Richard Wolff Explains 3 Kinds of Socialism

Richard Wolff Explains 3 Kinds of Socialism


So I want to devote this program to going
over with you the three major ways this idea of socialism is understood, because those
ways are relevant today, those ways are fighting it out amongst themselves in terms of the
allegiance, feelings and thoughts of people around the world, and they’re going to shape
our future. Here’s the first one. In this view, socialism has to do with the
government. The government is to come in and regulate,
control a private capitalist economy; an economy governed by private enterprises, owned by
private citizens, who trade with one another in an institution called the market; where
they buy and sell their labor, their work, their products, their services. It’s a capitalist economy, private enterprise
markets, but one in which the government is brought in. Some people mean socialism by that; and they
mean particularly, that the government is brought in, in a certain way. Number one, the government is to regulate
what the private enterprises do, so that they are less self-serving, profit oriented, and
are more socially concerned. That’s why minimum wage is something socialists
always supported. Many of them want there to be limits on how
much prices can be raised by corporations, or how much profits can be earned by the. The second reason socialists want the government
to come in, is to redistribute wealth, because capitalism has this tendency to concentrate
wealth in very few hands, and deprive the mass of people. The Socialists want the government to come
in, using taxes and using government spending, to do a bit of redistribution; to equalize
a system that turns unequal very quickly. For these people, socialism means that the
government comes in, regulates and taxes to make what we might call capitalism, because
it leaves it, leaves business in the hands of private enterprises and markets, but we
could call it capitalism with a humane face, capitalism with a certain welfare focus, welfare
of all the people. Here are some examples: Denmark, Norway, Germany,
Italy, France. Those countries are often referred to as socialist;
their governments are often governments of socialist parties, and that’s what those parties
mean. They will have the government regulate and
redistribute. That’s one concept of socialism around the
world. It’s pretty close to what Bernie Sanders means
in the United States, or what Jeremy Corbyn means in Great Britain. But, here’s the second one. In the second view, this first one doesn’t
go far enough, because, yes the government comes in, controls things, and redistributes. But it’s in a perpetual war, which the government
often loses with those very private enterprises who try to get around the government regulations;
who try to get around the government taxation. We’re all familiar with those examples of
companies. For example, Amazon which has earned billions
in profits the last two years, and paid absolutely no taxes to the United States government. Indeed, this last year they’re getting a refund
in excess of a hundred million dollars. Private corporations do everything in their
power to use their profits to use their political power to undo, to evade all of those socialistic
regulations and redistributions. This has led some socialists to say you have
to go further, it isn’t enough to regulate and redistribute. The government should directly take over the
enterprises. There shouldn’t be private enterprises, because
those will always be run for the profit of the private owner. If you want the economy to serve everybody,
then the agent of everybody, the government that we all elect, at least in theory, should
take over and run the businesses so they behave in the way that’s good for everybody, and
there isn’t this perpetual war between a regulating government and private enterprise. Moreover, we shouldn’t allow the market to
decide who gets what, because the market always delivers whatever is scarce to the people
with the most money. It’s an institution for those who are rich,
and who stay that way by using the market. These socialists go further. The government should take over enterprises,
literally own and operate the factories, stores and offices, and instead of the market deciding
who gets what, it should be planned in terms of what we want for the society as a whole.These
kinds of socialists after the 1920s took the name communists, to signal that they went
further than the other socialists in order to take over, through the government, the
apparatus of the economy. For some people, socialism means the government
regulates a private capitalism to make it more humane, to make it less unequal. For other people, socialism means that the
government takes over the enterprise, and plans the distribution of output, rather than
leaving it to the market. This second group of socialists, not always,
but often takes in the communists, to show how they’re different from the first group. In those kinds of experiments, the Soviet
Union, the People’s Republic of China, and for parts of their history, Cuba, Vietnam,
and so on, are examples. Now let’s get to the third kind of socialism
that’s contesting to become the important kind in the world today; to become the kind
believed in and followed by most people; to win your interest as well. This approach is in a way an evolution out
of the other two. It’s a kind of critical evolution because
it is advanced by people who see some merits in the first kind of socialism -government
regulation – the second kind -government operating enterprises – but argue, we don’t think that’s
enough in one way, and it’s too much in the others. Here’s how it’s not enough. It’s not enough because it doesn’t change
the workplace, the place where the mass of people do their economic thing, using their
brains and muscles to transform objects into the goods and services we all need to live
the lives we want to live. It doesn’t change it enough. Meanwhile, it does something too much. it gives too much power to the government. A government that has this much power to regulate
and redistribute, let alone a government that takes over owning and operating, is a government
that runs us the risk that it’ll do a lot more than these economic things, using its
power for political, or cultural controls of a society, that we have seen, and we don’t
want again. These kinds of socialists have a new focus. For them, what will really make a difference,
what will take us beyond capitalism, and be a better way of organizing society, focuses
on the enterprise, the workplace. Our economic system has its good points and
it’s bad points, in large part because we don’t allow democracy into the workplace. These socialists say capitalism never allowed
for that. Capitalism is a hierarchical way of organizing
an enterprise. A few people, the owners, the shareholders
who have the big blocks of shares, run capitalist enterprises. The mass of us have no control at all. The capitalists run it for them. The way to change society, to make it better,
is to have the people who work in an enterprise, all of them, one-person, one-vote, have democratic
control of the workplace. This is just as important as having democratic
control of the community in which you live in, the neighborhood in which you exist, and
so on. This kind of socialism is micro-focused. It says: let’s not talk only about the government
and private enterprise. We don’t mind private enterprise. The government doesn’t have to control everything;
there has to be some coordination. But the big issue for us, say these socialists,
is the transformation of the workplace, the socialization of the workplace, so it becomes
a community run democratically, rather than something run by a small number of people
who put their benefits, the so-called bottom-line, as profits for them, rather than a good life
for everybody. Those kinds of socialism are arguing with
one another for your attention and your allegiance. To be interested in socialism, doesn’t mean
you’re necessarily the believer of one or the other. Most real socialist societies have mingled
the control role/function of government with the ownership function of government. What most experiments have not done is really
tried that other kind of socialism, that revolutionizes the workplace, brings democracy to the workplace
for the first time, and says that’s the way to get beyond the limits of capitalism, its
inequalities, its instabilities, its injustices. The question that’s being fought out, is not
the question capitalism versus socialism, or at least it’s not only that. It’s also a struggle going on among these
different definitions and meanings of socialism, that are just as important to what’s going
on, as the so called struggle between capitalism and socialism, that was so crucial in the
last hundred years.

