A Brief History Of Socialism

King Piye: The Greatest Nubian Pharaoh

The threat to the current Global Economic Order posed by the Coronavirus has exposed the weaknesses of the present Capitalist Liberal system. The quest is on for alternative systems, and as part of this process, past ideas are being reconsidered.

One of the ideas from the past that has enjoyed a resurgence is Socialism which changed the course of History in Russia, China and even NAZI Germany. It was also part of 19th Century United States in the form of Socialist Communities like the Shakers inspired by activists like Charles Fourier with the establishment of the Socialist Party Of America in 1901.

Socialism as an idea has been around since antiquity with some even suggesting that Jesus Christ and the Prophet Muhammad esentially taught Socialism.

At its core, Socialism is about the ownership of what Marx terms the means of production like land, labour and factories as well as the fair distribution of the output of production amongst the people.

In a world such as ours, this would translate to the idea that when a business profits, the workers should receive a much greater share of these profits than they currently do.

Socialists are divided as to the best way to accomplish this goal with some taking the view that direct ownership of the means of production by the Workers through Nationalisation by the State or Shared individual Co-operatives is the best.

For others, direct ownership of the means of production isn’t necessary if the proceeds from the business activties of an Economy are redistributed through Taxation to pay for Social Services and a minimum standard of living for everyone.

In Das Kapital published in 1867, Socialist Philosopher Karl Marx put forward a Theory that helped to explain the driving forces behind the Social revolutions that were happening all over Europe.

This inspired the rise of Socialism throughout the world, but eventually Socialists were divided into two camps -Social Democrats, who believed in redistribution through Taxation, and Communists who believed that direct ownership of the means of production was the most effective way of distributing Wealth.

The Social Democrat approach was more compatible with the Global Economic Order than the Communist approach.

In recent history, the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 exposed the weaknesses of the neo-Liberal Capitalist Economic system. The Coronavirus Pandemic has only added to the issues, further highlighting the weaknesses of a system that never really fully recovered from the events of 2008 which has resulted in a distorted inequitable Global Economy characterised by the concentration of wealth in a small section of the population and mass Global poverty.

These developments have put Socialism back on the agenda as the world contends with the actual consequences of a system characterised by Private Ownership of the means of production and indirect redistribution of production output through Taxation.

There are increasing demands for a basic guaranteed income, better Social Services like Healthcare and increased Government control of the Economy as a cushion against Economic shocks like unemployment.

In the past Socialism was discredited for amongst other reasons disincentivising productivity by not taking into account the natural human instinct to work towards self-preservation. Such criticisms were pronounced in the 20th Century in both Culture and Politics producing an Anti-Socialist sentiment around the world.

The fall of the Berlin Wall, and the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War seemed to be the final nail in the coffin.

However, today our post Cold War world finds itself in a world similar to that which inspired the revolutions which prompted Marx to write Das Kapital.

It remains to be seen whether we will move beyond the blind love of Capitalism shown in Cultural works like Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged towards some form of the Socialist alternative it villifies.