In the spring, a European socialist party challenged me to take the time to read “what socialists really believe” about collectivism, instead of relying on what many socialists claim are mischaracterizations of the teachings of people like Karl Marx. At first, I was skeptical, but after careful consideration, I decided to spend my summer immersing myself in socialist articles and books.
After three long months of reading, thinking, and writing (but not publishing) about socialism, I found myself endlessly fascinated and horrified by what socialists believe about economics and society. In fact, I was so interested (and concerned) by what I found that I joined together with a team of other pro-liberty people to create StoppingSocialism.com and a new book, “Socialism Is Evil: The Moral Case Against Marx’s Radical Dream.”
Here are just some of the interesting things I learned:
1. Many forms of socialism are virtually identical to communism.
Many people often speak about communism as though it’s a completely separate ideology from socialism, but the truth is in many nineteenth century writings, communism is treated as a school of socialist thinking, not as a separate, more radical system. In fact, you’ll find most of the ideological positions of the modern socialist parties of Europe and the Americas are basically indistinguishable from what Marx called “communism,” and many socialist parties openly admit it. For instance, the Socialist Party of Great Britain states, “As far as we are concerned, socialism and communism are exact synonyms, alternative names to describe the future society we wish to see established and defined in our Object.”
It’s better to think of socialism as a big tent, similar to how “conservatism” is a big tent with many different subgroups. And it’s more accurate to think of communism as a type of socialism that’s essentially synonymous with Marxist socialism than it is to think of communism as a more extreme form of collectivism.
2. Socialists don’t just want market “fairness,” they want a totally classless world.
If you could sum up Marx’s primary concern, it would be that he believed the presence of classes (different groups in society with varying degrees of wealth) lead to exploitation. Marx believed the workers of the world are routinely mistreated by those who own most of the businesses and that it’s unfair the business owners receive so much of the wealth when they often don’t physically provide any labor of their own.
For Marx, the only way to stop this exploitation and prevent it from occurring in the future is to eliminate all classes and create a world in which everyone gets the same amount of wealth (whatever they need, but not necessarily what they want). How can classes be eliminated? By seizing everyone’s property, redistributing the wealth, and collectively owning and managing all industry.
Similarly, the Socialist Party USA wants to “establish a new social and economic order in which workers and community members will take responsibility for and control of their interpersonal relationships, their neighborhoods, their local government, and the production and distribution of all goods and services.”
3. Marx openly called for a radical revolution and the rejection of property rights, and many of today’s socialist parties also do.
In Marx’s “Communist Manifesto,” he explains that a revolution is necessary and that it may be required for the workers of the world to (temporarily) rule over everyone else to usher in his new, better model: “If the proletariat [working class] during its contest with the bourgeoisie [those who control most property] is compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organise itself as a class, if, by means of a revolution, it makes itself the ruling class, and, as such, sweeps away by force the old conditions of production, then it will, along with these conditions, have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally, and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class.”
4. Socialism has never been fully adopted anywhere in the world, according to socialists.
One of the more surprising things I learned is that most socialists don’t consider China, Venezuela, Soviet Russia, or North Korea to be real socialist or communist nations. In fact, many socialist writers say there has never been a truly socialist nation in the history of the world, because socialism in its fullest form requires there to be no classes, and in places like Venezuela, there are definitely classes: those who rule and tens of millions of impoverished citizens who are victimized by the rulers.
It’s true that Marx and other socialist thinkers would not consider many of the countries we often think of as “socialist” as being in line with their ideology (because those countries still have classes). However, free-market advocates such as myself would argue the reason socialism has never totally taken root is because socialism is impossible to achieve! If you try to collectively own and manage everything, you inevitably end up with tyranny, and tyrants don’t often give up their power willingly.
5. Socialism requires global government.
Although some socialist parties might disagree with this claim, it’s pretty clear from reading Marx’s writings and using basic logic that for socialism to work anywhere, it must exist everywhere. Why? Remember that socialism’s primary goal is to completely eliminate classes, and the only way to do that is to take their property so that the collective can own and manage it. What would happen if you tried to do something like that in the United States today? Almost everyone with wealth would try to leave, of course, in search of a place where they won’t be punished for having wealth. That means there would be less wealth to go around in the newly formed socialist nation, causing living conditions to immediately and sharply decline.
Even if you could manage to prevent all wealthy people from leaving a country, you still wouldn’t have a classless world, because some countries have more wealth, land, natural resources, educated citizens, and infrastructure than others. That means without a global government managing all the world’s wealth, you’re still stuck with a class system: countries that have wealth and countries that don’t.
There are many more things that could be said about socialism, but one thing is abundantly clear after having read through numerous socialist works: Marx’s socialism is radical, delusional, and incredibly dangerous.
Justin Haskins is the co-founder of StoppingSocialism.com.