Revised Edition -- June, 2007
The term "Socialism," as well as "Communism," has come to allow the meaning of a broad amount of societies and governments. Loosely, Socialism means government (or public) control of the economy and business to a certain extent. I have met members of various Socialist parties of all nations who have turned this loose definition into something more specific. Some go as far as to postulate that the end of government will be replaced with Democracy, while others devise "free societies" with abolishment of money and making everything free, while still others believe in Participatory Economics and not working if you desire not to (while still receiving the benefits of working, such as pay). Many of these Socialists, though, understand how broad a term "Socialism" is, and have more thoroughly described their idea of the mechanics of their Utopian societies.
Before addressing the question of rights, or of the benefits of industrial society, it would be essential that I describe the workings of how I view a good Socialist society and economy. I believe that the public deserves the right to own some capital. It is already true that the government owns and runs some transportation industries (roads), as well as being the greatest competitor of the education industry. Other industries such as sanitation, postal delivery, electricity, water, and other utilities are also regulated, owned, or operated by the government. However, I believe that other industries also ought to be publicly owned, such as factories that produce electronics or other goods, a very small chain of retail outlets to help distribute goods, and -- most importantly -- farms to produce food for the starving population. By the public owning these industries, we can set prices, have fair working hours, have fair working conditions, and have decent quality of goods. By private industry owning capital and businesses, these desired economical conditions have rarely occurred (as I shall demonstrate with evidence in the next section). As well as public ownership of industry, I believe that private ownership should not be prohibited (within Communism, private ownership of capital and means of production is prohibited). To help promote ethical business procedures within private industry, some Socialists have advocated business regulations: Minimum Wage Laws, Overtime and Minimum Working Hours Laws, Child Labor Laws, safe working conditions lows, among others, which allow private enterprise to act as it desires within certain principle guidelines. Though I do believe in regulation of private industries (with such laws as minimum wage and safe working conditions), I also believe that some industries should be publicly owned (I will delve into detail concerning Regulation versus Ownership later). Though regulation does provide an artificial standard for business to meet, the best standard is provided by companies owned by the public with the specific intention of serving the public -- public industry will serve the worker by providing fair wages, good hours, and safe working conditions for honest work; public industry will serve the community and the consumer by providing high quality goods at a low, affordable price. Regulation and public ownership of some capital of most industries is my idea of Socialism, as well as having public businesses providing beyond the requirements of business regulation, and therefore providing natural competition to private enterprise. As to the question of how laws are passed and decisions are made, this is not something I can wholly answer here, though I would lean towards Direct Democracy (Anarchism).
The Plight of the Workers
Is Socialism possible? Is it needed? Is it desirable? These are questions that can only be answered with brute, hard facts. The following is a list of facts concerning the rich, the poor, and everyone concerned...
A Theory of Rights
If a thinker is to ponder some social or moral dilemma with hopes of finding some solution (or, at least, making the problem a bit more understood), then the thinker is to rely on some principles to solve the dilemma. If an investigator were to look to find out if some supposed fact were true or not, he would use rules to help him discover the truth, such as demonstration, evidence, reason, observation, logic, among others. Similarly, to tackle social or moral issues (such as abortion, euthanasia, Animal Rights or -- in our case -- Capitalism versus Socialism), to tackle these problems, we need principles guiding us. It is not my intention here to lay down any new principles of justice, but to criticize the old recognition of the rights of the people.
The rights of the people under Capitalism have long been asserted long ago by the philosopher John Locke. Among the rights of men, he said we are entitled to life, liberty, and property. To quote Locke...
The right to property, though, or at least the right to private property, is the right upheld by the Capitalist class. Since every man is entitled to these rights, business owners are entitled to offer starvation wages and poor working conditions, because they own the factories. Needless to say, with all the business owners and all the Capitalists doing the same thing, there is no opportunity for workers to advance. Therefore, the Capitalist class has the right to keep the workers in perpetual poverty. However, the question does arise, by what what evidence did Locke base his rights on?
