Socialists Question Time AKA 'Ask a Socialist' Watch

This discussion is closed.
Mr_K_Dilkington
Badges: 11
Rep:
?
#1861
Report 9 years ago
#1861
I've a question about the etymology of the words socialism and communism in Marxist thinking. Through talking to people on this forum, I've come to accept communism as a stateless, classless society based on the common ownership of the means of production. I've taken socialism to mean a transition stage between capitalism and communism, often implemented by strong state power based on the dictatorship of the proletariat (I know socialism has a broader meaning than this, but it does seem to have a specific meaning in Marxist thought?). Please correct me if I have been misinformed, my aim is not to construct strawmen here.

My question is this - when and where does this differentiation between the two words come from? The books I have read on the history of Marxism do not seem to make this distinction anywhere, some of them also say that Marx and Engels used the words socialism and communism almost interchangeably. What am I missing?

Edit: just found this on wikipedia - "The Marxist conception of socialism is that of a specific historical phase that will displace capitalism as a precursor to communism, the major characteristics being that in socialism the proletariat will control the means of production through the state apparatus; economic activity is still organised through the use of incentive systems and social classes would still exist but to a lesser extent than under capitalism.[20] For orthodox Marxists, socialism is the lower stage of communism based on the principle of "from each according to his ability, to each according to their work" while upper stage communism is based on the principle of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need"."

Can anyone point me to Marx's work where he makes this differentiation?
0
username280380
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#1862
Report 9 years ago
#1862
Has the Socialist's decided their MUN candidate yet, and if so who is it?
0
Alasdair
Badges: 14
#1863
Report 9 years ago
#1863
No, we haven't. I personally am tempted to leave everyone else to it as it's kinda useless.
Collingwood
Badges: 1
Rep:
?
#1864
Report 9 years ago
#1864
(Original post by Adorno)
Why not? Oh yes, we all know why: it's because capitalism fails when it runs out of people to exploit. Can't exploit workers in Manchester any more ... let's ship it to Africa and India. Can't exploit them any more: oh well "it's not practical to provide you with good working conditions so I'm afraid you'll just have to carry on working near an open sewer, sorry". So what happens when we run out of people to exploit in the name of capitalism eh? Tell me what happens to your glorious economic system then?
Could you define "exploit", because it would help a lot making sense of this? You seem to be saying that workers in Manchester are being subsidised by workers in the third world. This seems highly implausible not least because Manchester workers are far more productive, so if they are being subsidised, I wonder where their own produce is going, but also because they tend not to even be employed by the same companies, which implies a very extensive and secretive conspiracy to move money around to make this whole thing work.

You've basically inferred a lot from my post that I did not say. I don't view people being in poverty as "necessary" for capitalism at all, and I did not say that sweatshops were a permanent institution (in fact I think I gave examples of countries that had passed through this stage and achieved western standards of wealth within living memory). Afterall, someone in the third world today is better off on average than the poor in England were at the very start of the industrial revolution. Basic medicines, cheap clothes, corrigated iron shelters, etc. are all affordable for many very poor people which simply did not exist before, and yet the West is richer as well. If it were a zero sum game, this would be impossible.

So I set against your exploitation theory a non-zero sum theory: the answer is that capital investment increases, so that everyone is made productive enough by the machines to be paid a higher wage profitably.

