Maybe you could help me find my camp...

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Maybe you could help me find my camp...

Post by NotAMarxist on Sat Mar 09, 2013 1:06 pm

I'm new to the whole idea of socialism, I began thinking on it after being perplexed on why things that are not necessarily beneficial to humanity have so much energy devoted to them (Nicki Minaj, backstreet boys, various superficial kitsch forms of art and pop culture, Kim Kardashian is a perfect example.) and yet so many INSANELY valuable opportunities are lost because they are not considered "economically feasible". (Not going to get nit picky on the definition of economics, but essentially here I mean in a business sense it's not a "money making idea".) I thought of the fact that NASA only gets 0.5% of the national budget, while the military and social welfare programs (that really just enable people into dependance) are lavished upon. So I began of thinking of ways to advance the human race and escape the "money" question. Ways to make money irrelevant. This eventually led me to also begin to consider how naturally beneficial collectivism is as a way of organizing society, and that while the individual is extremely important, no man is an island, and truly we all do better when humanity itself as a whole does better. The reality of our true collectivity astounds me, and the fact it is ignored by most people seems to be the most illogical thing, in a world obsessed with logic and "rationality". I began to seek out things that I identified with this "collectivist" mindset, and I believe very much in the value of work. When I thought of those two things together, I thought "socialism". It's ironic that I am a double major in both Economics and Sociology. I swear, I wasn't planning on becoming a socialist when I started out my education. But laughs aside, I find myself increasingly drawn to the ideals of the Internationale, and sympathetic to the true plight of the proletariat. Such a word. In English it makes us look like over-educated fops. It is a beautiful word, full of a rich legacy, yet to the American culture it reeks of pretentiousness. Ironic in that was the very opposite of what it was supposed to engender.

I'll summarize my beliefs, and if you would all be so kind, i would appreciate it if you could pigeon hole me into a category so I could learn more about the beliefs I have apparently come to hold of my own volition. Don't mistake me for wanting people think for me. That's not it at all. It's just that there is so little reliable information and an endless flood of internet articles and Wikipedia articles that I don't have the time or interest to read through them all. And in America, socialism is a four letter word. So I can't just go around talking to people about it and get a reliable gist of what "terms" my beliefs may be associated with. I want to find people who think similar to me and ask them questions and learn. So I thought this would be productive. I've classes myself as a democratic socialist. Let me know if you agree or can help me further refine the term or grow in my understanding of socialism.

1. I don't believe capitalism is inherently evil in the sense that it's harms can be mitigated, although I do believe that it's nature is inherently exploitative. Although I do feel it is inferior to a socialistic way of governing and organizing ourselves economically. I feel that what we have in the US is starkly different from the conditions of Marx' day and that in many ways, communism and socialism have been rendered unneeded in the first world and developed economies where worker protections exist like "a minimum wage", "workers unions" and government entities like "OSHA". However, I again, don't feel capitalism is the best of all systems. I'm not a black and white thinker. I view things as good, better and best.
2. I don't believe that the Soviet union was a true communist or socialist nation, but rather a dictatorship of Stalin. From what little (and I stress little) I've read of Trotsky, I would say that the term "degenerate workers state" fits perfectly. I honestly believe the authoritarianism of Stalin was evil. I believe agency is a sacred right given to man by God. And that is why any form of socialism must be done democratically by the consent and will of the people. I believe this is not only more justifiable in the moral sense, but also more effective in the long-term.
3. I don't believe religion is evil. Even if all of it were false, being a sociologist I see it as providing great benefits to society and the individual.
4. I believe that the worker is worthy of his hire. But this does not apply to employing individuals and taking disproportionate wages from them. In other words, if you say you "own" a business, what does that really mean anyways? If you put your hand to the plow, you should take the same as all of us do who truly do the work for said business. No more, no less. I believe ownership should NOT be confined to one individual, simply because he has a piece of paper saying he "owns" it, and because under our current system he has had the opportunity to put up the money to provide capital for the business. Why should I be paid minimum wage, when the "owner" of a business lives 7 states away and does next to NOTHING but take most of the profits and sign checks? It's immoral and perverts the entire idea of "the worker being worthy of his hire". It's also unchristian. There's nothing christian about capitalism as it is inherently exploitative. Christ would be a socialist.
5. Despite my democratic tendencies, I ABSOLUTELY believe that any kind of socialist revolution or institution of a socialist government, (even one democratically based as it must be to be morally justifiable) must be put in place, and established by EDUCATED, INTELLIGENT men. A mob cannot build a nation. I am an elitist in terms of wanting people to achieve their potential, and I believe that the hive is only as strong as it's lowest, most humble worker bee. And to that end, I would promote education and science HEAVILY. Education takes a man out of chains. Ignorance enslaves a man. And I truly feel there is nothing more important to man than education, save his religion. I feel that if we were to cause a socialist revolution, the media, and the corporations who own everything would manipulate the working man into being against their own benefactors. We see this all the time. Look at the attempt at universal healthcare in this country the past few years. Education is a MUST for a socialist society. ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL.

Now, I know this is a lot to go on, but I hope you can help me find my place in the world that is the complex, divided and sometimes confusing political left.


Last edited by NotAMarxist on Sat Mar 09, 2013 1:07 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : wanted to check the "notify me when a reply is posted" box.)
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Re: Maybe you could help me find my camp...

Post by Red Aegis on Sat Mar 09, 2013 2:27 pm

First of all, welcome to the forum. I share the belief that modern society wastes much of its time, resources, and labor on completely foolish endeavors or mis-allocates those capacities on others. I think that you are right to criticize these things but I don't agree with all of your conclusions. Let us jump to those:

NotAMarxist wrote:1. I don't believe capitalism is inherently evil in the sense that it's harms can be mitigated, although I do believe that it's nature is inherently exploitative. Although I do feel it is inferior to a socialistic way of governing and organizing ourselves economically.

Your use of the word evil could be interpreted in many ways so I would advise abstaining from its future use without prefacing it. As for the content of the rest, if Capitalism is inherently exploitative then Capitalism should be fought. If we want to have better lives for not only ourselves but also for future generations then why should we wait? We should not. Capitalims harms people and its exploitative nature is all one should need to classify it as "evil".

