Mastering Politics: Socialism

20 July 2019

By Lauren E. White

Understanding specific political terms is not an easy task. It doesn’t help when the Internet is full of people with opinions and overly-long sentences trying to explain stuff either. So, Mastering Politics is back and is here to explain socialism.

What is socialism?

Socialism is an ideology first and foremost, which means it’s a system of ideas and beliefs. Socialism is built on the belief that the workers in a country should own the companies that they work for.

This doesn’t mean that each individual has their own personal share in a company (though this could, in theory, be something socialism supports), but that there is collective ownership of the means of production. The means of production are whatever generates large sums of money as a result of production and workers. So, socialism is in favour of the government owning much of our services.


What policies are socialist?

Every ideology can be used to support a range of policies. However, there are a few cornerstone policies of socialism:

Nationalisation: this is where the government owns organisations so that the people get the profit. E.g. the renationalisation of the railways

Heavy tax on the richest: taxes imposed on the richest in society are the highest in a socialist state to avoid deep inequalities in wealth.

Karl Marx and socialism

You’ll probably know Karl Marx as a communist – which is right. But, The Communist Manifesto takes from socialism.

Marx advocated for socialism as a means to get to communism. He said a state should go from capitalist, to socialist, to communist and that socialism is kind of a ‘transition’ period from one extreme to the other.

Either way, Marx’s view of socialism is that it serves the workers in a society, not the rich or the business owners.

The Labour Party and socialism

The Labour Party currently states that it is a social democratic party. Democratic socialism is everything we have said previously about socialism, just with democracy entrenched in there.

This means that democratic socialists, while delivering socialism, also believe that the people have a right to speak and vote freely.

The positives of socialism

  1. Socialism after WW2 brought us the NHS under Clement Atlee’s socialist Labour government.
  2. Socialism has also given us trade unions which have fought for and achieved workers’ rights.
  3. Staunch socialist Jeremy Corbyn secured the greatest Labour share of votes in 2017 since 2001.

Criticisms of socialism

  1. Some argue there is less opportunity for entreprenurship and businesses.
  2. It is said by critics that socialism leads to a lack of motivation in workers as there are less rewards for work.
  3. Some say that socialism leads to the breakdown of democracy and communism.

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