Lately the word socialism and socialist have been plastered across the Internet and media. Claims that Obama, Clinton, and the Democrats in general, are "socialists" are all too common and show the political ignorance in this country. So what is socialism?
Socialism is a system in which resources and the means of production (mines, farms, factories, oil fields, utilities, etc) are socially owned and managed by the workers. Who exactly is advocating for this in the Democratic Party, or in America for that matter? Even Bernie Sanders, self proclaimed democratic socialist, never speaks of social ownership.
The powers that be want you to associate socialism with the USSR, North Korea, and other oppressive regimes, which is a total lie. The workers don't even have control over their lives in North Korea, yet we are supposed to believe they somehow control the economy? They want you to believe that socialism has something to do with the size or scope of government, it doesn’t. The USSR (in it’s later stages), North Korea, and China in their current states are all examples of State Capitalism, not Socialism.
State capitalism is usually described as an economic system in which commercial (i.e., for-profit) economic activity is undertaken by the state, where the means of production are organized and managed as state-owned business enterprises (including the processes of capital accumulation, wage labor, and centralized management), or where there is otherwise a dominance of corporatized government agencies (agencies organized along business management practices) or publicly listed corporations of which the state has controlling shares.
True socialism embraces democracy and freedom of expression; each individual is equal in opportunity and legal rights, has control over their workplace through the democratic process, and has control over their lives. Unlike our current capitalistic system, everyone enjoys the same rights and opportunities under socialism; it’s not dependent on your wealth or social standing as it is now.
What if America were suddenly to embrace socialism? Well, tomorrow you'd be able to vote for your company or workplaces goals and structure. You'd have an ownership stake in your company instead of being just a worker. Goods and services would be much cheaper due to the fact that profits, now used for shareholder dividends and executive bonuses, would be invested back into the workforce, the company, and used to reduce costs to customers. And finally, we'd all be working a lot less while earning more money and enjoying more leisure time. How you wonder?
Under a socialist system every able-bodied person would partake in work, unlike our current economy that relies on an army of unemployed people to keep wages down and workers insecure. This means that jobs would be shared amongst different people, which would allow us all to work less. Well wouldn't that result in less pay for less hours worked? No, not exactly. As explained before, profits would be shared amongst the workers and company as a whole (not just the ownership classes as they are now). This results in much more money going to the workforce.
A CEO of a large company can make $100 million in a year easily (not to mention their stock options, dividends, and bonuses). That same $100 million could be used to hire an additional 2,000 employees, each making $50,000 per year! Not too shabby. If the workforce did not need to be that large, the money could be split amongst existing workers, used to invest in new equipment, or used to reduce costs of the service or product made. And that is just the compensation of one executive! Under socialism, all the money that is now used for executive bonuses, stock buybacks, dividend payouts, compounded interest, and all the other financial tricks used to enrich the wealthy, well all that money would be going to people like us; the workers and consumers!
In 2015, General Electric paid out $9.2 billion dollars in dividends to share holders. Shareholders do nothing to benefit the company, the majority shareholders are wealthy people who did nothing more than buy stock in GE through the stock exchange. They never worked on the machining floors, never designed anything, they never produced a thing for GE, yet they reap the benefits of the productive work force. If that $9.2 billion had been used to hire more workers, let’s say at $50,000 salaries with $20,000 fringe benefits, GE would be able to hire an additional 131,428 workers. That’s 131,428 workers making $50,000 per year with benefits! What would be better for workers and the economy as a whole, shareholders receiving $9.2 billion, or an additional 131,428 good paying jobs available to people like us? That’s just one single company as well; imagine that for every fortune 500 companies listed on the stock exchange! We would have more good paying jobs then we could ever fill.
Another benefit of socialism is the aspect of workers controlling their workplaces. Workers would vote on company policies, rules, and long-term strategies. How many workers are going to vote to send their job overseas? None. Socialism puts the control in the hands of the people most knowledgeable about the company, the people who work there building the products and providing the services. No more dictating from a group of wealthy, unaccountable elites whose only concern is how much money they can drain from the company and workers.
The tired trope is that “socialism allows people to get paid for doing nothing”, which is totally untrue. Capitalism allows people to get huge sums of money for doing absolutely nothing through stock dividends. Socialism would provide everyone with jobs and freedom, capitalism doesn’t. If you had two million dollars and invested it in stocks that paid a 5% dividend, you would receive $100,000 per year in dividend payouts. You would get more money than most make in a year working, just by having two million dollars to invest. Not only would you make money from not working, you’d pay less taxes too. Dividends are taxed at a lower rate than income from wages, and they are not taxed for Social Security or Medicare.
Capitalism is based on hierarchy and exploitation. The extremely wealthy people at the top do nothing productive for society. The shareholder class, those who own the majority shares of stock in these large companies, do not produce a thing. Despite doing nothing productive, they decide when to ship factories overseas, how many employees are needed, where to spend company funds, who runs the companies, and how much we should all pay and be paid for our labor and products. They lounge in the sun all day on their 100 million dollar yachts, not knowing an honest days work in their life. They use workers to enrich themselves plain and simple.
We need to stop letting the regressives define these political terms. If you want to know more about socialism, read books written by actual socialists! Upton Sinclair, Michael Parenti, Eugene Debs, and even Einstein wrote books and essays on socialism, and how it embraces freedom and equality. Read Rosa Luxemburg, Marx, Lenin, READ! If you read pieces from these people, you will quickly realize what you've been told about socialism, is nothing but lies!