70 Comments on "Richard Wolff Explains 3 Kinds of Socialism"


  1. Calling Germany a Social Democracy….oh boy…our government is very reluctant to seize apartments in our current housing crisis, the liberals argue that it would be against the law although our constitution gives the state/government this right.
    But hey, at least Liberals are fine with seizing land for cole mines because capitalism is working great.
    (The German Social Democratic Party has been dying for years…)

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  2. Even though those who argued in favour of nationalisation called themselves communists in some places (USSR, China, etc), they called themselves socialist in Western Europe. I would reserve the term "communist" for people who seek "communism", that is a society without class and government as we know it (to quote K. Marx).

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  3. Currently speaking, it is hard for the third kind to work. A real and working third kind is actually the one being practised by the Chinese. In short, Democracy at Work is still a romantic dream. Prof. Wolff has to face this harsh reality.

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  4. This idea of democracy at work is completely outdated (comes from German socialist during the Interbellum) and is based on a idealisation of democratic forms and communication. Already Plato did understand 400years before Christ that democracy does not work in politics and certainly not in business. DEMOCRACY IN REALITY MEANS DOMINATION BY STUPID AND CONSERVATIVE MINDS………… To claim that it is possible to organize a society based on democracy from the bottom up is ABSURD. I saw a documentary of free Scots living at sea, former fishermen without work. NOTHING HAS CHANGED IN THEIR VILLAGES FOR 30YEARS……… DEMOCRACY AT WORK MEANS POVERTY AND STARVING.

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  5. True socialism is the combination of the named two forms. THE STATE MUST NOT BE AUTHORITARIAN BUT EXPRESS IN ALL ITS ASPECTS THE IDEA OF THE GOOD LIFE. EVERYBODY MUST ABLE TO IDENTIFY WITH THE STATE.

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  6. socialism in various forms (just like capitalism) can thrive within evil empires. doesn't matter what ideology is put to practice if the state wages war around the planet.

