Letâs define some terms to eliminate some usual misunderstandings right away:
Communism is derived from the same root as community, common, and commune. Because of all the baggage, a better word is probably âcommonism.â Communism is everything that is shared in common, owned collectively by we the people, including even now public roads, lakes, rivers, parks, schools, and all related and government property such as fire and police and military land and equipment. We all own them and we are all supposed to have a say in them. (In academic lingo this physical property is known as the âmeans of productionâ when related to industry and manufacturing.)
This is what communism always has been and what it will always be.
The USA is and has been physically 40% communist because we the people collectively own that much of the land through our state and federal governments. Zoning and Anti-trust laws are also âcommonistâ since we the people collectively decide what can and canât be done with land and property that is supposedly âownedâ by private individuals (though usually a bank actually owns it anyway).
Full complete communism would extend common ownership to all property, for instance everything i own, like my TV and toilet brush would be collectively owned. That is not practical at all. But an example of why sharing is good is if i have an amplifier in my house, i only use it a certain amount of hours, the rest of the time it just sits there, useless. If i shared it with some others it could be used a lot more of the time (they would have also shared in the cost). But, weâd have to schedule it, and be more responsible towards each other than usual. Sharing takes work and cooperation. đÂ Maybe thatâs partly why itâs better.
True communism must be voluntary, as it is here in the USA, at least we supposedly have a say with our votes.
The USSR was NOT really communist at all, and neither is Cuba, and especially not North Korea, etc. Â They are totalitarian or authoritarian dictatorships. Â Under pure communism, everyone owns everything. Â But if we don't have a say, a vote in what happens to anything, then we don't own it at all. People in those countries have no say and basically own nothing, which is not communism whatsoever, and never has been.
I learned from a real Russian, Russian history teacher in college, about how in 1917 Lenin started the new government with various worker and trade councils including and composed of all the people, who would then vote for representatives to the next level, and on up to the Politburo. Complete democracy, with every representative having to answer to those below him, down to everyone. But, Lenin saw that they couldnât get along or get anything done. (Have you ever been to a school board or local council meeting when a contentious issue was being discussed? Mayhem! Just look at our CongressâŠ), So Lenin said screw it, letâs just have a small centralized group of people decide everything. That was the end of communism and the beginning of totalitarianism/dictatorship.
Rich capitalists have been propagating the lie that dictatorships are communism through their corporate-owned media, for probably as long as it has existed. Rich people want us to think thatâs communism because they donât want to share or be fair. And the dictators of those countries have been echoing that lie because they want to justify their brutal behaviour by pretending to be altruistic (though they may have honestly started with altruistic intentions).
Plus everyone hopes they might win the lottery someday!
Socialism is related to Communism but it has less to do with physical ownership and more to do with pooling our resources, sharing and caring for each other. We could perhaps call socialism âcommunism lite.â Socialism comes from the same roots as "society," it means the society as a whole working together. It is anything thatâs âpublicâ as compared to âprivate.â Basically anything the government (we the people) does is socialism. Itâs the police and fire fighters, military personnel, all government departments and public employees, and all programs where we the society as a whole all have a say, such as public healthcare, education, unemployment insurance, medicare and medicaid, social security, foreign aid, etc. (Except the pay scales in those fields are currently capitalist.)
In Christianity this is represented by the sharing of the loaves and fishes. A crowd of people was on a hilltop to listen to Jesus. But there wasn't enough food for everyone. The disciples wanted the people to go the surrounding towns and get their own food, but Jesus told the disciples: âNo, you feed them!!!â When asked what food anyone had, nobody said, âHey this is mine, iâm not sharing.â Everyone pooled whatever they had, no questions asked, and guess what, miraculously thereâs enough for everyone!!! That is socialism. Note it was voluntary, but nobody thought for a second to hold back what they had. (Matt 13:14-21, Matt 15:32-39, Mark 6:31-44, Mark 8:1-9, Luke 9:10-17, John 6:1-15)Â Note that this is the only miracle apart from the resurrection that appears in all four canonical gospels, and twice in two of them!
That is also how Jesusâs disciples lived after he left; they shared everything, as noted in Acts 2:43-47 and notably repeated in Acts 4:32-37. âAll the Lordâs followers often met together and they shared everything they had. They would sell their property and possessions and give the money to whoever needed it.â (Acts 2:44-45 CEV) Note how this reflects Karl Marxâs principle: âFrom each according to his ability to each according to his needâ!
Continued in Acts 5:1-11 is the story of a couple, Ananias (Hebrew for âThe Lord is graciousâ) and Sapphira (Aramaic for âbeautifulâ), who decided to keep some money for themselves from property they sold, and lie about it. When the community found out about it, the couple âdropped dead.â It was because they lied that they died. But why lie about it in the first place if it is a truly acceptable choice? That shows how shameful it is not to share everything!
If we are going to "do your will on earth as it is in heaven"Â (as Jesus taught us to pray), humans are going to have to move beyond selfish motives and towards altruism, like Jesus. He died for you and you canât pay a few $ in income taxes so someone can eat? WTH? Yes giving individually is different than being coerced by law, but we the people want taxes so that we can pay for stuff we all use.
We already use lots of socialism because we want it and generally it works. We saw for a fact how capitalism itself was failingÂ in the early part of the 20th century, resulting in poor working conditions, child labor, 14-hour workdays, poverty wages, toxic dumping, massive pollution, large monopolies that threatened to swallow everything and everyone, etc.; and how greed, margin buying (excessive credit) and overvaluing contributed to the great depression. So we the people voted to put communist and socialist laws in place to limit all of that crap along with fraud, pollution, the exploitation of the many by the few, etc. Regulations have historically been put there for a reason. Nobody really wants unnecessary regulations, we just have to decide which ones are worth it.
You could argue thereâs such a thing as âstateâ socialism, but once again, those are dictatorships instead. If the society as a whole doesnât have a say in how itâs run, then itâs not based on the society as a whole, and therefore not socialism, since thatâs the definition of the word.
As noted all real communism and socialism is voluntary, and is actually more democratic than democracy, since we the community have more say over more things. Because all these systems, including democracy, are inherently democratic, there will always be cases of a majority overruling a minority. I agree it is good to limit that as much as possible. But we already have that problem with any democracy or republic.
Socialism is not incompatible with âfree marketâ principles.
Comments about âfree marketâ from Wikipedia:
In a free-market economy, money would not be monopolized by legal tender laws or by a central bank, in order to receive taxes from the transactions or to be able to issue loans. (White, Lawrence Henry (1999). The Theory of Monetary Institutions. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 269. ISBN 9780631212140.)
Various forms of socialism based on, or which advocate, free markets have existed since the 19th century. Early notable socialist proponents of free-markets include Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Benjamin Tucker and the Ricardian socialists, who believed that genuinely free markets and voluntary exchange cannot exist within the exploitative conditions of capitalism.
These proposals ranged from various forms of worker cooperatives coordinated by free markets such as Mutualism (economic theory), to state-owned enterprises competing with each other in open and unregulated markets. These models of socialism are not to be confused with other forms of market socialism, such as the Lange model, where publicly-owned enterprises are coordinated by a degree of economic planning in setting prices for capital goods.
LĂ©on Walras, one of the founders of the neoclassical school of economics who helped formulate the general equilibrium theory, argued that free competition could only be realized under conditions of state ownership of natural resources and land. Additionally, income taxes could be eliminated because the state would receive income to finance public services through owning such resources and enterprises. (Bockman, Johanna (2011). Markets in the name of Socialism: The Left-Wing origins of Neoliberalism. Stanford University Press. p. 21. ISBN 9780804775663.)
Advocates of free-market socialism, such as Jaroslav Vanek, point out that:
Genuine free markets are not possible under conditions of private ownership over productive property because the class differences and inequalities in income and power that ensue from this arrangement enable interests of the dominant class to skew the market to their favor, either in the form of monopoly and market power, or by utilizing their wealth and resources to pass government regulations and policies that benefit their specific business interests. (âCooperative Economics: An Interview with Jaroslav Vanekâ, interview by Albert Perkins. Retrieved March 17, 2011:Â
Additionally, Vanek states that workers in a socialist economy based on cooperative and self-managed enterprises would have stronger incentives to maximize productivity because they would receive a share of the profits (based on the overall performance of their enterprise) in addition to receiving a fixed wage or salary. The same could be accomplished in a capitalistic free market if the employee were to purchase stock of the company they work for. [Tomâs note: this is called âprofit sharingâ which already exists but too rarely. Mandatory full profit sharing would go a long way towards fixing inequality, AND drive productivity.]
More "Government" is More "We The People"Â
Democratic, Republic, true voluntary Socialist and/or Communist Governments are we the people. But that is no longer true if the government is bought out from under us by smaller groups of people who donât have the overall welfare of us all as their goal. If government can be bought, then richer people or âcorporationsâ will have more rights than the rest of us because they have more money. Money does not = speech. It cannot, or some people will have more âfreeâ speech than others (although they will be buying it). Since the Declaration of Independence states that all [people] are created equal, an unequal influence violates the principles on which we stand. If âgovernmentâ becomes disconnected from âwe the people,â the only way to return the government to all of us is campaign finance reform to limit small groups from having undue influence in elections.
When people complain about âtoo much governmentâ limiting the people, what they often mean is they don't want to have to listen to other people (the majority), even though everything any of us does, affects all of us. (And often those people still want the âgovernmentâ to tell you what to do when itâs what they want.) Â People generally donât like to be told what to do, but if we canât agree on what to do together, then it will be a few people whose motive is power and greed controlling us anyway, just like it always has been, like it was with the nobles and serfs.
The tyranny of capitalism is only somewhat better than the tyranny of monarchs and dictators. It is a new feudalism.
Wouldnât you rather be working for everyone and have a say in your own pay, rather than working for a few people whose goal is to make money from you and try to pay you as little as possible (because capitalism demands that they do so)?
Which leads us toâŠ
Up Next: Part 3 - Definitions: Capitalism