Follow TV Tropes


Useful Notes / Socialism

Go To

"Then raise the scarlet standard high!
Within its shade, we live and die.
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We keep the Red Flag flying here."

Socialism is a political ideology that began to develop in the nineteenth century, with roots in philosophers from The Enlightenment and The French Revolution. Karl Marx is usually seen as the major theorist but he was merely one theorist among many and he codified and developed pre-existing ideas rather than made it out of whole cloth. To give a complete definition here is almost impossible, as, like most political ideologies, it has many internal divisions and national variations as a result of pragmatic accommodationsnote  and Realpolitik. The Other Wiki defines it as "an economic system characterised by social ownership of the means of production and co-operative management of the economy", as opposed to the present capitalist system, whereby the means of production (factories, farmland, tools, and so on) are owned by private individuals. There is no consensus on how social ownership is to be brought about or, once brought about, how it is to be managed; for this reason, this page also describes anti-capitalist anarchism and communism.

    open/close all folders 

    Revolutionary or Democratic? 

Arise, the workers of all nations!
Arise, oppressed of the earth!
For justice thunders condemnation:
A better world's in birth!
It is time to win emancipation,
Arise, you slaves, no more in thrall!
The earth will rise on new foundations:
We, who were nothing, shall be all!
The Internationale

Perhaps the most important distinction in the socialist, anarchist, and communist movements is how exactly the capitalist system is to be overthrown and socialism brought about. Generally, anti-capitalist movements will self-describe as either revolutionary or democratic. This distinction is well explained here by The BBC's economics editor Robert Peston, answering a six year old's question about why he only got £1note -a-week pocket money and how he could get some more:

[Either] all the six-year-olds gang up together and ask the grown-ups nicely to share their money with you (democratic socialism) or where you threaten to break the grown-ups' things unless they share their money with you (revolutionary socialism).

Though flippant, this neatly encapsulates the difference, which comes down to whether or not one should try to bring apart socialism by changing the system from within or without. Democratic movements, such as the British Labour Party, the German SPD and Die Linke, and others, seeknote  to bring about socialism through participating in the existing democratic structures of the capitalist state; i.e., by demonstrating in order to get political rights if you don't already have them, and then fighting elections and winning them. Revolutionary movements, on the other hand, hold that "bourgeois democracy" is not actually anything of the kindnote , and so real change can only be secured by coercion. This does not necessarily mean violent coercion; anarchism in particular often advocates non-violent revolutionary means (though violence is still favoured by many), such as general strikes (where everyone stops working until they get what they want) or other direct - though pacifistic - action, such as protests, sit-ins, occupations, and civil disobedience.

This is not necessarily an ideological distinction (though it usually is), for instance, many British intellectuals in the interwar years expressed support for the Russian Revolution whilst not advocating a similar thing in the UK, pointing out that Britain's flawed democracy was not comparable to Tsarist absolutism.

    (Some) Tenets of (Some) Socialists 

Those who do not move, do not notice their chains
-Rosa Luxemburg

There are several political claims that generally qualify as socialist. One does not necessarily have to believe in all of them to be a socialist and some are disputed among socialists as to the actual prominence of them (e.g. class analysis). Nor does believing in them necessarily make one a socialist either.

1. Community: A belief in society and some form of collectivism. This can range from a Nordic- style welfare state to anarcho-collectivism to full-fledged Communism. This belief is generally opposed to liberal individualism as it believes that people cannot be separated from the context in which they live their lives. That said, individual civil liberties are an important part of Socialist theory, and for some strains, individual freedom is the reason for supporting Anarchism in that particular strain.

2. The Benefits of Co-Operation: Again the belief that human beings are interdependent. It also believes that social groups can be better than the sum of their parts.

3. Class Analysis of Society: This is the belief that society is divided into different classes, the traditional model being the Marxist division between the proletariat (working class) and the bourgeoisie (owners of the means of production). It also includes the belief that the lower class is exploited by the upper class. Socialists believe in the equality between classes and Marx believed in the complete eradication of class. Which category the middle class fits into that two-tiered model, who fits into what class, and if the bourgeoisie can become socialists or not, are questions that are hotly contested.

4. Internationalism: The belief that all of humanity is one race and that there should be greater equality between rich and poor nations. A belief in international socialism is a response to international capitalism. "People are more divided by class than nationality".

5. Anti-Capitalism, to greater or lesser degrees: The moderate critique of capitalism believes in curbing excesses of the free market through policies such as welfare state (see Social Democracy). The Radical critique argues that capitalism should be overthrown (see every other strain).

6. Liberty as Fulfillment: This means that liberty is found through the development of the individual rather than freedom through purchasing power. Life, liberty, but not property.

7. Humans as Creative Producers: This can be part of the critique of capitalism; the stultifying nature of working in a factory alienates people from their creative nature.

8. People are Sovereign: Has been used to critique "bourgeois democracy" by Lenin, a term referring to the representative models used in most countries, or systems where who can vote is limited. A more modern critique would ask for increased direct democracy.

9. Social Ownership of the Means of Production: Marx, writing at the time of the Industrial Revolution, argued that the injustice of capitalism stemmed from the anti-social minority ownership of the means of production. Very simplified: Why is it fair that the workers do all the work, but the bourgeois get the profits just because they own the factories? Socialists seek to alleviate this claimed injustice either through social mobility, redistributive taxation, and increased workers' participation with social democracy, or expropriation (violent or otherwise) with other strands. The ultimate end is collective ownership of the means of production; such as through a bureaucratic state (Soviet Communism) or associations of free producers (Marx himself, anarchism).

