Why Socialism? | Socialism Explained in 20 Minutes


It is now 100 years since the October Revolution
and although the Soviet Union has since ceased to exist questions of capitalism and socialism
remain as relevant today as they were all those years ago. The last financial crisis was the worst since
the Great Depression. Poverty, hunger, homelessness and unemployment are still huge problems which
capitalism is seemingly incapable of solving. Wealth inequality has been increasing at an
enormous rate while food scarcity remains present even in the world’s richest countries. Young people are bearing the brunt of this.
It’s no wonder why so many young people not only reject Capitalism but say they’d be willing
to rise up against it. At it’s roots, capitalism is a mode of production
and exchange based on 3 things: 1) private ownership & control of the means
of production 2) wage-labour
3) production for exchange and profit in a free market To elaborate: Private ownership & control of the means of
production: The term ‘means of production’ simply means
every item used in the process of producing things except for human labour-power; such
as factories, machinery, tractors, etc. In a capitalist society, a small number of people
own means of production, but most of us don’t. This first class of people, the owners of
the means of production, are the capitalist class or bourgeoisie; the second class of
people, those who don’t own the means of prouction and thus have to work for a wage in order
to live, are the working class or proletariat. Wage-labour: Because the means of production are privately
owned by individual capitalists, any given member of the working class must seek employment
from a capitalist in order to put food on the table. The worker agrees to work for the
capitalist, and in return the capitalist agrees to pay the worker a wage. What’s important
to note here is that although the capitalist owns the means of production, it is the worker
who actually operates them and produces commodities. For example, a factory owner doesn’t work
in their own factory, they instead hire workers to work for them. Due to the fact that the
means of production are privately owned, at the end of the day when all the work is done
the products produced by the workers labour are the property of the capitalist. Production for exchange and profit in a market
economy: The capitalist then sells these products on
the free market in exchange for money, which they can then use to expand their business.
This money is rarely, if ever, used to pay the workers a more generous wage. The reason
for this is that businesses need to make a profit in order to survive and beat the competition.
Paying workers more would mean less proft, and because businesses which make the most
profit thrive, it logically follows that the business which manages to get the most work
out of its workers while paying them the least and thus making the most profit will be the
most successful. This prioritisation of profit over human need has other implications which
we’ll go into more detail about later. So, now that we’re clear on what capitalism
is, we can start to look at why it is inherently exploitative. Firstly we will look at the
production of goods and the relations of the working class to the capitalist class; secondly
we will look at the exchange of commodities and free market competition. Capitalism has four main exploitative aspects,
the main one being extraction of surplus value; the others are alienation, the reserve army
of labour and capital accumulation. Extraction of surplus value: In order to make a profit, the capitalist
must sell a commodity for more than it cost to make. This means that the workers cannot
be compensated for the full value they produce. Rather, one part of the value they create
goes to sustaining the cost of production – which includes wages – and the other part
is pocketed by the capitalist as profit. To explain, let’s take a scenario where a
worker is hired by a capitalist to produce chairs. Now let’s say that one chair can be
sold for 20 pounds and the worker can produce one chair every hour.
The minimum wage in Britain is about 8 pounds an hour, so lets say the capitalist will pay
the worker 8 pounds an hour, set aside another 8 pounds for buying raw materials, replacing
machinery and so forth, and keep the final 4 pounds to themself as profit. The problem here is that all of this value
was created by the worker. A pile of wood on its own isn’t really worth much. It’s the
process of turning it into a chair that gives it value. So why then, is the capitalist entitiled
to some of the value of that the worker creates? This problem is made drastically more severe
when you consider that in reality the amount of money the worker gets compared to the capitalist
doesn’t look like this but instead looks like this. This is how profit is made in a capitalist
society. The labour of the many enriches the few, allowing a small group of people to become
obsceneley wealthy while their workers toil away making the actual products which form
the basis of the economy. Alienation: The concept of alienation is rather simple:
In today’s society, most workers dont feel engaged with their work, they don’t find it
rewarding. The reason for this is that the labour people perform at their workplace doesn’t
benefit them but instead benefits their bosses. This disconnect between the labour one performs
and its rewards have severe psychological effects. The most drastic cases of alienation can be
found on the manufacturing line. Each worker performs one simple, monotonous task for hours
