“The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” – Churchill.
Ah, socialism. What an ideology. Marx and Engels, who doesn’t love ’em? But is it better to be dead than red?
Let’s get straight to the point. Socialism is flawed, and quite badly.
It is riddled with theoretical inconsistencies, which leads to practical problems, making it impossible to be integrated fully into a nation’s political system.
Whilst its primary ideas of equality, prosperity and security are alluring promises, no-one can deny that an attempted application of pure socialism in today’s modern world would be an inherently flawed idea. Various countries who have tried to integrate full socialism (or really, communism) into their government policy have produced defect, almost quasi-socialist societies. Marx would be rolling in his grave if he witnessed China’s steady adoption of so-called ‘State Capitalism’. A strong statement, but hey, it’s true. But I must stress, I’m not completely against socialism. But nor am I a fervor advocate of capitalism.
The real question is: is socialism is defined by its opposition to capitalism?
Here’s the long answer:
Many scholars and writers alike would suggest that socialism as an ideology contains a variety of divisions and rival traditions within itself. In other words, it can be split into two distinct strands: the fundamentalist forms of socialism, which can be viewed as defined in its opposition to capitalism, and revisionist socialism which arguably aims to bridge the gap between socialism and capitalism.
This is where my A-Level Politics syllabus comes in handy. In essence, fundamentalist socialism basically seeks to abolish and replace the capitalist system, and rejects its economic theory and political philosophy completely.
Let’s refer to the poster child of socialism, Karl Marx. His own analysis of a capitalist society and the very core of classical Marxism helps to explain why capitalism is apparently doomed to fail.
He argues that capitalism has taken people away from their genuine nature because they can no longer gain satisfaction from productive labour; individuals work to produce only mere commodities to be sold for profit rather than made for any real want or need. In other words, capitalism exploits individuals and causes us to become self-interested; eventually, the exploited would achieve spontaneous class awareness. The consequences of too much accumulated wealth into too few hands would result in a majority against a capitalistic society, and hurray-hurrah, capitalism will be overthrown. Or so they say.
I could go on and spew out more information about dialectical change and the conflict between the thesis and the antithesis and the tensions between the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat and use more political terminology to confuse you all but I won’t.
Modern socialists recognise that Marx was quite wrong; capitalism is much more cunning and so powerful that even individuals who are not part of the elite class may believe in its system because of its beguiling nature and so-called guarantee that with hard work, anyone can make it to the top.
Capitalism is much more flexible than Marx originally thought of and his idea of class conflict seems to be out-of-date (although, this is disputable).
Post-war in Britain, Social Democrats and Old Labour believed that capitalism could be controlled through economic reform e.g. through nationalisation and welfare provisions. Good ol’ Bernstein, founding father of evolutionary socialism and revisionism, judged that capitalism could be ‘humanised’, that it wasn’t just a system intent on oppression of the working class.
Let’s face it, the working class has become less unified and the decrease of manual labour has undermined class solidarity.
Labour’s target of a mixed economy, a blend of private and public ownership, was sought, and the implementation of Keynesian economics meant the government could oversee capitalist economies. Evidently, the expansion of the welfare state was thought to act as a mechanism to redistribute wealth to poorer people.
Nowadays, capitalism has gone from being the fundamental enemy of socialism to its chosen ally. Modern socialism (Third Way and Blairism in the UK) has embraced capitalism; in this way, socialism is not necessarily defined in its opposition to capitalism but rather by its goals to achieve social justice.
And here’s the short answer: not completely.
Nevertheless, according to some socialists, especially hard core Marxists, capitalism is a heartless, soulless evil which must be eradicated in order to save the human race. How deliciously controversial.