Sorry, I can't resist starting a new discussion thread.... (I don't get the same satisfaction trying to follow ideas on the Wall posts)

Based on Thomas' original group description, I would like to explore the "ancient faults of the left". I can see in some of the wall posts that there seems to be some who lament the absence of "the Left" on the American continent.

What is the consensus on the meaning of "The Left"? Is socialism what most people naturally want as a socio-political system? What are the faults of the Left? What evidence is there to support the claims that it is or is not the best system?

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I totallly agree with the first 2 sentences. Orwell's1984 is a perfect example of the anti-Stalinist ideals of the post-Bolshevik failure of Russian Communism. There are as many branches of socialism as there are any other methods of governance (Technocracy, Luxembourgism, Anarcho-Sydicalism, Trotskyism, etc. etc.) The thing that pisses me off more than any other in convo about this subject is people assume "Well socialism has already been Russia, look what happened."

Regarding your statement, "The thing that pisses me off more than any other in convo about this subject is people assume "Well socialism has already been Russia, look what happened." Could you elaborate? I'll try to explain what I mean.

It's my understanding that 'socialism' is a term applicable to what was tried, or is being tried, in Russian, China, Cuba, and some others. I do know that the term 'socialism' is a very broad one, but in so far as there is agreement on its meaning, I thought it applied to the aforementioned countries. You appear to be more knowledgeable about political systems, so if I'm way off, please clarify for me.
And do explain at some point why the statement pisses you off too. Is it because people just say it without any knowledge of political/economic systems? Or is it because you consider the statement incorrect?
I am sorry I didn't elaborate further but I typed it up as I was leaving(late) for work this morning. By "socialism", what I mean is the collective ownership and distribution of all goods, services, means of production and land in a given sovereign territory. I guess I should have used the word Communism, but in this age the negative implication that goes along with it would have overpowered the deeper meaning of the thought. I consider myself a collectivist, not belonging to any particular school of socialism(while advocating many) but simply knowing that it IS the superior system of governance and economic management for a people, as opposed to capitalism. What I meant by the sentence in italics is that, at least in the U.S., any suggestion of ANY system based on social ownership or collectivity is disavowed as Communism, usually followed by some comment about how Stalin took advantage of the centralization of power and so would anyone else who would be the head of such a govt. that ultimate power corrupts ultimately. In most cases it does, but there are systems and ways that it can be prevented through accountability, transparency, and true democracy i.e. anarcho-sydicalism. Yes it is true that Stalin committed horrible atrocities in the name of Communism. Systematic starvation, murder, genocide, and blatant almost religious self-glorification to name a few. But to say that what he represented was the ideals of Marx and Engels is simply wrong. He was a tyrant who filled the vacuum of power left by Lenin's death with not true Marxism, but a collective dictatorship, which in my opinion (and obviously Orwell's) is far worse than capitalism. Imagine if you can a world where the very lowest standard of living is to have a home, food, clothing, entertainment, etc. provided to you as a right, just as much as public school is now. There would be no poverty. 95% of wealth in America is concentrated in a very small upper class, perhaps 5% of the population(the actual % varies and is debatable, but never quoted as more than 8-10%) How is that fair or productive? How would our country differ if that wealth were redistributed to the general population in the form of solar panels, windmills, transport, and shelter to name just a few? Society would be unrecognizable in a positive way I feel that I may be on a rant so I will leave it there for now but I hope I have expanded on my earlier comment sufficiently, as well as presented part of my worldview in a comprehensive manner.
It's also worth pointing out that there are distinctions between Socialism and Communism. Socialism is an economic system that does not require any specific political system to accompany it. Communism is both economic and political. Marx was vague on a number of points but every time some form of Communism has been put into practice it has been done with a single party political system, which in my view is just asking for trouble. The ideal of a single class sounds great if only we could figure out how to get that to work. In the end I don't think a single system will ever work. I think we need to identify the best aspects of every system (social, economic, political) that's been tried and see if we can blend them together. No small task but what are our alternatives.
True. But it tends to be as much about who the leaders of a movement/system happen to be. Idealogues tend to refuse to learn from past mistakes or to acknowledge let along ponder any criticism of the philosophy and/or theory of the system they favor. I guess part of what I'm saying is that terrorism can come from anything any group of people want to believe in, including democratic socialism. Never let the prospect of terrorism dissuade you from thinking or discussing since so long as humans exist it is highly likely that so will terrorism. Sucks but that just seems to be how it goes.
...real socialism doesn´t and hasn´t any leaders, `cause people are equal - works theoretically, but reality shows, that most people are simply not advanced enough for this kind of living. In past times, every revolution somehow failed, `cause it has to work with the existing people, and most of these tend to either being flock, if they are weak, or trying to gain power, if they are strong...

So every revolution has to fail, as long as it starts somewhere in the streets and not in each one´s head, as a sophisticated way of thinking and living. As long as there are "leaders", and not mere powerless "representants", the goal of socialism is not achieved !
I was doing some research on the early colonial period of North America. Capitalism was the motivation behind colonization of the American Continent. Even in the case of the Puritans in New England, Calvinistic values supported libertarian individualism. The Puritans were against communalism. We still see these ideologies very strongly in the USA today.

Two other ideas that the Puritans established were the idea of a contract and the right to resist unjust rule. I think Thomas has mentioned one requirement for a more just society is that it must be supported by social contract by those that live within it. I sense that many socialist experiments have tended too much to the model of a small group of revolutionaries "guarding" the people from the seductions of private property and capitalist accumulation. If the people complained, they were punished.

Are there examples of socialism where the social contract between the people and "the officials" is paramount? It seems that some countries in Europe are examples as they don't seem to be constantly fighting against capitalist subversives. Isn't the key the idea of letting the people decide how the socialism is to be implemented?
I see the left as a movement to defend working people -- the vast employed or unemployed as well professional workers that service the poor, education, health care and those in danger of falling through any social safety net. There are a variety of ideological approaches, ranging from shades of anarchist, collectivist, reformist, to central control. The left need not imply a philosophy strictly opposed to individual free enterprise or capitalism, or only advancing socialist solutions. I think the world is too complex to believe anymore in absolutist ideologicaly driven solutions.

-- Gary




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