I feel that what we have in the US is starkly different from the conditions of Marx' day and that in many ways, communism and socialism have been rendered unneeded in the first world and developed economies where worker protections exist like "a minimum wage", "workers unions" and government entities like "OSHA". However, I again, don't feel capitalism is the best of all systems. I'm not a black and white thinker. I view things as good, better and best.

Those measures still do not change the fact that the proletariat is exploited for the use of the bourgeoisie. Those matters are the results of battles between groups of opposing interests in society: the capitalists and everyone else. Without that struggle against the dominating class those improvements to the lives of workers would never have materialized. By claiming that these measures render Socialism and Communism unnecessary you are ignoring the fact that without struggle between classes there would have not been any of those concessions by the government. Communists simply see that this struggle would be better off dissolved through the elimination of classes entirely. By rejecting them and their ideas you are asking for a never-ending war between the oppressed and the oppressors.

2. I don't believe that the Soviet union was a true communist or socialist nation, but rather a dictatorship of Stalin.

I second that.

From what little (and I stress little) I've read of Trotsky, I would say that the term "degenerate workers state" fits perfectly. I honestly believe the authoritarianism of Stalin was evil. I believe agency is a sacred right given to man by God. And that is why any form of socialism must be done democratically by the consent and will of the people. I believe this is not only more justifiable in the moral sense, but also more effective in the long-term.

Without democracy there would be no point to changing the system.

3. I don't believe religion is evil. Even if all of it were false, being a sociologist I see it as providing great benefits to society and the individual.

That's fine if you think that it is alright that people believe something false. I think that religion will naturally fade so I don't worry about it. I just support education.

4. I believe that the worker is worthy of his hire. But this does not apply to employing individuals and taking disproportionate wages from them. In other words, if you say you "own" a business, what does that really mean anyways? If you put your hand to the plow, you should take the same as all of us do who truly do the work for said business. No more, no less. I believe ownership should NOT be confined to one individual, simply because he has a piece of paper saying he "owns" it, and because under our current system he has had the opportunity to put up the money to provide capital for the business. Why should I be paid minimum wage, when the "owner" of a business lives 7 states away and does next to NOTHING but take most of the profits and sign checks? It's immoral and perverts the entire idea of "the worker being worthy of his hire". It's also unchristian. There's nothing christian about capitalism as it is inherently exploitative. Christ would be a socialist.

I'm not sure how to respond to that since I could go in several directions. I will say this though: why support a system like that at all?

5. Despite my democratic tendencies, I ABSOLUTELY believe that any kind of socialist revolution or institution of a socialist government, (even one democratically based as it must be to be morally justifiable) must be put in place, and established by EDUCATED, INTELLIGENT men. A mob cannot build a nation. I am an elitist in terms of wanting people to achieve their potential, and I believe that the hive is only as strong as it's lowest, most humble worker bee.

Do you support an oligarchy?

And to that end, I would promote education and science HEAVILY. Education takes a man out of chains. Ignorance enslaves a man. And I truly feel there is nothing more important to man than education, save his religion. I feel that if we were to cause a socialist revolution, the media, and the corporations who own everything would manipulate the working man into being against their own benefactors. We see this all the time. Look at the attempt at universal healthcare in this country the past few years. Education is a MUST for a socialist society. ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL.

I agree.

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Re: Maybe you could help me find my camp...

Post by NotAMarxist on Sat Mar 09, 2013 2:50 pm

Red Aegis wrote:Your use of the word evil could be interpreted in many ways so I would advise abstaining from its future use without prefacing it. As for the content of the rest, if Capitalism is inherently exploitative then Capitalism should be fought. If we want to have better lives for not only ourselves but also for future generations then why should we wait? We should not. Capitalims harms people and its exploitative nature is all one should need to classify it as "evil".


I think evil is very defined. I am a religious man, and so you can take it to mean inspired by an evil entity, evil being represetned as the opposite of the "summum bonum" of mankind.

Those measures still do not change the fact that the proletariat is exploited for the use of the bourgeoisie. Those matters are the results of battles between groups of opposing interests in society: the capitalists and everyone else. Without that struggle against the dominating class those improvements to the lives of workers would never have materialized. By claiming that these measures render Socialism and Communism unnecessary you are ignoring the fact that without struggle between classes there would have not been any of those concessions by the government. Communists simply see that this struggle would be better off dissolved through the elimination of classes entirely. By rejecting them and their ideas you are asking for a never-ending war between the oppressed and the oppressors.

Yes, but at the same time change has to be demanded by the people, and under the current comfortable circumstance, I see no reason to hurry. Besides, the "mixed" system we have here is one of fairness and equality in terms of opporunity. Not perfectly, no. That would only be possible via true democratic socialism. But the path to becoming bourgeoisie is SO clearly defined and has been made available to ALL who desire to be so, unlike any other time in history. That's what makes America great is the chance to be all you can be with hardwork and IMO, a government SPONSORED education. The fact that the government makes college affordable (which is the only way to be bourgeoisie) causes the system to be passably just, although not perfect IMO. Think C- where Democratic socialism is an B+.

Without democracy there would be no point to changing the system.

In truth, we'd actually be worse off. I forgot to add the "stock market" to my list of socialistic programs that make modern capitalism more just. Publically owned companies where everybody prospers collectively to a large extent based on how much they invest into the business. Although it's somewhat of a pseudo form of collectivism, as the money you buy stock with doesn't go to the corporation, nor does it alleviate the fact that now as an "owner" i still have no responsibility to run or contribute to the companies welfare. It's but one more form of exploitation, this time the other way around. There's more to it as well.

That's fine if you think that it is alright that people believe something false. I think that religion will naturally fade so I don't worry about it. I just support education.

