Monday, September 23, 2002

Socialism

And while I'm on the subject of Usenet, the huge advantage it has is that somebody will say the things you know you think and spare you the effort of articulating them, and in some cases of, er, researching them too. I've long wanted to say something about Socialism, and lo and behold a thread sprang up on rasff about it, and these posts, uh, had bouncing me up and down on the chair.

I bow to the wisdom of rasff:

Dan Goodman:

Roughly speaking, socialism means that the means of
production are owned by _the people who work in that
factory or business_. I believe that _in theory_, this was
the law in the Soviet Union and other parts of the second
Russian empire.

Under socialism, there isn't supposed to _be_ a national
government or even local governments. Anarcho-communists
believe that this can be done immediately. In the Marxist
version of socialism, there was to be an interim government
which would prepare the society for full socialism.

There is some evidence that Marxist-Leninist governments
have not given the withering away of the State as high a
priority as theory calls for. This failure has been
variously attributed to Lenin, Stalin, and Russian
tradition.


Ken MacLeod, quoting http://www.marxists.org/archive/morris/works/tmp/backward.htm

[...] this book, having produced a great impression on
people who are really enquiring into Socialism, will be
sure to be quoted as an authority for what Socialists
believe, and that, therefore, it is necessary to point out
that there are some Socialists who do not think that the
problem of the organisation of life and necessary labour
can be dealt with by a huge national centralisation,
working by a kind of magic for which no one feels himself
responsible; that on the contrary it will be necessary for
the unit of administration to be small enough for every
citizen to feel himself responsible for its details, and be
interested in them; that individual men cannot shuffle off
the business of life on to the shoulders of an abstraction
called the State, but must deal with it in conscious
association with each other. That variety of life is as
much an aim of true Communism as equality of condition, and
that nothing but an union of these two will bring about
real freedom. That modern nationalities are mere artificial
devices for the commercial war that we seek to put an end
to, and will disappear with it. And, finally, that art,
using that word in its widest and due signification, is not
a mere adjunct of life which free and happy men can do
without, but the necessary expression and indispensable
instrument of human happiness.

and finally and most particularly - for all those people, yes Italian comrades I'm talking to you - who think the USA are a bastion of reaction:

Michael J. Lowrey

Last night, I went to a dinner with 700 other folks,
celebrating the 90th birthday of Milwaukee Socialist and
ex-Mayor Frank Zeidler. The local Lutheran Bishop mentioned
that when he came to Milwaukee, Frank gave him a tour of the
city, and eruditely explained an enormous amount about
Milwaukee history. He called his brother in the Seattle
mayor's office to talk about this amazing ex-mayor he'd met,
and his brother said, "You mean Socialist Mayor Zeidler is a
Lutheran?"; the Bishop said, "You mean Lutheran Mayor
Zeidler is a Socialist?"

In Milwaukee, Socialism meant a lot of the lakefront and
riverbank lands were bought by the taxpayers, and made into
parks, instead of incredibly expensive condos. It meant
housing being built for poor people, and run by an agency
responsive to the taxpayers AND the tenants. It meant a
pioneering Health Department, and good sewers, when such
public improvements were scorned as interference by
do-gooding busybodies. It meant a world-class City Museum
that was a haven for scholarship, with an extensive
publishing program and even its own ethnographic and
zoological expeditions to Africa and Central America. It
meant Mayor Dan Hoan trying to arrange a store to sell war
surplus at cost to the local citizens, with nobody
profiteering. It meant a city government that kept its AAA
bond rating, because the Socialists believed in
pay-as-you-go government (they didn't want to mortgage the
people's future to bankers). It meant schools open to all
the children without subjecting them to religious
propaganda. It meant the cleanest, least corrupt government
this reform-minded state has _ever_ seen in its history. It
meant that when a former party leader advocated working
together with the KKK because they had been so successful
among working-class Americans elsewhere, the sonofabitch was
expelled from the party and his vile suggestion denounced in
ringing terms by then-mayor Hoan. It meant trying to make
the city a better place for honest working people, rather
than running around posturing about how "revolutionary" you
were (and being sneered at by the 'revolutionaries' as mere
'sewer socialists').

It meant, in Frank's own words, "a way of life based on
cooperation, rather than competition."

--
Michael J. Lowrey
proud, today in particular, to be a Milwaukee "Sewer
Socialist"

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