on end. Not only does the end result feel impersonal and unrewarding, but to make it
worse at the end of the day all the products are shipped off halfway around the world,
with the only reward being a monetary one. Compare this to a job like a doctor, scientist
or programmer. If you’re a doctor you get to see your patients health improve over time,
if you’re a scientist and you make a new discovery you can see the positive impacts it has on
society. If you’re a programmer you get to spend time developing a product and making
it your own. The common thread here is that there is a direct connection between the labour
you perform and the benefits it produces. If all you’re doing is making someone else
rich, it’s not rewarding at all. Reserve army of labour: A free market economy fluctuates a lot. Sometimes
there is a boom in one sector of the economy and it becomes profitable to enter that sector.
For example, if there was a sudden rise demand for bread, lots of skilled bakers would be
sought after by employers. Likewise if there was a sudden drop in demand, these bakers
would no longer be required and would be unable to sell their labour to employers. This constant
fluctuation of prices and the general instability of the economy as a whole means that not everyone
can be employed at once in a role they have skills in. This wouldn’t be a problem if unemployment
didn’t mean destitution and poverty, but it does. This wandering mass of workers always looking
for employment is known in Marxist jargon as the “Reserve army of labour” which gets
called upon by the capitalist class when their labour is needed. The Reserve army of labour
also has the effect of driving down wages due to people having to compete for jobs.
For these two reasons: the ability of the capitalists to call upon extra labour when
needed and cast it aside when not, and the driving down of wages, the Reserve army of
labour is a neccessary component of capitalism, making unemployment a systemic issue. Capital accumulation: Capital accumulation simply refers to the
ability of one person to amass huge sums of wealth for themself without doing any useful
labour of their own, but by instead exploiting the labour of others. Capitalism facilitates
this through expropriation of surplus value, and since a capitalist can theoretically have
as many employees as they want, they can increase their personal wealth while treating their
workers horribly. Within a free market system, as exists under
capitalism, profit is the bottom line. The ultimate goal of a business is to make profit,
and they will strive to acheive this goal to the detriment of all else. Millions of
people die every year from preventable causes because providing for them is not profitable.
Western powers regularly overthrow leaders in oil-rich countries in order to keep the
money flowing. There are other effects of prioritising profit
over human need as well. Since fossil fuels are more proftable in the short term than
investing in renewable energy, companies not only continue to use these fuels but also
lobby various governments in order to prevent innovations in renewable energy. In Britain, five million people own second
homes despite there being around 250,000 homeless people. Why? Because providing homes to homeless
people is not profitable. Einstein described the free market as “economic
anarchy”, with businesses competing to make the most proft rather than co-operating to
meet people’s needs. Some effects of this competition include:
Business cannot do things like give their workers higher wages or shorter hours for
fear of being ousted by a more competitive business.
Jobs are outsourced to developing countries because labour there is cheaper.
Subjects like the performing arts, history and sociology are given much less priority
in the education system because they’re not as profitable as others.
People in countries like Iran, Iraq, Libya, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Chile and other such
countries are continually denied the right to self-determination at the behest of business
interests in the West. Crises in capitalism are systemic and unavoidable.
Markets go through boom and bust cycles, and have been since their inception. Overproduction leads to unsold goods and unemployment.
Overproduction, put in simple terms, is an excess of supply over demand that causes a
fall in the price of any certain commodity. Since the commodity is now cheaper in the
market, it is unprofitable to sell and thus the product must remain on shelves or in warehouses
rather than being sold to consumers. Since it is unprofitable to produce any new products,
workers must be laid off. Since workers are laid off, no one has any money to buy commodities
with. This leads to a contradiction where there is an abundance of products, but no
one to buy them, termed ‘Overproduction’. Overproduction is often the cause for the
economic crises that take place regularly under capitalism, and such crises are termed
‘crises of overproduction’. The theory of crises of overproduction links
in with another marxist theory, the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, which explains
why capitalism is unsustainable in the long run because over time businesses are able
to produce less profit than before. Simply put, as technology progresses machines
play a larger role in the production process than human labour power – in economic jargon
this is called an increase in the organic composition of capital. Since profit is based
on expropriation of surplus value, and due to the fact that the organic composition of
