties pushing for revolutionary action, in parallel with Socialist Parties which kept on advocating a democratic solution within the institutions of the State.

    #In today’s terms, when did Socialism became different from Social Democracy?
    It must be known that the term ‘Social-democracy’ first appeared at the end of the 19th C. as the proper name of political parties evolving in the ideological stream we evoked above. Take for instance the German SPD. Here, two major dates mark the transformation of Social-democracy from what it meant then into what it means today, that is to say an ideology that does not advocate a change of system, of society but an ideology that accepts openly capitalism and its rules while trying to make it a slightly more human through superficial laws and measures.

    The first date is 1914, when a majority of Social-Democrats, all across Europe and particularly in Germany accepted to vote the credits for the First World War ; it is anterior to 1919 but if it is one of the origins of the separation of Socialism and Communism it also provoked the explosion of Social-Democrat parties and paved the way to a clear ideological differenciation. The second date is 1947, and the beginning of the Cold War: the polarization of the world into two opposite ideological blocs radicalized both the Socialist and the Communist movements. The biggest Social-democrat parties, those presenting themselves as parties of government, drifted to the right as they exalted the values of the West and needed to show their unquestionable Western nature in order to guarantee their accession to power, while the Communist parties drifted to extremism as they exalted the values of the East and became ambassadors of the Soviet influence while refusing to participate in the Western State structures.

    #Okay, so today what does Socialism stands for?
    Today to many, including us on this forum, the word ‘Socialism’ finds back a meaning of its own, in opposition to the very shy modern Social-Democracy and a much more extreme and nihilist form of Communism that is also coming back, especially among the youth. It finds its place back on the political spectrum on the left of Social-Democracy, as our Socialism refuses to accept Capitalism as the best or only system possible but also refuses to reject Marxism, and on the right of hardline Communist movements who refuse democracy, participation in the multipartite institutions of the State, participation in governments, etc. and only advocate, for instance, sterile opposition, armed struggle or revolutionary activities.

    It is clear that in the facts our positions on the political spectrum are more diverse and that subtilities exist in terms of ideologies and vocabulary, but globally we are all united in the description of modern Socialism that we have just seen. For a more detailed description of the different trends that exist, we refer you to the third part of this handbook.
  2. Socialisms through History

    #Was the USSR a ‘Socialist’ country? To what extent?
    It is true that the Soviet Union had the word ‘Socialist’ in its name and constitutional or ideological texts, just like the other ‘People’s Democracies’. But why? With what we said above and a glance into History, we can understand and see that the word Socialism has many meanings. The Soviet Union used the litterally Marxist meaning of the word : in Karl Marx’s theorization of the evolution of a country towards Communism, a difference is made between a Socialist phase (‘lower stage of Communism’), which is a mere transition going from Capitalism to Communism, and a Communist phase (‘higher stage of Communism’) which is the stateless, classless, etc. final society that only exists in Communist ideologies. The Soviet Union, claiming to be building a Communist society adopted the name ‘Socialist’ in agreement with Marx’s and Lenin’s theories, and was technically right to do so. But this meaning of Socialism is different from ours, as we defend the idea of a Socialist society in its own right, as a goal in itself. Furthermore, many on this forum question the concrete choices of the USSR and disagree with a lot of its essence.

    #Was Chile of the ‘Unidad Popular’ and Salvador Allende a socialist country?
    Yes, we can say it fitted what we defend here ; the elected Socialist goverment, inspired by genuine socialist thinkers and of course by Marx and Engels, managed to unite all branches of society and parties coming from the far-left to the christian democrats, wanted to build a Socialist society in its own right, through a gradual but complete reform of the system, while preserving multi-partite democracy and liberties, which it did, by the way.

    #Were/Are the Scandinavian countries ‘Socialist’ countries in your eyes?
    It is true that the Scandinavian countries achieved, in the second half of the 20 th C, a very high level of social efficiency. Consequently, it would be correct to see them as examples and evidences of what Democratic Socialism can do, while bearing in mind that the ideas of our fellow forum go-ers are made to provoke a complete change of society: indeed, the Scandinavian countries' social(ist) systems are now being dismantled. After a complete shift to a Socialist system, this would not happen.

    #Are the countries with ‘Socialist Parties’ in power automatically ‘socialist’ countries?
    Absolutely not, for today, and in a way ever since the 1947 ‘betrayal’ we evoked earlier, the parties called ‘Socialist Parties’ (see Spain, France, etc..), ‘Social-democrat Parties’ (see mostly Germany) or ‘Labour Parties’ (see the United Kingdom) defend an ideology corresponding openly and obviously to the very modern meaning of Social-Democracy, meaning as we said the acceptation of capitalism as the best and only possible system, the will to make it at best slightly more human, and the common rejection of Socialist thinkers like Karl Marx. If you live in a country where one of these parties is or has been in power, you have probably noticed that they apply mostly capitalist policies, or even that there is for instance very little difference between the policies of the SPD in Germany and that of the rightist UMP in France, or even within a country between the policies of New Labour and that of the Conservative Party.
  3. The Relevance of Socialism to Today’s World

    #So what is today’s system based on, and what is the problem?
    Today, the only goal of our system is to create money that will only be useful to fill the pockets of share-holders and company executives (often one and the same), money that will eventually be only in the hands of a few, widening the gap between exploiters and exploitees. If you connect that to Socialism’s humanism and belief in social justice, it is just not acceptable.

    To get richer and richer, companies have chosen to work on what is called the ‘surplus’, something that was first analysed by Karl Marx. With the wealth created by the selling of a product, you must pay the workers’, the energy, the machines, etc. But if it is difficult for these companies to compress the cost of energy and machines, they quickly understood that they could compress as much as they wanted the wage of the workers, thus making more profit, ready to go directly into the pockets of the share-holders. There are many other ways to make more and more profit, but each and every one of them goes against workers’ rights and against their dignity and liberty : a company can force the worker to work longer for the same wage (by creating more products per day for instance while paying workers the same, profit will grow), it can make production rates higher (in the same time but with many more tiring efforts, more products will be created by the worker, who is paid the same), etc.

    Image

    The human cost of this disgusting race for profit is clear: entire countries of the economic South without social protection are used as workforce tanks by the North, and their workers are paid with awfully small wages to make a tremendous profit. When a pair of American trainers made by children paid one dollar a day in South East Asia costs for instance 100 euros here in the North, you can imagine the profit that will go in the pocket of the company, and consequently in that of the almighty share-holder. And these hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of children, women and men are condemned to live in misery, without education or freedom because of that. In that case, saying that the financial and social elites live off the back of workers stops being a figure of speech.

    #But that is for the South. What are the consequences in the North?

    Today, it is impossible to hide the issue of capitalism’s consequence under the rug by saying that it does not concern the place where we live. Today, more than ever, capitalism extends is characteristic nasty consequences to Americas and Europe.

    Because of the way History went, the populations of the North had managed to secure many social gains to protect themselves from outraging exploitation: minimal wages, regulated quota of hours of work per week, unionism, etc. But today, these social gains are no longer a good protection in front of an economic system looked at as litterally a natural law: capitalists, who know that they can find cheaper workforce in the South, in order to make more profit, outsource hundreds of thousands of jobs to South East Asia for instance, which creates massive unemployment, misery, social insecurity, despair. And what is our government’s answer to that? Simply the destruction of these social gains! By destroying minimum wages, limitations over the number of worked hours per week, etc. they want to make our populations work for the same wage as the exploited Asian families, thus giving a reason for capitalists to stay in the North with their companies, and in turn ensuring the survival of the established social system.

    And we don’t even mention how they privatize community services such as the financial help to the poor, to the unemployed, to the sick, the retired, in order to reduce ‘public spending’ and allow private companies to take advantage of people who are against the wall and ready to pay anything, even a price they cannot technically pay (and we hint there at credit), to get the most basic services, just to keep loan companies working and having a tool to control these helpless populations. With this other dynamic, which once again serves profit, we go back to a situation close to that of the Old Regime: if you cannot pay, you cannot go to the hospital, you cannot protect your family in case of trouble. It is a very physical proof of this social fracture.

    Some cynical capitalists say such a free-market gives work to everybody. But, honestly, what kind of work is this? What kind of human life is this? Plus, the companies who struggle to make the West ‘more competitive’ (sic) do not do it out of pure altruism. It is once again to maximise profit, to lock markets up, to outrun opponents, for competition between corporations over financial domination replaces competition between States over political and cultural domination.