I think this also tends to fit the evidence a lot better. Does it ever occur to you, if you really believe in the 'exploited Manchunians' interpretation of Victorian history, why all the factories were mass producing consumer goods - clothes, furniture, cutlery, crockery, etc. - rather than producing highly refined goods in small numbers? You say the factory bosses are receiving most of the benefits of production; are we really supposed to believe that a small cadre of factory bosses were filling their mansions with tens of thousands of sets of dining tables, millions of knives and forks, Etc., while the working man was no better off in this regard than in the middle ages?
0
Adorno
Badges: 1
Rep:
?
#1865
Report 9 years ago
#1865
(Original post by Collingwood)
Could you define "exploit", because it would help a lot making sense of this? You seem to be saying that workers in Manchester are being subsidised by workers in the third world. This seems highly implausible not least because Manchester workers are far more productive, so if they are being subsidised, I wonder where their own produce is going, but also because they tend not to even be employed by the same companies, which implies a very extensive and secretive conspiracy to move money around to make this whole thing work.
I used Manchester as a symbol of the British (first) industrial revolution. I thought you were intelligent enough to get the analogy. Perhaps I should have used Coketown instead? Though, from your rant in the paragraph above, you clearly didn't understand.

(Original post by Collingwood)
I think this also tends to fit the evidence a lot better. Does it ever occur to you, if you really believe in the 'exploited Manchunians' interpretation of Victorian history, why all the factories were mass producing consumer goods - clothes, furniture, cutlery, crockery, etc. - rather than producing highly refined goods in small numbers? You say the factory bosses are receiving most of the benefits of production; are we really supposed to believe that a small cadre of factory bosses were filling their mansions with tens of thousands of sets of dining tables, millions of knives and forks, Etc., while the working man was no better off in this regard than in the middle ages?
Sure they were making consumer goods but you gloss over a lot of the social conditions in which the workers lived and the entirity of workers' culture by focusing in solely on the economic. There was great poverty in the towns, one need read the government reports, Engels's survey, Booth's and Rowntree's suverys of poverty at the end of the century to see all of that. You only want to see progress, nothing more. And so you look from your typically whiggish perspective - the top-down model to see all the progress you want to see. Wages were superior for a factory worker than for an agricultural labourer: that's what you see. You don't see the slums, the poor housing, the squalour, the recourse to the poor law, the taxes on consumer goods all of which impacted greatly on the industrial workers.

So yes, I am fully aware of what was being produced. I am, however, unlike you, also aware of the society in which those goods floated and that makes the difference.

However, I'm greatly bored of you now and can't really be bothered to continue this lovely revision of Macaulay's perspective on the world so I'm going to bow out.
0
Collingwood
Badges: 1
Rep:
?
#1866
Report 9 years ago
#1866
(Original post by Adorno)
I used Manchester as a symbol of the British (first) industrial revolution. I thought you were intelligent enough to get the analogy. Perhaps I should have used Coketown instead? Though, from your rant in the paragraph above, you clearly didn't understand.
Regardless of what the city is called, you seemed to be saying that third world workers are subsidising the standard of living of first world workers. At least, you seemed to be saying that first world standards of living are not possible unless supported by third world labourers, which seems to me to be the same thing. I may have got everything horribly wrong - your post was more rhetoric than clarity - but if so I would appreciate it if you explained. It doesn't serve my purposes to attack a strawman.

Sure they were making consumer goods but you gloss over a lot of the social conditions in which the workers lived and the entirity of workers' culture by focusing in solely on the economic. There was great poverty in the towns, one need read the government reports, Engels's survey, Booth's and Rowntree's suverys of poverty at the end of the century to see all of that. You only want to see progress, nothing more. And so you look from your typically whiggish perspective - the top-down model to see all the progress you want to see. Wages were superior for a factory worker than for an agricultural labourer: that's what you see. You don't see the slums, the poor housing, the squalour, the recourse to the poor law, the taxes on consumer goods all of which impacted greatly on the industrial workers.

So yes, I am fully aware of what was being produced. I am, however, unlike you, also aware of the society in which those goods floated and that makes the difference.
I do see these things, I just don't understand how they harm my position (well, taxes, maybe, except that we've established that I don't support taxes). If slums are better than the alternative and what went before, why is this bad?

It seems your argument is: "Some people don't live as well as the middle class of 2009. Isn't this terrible?" The answer, of course, is yes, but so what? You can't legislate to make people rich. Free markets are the best that we can practically do to help these people, as is evidenced everywhere they are tried.