capital has increased, less surplus value is made. This is because surplus value can
only be created through human labour power. In conclusion, as time goes on, less and less
profit can be made, capitalists must employ more and more exploitative tactics to acquire
profit, and eventually capitalism will reach a point where it cannot sustain itself and
must be replaced with a preferable alternative. To answer this question, we must first define
what is meant by socialism and how it differs from capitalism: Socialism is a mode of production based on
three things: 1) Social ownership of the means of production
2) Workplace Democracy 3) Production directed towards meeting human
needs These are three mutually neccesary components
of a socialist society. All three are needed alongside one another in order to function
properly. If any one of these is not present, a society cannot call itself socialist in
nature. The ultimate goal of a socialist society is
to make exploitation of one person by another impossible. To this end, production and exchange
of goods would be managed in such a way: The means of production and the goods produced
in any given workplace would be the collective property of all members of society, no one
individual could profit from the sale of products, but rather all of society would benefit from
people’s labour. The degree to which one particular person benefits would be determined by the
amount of work they put in – taking into account exceptions such as disabilites, illnesses
and so on. Every member of any particular workplace would
have a say in how the workplace is managed, and every member of society in general would
have a say in how society in general manages production. The needs of every member of society
would be accounted for, and production would be directed to meet these needs. A socialist society would differ in its approach
to distribting necessities – products which we need to live a decent life i.e. food, clean
water, housing, etc. – and distributing luxuries. In an ideal situation, necessities would be
distributed along the line of “to each according to their needs”, whereas luxuries would be
distributed along the lines of “to each according to their work”. This distinction has to do
with the fact that at present, produciton of most necesities has reached a stage of
post-scarcity, that is, we produce enough food, clean water, and housing in order to
provide for everyone, so there’s no need to allocate them according to work. Luxuries, however, are not at that stage,
and thus must be allocated to people. The best way to decide who gets what is by the
amount of work someone does, because it incentivises people to work and makes sure the hardest-working
people are rewarded. Extraction of Surplus Value:
This relation would still exist per se, however it wouldn’t be exploitative in nature. This
is because rather than the surplus value going to the hands of business owners as profit,
it would be re-invested into housing, infrastructure, healthcare, education and other such things
which would, directly or indirectly, benefit the working class. Alienation:
Because all the value a worker produces would benefit them in one way or another, alienation
would be largely mitigated. In addition, since profit would no longer be the primary goal,
workplaces could introduce measures to prevent alination which they couldnt in a capitalist
society, since it wouldn’t be profitable. Unemployment:
Wouldn’t be an issue. Since production would be directed towards human need, there would
always be work to be done as long as someone had a need to be fulfilled. Capital Accumulation:
Under socialism, people would be directly compensated based on the amount of work they
do, so it would be impossible for someone to amass a large amount of wealth for themself
without working. These aren’t just theoretical solutions to
theoretical problems. Socialism has been tried in practice and it’s worked. Every time genuine,
good-faith socialism has been established and consolidated in a country, it has brought
about massive benefits economically, politically, culturally, technologically and in day-to-day
life in general. Here are some examples: Under capitalism:
– 75% of rural dwellings were huts made from palm trees.
– More than 50% had no toilets of any kind. – 85% had no inside running water.
– 91% had no electricity. – More than one-third of the rural population
had intestinal parasites. – Only 4% of Cuban peasants ate meat regularly;
only 1% ate fish, less than 2% eggs, 3% bread, 11% milk; none ate green vegetables.
– 45% of the rural population was illiterate; 44% had never attended a school.
– 25% of the labor force was chronically unemployed. Compare that to today, where in Cuba’s socialist
society: – The literacy rate is 99.8% – higher than
Britan and the USA – Healthcare is free and high-quality (life
expectancy is 79 – higher than all other carribean and latin american countries – and
infant mortality is 4.83 deaths per 1,000 live births, better than the USA and significantly
better than the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean)
– Lowest HIV prevalence rate in the Americas – One doctor for every 220 people in Cuba
(one of the highest in the world) – Free education at every level including
free meals and uniforms – Ranked number 16 in UNESCO’s Education
for All Development Index, higher than any other country in Latin America and the Caribbean
(and higher than the US, which is ranked at number 25).
– Homelessness is completely non-existant – Advancements in women’s rights:
– 43% of parliament members are female – The World Economic Forum places Cuba 20th
