by Evan Zilber ’22
Published May 5th, 2021
America’s people have learned to cower at the simple mention of socialism. This fear, to some, is sourced, for some, by the actions of socialist states during the Cold War, and to others, through the assurance by establishment press that capitalism is infallible.
Socialism is as much a boogeyman today as it was a half a century ago. This contempt is so consistent, not because of socialism’s intrinsic evil, but because corporate media and rich politicians inundate Americans with praises of individualism over collectivism.
These praises (as with propaganda generally) utilize emotion rather than substance to beguile American citizens. This is why many of the indoctricated refer to plain irrelevancies when justifying capitalism: the actions of a certain socialist bloc which disbanded 30 years ago proves the evil of free healthcare; an imaginary buyer and seller who invariably act according to a pre-supposed logic show the rationality of markets.
Of course, the USSR really did commit atrocities, and I’m sure at least one human, at one time, acted as the ‘homo economicus’ in some capacity. These truths, however, are partial, yet rightwing rhetoric heils them as definite.
If one looks at socialism without these imposed biases, their conclusion may stray from their nation’s agenda.
Put simply, capitalism is defined by private property, while socialism is defined by public property. Property refers to things workers use to produce goods (the means of production). In essence, the tools by which workers create goods can either be owned by said workers or by someone who owns these tools by technicality.
Elementally, therefore, socialism seems pretty reasonable. This reasonability is rarely recognized, though, because muddled abstractions deface what socialism and collectivism truly are.
We Americans are taught to believe that with collectivism inevitably comes state power, and with state power inevitably comes totalitarianism. This interpretation fails to acknowledge that the institution of private property necessitates state power as well. Workers who accept the divinity of property rights only do so because the state mandates these rights with implied (and often practiced) state violence.
Moreover, labor is deeply collectivist no matter the economic system – workers make goods through coaction, not as lone cogs. Despite this, capitalist governments have historically shut down any attempt made by workers to organize as a body. Why must supposedly democratic capitalist regimes use force to suppress mass movement?
The answer to this question is that capitalism is fundamentally at odds with democracy.
‘Private property rights’ is a cryptic phrase whose true implications are insidious. Really, private property grants certain individuals holy jurisdiction over the means of life. Delineating this jurisdiction also delineates a legal hierarchy in which man rules over man. While some believe this hierarchy is based on merit, it’s really based on the arbitrary social classes of yesterday’s dynasties.
Editor’s Note: To hear a different perspective on this issue, check out Kiran Subramanian’s (’21) article: https://themontgomerypawprint.com/socialism-refuted/