10. Wage Slavery: Among the more extreme ideas, usually pushed by Utopians, Communists, and Anarchists, that any form of monetary pay for work is inherently slave-like: the basic idea is that capitalist societies force people to work for a decent quality of life, thus making the "choice" of work no choice at all. For more information than you require or than we can provide at this juncture, look no further.

11. Anti-Colonialism/Anti-Imperialism: In keeping with internationalism, many socialists opposed the creation and maintenance of colonial empires overseas by the Western powers (and then Japan) during the 19th and 20th centuries. It was felt that this was simply another means of capitalist exploitation. Many anti-colonial movements had a socialist bent, such as the ANC in South Africa, the INC in India (sort of) and the Down-With-Imperialism! Union in Korea. Today, this generally translates to opposing foreign wars and interventions as well as trans-national corporations, free trade agreements, and organizations like NATO, the World Bank, the IMF and the EU, whilst supporting indigenous rights and debt relief, since "traditional" imperialist colonialism is functionally dead (except from very arguably in Tibet and Palestine) or irrevocable (the Americas, Australia).

12. Anti-Religious: The idea that religion ultimately serves the interests of the rich and powerful because it teaches the poorest in societies to be happy with their lot and not cause trouble for the wealthy. The example used by Marx was the strongly monarchist bent of the French Catholic Church pre-The French Revolution. This opposition to religion in general terms runs a gamut from the "militant atheism" of the USSR, North Korea, and China (i.e, actively try to stamp out religion and the religious) to moderate secularism. Religious socialists ditch it altogether (obviously).

    Types of Socialism 

I believe Socialism is the grandest theory ever presented, and I am sure it will someday rule the world.
-Andrew Carnegie

Here are the laconic versions of various types of Socialism. It's important to remember that while there is broad agreement among socialists that capitalism is bad and should be either abolished or at least moderated, there is little else universally agreed upon by them. The flame wars that erupt over the existence of money, the usefulness of reformism vs. revolution and the proper role of the state in guiding the development of a socialist society are not worth getting into here. It's enough to know that there are deep conflicts between different schools of thought and that at times it seems they can't cooperate on anything.