out of 153 countries in health, literacy, economic status and political participation
of women – 2nd highest in Latin America – Turnout rate of over 95% in every election
since 1976 – Praised by Nelson Mandela for the country’s
contributions to African independence, freedom and justice
– World Wildlife Fund named Cuba “the only country in the world to have achieved sustainable
development” – Biotech industry considered the best in
the world among developing countries – Generated important innovations in cancer
and AIDS research – Created the world’s first vaccine against
meningitis B When Thomas Sankara came to power in 1983
his socialist government: – Reduced politicians wages down to working
wages in order to prevent politicians becoming dissillusioned with how ‘ordinary’ people
live, a widespread problem in capitalist countries – Made far-reaching advancements in women’s
rights – Launched a monumental vaccination program
– 2.5 million were vaccinated in 1 week against polio, measles and meningitis
– Launched the first anti-desertification program in Africa, planting millions of trees
– Developed the country’s infrastructure to a modern level, without foreign aid
– Increased agricultural output from 1,700 kg of wheat per hectare to 3,800 kg per hectare
through irrigation and fertilisation programs, acheiving agricultural self-sufficiency in
only 4 years – Was one of the first governments to speak
out against apartheid Salvador Allende was the democratically elected
socialist President of Chile from November 1970 until he was overthrown in a US-backed
coup in September 1973. While Allende was in power: – All part-time workers were granted rights
to social security – Amnesty was granted to political prisoners
– 55,000 volunteers were sent to the south of the country to teach writing and reading
skills and provide medical attention to a sector of the population that had previously
been ignored – Free milk was introduced for expectant and
nursing mothers and free school meals were introduced
– An average of 52,000 new houses were constructed annually Allende’s socialist economic policies had
the following effects: – Purchasing power went up by 28% between
October 1970 and July 1971 – Average real wages rose by 22.3% during
1971 – From 1971 through to 1973, enrollments in
kindergarten, primary, secondary, and postsecondary schools all increased
– Wage and salary earners increased their share of national income from 51.6% (the annual
average between 1965 and 1970) to 65% – Annual increase in personal spending rose
from 4.8% in the period 1965–70, to 11.9% in 1971
– The proportion of children under the age of 6 with some form of malnutrition fell by
17% – There was 12% industrial growth and an 8.6%
increase in GDP, decrease of inflation from 34.9% to 22.1% and unemployment went down
to 3.8% by the end of 1971 By no means were all past attempts at building
socialism perfect, many had huge problems which we must not ignore or apologise for,
but instead must analyse and criticise to make sure we don’t repeat the mistakes of
the past. The most important thing to remember here
is that different methods will be used in different situations: For example the relative
political freedom in the west allows for participation in electoral politics, whereas various strategic
& economic factors allows for protracted people’s war in the 3rd world. The commonality between all aproaches is that
the support of the masses is essential, and so raising awareness about social, political
and economic issues & educating people about capitalism & socialism is one of the most
important stages in implementing it. The general consensus is that there are two
approaches to the implementation of socialism: reform and revolution The reformist approach may involve putting
pressure on pre-existing institutions, running in elections and gradually changing the nature
of society through reforms, hence the name reformism. The revolutionary approach involves building
grassroots organisations of dual power – where localised, grass roots organisations co-exis
with orthodox power structures, training cadres to educate people and perform various kinds
of political work, and eventually building up alternative forms of political power to
act as the basis of a new government once state power has been seized. The revolutionary approach has historically
been much more relevant and successfull. A famous historical example of organs of dual
power was the Soviets – workers councils in Russia which before the revolution organised
and educated the working class, and once the revolution had taken place, served as the
basis of the government. Worker’s councils of this kind also existed in early 1900s Germany
but never seized state power. More modern examples include the Black Panther
Party which served as a means of dual power in many black communities in the US during
the 60s and 70s, providing self-defense and food programs; and Serve the People, which
today provides food, healthcare & advice, legal aid and education to impoverished american
communities. Although the revolutionary approach sees the
current state apparatus as a component of capitalism which, along with capitalism itself
must be replaced, this doesn’t mean Revolutionary Socialists have to exclude themselves entirely
from mainstream electoral politics. It does mean, however, that in the long run our goals
can only be acheived by builing organs of alternative political power to facilitate
the forceful overthrow of the capitalist state and the establishment of a socialist one,
directed by organs of workers power and organising production on a socialist basis.