Lol, I won't go into that one. That's not the point of this post. But I honestly feel atheism is an unscientific postiton and is a detriment towards any socialistic society anyways as religion teaches people to be collectivist and work for the greater social good, while secular humanism preaches these ideals as ethics, but without the satisfying spiritual component people crave. And even if it were false, the social cohesive power of religion and the values it teaches provide a wonderful moral framework for a society, that can't match secular ethics in terms of power to change behavior. This is simply because people now have a vested interest in following these values and consquently being more productive members of society. A guarantee of an "afterlife" is that vested interest. Self-preservation, is thus turned into collectvie preservation. Even if it were all false, (which I don't believe myself that it is) this would be the single most powerful and effective way to build a better society. Transforming the power of an individuals desire for self-preservation into a constructive social desire. The objective of which the majority of the aim of ethics is based around anyways.

I'm not sure how to respond to that since I could go in several directions. I will say this though: why support a system like that at all?

I'll be honest. I don't really know what you mean. If anything, this is the most socialisitic paragraph of my whole post. Please let me know what you mean and let me know what I need to possibly clarify also, in case something about it may confuse you.

Do you support an oligarchy?

I will have to say this: I am not entirely sure. This much is certain. If it were necessary it would be purely out of pragmatic reasons, and not moral or idealogical, until the people can "catch up" so to speak academically and intellectually.
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Re: Maybe you could help me find my camp...

Post by RedBrasil on Sun Mar 10, 2013 1:58 pm

When you say you want an oligarchy, are you saying you prefer experts or you pretend to ban common people from politcs?
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Re: Maybe you could help me find my camp...

Post by NotAMarxist on Mon Mar 11, 2013 3:25 pm

Honestly, it's a little bit of both. Despite the fact I don't feel Marxism-leninism is a viable socialistic theory, mostly becuase of the idea of a "vanguard party" being unsustainable, (they become the new upper class, as we've seen in a large majority of the countries espousing it.) I still must recognize that populist opinions are often uneducated and easily manipulated, and in order to protect any revolution (yes, I know the irony is extremely thick at this point) there must be a higher class of intellectuals that preserve the socialistic society and ideal. I know that the very nature of there being a higher class defies equality, but if you made this higher class accessible to all, and promoted the joining of it, I think that would be a good way of preserving the system and keeping it's pure socialistic principles undefiled. Besides the great benefits that education bestows upon men in a general, passive way, the bourgeois brainwash the lower classes as a rule of thumb. To combat this, they have to be educated, and until they can catch up and we can eliminate the bourgeois control, and replace it with our own, it seems that a vanguard party or some other form of oligarchical control is inevitable. The key is, that this oligarchy would not be permanent. Simply a transient feature in the transition of society from capitalist to socialistic. This oligarchy must be made up of philosophers, economists, and educated men of all persuasions. I would say similar to the politburo, minus an executive committee. When people are no ready for it, (a constitutionally mandated set period of time, written into the constitution of this new nation) power will be transferred from this politburo to a democratic republic based on these socialist ideals enshrined in the new constitution, keeping the same bill of rights we have in America today. I feel this is how we could go about it.

Now given my ideas, what flavor of socialist am I? What label fits my views so that I can find my camp and learn more from people who sympathize with my ideas and have similar beliefs?


Last edited by NotAMarxist on Mon Mar 11, 2013 3:27 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Correcting typos.)
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Re: Maybe you could help me find my camp...

Post by Uberak on Tue Mar 12, 2013 7:05 pm

NotAMarxist wrote:Honestly, it's a little bit of both. Despite the fact I don't feel Marxism-leninism is a viable socialistic theory, mostly becuase of the idea of a "vanguard party" being unsustainable, (they become the new upper class, as we've seen in a large majority of the countries espousing it.) I still must recognize that populist opinions are often uneducated and easily manipulated, and in order to protect any revolution (yes, I know the irony is extremely thick at this point) there must be a higher class of intellectuals that preserve the socialistic society and ideal. I know that the very nature of there being a higher class defies equality, but if you made this higher class accessible to all, and promoted the joining of it, I think that would be a good way of preserving the system and keeping it's pure socialistic principles undefiled. Besides the great benefits that education bestows upon men in a general, passive way, the bourgeois brainwash the lower classes as a rule of thumb. To combat this, they have to be educated, and until they can catch up and we can eliminate the bourgeois control, and replace it with our own, it seems that a vanguard party or some other form of oligarchical control is inevitable. The key is, that this oligarchy would not be permanent. Simply a transient feature in the transition of society from capitalist to socialistic. This oligarchy must be made up of philosophers, economists, and educated men of all persuasions. I would say similar to the politburo, minus an executive committee. When people are no ready for it, (a constitutionally mandated set period of time, written into the constitution of this new nation) power will be transferred from this politburo to a democratic republic based on these socialist ideals enshrined in the new constitution, keeping the same bill of rights we have in America today. I feel this is how we could go about it.

Now given my ideas, what flavor of socialist am I? What label fits my views so that I can find my camp and learn more from people who sympathize with my ideas and have similar beliefs?

Firstly, your ideas are incredibly similar to Marxism Leninism, and they are practically the same as Blanquism.

Anyways, the main problem with the whole 'Intellectuals guide the working class to enlightenment through an oligarchy' idea is that the oligarchy is going to make the transition period permanent due to a thirst for power amongst the individuals within the oligarchy. It is utopian to assume that these intellectuals won't bend the state to their self-interest.

As for education, the people will be educated as the revolutionary becomes more popular, by the virtue of our ideas becoming more well known. And, democracy and education are linked with each other, and we need an educational system that will get the people to participate in democratic government intelligently. Of course, if the democracy collapses due to a lack of education amongst the populace, then the populace is not ready for democracy. However, we must not plot to install an oligarchy in case of such a situation, as politics is a natural and human process that excludes long-term artificial planning.
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Re: Maybe you could help me find my camp...

Post by DSN on Tue Mar 12, 2013 7:16 pm

Uberak wrote:Anyways, the main problem with the whole 'Intellectuals guide the working class to enlightenment through an oligarchy' idea is that the oligarchy is going to make the transition period permanent due to a thirst for power amongst the individuals within the oligarchy. It is utopian to assume that these intellectuals won't bend the state to their self-interest.