  • Utopian socialism: A 19th-century socialism developed by thinkers such as Saint-Simon. Belief in idyllic, small communities usually. Historical examples of the kind of thing utopian socialists aim for would be the ashram hermitages of India (most famously Mahatma Gandhi's Sabarmati Ashram) or the early kibbutzim of British Mandate Palestine and later Israel.
  • State Socialism: A strain that emphasizes government ownership of industry and central planning. The difference between this and Leninism being that State Socialism is often practiced in democratic countries. A good if debatable example would be post-war Britain, especially under Clement Atlee. There is a fine line between this and Social Democracy.
  • Social Democracy: Not to be confused with Democratic Socialism, which is a Socialist system with Democracy, Social Democracy is a more moderate stepping stone to socialism that seeks to use democratic rather than revolutionary means to achieve its goals. It advocates policies such as full employment and the right to work, the welfare state, and ensuring some equality of outcome through redistribution of wealth. Examples of this form include Postwar Consensus politics in Britain and the Nordic model in Scandinavia. The main difference with State Socialism is that, while the values of Socialism are there, modern Social Democracy actually has no interest in reforming Capitalism into Socialism but rather updating and modifying the Capitalist model to create a more equitable society, making its status as a Socialist ideology hotly debated. Worth noting that in Europe, where it is most popular, Social Democracy parties independent of the major Socialists groups still caucus with those socialists in domestic legislatures, and are usually members of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, which is itself under the blanket of the Party of European Socialists in the European Parliament. Worldwide, they also typically belong to the Socialist International and the Progressive Alliance. Most modern socialist parties in practice adhere to some version of social democracy while in power, keeping some form of market economy. Still, how "socialist" social democracy actually is is controversial with more radical socialists, especially after the neoliberal, pro-deregulation, pro-austerity turn social democratic parties have taken since the '80s.
    • As an aside, the term "social democracy" in the early twentieth century used to refer to Marxists; it should not be confused with the modern usage of the term; although the German SPDnote  was founded in 1863 as a Marxist party, it gradually shifted into a state socialist and then social democratic party following the Second World War.
  • Libertarian Socialism: A form of revolutionary socialism that advocates the dismantling of the state and capitalism in favour of a horizontal society with decisions made through consensus democracy. It serves as more of a collection of ideas, ranging from Anarchism to certain forms of Marxism and Communism.
  • Religious socialism: Given the powerful attraction of socialism and the equally powerful attraction of religion, it was perhaps inevitable many people would find themselves true believers in both. Religious socialism is their attempt to reconcile socialist theory with religious theology.
    • Christian socialism: Christian socialists feel that...well..."love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Timothy 6:10). It is felt that Jesus's teachings, when implemented, most properly lend themselves to the socialist way of government, and that the Christian virtues of charity, mutual forgiveness, and "giving until it hurts" are best expressed through socialism and social movement. Christian socialists also tend to emphasize the communal nature of Jesus and his disciples' lifestyles, describing it as proto-socialism. A significant strand is Catholic liberation theology, which analyzes faith from a perspective critical of capitalism.
    • Buddhist socialism: Buddhism and socialism have, it is claimed, similar ends: the finding of sources of unhappiness through inquiry, and then destroying it. Similarly, hoarding is seen as a human vice, as contrasted to the natural state whereby organisms take only what they need to survive. Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, has said "capitalism is concerned only with gain and profitability...For this reason I still think of myself as half-Marxist, half-Buddhist".
    • Islamic socialism: Islamic socialists hold that the principles of the Qu'ran are compatible with social reform, pointing to the doctrine of zakāt (charitable giving), among others. Islamic socialists point to Abū Dharr al-Ghifārī, a companion of the Prophet, who protested against the inequality of the Umayyad Caliphate. It often incorporates pan-Arabism, the belief that the Arab world should be a single united nation. Colonel Gadaffi also espoused a kinda-sorta version of it in his Green Book, though in practice it was so removed from any kind of socialism as to be unrecognisable.
  • Chavismo: Officially Bolivarianism, or Bolivarian socialism, Chavismo is the name commonly given to the policies of the late Hugo Chávez. Chavismo nominally involves anti-imperialism, participatory democracy, economic self-sufficiency, an ethic of patriotic service, equitable distribution of natural resources, and anti-corruption. Proponents claim it is a dynamic new movement that provides a much-needed counterweight to the influence of the IMF and United States in South America. Critics say it is at worst a sham ideology designed to keep Chávez's PSUV in power, and at best a well-meaning but incompetent program which is turning Venezuela into a Banana Republic. There is not much middle ground.
  • Kemalism: Based around the ideas supported by the Turkish Republic's father Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. It is basically somewhere between State Socialist and Social Democracy, with a healthy emphasis on state ownership. It doesn't have any real popularity outside of Turkey (though Arab Spring revolutionaries said they looked toward Turkey's model of government), but over there it is the dominant force in left-wing politics. This is probably because Kemalism so thoroughly intertwines Turkish nationalism with socialist economics that it's not really applicable anywhere else.