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  7. There are three kinds of socialism, horrible, very horrible, and nightmare. The problem with all socialism is that it robs the fruits of success in enterprise, inventiveness, risk taking with money, effort and uses it to subsidize failure. It rules with an iron fist. Its main characteristic is maintaining absolute power which means not only absolute corruption but absolute incompetence. Centrally planned economies are bound to fail. Venezuela is an example. Private ownership of the oil industry, Venezuela's main asset that made it the wealthiest country in South America was thrown out in favor of government ownership. Technocrat managers were replaced by know nothing political hacks who were loyal to Chavez and Maduro. Money that should have been spent on maintenance and replacement of capital equipment was diverted instead to popular social projects. The same happened with the electrical power generation and distribution system. The result after 20 yeas of neglect is an oil industry that went from producing 3.4 million barrels a day before Chavez to somewhere between 500,000 and 900,000 barrels a day this year. The added electrical load from the appliances in new homes combined with neglect of the power industry lead to periodic outages that grew worse with time until nearly the entire country was blacked out. Of course all of this was blamed on the United States of America which refused to support it.

    Russia and China did not go to Venezuela to charitably help the Venezuelan people, they went there to keep Maduro in power so that they could rape the country of resources and establish political and military bases on the mainland of the western hemisphere. All but about 3 countries on the mainland of the Western Hemisphere and most countries in the EU recognize this as a threat to the security of the hemisphere and the United States government recognizes it as a threat to itself. This threat will not be tolerated much longer and if these alien vulture governments don't leave voluntarily soon the US will use force to get them out. President Trump has warned them if they don't leave soon they won't have any chance of ever getting any of the tens of billions of dollars in bribes they invested in Maduro back. They use this debt as a means of control and the threat of withdrawal of additional money as a way to keep Maduro cooperating with them.

    Communist China was once a socialist state as was Vietnam after the US left and as North Korea is today. China was dirt poor and recognized that socialism was a failure as did Vietnam. China today is almost identical in every respect to Nazi Germany. Only the names, ethnicities, and languages spoken have changed, the methods and justifications are identical.

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  8. The 3'rd type of Socialism described is an Anarchy, pending: the government is the workers, they can exercise immediate recall & communities representatives collaborate in a Federacy exchanging mutual aid.

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  9. Hey Mr. Wolff, you probably don’t actually respond to comments. However I was curious to get your take on an idea I had.
    So to me minimum wage has always seemed stupid since it doesn’t account for how much a company actually makes. So I was thinking, would a better system be one where the law is such, that no employee or business owner can make more then 20%,30%,60%, or whatever percentage you want, then any other employee.
    Meaning if the CEO wants to pay themselves a 1.2 million dollar salary, they would have to pay each employee 1 million. Obviously this is an extreme example, but wouldn’t it create a system where if a CEO wants to pay themselves a great amount of money, then every other employee would also get paid a great wage.
    Maybe other people have had this idea and decided it doesn’t make sense.
    Just had this thought myself, and wanted some input.

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  10. Socialism simply means that all the wealth of a country belongs to all of its citizens, not just a few. If wealth is concentrated no democracy can function. Government should be all the people not just a few sobs, like the US.

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  11. Thank you for that. It wasn't clear to me before, even after several videos on the same subject and even by you. lol

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  12. You're selling the 3rd type as if it is something new. It is not. It is the original argument of socialism before Marx.

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  13. We can't keep bringing this up enough to prevent the framing and demonization of the word socialism.

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  14. It's inconclusive whether the second example you gave in this video has ever been considered socialism.

    Noam Chomsky, the king of these types of talks, says that the Soviet Union was never socialism. He says the Soviet Union used the term socialism so that the people would like the idea but it was pure propaganda.

    And he's right in my opinion. While we cannot prove whether something is propaganda or not, the Soviet Union was a totalitarian state and oppressive. You shouldn't be suggesting that is socialism.

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  15. Whoever thinks deregulation works is retarded. Corporations aren't paying trillions of dollars in taxes. They're supposed to be but they're not. It's a fucked up system.

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  16. The bosses will only deregulate all that we do in time. Even now, Germany is getting their social policies overturned by the conservatives and far-right. We need to democratize the workplaces and produce only for people's needs. This needs international buy-in, though. Socialism is democratic cooperation. People built it….people produced it. People made it happen. We should all be responsible for it.