Previously to the rise of Free Enterprise and the recognition of rights, there was the widely practiced system of Feudalism within Europe. Feudalism is easily compared to Capitalism in many ways: those who produce goods and services for the economy are paid the least, those who do not work (except exploitive work which produces nothing) are the richest, and the workers are bound in a hopeless situation where they have no opportunity to change their plight or a chance to advance. But most importantly, Feudalism and Capitalism both have identical evidence for their justification: nothing. Though Capitalism is justified by an intellectual philosopher, I don't think it was Locke's intention to justify a system that keeps workers in perpetual slavery. Rather, I think he devised his system to liberate the serfs from Feudalism. Unfortunately, he could not predict the inevitable creation of an industrial society, or the recreation of the lords and vassals into the Capitalist class. The serfs of Feudalism were little more than the workers of Capitalism: slaves with no opportunity for freedom, except revolution. The fact that Feudalism and Capitalism are unfair in that both give all the wealth to the non-working class and crumbs to the working class, is understood. However, as the Feudalists believe just as the Capitalists believe, whether or not it is fair, they are justified. They feel they have a right to do what they did, as Locke's ideology supported the Capitalists' right to property, and therefore the right to exploit.
The question remains, though: how is the philosophy of Locke (or the philosophy of property) justified? There is no justification for the system of Capitalism, as there is no justification for the system of Feudalism. The only justification of any form of slavery is greed and self interest. The Capitalist philosopher Ayn Rand called selfishness a virtue! She may have justified Capitalism, but she also justified Feudalism equally, or any form of brutal and merciless slavery, no matter to what heartless extent it went, tormenting the minds and bodies of those who are producers of our world. Selfishness is not the justification of the people or the workers. It is the justification of the tyrant, of the overseer, of the slaver, of the vassal, of the lord, of the king, or of any class of individuals who will take every chance to steal from those who work. There may be no absolute justification for Socialism, or none that I know of yet. It can be reasoned easily, though, that workers deserve rights since they produce the products that society uses -- and by rights, I mean much more than the right to property, which can be manipulated into something as sick as the right to exploit. When I say that workers deserve rights, I mean they deserve the right to a fair and decent living wage, and fairly being compensated for the work that they do. Fair pay and fair working conditions. That is what I believe in and that is why I believe in Socialism.
Why not Communism?
There is often the question presented to any Socialist, "Why not Communism?" But before one can honestly and sincerely answer such a question, we must define Communism. There are some Socialists and Communists who believe that the term Socialism and Communism are identical, which has sometimes led to confusion within the collectives of individuals who wish for socio-economic change. [*1] There are others who regard Socialism and Communism as equally hollow terms which imply a public (or state-run) economy, and one must speak specifically of what they mean when using terms such as Socialism or Communism. However, thinkers such as Marx and Engels have claimed there to be a vast, marginal difference between Socialism and Communism. In defining Communism, to quote Marx...
As well as the idea of pure public ownership of capital and the means of production, there is the idea of equal pay for all. To quote the Anarcho-Communist Alexander Berkman...
The idea of Communism, as dealt with in this essay, shall be defined as public ownership (or state ownership) of capital and means of production, and an equal pay for each worker. This is as opposed to Socialism, which means only some industries are owned by the public and some regulations. Both Socialism and Communism are opposed to Capitalism; Capitalism can be defined as a system of economics where there are no restrictions on the economy -- where an employer can offer as low a wage as they want, and a business owner can offer food for as high as they want, and there are no restrictions on any of these transactions.
So, the question presides us: should we opt for an economy with equal pay over one without equal pay? I would disagree with Communism and equal pay for all because on instrumental flaw in the reasoning of Communism is that people are all the same: and that what works for one person would certainly work for another person. We are individuals, all with our own interests, our own desires, and our own ambitions. There may be one man who only needs the basic necessities, his body, and his mind to be happy. And if this is so, then I believe he has a right to work for only as much money as he needs (with fair economic conditions), and he may only work one hour a day. If someone else needs something more than others, then they can work more than others to suffice their needs. If someone has an expensive hobby, a recreational drug habit, an expensive fashion taste, or something else that may require more than the average person, then let them work more for their desired wealth. This way, those who work the most are the wealthiest, as opposed to our current situation in Capitalism, where the wealthiest have done no work.
