Socialism continues to have a renaissance. Last year, liberal youtube talking head David Pakman did a series of videos on socialism. Pakman himself is a capitalist. He supports Social Democracy, and please do not mix that up Democratic socialism.
The Preservation Society has pressed upon those who want to defend capitalism that they must honestly learn socialism and take it seriously in order to seduce the young and those searching for answers away from the likes of Bernie Sanders (who is nothing more than a New Dealer anyway).
Quips like “socialism is taking other people’s money” just won’t cut it anymore. David Pakman must be given credit for doing a honest and pretty accurate job of exploring socialism, a great rarity among capitalists. For that We commend him, but the problem for capitalists is that when the lower orders study socialism honestly they are bound to want it. Socialism is natural. And as We’ve stated many times before, that is okay. A strong informed masses is a necessary counter to ruling class overreach, and thus restores “balance” and “stability” to ruling class society.
Given Pakman’s capitalist mainstream views, his honorable approach to socialism and his large following, We thought it appropriate to explore socialism and why capitalists should embrace it by looking at Pakman’s understanding of it. This is by no means an exhaustive review of socialism but an address to some points brought up by Pakman.
Pakman’s sophistication on the topic of socialism makes it all the more curious that he falls for the crude and outmoded cliches one hears right wingers spout about it. In his Why I’m Not A Socialist video Pakman recognizes the importance of socialism, but laments that it cannot be implemented democratically, especially in a population of 300 million. He says that while socialism has valuable critiques of capitalism and even offers some good ideas it is at the end of the day authoritarian.
An objective observer might ask if any democracy, never mind capitalist “democracy”, is truly possible in such large populations. Population size and democracy is not just a question for socialists but for all who care about democracy. It is the Preservation Society’s position that large populations are not conducive to democracy of whatever form.
There is nothing inherently authoritarian about socialism either. Its implementation may come through democracy, just as a democratic polity might want to put the means of production and most assets into the hands of a few. Like capitalism, socialism has many variations. Some may be more authoritarian than others. But capitalism is inherently authoritarian by virtue of the prioritization of profit and private property as a vehicle to a supposedly healthy society. This assumption has no basis in reality. The mere existence of the Great Disparity of wealth ought to preclude any notion that capitalism is earnestly democratic. Capitalism fits quite nicely in an undemocratic authoritarian mode.
Socialism, on the other hand seeks a healthy balanced society that frees the individual from basic wants without restricting itself to an ideology. Redistribution does not mean forcing everyone to have the same thing and same amount, or to steal from the rich. Rather, it means making profit accumulation irrelevant to survival and success.
Under socialism, the individual would be liberated to pursue fulfillment of their human potential without having to spend most of their time to worry about providing food, shelter and clothing for themselves and their families. Socialism would remove the constant threat of failure and deprivation that currently shackles much of the masses to their higher order masters. Socialism does not necessarily outlaw differentials in income, but it would prevent private accumulations of society’s goods, assets and political influence that exceed a healthy proportion for a meaningful democracy.
Moreover, was capitalism “implemented” democratically in the first place? Most certainly not (See Our Anti-Democratic Origins of Capitalism series). If the government was elected based on the redistribution of land and big business, and paying the previous owners full market value, would that government be undemocratic? How about when most of that land had been ill gotten in the first place? What is right? Pakman is assuming that current distribution of wealth and resources is fair or at least tolerable compared to socialism. But that is ideology. Society is going wrong everything because of profit capture.
That’s why we need socialism Pakman would argue. It checks the excesses of capitalism. Perhaps, a bit. It actually props up capitalism like a cane until the bloated, diseased organs of society collapse onto itself. That’s what would happen if “socialism” weren’t there. More importantly, this “socialism” that Pakman wants to serve capital still leaves the ruling class in the driver’s seat. The tube show host doesn’t seem to know this. Capitalism good, socialism authoritarian but useful. But government interventions and programs alone do not constitute socialism.
Is socialism authoritarian if not “guided” by capitalism as Pakman claims? An honest look at Victorian capitalism ought to be enough to quash the myth of democratic capitalism. However, the trope of capitalism as a “democratic” system is so deeply ingrained in the minds of individuals, it makes such fundamental falsehoods hard to see. We can easily find examples of the capitalist system raring it anti-democratic head time and again, from its beginnings right up to modern times:
- In the earliest days of capitalism, when “rights”, “liberty” and “private property” were being fought for, enclosure was all the rage unless you were one of the unfortunate peasants who suddenly found themselves “encroaching” on land to which they and their family previously had inviolable rights for generations.
- In the U.S., when “rights”, “equality” and the “pursuit of happiness” were being bandied about, slavery was an integral part of the capitalist system meant to prevent the emergence of a powerful strata of small yeomen farmers. In the North, when indebted farmers in that same period, many of whom were war veterans, rebelled against their oppressive conditions they were crushed. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
- Every offensive war the U.S. or any power has ever fought has been perpetrated on a fraud. The public usually has to be dragged kicking and screaming to sacrifice its blood and treasure to fight capitalism’s wars. But then many of the masses have also been convinced that war is tragically “inevitable”. Hence the need for fraud.
- A small group of individuals decide to move production to more exploitable, undemocratic climes, and abandoning well-paid labor in the US, bringing disaster to cities like Detroit. Did the workers and community agree to this?
- The authorities feel they must censor questions relating to the Holocaust, the moon landing and vaccines. One should not forget that it was not proper at one time to talk the about U.S.’s imperialism and extermination of native peoples. Why in a free society?
- When technological efficiency is discussed, it is never in the context of providing more liberty or wealth for the masses. Instead it is usually left to the liberal to deal with the ensuing crises of layoffs and unemployment, while the masters privately decide what to do with the increased income.
- A few BP executives decided to cut corners on safety leading to the deaths of 11 workers and destruction of the Gulf of Mexico. Democratically decided?
- Everywhere in the capitalist world the retirement age is being raised, pensions are raided. Across-the-board cuts in services are raising suicide rates, desperation and forcing the masses to seek alternatives like socialism. Meanwhile, the master class gets richer and richer. Is this a function of democracy?
One could go on and on. Can any serious individual doubt that capitalism is not democratic? On the contrary, capitalism must be anti-democratic if society is to maintain a system that caters to the imbalance of the Great Disparity. One cannot expect society to consistently sacrifice its energy and members to the luxury of a few. It should be uncontroversial that we live in a society which has, and always has had, a Great Disparity afflicting it.
We do not question Pakman’s commitment to democratic elections but in a capitalist society of Great Disparity how meaningful is that commitment? Pakman did his liberal best recently to sell the 2020 election imploring his listeners to vote Democrat, no matter who the nominee is. With the tiresome predictably of political partisanship, he puts all the undemocratic shenanigans onto the conservative faction and ignores the widespread liberal abuses of the 2016 stolen Democratic nomination. So odious is DC politics that Pakman must invoke the evils of Trump as a reason to vote for an equally odious Democrat. “The lesser of two evils” has become the standard for capitalist democracy. meanwhile, who gets richer, who gets poorers, and who is constantly treading water in the middle? If this is your standard of democracy. Do you really have one?
We’ve pointed out before that in capitalist society liberalization of the masses is often confused with liberation of the individual. As Mark Twain might have said, “reports of the liberation of the individual are greatly exaggerated”. And David Pakman wants to subject socialism to the authority of capitalism?
Next, Pakman Does Socialism — The Swedish Syndrome.