  • Zapatismo: Zapatismo is the ideology of the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacionalnote  (EZLN), a revolutionary socialist group based in Chiapas, in the southern part of Mexico, which wages a primary nonviolent "war against the Mexican state". It synthesizes elements of libertarian socialism, anarchism, feminism, and Marxism with a strong anti-globalization ethic, indigenous rights, and traditional Mayan beliefs, along with participatory democracy and the sovereign right of the people to resist unjust rule (including, explicitly, the EZLN's if necessary). It has established several "autonomous municipalities" in Chiapas which it effectively governs according to their own principles. They're not bad at it either. The EZLN's leaders do not reveal their identities, instead using noms de guerre and wearing balaclavas in public appearances. The most famous is "Subcommandante Marcos", who has been called a "modern Che Guevara".
  • Eco-socialism: Eco-socialist argue that capitalism and globalization are responsible for the destruction of the environment and the uprooting of native communities. Eco-socialism generally involves strong protections for the environment along with general anti-capitalist and anti-globalist principles. Rather than simply being a "green" movement or arguing for fair trade or corporate responsibility, the eco-socialist argues that capitalism is inherently destructive of the environment.
  • Nationalist socialism: Not to be confused with National Socialism (see below), several nationalist movements have proclaimed socialist principles.
    • Arab socialism: Arab socialism is generally an explicitly secular version of Islamic socialism (see above), advocating anti-Islamic principles, anti-imperialism, social justice, and pan-Arabism. Gamal Abdel Nasser was probably the most notable Arab Socialist.
    • Related to the above is Ba'athism. Ba'athism nominally espouses Arab nationalism and Arab socialism, pan-Arabism, anti-imperialism, and social justice. In practice, Ba'athist movements have functioned as state capitalist or fascist ones, and have never won democratic elections (though they have "won" lots of "elections" where only Ba'ath candidates are allowed on the ballot) - both Iraq and Syria pursued privatization and personality cultism with Ba'athists in power. The Ba'ath party ruled Iraq from 1968 until the invasion in 2003, whilst it still governs Syria, currently embroiled in civil war. Ba'athist governments seem to have a proclivity for using chemical weapons on their own citizens. It is currently banned in Iraq.
    • Irish republican socialism: Irish republican socialism blends socialist principles with Irish republicanism; the belief that the British must be removed from the North of Ireland, either democratically or violently, and a United Irish Republic established. Many Irish Republican movements, both violent and otherwise, have been socialist; the SDLP, Sinn Fein, and the Marxist-Leninist Irish Republican Socialist Movement, which incorporated the Irish National Liberation Army, a North Irish paramilitary group, which disarmed in 2009.
    • Basque socialism: Socialism as practiced by Basque nationalists, who want independence from Spain.
    • Armenian socialism: A type of socialism heavily tied to Armenian social justice and nationalism. It's adherents include the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (whose main goals include promoting Armenian genocide recognition, gaining reparations from Turkey, especially claimed lands to form a united Armenia and establishment of socialism) and the Armenian Secret Army For The Liberation Of Armenia (a militant group active in the 20th century that sought justice from Turkey and establishment of a united socialist Armenia).
    • Kurdish Socialism: Socialism as practiced by the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK). Originally, the party was created for militant action against the Turkish government to gain self-determination for Kurds living in the area. The main goal of the libertarian socialist PKK is to establish a democratic confederalist Kurdistan. This type of socialism has resurfaced recently in the Kurdish people's fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Although it has been classified by western countries as a terrorist group, the PKK's fight against ISIS have caused western perception towards it to change drastically. There exists currently a de facto state in Syria called Rojova, where the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) implemented feminist and socialist principles.
    • Québec Socialism: The province of Québec used to have its own homebrew kind of Western Terrorists in the form of the FLQ, the Front de Libération du Québec. For most of Québec history economic power was held by a minority of Protestant Anglophones and American or British investors while the bulk of the working class was the Francophone and extremely Catholic majority. Thus the traditional Marxist goal of seizing the means of production from the Bourgeoisie was mixed with a nationalistic narrative of seizing the means of production from ethnic oppressors and separating from Canada to establish an independent socialist republic. While Québec had a strong Catholic tradition, the FLQ was not very favorable to the Catholic clergy, as common of Marxist movements, and they saw it as a puppet of the Anglophone Protestants to control the French-Canadian Catholics. Their activity reached their zenith in the October Crisis of 1970 when Labor Minister Pierre Laporte and British diplomat James Cross were captured by the FLQ, with Pierre Laporte being killed and his body left to be found in the trunk of an abandoned car. The FLQ had their manifesto broadcasted by the media, and bombed several Anglophone houses in Montréal's western neighborhoods alongside the Montréal stock exchange. The situation got so bad that the War Measures Act was initiated and the Canadian Forces had to be mobilized. The FLQ faded into obsolescence over the years, with Québec separatists disapproving of their violent ways and drifting to the Parti Québecois to peacefully advance Québec separatism and social, political and economical changes in Québec blunted the Marxist appeal of the FLQ to the average Québecer.

