Defining Socialism

Continuing the discussion from Hedge fund manager buys drug company, raises price of pill from $13.50 to $750:

@Mister44, @pixleshifter, @Mausium, @renke (is there anyone else I’m missing?) I’m starting a new topic as we are well away from discussing drug pricing.

Nothing in that definition implies government. CNT-AIT in the Spanish Civil War are probably the most prominent example of non-government socialism.

To what exactly? Whatever it is rebranded to will still be tainted in the eyes of most people who are opposed to socialism.

I have seen the same arguments around anarchism. Communism and socialism are tainted by the dictatorial state communists, Libertarianism will confuse people who are used to Libertarian Capitalism and unfamiliar with the older Libertarian Comunism, Anarchism suggests terrorism and is also being hijacked by Lib-Caps (even though the idea of anarcho-capitalism is a sick joke).

We could call successfully rebrand ourselves as Cute Kittens and we will still end up with the likes of the Daily Mail and Fox news attacking us with headlines like “Cute Kittens causing chaos in major cities”. The only upside to that is that it brings this to mind.

Back to European style socialism, there is another banner for it. Social Democracy. It still has the same problems as the socialism banner though.

The only answer in my eyes is to reclaim socialism/communism/anarchism and show by example that we are not the same as the people that tainted the terms years ago.


For left-leaning persons social-democratic parties are kind of burnt in Europe, mostly because of the switch from a social to a free market economy as paramount principle (Blair’s New Labour and Schröder’s Agenda 2010 are the prime examples). Social democratic parties in Europe are moving to the right since about 20 years…

So maybe we need for the discussion you outlined even more groundwork: What means left? What means right?

The current German conservative government is probably in many ways more left that the US government under Obama, but seen as central-right in Germany/Europe.

(is this of interest for @hereticbranding and @jerwin? both of you had also a social/free-market angle in the original discussion)


I know, but I couldn’t think of a better example. I was thinking of the ideal rather than the current reality though.

There doesn’t seem to be consensus on this. I use an economic scale from Marx to Friedman. Other people use a scale of Labour/Democrat to Conservative/Republican, which might make sense in terms of legislative assemblies but I have a problem with it as it puts me in the same group as politicians like Tony Blair or the Clintons who I strongly disagree with and only share common ground with on a very superficial level. I (and many others on the far left) also have problems with being called a liberal for similar reasons.

I also use a scale from Proudhon to authoritarianism (no examples named because of Godwin’s law) which may also be worth considering.


Been offline. Late to the dance. Left-Right…means whatever the politician of the moment wants it to mean. Which makes it practically useless IMO here in the US.
Our political system is essentially a corporate oligarchy. Our current crop of presidential wannabes make me nauseated…well, not Bernie Sanders, but even if he’s elected he’ll just be a lighthouse atop a sinking ship. We need more than rebranding, we need reformation.
Ban lobbyist. Ban corporate donations. Make voting mandatory for all adults. That’s a start.


Peeps forgot to @ me. And now I’ll win the thread:

‘Actual Democrats’ - that’s what we all are, and that’s what gets called hard left. Well, fuck that noise!

We need to establish that if it’s not hard left, it’s not fucking democracy. Anyone who thinks otherwise is on the (literal, Jonestown) Kool-aid.



This is idiotic and possibly true. It’s not Mao and Stalin that have turned the term ‘socialism’ into a curse, but rather the ordure that has been heaped successfully upon the term in the US, and to some extent the European right wing as well. In the US and the UK plenty of right-wing commentators respond to the slightest suggestion of redistribution or public ownership with “YES BUT GULAGS” which demonstrated the level of hysteria that has been carefully cultivated around the terminology of the Left. So while I think it’s pretty stupid to have bought into those clearly self-serving definitions, I also think that you’ve identified a real problem in how the ideology of the people under neoliberalism has been manipulated. Could socialism be successful in the US? Perhaps if it was branded in terms of founding American virtues - Christian charity, freedom from oppression, equality, rejection of privilege, kindness, humility, down-to-earth values, mutual aid and support, local community involvement and grass-roots organisation. But the moment that you address national or even more so international solidarity, I think the fnords will take hold.



Don’t know if this is a working explanation - parties/politics can only sorted on the spectrum when viewed in its entirety. I think most of the ordering is still done by gatekeepers in the form of classical media, but this changed (and is still changing) with the advent of the net (first and foremost the easy(ish) way of self-publishing like blogs, forums, social media, bla).