Both Marx and Lenin's interpretation of the state/vanguard is that it would become redundant at a certain point and necessarily cease to exist, but I have not yet come to understand how the "Marxism-Leninism" of nations that have embraced the label thus far have actually applied it successfully.

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Re: Maybe you could help me find my camp...

Post by Celtiberian on Wed Mar 13, 2013 3:34 am

Welcome to the Socialist Phalanx, NotAMarxist.

NotAMarxist wrote:I'm new to the whole idea of socialism, I began thinking on it after being perplexed on why things that are not necessarily beneficial to humanity have so much energy devoted to them (Nicki Minaj, backstreet boys, various superficial kitsch forms of art and pop culture, Kim Kardashian is a perfect example.) and yet so many INSANELY valuable opportunities are lost because they are not considered "economically feasible". (Not going to get nit picky on the definition of economics, but essentially here I mean in a business sense it's not a "money making idea".) I thought of the fact that NASA only gets 0.5% of the national budget, while the military and social welfare programs (that really just enable people into dependance) are lavished upon.

I had a similar epiphany when I began to critically examine capitalism. Bourgeois economists respond by arguing that the system 'delivers what consumers want,' so if you take issue with the manner by which resources are allocated in society, your frustration is better directed at humanity itself. But this puts matters backwards. Consumer preferences are, to a considerable extent, endogenously cultivated. Indeed, the multibillion-dollar advertising industry uses the latest methods in psychological manipulation to convince individuals that the specific articles of consumption they're promoting will confer social status onto the buyer and cannot be lived without. Perhaps if people had the time to deliberate and reflect upon these choices, we wouldn't be investing valuable resources into producing inane MTV programs and would instead go about solving the myriad problems confronting humanity. This would, however, require that mankind transcend generalized commodity production and construct a mode of production based upon directly social labor.

So I began of thinking of ways to advance the human race and escape the "money" question. Ways to make money irrelevant. This eventually led me to also begin to consider how naturally beneficial collectivism is as a way of organizing society, and that while the individual is extremely important, no man is an island, and truly we all do better when humanity itself as a whole does better.

In order to determine what socialist tendency best conforms with your views, I need to know what your position on the means of production is: should they be privately owned or collectivized? Money is merely a medium of exchange. The profit motive, which is what I believe you find fault in, cannot be abolished unless property is collectively owned and comprehensive economic planning replaces market relations.

The reality of our true collectivity astounds me, and the fact it is ignored by most people seems to be the most illogical thing, in a world obsessed with logic and "rationality".

Humanity's social nature has been distorted by the antisocial architecture of capitalism. We've become atomized individuals competing with one another to secure the means of subsistence. So even though we require society to realize our potential, we're embedded within an institutional framework that undermines cohesion.

I began to seek out things that I identified with this "collectivist" mindset, and I believe very much in the value of work. When I thought of those two things together, I thought "socialism".

As one whose conception of eudaimonia follows Karl Marx's, I believe that free, creative labor is an essential component of self-realization. However, I'm not sure if the value you find in work is of this intrinsic quality or if you're instead referring to other beneficial consequences of labor.

I don't believe capitalism is inherently evil in the sense that it's harms can be mitigated, although I do believe that it's nature is inherently exploitative.

Harm and exploitation aren't mutually exclusive, unless you define the former in purely physical terms. Surely capitalist exploitation has harmful psychological ramifications.

I feel that what we have in the US is starkly different from the conditions of Marx' day and that in many ways, communism and socialism have been rendered unneeded in the first world and developed economies where worker protections exist like "a minimum wage", "workers unions" and government entities like "OSHA".

The conditions Marx was analyzing have changed in certain respects, but the most crucial elements of his critique of capital are of continued relevance. Welfare provisions have ameliorated the most barbaric aspects of working class life, but they aren't guaranteed. The bourgeoisie, for example, are more confident in their hegemony than ever before, which is why they've taken this economic crisis as an occasion to dismantle the social programs workers have struggled decades to achieve. I'm not claiming that conditions in the OECD countries are analogues to those in the global South, or what have you, but if you should ever drive through, say, Appalachia or Detroit, you'll find that these locations are almost indistinguishable from the slums of South America.

I don't believe that the Soviet union was a true communist or socialist nation, but rather a dictatorship of Stalin. From what little (and I stress little) I've read of Trotsky, I would say that the term "degenerate workers state" fits perfectly. I honestly believe the authoritarianism of Stalin was evil. I believe agency is a sacred right given to man by God. And that is why any form of socialism must be done democratically by the consent and will of the people. I believe this is not only more justifiable in the moral sense, but also more effective in the long-term.

There are many theories of state socialism which warrant consideration, and I encourage you to explore more of the available literature on the subject. Trotsky's "degenerate workers state" hypothesis is definitely compelling, but I disagree with certain facets of it.

I don't believe religion is evil. Even if all of it were false, being a sociologist I see it as providing great benefits to society and the individual.

There is undoubtedly a segment within the contemporary Left that is hostile to religious faith, but I believe a more tolerant perspective is gaining traction.

I believe that the worker is worthy of his hire. But this does not apply to employing individuals and taking disproportionate wages from them. In other words, if you say you "own" a business, what does that really mean anyways? If you put your hand to the plow, you should take the same as all of us do who truly do the work for said business. No more, no less. I believe ownership should NOT be confined to one individual, simply because he has a piece of paper saying he "owns" it, and because under our current system he has had the opportunity to put up the money to provide capital for the business. Why should I be paid minimum wage, when the "owner" of a business lives 7 states away and does next to NOTHING but take most of the profits and sign checks? It's immoral and perverts the entire idea of "the worker being worthy of his hire". It's also unchristian. There's nothing christian about capitalism as it is inherently exploitative. Christ would be a socialist.

Am I correct in interpreting this passage as a rejection of the institution of wage labor?

Despite my democratic tendencies, I ABSOLUTELY believe that any kind of socialist revolution or institution of a socialist government, (even one democratically based as it must be to be morally justifiable) must be put in place, and established by EDUCATED, INTELLIGENT men. A mob cannot build a nation. I am an elitist in terms of wanting people to achieve their potential, and I believe that the hive is only as strong as it's lowest, most humble worker bee. And to that end, I would promote education and science HEAVILY. Education takes a man out of chains. Ignorance enslaves a man. And I truly feel there is nothing more important to man than education, save his religion.