    #You present a terrible picture, how come we’re not already in Socialism?

    This is difficult to admit, but it’s the reality of things. So yes, some will say, how it is possible for such a system not to implode? It is by default not ‘possible’ and the system is only surviving because of the tremendous pressure it applies on people’s lives. And when it comes, its implosion won’t be the result of a change of mind of our leaders about the countless human lives wasted for the sake of profit, about the disgusting attitude of the share-holders who treat workers like disposable animals, like numbers, to live a life of luxury, because we must not expect our rulers to change their attitude: it is not in their interest. No, it will come either from the uprising of a population eventually threatened in its very survival, or before that from the system’s own contradictions, just like in 1929, to name but one possibility.

    Why? It is pretty simple. To make more profit, we have seen it, the companies do not hesitate to reduce drastically and continuously the wage of the worker ; but on the other hand it also raises the prices, once again to make more profit. The result is unavoidable: these more expansive products, the worker needs them to live, but with his unchanged or decreased wage, he cannot buy them anymore. He has lost what is called his ‘buying power’, which is what makes the economy, the exchanges, work. And in turn, if there is nobody to buy the products, the capitalists do not make profit anymore, which means that they fire their workers to reduce the cost, but then there is even less people to buy the product, and then comes an endless downward spiral leading to the crisis of 1929. This Great Depression did not kill capitalism, it is true, but such a blow to the system is firstly a major indicator of how desperate populations have become, and secondly is the proof that change is more than needed.

    As Luxemburgs_Pastry_Chef points out, another way Capitalism is sending itself in this dead-end is by focusing itself very much on the arms industry. It is known that in the United States an important part of the economic activity comes from the orders of the Pentagon and the activity it generates in the US industrialo-military production complex. Why is it a factor of strong inflation? Because while military production creates more purchasing power for the workers by creating jobs, this is not balanced by an increased availability of consumer goods on the market. We can also note that the capital massively invested in means of destruction is not invested in other sectors of the economy that could help develop society, and that it is obviously used to repress development in other parts of the world.

    #How is Socialism and Socialist theory relevant?
    We would answer that Socialism is always relevant, no matter what happens or what is the trend of the moment, for it is a genuinely humanist and progressive ideal, but what makes it maybe even more relevant today is that at the beginning of this 21st C. savage capitalism brings the workers populations of the world back to the 19th C as far as their inhuman working or living conditions and the profits made by the exploiters are concerned. Maybe it doesn’t strike you right now if you live in a country of the economic North, but it is more than real in countries of the South, be it China or more generally South-East Asia, and with the kind of policies applied in the North, such a situation is bound to spread to the entire world.

    #Is this ideology for the First or the Third World?
    [recent addition, to be covered soon]

    #So what is Socialism based on and what does it change?
    Socialism rejects a vertical, quantitative vision of the course of society in which the world, our civilization and natural ressources, only exists in order to fill the pockets of the few with an evergrowing profit coming from the short-term exploitation of the minority ; it proposes instead an horizontal, qualitative vision of the long-term development of society in which what matters is the satisfaction of the true needs of the society as a whole and then the amelioration of living standards for everyone at the same time, a vision where the Darwinian argument of survival of the strongest used to justify the scorn of human life through a never-ending race for profit is not an option.

    Socialism rejects the theory of economic liberalism according to which savage competition and free exploitation are necessary phenomena inherent in human nature; instead it proposes a vision of a human nature based on the most sincere Humanism, that is to say the belief that human life, that liberty and happiness matter more than anything else, that the success of Humanity does not lie in the wealth of a minority that has ‘made it’, but in the intellectual and human blooming of society as a whole.
Last edited by Adrien on 14 Sep 2006 19:18, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
By Adrien
#968153
The trends of Socialism
Version 1.0 :: text by Adrien

Summary:

-The role of the Revolution
-Orthodox Democratic Socialism
-Libertarian Socialism

  1. #The role of the revolution:
    We have exposed in the FAQ what are the principles of Socialism. On these, all the self-declared Socialists agree, but as in every other political current, and a fortiori on an internet forum, different tendencies coexist. In our case, since an agreement is reached on the substance of the ideology and what makes it different from, for instance, Communism, tendancies tend to form themselves on the form that the struggle takes, and more precisely on the balance between institutional and proper revolutionary actions.

