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Marxists for freedom and liberty

Sim

Registered Member
I have been thinking some more about this debate regarding "socialism", and whether or not Obama is a socialist. As you may remember, I used to be offended by the way this label was thrown around, usually by Americans.

Now I have better words for why I believe that is: I had a problem with this condemnation because the term "socialism" was never properly defined, and often used in a pejorative manner that lumps together many different kinds of "socialism", sometimes even fascism, which are very different, and which I have very different opinions on.

I guess it's only normal that most Americans mostly have negative associations with the term "socialism", because there never really was a relevant socialist political movement in America. Much of the association that comes with this term is coined by Cold War and Soviet Bloc, which is generally considered evil, for good reason.

While I agree that Soviet-style "socialism", an authoritarian brand of socialism, is indeed evil and maybe even deserves the same degree of condemnation as Nazism, many examples for "socialists" who embrace freedom and democracy come to my mind -- and I took offence they were lumped together with authoritarian socialists and even fascists.

Take for example the German or Skandinavian Social Democrats. The German Social Democrats (SPD) were the strongest defender of Constitution, civil rights, democracy and freedom in German history: They pushed away the authoritarian monarchy in 1918, founded the free Weimar Republic in 1919. They bitter defended the Republic against monarchists, Nazis and authoritarian communists/revolutionary Marxists, although they were Marxist at that time. They were the only party to vote against Hitler's Enabling Act in 1933. After 1945, when the SPD was refounded, they bitterly opposed the communists in East Germany.

The German Social Dems are the oldest German party, and if one party in Germany can claim to truly stand in favor of the values of Constitution, democracy, freedom and liberty, civil and human rights, it's the SPD. And this although they didn't abandon Marxism until 1959.

For me, the line between "good and evil", so to speak, doesn't run along the "socialist vs. not socialist" line, but along the line "authoritarian vs. democratic/constitutional" -- there are authoritarians on the left and right and they're bad, but there are freedom-loving people on left and right who are fine. Many of the latter call themselves "socialists".

Most parties and movements in Europe calling themselves "socialist" are not authoritarian. They are not in favor of dictatorship, tyranny or revolution. They respect the constitutional order, they may even bitterly defend it. They are respecting elections and once elected, they won't scrap elections and abolish the constitution, but can be diselected again.

Those freedom-loving socialists deserve respect as political competitors from their competition, be that conservatives, liberals or libertarians. And they deserve good counter-arguments, instead of condemnation.

The broad-brush pejorative label "socialist", as often used by Americans, blurs this distinction between authoritarians and democrats -- and that's the problem I see with this debate.

What do you think?
 

MAgnum9987

Do What Thou Wilt
I despise all labels with a bitter passion. Labels do not do justice to the plus points of a particular belief, be they concervative, liberal, socialist, what have you. For socialism, I agree with you, I think its a shame democratic socialists and Hitler and Stalinists are lumped together.
 

Wade8813

Registered Member
I agree that a large part of the view is because of a negative public image due to fascists.

But there's also the perception that socialism wants to take my hard-earned money and give it away to druggies.
 
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Sim

Registered Member
I agree that a large part of the view is because of a negative public image due to fascists.
Which, again, is another point that drives me crazy. Fascism is not socialism, and both ideologies have more differences than they have in common.

But there's also the perception that socialism wants to take my hard-earned money and give it away to druggies.
Oh, it's perfectly fine to oppose socialism. I oppose socialism myself.

I just take offense by using the "socialism" label in such a generalizing broad-brush manner to encompass many parties/movements which are hardly socialist, and usually with the attempt of demonizing and condemning political competitors, who actually deserve respect and counter-arguments, instead of condemnation.

It's this broad-brush manner of using the "socialist" label that offends me, and the conflation with communists such as Stalin, Mao or Pot: Liberals are not socialists, social democrats are not socialists, and even most democratic socialists have nothing in common with communism.

For many, it seems to work this way: Liberals = socialists = communists = Nazis = Hitler = evil. The first three equations on that line are plain wrong.

Conflating liberals or social democrats, even democratic socialists with communists, Nazis or their crimes is just as intellectually dishonest as equating conservatives/Republicans with Nazis, despite certain similarities on some fields.
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I despise all labels with a bitter passion. Labels do not do justice to the plus points of a particular belief, be they concervative, liberal, socialist, what have you. For socialism, I agree with you, I think its a shame democratic socialists and Hitler and Stalinists are lumped together.
In some cases, I agree with you. Many people don't follow a distinct ideology, but different opinions on different fields. Attaching a label to them doesn't do them justice.

But there are others who identify with a certain label themselves, or who have a distinct ideological view on the world. I don't think it's wrong to label them, in that case. At least it makes sense.
 
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SmilinSilhouette

Registered Member
I don't think it matters whether authoritarian or democratic, socialism is what it is. It necessarily involves the taking from some and a bureaucracy that redistributes the spoils. It doesn't matter if that redistribution is democratically decided or by authoritarian methods it still divides what must be taken from others and puts a few in charge of who gets what.

