based on the latest article from Politico named “How did America forget what ‘Socialist’ means ?” I thought socialism deserves a discussion, because it seems to me that very few people, especially in the North America, have any idea what it is.
I am not blaming America for mixing up the terms and meanings since it is an entirely foreign concept to the local political landscape and one the US has been biased against for decades and one that Europe has been mixing up for decades too. Also it would probably be good to say that I do not consider myself a socialist or communist, but I still think we should define the notion for what it really is.
Firstly, contrary to what Politico believes Marx was no friend to socialists. If you look through the Communist Manifesto he saw it more like a tool created by the evil rich class to shut up the workers. Something like saying “Your conditions will improve so you really have nothing to complain about”. Marx saw it as a lesser evil though, as a transition stage, since according to him this improvement would lead to greater contact between workers, greater organisation and eventually a revolution, world peace … blah blah..
Marx wanted to abolish private ownership which would unleash the wonder of communism on the world. Socialism in its original form doesn’t really have much to do with that. It gets very confusing when you see USSR that even has “socialist” in its name or Cuba that defines itself as socialist. My guess is that just like paradise on Earth does not exist, because not everyone is a saint also communism never really took off and naming itself “socialist” these states would give itself the wiggle room they needed in case things just didn’t work out. Do not be mistaken though, USSR and Cuba were and are Communist states since the government is owner of all businesses and has tight grip on all aspects of their citizen’s lives.
So now with Communism out of the way what is there left for Socialism. What could it mean for our modern and democratic society either in the States or Europe ? The way I see it Socialism is a top down redistribution of wealth. For Socialism to work you need to have a democratic albeit large government to use its regulatory power to take from the rich and corporate sectors and redistribute it to the poor and invest it into the society without infringing on the rights of the people. When looking back to the Politico’s article we find that “Sweden … is not a socialist system at all”. Sure, if you are using the Communism-Socialism kind of lens then Sweden is not socialist at all, but if you look at it from the above stated perspective, Sweden is socialist without a doubt. Sweden, just like its nordic neighbours, has very high income tax and essentially all kind of taxes. In return Sweden invests huge amounts of its income back to the society and services provided by the state. To simplify it, if you live in Sweden you give most of your pay to the government and in return the government makes sure you have everything you need from the day you are born to the day you die without infringing on your freedoms. The system works, but I am not claiming it would be so everywhere. For the system to work all citizens need to pay their taxes in full and correctly and there must be no corruption to make it all happen. For decades Sweden, Norway and Denmark have showed us it can be done, but let me ask you : do you think your country is able to exert such discipline on such a scale ?
Socialism is not evil and never was, only its big brother Communism made it look bad by constantly pulling its pants down from behind. Just like every younger brother let us hope it will outgrow the older one and humiliate him by making more money and having sexier wife. To that point I must say that I don’t personally share that belief despite seeing that some places made it work, but I could be wrong,of course.