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  17. I don't consider myself a socialist but this was very well done and in a short, concise manner. I have an admitted "limited" understanding of the idea of cooperative and worker owned enterprises but in what I do understand, that idea does interest me very much. Thank you Professor Wolff for doing this video. Albeit I'm a skeptic of the first 2 forms of socialism, not that present forms of capitalism are any better, I find myself very sympathetic to aspects of the 3rd form presented by Professor Wolff. From a non-socialist, keep up the good work and discussing this perspective as I may not always agree, I do believe we need a "Freed Market" so to speak or Freed Commons if that works better, where all ideas and concepts are out in the open and are freely and openly discussed, advocated, critiqued with no threat or coercion to silence. This is also what scares the powerful is that we even dare talk to one another in the first place.

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  18. You can not educate the White Nationalist, they smell poor, and will always will be poor, wealth, as long they are one step ahead of the other ass hole in front of him or Her it's Ok ??????????????????????

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  19. Here's the problem:
    We like Joe. We think Joe is wonderful! Let's elect Joe to be our CEO.

    Uh, oh… looks like Joe didn't know how to run a company. Joe squandered company capital on himself and his workers. Joe killed the company with mismanagement.

    But hey, everybody liked Joe. Welcome to democracy in the workplace!

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  20. Socijalizam, system where government control and regulates capitalism. Capitalism, system where capitalism control and regulates government. Short version. And yes, socializam in europe doesn't exist since era of Tony Blair. Corporations corrupt socialist partys. They work for them. Similar like democratic party in USA.

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  21. Dr. Wolff should be an advocate for public society and the Sovietization of US society rather than being and advocate for liberal civil society

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  22. I'm sure Dr. Wolff didn't mean it, because he's a highly educated man who absolutely knows better, but he's misrepresenting what Communism is here. Saying that Communists want "The Government" to run industry is sending the wrong message. It's true to an extent, in that we do want a centralized authority of some kind to help organize logistics and manage the bureaucratic aspect of things, but it fails to make it clear that the "government" that we want in that position is one that is controlled by and is directly accountable to the people. You're not going to find very many Communists that believe in giving our current Capitalist government more control over the means of production.

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  23. 4th kind if socialism, as Bernie Sanders, Cornell West, and others put it, is corporate socialism. Socialism for the very wealthiest among us. That's the socialism America, and much of the world, has. If you somehow dont believe it (especially after
    Trillion dollars bank bailouts), your delusional, willfully ignorant, and/or brainwashed if you don't see it.

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  24. So how many automobile companies would there be?
    Would they all be owned by the government?
    Would they compete or would they all make the same cars, SUVs, and trucks.
    What happens when one auto company fails? Does it get supported GM? Will there be Zombie companies support by the government?
    What would happen to innovation if there is no competition?

    Why would someone share a good idea if he can make more money in another country with his idea.

    Socialism is good for ants, bees and termites, not people.
    BTW, the ants, bees and termites haven't changed much in millions of years.

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  25. 4th kind of socialism: resource based economy, or RBE. And one of the most important resources, if not most important, is human resources. And I fail to see how the 3rd form would solve the current problem of mass underemployment that fails to leverage the talents of citizens to the benefit of society. An example I like to use is AOC; while tending bar and waiting tables is honest work, it hardly leveraged her talent and abilities. And had the incumbent in her district been more progressive, enough so she decided not to challenge in the primary, I bet AOC would still be schlepping drinks. If presumably her employer wasn't a worker coop but became one while she was there, it would do little to solve problem of her brilliance not being leveraged for the benefit of society. There is also the problem of workers who's talents are being harnessed but their job does little for society; jobs like that of the quants who develop sophisticated mathematical algorithms that tell the high frequency trading machines how and when to trade on the stock market. We need a system that does psychological testing of citizens starting at an early age that shows where their aptitudes lie and steer, but not force, them towards public careers already put in place for the benefit of society; it would be like computerized dating for career roles deemed helpful for civilization. From each according to ability, to each according to need.

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  26. In other words, the third type is akin to Anarcho-Syndicalism, Libertarian Socialism, and their practice is detailed in the 1918-19 German revolution, the Spanish Civil War, the Zapatistas in Mexico, Rojava in Syria, and the lesser known Shinmin region in old Korea. Obviously, i am of the third type. They were all very bottom up ways of organizing society and industry. The USSR also very early on qualified as the third type, with their workers councils and democratic control over industry that could have resulted in a decentralized planned economy.

