Socialist Vocabulary

The red-coats are coming!

February 3, 2010

There are three things you’re not supposed to talk about if you want pleasant conversation: sex, politics, and religion. Let’s talk about politics since we’ve already discussed sex in another article. Religion will make an appearance later, I promise. I’m slowly trying to work this site into a wretched hive of scum and villainy.

People need to get emotional in order to act. As much as I love science, I didn’t get involved with astronomy until I made the leap that we are all made from the dust and remains of dead stars. I don’t get excited about money and numbers until I remember the things I can do once I pay off my debt. Grabbing a beer doesn’t hold as much allure unless I can share the experience with a friend.

Now, with an economy in ruins, two wars, and social schisms everywhere, members of our government want to make it easy for us to get health care.

And we’re telling them, in so many words, no.

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I’ve heard the word “socialism” thrown around so much you’d think it was a football. Or cooties. Fox News, members of the Right, and anyone else opposed to this plan keeps coming back to this idea that health care reform, at least this version of it, is a stepping stone to a socialist takeover, quiet revolution. Never mind the debacle with Palin’s so-called death panels or the fact that our health care, if we can afford it, is already regulated by companies. It’s socialism, they say! Government wants to control our lives! They already bailed out banks, own the auto-industry, and next thing you know they’ll put fluoride in the water!

I swear to God, Allah, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster that the Right has screwed the word “socialism” over like it was a five-dollar whore.

Vocabulary time, boys and girls. “Socialism,” according to, means:

1. a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.

2. procedure or practice in accordance with this theory.

3. (in Marxist theory) the stage following capitalism in the transition of a society to communism, characterized by the imperfect implementation of collectivist principles.

The Cultural Definition, lower than the regular definitions on the page, says all Marxists are socialists, but not all socialists are Marxists. Let’s think about this for a moment. The first definition seems to be the most open-ended. The second simply refers back to the original word and the third refers to Marxist theory.

However, I like this definition better: “Where capitalism stresses competition and profit, socialism calls for cooperation and social service.” It’s from Yahoo Education, and I think it sums the core difference between socialism and capitalism. It doesn’t have any of the connotations and political stigma of either and it sums up the main difference without applying the practices to any particular political ideology. After all, socialism is an economic system. If we really think about it, our country already has socialist aspects.

Don’t believe me? Ever seen one of these?

Government-controlled. Think you can run a business without reporting to the government and abiding by certain government regulations on everything from proper pay to environmental impact? All of that is government-controlled. Ever seen community gardens, public parks, or social security? All of it is government-controlled, maintained, and run.

These are facts. I’m not twisting anything. It’s not a matter of opinion whether we have socialism in this country. It’s there because we as a people said a long time ago that government had the responsibility to protect its citizens, that we needed laws to safeguard against certain kinds of behavior. I’m not arguing whether or not socialism’s a good thing. I’m just showing that the underlying concept is already present in our society.

conservative protesters
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The part of the definition that gets a lot of people is the third one I mentioned, that socialism is a step towards Marxism. Well, having a drink is the first step towards becoming an alcoholic. Getting a girlfriend is the first step towards getting that girl pregnant. Buying a car is the first step towards dying in a mangled wreck. Maybe this slippery slope argument isn’t strong enough, so let me put it another way.

Do we need healthcare? Yes. WebMD reported that over 45,000 deaths each year could be prevented by having access to affordable health care. You’re 40% more likely to die if you have no health care.

How many people would die if the government didn’t mandate seat belts in cars?

Is socialism bad? That’s not what this article is about. It’s about learning the truth. Unlike what some would have you believe, it’s not a matter or Right and Left, good and evil, or progressive versus conservative. At the most basic level, socialism is the belief that communities matter, perhaps more than the individual. We’ve had such a backlash against this word because, at first glance, such a concept goes against the American ideals of the rugged individual, the country that doesn’t need anyone’s help and can do just fine by itself.

It’s the country that’s in debt to China. It’s the country that employs illegal labor in its fields. It’s the country that has an educational system designed to make children pass school, not challenge them to do it themselves and learn from their mistakes. It’s the country where we demand social security and Medicare.

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If you’re going to use the word “socialism” when discussing health care reform, know what it means. Know history. Know what’s at stake. Understand the problem, the vocabulary, and understand the concept of fear tactics. Understand that you’re already living a country where the government does regulate our lives.

Maybe when everyone learns the meaning of “socialism,” we’ll work on learning the phrase “high educational standards.”

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