    It would be tricky to label all the different ratios that exist between these two components of the socialist action ; they vary, sometimes subtily, according to the situation in which a given militant evolves, at the scale of his country or city, it depends of the nature and healthiness of the existing political parties and institutions with which he interacts.

    That being said Socialism, even with the most revolutionary of ratios, keeps it cohesion in front of Communism (ie Marxist-Leninism) through the exclusive emphasis it, Socialism, puts on real democracy, popular-built support (in opposition with radical vanguardism), tolerance of a private sector (a certain kind of private sector it is true, but authoritarian collectivism ala USSR is not Socialism), etc. See here how Socialism unites without contradiction and through these principles all kinds of tendencies from the turbulent wings of Social-democracy to revolutionnary Socialists.
  2. #’Orthodox’ Democratic Socialism:
    We have just said that it would be tricky to create a family of labels within Socialism to describe all the tendencies that it harbours, but we can see more in a detail a couple of them, the famous ones, so to speak. Firstly, the most basic of them all, and consequently the one that taints this whole document, namely Democratic Socialism. To be quick, this one puts a real emphasis on the participation in the State’s institutions, by forming parties that will run for elections and bring about Socialism from the State positions of power gained in the said elections. This is the trend that follow all kinds of political formations, from the Popular Fronts to Chile’s Unidad Popular, which we evoked earlier. Particularly present in well established Western ‘democracies’ this form of Socialism does stand far away from revolutionnary actions properly speaking, and tend to particularly see Socialism as an end in itself and the State as a positive force that is expected to survive in the Socialist phase.
  3. #Libertarian Socialism:
    Libertarian Socialism is described by our fellow user Konulu as a socialistic ideology which most people ignorantly call anarchism ; but since this has negative and incorrect connotations (anarchism can also refer to extreme variants of primitivism and free market capitalism) many people now use Libertarian Socialism or Anarchism with an adjective following it (e.g. anarcho-syndicalism) so that it doesn’t conjure images of bomb toting assassins.

    It is the belief in self-government and self-management. Both of these mean that the people decide their own fate via the use of direct democracy in a collective atmosphere. Slight differences divide Libertarian Socialism, as Anarcho-syndicalists put a huge amount of importance on industrial action and trade unions, whereas most Libertarian Socialists don’t believe in private property. Mutualists do under certain circumstances.

    Libertarian Socialism is also used to describe issue oriented anarchisms, ideologies that believe in what was outlined in the first sentence of the paragraph above but also have a special attachement to certain ideals (e.g. Feminism or Pacifism). Libertarian Socialism is also used to describe extremely decentralized governmental ideologies such as Council Communism. It remains however closer to Socialism than Communism thanks to the analysis it makes of ‘Communist’ countries of the XXth century and the emphasis it puts on the preservation of freedom and democracy.
Last edited by Adrien on 22 Sep 2006 13:53, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
By Adrien
#968154
The detail of the Socialist economic doctrine
Version 2.5 :: text by Adrien

Summary:

-A reminder of Socialism’s goals
-How can this be achieved?
-What is the Welfare State?
-Don’t other parts of the State also have a social mission?
-A new framework for the economy.
-The key question of taxation.
-A pinch of protectionism.
-Workers’ rights to conquer and/or secure.
-Ecology and Socialism.
-How to help this world to change?

Since it often represents the base on which the new Socialists build their different trends and tendencies, we will describe here the bulk of the Democratic Socialist ideology. Bear in mind that this is a starting point thanks to which build your own goals and methods.

#A reminder of Socialism’s goals:
So, as we said earlier, the goal of Socialism is to raise the entire society’s living standards, and here society does not include any nationalist or xenophobic feeling ; it can be applied to a group of countries working together, without limitation, like for instance to what is nowadays the European Union, what could become the African Union or what could be a consequence of the Mercosur. In a word, and this is in agreement with Socialism’s founding principles, the goal of the system is the common good, and the whole Human race is what this ‘common’ refers to.

But what does ‘increasing living standards’ really mean? It’s easy - it means that work must not be a goal of your life but a means to enjoy it fully. It’s about giving you no matter what happens a decent wage to give you the buying power you need, it’s about working less to be less tired, to spend more time with your family, to be able to practice your passions, your hobbies and entertain yourself. It may sound like frivolous details for some, but at a scale of an entire working society, it does mean a lot.