    It is of my opinion that the third type overturns capitalism far more effectively than the first two, and tends to create more stable and functional societies than either. It is in essence a different system entirely, where as the first two are only ways to control and try to morph the old system into something else, which may explain why they often fail or devolve. Socialists need to break out of the box they're stuck in, and stop trying to morph Capitalism into Socialism, because that approach won't really work.

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  27. Norway is just straight economic parasitism through their wealth fund robbing workers all over the world. Thank you for framing Bernie as SocDem.

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  28. Clearly Marxism is a combination of the second kind and the third kind. The third kind is just incomplete.

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  29. I hope the EU burns soon, the fires are lit and the smug elites sit in the inner circle unable at the moment to smell the smoke.

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  30. Most do not understand that in SFR Yugoslavia there was best socialist mix. Govt or municipality would plan and fund creation of the enterprise/company, based on needs for workplaces and market demands, but once established it would turn OWNERSHIP to WORKERS from that company. Further more, all worker-owned companies COMPETED IN A MARKET! and were allowed to FAIL if incompetent. Price of products was free-forming (but with certain limitations). In Worker/owner/shareholder(while working) meetings goals would be determined and CEO/director was mandated to implement those decissions. If this is augmented with govt/municipality owning shares based on loans given, it could be very effective.
    Yugoslavia was chocked after Tito died and USSR disolved via MMF blocking further loans under Regans directive and MMF-forced changes to economic model, NOT before.

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  31. Great explanations in helping explain the nuances of socialism in the face of far-right politics that frame socialism as communism and demonize anything that challenges or critiques capitalism.

    Have you considered doing videos with more visual info and not just talking head? Similar to Robert Reich’s videos?

    Also, have you considered collaborating with Robert Reich to make educational pieces? I feel the two of you would be a great combination!

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  32. Wow!!! Said nothing about surplus value, you seem defensive about socialism. What kind of "Marxist" are you? There is NOTHING good about capitalism, nothing! This is why I am an Anarchist, No Gods, No Masters, Mutual Aid, Direct Democracy! Capitalism is the crisis!!!

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  33. Keep in mind that an economic system, as the capitalism, is not displaced by others for moral questions… Feudalism didn't replace Slavery for consider having slaves as a bad thing but for its inefficiency and tendency to revolts… The same for Capitalism vs Feudalism… and the for Socialism to replace Capitalism will be based on the balance between good economic efficiency and good social development without the cyclical crisis Capitalism has… so, if the 3rd kind of Socialism brings that to the table, it could be a real successor for Capitalism…

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  34. Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had the third way.Explore and read Edvard Kardelj if you`re intersted in. Can you imagine factory where you can drink beer during the lunch time??? Imagine no more:).We had that in SFRY

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  35. The 3 models of Socialism redistribution are based on Orthodox Soviet model, Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and lastly, American Socialism of the Rich Plutocrats

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  36. William Davis it's clear you don't know beans about capitalism or socialism. And if you listen to Richard Wolff you won't learn anything about them either. Risk is what investment is all about. You give money to someone else for their use with the expectation that you will get more back. Whether you are investing money in a business of your own, one someone else owns that you give money to operate and expand to whether as a privately or publicly owned business like buying shares of stock or interest rates on a load you are taking a risk that you will lose money, even all of it. In fact there are investments where you have the potential to lose unlimited amounts of money no matter how little you invested. That's called leveraging. You can also make far more than you can reasonably expect which is why people take that risk. The risk for getting your money back from US Treasury debt is zero. The US Treasury must pay its debt obligations on time no matter if it has to print as much money as it takes. This is why US Treasury interest rates are the world standard. Every bond other than US Treasury bonds of equal maturity must pay a higher interest rate to compete against it because the risk is greater.

    The USSR met the criteria for socialism. The government owned the means of production and distribution of the entire economy. In communism the state was supposed to wither and disappear according to Marx. The USSR never claimed it had achieved communism even thought the leaders called their party the Communist party. It called itself the Union of Soviet SOCIALIST Republics. The government was supposed to be a dictatorship of the proletariat. In fact it was a dictatorship of the most privileged people in the society. As leaders they never got a single callous working with their hands and if they ever got dirt on their hands it was from tending to their own garden.