    Marxism and Communism 

Let us finally imagine, for a change, an association of free men, working with the means of production held in common, and expending their many different forms of labour-power in full self-awareness as one single social labour force.

  • Marxism: A more scientific socialism that took the analysis of capitalism and the development of history as key points. Marx analysed the nature of capitalism, how it began, how it divides the world into the two classes of proletariat and bourgeoisie, and how it spreads across nations. Capitalism was seen as one stage of the progression of history, which would eventually collapse due to the contradictions inherent in it and would be replaced by socialism and then communism. A key idea in Marxism is that the "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie" - the status quo whereby the rich hold social, political, economic, and cultural power - must be replaced with "dictatorship of the proletariat", whereby the workers hold power. Despite modern confusion, it is not an anti-democratic theory; to Marx, "dictatorship of the proletariat" involved ground-up participatory democracy involving all the workers making their own decisions, pointing to the Paris Commune as an ideal template.note  Marx also stated that he only supported and condoned revolutionary force in nation-states that were violently reactionary and lacking in pre-existing liberal infrastructures. In the case of America, England, and maybe Holland, he encouraged peaceful engagement with political institutions as a means of achieving change. He also argued that true communism would only be possible in developed strongly urbanized economies and in the case of backward nations, he generally recommended bourgeois revolutions. Contrary to the common perception that Marxism depicts the bourgeoisie as the ultimate evil, Marx believed that they were a necessary development and a vast improvement over the feudalism that preceded them, but that it was time to progress even further.
    • Communism: Marx often defined "pure Communism" as the projected end-state of socialism where the "state would wither away" creating a classless society with only technocratic self-regulating bureaucracy. None of the self-calling communist nations ever came close to achieving this. They were state socialist and still very much in Phase 1 (Dictatorship of the Proletariat) and nowadays "Communists" focus on the State Socialist period (Leninists, Stalinists, Trotskyist, etc.).
    • Orthodox Marxism: Coined after Red October, it referred to the Second International, who while differing from the Social Democrats (for the logical reason that many of them supported World War I) also regarded Lenin and the Bolsheviks with scorn, seeing them as deviating sharply from Marxism and tending to authoritarianism with "vanguard party" and tending to utopianism with trying to achieve socialism in a country that was not entirely urbanized and lacking bourgeois infrastructure.
  • Leninism: The socialist transitional period between capitalism and communism is a period of state socialism, which in the case of the first socialist revolution, Russia, was the dictatorial USSR. Leninism is the version of Marxism developed by V.I Lenin during the run-up and aftermath of the Russian Revolution. Because Russia was viewed as too backwards for true Marxism (the Conservative forces were too entrenched, the Liberals had thin support and little consensus), Lenin eventually advocated a method by which the Russian Empire could achieve communism by triggering a world revolution in the aftermath of World War I. Lenin saw education through violence and terror as an accepted and necessary means of building socialism, and of a certain supremacy of intellectuals. Lenin thus developed the idea of a "vanguard party": nominally an organically arising organization of the most politically active and educated of the proletariat who will take the idea of socialism to the rest of the masses, in practice Lenin and his clique. Dictatorship of the vanguard party" replaces "dictatorship of the proletariat". Leninism emphasizes so-called "democratic centralism", a strictly majoritarian means of intra-party organization whereby internally there can be free debate and exchanges, but externally there can only be party unity even by those who disagree. Open dissent was not allowed, strictly frowned upon (under Lenin and Trotsky) and violently stamped out (under Stalin). They generally recommend violent dismantling of the old regime, punishing former capitalist oppressors, aggressive land reform, and world revolution.
  • Stalinism: As mentioned above, it is under Stalin that some of Lenin's ideas and practices (but ''not'' all of them) were codified as Marxist-Leninism and that became the official ideology of the USSR. In the eyes of the internationalist communist movement, Stalinism was continuous with Leninism and initially it was. In his early years before he consolidated his authority, Stalin continued the NEP, maintained Lenin's progressive social policies and tended to lean to passive-aggressive bullying and exile of opponents over outright murder. Stalinism eventually evolved into a separate ideology by the late-20s and early 30s. He relied upon the idea of the vanguard party, and Lenin's legacy, for its legitimacy but backtracked heavily from world revolution, and followed a foreign policy of self-interest, referred to as "Socialism in One Country". This idea was much criticized by Leon Trotsky and several others since it was an even further departure from Marx and Engels than Lenin's vanguard party. Finally, Stalinism made its grand debut with forced collectivization and mass industrialization, leading to brutal land seizures, liquidation and purges of kulaks (peasants who had acquired enough land to be wealthy), wreckers (catch-all term for anybody who supposedly harmed the economy), dissenters, oppositionists, Red Army militia and potential Fifth Columnists which ultimately exacerbated a drought and grain shortage into the deadly famine in 1933-34 and the Great Purges, which killed over 3 million people (famine) and nearly 800,000 (purges), with further millions imprisoned for forced labour in The Gulag, where a million more would die (mostly as a result of wartime shortages).
    • Stalinism is characterized by harsh ruthless pragmatism, firm discipline, collectivization and mass indutrialization, strict control by party on all levers of government and society (executive, military, judiciary, press) and central authority, all to better achieve the highly utopian socialist ideal of course. Socially, Stalin's isolationism, led to revival of some Russian traditions and a reversal of many of Lenin's social policies, finally manifesting itself in the Cult of Personality and mass Propaganda Machine and during World War II, a revival of Russian Patriotism and the Orthodox Church. Internationally, its foreign policy was inconsistent. Initially moderate compared to Lenin's and Trotsky's who both advocated world revolution, it later encouraged rapprochement between China's KMT and CCP, tried to form an early coalition against Hitler with France and England, supported the Spanish Republic against Franco, and forming a Popular Front between Communists and other social democrat and left parties, and yet on the eve of World War II, it stunned everyone with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between the USSR and Nazi Germany. Early observers such as George Orwell contend that Stalinism is essentially a twisted mirror of capitalism, since it entrenched in power the bourgeois intellectuals just as firmly as capitalism entrenched the robber-baron, the monarch, and the aristocrat, often with even greater brutality. Later observers, with access to Russian archives, see Stalin as a strongman who revived, preserved and deepened Russia's client-patronage system from the Russian Empire and a state-builder in the mode of Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great.
  • Trotskyism: Imagine Leninism as functionally democratic and you basically have this, so it's easy to see it as a particularly hardline version of State Socialism. As Trotskyites were internationalists, they became bitter opponents of Stalinism. Trotskyism grew out of Leon Trotsky's exile from the Soviet Union, where he after some early reluctance, finally formed the Fourth International to counter Comintern and present an alternative interpretation of Red October and its achievements. note 
  • Anarcho-Communism: These are Communists that believe that the transitionary State Socialist period is completely unnecessary, that society can jump straight from capitalism with a state to the inherently anarchic communism. Anarcho-Communists generally favor revolution as the primary tactic for the downfall of capitalism, but many favor the general strike, like the Anarcho-Syndicalists. Generally this synthesizes the anarchist belief that authority is bad, and argues that establishing a system of government to bring about a system of free association is ultimately self-defeating (usually they point to the Bolshevik Revolution etc. as proof).
  • Mao Zedong Thought: Uniquely, Mao Zedong's variant of communism focuses on the divide between the urban and the rural. Maoism argues that the agrarian peasantry, not the urban proletariat, are the truly revolutionary class that will transform the world towards socialism. It focuses on rural insurgency, anti-Confucianism, and the ending of urban oppression of rural areas, as well as supporting feminism and other modernization schemes. In other words while it is based on rural peasantry it also aims to erode the traditions of rural peasantry at the same time. Other features of Maoism involves self-criticism (where long-time party members are required to analyse and publicly criticize and review their obvious mistakes in inter-party disputes), re-education via labour (where former rightists would be sent to camps to learn Maoist and Marxist ideas and become proper citizens) and during the Cultural Revolution, sending urban intellectuals and "capitalist roaders" to the countryside, while encouraging young activists to denounce intellectuals/parents/elders. Although nominally revered by the modern Chinese Communist Party, it has practically been discarded by most modern Communists, though it still has adherents in nations undergoing rapid transformation from rural to urban, who feel their way of life is under threat. Maoist revolutionary/terrorist movements still exist in India, Nepal, and Peru.
  • Socialism with Chinese characteristics: The current official ideology of the Communist Party of China, first articulated by Deng Xiaoping in 1978. It blends several ideological strands of Marxism and socialism, adds some new ones, and also emphasizes Chinese nationalism. In essence, the primary argument is that China adopted socialism as a semi-feudal and semi-colonial society, thus it is still in the first stage of socialist development. In order to build communism, therefore, China must become a developed and industrialized nation, justifying the adoption of capitalist policies in order to build up the country. Critics say that this version is no more than an ideological veneer for state-capitalist development, noting the poor quality of public services in China. Others have gone so far as to claim it more resembles a watered-down fascism than socialism, and that it isn't really any ideology at all, rather it's a repackaging of traditional Confucian pragmatism to serve the interests of an elite bureaucratic class.
  • Juche: The ideological organization of North Korea, Juche is something of an enigma. "Juche" translates as "independent spirit", and was supposedly devised by Kim Il-sung during his lifetime. It emphasizes the transcendent wisdom of the Kim family, the need for a uniquely Korean socialism, the role of humans in driving history (and the corresponding need for a Great Leader to bring about socialism), and militarism. It has almost no adherents outside North Korea (and quite possibly few within it too), apart from the most disaffected zainichi Koreans in Japan. Functionally, most international observers agree that Juche is largely for the benefit of foreign observers, and that North Korea's system of government most closely resembles ethno-fascism.