The "mob," as you call it, is perfectly capable of selecting competent delegates to organize political and economic affairs following the overthrow of capital. And your reverence for education is shared by all socialists, I assure you.

Yes, but at the same time change has to be demanded by the people, and under the current comfortable circumstance, I see no reason to hurry.

Injustice shouldn't be tolerated simply because those experiencing it also possess some degree of 'comfort.' Moreover, what the developed capitalist nations are undergoing now isn't an expansion of said comfort, but rather an erosion of it. Countless families have been destroyed because of this crisis of capitalism, and the 'new normal' is characterized by a significantly worse standard of living for the majority of working people. Suffice it to say, there is an imperative behind proletarian revolution.

Your apparent disregard for the hardships endured by workers in the global North is reminiscent of Third Worldism.

Besides, the "mixed" system we have here is one of fairness and equality in terms of opporunity. Not perfectly, no. That would only be possible via true democratic socialism. But the path to becoming bourgeoisie is SO clearly defined and has been made available to ALL who desire to be so, unlike any other time in history. That's what makes America great is the chance to be all you can be with hardwork and IMO, a government SPONSORED education. The fact that the government makes college affordable (which is the only way to be bourgeoisie) causes the system to be passably just, although not perfect IMO. Think C- where Democratic socialism is an B+.

You give the system far too much credit, comrade. The "path to becoming bourgeoisie" may be formally open to all, but it is structurally limited to the few. The nature of the credit rationing system ensures that only those with adequate collateral (i.e., the relatively better-off) are provided the opportunity to take advantage of entrepreneurial opportunities, and the very class structure of capitalism is such that in order to afford those select few the ability to become bourgeois requires the existence of an entire class readily available for exploitation. Furthermore, I fail to see the fairness in allowing a class of individuals to appropriate what should be regarded as our common inheritance—knowledge—so they can amass a fortune for themselves.

I still must recognize that populist opinions are often uneducated and easily manipulated, and in order to protect any revolution (yes, I know the irony is extremely thick at this point) there must be a higher class of intellectuals that preserve the socialistic society and ideal.

I believe you're erroneously concluding that human behavior as it's presently exhibited is reflective of how it would be under any conceivable order. In actuality, the reason the masses currently possess worthless opinions on a wide variety of subjects is because they have been carefully conditioned to feel apathetic toward the issues which most affect their lives (for more on this, see Paul Willis's & Stanley Aronowitz's Learning to Labor: How Working Class Kids Get Working Class Jobs). The self-management that comprises the foundation of the socialist institutions many of us advocate, however, will produce the converse effect. That isn't to say that everyone will suddenly become a policy expert, but any decisions they haven't the time or inclination to learn can be handled by recallable delegates.

Now given my ideas, what flavor of socialist am I? What label fits my views so that I can find my camp and learn more from people who sympathize with my ideas and have similar beliefs?

I need to know more about how you envisage a post-capitalist mode of production operating and what your theory of revolution is before I can offer a reasonable opinion. But judging from what I've gleaned thus far, your views seem similar to those espoused by several figures in the Second International. Your skepticism regarding the ability of the masses to govern their own affairs reminds me a bit of George Bernard Shaw (the Fabian socialist), though. But since you're not as authoritarian as Shaw was, and you seem to be of the opinion that eventually an elite oligarchy will become unnecessary, I suppose "democratic socialist" is a tendency befitting of your political philosophy.

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Re: Maybe you could help me find my camp...

Post by NotAMarxist on Tue Mar 19, 2013 1:33 am

Celtiberian wrote:Welcome to the Socialist Phalanx, NotAMarxist.

Thank you, very much. Smile

I had a similar epiphany when I began to critically examine capitalism. Bourgeois economists respond by arguing that the system 'delivers what consumers want,' so if you take issue with the manner by which resources are allocated in society, your frustration is better directed at humanity itself. But this puts matters backwards. Consumer preferences are, to a considerable extent, endogenously cultivated. Indeed, the multibillion-dollar advertising industry uses the latest methods in psychological manipulation to convince individuals that the specific articles of consumption they're promoting will confer social status onto the buyer and cannot be lived without. Perhaps if people had the time to deliberate and reflect upon these choices, we wouldn't be investing valuable resources into producing inane MTV programs and would instead go about solving the myriad problems confronting humanity. This would, however, require that mankind transcend generalized commodity production and construct a mode of production based upon directly social labor.

This is true. My frustrations are better directed at humanity itself, yet I cannot change the whole of humanity. I must begin work with individuals and hope that it spreads. I think that a difference between us is the idea that I feel human beings are inherently short sighted, ignorant, lazy and fallen. I don't believe in calvnist ideas of "total depravity", yet I would say that it's similar to "total depravity lite" or "diet depravity". You, perhaps, and perhaps rightfully so (or wrongfully, we are in the middle of the matter so it is hard to say) are more optimistic about human nature. I, however am not. I have seen that man behaves predictably, and almost always towards his own self-interest. Perhaps this is a result of capitalism, in the extreme that it manifests itself. But I am skeptical regarding that. Man's cruelty to man has existed long before the industrial revolution. And there are no shortage of wise, old men, who's bones collect dust and words collect dust also that would agree. I speak of philosophers, theologians and social critics both ancient and modern. The nature of man. It is true however that the modern day form of consumerism makes it worse. I do believe that man can be changed, and reformed, both via religion and education. So focus on that bright spot of commonality we share friend. Smile

In order to determine what socialist tendency best conforms with your views, I need to know what your position on the means of production is: should they be privately owned or collectivized? Money is merely a medium of exchange. The profit motive, which is what I believe you find fault in, cannot be abolished unless property is collectively owned and comprehensive economic planning replaces market relations.

I believe that a blend of market forces and centralized planning could be a stepping stone and transition towards a better economic system. I don't know if there is a word for that. Think similar to what europe does, but perhaps more aggressively. I find myself thinking more and more of myself as a french socialist.

