You Might Be a Socialist If… by Michael Engel

by Michael Engel
Writer, Dandelion Salad
Socialism for Dummies, March 28, 2013
May 12, 2013

Socialist Labor Party Hall (1900) – SLP carved medallion

Image by origamidon via Flickr

There’s ironic pleasure watching Republicans as they fight among themselves to see who’s more right-wing.  Thanks to pressure from the Tea Party faction, the PC Disease that supposedly was the affliction of the Left has now infected them.  Too bad they didn’t learn from our history.  For 150 years, those who called themselves socialists have argued over the “correct” interpretation of the Sacred Texts and over who was entitled to mark the “true path” to socialism.  The resulting factionalism fractured the movement as a whole. More disastrously, Stalin and Mao set themselves up as the ultimate totalitarian arbiters of these issues in their countries and imprisoned or killed off the opposition.

Given that history, I am certainly reluctant to set up any concrete definitions or establish ideological litmus tests.  However, I would like to give you an opportunity to define yourselves.  So here are three propositions about economics and politics that I believe can help do this.  (I welcome additional suggestions, but I think these are a good start.)

(1) In the long run and as a whole, the economic and political interests of the “1%” and those who work with or identify with them are inherently opposed to those of the rest of us.  They gain, we lose.  We gain, they lose.

(2) In the long run, organizing the economy of society primarily around the pursuit of profit is destructive of the well-being of humanity and the Earth we live on.

(3) A different world is possible and desirable–together we can make it happen.

For each question, if you answer “Yes”, give yourself two points.  If you answer “Maybe” or “Don’t Know”, give yourself one point.  If you answer No”, give yourself zero points.

Add it up.  If you scored zero, you are most certainly not a socialist. Six points–Welcome to the club!  In between–well, that depends on how you answered each question and why.  For example, “yes” on the first two and “no”  on the last (you might be an anarchist–or a survivalist) is different from three “maybes” (you might be a liberal).  And among us six-pointers, there are undoubtedly strong differences on some of the details–especially over specific solutions and how to achieve them.  Perhaps continuing to read this blog may help clarify things, especially if you answered “don’t know” three times.  I encourage you, regardless of your score, to do so, and weigh in with your own point of view.


What Socialism is NOT… by Michael Engel

Occupied Social Centers in Spain + Cooperatives, Another Mode of Production

Richard Wolff: Capitalism’s Destructive Power + Wolff Urges End to Austerity, New Jobs Program, Democratizing Work

Worker Owned Businesses Point to New Forms of Ownership

Unlivable Wages by Ralph Nader

3 thoughts on “You Might Be a Socialist If… by Michael Engel

  1. For myself, the first 2 questions are a given – YES.
    (3) NO

    From each according to ability – To each according to need =
    Sloth by the most needy – Revolt by the most able.


  2. Pingback: Bolivian VP, Alvaro Garcia Linera: Equality + Justice = Socialism | Dandelion Salad

  3. I’m not sure this categorization exercise is particularly helpful.

    Obviously the 1% or one-tenth thereof, are motivated by a simplistic ideology that declares profit is the only rationale of doing business, that centrally controlled markets must therefore rule and whoever wins is “successful.” In that world people are essentially commodities and labour is just a cost. In short, this is engineered slavery packaged under a pretext of freedom and labelled “the public good.”

    Once we open things up, and begin to concede that all individuals have a right to self-determination and society should express those unique values, in effect we are saying that the rule of law must empower this alleged 99.9%, but then “politics” becomes exceedingly complicated.

    Or does it?

    How complicated is a rain forest or an ocean? They are only complicated if they have to struggle to be a community; if on the other hand they are recognized and experienced as complex systems, actually ecological systems, that necessarily interact and form an even more complex relationship, then we find ourselves in the domain of organization, not control.

    Ecosystems self-organize in complex patterns according to necessity. The only forces that prevent them from doing that are complicated external interventions. Their “success” relies upon complex biodynamics, not complicated formulations and capitalist dogmas.

    Human beings are no different. We are exceedingly complex, but we would do much better if we were less complicated.

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