    Anti-Capitalist Anarchism 

Instead of the conservative slogan: "A Fair Day's Pay for a Fair Day's Work", we say instead: "Let's Abolish the Wage System".
-Industrial Workers of the World

Anarchism originally emerged as an anti-capitalist theory. Anarchists and Socialists are often known to cooperate at rallies, even if they disagree greatly on many issues.

  • Collectivist Anarchism: A form of anarchism very similar to Anarcho-Communism. However, in contrast to the Anarcho-Communists, Collectivist Anarchists do not see the abolition of money as essential to the revolution. Collectivist Anarchists would continue to have money after the revolution and focus more on collectivizing property and the abolition of private property. However, most Collectivist Anarchists believe that money after the revolution would be a temporary thing and would eventually disappear and no longer be used.
  • Anarcho-Communism: This form advocates that money be abolished, with free access to commonly owned goods in storehouses. They often advocate that every person in the community be given the same amount of credit to take goods out of these storehouses as well, no matter what amount of work they do.
  • Anarcho-Syndicalism: The idea that if people are left to their own devices, they will essentially co-operate. Anarcho-Syndicalists often emphasize individual liberties being incompatible with the state as the reason for anarchism, as well as the idea that for there to be Socialism the state must not exist because the state naturally allies itself with big business. The primary tactic advocated by Anarcho-Syndicalists is the General Strike, in which all workers in all industries refuse to work for their masters anymore in order to transform society. This tactic is shared by many Anarcho-Communists. Anarcho-syndicalists are also known for their vehement opposition to strange women lying in ponds distributing swords as a basis for a system of government.
  • Mutualist Anarchism: A form of Market Socialism where money is issued by a mutual bank cooperatively run by all who use the money and bank. In addition, labor is done through worker cooperatives run democratically by the workers rather than businesses run by businessmen/women. Like with other forms of anarchism, Mutualist Anarchism involves an abolition of private property in favor of possession. This was the form of anarchism supported by Proudhon. Mutualist Anarchists often support transferring from capitalism to anarchism through workers establishing a mutual bank and outcompeting capitalists.
  • Individualist Anarchism: A form of anarchism very similar to Mutualist Anarchism. Individualists, like Mutualists, tend to support a mutual bank and a market-based system, but they tend to focus more on self-employed people or having small businesses run and operated by a small number of people rather than large industries with many workers who run the industries. Both are run by the workers, but Individualist Anarchists tend to be in favor of ones in which few workers are involved, more like mom and pop stores than factories. They do still support the abolition of private property and are opposed to what they call usury: rent, interest, and profit. While Individualists are socialists, they favor the free market, but with the caveat that capitalism can never have a truly free market. To Individualist Anarchists, usury hurts the free market and prevents it from working properly, which creates much of the problems in capitalism. Even more than Mutualists, Individualists tend to be in favor of outcompeting capitalism instead of overthrowing it through revolution. This is in part because many Individualist Anarchists are Anarcho-Pacifists as well and are against all violence and coercion.
  • Green Anarchism: Overlays with green politics, which are generally regarded as left-wing. The basic idea here is that states and capitalism are central in destroying the environment.
    • Anarcho-Primitivism: An extreme form of Green Anarchism that sees civilization and advanced technology as oppressive and exploitative. Anarcho-Primitivists advocate a return to nature and tribal hunter-gatherer life.

    Not Socialist 

Listen...the only people we hate more than the Romans are the fucking Judean People's Front!.
-Reg, of the People's Front of Judea, Monty Python's Life of Brian

Socialism, like any political movement, has many internal divisions; many modern groups are liable to react with rage if you have the sheer temerity to fail to inquire if they are populist-Leninist, Anarcho-socialist, social democrat, or Populist-Leninist-Anarcho-Socialist Democrats before calling them "socialist". Many reams of type have been written either condemning or defending certain groups and their opinions; nevertheless, there are some movements which are by objective standards not socialist, as opposed to groups which other socialists say are not socialist because they don't like them.