However, I'm greatly bored of you now and can't really be bothered to continue this lovely revision of Macaulay's perspective on the world so I'm going to bow out.
haha, well feel free to continue whenever you want.
0
Mr_K_Dilkington
Badges: 11
Rep:
?
#1867
Report 9 years ago
#1867
(Original post by Jay Riall)
I've a question about the etymology of the words socialism and communism in Marxist thinking. Through talking to people on this forum, I've come to accept communism as a stateless, classless society based on the common ownership of the means of production. I've taken socialism to mean a transition stage between capitalism and communism, often implemented by strong state power based on the dictatorship of the proletariat (I know socialism has a broader meaning than this, but it does seem to have a specific meaning in Marxist thought?). Please correct me if I have been misinformed, my aim is not to construct strawmen here.

My question is this - when and where does this differentiation between the two words come from? The books I have read on the history of Marxism do not seem to make this distinction anywhere, some of them also say that Marx and Engels used the words socialism and communism almost interchangeably. What am I missing?

Edit: just found this on wikipedia - "The Marxist conception of socialism is that of a specific historical phase that will displace capitalism as a precursor to communism, the major characteristics being that in socialism the proletariat will control the means of production through the state apparatus; economic activity is still organised through the use of incentive systems and social classes would still exist but to a lesser extent than under capitalism.[20] For orthodox Marxists, socialism is the lower stage of communism based on the principle of "from each according to his ability, to each according to their work" while upper stage communism is based on the principle of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need"."

Can anyone point me to Marx's work where he makes this differentiation?
bump
0
Adorno
Badges: 1
Rep:
?
#1868
Report 9 years ago
#1868
(Original post by Jay Riall)
I've a question about the etymology of the words socialism and communism in Marxist thinking. Through talking to people on this forum, I've come to accept communism as a stateless, classless society based on the common ownership of the means of production. I've taken socialism to mean a transition stage between capitalism and communism, often implemented by strong state power based on the dictatorship of the proletariat (I know socialism has a broader meaning than this, but it does seem to have a specific meaning in Marxist thought?). Please correct me if I have been misinformed, my aim is not to construct strawmen here.
I'm not really motivated at this hour to guide you through the rest of your post but I'm afraid that this paragraph here proceeds from a misreading - which is entirely likely to be due to a false representation of the two concepts by those on the site who use them indiscriminately.

Socialism does not solely mean a transition stage in the Marxist canon. For some socialism is an end in itself and has been theorised as such - viz the theories and work of Eduard Bernstein for example. Your presentation of socialism as a stage during which the proletariat dictates is very much a Leninist conception and not really in keeping with Marx's theories. Neither Marx nor Engels nor the two together really explain what they mean by the dictatorship of the proletariat other than it being a shift in power from the bourgeoisie to the working class. That's about it really. The element of dictatorship reflects the measures taken by the proletariat to prevent the bourgeoisie from taking power again. this can have a variety of meanings from state terror in the Robespierrian sense or the introduction of policies of state nationalisation that ensure that private enterprise - from which the bourgeoisie gain capital - is erradicated. In this basic economic sense socialism means a stage of cementing economic control from which the abolition of the state can be implemented.

That, however, is not the same as the Leninist conception of the dictatorship to which you refer which basically means rule by a 'vanguard': in other words, socialism is rule by a more revolutionary clique. Hence the fact it is claimed to be transitory but is in practice anything but.

