In defense of socialism, again
In my experience, the most confident and strident defenders of capitalism are the ones who know the least about socialism. I can't fully blame them for this because there is so much intentional misinformation, as well as suppressed information, that it takes a herculean effort to get a more accurate viewpoint.
This essay is a follow-up to this previous one.
To take a random, but representational, example of misinformation, consider this recent article on Venezuela.
Crappy socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro was elected to another six-year term in Venezuela, and the equally corrupt and authoritarian Turkish president campaigned for him so they could share in the farcical fun.
"Leaders" like Maduro, Erdogan and Putin hate freedom because it gives filthy peasants too much say and power over their own lives. They liquidate government holdings to enrich themselves and their select cronies, and they steal from poor people who live horrible, short, Hobbesian lives before they die in squalor. It's no surprise these liberty loathers create an axis of a-holes; they need to sow discord in the world's most powerful economy because a truly free market disrupts their tyrannical buggery.
Let's ignore for a moment how the Venezuela government cut the poverty rate in half, and how that doesn't jibe with stealing from poor people. Instead let's consider the "dictator" and his "tyrannical buggery".
A 2 minute web search will take you to this. The capitalist opposition party has ruled the Venezuela legislature for the last two years. That doesn't jibe with "socialism" or "dictatorship".
These easily proven lies are typical of the right-wing slanders of socialism.
The lies are transparently false, and yet people believe them. More importantly, regular working want to believe them.
Why would poor people want to believe the worst about socialism? The reason isn't because of socialism. The reason is socialists.
If one accepts Orwell’s premise that for the common man socialism means improved living and working conditions, why is socialism unpopular? The fault lies with socialists. For one thing, socialism attracts a fair number of cranks. “One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.” Some of those categories should be dropped and new ones should be added, such as gender studies students. However, the sentiment is correct. An ideology that appeals to a large number of oddballs has little hope of being adopted by the average man.
Socialists also know little about those they wish to help. Their language is a dead giveaway of their ignorance. In the Twentieth Century, socialists laced their diatribes about industrial capitalism with jargon, such as “dialectical materialism” and “class consciousness”. Their spiritual heirs decry “systems of oppression” and exhort people to be “woke”. No average man speaks or thinks in those terms. Yet, he is the one who must be “educated".
Although the phrase virtue signaling did not exist in the 1930s, the concept did.
George Orwell is 100% right.
If you can't talk to someone in a language they can relate to, the problem isn't the other person.
I personally find that using the term "woke" is one of the most arrogant acts someone can do. It requires assuming that you know "the truth", which doesn't play well outside of a church.
This is a big clue as to why regular people would believe transparent lies about socialism - because either they feel that socialists are looking down on them, or that they aren't familiar with the real world. That's why you see so many article like this, in which they in turn consider a socialist to be stupid, lazy, and greedy.
The writer probably couldn't even correctly define socialism, and is obviously ignorant of the various flavors of socialism, but he doesn't care and neither does his target audience.
Another example of conservatives lumping "scary words" together regardless of facts and logic is this article, Nazism, Fascism, and Socialism Are All Rooted in Communism.
Now the news media may be dedicated to the agenda of their corporate masters, but they will still make a token attempt at providing balance. I've noticed that those articles of balance are usually posted on Friday afternoons and Saturday evenings, when they are least likely to be read.
For instance, consider this Yahoo news article - Here's why you can't blame socialism for Venezuela's crisis.
The article points out a) falling oil prices, b) massive increase of unsustainable debt, c) Maduro appointed a former general with no experience in the oil sector.
In other words, problems that you will find in many corrupt, third-world, capitalist nations.
Al-Jazeera goes into this even deeper. It points out an overvalued currency and controls on access to foreign currency led to capital flight.
When the former finance minister Jorge Giordani resigned in protest of Maduro's mishandling of the economy, he estimated that between 2003 and 2012 a truly incredible $300bn was lost to currency arbitrage alone.
That perfectly explains Venezuela's inflation problems. But the real kicker to the article is a little lower.
First, it is important to realise that Chavez chose to call his transformative project "21st-century socialism", but Venezuela's economy remained market-based and private-sector dominated throughout his time in office.
Though the social economy and the public sector were heavily promoted - including through nationalisation - the private sector was expected to remain dominant, and it did. A centrally planned socialist economy like Cuba's was neither the aim nor the reality.
To say that Venezuela isn't an actual socialist country, much less a socialist dictatorship, is to invite being laughed at. Reality and facts will not be considered under any circumstances.
So many lies upon lies of indoctrination have been built into our political culture that the only way you can reach someone is by sticking to the basics. Using terms like “dialectical materialism” and “systems of oppression” is wasting your time and breath.
Interestingly, it was an article on The American Conservative of all places, that stated a connection between today's capitalist leaders and leftist rhetoric.
There is a long established practice of confusing what is misleadingly called “Cultural Marxism” with socialism and Marxist economics. The two are most definitely not the same...
In today’s Western countries, however, most of the social program of the Frankfurt School seems to have been carried out, accomplished without the state controlling production. Even more strikingly, the managers of global capitalist enterprises have happily promoted the cultural left’s agenda, from homosexual marriage to mandatory transgender restrooms. And unlike the French Communist Party after the Second World War and American labor organizers of an earlier era, both of which opposed immigration because of its impact on the native workforce, our culturally radical capitalists are delighted to bring in cheap foreign labor, legal or otherwise.
Anyone who advocates socialism should be able to respond to those capitalist lies in two sentences or less.
For instance, when the capitalist tries to equate capitalism with freedom, you can ask him, "At what point in your workday, when your boss is telling you what to do, when to do it, and where to do it, do you feel free?"
And when someone says that we should run the government like a business, you ask "How does the top-down, authoritarian structure of a corporation look representative to you?"
And when some Libertarian says, "Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner," ask the simple question, "When in the history of democracy has that ever happened?"
It also helps knowing your stuff.
I once had a discussion with a right-wing coworker who was praising the wonders and perfections of capitalism. When the topic of monopolies and price-fixing came up, and how capitalism would never allow that, I tossed in, "You know what Adam Smith said: 'Seldom do people of the same trade meet without a conspiracy to rig prices'."
[I got it a bit wrong. The actual quote is worse: 'People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.']
His response was of disbelief, "Adam Smith? The Invisible Hand? You read Adam Smith?"
I was then able to get in a few words about capitalism's short-comings according to Adam Smith and my coworker was forced to listen and actually consider what I said because he hadn't read Wealth of Nations.
The silver-lining of there being so many transparent lies about socialism, is that disproving them doesn't take much effort as long as you know what you are talking about.
I've personally engaged with right-wingers online ranting about Venezuela's socialist dictatorship, and how this is proof that "Socialism Always Fails"(tm).
At which point I like to ask why it's working in Bolivia. I always get met with "What are you talking about?" replies to that.
There’s just one problem with all this bashing of socialism: Bolivia.
Since 2006, Bolivia has been run by socialists every bit as militant as Venezuela’s. But as economist Omar Zambrano has argued, the country has experienced a spectacular run of economic growth and poverty reduction with no hint of the chaos that has plagued Venezuela. While inflation spirals toward the thousand-percent mark in Venezuela, in Bolivia it runs below 4 percent a year.
Turns out the difference between Bolivia and Venezuela has nothing to do with abstract ideological labels, and everything to do with fiscal prudence.
It is important to know what socialism actually is, not just what it does (i.e. Social Security, Medicare, minimum wage, etc.).
So if you are unclear of what the broad stroke of socialism is, read this short article by Albert Einstein.