Skip to main content

What is Socialism?

I am sick of all the Neo-Cons screaming about how Obama is a socialist, without looking at their own house.  Likewise, I am sick of the Obama Fan Club screaming "socialism is a code word for Black."  Cut it out, people. My guess as to why you all are acting like morons over the word "socialism," is that few of you know what it means.  Let's learn about socialism, shall we?

so·cial·ism        (sō'shÉ™-lÄ­z'É™m)  Pronunciation Key

   1. Any of various theories or systems of social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively or by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy.
   2. The stage in Marxist-Leninist theory intermediate between capitalism and communism, in which collective ownership of the economy under the dictatorship of the proletariat has not yet been successfully achieved.

"socialism." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 22 Oct. 2008. <>.

I have linked the Communist Manifesto to the second definition.  I want you to read it and pay special attention to the different types of socialism, with a special emphasis on Conservative or Bourgoise Socialism.  Remember that proletariat refers to the lower-class and bourgeois refer to the middle-class.

  • Reactionary Socialism
    a. Feudal Socialism
    b. Petty Bourgeois Socialism
    c. German or "True" Socialism
  • Conservative or Bourgeois Socialism
  • Critical-Utopian Socialism and Communism 

Too much work?  Let me share a few passages of particular relevance to this election, if you lack the motivation to read the entire Communist Manifesto (which you should do anyway.)

 2. Conservative or Bourgeois Socialism

(¶3.2.1) A part of the bourgeoisie is desirous of redressing social grievances in order to secure the continued existence of bourgeois society.

(¶3.2.2) To this section belong economists, philanthropists, humanitarians, improvers of the condition of the working class, organisers of charity, members of societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, temperance fanatics, hole-and-corner reformers of every imaginable kind. This form of Socialism has, moreover, been worked out into complete systems.

(¶3.2.3) We may cite Proudhon's Philosophy of Poverty as an example of this form.

(¶3.2.4) The socialistic bourgeois want all the advantages of modern social conditions without the struggles and dangers necessarily resulting therefrom. They desire the existing state of society minus its revolutionary and disintegrating elements. They wish for a bourgeoisie without a proletariat. The bourgeoisie naturally conceives the world in which it is supreme to be the best; and bourgeois Socialism develops this comfortable conception into various more or less complete systems. In requiring the proletariat to carry out such a system, and thereby to march straightway into the social New Jerusalem, it but requires in reality that the proletariat should remain within the bounds of existing society but should cast away all its hateful ideas concerning the bourgeoisie.

(¶3.2.5) A second and more practical, but less systematic, form of this Socialism sought to depreciate every revolutionary movement in the eyes of the working class by showing that no mere political reform, but only a change in the material conditions of existence, in economic relations, could be of any advantage to them. By changes in the material conditions of existence, this form of Socialism, however, by no means understands abolition of the bourgeois relations of production - an abolition that can be effected only by a revolution - but administrative reforms, based on the continued existence of these relations; reforms, therefore, that in no respect affect the relations between capital and labour, but, at the best, lessen the cost and simplify the administrative work of bourgeois government.

(¶3.2.6) Bourgeois Socialism attains adequate expression when, and only when, it becomes a mere figure of speech:

With all of this information at your disposal, and to prove to me that you all understand what socialism means, I will ask a question.  Do you believe that Barack Obama and/or John McCain are socialists?  If not, explain how with supporting arguments.