As well as the variation in need of the workers, there is also the variation of the ability of workers to produce for our economy. Some workers may be educated, and better fitted to some occupations more than others, and therefore they deserve a higher pay, because they produce more. As well as producing more, educated workers dedicated much of their time to studying, and are deserving of more solely on account of that. Other workers might just be stronger, smarter, more nimble, or there are others without attributes which would allow them to produce more, and therefore deserving of a higher pay. Of course, there are other arguments for equal pay. Alexander Berkman was one who promoted equal pay for all. To quote his arguments....
Berkman is comparing the choosing of qualified workers to the choosing of white workers over black workers, or male workers over female workers. Are his comparisons justified? Hardly. Today, it is recognized that Racism and Sexism are flawed because they judge someone on qualities which are not properly reflective of their skills and ability. This would be occurring if someone hired a white man over a black woman, even though the black woman is more skilled. However, Berkman is here stating that it is irrelevant as to who gets the job. I believe the problem with his thinking is that it is in belief that work is for the worker, not the consumer. And though this is partly true (as work can be a fulfilling and meaningful experience), the purpose of production is the eventual consumption of the fruits of labor. We do not work to work, but we work to produce goods and services, that our lives might be better. If we were to place inferior workers in jobs that they could not handle well, then the company would producer fewer products, probably with lower quality. If production is inhibited, it may even result in lower wages or worsening working conditions.
Now, although this does answer the question of why we prefer skilled workers over unskilled workers, it does not answer why we should pay skilled workers more than unskilled workers. Since skilled workers contribute more to production, they are the cause why more is produced with a higher quality. Since they produce more wealth than all, it is only fair that their individuality is recognized and they are paid a higher wage. The worker who is more educated or stronger, or in possession of some trait which enables him to do his job more efficiently, this worker should be favored over a worker who is inefficient, unskilled, untrained, or uneducated. Furthermore, the worker who can do more produces more for his society and therefore deserves to receive more for his efforts. There may be some talk that a weak worker was born week and therefore should not be discriminated against for his genetics. This may strengthen the analogy that choosing a stronger worker over a weaker worker is like choosing a white man over a black man -- it strengthens this analogy by showing how one man is rewarded or punished on account of how he was born (something seemingly out of control of everyone). I cannot deny that some likable qualities are given at birth, but many are still attainable by anyone with hardship. As to those who are unfortunately born with negative attributes, I do not think that by giving them as equal pay as those who are more qualified would solve the problem. Though it is a bad situation to be born disabled, I can only offer sorrow, but not completely equal pay. One who cannot work as good as another man does not produce as much, and therefore should not be paid as much.
The primary difference between Socialism and Communism is that Communism means complete control of industry by the public or the government whereas Socialism is only controlling some of the business and setting regulation. Furthermore, there is the question of pay, and Communism has answered this: all workers deserve equal pay. Socialism differs from Communism drastically in this respect. As far as the system of Socialism that I advocate goes, there is no equal pay and for justified reasons. Workers who are -- by one reason or another -- more fit, educated, skilled, trained, or in some way better than other workers, then they contribute more to production. This means society will get more quality goods at lower prices. The worker that gives more to his society deserves a higher position where he can contribute more and of course, he deserves a higher pay.
There are some economist philosophers who believe in other radical forms of changing how we produce and consume products. In all the systems I have considered in this essay, there was always an industrial society. Socialism, Communism, and Capitalism are just different methods of managing the industrial society. Communism is full public control of the economy, Socialism is partial, and Capitalism is none. But there are radical philosophers whom believe in the dissolution of industrial society. Before continuing, it is vital that I define industrial society. Industrial society may be defined as people working together so that together we can produce vastly more than when alone. By using aids such as factories, the assembly line, mass production, robotics, and other tools, we can produce 100 units in an hour what would take 1 man a day to make 1 unit. By working together we can build these factories and other tools that can aid us in the production of the products used by society.