  • National Socialism: Wikipedia really says it best here.
    "Nazism was founded out of elements of the far-right racist völkisch German nationalist movement and the violent anti-communist Freikorps paramilitary culture that fought against the uprisings of communist revolutionaries in post-World War I Germany. The ideology was developed first by Anton Drexler and then Adolf Hitler as a means to draw workers away from communism and into völkisch nationalism. Initially Nazi political strategy focused on anti-big business, anti-bourgeois, and anti-capitalist rhetoric, though such aspects were later downplayed in the 1930s to gain the support from industrial owners for the Nazis; focus was shifted to anti-Semitic and anti-Marxist themes."
    • There were left-wing elements in the Nazi Party's early days, but these had been expelled or marginalized by the time Hitler actually seized power. Otto Strasser, for instance, advocated a staunchly proletariat, anti-capitalist approach to economics and social order during the Party's rise through the '20s. For this among other reasons, however, Strasser fell out with Hitler and he ultimately resigned under threat of expulsion, being disowned by even his own brother, who was later murdered by the Nazis. By 1933 (if not before) the Nazis were "socialist" in name only and heavily relied on traditional elites to gain power, allowed acquisition and preservation of private property, allowing big business to reap massive profits as a result. That being said, there was a lot of state intervention in the economy, but even then business had some room for maneuver in their own business.
  • Fascism: Despite its support for government control of big business and the finance industry, fascism is extremely hostile to socialism and egalitarianism. Socialists generally consider it to be an extremely statist form of capitalism, whereas historians consider it to be either an ideology that combines influences from both, or something different entirely.
  • Liberalism: Mainly American Liberalism, as seen in the Democratic Party, especially during the administrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson and recently, Barack Obama. This is a huge Berserk Button for actual socialists and for that matter liberals, neither of whom are comfortable with the "S" word including them. Modern liberals are frequently Keynesians (i. e. they support some degree of government intervention in the economy, especially during times of recession) but liberalism is still a fundamentally individualist ideology, and American liberals are broadly supportive of capitalism and favor its continuation; it cannot possibly be emphasized enough that the Keynesian economic theory is not by its nature socialist or for that matter social democrat, though in the eyes of its critics (i.e neo-classical and neo-liberal economists) this would count as Insistent Terminologynote  since it does represent a sharp enough departure from classical economics, and the foundations of liberal theory (i.e "positive liberty" as opposed to "negative liberty" in Isaiah Berlin's phrase). During Roosevelt's administration, liberalism led to the New Deal; the development of many state corporations (such as the T.V.A.), heavy government investment so as to limit and halt unemployment, building of infrastructure and public works and providing social security for the elderly. Johnson who saw FDR as an inspiration, led the War on Poverty and other relief measures, as well as enacted progressive policies such as the Civil Rights Act, while Obama introduced and instituted Health Care, something proposed by FDR himself in his last televised speech (and later Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton), albeit instituted by Obama in a more pragmatic fashion, covering a smaller bracket than similar policies in other developed nations and modeled, ironically enough, on programs put in place by the Republican Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney.

Socialism and its Strands in Practice

We are formenting world-wide fire,
Banks and prisons we shall raze to the ground!
For from the taiga to the British seas,
The Red Army is strongest of all!
-White Army, Black Baron, a marching song of the Reds with Rockets

     The USSR and its Mates 

There's of course the Communist bloc (which later had internal splits, but we digress): The Soviet Union, and later Red China and their various satellites in Eastern Europe and the Third World. It took off in 1917 with the October Revolution and mostly ended in 1989, after Gorbachev started reforms of the sclerotic system that had become necessary after the armament race drove the Soviet Union into bankruptcy.

Quite a few people who like the theory of Socialism state that the USSR wasn't real Socialism. But we digress.

The planned economy, part 1: production

Since 1928, the Soviet Union had organized its economy centrally, which was run by a state planning committee (in the Soviet Union, it was called Gosplan) which was part of the state bureaucracy. They made the Five-Year Plans and decided which part of the economy should produce which amount of products.

While the numbers of mined coal, produced steel etc. looked good (at least on paper), in practice certain problems cropped up again and again. Since the people in production had no real incentive to work harder (as long as they could avoid punishment), they would instead look for ways to "fulfill the plan" in a way that saved work. (As explained below: Even when they received more money for more work, this didn't automatically mean they could buy more stuff with it. On the other hand, the fact that laziness is its own reward remained true even in Socialism.) For example, if workers in a window pane factory had the order to produce X tons of panes, they would make ridiculously thick panes (less of them necessary to make a ton). If the order was like "produce X square meters of panes", they'd make panes too thin, which would be too brittle. And maybe steal some of the glass for themselves and trade it on the Black Market. The relationship has been summed up as "We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us."

Starting in the 1960s attempts were made to create computer models of the economy for planning. This failed, partly because the politically powerful ministries either tried to develop their own computers or used their influence to block progress, but mostly because the problem was just too complex. The basic method was to describe the economy as a system of linear equations which could then be optimised, but this ignored the fact that the real economy is often non-linear in ways that mess up the results. The limited hardware capacity meant that different types or grades of product were given a single value (hence the tons of window pane described above).

Since there also was no market research that deserved the name, sometimes the clothes factories would take perfectly fine cotton from Central Asia and turn it into clothes so ugly even the not really spoiled Russian ladies wouldn't want to buy them.

And while the Soviet Union managed to build up an impressive heavy industry (especially interesting for the war hawks among the Soviet leadership, since heavy industry also means weapons), this achievement became less meaningful after new inventions like computers were made, which they had trouble to reverse engineer.

The planned economy, part 2: sale

In short: since (regular) money doesn't matter, the wares will go to those who have the best connections to those selling it. This was quite often the case, and people would have to waste hours of their life standing in a queue. Which was even worse in places where bread was sold in one store, milk in a second one and meat in a third one, for practicality. Of course, if you were lucky enough to own hard currency like American dollars or West German marks, this didn't apply. Which led to another joke that Communism and Capitalism are really very similar, because in both systems you can get everything if you only have enough dollars.

     The Post-War Consensus of the United Kingdom 

In opposition to the USSR's model of totalitarian communism was a British model of "market socialism" which arose out of the government of Clement Attlee following the Second World War. It had its genesis in the British trade union movement, which formed the British Labour Party. It was helped along by the Beveridge Report on poverty, which called for heavy state intervention to help the poorest in the UK. Just before the end of the War, the Labour Party promised to implement the recommendations of the report, whilst their Conservative opponents flip-flopped. The result was Labour winning a landslide electoral victory in August 1945, kicking out the government of Winston Churchill and promising to build a "new Jerusalem".