Humanity's social nature has been distorted by the antisocial architecture of capitalism. We've become atomized individuals competing with one another to secure the means of subsistence. So even though we require society to realize our potential, we're embedded within an institutional framework that undermines cohesion.

I would agree with this to a limited extent. I feel that man will always be selfish and shortsighted. But consumerism rubs dirt into that wound and sows it up to rot.

As one whose conception of eudaimonia follows Karl Marx's, I believe that free, creative labor is an essential component of self-realization. However, I'm not sure if the value you find in work is of this intrinsic quality or if you're instead referring to other beneficial consequences of labor.


Nice use of ancient greek. Wink I see you've read your plato. The first time i heard the word daimon used in that sense was in a philosophy class where Socrates was talking about his "spirit guardian" that protected him from danger, and warned him regarding dangerous situations. Some people call this intuition, but in the spiritual sense, it's almost identical to how Mormons view the Holy Ghost. It seems interesting that Socrates described it distinctively as a "spirit", separate from his own inner locutions. I believe Socrates was an inspired man, meant to bring wisdom from God to his age. As to the socialist issues, the value I find in work is both as a tool for self-actualization as well as the cohesive bond it provides with your fellow man, as well as the product it yields. There is a spiritual AND practical benefit to hard, honest work. There are too many benefits to list. It is my primary focus being a socialist. Not the entitlements. But the collective good our society could accomplish if we believed in working collectively to a common goal. My perfect example and one that I care about greatly is space exploration and colonization. It's the last great frontier. We are at heavens door, and yet we stand here without even turning the knob. I feel in my bones a yearning to explore the cosmos. The stars are our destiny. Socialism is the ONLY way we will ever find such will to make it a reality.

Harm and exploitation aren't mutually exclusive, unless you define the former in purely physical terms. Surely capitalist exploitation has harmful psychological ramifications.

I would say the harms are more societal than individual at this point.

The conditions Marx was analyzing have changed in certain respects, but the most crucial elements of his critique of capital are of continued relevance. Welfare provisions have ameliorated the most barbaric aspects of working class life, but they aren't guaranteed. The bourgeoisie, for example, are more confident in their hegemony than ever before, which is why they've taken this economic crisis as an occasion to dismantle the social programs workers have struggled decades to achieve. I'm not claiming that conditions in the OECD countries are analogues to those in the global South, or what have you, but if you should ever drive through, say, Appalachia or Detroit, you'll find that these locations are almost indistinguishable from the slums of South America.

I agree, and you're going to hate me, but the poor, more often than not, are poor because they are lazy or refuse to do what is neccesary to improve their situation. It was not always this way. But with the availability of quasi-socialist programs that pave the way to becoming at least middle class, and the outright refusal to improve their life through their own means, this is the end result. Man is free to choose, but not free to change the consequences of his actions. Choice has it's consquences, and these people, by and large, choose to remain uneducated, to drop out of high school, to sell drugs, to not raise their kids, and as a result their communities suffer. It is the perfect example of what to avoid as socialists, and as individuals working towards a socialist society. This is why I believe so much in the message of work. It is work that will be a socialist countries salvation. Work for it's own self and work for the state and society. In ALL societies, the lazy and the uneducated, and the poor of character suffer. Perhaps in capitalism worse of all, but it is just. It is important to note that the reason I feel this way is because the way has been made clear to improve their situation. They have been led to water, but they will not drink. South American people do not have this vital difference. They have no opportunity. That is the crucial difference.

There is undoubtedly a segment within the contemporary Left that is hostile to religious faith, but I believe a more tolerant perspective is gaining traction.

I am glad. Because I am proud to call myself a leftist, and a person of faith and it makes me happy that there is a more tolerant perspective gaining traction for a number of reasons.

Am I correct in interpreting this passage as a rejection of the institution of wage labor?

Yes. And no. Wage labor should be proportionate to the effort and the energy given to a task or job. And it should be equal irrelevant of who "owns it". Ownership according to John Locke is based on the idea, and also even some of the french revolutionary theorists would agree, that a man "owns, that which he can improve upon by his daily labor and reap reward therefrom". This is a very natural sentiment but it has been perverted by corporatism. I think I would be in favor of collective ownership and collective profiteering where everyone is paid according to the difficulty of the job and the quality of the work (judged in objective ways of course, not by subjective "managers". I honestly believe people don't need managing in 80% of the cases where managers exist. Most people want to work when they come to a job. It makes the day go by quicker and it feels good.)

The "mob," as you call it, is perfectly capable of selecting competent delegates to organize political and economic affairs following the overthrow of capital. And your reverence for education is shared by all socialists, I assure you.

Here we would disagree as to the first part. As to the second part, regarding socialist sharing my reverence for education, for that I am truly glad.

Injustice shouldn't be tolerated simply because those experiencing it also possess some degree of 'comfort.' Moreover, what the developed capitalist nations are undergoing now isn't an expansion of said comfort, but rather an erosion of it. Countless families have been destroyed because of this crisis of capitalism, and the 'new normal' is characterized by a significantly worse standard of living for the majority of working people. Suffice it to say, there is an imperative behind proletarian revolution.

Your apparent disregard for the hardships endured by workers in the global North is reminiscent of Third Worldism.

I agree with you, and perhaps you are right. You have swayed my opinion on this matter. And I do not know what this Third Worldism I have heard is, but I invite you to explain it to me. Am I too understand that the idea is that socialism is only necessary in conditions like Marx' day? what we could today call the "third world"?

You give the system far too much credit, comrade. The "path to becoming bourgeoisie" may be formally open to all, but it is structurally limited to the few. The nature of the credit rationing system ensures that only those with adequate collateral (i.e., the relatively better-off) are provided the opportunity to take advantage of entrepreneurial opportunities, and the very class structure of capitalism is such that in order to afford those select few the ability to become bourgeois requires the existence of an entire class readily available for exploitation. Furthermore, I fail to see the fairness in allowing a class of individuals to appropriate what should be regarded as our common inheritance—knowledge—so they can amass a fortune for themselves.