There are a large number of individuals (though they tend to be difficult to find still) who do not believe in an industrial society. These individuals are known as Primitivists. The reason behind their lack of belief in an industrial society may vary for each individual, but I suspect mostly it is the failure of all industrial societys to produce fair working wages with decent working conditions. Economies from American Capitalism to Soviet Communism have failed the workers and the consumers. Life without industrial society would not necessarily delve back to the archaic workshops prior to the rise of the Industrial Revolution. There are those who believe in returning to the roots of hunting and gathering.
The question remains, though: What are the benefits of an industrial society, and do they outweigh the positive aspects of primitive living? Since I am a Socialist and I believe in collective working, it should be obvious that I believe in an industrial society. Though it is true that no industrial society has managed to serve the interests of the worker and the consumer well, I have shown evidence that it is possible for products to increase in quality and decrease in price, working conditions and working wages increase and working hours decrease. There is so much great wealth produced by companies with so much profit, that if fair prices and wages were offered, society would bloom with freedom and creativity. We will live in a better society, without the chain of slavery, if capital is owned by the public. And while a Primitivist society may be more free than our current society, there are things in our industrial society which are vitally important, and if we had Socialism, we could obtain such needs under the skies of freedom. In an industrial society, we would be able to make any product ten times faster, cheaper, and more durable. As well as that wonderful advantage, there is no medical care in a Primitivist society. We would not be able to cure diseases or perform life-saving surgery, or otherwise increase our longevity and health, if we did not live in an industrial society. To quote Carl Sagan....
Regulation Versus Ownership
The importance of public ownership of capital is based on the idea of competition. If all capital is owned privately, the competition would be pathetic, and not at all offering fair prices for products or fair compensation for work. If we the public owned capital, then it would be operated to serve us. Private ownership of businesses could find some way around regulation. What if private enterprise suddenly decides that they want to exercise their right to private property and refuse to sell or hire Africans or Caucasians or Asians, or refuses services to women or to men, to pregnant women, to counterculture punks, to members of certain political parties, or to some faction of people who industries wanted to hurt? What would occur? Perhaps some regulation could be passed, but how many will have starved to death once it passes? I would not want to place my life in the hands of any individual who cares more about profits than people. The public deserve the right to ownership of capital. Only then will there always be the opportunity for the public to engage in fair and honest business practices of employment and purchasing.
Argumentation of Capitalism
This quote is believed to be the greatest argument for Capitalism. But, is it true? -- The March 16 edition of the New York Times carried a story on union busting by Nike shoe contractors in Indonesia. One worker was "locked in a room at the plant and interrogated for seven days by the military, which demanded to know more about his labor activities." -- The owners of this factory, watch dogs for Capitalism and suppressors of every humane sentiment; the manifestation of human limits in cruelty, the epitome of Capitalism, the Totalitarian Fascists of a new world slavery, of worker slavery, of human slavery, of every form of brutal and merciless inhumanity. These are Capitalists: brutal, unkind, thoughtless. But, it is their will power, their strength and greed which helps everyone, claims the philosopher Adam Smith. If these businessmen decided to give in and give fair working conditions, take a cut in profit, give fair pay, and stop killing and assassinating union workers -- if for a second, any Capitalist started to be fair and just in all of his transactions, then the workers (claims Smith) would be disadvantaged! By receiving more pay, by the business man not "looking out for his own interests," Smith expects us to believe that workers would worsen in their conditions! Add more whips, spill more blood, flog the flesh until there is nothing but bone and tears, and the worker will be benefited! Of what insane and ludicrous theory this absurd human being can concoct is immeasurable.
These bosses of these factories were doing exactly as Adam Smith suggested: looking out only for the benefit of themselves. Similarly, the workers of the factory were not failing Capitalism either: they worked, because if they didn't, they would have starved to death, and there was no other choice for them. However, if by doing this the philosophers of Capitalism expect all of us to be benefited (and happy with the way things are), then they failed in one of the most miserable ways. Philosophy failed. This is not something that can be greatly shocking. Philosophers are notorious for failing to observe the rights of all who were oppressed from René Descartes to Adam Smith.