#How can this be achieved ?
To many, high unemployment and latent misery are fatalities that cannot be attacked; they are not. In a society, labour and money travel from one’s hand to one’s pocket. A Socialist government would just have to connect the flows in such a way that they end in the right person’s pocket. To put it simply, we have to restore the following ‘virtuous cycle’:

Image

If we give work to more and more people, it will in turn create an increase of consumption and consequently of production, which will create an increased need of workforce and loop the loop. Add to that a more human work and the problem is solved, isn’t it?

You have certainly all noticed the keynesian nature of this logic. To go from basic keynesianism to obvious Socialism, two actions must be led in parallel to the restoration of this cycle: firstly the reconstruction of a strong welfare-state, and secondly a strong regulation of the market by the State.

#What is the Welfare State?
The welfare-state is a group of fundamental and vital services that concern the whole society, that must be provided to every citizen, and must consequently be the property of the whole society: water, energy, public transports, telecommunications. To this, you add social services to ensure financial help to people in need, healthcare and the help to employment. All these community services constitute the platform of society, the necessary toolbox to make society work for its development; in a capitalist society, these services are opportunities for share-holders to make money and since what is wanted is profit and not the satisfaction of vital needs, the society is harmed and many people left without the capacity to access such vital services.

This welfare-state must be made of state-owned monopolies, taken out of the stock exchange, not to let speculation influence their social mission. And there we have the opportunity to differenciate Socialism and basic Social-democrat statism: Luxemburgs_Pastry_Chef makes us note that social-democrat statism usually grants state control and judiciary protection above all to companies, which doesn’t mean making them ‘social’, making them the absolute property of the people. Also, services like the British NHS (National Health System) are not inherently ‘socialist’ since they are paid for by the public taxes, ie from a separate punction on the workers’ spending power rather than by society as a whole.

For these Socialist public companies, no need to make profit, they just have to counter-balance their expenses. And even if a financial problem was to happen, the company would not be dissolved because it was unable to make profit (like it would in savage capitalism), the service would still be provided, and the State would give itself time to resolve the problem. And in case the said company was to make good profits, they would be used for research, to increase wages or to help another public company in difficulty, three options that all benefit the whole society and are a million miles away from dividends.

Were the State to take care of these services and provide them to citizens automatically, the said citizens would be able to dedicate themselves to their direct well-being. Furthermore, this welfare-state, thanks to its social services, is a safety net allowing people in difficulty to bounce back; we said that it was important for people to keep their buying power as it’s one of the conditions of increased living standards. In a capitalist society, the unemployed or the unable to work (or even the retired) don’t have automatic social protection and are easily thrown in a downward spiral of despair and misery, and are then forced to accept incredibly underpaid works, which doesn’t make either their own situation or that of society any better. With the welfare-state, a citizen in trouble is at once and efficiently reinserted in society with financial aids and if necessary an organized support (ie a national service of employment) can help him to find another job fitting his skills or a formation to acquire new skills matching the needs of society.

By providing services such as telecommunications and transports at a very small cost (or even possibly for free eventually), since the companies do not try to make profit at all costs, the welfare-state also contributes directly at the increase of living standards ; communications and transports play important roles in the access to entertainment and in family life, and also in the reinsertion of people in the professional world.

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Finally, to keep this system working, Socialism believes, in addition to the money brought by the public companies, in the action of an important system of progressive taxation according to the income of people and companies; since this system benefits to everybody, everybody must participate in it, at a proportional cost. People with small income will pay a small tax, people with high income will pay a higher tax, and people with very big income must be particularly taxed. It’s just a matter of solidarity, isn’t it? With this system, Marx’s “From each according to his abilities to each according to his needs” takes a whole new dimension.

#Don’t other parts of the State also have a social mission?
Of course, this welfare-state is not the only part of the State apparatus that works to increase living standards, it is even just then economic part of it. In addition to that, you have the human dimension of the problem: education and culture. Education of course, as it is what makes every citizen aware of its rights, as it gives every citizen the capacity to understand the world and enjoy it, and as it prepares you to have a good job. In a word it makes you be more than just a brainless working machine. Every single citizen must have access to a compulsory, totally free and absolutely efficient system up until his or her majority, while having guaranteed low university fees to pursue his or her cursus. It does already exist in many countries and can be even pushed further.

