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Two Jims, Werner and Matt redefine socialism for their own ends



I never replied to any of the threads about about monopolies and freedom 
and government intervention because it was all so off-topic. But 
*really*. Saying Rosa Luxemburg wasn't a communist is like, totally off 
the wall: 

Werner Koch wrote:


> "Die Freiheit des Einzelnen endet dort,
>  wo sie die Freiheit der Anderen einschränkt."
>  Rosa Luxemburg
>  The freedom of an individual ends, as it (the freedom)
>  limits the freedom of the others.
> [This was one of the former Eastern Germany liberty 
> movements' slogans  -  and not a communists one]

She was a founder-bloody-member  of the German Communist party! 

A 100% died-in the wool far-left feminist socialist and CP member. Just 
because the state capitalists of the old Soviet Union subverted what 
remained of the German left and turned it into an instrument of foreign 
domination and repression doesn't mean that Rosa wasn't a real 
communist, or a real socialist. It was the apparatchiks and the 
beauraucrats who stole the name, not her. The US equivalent at the time 
might be  Eugene Debs (or even Joe Hill - a prophet better honoured 
outside his own country - although he would probably be happier to be 
associated with anarchists than communists). 

Oh look, you've got me started.

Jim Choate wrote "Another potential flaw in current economic theory" and 
more or less gave a definition of centrist, liberal socialism as it 
applies to business. The sort of "3rd way"  views that the right-wing 
Labour government in UK might have had when they were out of office 
(being elected moved them even further to the right & the word 
"socialism" hardly applies any more).  As Jim pointed out  the practice 
of giving all the gain to the owners inevitably alienates the workers.

But when Jim Burnes  - much more naive poltically - said it was 
"socialist", Jim C. vehemently denied it! It seems that the *word* 
Socialist for you guys has become an insult, without substantive 
meaning, it isn't actually a label for socialism any more, when you want 
to talk about real socialism you have to find new words.  Just like your 
bloodthirsty government made the word "communist" an insult in the 1940s 
and 50s - for McCarthy and Hoover and their  friends "communist" didn't 
mean "communist" it meant "a person we don't like and intend to 
persecute".  Which is maybe why Werner had to say Rosa wasn't a 
"communist". He had taken on board the US definition of "communist" as 
insulting and was no longer able to use the word about someone of whom  
he approved.

And them Jim went and ruined all by writing:

> Socialism is the belief that property is best managed and owned by
> the government. 

Well, some people who have called themselves socialists have believed 
that. It was especially popular at the turn of the century. But many of 
us never believed that and almost none of us do now.

> Fascism is the belief that property should be owned by private
> individuals but managed by governments.

No, not really. Fascism is a belief in the organic reality of the nation 
and in the priority of the nation's interests over the individuals. 
Fascism tends to glorify the army (socialists are usually suspicious of 
it) to ally with traditionalist elements in society (such as the 
aristocracy or the Roman church), to be racist and narrowly nationalist 
(Socialists are more likely to be into diversity, "rainbow coalitions" 
and to be internationalist, at lest in their rhetoric) and to be 
strongly authoritarian, especially about personal behaviour. 

> Capitalism is the belief that property should be owned and managed by 
the individual.

In which case why is so much property owned and managed by companies? 
Why does our capitialist system result in so many working for others, 
rather than themselves?  "Sargeant, where's mine?". Capitalism is a 
society where, overwhelmingly, property is owned and managed by 
*someone* *else*, usually some corporate body or faceless beauracracy. 
Whether that *someone* *else* is a limited company as it almost always 
is in the US, or a branch of government as it almost always was in the 
state-capitalist Soviet Union makes little difference.

In fact, given the choice, and living in a representative democracy, I 
prefer the government-run business to the corporation-run one, 
especially if it is local government, because at least I have the vote.  
The two largest employers round where I live are a multinational bank 
and local government. I can vote for my councillors. Some of them I my 
neighbours.   I can even meet them and have a beer with them. They might 
not do what I want but at least they have to pretend to listen.   I'll 
never meet the CEO of that bank, or members of the board. They live in a 
different country from me. They have corporate jets and chauffer-driven 
cars and holiday on private islands. I'd probably have to be a 
millionaire to drink in the same bars as them.  I dislike State control 
of business but it isn't half as bad as the faceless beauracracies of 
the banks, the phone companies, the big drug companies and so on.

If there *was* a society where all property was owned and operated 
managed by individuals working for themselves it would be something like 
Belloc and Chesterton's "distributivism".  The Biblical hope of "each 
man under his own vine and his own fig tree" or the 17th century English 
dream of "3 acres and a cow".  Nearer to socialist anarchism than to 
anything else  -  nothing to do with capitalism at all. 