Comments
  1. Your video pointed out many problems with US imperialism which are valid and deserve criticism. However the argument that this is the result of capitalism is flawed. Early in your video while explaining the parts of capitalism, you're very critical of factory owners and others who own businesses that employ low-skill or blue collar workers (your chair manufacturing example). You substantiate this claim by saying materials are cheap, and the worker is creating all the value in the product being sold, why does the business owner get to keep the profit? The thing about this though, the goods are exchanged on a free and open market place. There's nothing stopping someone with skill (the ability to make a chair) from buying their own wood, turning it into a chair, and selling it on the open market and thus keeping all the profit. The thing is, when you agree to work for someone, you're trading profit for security. If you make your own chairs and sell them there's a chance you'll sell a lot one week, but maybe not so many the next week. Yes, you might make more overall but some people don't want that variability in their income. A lot of people will work for someone because at the end of 2 weeks you're getting a paycheck no matter how many chairs were sold that day. Now yes, if a company stops selling a lot of chairs they might go out of business and you're then out of work but you still have the money you made previously. The business owner is out completely. They took a risk and lost all that money. That's what is gained/lost in the choice of making your own chairs or working for someone to make chairs. 

    Later in the video when you start talking about the benefits of Socialism you pick Cuba as a shining example of successful socialism. Cuba is by no means a successful country as they are still developing at best. Yes there's a high literacy rate and low infant mortality rate but it's very reasonable to question the accuracy of these numbers as the come from the Cuban government and not a neutral body such as the U.N. The Cuban government does not calculate per-capita income or poverty rates, or any other economic measure of productivity. Cubans are way behind the rest of the world in technological development as only a tiny minority have internet access, mobile phones, or even the means to leave the country freely. Cuban-American immigrations was pretty low until the revolution started and then hundreds of thousands headed straight for Florida. If Socialism was so great, why did so many people leave? Yeah, one may try and blame economic hardship on the embargo but it was so loosely enforced it doesn't make up for the fact that a trip to Cuba is like visiting the 1940s. 

    At it's core when socialism requires democratic ownership of the means of production, you need a strong government to enforce that. You need to be willing to kill people who refuse to follow you. The stronger your government is, the more likely it is to be corrupt. That's when socialism fails, it can't sustain itself under it's own weight. Capitalism is the only market system where you have individual choice, and individual freedom.