Under the Marxist canon, socialism is the period in which economic control is established alongside true democracy and greater rights etc; under the Leninist version, however, socialism is riven by the dicatatorship of a clique.
0
Alasdair
Badges: 14
#1869
Report 9 years ago
#1869
Yeah, I think Adorno makes an interesting point regarding the dictatorship of the proletariat. To my mind, it's never meant a 'dictatorship' in the modern liberal sense. It's analogous to the situation now, which is a 'dictatorship of capital/managerial class', but in control of the working class, rather than the middle classes...
Adorno
Badges: 1
Rep:
?
#1870
Report 9 years ago
#1870
(Original post by Jay Riall)
My question is this - when and where does this differentiation between the two words come from? The books I have read on the history of Marxism do not seem to make this distinction anywhere, some of them also say that Marx and Engels used the words socialism and communism almost interchangeably. What am I missing?
It'd be helpful to know which books you've read which lead you to this conclusion as I'll be able to better explain why they've failed to do so if I appreciate what foundation you've got...

However, to try and tackle this question without that knowledge. As I pointed out in reference to the distinction in the Marxist and Leninist conceptualisations of the "dictatorship of the proletariat", you also have to begin to make distinctions in the influences upon Marx's thought. And so, ladies and gentlemen, let us go back to the beginning.

In the aftermath of the Thermidorian Reaction in 1794 and the death of Maximillien Robespierre, thousands of political prisoners in the gaols of revolutionary France were let out. Amongst them three important gentlemen for our little tale: Babeuf, Saint-Simon, and Fourier. Now these three, in their different ways, exemplify the three competing strands in Marxism and explain also why Marx and Engels settled on the term "communism" for their utopian vision instead of socialism and formulated socialism as a 'lesser' stage.

Babeuf in the aftermath of Thermidor condemned Robespierre for his betrayal of the aims of the revolution and particularly the revolutionaries - the artisans and peasants of France who had helped to make the revolution. Babeuf became one of the very first communists and it is from his reaction to Robespierre that we get the notion of a 'proletarian' revolution.

Saint-Simon, who was much more conservative than his compatriots, considered it to be the neglect of the needs of production and modernity that had let down the revolution. He was, as some historians have called him, the 'heir to the Techno-Jacobins'. From his though Marx garnered the importance of production and economic necessity.

From Fourier, however, he got his Romantic soul. The beating Romantic heart of Communism comes from the reaction of Fourier who felt that the important thing was neither equality nor productivity but pleasure.

Marx, as you can imagine, combined all three of these strands: egalitarian, scientific, and Romantic into a grand theory which is about as coherent as the Liberal Democrats. However, part of the problem of their indifferent use of socialism and communism, I think, lies in what I have to say next.

In someways, from reading the works of Marx, one gets the impression that he considers socialism to be at best a faux-proletarian philosophy. Deep down communism, his melding of the egalitarian, scientific, and Romantic reactions to the Roberpierrian mess, was his invention and the one which he felt the true proletariat would ascribe to. In this way, I think, does socialism become a fairly abused term in Marxism and all the more so after Bernstein's strong, but ultimately fair, attacks on some of the dodgier elements of the overall theory: the Labour theory of value, for example.

The very definite split between socialism and communism came during the Great War with the collapse of the (social democratic) Second International. See, for example, the Zimmerwald and Kiental conferences held in 1915 and 1916. From that point on, and particularly after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the divide between socialism and communism was secured.

I suspect there's more questions you have now but hopefully that answers the initial question you had?
0
Kickflip
Badges: 12
Rep:
?
#1871
Report 9 years ago
#1871
What are the pros and cons of national socialism and internatrional socialism?
0
Adorno
Badges: 1
Rep:
?
#1872
Report 9 years ago
#1872
(Original post by Kickflip)
What are the pros and cons of national socialism and internatrional socialism?
I should think that would be fairly obvious and this really isn't the right thread for such things.
0
abucha3
Badges: 8
#1873
Report 9 years ago
#1873
The TSR Socialist Party believes in Socialism to the letter, from what I have read in this thread.

The USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) also believed in Socialism.

Therefore, would the TSR Socialist Party admit or deny that is shares the same views as the Soviet Union held and as experienced by the people of Eastern Europe?
Adorno
Badges: 1
Rep:
?
#1874
Report 9 years ago
#1874
(Original post by abucha3)
The TSR Socialist Party believes in Socialism to the letter, from what I have read in this thread.

The USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) also believed in Socialism.

Therefore, would the TSR Socialist Party admit or deny that is shares the same views as the Soviet Union held and as experienced by the people of Eastern Europe?
No. Did you bother to read the two fairly lengthy posts I just made about the internal differences within the Marxist - Socialist canon?
0
abucha3
Badges: 8
#1875
Report 9 years ago
#1875
(Original post by Adorno)
No. Did you bother to read the two fairly lengthy posts I just made about the internal differences within the Marxist - Socialist canon?
I am not the one being questioned here, you are.

In that case, by saying no you are denying that the TSR Socialist Party has links in policies to that of the United Soviet Socialist Republic.

Is this correct?

A simple, yes this is correct or no this is incorrect will suffice.
Adorno
Badges: 1
Rep:
?
#1876
Report 9 years ago
#1876
(Original post by abucha3)
In that case, by saying no you are denying that the TSR Socialist Party has links in policies to that of the United Soviet Socialist Republic.

Is this correct?
It is more incorrect than it is correct.

A simple, yes this is correct or no this is incorrect will suffice.
Doesn't work like that, sorry.
0
abucha3
Badges: 8
#1877
Report 9 years ago
#1877
(Original post by Adorno)
Doesn't work like that, sorry.
Well it does work like that. All I am asking you is whether the policies of the TSR Socialist Party are similar to the policies of the USSR.

It is a very simple question which you seem to be avoiding.

Either the answer is:

Yes, the TSR Socialist Party has policies (may be one policy or all the policies) which agree with the policies of the USSR.

OR

No, the TSR Socialist Party does not have any policies which agree with the policies of the USSR.

Its one of the two and I think I know which one it is but you do not want to admit.
Adorno
Badges: 1
Rep:
?
#1878
Report 9 years ago
#1878
(Original post by abucha3)
Well it does work like that. All I am asking you is whether the policies of the TSR Socialist Party are similar to the policies of the USSR.
The Party has policies of nationalisation of certain industries - for example the railways - which if in a small-brained manner you consider to be the equivalent of the policies of nationalisation and collectivisation pursued by the Soviet Union then I suppose we'd all better fall into line with the BNP and say yeah we're all Commie scum. However, if you even allow for the question of aims and purposes of policies which the TSR Socialist Party has put forward then the absolute answer is a categoric NO. As I said at the beginning of this charade.

You have policies which mirror those of the BNP, are you the BNP?
0
abucha3
Badges: 8
#1879
Report 9 years ago
#1879
(Original post by Adorno)
The Party has policies of nationalisation of certain industries - for example the railways - which if in a small-brained manner you consider to be the equivalent of the policies of nationalisation and collectivisation pursued by the Soviet Union then I suppose we'd all better fall into line with the BNP and say yeah we're all Commie scum. However, if you even allow for the question of aims and purposes of policies which the TSR Socialist Party has put forward then the absolute answer is a categoric NO. As I said at the beginning of this charade.

You have policies which mirror those of the BNP, are you the BNP?
There are no policies of mine which mirror the British National Party. The party for which I am a member of, the Patriotic Conservative Party has the ideology of putting Britain first and is very conservative, hence the name.

Well in that case, please say to me this one line only:

The TSR Socialist Party has no policies which agree with any of the policies by the Soviet Union.

Copy and paste the statement, but please say that word for word so that I can confirm your stance on this matter.
Adorno
Badges: 1
Rep:
?
#1880
Report 9 years ago
#1880
(Original post by abucha3)
There are no policies of mine which mirror the British National Party.
Frankly, that's complete and utter ********.


As for the rest of your ****, I've just explained my position.
0
X
new posts
Latest
My Feed

See more of what you like on
The Student Room

You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.

Personalise

Do you think the internet has made political discussion more aggressive?

Yes (17)
94.44%
No (1)
5.56%

Watched Threads

View All