How many of you have a mortgate or pay rent? Capitalism means that 
someone else owns your house. How many of you work for a corporation? 
Capitalism means that someone else owns your job. Don't believe the 
bullshit about "private ownership". Capitalism means that someone else 
gets to own everything, the rest of us just get to work for them.

But then Jim B. restored my faith in Jim C. my making the most childish 
statement yet:

> You imply that the employees and employers interests are not the same. 

It is so pathetically obvious that they are *not* the same that it's 
hard to answer this without farting.   Both employee and shareholder 
have an interest in paying for investment - the employee to keep the 
business going, and keep their job, the investor to raise the capital 
value.  But after investment there is a pot of money to be split (or 
should be, if the company is viable).   If it goes to shareholders in 
dividends, it doesn't go to workers in wages. If it goes to workers, it 
doesn't go to shareholders. A conflict of interest. Shareholders and 
managers have an interest in getting more work out of an employee for 
the same wages - whether by longer hours, or by automation or by  
training. A worker doesn't have that interest unless the extra 
production is returned to them in wages. Which it usually isn't, else 
where would profits come from?

You Americans  think you can defuse socialism by defining it as "state 
control of industry"  (an idea which most of the left has rejected for 
40 or 50 years now and a great many never accepted in the first place)  
and then accuse people of playing with definitions to make a point!

Read : http://www.web.net/~newsoc/documents/Draper.html which says all 
this at greater length than I've got time for. 

It kicks off with a great quote from William Morris:

"... I pondered all these things, and how men fight and lose the battle, 
and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, 
and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men 
have to fight for what they meant under another name..." 

You Yankee conservatives and your so-called libertarian (but, in 
practice, always almost authoritarian) friends may think you can get rid 
of socialism by defining it out of existence but it will rise again, 
even if it has to be under another name.

And then Matt Gering replied to Ken Brown:

>> A monopolisitic supplier of some good has a measure 
>> of political power.

> Political power gums at the mean end of a gun, what political power do
> monopolies have and how?

And I was almost knocked over by the innocence, ignorance and naievety 
of such a statement. What political power do monopolies have?  The power 
to deny you things you need to live. The power to deny you the means to 
earn a living.  Political and economic power go hand in hand, as they 
always have. You can never have one without the other.

If there is only one employer in a town then anyone born there must 
either leave or knuckle under.  Remember "I sold my soul to the company 
stores".

And what's this crap about the shareholders bearing the risk and the 
workers not? Is giving years of your life to some enterprise that then 
gets sold from under your feet and closed down not a risk? Is going donw 
a mine, not a risk, or to sea, or standing in front of a class of 
screaming kids, or working the late night shift in a burger bar, or 
driving a tractor, or cleaning the streets? You don't have to have any 
romantic workerist notions about the dignity of labour to realise that 
workers have a risk, and an interest.  

It two take similar jobs with different companies, both work for years, 
getting promoted, putting aside a pension, and one is suddenly made 
redundant, "let go", because the incompetance or whim of the bosses has 
ruined the company, hasn't that person lost something? Haven't they made 
an investment of their time, their thought, their life?  Even an office 
worker, a beauraucrat, a clerk even a computer programmer (gasp!) brings 
their chips to put on the table.

As GK Chesterton said it isn't the rich who have the greatest interest 
in society. They can always get on the next boat to Borneo. It is the 
ordinary folk who have to stay behind and clean up the mess the rich 
leave behind them.

Unlike what Matt Gering said monopoly power *does* "come out of the 
barrel of a gun" - it is preserved by  military and police authority. 
The forms of "ownership" under which most  big businesses operate - 
things like the joint stock company, or limited liability  - are not 
natural, they do not arise out of common human attributes (if they did 
they would be universal, whereas they didn't appear until they were 
invented in Holland or England less than 500 years ago). They are 
defined and controlled by the political process. 

Just like previous forms of ownership. The feudal system was not 
"natural", slavery is not "natural", the monastic ownership of huge 
tracts of land was not "natural", the king's right to appropriate land 
from intestate barons and minor heiresses was not "natural". The 
politics of the time - as always more or less run (but not entirely  
public opinion and tradition count for somethign even in a dictatorship 
or absolute monarchy) by the rich and the well-armed; but as always, in 
a state of tension between and various interest groups - the politics of 
the time defined what counted as ownership and backed it up with fire 
and the sword.  A peasant could take his master to court and claim to be 
free (the longest court case in English history was the inhabitants of a 
village in Oxfordshire suing their lord for their freedom) but if the 
peasant tried to farm the lord's land - well what are men-at-arms for?