The new government set up the world's first system of socialized medicine, took into state ownership most of Britain's heavy industry, and greatly expanded the system of welfare benefits. It also negotiated the independence of India, which led to the gradual decolonization of the British Empire. These policies were widely popular; the Labour Party never lost a single by-election during its first term (which no government has since managed), won a huge majority, and was returned to office at the end of it. However, Attlee's experiment with state socialism was to be sharply curtailed; in the 1950 election, although he polled more that 1.5 million more votes than the Conservatives, he gained, due to a quirk of the British voting system, a majority of just five. He tried his best to govern with such a slim majority (which basically required his MPs to always be in Parliament to get anything done) but eventually called another election twenty months later, having done what he set out to do. Once again, he took the majority of the popular vote; but this time Britain's system fucked him even more comprehensively. He ended up 26 seats behind Winston Churchill's returning Conservatives, and Britain's first socialist government left office.

For the next thirty years, both left and right and Britain believed in broadly social democratic policies toward the economy, employment, trade unions, welfare, and foreign affairs. However, in 1979, Margaret Thatcher came to power and dismantled it, instituting a policy of monetarism, de-industrialization, interests-based foreign policy, and deregulation in its place, the so-called "neo-liberal consensus". The reasons for the collapse of the consensus are still hotly debated. Right-wing critics argue that socialist trade unions prevented British industry from retaining its competitiveness in the globalizing world. Left-wing ones argue that a lack of investment, right-wing ideological bias against state-owned industry (brought about by the rise of Austrian economics in the Tory Party from 1970), and malevolent class warfare on the right's part were to blame for trade union militancy, which ultimately turned the wider public against it.

Substantial nostalgia exists for the post-war consensus in Britain; when Margaret Thatcher died, her end was met with partying in many of the formerly industrial regions of the UK, and employment in the UK has never been higher than in 1974, just as the consensus reached its apogee. Similarly, inequality has increased massively since the advent of the Thatcher government in '79 and remains both high and rising.

     The Nordic Model 

This refers to the common traits of the political and economic systems of Finland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland. It has been variously described as "statist individualist", "market socialist", and "social democratic". As it concerns us here, it is useful as a prime example of a social democratic system, or as close as any extant system of government gets to such a system.

The Nordic countries are characterized by high trade union participation, collective bargaining, very high taxes, free education and healthcare, a comprehensive public pension scheme, gender equality, an extensive social safety net and system of public services, and high government spending on key services. These are combined with strong contract law and property rights coupled with an ease of doing business and loose product market regulation.

The Nordic countries have remained resilient through the economic crisis of 2007-11, though their GDP per capita has declined in recent years. The United Nations World Happiness Report 2013 showed that the Nordics are the happiest nations on earth; furthermore, they led the indicators for real GDP per capita, social cohesion, freedom to make life choices, generosity, and governmental integrity and efficiency. Similarly, they are some of the most equal societies on earth.

That said, the system is not without its critics. From the Right, The Economist has predicted the ultimate collapse of the model as unsustainable (though none of its predictions have, so far, come to pass). Libertarians have criticized it as excessively statist: while the American popular myth that the Nordics are bureaucratic and inefficient has never been anything but a myth, they do have some of the world's highest income taxes, which offends some people's conceptions of individualism. From the Left, others have criticized it for not being socialist enough, pointing to low rates of corporate taxation, high VAT, and the presence of monarchy in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.


The Eurocommunist movement, which emerged in the 1960s primarily in Italy and France, sought to create a "Third way" opposed both to Soviet/Chinese Marxist-Leninism and Social Democracy, and they managed to practice their policies in numerous regions and municipalities (some of them for half a century) and, occasionally, as junior partners in leftist governments. While these are largely forgotten today, some Left-socialists (including Spanish Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias and Swedish Left Party leader Jonas Sjöstedt) still view them as positive role models for a democratic socialist society. However, there has been argued that those movements were communist In Name Only (interestingly enough, usually by the same people who reject the insistence that the USSR was)

  • A proto-example can be traced back to 1920s Vienna, whose particularly radical SPÖ faction, known as "Austro-Marxists", implemented some groundbreaking reforms regarding housing and health care. Some of their implemented policies remains in practice in Vienna to this day.
  • If there are any national examples of this, it would probably be the French "people's front government" which governed the country before and just after World War II, which, amongst other measures, nationalized the Renault company, making France the only major western country to nationalize its automobile industry (altough it helped that Louis Renault was accused of collaboratism).
  • Emilia-Romagna, and particularly its capital Bologna, is sometimes cited as the "Keynote example". The local Communist government, which was in power from the 1940s trough the 1990s, improved health care, implemented an early childcare program in the fifties, and democratized corporations.

    Some Famous Socialists 

I entirely agree that people should have the greatest freedom compatible with the freedom of others. There was a time when employers were free to work little children for sixteen hours a day. I remember when employers were free to employ sweated women workers on finishing trousers at a penny halfpenny a pair. There was a time when people were free to neglect sanitation so that thousands died of preventable diseases. For years every attempt to remedy these crying evils was blocked by the same plea of freedom for the individual. It was in fact freedom for the rich and slavery for the poor. Make no mistake, it has only been through the power of the State, given to it by Parliament, that the general public has been protected against the greed of ruthless profit-makers and property owners.

Democratic socialists and Reform Socialists:

And some notable Communists; Communism is not quite the same thing but they might as well be mentioned: