Sustainable Socialism

Published on 9 March 2024 at 12:26

No one is more equal than another and none are equal to each other.

Most of us have read Marx... it's done and dusted. Shamefully, I haven't yet. A professor, the name of whom I unfortunately do not recall, once stated in an interview that the communist ideology, much like many different and often opposing ideologies, was born from the union between intellect and decadence. By that he meant that it was conceived from within the safety net of a university lecture hall and not from a position of abject poverty. One who is in the pit of suffering often has no time to write about it! Intellectuals and academics have paved the way for many social movements, for better and for worse.

We find ourselves today drowning in mass production and clever marketing. We pollute our environment not so much by our sheer numbers but by our excessive consumption. Capitalism continues to churn. It doesn't fail not because it is right but because it is closer to human nature. Closer to our animal nature. We work to own and yearn to be autonomous of the system and of each other. Money is power and power is independence. Capitalism allows people to grow their own businesses, to buy their own property and to own things that are both essential and that also gives them joy. Every business owner big or small, alone or with associates helps turn the wheel of capitalism. They aren't an evil to obliterate but rather a force to harness. Without entrepreneurs, there are no jobs. Without business there is no employment. We no longer live in a self sustenance world but within an intricate web of inter-dependency. We need communism to work together and capitalism for progress. Communism as it was applied in the days of the Soviet Union, Romania (my motherland) and other nations around that time, failed to sustain itself. 


Why did it become such a monstrously corrupt system? 

There are plenty of better scholars than me who have analysed and answered this question. From my side, having experienced a small portion of this corruption in the beginning years of my life, I can answer this with one word: GREED.

Communism, like any other form of governance, needs leaders. Those leaders often have no watchdog and they aren't righteous philanthropists. It all begins from a point of philosophy and ends in crude pragmatism. Why did Ceausescu (the Romanian communist dictator) adorn his bathroom with gold, while many of his people starved? If he was communist, why didn't he share his gold? Because he wasn't communist. He was human. He was a human who rose to power and "absolute power corrupts absolutely".

We've long established that communism and its more crude principles such as lack of ownership, individual sacrifice and forced labour aren't the pillars of a successful society or government.

We've also long established that capitalism mostly serves the rich. Considering that the rich only form a relatively small portion of the entire populace of the world, we sacrifice the many for the benefit of the few.

Communism and capitalism are different sides of the same coin. In truth, the marriage between the two is putting one's best foot forward.

The concept of socialism is the fruit of that marriage.

In light of the focus on environment and sustainability, regardless of which side of the climate debate you're on,  I'd take one step further and coin the term sustainable socialism

Socialism focuses on society; on the functioning in symbiosis of large groups of people. It offers protection to the weak, the old, the very young, the ill, and the disadvantaged, without removing autonomy from the individual. Sustainable socialism focuses on economically viable ways to sustain the financial and practical support offered to those who cannot contribute economically to their own livelihoods. Within the realm of sustainable socialism enters what I call micro-capitalism. Supporting small to medium enterprises by fair taxation, tax rebates, state subventions and access to financing options and free resources helps them to grow and make a profit. It's relevant to remember that profit is absolutely essential for growing a business. If a business is only selling or providing a service to the equivalent of its overheads (or breaking even) it has no resources to invest in better equipment, higher pay for its workers, better products or better technology. A business that makes no profit exists at the mercy of a double edged sword, waiting to fail. When a business fails, people lose their jobs. Micro-capitalism takes note of the importance of making money for the benefit of growth and subsequently for the benefit of various groups of people.

Macro-capitalism: Corporations, multinationals, Investment funds and real estate magnates are usually well beyond growth and well into excess.

It is this aspect of capitalism that creates an ever increasing divide between the rich and the poor. In order to maximize returns beyond the need for reinvestment, the cost of production is shoved onto the consumer who in turn inadvertently pays to sustain the cheap labour that was used to manufacture that product. More often than not, it isn't innovation that is used to increase profits but simply offshoring to poorer locations and using cheaper manpower. It's almost always a human cost. 

How would sustainable socialism work?

By borrowing from both capitalism and communism. Europe as a whole is a good example of this combination compared to the United States where "it's every man for himself", more or less. China's system I would describe as communistic capitalism. It isn't producing in isolation nor rejecting extreme capitalist states as their clients. In fact, they will sell to anyone willing to buy. At the same time, however, it is governed by what we can still very much call a dictator. Cultural and historical aspects play a big role in the nature of governance and what works for smaller or larger groups of people. For a small state like Belgium, with a large portion of its border leading onto the open sea, free trade and a democratic system of governance is better suited than one leader staying in perpetual power.  

It's beyond the scope of this article to put forth an actual, actionable plan (though I have a draft in mind). Suffice to say that I would urge greater conversation on the topic of politics as a whole. I would urge young people to look beyond their own individual needs (sexual identity, religious rites, ethnicity...) and see the whole as the sum of its parts. No person is an group is an island...each entity functions to the benefit or the detriment of another.

Resources will always be limited. Everyone can't be rich and everyone shouldn't be poor. That is what I mean by my opening phrase of this article. People have a right to harvest the fruits of their labour without asking for permission from an almighty Wizard of Oz, or otherwise little man behind the curtain. At the same time, social responsibility is very much a thing to consider in all money making endeavours.

Sustainable socialism may be the key to protecting limited resources while at the same time promoting personal growth.

Food for thought for the elections ahead!

Add comment


There are no comments yet.