And culture too, as it is a means to enjoy the world and as artistic creation is fundamental in a society’s development; it is not acceptable for culture to be considered as a simple merchandise meant to make profit. The State must support cinematographic, audiovisual and literary creation against the international laws of market, with an action that protects cultures, languages and genres and makes culture affordable and reachable.

#A new framework for the economy:
Basically, and obviously, with the State. The State represents the community, and is therefore above the so-called laws of naturally free markets. And as such, it is its duty to make society work in the interest of everybody; interventionism, dirigisme and legislation are its tools.

Image

Firstly at the scale of the nation we need what could be called ‘modern’ planning, as opposed to the authoritarian planning known in the Soviet bloc. This means that the political power must have the power to intervene physically in order orientate the economy and shape the industrial landscape to satisfy general needs of the community, particularly through the creation ex nihilo of small local businesses and “free zones”, which include the use of incentives, advantages or obligations for companies to change their attitude: it can be necessary to correct a persistant bastion of regional unemployment, to repair a lack of infrastructures in an area, the lack of a particular service, or to correct the abusive monopoly of a particular company over an area for a given service or type of production. Modern planning also means that in front of the needs of society as a whole the State can be brought to give juridical or fiscal advantages to stimulate a particular sector of the economy, or on the contrary to force some sectors to slow down. This is necessary to prevent the socio-economic system from sticking itself in a dead-end and waste ressources: History has showed us with the restructuration crises of the 1980s that the former was eventually socially catastrophic, and the latter is just unacceptable in a world where millions live in starvation while tons and tons are destroyed not to upset the markets.

Then, at the scale of the relationship between the employee and the employer, laissez-faire is not acceptable ; the State has the duty and enough legitimacy to regulate both the organization of companies and the redistribution of benefits, once again to ensure that society works according to what we have evoked earlier.

For the former, laws must implement democracy in the companies and factories, for a company works more humanly and with more respect for the horizontal development of society if it rests on its feet rather than on its head, so to speak. With an increased power of decision for Unions (independent or part of bigger federations, local or national) and workers individually, we prevent conflicts and make sure that problems of wages, of technical upgrades, financial scandals (golden parachutes, outsourcing, lock-up, etc.) are avoided. Also, the State must put forward the idea of ‘participation’, that is to say the replacement as shareholders of people outside the company by workers themselves, which is an interesting way to use the system of shareholding at the advantage of society and an easy way to guarantee incentives to the company.

For the latter, and it does also concern the relationship between employers and employees, the State can pass laws and decrees enforcing regulations of the surplus phenomenon we saw at the beginning of the FAQ. Let us take an example: a worker produces in its day of work a product whose price is 240 units (not to take a particular currency). This worker will receive a wage of 80 units, thus leaving 160 units go in the pocket of the company’s managers, who even after taking care of expenses will keep a good deal of it for share-holders. This means that if we make a proportion between his working time and what he receives, out of a day of 9 working hours, he was paid for 3 hours and worked 6 for free, which is as you can see not acceptable, but also creates a discrepancy between the worker’s income and the price of life. And let us not even mention again how companies manipulate this phenomenon to create more wealth for share-holders since we saw it already.

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Now, if the State institutes democracy in companies (which will level wages and suppress or at least narrow the gap between workers and chairmen), if it institutes a clear, legal and possibly rather high minimal wage, and if it agrees to tax companies according to their results, it is very easy to modify this proportion, and end up with a situation where the workers (and employees) would be paid (for instance !) 120 units, leaving a ‘surplus’ of 120 units for the company, which would once again thanks to democracy rather go to reinvestment and optimisation of the company rather than share-holders. And it is important to note that during this process the price of the product has not changed at all, the buying power of the worker has increased by 50%, and the survival of the company has not been endangered either.

