What is Socialism
Socialism is a socio-political and economic doctrine based on the collective ownership and administration of the means of production in order to achieve a more equitable distribution of wealth.
One of the main pillars of socialism is to achieve a just society, therefore, it has among its approaches the need for collective or state interference by the administration of the means of production to regulate them and centralize economic power.
This same concept is used to name the political and philosophical thought developed by Karl Marx and the group or movement that intends to establish this type of system.
Socialism is a term that has been widely used throughout the 20th century and even today. However, it is a term that had already been used by Plato himself and was taken up again in the mid-nineteenth century.
Origin of socialism
The modern concept of socialism was not born until the 1930s in Great Britain and France, one of the countries of the Industrial Revolution and the first critiques of its social consequences, and the other of an intense tradition of intellectuals critical of social reality.
The term would emerge at the precise historical moment when Europe was changing as a result of both the bourgeois-liberal and industrial revolutions and the generation of classes in society with new problems.
The antecedents of socialism are as old as the History of Humanity itself, but the term”socialism” was coined in the early 19th century. In fact, the contributions of utopian socialists and, above all, the writings of Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) are the most immediate antecedents of modern socialism.
Today, socialism is identified with ideological positions that accept the free market in economic terms, although with significant state intervention to correct social differences.
Socialism vs. Capitalism
Basis of Socialism
The basic points of Socialism are the following:
- Transformation of private capitalist property, that is, of the means of production (capital, factories, land, machinery, raw materials, etc.) into a collective property, incorporated into the workers’ community.
- Equitable distribution of work and its fruits among the workers, that is, among the working class.
- Planning of the work with eminently scientific and technological criteria and, at the same time, humane.
- Establishment of a proletarian class-led government.
Causes of Socialism
The main causes of the emergence of socialist ideas were:
- The machinism that, at the same time as enslaving the worker at work, also caused his unemployment.
- The inhuman exploitation of the working class in the most varied forms (low wages, excessive working hours, unfavorable working conditions, etc.).
- The state of complete abandonment in which the workers or proletarians found themselves, without a present or a future assured.
- The extreme insensitivity of the capitalists or patrons, who acted solely out of an insatiable thirst for exaggerated profit.
According to the socialists, the cause of poverty is that wealth is badly distributed among men: some have too much, others do not have enough, others do not have enough, others do not have enough, not even enough to subsist.
The Society is badly organized, the State must remake it in order to reduce inequality. Consequently, a social revolution is needed.
Socialism and capitalism
Both socialism and capitalism are two political, economic and social doctrines that oppose each other and present different models of how the management of production and the distribution of goods and services should be carried out.
The main difference between the two terms is that capitalism defends and supports private property, the free market while the state participates minimally in economic decisions.
On the other hand, socialism defends a social property administered by the collective in order to control and satisfy the distribution of wealth equally to all workers. In addition, socialism has as its policy to focus public powers, which generally leads to authoritarian regimes.
National Socialism is a political ideology or doctrine corresponding to Adolf Hitler’s German National Socialist Workers’ Party (NSDAP). It comes from the German nationalsozialismus and is usually abbreviated as Nazism.
It was a nationalist, totalitarian, anti-Semitic, expansionist and state-controlled approach to the economy.
Emergence of Socialist Ideas
The creation of large factories has originated a big industry, that is, industrialism, which has brought together the workers in large centers, giving rise to a social class, the proletariat (workers). This condition has resulted in serious drawbacks that are difficult to remedy.
On the one hand, the worker is reduced to the daily or weekly wage agreed with the employer, a wage that he consumes in his daily needs, without ever being able to count on a surplus that allows him to attend to other unavoidable needs that eventually arise.
Capitalism (businessmen, industrialists), on the other hand, has established a chasm between the two:
It is difficult to convince itself of its obligations, and of what it should do to improve the respective conditions because the antagonism created prevents it from seeing a solution; and this is the origin of the series of conflicts that constantly afflict society, and that constitute a danger to public peace and tranquility.
Economists and philosophers studied this reality that affects society. This is how Socialism emerged.
Classes of Socialism
Socialism evolved through two stages:
The utopian socialists (thinkers, businessmen, etc.) were those who believed that the reform of society could be achieved without resorting to violence or class struggle, but by peaceful means, by the conviction and conscience of the interested parties: Capital and Labour, the boss and the worker.
Aware of the reality, they harshly attacked Capitalism, to whose system they attributed the great evils that afflicted contemporary society, the proletarian class, and, for this reason, they were in favor of the abolition of the private ownership of the means of production.
Possessed of a great sensitivity, humanitarian spirit, and generosity, enemies of hatred and revenge, they also dreamed of organizing a society of an ideal character, inspired by the common good.
Based on the promotion of cooperative work and associations of businessmen and workers; but, since this was a difficult aspiration to achieve, their supporters were called utopians.
Although we also believe that neither Scientific Socialism itself, despite its validity of more than a century, has yet achieved all its fundamental objectives.
Among the main utopian socialists are the Englishman Robert Owen and the French: Enrique Saint Simon, Carlos Fourier, Luis Blanc, and Pedro Proudhon.
Consecrated as true Socialism, it aspires to the radical transformation of society, based not on romantic and chimerical aspirations, but, fundamentally, on precise laws that govern the historical development of humanity.