What I find interesting is all those that accuse others of not understanding what socialism means when they are the ones that only understand the term as they would like it to be used.

Socialism is the anthesis of individual liberty and freedom. You are not free if the fruits of your labor are taken and given to those to whom they do not belong.
 
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Sim

Registered Member
I don't think it matters whether authoritarian or democratic, socialism is what it is. It necessarily involves the taking from some and a bureaucracy that redistributes the spoils. It doesn't matter if that redistribution is democratically decided or by authoritarian methods it still divides what must be taken from others and puts a few in charge of who gets what.
As I said, it's perfectly fine when you oppose socialism. You are absolutely entitled to this opinion.

But I believe it does make a difference whether the "socialists" in question are authoritarian or not. When they are not in favor of violent revolution and dictatorship, but instead play by the rules of the constitutional order, accept election results and respect the law, they deserve respect as political competitors and good counter-arguments, not condemnation as i.e. Nazis.

When they are in favor of a free political system, they are not evil, but just disagree with you. They are legitimate debate partners, and elections decide who wins. You have to respect them when they win elections, much like you expect them to return this respect. You want them to respect you and your favorite party too, if you win the election, right?

Just when they are revolutionary, when they don't want to win elections but stage a revolution, and/or establish a dictatorship once in power, they deserve condemnation. Because in that case, they are forcing their opinions down on people who disagree, they don't respect people who disagree and they are oppressive.

What I find interesting is all those that accuse others of not understanding what socialism means when they are the ones that only understand the term as they would like it to be used.
There are clear-cut definitions of the term "socialism":

so·cial·ism
   [soh-shuh-liz-uhm] Show IPA

–noun
1.
a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.

2.
procedure or practice in accordance with this theory.

3.
(in Marxist theory) the stage following capitalism in the transition of a society to communism, characterized by the imperfect implementation of collectivist principles.
What does that mean? "Ownership and control of the means of production and distribution ... in the community as a whole" -- means that socialists want to abolish all private businesses and turn them into state-controlled businesses. Which means *all* private businesses get nationalized.

Just a little public social safety net or a bailout are not enough and don't qualify as "socialism", much like one warm day in winter doesn't make it summer. Or just like the Patriot Act, although it contains severe human right violations, does not make America fascist.

Neither Obama or the Democrats want a nationalization of the means of production, nor Skandinavian or German social democrats, nor democratic socialists in France, i.e.

Yet there is this new trend to label absolutely everybody a "socialist" who believes the state should play a larger role than just protecting the market -- liberals get labelled "socialists", social democrats get labelled "socialists", although they aren't. Basically everybody is a socialist who is not a straight libertarian or conservative, according to this newspeak.

Some even have the nerve calling Nazis "socialists", although Nazism has historically absolutely nothing to do with genuine socialism.

This new trend in favor of newspeak, which changes well-established definitions is just a partisan attempt at smearing legitimate political opposition. When you don't have good counter-arguments, you just smear them with a no-no-word, by conflating them with evil commies such as Stalin, Mao or Pot.

Socialism is the anthesis of individual liberty and freedom. You are not free if the fruits of your labor are taken and given to those to whom they do not belong.
I understand where you are coming from, and I am not a socialist myself. I agree with you when it comes to too excessive redistribution programs, or far-left extremism.

But it would be nice if you stopped conflating me with evil authoritarians such as Stalin, Mao or Hitler, just because I believe a reasonable amount of redistribution is fine, although I strictly believe elections should decide about that. Fair enough?
 
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SmilinSilhouette

Registered Member
Sim, you know I have never conflated you with any of those. I'm the one who has been compared to Hitler and called Stalin. Heck, I don't even think you are a socialist, like Jeanie or QB. And, of course, I don't think they are evil. We just disagree about the purpose of (federal) government and it's role in the every day lives of citizens. We also disagree on the methods to resolve some of the issues that we face. I'm also pretty sure I can speak for the other right leaning members of this forum that we do not stereotype those with whom we disagree. We don't disrespect the right of others to have a different opinion, we just disagree. What we don't respect is the disregard of the rules to implement an agenda.

You are right to point out the definition of socialism. What I find interesting is those that say it only means #1. To say the current admin does not want to nationalize companies is to ignore what has happened to banks, auto manufacturers, and insurance industries. While it is not a full scale attempt to nationalize all business it is a step in the direction of taking more control.

The thing about it is, and this applies to the US, is that we are a representative republic with a constitution that precludes this type of power being vested in a federal government. Other countries can choose their own form of governance and that is great! I just believe that a society of free individuals who retain the power to decide for themselves is the best and most natural way to enjoy the gift of life.

I also find it interesting that those on the left dislike "labels". I've never heard a conservative or libertarian shy away from being associated with those labels.
 

shelgarr

Registered Member
We already have a "reasonable amount of redistribution". We all know, no matter our leanings, that we need to pay for our police protection, our parks, our fire dept, schools, seniors, prisons, streets, public health, military, and a zillion things I can't think of at this late hour. It just never stops. That is where the debate starts.
 
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