This is a debate that rumbles on, dividing people- depending on their political persuasion. Socialism gets a bad rep- unfairly in my opinion- and often gets conflated with communism.
This confusion then has the effect of making people hate the idea of Socialism. Yet I feel like there is a reason why the narrative gets skewed- to deliberately demonise Socialism. The world we live in doesn’t want any other economic system to work- so Socialism must be made to look like a bad idea.
But what is Socialism?
Socialism advocated community ownership, over private ownership. At the moment with the cost of living crisis- and ever-soaring prices, who isn’t wishing that private ownership could be reversed- especially when it comes to basic needs, such as energy and water?
Or as the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it – Socialism is:
Differences between Socialism and Communism
Whilst there are some similarities between Socialism and Communism, it would be foolish to equate them as being exactly the same. As previously stated- Socialism is somewhat of a halfway house. Whilst in Marxist terms- It is considered a transition toward communism. Does it really have to be that clear-cut?
|Communism vs. Socialism|
|Basic Philosophy||From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.||From each according to his ability, to each according to his contribution.|
|Economy Planned By||Central government||Central government|
|Ownership of Economic Resources||All economic resources are publicly owned and controlled by the government. Individuals hold no personal property or assets.||Individuals own personal property but all industrial and production capacity is communally owned and managed by a democratically elected government.|
|Distribution of Economic Production||Production is intended to meet all basic human needs and is distributed to the people at no charge.||Production is intended to meet individual and societal needs and distributed according to individual ability and contribution.|
|Class Distinction||Class is abolished. The ability to earn more than other workers is almost nonexistent.||Classes exist but differences are diminished. It is possible for some people to earn more than others.|
|Religion||Religion is effectively abolished.||Freedom of religion is allowed.|
Could Socialism be the answer, to a failing Capitalist system?
Socialism could offer up a solution to the greed that I believe we are seeing right now- in which energy firms are announcing huge profits, whilst simultaneously causing many people to be in fuel poverty. Because – as the table (above) shows – people would still have choices, rights, and freedoms; but with a fairer distribution. A distribution that would mean that we have a proper democracy- and not the meritocracy that we currently have under Neoliberalism.
It really isn’t difficult to see that our current system of Neoliberalism is very volatile.
It also seems to be only beneficial to a relative few – and sees the masses facing levels of inequality, not seen since before WWW2. Yet the post-war consensus had provided mechanisms to reduce poverty and to help people.
Free Market Capitalism creates wealth for the few- and creates a competitive playing field that omits many people in society- as well as being largely led by those who have much wealth themselves.
There is a sense that this playing field could do with being evened out. It really is scary the levels of poverty we are seeing- in Britain, which is the 6th richest nation in the world.
How did we come to get Neoliberalism?
Freemarket Capitalism (Neoliberism) was seen, in the late 70s, to offer a much-needed solution to the economic chaos that existed, in much of Western Society. In Britain, soaring energy costs, strikes, and the 3 day week– had all led to a poorer economic climate. Britain was forced to take a loan from the IMF (International Monetary Fund), and they demanded that politicians took action on how our economy was run- in return.
Keynesian economics was deemed to be a failed system, and Neoliberalism was put into action – as the solution to all our problems.
After a rocky start at the beginning of the 80s, when there were riots, more strikes, and mass unemployment- the later part of the 1980s saw a huge boom. Britain had seemingly, never had it so good. Or so we thought.
Neoliberalism was meant to prevent the boom-bust scenario – that had plagued other eras in British history. However, if we now look back, we can see that economists didn’t account for how global actors might affect our economy. They didn’t foresee the likes of 9/11 or the 2007/8 financial crash; nor the possibility of another pandemic- and the effects those crises would have on our economic system.
Could Neoliberalism be in crisis?
Those who have been closely monitoring the world’s economics could see that this system of ours was on the decline- even before the pandemic came along, and before the crisis we now have. As this New Republic article states:
This is because humans have an innate desire to find “meaning somewhere in their life”. We are also very much social creatures, who like to help each other. Therefore, this competitive life seems alien to many people (causing many health issues because of this conflict with our natural state of being).
Humanity is currently in a time of crisis, inequality is growing at a fast rate, and poverty is causing politics and people a big problem. There is a sense that something needs to be done soon.
Could change be just around the next corner? What would this change look like? And could Socialism offer us the solution, despite the demonisation it has received? Who knows? but one thing is certain- Society is screaming out for system change.