Philosophy argued that self-interest would result in the best situation. Global slavery and humiliation are not a desirable situation for any working man. Philosophy failed. There is no need to argue this. Fact after fact and evidence after evidence confirm this. But how is it that philosophy could fail, and is there any ideology that could place it, properly analyzing evidence and truth? The ideology goes by the title Socialism, it is i a call out to all working individuals, to all oppressed peoples, to all who have been the victims of injustice and cruelty, to all who have suffered the long, endless nights of uncertainty and tyranny, to all across the world who are yearning for truth, justice, and fairness. Until the public controls the means of production, the amount of food produced will be lower to increase prices and we will starve. Clothing will be underproduced, and we will go freezing. Housing will be overpriced, and we will be homeless. In an attempt to deprive us of everything we produced, the Capitalist class will overprice products and underprice wages, and we will forever be under the hallowing rains of slavery. But we are the workers, the machinery which produces this society! Strike! Boycott! Unionize! Inform! Do what you can to shut down the madness of the factories making products at the cost of freedom, truth, and justice!
Evidence has soundly destroyed the idea of Capitalism in the realm of logical ideas. The theory which can replace Capitalism is Socialism: if the bosses and investors did everything for the sake of self interest, we would be living in the unfair, unjust, society that we are currently forced to trudge through. Living the lives of misery, working and consuming in this mad rat race to survive, we can only find that the Capitalist is a liar, and is nothing but the harbinger of cruelty, tyranny, and corruption.
Innovation and Technological Advancement
There is the very serious attack on the idea of Socialism and Communism that under such systems, innovation and new ideas would cease. It is an accusation that cannot be ignored. The reason why innovation may be inhibited is the complete equality of pay and the inability of investors to capitalize upon new inventions. If a worker discovers a new way to increase production, but everyone is receiving the same pay already, he will not be paid more for his effort of the new discovery of a better way to do something, as with equal pay, all receive the same amount, the innovative and non-innovative. And, if all capital is owned by the government or the public, then there is no way for someone to start their own factory and market their own goods. Furthermore, in the mechanics of society, not only are innovators stopped from development, but workers do not get time-saving devices to help them produce more cheaply, and the consumers do not get the reduced price of the product, along with its higher quality. Or, if the new invention was a vaccine, a medical cure, or some completely new invention, then society would lose out without the device to their us with our lives.
In the Socialist society I described, though, there would not be inhibiting of innovation and technological advancement. Not only would new technology be promoted, but new ways of conducting business which are more successful than other methods would be promoted. Since the public would only own part of all the capital, the private citizens with new and innovative ideas would be allowed to capitalize on them. Furthermore, there are Research and Development Departments of private industries today. Even if everyone received equal pay, the scientists in Research and Development would be receiving money to create new things. In a Socialist economy, there would be Research and Development Departments that would invent new things to help the world advance, and if a worker discovered a new way to do something, Research and Development should offer a substantial monetary bonus.
Furthermore, life in a Communist nation with equal pay would far surpass life in a Capitalist nation with innovation. At least a Communist nation would offer food, water, clothing, and other necessities without too much work. In a Capitalist nation, we work 12 hours a day building expensive cars, so at the end of the day we can sleep in the gutter with only pennies of pay. How can any nation be so ignorant to boast of technological accomplishment when millions upon millions of its people are homeless and starving?
A Free Society
Marx is notable for observing the struggle throughout history of those without property. The Proletariat were slaves of the Romans, as Africans were slaves of Americans, so workers today too are under the yoke of brutal, tormenting labor. We are not driven by an intense hate of working. Rather, we are driven by the conditions that we have been living in: poor wage, merciless overseers, and long hours. With the vicious flog of commerce whipping at our backs, society and the economy became something to benefit the rich and powerful. Not providing us the fruits of our labor, the Capitalist class has become the most cruel and malicious class of beings. Disempowered and desensitized, filled with nothing but an unending angst about the world, there is no question why we have protests, riots, or anti-Capitalist Direct Action. We will continue to refuse and resist, our will being fueled by the growing injustice of Capitalism, the colossal brutality of a system that has destroyed so much.