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You shouldn’t let other people dictate the terms used in the debate, otherwise the possible responses are narrowed.

If a politician calls himself a leftist and then you look to other politicians to establish how just left leaning this one is then you’ve still haven’t learned anything about the value of said politicians propositions.
I suggest two alternatives to avoid this pitfall:

Every time you use the term left or right, define what you understand left or right to mean or don’t talk about somebody as left or right if there is no consensus about the term and instead debate their actions and statements.

Everywhere, politics is politics.

US leaders have spent so long demonizing communism that words like socialism no longer describe anything but the fear and distrust of other’s political form of organization. It goes right back to my point above, discussing socialism means first talking about what its not, but then you get so wrapped up in that that you don’t actually talk about what it is. The only possible solution is for some people to admit they don’t know. On the Internet!. That’s going to be hard.

I agree with @mister44´s recognition that the term is <a=href"> poisoned for most Americans and for those it isn’t, correctly using it without defining it in the conversation comes across as self righteous and is possibly irresponsible in the political sense.


There are people who choose to emphasize the massive incompatibilities between democracy and liberalism, socialism and democracy, socialism and liberalism, as if purity of concept was a desirable result.


Oh, I know what I want and how I see the political spectrum :slight_smile: I’m still trying to establish some kind of baseline - see, even the most free-market leaning parties in Germany (except some minor splinter groups below the 1 % mark in national and regional elections) are not against universal healthcare - it’s a deeply ingrained mainstream opinion and not seriously rejected by any party.

Compare this to the Affordable Care Act: One would think the antichrist zombiefied both Stalin and Pol Pot to invade God’s Own Country when listening to the right (pun intended) commenters.


America: The country that hates Communism so much that they sponsored Pol Pot until the early 90s…


Compare this to the Affordable Care Act: One would think the antichrist zombiefied both Stalin and Pol Pot to invade God’s Own Country when listening to the right (pun intended) commenters.
(Edit to apologize for not knowing how to quote properly on an android phone)

Don’t forget a long ingrained fear and loathing of melanin. That definitely impacts the right wing spin machine…

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I didn’t mean to say you didn’t, sorry if it came across like that.
My point is that in a conversation its too easy to believe that relative terms like left or right have a shared meaning but they are presented in media as if they did. Getekeepers these days set themselves up as such by telling us they can boil complex topics into simple binary choices: Left or right. Socialism vs Democracy, I don’t believe that, not anymore.

Yeah, that’s a tough one. I live in Mexico and for all the complaints we have with our health care, I don’t have to worry about an accident wiping me out and I can’t think of a good reason why people wouldn’t want that sort of peace of mind.


Healthcare was only one example of the differences (and an easy target, next to nobody I talk to understands the US discussion).

I think I once saw Nolan Charts, broken down to poll results in multiple countries. Don’t find it anymore, though.

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There are some at the Political Compass, but they have a different system to Nolan Charts.

I’m not a fan of Nolan Charts, to be honest. They all seem to have the idea that socialism is statism, which ignores the existence of anarcho-communists, libertarian marxists and many of the other libertarian socialist positions. Not that some of the Political compass questions aren’t flawed too, but they’re easier to work around.

Yet we don’t have an alternative term, and even if we did it would also end up being poisoned. Look at how many republicans use liberal as an insult, for example.

There might be one possibility though. Reclaim libertarian from the right. There is evidence that some libertarian capitalists have moved further to the left when they realised that some parts of socialism were in their interests. You might be able to get people in the US to support something like Mutualism.


Continuing the discussion from Mayor of Stockton, CA detained by DHS at SFO, forced to give up laptop password:

The wider libertarian socialist movement. We have had this discussion about whether to find another name many times and we always come back to the same conclusion.

It’s the best description we have.

But it isn’t a battle to be won. You’ve be better off making a new word up than trying to take back “Libertarian.”

What word would that be? How do you stop the Lib-Caps from claiming that for themselves too? I have seen people commenting here who think that anarchism is libertarian-capitalist.

Besides, some people may think that the word libertarian is lost to the right in the US, but that’s not the case in Europe. We’re not about to give it up just because a bunch of capitalists who we have no respect for want us to.



It doesn’t matter. You’re not going to get your word back in popular culture.