Saturday, January 4, 2014

Bill Bowling: Toward a literate definition of socialism

  We are a nation full of armchair politicians and Archie Bunker throwbacks. We are also a nation brimming with a citizenry that isn't equipped to state what the Bill of Rights contains, much less discuss the more abstract conceptualizations of our political ethos. Yet that doesn't stop the large numbers of the ill-informed from spouting off about things they know nothing about. There is one term that these folks on the fringe like to toss around, presumably in the attempt to get the goat of all left leaners, or simply to stir up the stink in the big crap pond. That term is socialism.

  We've heard these before, haven't we?

  We're headed toward socialism.

  The Affordable Care Act, (Obama Care), is socialized medicine.

  So and so is a socialist.

  Socialism's taken over the country.

  On and on...

  You can encounter those through talk at down-home gatherings, through discussions in bars over drinks, and out in the street on hastily designed, misspelled posters. When you see those, and all their variants, you can be assured of one thing: The speaker doesn't have a solid clue about what they're saying. The down-home screed doesn't originate from the foundation of clear definition, but rather from the cheat sheet passed down from generation to generation.

  Well, let's ask right now: What is socialism? Hey, you! Let's hear you talk objectively for two minutes about what socialism is. What have you learned about socialism, and what is your definition of socialism? What is it about socialism that strikes so much anxiety and fear? Clearly we have just as much to fear from the erosion of our 'unalienable rights' as we do from some historically shifting political philosophy--Mao's socialism was never really Marx's socialism--the idea of socialism was around before Marx; Europe's socialism isn't the socialism that found its way to good old America; and Stalin and Lenin's brand of socialism was never really socialism, the socialist label in USSR carrying an entirely different connotation. The point is we have to look at any thing--issue, ideation, differentiation, etc.-- that rises in our awareness through the lens of the present societal context. It goes to relevance according to the immediate political climate.

Socialism 101

What socialism is:

  Socialism is more of an economic model rather than a pure form of government. In other words, socialism isn't a sister model to democracy, but rather a counterpoint, an alternative to capitalism. In socialism, the worker owns and controls the movement of goods and services while in capitalism, the economy flows through private and special interests, in a lot of cases centralized and monopolized into large conglomerates and corporations.

  Socialism seeks to level class structure so as to more fully assure that there are no haves and have nots, but it's easy to see the idealism wrapped up in such a view. It would be wonderful if we could achieve equity in our dealings with each other, but there will always surely be gaps in our visualization and subsequent implementation.

What socialism isn't:

  Socialism isn't just one flavor, or one size fits all. There are variants in socialism just as there are variants in democracy. Quick question: Is the United States of America a democracy? Answer: The answer is yes and no; the U.S.A. is democratic, but not a pure democracy; it is organized as a democratic republic, whereby all decisions that are made for the citizens are made under the blanket of a protective constitution. Further point, there are already elements of socialism embedded in every government.

  Socialism isn't an isolate; you can't point to and prove the existence of socialism by any standardized set of features. Socialism is as malleable as capitalism, with each existing on a broad spectrum of institutionalization and practice.

  Socialism isn't automatically a middle stage to communism, which is one of the hasty notes that got entered into the generational cheat sheet alluded to earlier, and hence the deeply entrenched fear of the word itself. There are brands of Democratic Socialism that are fairly stable and have been for a long duration.

  The most important thing to point out is that there isn't anything inherit in socialism that we need to fear any more than we fear capitalism, and indeed there is just as much to fear in capitalism; capitalism isn't sacrosanct and can go astray just as much as socialism. There isn't any model that covers all the bases. Old fashion greed will always remind us of that.

  In order to allay the fear and misunderstanding, we have to track back, and see where the disconnect lies. The disconnect lies first of all at the level of the word; we invent words to stand for things, lose track of their meaning, and then we still scatter aim them like flame throwers. We have to realize that none of these things exist on a scale from negative to positive, bad to good; these are not considerations in the world of ideas.

  Everything is a correlate of the other, nothing in opposition, nothing in enmity; Why do we fear socialism, and by association communism, in our society? It depends on who you ask? In general terms, though, it's traceable to Marx and the rise of the USSR, one of those S's standing for Socialist.

  Socialism became lumped with all of the other -isms that were rising in force during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Socialism isn't the same animal as totalitarianism, despotism, anarchism, (this one, in particular, being totally in the realm of political philosophy), communism, on and on; anything that appeared to run counter to good old patriotism was evil, pure and simple, no in-depth study or soul-searching required.

  In order to understand a concept like socialism, a requirement is to shed the preconceptions, the half-baked mind sets that keep us trapped inside that prison that is only the prison each believes it to be. The moment you release the charge, you can walk straight out the front gate, free, and you can manage to talk openly about a thing and what's wrapped up in it in more rational terms, with the spirit of exploring the possibilities rather than accepting the loaded cultural biases.

  The fact is that socialism has a lot of positive elements; there are times when those elements prove useful in bringing an unhealthy economy back to some semblance of balance and health.

  About the author: Bill's new website is He has self-publishing projects in various stages of development and completion. He recently published a small volume of shorter work to get his feet wet, and get a feel for the process. That work is available on KDP as an e-book, as well as in paperback. There is definitely more to come in the areas of both fiction and nonfiction. He publishes under the imprint of Ridgeline Publishing and Information Processing Services.

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