  2. How is the hiring process under socialism? If me and 4 other guys put in an initial investment to open a business, and we're considering new hires, do we surrender pieces of our shares to give to them for free? It seems high risk low reward for us, the original workers, since if the business fails we go entirely broke but if it succeeds we have little incentive to expand because we'd be giving away ownership of our business to new hires. The workers would be working for the same reward without the initial risk.

    Essentially my question is, what is my incentive for hiring people when it means I'll have less control over my business?

  3. The capitalist who started the business had to invest a large amount of money to begin. That in of itself is a financial risk. Even if the company survives and thrives, there is always a risk and the business can lose it all. Most capitalists who create a product were workers at some point as well. It is the creator who holds all rights to the products and therefore should earn profit per each unit sold. Workers are not forced to work for a company. If they don’t like the wage then they can look for a new job. There was also a contradiction saying capitalist (business owners) have no connection between them or the general public. Sure businesses want to profit, but they’re also providing services to people and creating jobs. It’s a win win for everyone. One last thing , EVERYONE has the potential of growing in a capitalistic economy.

  4. You've already failed and you will never achieve your goals be it socialism, national socialism, communism or fascism. Do you know what has won? Mathematics and cryptography (via cryptocurrencies) backed by the individual — just as math won many wars before, it has done so yet again.

  5. Luckily in the current american system it isnt as you described. People have choice who they will work for and can bargain the wage they deserve. Companies that are unfair to their employees will lose employees and negatively effect the business. Companies are incentivized to be as fair as possible to employees in this way, which helps quality for everyone

  6. Watching the capitalism part is just cringe. Yes business owners exploit workers, but they also create jobs, wealth. and get someone off the streets claiming welfare. Replacing private sectors with too much unionized/Government sectors has always been a complete disaster.

  7. In 1984 the world had a population of 4.8 billion and poverty level of 39.3%. In 2017 the world population is 7.6 billion with a poverty level of 9.8%. (data from World Bank and Wikipedia) Capitalism has succeeded. While communism has always failed.
    The only thing this video gets correct is the problem with covetous nature of humans. Regardless of the steady increase in the standard of living humans are more concerned with the fact that some people get so much more than themselves. This will always be an issue with humans because we are not equal in abilities. I got paid $10 for taking out the trash but she got $20 for mowing the lawn, that's not fair.

  8. Is the best example Cuba? Because they have not really had better living conditions than the United States.

  9. "But but but but socialism can't work look at Venezuela and and and denmark and and and sweden and and and all the past it can't work won't work nope I'm not listening nope"

  10. Republican vs Democrats boils down to, do you want the government to control your daily life(work) or do you want corporations to control your daily life. I think this was a misinformation video and when you sign up for the government to control our life eventually it will lead to true fascism. Where as capitalism (the system that has created the greatest country the world has ever seen(The United States of America)) allows people to make as much money as they please pretty easily, if you are smart and you work hard you tend to make a lot of money (college or no college). I think the true issue with America's economy is when an area has no jobs it turns into a shitty place to live… This issue is the issue that is really difficult to figure out…. Capitalism is also the best for spuring growth, when the government is in control people tend to lose their drive, with capitalism people want to achieve more to make more money which is why we are very advanced with technology compared to other countries. So ya, you're wrong, but its all good.

  11. Ok think of a gold miner manager, he pays his workers to dig holes regardless if they find something or not. Then one day one of the workers finds a HUGE stash of gold. The manager takes the gold and sells it and then makes a lot of money, but the person who dug up the whole wants extra money for something he was being paid to do in the first place. He got paid regardless when he found something and now that the managers investment paid if he wants to take a cut of the money even though he had no way of knowing if he would have found gold.

  12. It is tragic what we have done to other countries. What he have done to other countries will come back to haunt us eventually.

  13. Let's just say workers are "exploited". What then gives the workers the right to exploit the business owner's investment, risk taking etc?

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