Let’s clear up a few misconceptions.
I don’t want to take all your money. I don’t want to pay lazy people to sit at home, not working or trying to work. I don’t want to “punish” millionaires for “being successful.” I don’t want to shut down all private industry. I don’t want to force you to denounce your religion, completely disarm yourself, let strangers sleep in your house or take away your right to speak freely.
“Socialism” is not the problem. The problem is that some of you out there will believe anything Beck or Savage or O’Reilly says and take everything else as “left-wing propaganda and conspiracies.”
I posted on my Facebook page recently about a Chicago police officer’s statement to the media that “your First Amendment rights can be terminated,” pretty much at his discretion, because he’s apparently just that important and powerful. Some time later, an acquaintance pointed out in the comments that “Karl Marx and communism go hand in hand,” an apparent reference to Karl Marx somehow being behind this officer’s breach of press freedoms. I followed up with Marx’s writings on the importance and necessity of a free press but the comment and many like it have been rolling around in my mind ever since and I can’t seem to shake it.
There are a lot of things that socialism is (or can be; socialism is like capitalism in that there are several schools of thought within the overall ideology). Socialism by definition is simply the workers controlling the means of production. In practice, this could be a full co-op at best or even a strong union contract at minimum, but that’s not all there is to it.
It can also be identified by requiring people to work instead of getting welfare checks. Americans tend to think of socialism as a method for stealing money from the paychecks of hard-working blue collar family men and giving it all to unemployed drug addicts with twelve kids who refuse to get a job. Interesting, then, that one of the tenets from the pen of Marx was not just “to each according to his need,” but also the important first half:
From each according to his ability
“From each according to his ability; to each according to his need” means that you don’t get free money for the hell of it. In a socialist society, your wheelchair gets you a desk job, your speech impediment gets you a typing job, your illiteracy gets you a manual labor job, and so on. Disabilities are part of the list of strengths and weaknesses that help determine how you will most efficiently contribute to society and earn your paycheck. That’s right! I said “earn.” With good central planning, we can make sure that everyone is contributing.
Religion is the opiate of the masses
The full phrase is “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” Does this place Marx for or against religion as a whole? In a heartless world, he says, it is the heart. In soulless conditions, it is the soul. Without getting too philosophical, the point is that Marx never attempted to wipe out religion nor suggested that it was necessary. He may (or may not) have held the view that belief in such things was a detriment to the advancement of society, but he never sought to stamp it out of society.
As a matter of fact, Christian socialists not only exist, but present a very compelling case that the teachings of the Christian religion are socialist in nature, and that the apostles lived communally after the resurrection. Throughout both the old and new testaments, quotes abound about the good of charity and sharing and the ills of greed and hoarding.
When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over the boughs again…When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward; it shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless and the widow.
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire…Behond, the wages of the labourers who mowed your fields, which you have kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.
Is Marxism the refuge of the heathen? It seems to me that the phrase “Godless Commies” has a few holes in it. We don’t wish to shut down your church. Even if we were not for religious freedom, why would we want to shut down an establishment that teaches Marxism?! Even beyond that, though… religion, much like music and clothing, is something you’re free to pick for yourself in any free society and socialism meshes quite well with democracy, as you will see with democratic socialist Senator Bernie Sanders.
Could a socialist seek to impose a higher marginal tax rate on incomes above a certain level? Yes, absolutely! François Hollande has proposed a marginal tax rate of 75% on income over €1 million, meaning that everything under a million euros would be taxed as normal and everything above it would be taxed at 75% The question you need to ask yourself is whether hoarding of such large sums of money is good for society or if it places a drain on society. Many say that a few hundred dollars a month in food stamps for the impoverished drains society, so clearly several million being funneled into the coffers of the richest creates an even bigger drain. This isn’t an attack on freedom; rather, it’s a measure to help protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.
Are they coming after your thousand dollars or less per week? Of course not. You’d be receiving subsidized health care, post-secondary education and public transit in addition to what you already make. Don’t let the millionaires fool you… when a CEO talks about the evils of unions, he is protecting his bank account at the workers’ expense. When some right-wing millionaire on Fox News talks about the “evil” socialists, he’s trying to enlist you in the fight for him to afford another mansion… while you live on Ramen because you’re fighting against your own best interests.
Socialism places the power in the hands of the working class instead of the business owners. When the working class democratically rules the working class, we’re automatically looking out for our own best interests. It doesn’t get much more free than that.