Comrade. That has a nice ring to it. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy and it's a good way to greet people. I approve. Smile I would agree to a degree. I don't know what state education is like outside of my microcosm, but I do know that here it is available freely to those who want it. Those who choose not to partake in it, are in essence choosing their destiny and have a right to that choice even if it makes them worse off. That is the nature of free will and one we should respect. We should work hard to change them, but to say they are victims when the key to their salvation is lying at their feet to me is ridiculous. Perhaps access to education is different outside of my small corner of the USA. I am willing to believe that.

I believe you're erroneously concluding that human behavior as it's presently exhibited is reflective of how it would be under any conceivable order. In actuality, the reason the masses currently possess worthless opinions on a wide variety of subjects is because they have been carefully conditioned to feel apathetic toward the issues which most affect their lives (for more on this, see Paul Willis's & Stanley Aronowitz's Learning to Labor: How Working Class Kids Get Working Class Jobs). The self-management that comprises the foundation of the socialist institutions many of us advocate, however, will produce the converse effect. That isn't to say that everyone will suddenly become a policy expert, but any decisions they haven't the time or inclination to learn can be handled by recallable delegates.

The whole sum of the matter is whether or not people will participate "intelligently". Our system here would be infinately better off simply if people used democracy more intelligently and effectively the way it was meant to be. In a country with a 11% approval rate for congress, 90% get re-elected. That's not capitalism. That's just ignorant, dumb, lazy people who have no respect for citizenship or even care about their country. That would need to change. Socialism, again, could fix that. Propaganda is extremely effective and of all the rotten things about the USSR, that is NOT one of them. We shouldn't lie to people of course, but government propaganda extolling virtue and citizenship would be an effective tool for creating a productive, healthy, just and stable society.

I need to know more about how you envisage a post-capitalist mode of production operating and what your theory of revolution is before I can offer a reasonable opinion. But judging from what I've gleaned thus far, your views seem similar to those espoused by several figures in the Second International. Your skepticism regarding the ability of the masses to govern their own affairs reminds me a bit of George Bernard Shaw (the Fabian socialist), though. But since you're not as authoritarian as Shaw was, and you seem to be of the opinion that eventually an elite oligarchy will become unnecessary, I suppose "democratic socialist" is a tendency befitting of your political philosophy.

I'm flattered. And I appreciate the time you have taken. Please read my reply and change your opinions as neccesary comrade. You have done me a great service and I thank you.


Last edited by Admin on Mon Mar 25, 2013 4:34 pm; edited 6 times in total (Reason for editing : Corrected an omission in regards to bolding my replies.)
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Re: Maybe you could help me find my camp...

Post by Celtiberian on Fri Mar 22, 2013 9:42 am

NotAMarxist wrote:This is true. My frustrations are better directed at humanity itself, yet I cannot change the whole of humanity. I must begin work with individuals and hope that it spreads. I think that a difference between us is the idea that I feel human beings are inherently short sighted, ignorant, lazy and fallen. I don't believe in calvnist ideas of "total depravity", yet I would say that it's similar to "total depravity lite" or "diet depravity". You, perhaps, and perhaps rightfully so (or wrongfully, we are in the middle of the matter so it is hard to say) are more optimistic about human nature. I, however am not. I have seen that man behaves predictably, and almost always towards his own self-interest. Perhaps this is a result of capitalism, in the extreme that it manifests itself. But I am skeptical regarding that. Man's cruelty to man has existed long before the industrial revolution. And there are no shortage of wise, old men, who's bones collect dust and words collect dust also that would agree. I speak of philosophers, theologians and social critics both ancient and modern. The nature of man. It is true however that the modern day form of consumerism makes it worse. I do believe that man can be changed, and reformed, both via religion and education. So focus on that bright spot of commonality we share friend.

I have studied this subject extensively over the years and I don't believe the data supports your Hobbesian view of human nature. We obviously have the capacity to behave in abhorrent ways, but, as Stephen Jay Gould explained, although "the range of our potential behavior is circumscribed by our biology," evolution has endowed us with a brain flexible enough that it "permits us to be aggressive or peaceful, dominant or submissive, spiteful or generous," while nevertheless being "rigidly predisposed toward none" [Stephen Jay Gould, Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1992) pp. 257-258]. What matters, then, is eliminating the conditions which exacerbate antisocial behavior and structuring society's institutions in a manner which promotes the behavior we collectively decide is beneficial. There will, of course, always be a minority of individuals who behave abominably even within in the most benign settings, but aberrations of that sort are unavoidable.

You should consider reading Marshall Sahlins's The Western Illusion of Human Nature. It is a thought-provoking anthropological analysis of the "fallen man" philosophy you adhere to.

I believe that a blend of market forces and centralized planning could be a stepping stone and transition towards a better economic system. I don't know if there is a word for that. Think similar to what europe does, but perhaps more aggressively. I find myself thinking more and more of myself as a french socialist.

The only difference between American and European capitalism is that the latter maintains more provisions for social welfare—though even that distinction is likely to diminish in the coming years. Keynesian demand management has given way to the neoliberal consensus across both continents, and it's unlikely we'll witness a resurgence of social democracy any time soon. (If you're interested in reviewing some of the factors which led to the ascent and decline of the welfare state, see my debate with Revocity.)

Transitory stages between capitalism and communism are, in my opinion, inevitable, but even the earliest manifestation of socialism will require that the bourgeoisie be liquidated in order to achieve some semblance of stability.

As to the socialist issues, the value I find in work is both as a tool for self-actualization as well as the cohesive bond it provides with your fellow man, as well as the product it yields. There is a spiritual AND practical benefit to hard, honest work. There are too many benefits to list. It is my primary focus being a socialist. Not the entitlements. But the collective good our society could accomplish if we believed in working collectively to a common goal. My perfect example and one that I care about greatly is space exploration and colonization. It's the last great frontier. We are at heavens door, and yet we stand here without even turning the knob. I feel in my bones a yearning to explore the cosmos. The stars are our destiny. Socialism is the ONLY way we will ever find such will to make it a reality.