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#The key question of taxation:
Now, we just evoked a shift in the kind of taxation that is important, and once again very practical. Our societies must not expect from international companies to come and create jobs since they ‘capitalistically’ speaking don’t have any interest in doing so. It consequently means that we must stimulate the creation of new (big and national, or small and local) companies (craftsmanship, cooperatives, services, industry) between our borders (be they borders of a country or, and that is always better, of a group of countries), but today this creation of companies is slowed because of, as usual, money : taxes, logistic expenses, fees, etc. Since it is just simply not an option to compress wages, the State must reduce the cost of the whole process by modulating some of these taxes, and it must also be ready to offer financial help (as gifts, loans, partial nationalization, joint-ventures, etc.) to help companies to start their activity.

Of course, all this will in turn reduce the income of the State but with the progressive taxation of citizens we evoked earlier, a courageous taxation of the money flows that enter and leave the stock exchange (at a fixed percentage, for instance 0,5%), the VAT, and of course a big cut in military and protocol spending, the math is certainly more than possible to do. And let us not forget that with such a policy the wealth available in some of these sources will increase, while an increase of living standards will mean a decrease of necessary social programs and consequently allow massive investment in State research, education and culture for instance. In a word, the system will support itself, like a true virtuous circle. Simple, isn’t it?

We evoked the VAT, firstly, why is it important? Because it is an indirect tax that does not look at what you are forced to earn but at what you choose to buy with your savings, and in front of which everybody is consequently equal. It’s the other necessary part of a State’s taxation system. Now, the State can also modify this VAT to increase living standards or orientate the economy when it has become necessary: for instance, because possibilities are numerous, by cutting the VAT on products of ‘first necessity’ (basic food products for instance) and thus decreasing their price without influencing their production process it makes sure that everybody is able to satisfy basic needs. And by raising or lowering the VAT for a particular type of products, it can stimulate or slow down a sector of the economy.

We also evoked the taxation of money flows at the stock exchange. Why? It is simple, we have seen that to stimulate the creation of companies and their insertion in the economic world, the State has to cut some of the taxes it received from companies no matter what were their results. By taxing money flows at the stock exchange with a fixed percentage, the State reinserts companies in the circle of contribution, and create the equivalent of the progressive taxation system that concerns citizens. The more the company earns, the more it will give to the State; the less it earns, the less it gives to the state. And it is also a way to make companies installed within the borders but which exploit workers above give their contribution to society, while preventing small companies from outsourcing and big companies from getting away with all their money.

#A pinch of protectionism:
To keep on with dirigisme, one of the basic needs of society is of course food, the State (once again at the scale of a country or a Union like the European Union or something even bigger) must directly rebuild the primary sector of its economy, and more particularly its agriculture. If you apply to this sector the measures of stimulation we have seen so far, and if we give to local productions the priority over foreign productions, on which we only rely for what we cannot produce or do not have enough of (and it is as true for food as it is for consumer goods, then we create a lot of jobs, we reduce waste (because today tons and tons of production are left to rot as cheaper productions from countries where the wages are lower come first), we give the capacity to the citizen to have access to products of better quality, we stimulate the economy, etc.. And if every country of a Union, a continent or even of the world applies that kind of policy, a close intertwining of productions, of needs and ways to satisfy them is created, which reinforces cooperation between cultures and peace through interdependence, while allowing the developing countries to mainly use their domestic productions for their own development.

About consumer goods, while the economy would be locked-up by partial planning and interventionism, protectionism can be added through import taxes or physical controls like quotas. The idea would not be to protect the ‘national’ companies from a ‘foreign invasion’, but to secure the creation of jobs within the borders of the State or group of States, jobs that could as well be created by national or foreign companies. In fact, History has shown, and particularly in the US automotive industry, that protectionism and physical controls bring the foreign companies to create new factories and jobs from scratch on the national soil of the protectionist country in order to dodge taxes and quotas.

#Workers’ rights to conquer and/or secure:
Finally, the last aspect of interventionism and dirigisme is the most concrete and human of all, it is the group of ‘social gains’, which has to be enforced by the community, the State, through legislation. In this category we find the guaranteed minimal wage for the employed population. There is also the limited weekly working time : indeed, if this weekly working time is reduced to 35 hours (for instance), it leaves the worker and the employee more time for their private lives, and on the other hand it forces companies to hire more people to counter the fact that each worker works less, knowing that the State is there to help them make the transition. And of course there could be ‘guaranteed employment’ in the form of an interdiction for companies to suppress jobs or outsource if it is making a certain percentage of profit, but it is anyway a given that the use of keynesian economics and a solid public sector would institute a state of guaranted employment.

