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Friday, February 26, 2016

Oops, We Caricaturized Again

Rick Phillips (click here for his bio) just wrote a blogpost for the Reformation 21 website called Socialism is Evil (click here for the article). It is difficult where to start on such an article. For does the article help reinforce the stereotyped notion that Conservative Christianity serves to indoctrinate people in order to maintain the status quo for the benefit of those with wealth and power? Despite his criticisms of how Capitalism has been implemented here, yes. Does his article show that his exposure to Socialism comes not from reading Socialists, but from reading conservative views of Socialism? It certainly seems so. Does his view of Socialism rely more on its caricatures rather than on reading original sources on the multiple types of Socialism? Again, it certainly seems so.

So when Phillips lists the evils of Socialism, he basically is describing a centralized government that owns all property in order to give away this property to others. One should note here that he does distinguish his view of Socialism from some voluntary forms of Communism. But here is where he is wrong. The definition of Libertarian Socialism (click here for reference) combines a defense of individual freedoms with worker-owned and run workplaces.  In addition, Libertarian Socialists to varying degrees oppose big governments.

Or let's go to Socialists who do believe in what some call 'state socialiam' where there is more centralized government power than what Libertarian Socialists call for. For Phillips said the following about Socialism:
Under socialism, however, a small number of government masters has control over almost all of the resources of the entire society.

Such a description certainly fits  what happened in the Old Soviet Union as started by Lenin. But then we should read Rosa Luxemburg's criticism of Lenin which also applies to his successors (click here for the source):
Lenin and Trotsky, on the other hand, decide in favor of dictatorship in contradistinction to democracy, and thereby, in favor of the dictatorship of a handful of persons, that is, in favor of dictatorship on the bourgeois model.

See, if we follow Luxemburg's view of Socialism and the Bourgeoisie, we find that what we have used to stereotype Socialism, the old U.S.S.R., is not a model of Socialism, but of Capitalism. That is because under Lenin's leadership, the same kind of management employed by the Bourgeoisie in controlling their private property was now being employed in the government. What does Luxemburg view Socialism to be (same source as the last quote):
It should and must at once undertake socialist measures in the most energetic, unyielding and unhesitant fashion, in other words, exercise a dictatorship, but a dictatorship of the class, not of a party or of a clique – dictatorship of the class, that means in the broadest possible form on the basis of the most active, unlimited participation of the mass of the people, of unlimited democracy. 

Here, there are two points that Luxembourg emphasizes about Socialism: the identity of those in control of the government and how they make decisions. Socialism, according to Luxembourg, occurs when the working class uses democracy to run the government. 

With all of that in mind, what is Phillips' view of Socialism? It is Bernie Sanders' description of Socialism that he has in mind. According to Phillips' article, Sanders' description of Socialism qualifies as evil because:

  1. Because socialism is a system based on stealing
  2. Because socialism is an anti-work system
  3. Because socialism concentrates the power to do evil

But Phillips' claims about Sanders' Socialism has some problems to account for. The first problem is that much of what Sanders is calling 'Socialism' is based on FDR's New Deal (click here) as well as what Martin Luther King proposed. In addition, the same can be said about what Sanders is offering to us and what our Western allies in Europe offers to its people. Therefore, if Sanders' Socialism is evil, was FDR's New Deal evil as well?  If what Sanders proposes is evil, then was King's proposals evil as well? And if what Sanders is proposing is evil, then are our Western European allies evil because of what they provide for their people?

Of course, when one goes into the details of Phillips' 3 reasons for why Socialism is evil, one runs into other problems. For example, Phillips believes that providing free college education advances an anti-work agenda. Well, having taught college, I can safely say that, for many students, the number of hours they must work at a job in order to pay for school greatly interferes with them acquiring a working education. Thus, they end up paying more and more for a degree than an education, and considering the amount of money they must pay for the degree, this is a great injustice. So no, unless we can call parents who pay for their kids education 'anti-work,' having the government pay for college education does not necessarily promote an anti-work ethic. However, colleges that lower their academic standards in order to retain a certain quota of students do advance an anti-work ethic. And some colleges feel the need to do that partially because of the work schedule demands some students must meet to stay in school.

Other points could be made to about Phillips' article. Suffice it to say, that his article shows him to be terribly misinformed to the point of where one could suspect him of being a mere propagandist. And I am writing this as one who will not vote for Sanders because I regard him as being way too politically conservative. But Phillips' possible serving as a propagandist repeats a point raised at the beginning of this blogpost.  Is he reinforcing the stereotype that Conservative Christianity serves to indoctrinate people in order to maintain the status quo for the benefit of those with wealth and power? If he is, then he is not alone. That is because, even outside of American history, Conservative Christianity has often aligned itself with wealth and power. And, as happened during revolutions like the French and Russian ones, the results were beneficial for neither the reputation of the Gospel nor for the Conservative Church itself.




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