Social projects on the scale of space exploration have never been easily reconcilable with the profit motive. The field is far too risky for capitalists to feel confident investing in and the prospects for commodification are too narrow, which is why scientific research and development in general has largely been undertaken by governments throughout history. In a socialist commonwealth where the working day has been reduced, the educational system reformed, and an interest in civic affairs developed, I think the public's enthusiasm for subjects like space exploration will increase, and we may witness a corresponding willingness to invest more resources into such endeavors. As things stand now, however, most of the population is quite apathetic about research into outer space, and NASA's budget is consequently at an all time low:



Whereas once the notion of space exploration had captured the imagination of entire generations, public relations agencies have succeeded in cultivating more interest for banal nonsense like American Idol and Dancing with the Stars.

I agree, and you're going to hate me, but the poor, more often than not, are poor because they are lazy or refuse to do what is neccesary to improve their situation. It was not always this way. But with the availability of quasi-socialist programs that pave the way to becoming at least middle class, and the outright refusal to improve their life through their own means, this is the end result. Man is free to choose, but not free to change the consequences of his actions. Choice has it's consquences, and these people, by and large, choose to remain uneducated, to drop out of high school, to sell drugs, to not raise their kids, and as a result their communities suffer.

Your meritocratic assumptions are false. I specifically used Detroit and the Appalachian region of the United States as examples in my previous post because those are areas in which capital flight directly resulted in the immiseration of the local populations. Within the capitalist mode of production, capital isn't allocated on the basis of where the people are located, but rather people are forced to follow wherever capital is situated. And if you should have the misfortune of being raised in a city deprived of capital, you're going to have significantly fewer opportunities to develop your potential. Class itself can act either as a barrier or privilege in life; surely you realize that wealth and connections are just as essential for success now as they had been during the Gilded Age. The fact of the matter is that a true meritocracy could only materialize under conditions of classlessness, for only then would the country approximate equal opportunities being afforded to all.

Furthermore, everyone cannot be "middle class" under capitalism because there simply aren't enough jobs in existence that remunerate at such a level. Were the working poor and lumpenproletariat somehow able to acquire the requisite skills to compete for such jobs, the sudden abundance of skilled labor would have a depressing effect on wages anyway. Turning to educational institutions, in working class neighborhoods they aren't designed to impart liberal values and creativity among pupils, they're instead training centers whose primary function is to condition children into uncritically accepting authority and enduring boredom. In other words, they're meant to prepare proletarian children for a life of disempowering, rote labor. A failure to conform to this dehumanizing structure isn't reflective of laziness or an unethical disposition, it's a reasonable response to an oppressive institution. John Dewey's writings are worth looking into, if you're interested in the philosophy of education.

I am glad. Because I am proud to call myself a leftist, and a person of faith and it makes me happy that there is a more tolerant perspective gaining traction for a number of reasons.

I often encourage religious leftists to read José Miranda's work, particularly Communism in the Bible, because I think being a radical Christian generates just as much tension within the faith as it does within certain socialist organizations. (Though I'm an atheist, I'm attuned to this issue.)

Yes. And no. Wage labor should be proportionate to the effort and the energy given to a task or job. And it should be equal irrelevant of who "owns it". Ownership according to John Locke is based on the idea, and also even some of the french revolutionary theorists would agree, that a man "owns, that which he can improve upon by his daily labor and reap reward therefrom". This is a very natural sentiment but it has been perverted by corporatism.

I've expressed my criticisms of Locke's labor theory of property elsewhere, so I'll refrain from repeating them here.

I think I would be in favor of collective ownership and collective profiteering where everyone is paid according to the difficulty of the job and the quality of the work (judged in objective ways of course, not by subjective "managers". I honestly believe people don't need managing in 80% of the cases where managers exist. Most people want to work when they come to a job. It makes the day go by quicker and it feels good.)

In that case, you are opposed to wage labor (i.e., the selling of one's labor power to a capitalist for a wage) but favor retaining the wages system (i.e., measured claims on the social product) in some capacity.

And I do not know what this Third Worldism I have heard is, but I invite you to explain it to me. Am I too understand that the idea is that socialism is only necessary in conditions like Marx' day? what we could today call the "third world"?

Third Worldism is a derivative of Maoism. Its central claim is basically that, since the rise of globalization, workers in the global North are seldom engaged in the direct production of surplus value and have developed a stake in the continued oppression of manufacturing laborers in the global South. They come to this absurd conclusion because they perceive our relatively higher standard of living as deriving from the super-exploitation of Asiatic, African, and Latin American labor. Vladimir Lenin's aristocracy of labor thesis can, in some sense, be interpreted as the origin of this myth.

I would agree to a degree. I don't know what state education is like outside of my microcosm, but I do know that here it is available freely to those who want it. Those who choose not to partake in it, are in essence choosing their destiny and have a right to that choice even if it makes them worse off. That is the nature of free will and one we should respect. We should work hard to change them, but to say they are victims when the key to their salvation is lying at their feet to me is ridiculous. Perhaps access to education is different outside of my small corner of the USA. I am willing to believe that.

Education is not germane to the point I was making, which concerned the nature of the credit rationing system under capitalism and the system's structural dependence on exploitable labor.

The whole sum of the matter is whether or not people will participate "intelligently". Our system here would be infinately better off simply if people used democracy more intelligently and effectively the way it was meant to be. In a country with a 11% approval rate for congress, 90% get re-elected. That's not capitalism. That's just ignorant, dumb, lazy people who have no respect for citizenship or even care about their country. That would need to change.

You have matters backwards, I'm afraid. The system relies on people remaining ignorant of and disengaged from the issues that matter to their lives, which is why civic values aren't encouraged among the mass of people. Noam Chomsky is informative on this subject:



Incidentally, the purpose of democracy isn't optimal decision-making, but self-governance. One could describe it as a system whereby the means justify the end. Mistakes will undoubtedly be made, but they would also be made by elite technocrats because we're a fallible species, and at least within a democracy decisions are jointly made by the people affected by them.

I'm flattered. And I appreciate the time you have taken. Please read my reply and change your opinions as neccesary comrade. You have done me a great service and I thank you.

You're welcome.
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