And that's the same now. Great property, the ownership of land or 
shares, the ownership of the products of other people's work, to be 
disposed of at will as if it was  a comb or a pen, is a social 
construction. Like money itself it exists because folk choose to believe 
that it exists. If we all stopped behaving as if great property existed, 
it would cease to exist. It is somethign that is in our minds, not 
nature. If shopkeepers lose respect for your dollar bills or your credit 
cards or your gold bars (other than as a useful and beautiful metal) you 
will not be able spend your wealth. That respect for money is buttressed 
by the state.  

If farmworkers lose their respect for the land rights of the owner and 
start planting crops in their own right, then the owner will no longer 
own - unless they can get the state, the police, the army, to help them.  
At this point so-called libertarians interject & say that the 
libertarian owner will defend his property with his own gun - but one 
man can't fight off 20 or 30 - they have to get their friends and 
neighbours to join in, or hire guards - and that's back to politics 
again. It may not be a "state" (although that's a matter of definition)  
but when people band together to defend what they see as their property 
it is certainly politics. That's what politics is, how people live 
together in numbers. The gunwankers may fancy themselves libertarians 
but really all they are pleading for is the right for them and their 
friends - their guards, their police - to oppress the workers. US 
so-called liberatarianism, hand in hand with the most blatant forms of 
capitalism, the instutionalised rascism of US society and the gunwanking 
fantasies of the pampered hooligans who call themselves "libertarians" 
would inevitably lead not to freedom from the State but to the 
imposition of hundreds or thousands of mini-States, each as brutal as 
the next.  You would be better off in Albania or Burundi. 

Most assets in our society are owned by corporations, not by natural 
persons. They are socially and legally defined. The law - backed by the 
State, the police, the army and the courts - grants limited liability to 
shareholders. That might even be a good idea, it encourages investment 
and reduces the number of destitute capitalists begging on street 
corners. But it isn't at all the same thing as natural, ordianary 
property rights, and it is 100% political power and not far from Mao's 
gun barrel.

Sometimes I have to remember that I am dealing with Americans here. You 
are all, well, most of you, hopelessly naive about politics, caught up 
in your little local squabbles. You are taking the mote out of you rleft 
eye and ignoring the beam in your own right eye.  How can anyone take 
eriously a country that makes more fuss about where Clinton put his 
cigar than it  did about Oliver North's terror squads buying weapons for 
mass-murder in Nicaragua with profits made form selling cocaine in the 
USA? And if Reagan *didn't* know then he should have been removed from 
office as medically unfit. And we *know* Bush knew. And the fucking 
Republicans voted him in afterwards. 

It's always the same with conservatives - they make libertarian noises  
but when push comes to shove they turn out to be the same old 
authoritarian ruling class who have been kicking us around for 
centuries. It's almost as bad in England. The Tory Party actually has 
*two* right wings: the big-business-friendly free traders (who tend to 
dominate when they are in power) and the blue-rinse backwoodsmen who are 
in to Queen and Country and tend to come to the fore when in opposition. 
The first sort would be Libertarians if they weren't Tories. The second 
sort would be fascists. They are the reason 17 years of Tory government 
made no real contribution to civil liberties in Britain. Whenever the 
Tories are scared of losing power they put away their free-trade and 
libertarian principles and out coem the bigots, the racists, the petty 
nationalists, the hounds baying for blood. Evil shits the lot of them.

Eugene Debs is supposed to have said: "Too long have the workers of the 
world waited for some Moses to lead them out of bondage. He has not 
come; he never will come. I would not lead you out if I could; for if 
you could be led out, you could be led back again. I would have you make 
up your minds that there is nothing you cannot do for yourselves."

That's authentic socialism. 

No leader will save us - if we have leaders we don't have freedom. No 
elite of gun-toting so-called libertarians will make the works a better 
place - thay are part of the problem, not part of the solution. No 
cypherpunk who thinks that the rest of us are worthless sheeple will 
ever get anywhere. People have to do it for themselves, together.

It is a fallen world. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of 
God. No man is more fitted than any other to rule. All political power 
will lead to corruption, and all economic power is political power. To 
be rich is inevitably to be corrupted, not because the rich are greater 
sinners than the poor but because the rich have more power than the 
poor, and all are sinners and all will abuse power.  We try to use 
democracy and the vote to protect ourselves against the abuse of 
political power by those who think they know better than us. We need to 
protect ourselves  against the abuse of economic power in the same way.


John the Ranter

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