Whenever you get into an argument with a socialist over what socialism means, they always claim that it means “worker ownership of the means of production.” Yet when the argument is over and everyone’s back where they were beforehand, the socialist will frequently claim that it’s the State— not the working class— that should possess the means of production.
I’ve noted this many times and it’s been a bit hilarious to keep seeing socialists flip back and forth over what actually qualifies as socialism. That’s not to say that all socialists behave this way— there are some who never claim it’s anything other than State ownership of the means of production, and there are others who never claim it’s anything other than worker ownership of the means of production. Those in the latter category have largely been forgotten in popular discourse because of how socialism has become to mean “any form of Big Government.”
Naturally, I’m keen on wondering what’s so great about Big Government. It’s said that the government needs to regulate industry in order to prevent abuses, and without this regulation, the working class would be a downtrodden, abused, and impoverished underclass without any rights. Yet whenever I look to nations that have the most oppressed working classes, it’s always those with authoritarian or totalitarian governments that attempt to control every facet of the economy.
Of course, is this a damning condemnation of government? Not at all. I can’t say I’d like more privatized prisons, after all. However, there is an aspect of this that I’m starting to realize may prove the socialists right— of course, it’s proving them right in a manner that works against them.
Businesses do need to minimize expenses and maximize profits. That’s just how it works. And often, that will mean that the workers get the short end of the stick. Not always, but that’s how it’ll usually happen, and when most businesses manage to lower wages for workers, they wouldn’t want anything to happen to destroy their hegemony. Just look at what happened with Henry Ford— some of his rivals called him a socialist all because he paid his workers so well.
But that’s not what I’m getting at. No, my point is that socialists are very much right when they call socialist countries “State Capitalist.” And why? Because, as they say, the State takes the role of the capitalist enterprise. Most businesses are run by the State, after all.
However, I’m going deeper than that. It’s not just that the State runs most businesses— it’s also that the State itself has become a business. In order for it to be successful, it needs to be run like a business, like a corporation. However, whenever socialists overthrow the bourgeoisie and implement the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, they see themselves as revolutionary Marxist heroes, not bourgeois businessmen. That’s one reason why socialist nations always fail— those running it fail to realize they’ve essentially turned their parent nation into one giant corporation.
Imagine if wide-eyed idealists tried running Microsoft. Rather than engaging in traditional business practices, they did everything according to some outdated pamphlet or religious document that has no bearing on modern society. Would Microsoft last long? No, it wouldn’t. It would suffer yearly deficits that got worse and worse, with the workers going unpaid and the higher ups reaping any and all money that can be made.
So it seems like you have a choice between one corporation or several corporations. Is there any way out of this matrix? To be blunt, not really. I’m not going to try to sugarcoat anything, because no matter what happens, we’re going to return to a somewhat similar set up in society. However, I do have one hypothesis.
It goes that there is a conflict between authoritarianism and democracy. Democracy is inherently more successful than authoritarianism, as all examples of authoritarianism will eventually collapse in on themselves due to the centralization of power. However, authoritarianism is a dominant gene, whereas democracy is a recessive gene.
Anyone who has ever gone through 8th grade biology class knows these terms, “dominant” and “recessive.” Dominant alleles can show themselves even if they came from only one parent and it is a minority of a person’s alleles. Recessive alleles must come from both parents, and even then they will rarely appear.
This holds true for sociopolitics and economics. You can’t have authoritarianism and democracy. That’s one reason why I feel anarcho-capitalism and Chavismo are doomed ideologies— one claims to respect sociopolitical democracy, and yet all but demands economic authoritarianism. The other claims to pursue economic democracy, but did so by abusing sociopolitical authoritarianism— and as we’re seeing in Venezuela, it’s led to disastrous results.
This is because you need both to be democracies if you want success. If one is authoritarian, soon enough both will be authoritarian. An authoritarian government will never keep its hands off the economy, and authoritarian business structures will always want to corrupt government. You need government in order to create a monopoly, and you need a business powerful enough to get government to create a monopoly in its favor. That’s why the argument over whether monopolies are the result of Big Business or Big Government is a pointless argument that’s very obviously divided along political lines— you need two to tango. If there’s a monopoly, breaking up the business with bigger government won’t solve anything. Likewise, shrinking the government wouldn’t solve anything either. You’d need to do both if you wanted to prevent it from happening again. However, as long as both are authoritarian structures, it will happen again. It’s just something we’d have to deal with time and time again.
That’s one reason why I’ve been extolling the virtues of worker cooperatives, worker self management, decentralized business models, and fully automated businesses (technates).
We probably won’t see the rise of decentralized democracy anytime soon, not unless there were an aggressive move towards it. Digital technologies can aid this movement, as we’ve seen with the likes of the DAO, but it’s still too early to see which way we’re heading.