#Ecology and Socialism.
After having tackled all sorts of economic, political, social issues and the solutions brought to them by Socialism, there is one particular ‘problem’ that needs to be addressed, that of the environment and of its preservation. This issue seems to go beyond a classic left-right political axis, as all trends claim to protect the planet. But the fact is that Socialism is the most able to bring about an intelligent form of exploitation of our natural ressources: we all know that most of the damage done to the Amazonian forest, to the seas and oceans, to the reserves of drinkable water, to the atmosphere even, is the result of a never ending race for profit. Entrepreneurs, eager to gain as much money as possible, purposedly neglect to make the necessary investments to upgrade their installations or to ensure the survival of the forest and of its many endangered species. Under Socialism, the public sector, which is not driven by profit but by the common good, will act as a very vanguardist protector of the environment, investing massively in new energies and actively seeking to reduce waste : that is one of the big advantages of a very large and powerful public sector, it can afford to have ethics and morals. Then, the State will promote among private companies the need to protect the planet, by giving financial incentives and rewards, but also by daring to sanction companies who do not abide by the laws protecting our ecosystem, as part of the ‘framing’ of the economy that we have already evoked. Finally, we expect the new Socialist society to be made of individuals aware not of their personnal comfort but of the common good, of the comfort of the next generations, on the very long term. Unlike former authoritarian forms of Socialism / Marxism, democratic Socialism will force a new morality upon people but will make it spark among the population.

#How to help this world to change?
Of course, such big changes in society can only be pushed efficiently by a big and united popular movement, but isn’t a big and efficient popular movement nothing more than the sum of the work of thousands and thousands of individuals?

Now, it is in fact pretty simple to act at your own scale: firstly you can discuss with your surrounding, colleagues or friends of the problems of the world, and make more and more people aware of the situation and of what we must all do to change it, that is how big movements are created. Then, you can be yourself concretely act on the system, just by being an educated citizen, voting systematically, watching very closely the ideas of those you vote for, and maybe by yourself joining a party or an association in order to obtain changes. And you can also be an educated ‘consumer’, by avoid over-consumption, the waste of resources, but also by supporting ideas like Fair Trade for instance.

We all just need to be convinced that change is necessary, possible, and never give up our right as citizens of the world, as human beings, to protest and demand a better life.
User avatar
By Adrien
#968155
The Library
Version 2.0 :: links provided by the community

  1. #The dusty shelves:
    Some classics written in the course of the XIXth and early XXth century are often dubbed as ‘outdated’ by Socialism’s opponents. In fact they are more relevant then ever: indeed, not only is our world still going through the same Marxist phase (that of industrial capitalism), but as years go by we are getting closer and closer again to the particular kind of brutal, savage and inhuman capitalism that these books could analyse a hundred years ago.

    The Manifesto of the Communist Party
    The classic of classics, and always a good introduction to the Marxist vision of History, class struggle and basic Socialist economics.

    Karl Marx's 1844 Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts
    A collection of manuscripts older than the Manifesto and which can shed some light on the philosophical considerations surrounding and leading to Marx’s analysis of History and economics.

    Wage, Labour and Capital
    A more technical work on the mechanics of the Capitalist market, to add to the basics you will find in the Manifesto.

    Eduard Bernstein's Evolutionary Socialism
    This book is seen by most as what first created the division of Marxist Communism into a revolutionary and a democratic wing. This book’s title puts an interesting emphasis on the long-term action of a peaceful socialism, opposed to an immediate revolutionary act.

    Getting to know Hegel
    For those of you and us particularly interested in philosophy, here is a brief introduction to a core element of the Socialist thought.

  2. #The shiny shelves:
    The late XXth and early XXIst Centuries are rich of new analyses of the capitalist order and of new theories about Socialism(s), partly because of the Cold War and how it provoked and sometimes forced thinkers and economists to question classic works, no matter what the results of the said questionning would be, and partly because the new millenium and the new technologies of information and communication opened the debate like never before and connected thinkers from different parts of the world, eager to share their respective experiences.

    The 21st Congress, PoFo's original Leftist blog

    A Comparison of Economic Democracy and Participatory Economics

    Robert Tressel's "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists"

    W. Cockshott's and A. Cottrell's "Towards a new Socialism"

    Parecon

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