Socialism doesn't apply via self-description

Should we take those who call themselves “Socialist” at their word? Anti-Socialists seem eager to do so but such a label can only be assigned by act, not by word

Socialists in Union Square, N.Y.C. [large crow...
Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

Db0: A reader recently contacted me asking if he could write an article on Socialism and have it posted at the Division by Zer0. Since WordPress provides the capability to have multiple users and since the contributor role already exists and since writing has been slow around here lately, why not? Following you’ll find the opinion of Orgthingy from (I assume) France, edited for clarity by yours truly.

Whenever I mention that I’m a socialist, many point out that I’m a “Communist Nazi” or “Racist Bastard”, when I ask how’s being socialist racist, they answer “Nazis are National SOCIALISTS YOU RACIST BASTARD GO TO HELL!”; it basically annoys me.

Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussein, and other “dictators” are nothing but the usual: Dictators that use the Communist and Socialist noble messages to satisfy themselves. Hitler didn’t provide jobs by his “Creative and evil Socialist ideas” but rather to kill the Jews (and others) so the Aryan-blooded Germans would think he actually created jobs for them.  He didn’t. Socialism isn’t about satisfying anybody by killing others.

Now Stalin’s turn, USSR wasn’t Socialist/Communist at all, but State Capitalist. Stalin was a control-freak, but not every kind of control means “The Socialist Devil”; Capitalism has its kind of control as well, but people just don’t know.

Now it’s Saddam’s turn: His country had billions of dollars ,before he became president, flowing into country’s revenue, then he made his country billions in debt! After googling I found out that he spent the money either on weapons or for personal use; that really isn’t socialism.

People Wake up, just because they claim they’re socialists doesn’t mean they are!

Db0: Orgthingy is pointing out the classic fallacy of taking Dictators at their word on whatever they claim to be. Thus Stalin was a “Communist”, Hitler a “Socialist” etc. The people who accept such a self-definition by dictators and brutal regimes are guilty of intellectual dishonesty, for they won’t as readily accept, say, the claims of North Korea of being a “Democratic Republic”, nor would they accept claims of such people that their acts are for the greater good and whatnot.

It is obvious that a dictator will attempt to provide legitimacy to their rule. It will always be “for the people” or “for the nation” and any other such rhetorhic. The specifics will not matter but it will be whatever most people believe in. As such the dictators of USSR called themselves Communists, and the fascists of Germany called themselves National Socialists (as Socialism back then was still quite popular).

However to believe one thing those Leaders say but dismiss the other is simply disingenuous. Especially since what they claim to be has a perfectly clear definition already which diverges from their actual practices. For example, Socialism is supposed to be Worker’s ownership of the means of production and egalitarianism, but National socialists promoted exactly the opposite. Their regime was defined by a strict hierarchical pyramid of power and corporate cronyism, where economic freedom was high but political freedom low. Indeed, Capitalists all over the world loved the Nazis (as they have loved every other fascist/right-wing dictator since).

The rulers of any country will hijack the ideology that is most popular at the moment in order to retain their rule with the minimum of resistance. Nazi leaders gave the illusion of working for the good of the German people (National “Socialism”) while the USA ruling elite give the illusion of allowing power and choice for everyone (“Democracy”). None of these have much legitimacy and nor do they necessarily merge with what others mean when they say “Socialism” or “Democracy”. These labels do not work through self-identification.

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