    If I wasn't a capitalist how did I make and lose so much money in the stock market and make so much money in real estate. I even made a lot of money investing in fine wine. I've made and lost many hundreds of thousands of dollars. I've read enough books on investing to fill an entire shelf and I had a subscription for the longest time to Investors Business Daily and to Value Line. For the longest time I also was glued to CNBC. They even had it on at work when I was with AT&T.

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  37. There are three shades of the snake oil according to the peddler. But he’s wrong. There’s only one socialism which is no good.

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  38. Now this confuses me, because i would consider myself between the second and mainly the third but i am still a communist, workplace democracy and a form of planning are both important even for the staunchest of Stalinist.

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  39. I feel like the problem still is that capital is still involvled in all of these examples. Plus, it doesn't get rid of the desire to continually produce as opposed to produce to need.

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  40. Thank You for this educational video, explaining different type of Socialism and examples.

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  41. The government is like a referee. It is there to see that both the buyer and seller are trading on an even ground. The referee is to ensure the buyer is not scalped and the seller not getting paid in faked notes.

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  42. Wouldn't type 3 be closest to the Marx/Engels definition while types 1 and 2 be the revisions? I am not overly familiar to the history of socialism prior to Engels and Marx, but they focused on the workplace and the relationship of people to the workplace. According to their writings, government, in socialist economies, has very little role. Engels wrote that the state was a result of the class system that the country would eventually fade once capitalism was gone.

    "State interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous, and then dies out of itself; the government of persons is replaced by the administration of things, and by the conduct of processes of production. The State is not "abolished." It dies out…Socialized production upon a predetermined plan becomes henceforth possible. The development of production makes the existence of different classes of society thenceforth an anachronism. In proportion as anarchy in social production vanishes, the political authority of the State dies out. Man, at last, the master of his own form of social organization, becomes at the same time the lord over Nature, his own master — free."
    – Engels (Socialism: Utopia and Scientific, 1880)

    In socialism, class, state, and government wither away as they would serve NO role in the economy.

    Communism has a mess of definitions. Again, it seems to be a very different thing in the US compared to my own understanding (and it is different in various parts of Europe too due to revisionist history, primarily by the communist party in the Eastern Bloc countries, which I will note only promised communism, never claimed they had achieved it). But I am unaware of it being considered a type of socialism, although I do know in the US communism/socialism/totalitarianism/tyranny are all basically synonyms of each other. I primarily know of communism through the writings of Marx and Engels and critiques/commentaries of those writings; otherwise, Christopher Hitchens. Communism was instead the inevitable destination of human society due to social and technological advancement: a post-scarcity society without class distinction or nation-state founded on the production principle for the creation and distribution of luxuries and goods "from each according to their ability, to each according to their need." Automation and AI are bringing us closer to this eventuality. The philosophy of post-scarcity via technology and post-class distinction and state/economy has been explored by writers such as Isaac Asimov (Robot Trilogy) and Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek).

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  43. I think introducing democracy into the workplace is an interesting and valid idea to think about and introduce. I’ve only recently been looking at socialist ideas. I consider myself mostly a social democrat but I’m open to more ideas that would better help the majority of people.

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  44. YOU THINK ITALY IS SOCIALIST?!? WITH THE FASCIST GOVERNMENT IN POWER?!? SALVINI?!? JESUS CHRIST MAN DO YOUR HOMEWORK!!

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  45. This guy is talking shit. Is he a doctor of medicine? He's assigning a very complex theology into 3 things. It's like saying religion is 'You believe in Jesus, or someone else, or nobody'. Simplified for the simple.

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  46. I'm no sure that's what Corbyn means for the UK. I think he would recognise the term "social democracy" for heavily regulated capitalist system.

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  47. Do you you even have a clue that no one in southern european periferic countries thinks Scandinavian countries or France are socialist. They think these countries are much more liberal economically, beyond the socialist label.

    People seem to argue from their own relative point of view. But this is getting absurd. Scandinavian countries are very much capitalist, and they do have socialist policies. As it turns out, only capitalist countries can trully become socialist. Because socialism requires money, which you won't have if you didn't have a private enterprise culture previously installed.

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