That is to say, that the long predominance of Capitalism in the lives of the peoples, it is affirmed, will necessarily and inevitably be followed by the hegemony of the working class, the working class, the proletarian class.
It is called scientific socialism that Karl Marx founded around 1848, not on the basis of individual generosity and charity, but on the basis of a certain internal law of historical development, according to which the proletariat has the leading role (the main actor) in the next stage of Western history, after the bourgeois (capitalist) period.
Karl Marx, a German thinker of Jewish origin, is the creator of Scientific Socialism. He was born in 1810 in Trier and died in London in 1883.
As a profound scholar of the social reality of his time, his very new conceptions of capital, work and wealth revolutionized the knowledge of Economics and Politics, while at the same time exerting an enormous influence on almost all the working masses of the contemporary world.
In his monumental work: Capital, called the Bible of Socialism, Marx came to the following conclusions:
- Wealth is only the product of labor; the value of objects depends on the labor that has been required to produce them.
- Consequently, capital has no value in itself, and it is dead work that can only acquire new life by sucking like the vampire.
- There is no value except through the work of the worker, and therefore, since the worker is the only one who produces value, he and not the capitalist must receive the benefits. Therefore the workers, according to Marx, instead of receiving wages, should share the profits of the industry among themselves.
- Labour is a commodity, subject to trade and exploitation by employers.
- Wealth has as its only origin (within the Capitalist Society), the Capital Gain, that is, the money that results from not paying the worker properly. The accumulation of capital gains gives rise to private wealth.
- Government must be in the hands of the proletariat.
In the Communist Manifesto, Marx concluded by giving the slogan to the world proletariat: Workers of the World, Unite! From now on that was the war cry of Marxism, that is, of Socialism.
Ideological bases of Marxism
The bases of Marxism or Scientific Socialism were set forth in the Communist Manifesto, written by Marx and Engels in 1848, which can be synthesized in the following principles:
Historical materialism, for which the development of history is determined by economic factors.
The class struggle, which considers the whole history of humanity as the result of class confrontation; in the capitalist stage, this struggle is waged between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
The new socialist society will emerge from the triumph of the proletariat, which will establish a classless society in which private property and socialized means of production and change will be abolished.
Characteristics of socialism
Socialized means of production
In socialism, all the means of production belong to the whole of society, represented in the figure of the State, so that it is State enterprises or State-managed enterprises that are responsible for driving the economy. Sometimes these organizations take the form of cooperatives, with self-management by the working class.
Economic administration and production are centralized in the State. In theory, it is planned and managed in the interests of the common good and equity.
The State intervenes permanently in economic and social activities and in the distribution of goods, in order to guarantee the equity it upholds in its ideology.
Differences between socialism and communism
Socialism is born from the heart of capitalism and for this reason, it is not opposed to private property. Instead, communism seeks to end capitalism and private property. Socialism aims to involve all people in society in the management of the means of production.
Communism seeks to control the means of production through a select group of people acting on behalf of the state.
Socialism mainly seeks to distribute all resources according to the work of each person. Instead, communism is a political and economic system that seeks to distribute all resources according to people’s needs.
The socialist system was born as a reaction to the social inequalities that emerged from the hand of capitalism, which developed mainly from the Industrial Revolution.
Elimination of the exploitation of man by man
In the socialist ideology is the intention to suppress any asymmetry of economic power to the detriment of others who become the exploited.
Abolition of social classes
In socialist ideology, there is the intention that there should be no social classes with antagonistic interests, as is the case in capitalist systems. The only legitimized social class is that of the proletariat.
It can coexist with democracy
Unlike communism, which is based on the dictatorship of the proletariat, socialism, at least in theory, can operate under a democratic regime.
Subordination of the individual to society
Socialism can work to the extent that the subject puts his or her personal needs on the back burner in order to put himself or herself at the service of the social project.
The central planning and management of such a wide range of productive units often create heavy administrative bureaucratic structures, prone to inefficiency or even corruption.
Since the means of production are the State’s, the services are now in the hands of a single supplier, so the system assumes a monopoly model. Those who are not satisfied with the service obtained have no other choice.
Negative Characteristics of Socialism
The following are the most representative characteristics of the basic principle of socialism in general:
- It is based on collective ownership of the means of production and distribution.
- It seeks to eliminate social class differences by distributing wealth equally among workers.
- The means of production belong to society, so they are state-owned enterprises whose direction and management is assumed by the State.
- Socialism seeks the centralization of powers and intervenes in the economic and social aspects by taking charge of the distribution of goods, in order to guarantee social equity.
- Socialism was born as a response against capitalism and the social inequalities it has generated.
- For socialism, the only possible social class is the proletariat, which is why its intention is to eliminate the various social classes.
- It generates administrative bureaucracy as a consequence of wanting to control the whole productive structure from the idea of the centralization of powers.
- It opens the way to the state’s monopoly by being the only entity that owns, controls and distributes goods and services.
- From a theoretical perspective, socialism can work in a democratic regime of government.
Summary of the socialist concept
Socialism is the political, economic and social doctrine that aspires to the radical reform of society, through the priority solution of the problems that affect the great majority of the population, that is, the working or proletarian class, giving priority, by virtue of the working class, to the interest of the latter over the private or particular interest.
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