Knowledge Blast: Socialist Thought
To understand socialism you must grasp two concepts, organization and community. Socialism relies on the principles that society runs on the basis of corporation amongst individuals for their beneficial survival and flourishing. Societies that are successful rely on the principles of organization and community, to the extent that benefits the collective of society. It is thus in this light that we can define socialism as a universal set of ideas that focuses on societal structuring and how humans work together to maintain order amongst themselves; from liberal democracies to totalitarian states. Socialism or the “social ideals” they run upon such as community and organization; are either used fully (liberal democracies, with emphasis on socialist liberties eg Scandinavian countries emphasise universal education and healthcare), or marginally (totalitarian societies run on the principles of the oligarchy running the collective, but when we take the principles mentioned such as organization and community, we can see these societies that dictators are a part of. Utilise organization, and reduce community sharing to a select few i.e. the dictators or oligarchy. Who use means by which to benefit themselves but not the rest of the community). None the less, any societal philosophy or political philosophy that utilises principles of organization and community, are utilising socialist ideals.
Marxism is a form of economic and political philosophy, that utilises socialist ideals of organization and community with economic principles of the control means of production and wealth. Marxism is a theory first proposed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in 1848 with the book “Communist manifesto”, both these German philosophers wrote this book in response to the industrial revolution that was sweeping across Europe in the early 19th century; the theory goes on the lines as follows…
“Throughout history the state has been the device for deception and manipulation among the masses from a dominant class; class struggle has been the central agent for change in history. The capitalist system has planted the first seeds of its own decay, as the bourgeoisie (middle class capitalists) struggle for dominance over the proletariats (working class); that will inevitably end with the proletariat’s dominance of the state, until it will be superseded by a socialist order and classless society i.e. a socialist utopia or a ‘communist state’”
This theory takes a ‘socialist commentary’ of the then current industrial revolution of the 19th century with the rise of capitalist free economy and the means of production being shifted from the worker (proletariat) to the industrial entrepreneur (bourgeoisie). Marx and Engels predicted that if this change went on that the current industrial state would go through a revolution by which the workers would get to the stage of utter anger and take back control of the means of production and wealth and give it to the hands of the people. In theory it would then follow that class would then dissolve leaving a free and more equal society, as socialist theorists viewed society in terms of being a machine that could be tuned in a certain way to produce a certain outcome. Marx had intentionally planned for this change to be undergone in industrial countries such as Germany, France and so on. Another more popular view of Marxist theory is its view on history; Marx describes the progression of change as follows…
“Hunter gatherers-Feudalism-Capitalism- Imperialism- Socialism-Communism”.
The use of the term socialism in this case refers to the economic ideal of socialism where the collective have the power of the means of production and wealth that are then shared equally.
Leninism is a theory that puts Marxism in practise in an agricultural environment. Vladimir Lenin utilised Marxist theory and applied it to a Russian setting, which setting was very different from industrialised capitalist Europe as Russia was still a feudalist society that was run by an absolute monarchy. The tsarian Government had an inclusive economic policy that was very paranoid of western development and change thus the government as a result, never had modern equipment for agricultural farming and still relied on serfdom for economic sustainability; the proletariats (workers and lower classes) made up the majority of Russian society and provided most of the wealth and production to the aristocracy who made up 3% of the country. This feudalistic society was not fit for the kind of Marxism Marx had intended, he and Engels wished to see Marxism put into practise in western nations like Germany, England and so on. Vladimir Lenin upon the start of the 20th century formed after being imprisoned due to social activism, the Social democrats who had a policy that sought to apply Marxism to Russia.
Leninism focuses on changing the setting of natural revolution in industrial capitalist societies, to a form of organised educated revolution that was managed and forced by a party that utilised the proletariats for the means of establishing a dictatorship for them. Lenin called this vanguard party the “communist party” and he sought to utilise the working class, through education and political consciousness to create revolution. How this came into practise was with the overthrow of the tsarian government by the army and the proletariat who in April of 1917 over through the government after protests over the war and food shortages which forced the Tsar Nicholas 2nd and his family into exile and established a provisional government which would be run by the people through democratic means. In April of that year, Lenin produced his April thesis which sought to capture the “April revolution” and use it as a means to rid the capitalist era of Russia and create a communist state by which the means of production and distribution would be in charge by the state. In October of that year the Bolsheviks through the help of the established red army led by “Leon Trotsky”, took advantage of the provisional government’s debacle with the army and took over the government. Leninism is Marxism put in practise.
Out of Leninism we have two lines of thought, they both come from the arms race between Trotsky and Stalin, they are Trotskyism and Stalinism, two different approaches to Leninism. Trotskyism can be defined as “permanent revolution”, where by which aims to use the proletariat classes in capitalist countries to have socialist revolutions that continuously spread in the hopes of proletariat internationalism which means “Global worker revolution”, it seeks to have a global world that is run by the socialists. The second is Stalinism; its aims were to create controlled revolution with aggressive industrialization, censorship of the mass opposing views, one man government dictatorship and aggressive international policy that focused on spreading communism under the control of the individual. Modern day communism is associated with Stalinism, for its aggressive tact on censorship, dictatorship and industrialization. Stalin sought to make a more ideological view of Leninism which would evolve Marxism to its pinnacle; however instead of socialist utopia he established totalitarianism.
Other nations such as china utilised collectivization, which is a form of communism to utilise the workers belonging to the state. Stalinism is the modern day usage in reference to communism as it is the most popular concept when people think about communism or socialism. There are still Marxist thinkers, except they do not associate themselves with communism or the communist movement. These are but the general understandings of communism, stalinism, leninism, trotskyism, marxism and socialism; what has been explained is brief summations in the hope of giving individuals a broad understanding and ability to differentiate between them in case of wider discussion.
Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson