Socialism

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I, who said forty years ago that we should have had Socialism already but for the Socialists, am quite willing to drop the name if dropping it will help me to get the thing. ~ George Bernard Shaw

Socialism refers to a broad array of theories, ideologies, doctrines or political movements which envisage a socio-economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and co-operative management of the economy, as well as methods of establishing such a systems. "Social ownership" may refer to cooperative enterprises, common ownership, state ownership, citizen ownership of equity, or any combination of these. There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them.

Quotes[edit]

The issue is Socialism versus Capitalism. I am for Socialism because I am for humanity. ~ Eugene V. Debs
Jesus was the first socialist, the first to seek a better life for mankind. ~ Mikhail Gorbachev
I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism, as I understand it. ~ George Orwell
Alphabetized by author
In my opinion, nothing has contributed so much to the corruption of the original idea of socialism as the belief that Russia is a socialist country and that every act of its rulers must be excused, if not imitated. ~ George Orwell
I had seen little evidence that the USSR was progressing towards anything that one could truly call Socialism. ~ George Orwell
In the strictly Marxist sense, there is not even in Soviet Russia a state socialism but a state capitalism. ~ Wilhelm Reich
  • You would oppose law to socialism. But it is the law which socialism invokes. It aspires to legal, not extra-legal plunder…. You wish to prevent it from taking any part in the making of laws. You would keep it outside the Legislative Palace. In this you will not succeed, I venture to prophesy, so long as legal plunder is the basis of the legislation within.

    It is absolutely necessary that this question of legal plunder should be determined, and there are only three solutions of it:—

    1. When the few plunder the many.
    2. When everybody plunders everybody else.
    3. When nobody plunders anybody.
    Partial plunder, universal plunder, absence of plunder, amongst these we have to make our choice. The law can only produce one of these results.
    Partial plunder.—This is the system which prevailed so long as the elective privilege was partial; a system which is resorted to, to avoid the invasion of socialism.

    Universal plunder.—We have been threatened by this system when the elective privilege has become universal; the masses having conceived the idea of making law, on the principle of legislators who had preceded them.

    Absence of plunder.—This is the principle of justice, peace, order, stability, conciliation, and of good sense.

  • Let me hear that dirty word Socialism.
  • I am a Socialist not through reading a textbook that has caught my intellectual fancy, nor through unthinking tradition, but because I believe that, at its best, Socialism corresponds most closely to an existence that is both rational and moral. It stands for co-operation, not confrontation; for fellowship, not fear. It stands for equality, not because it wants people to be the same but because only through equality in our economic circumstances can our individuality develop properly.
    • Tony Blair, in his maiden speech as MP for Sedgefield (6 July 1983) as quoted in Hansard, House of Commons, 6th Series, vol. 45, col. 316
  • Socialists propose to supplant the competitive planning of capitalism with a highly centralized planned economy. Our aim is frankly international and not narrowly patriotic (Daughters of the American Revolution please notice), but I cannot here discuss socialism's international policies. If we gained control of the American Government, we would probably begin with a complete revision of the national governmental system. We would do one of two things. We would write an amendment to the Constitution giving the Federal Government the right to regulate all private business and to enter into any business which it deemed proper, or we would abolish the Constitution altogether and give the National Congress the power to interpret the people's will subject only to certain general principles of free speech and free assemblage.
    • Paul Blanshard, "Socialist and Capitalist Planning", The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (July 1932), p. 10
  • I believe Socialism is the grandest theory ever presented, and I am sure it will someday rule the world. Then we will have attained the Millennium.… Then men will be content to work for the general welfare and share their riches with their neighbors.
    • Andrew Carnegie in New York Times (1 January 1885) "A Millionaire Socialist"
  • The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.
  • Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance and the gospel of envy.
    • Winston Churchill, speech at the Scottish Unionist Conference, Perth, Scotland (28 May 1948)
  • Modern science will continue to be blindly destructive as long as its operations are determined by the anarchism of market economic forces. The problem to be solved is whether science, technology, and industry can be brought under genuinely democratic control in the context of a global planned economy, so that all of us can collectively put our hard-won scientific knowledge to mutually beneficial use. I am confident it can be accomplished, but will it? If so, there is reason for optimism. If not... well, to paraphrase Keynes, "in the not-so-long run we're all dead."
    • Clifford D. Conner, A People's History of Science (2005)
  • The issue is Socialism versus Capitalism. I am for Socialism because I am for humanity. We have been cursed with the reign of gold long enough. Money constitutes no proper basis of civilization. The time has come to regenerate society — we are on the eve of universal change.
    • Eugene V. Debs, in an open letter to the American Railway Union, Chicago Railway Times (1 January 1897)
  • Capitalism is the exploitation of man by man. Yes? Well socialism is exactly the reverse.
  • The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labour...I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals.
    • Albert Einstein, "Why Socialism?", an essay originally published in the first issue of Monthly Review (May 1949)
  • I believe that for the past twenty years there has been a creeping socialism spreading in the United States.
    • Dwight D. Eisenhower, off-the-cuff speech to Republican leaders, Custer State Park, South Dakota (June 11, 19530; in Robert J. Donovan, Eisenhower: The Inside Story (1956), p. 336. At his press conference in Washington, D.C., June 17, 1953, President Eisenhower was asked what he meant by "creeping socialism". Donovan writes, "He replied: continued Federal expansion of the T.V.A. He reiterated for what he said was the thousandth time that he would not destroy the T.V.A., but he said that he thought it was socialistic to continue putting money paid by all the taxpayers into a single region which could then attract industry away from other areas" (p. 336). See also Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953, p. 433
  • Jesus was the first socialist, the first to seek a better life for mankind.
  • I've always doubted that the socialists had a leg to stand on intellectually. They have improved their argument somehow, but once you begin to understand that prices are an instrument of communication and guidance which embody more information than we directly have, the whole idea that you can bring about the same order based on the division of labor by simple direction falls to the ground. Similarly, the idea [that] you can arrange for distributions of incomes which correspond to some conception of merit or need. If you need prices, including the prices of labor, to direct people to go where they are needed, you cannot have another distribution except the one from the market principle. I think that intellectually there is just nothing left of socialism.
  • We are socialists, we are enemies of today’s capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are all determined to destroy this system under all conditions.
    • Adolf Hitler, In a speech (1 May 1927), as quoted in Adolf Hitler : The Definitive Biography (1976) by John Toland
  • The true Anarchist decries all influences save those of love and reason. Ideas are his only arms.
    Being an Anarchist I am also a Socialist. Socialism is the antithesis of Anarchy. One is the North Pole of Truth, the other the South. The Socialist believes in working for the good of all, while Anarchy is pure Individualism. I believe in every man working for the good of self; and in working for the good of self, he works for the good of all. To think, to see, to feel, to know; to deal justly; to bear all patiently; to act quietly; to speak cheerfully; to moderate one's voice — these things will bring you the highest good. They will bring you the love of the best, and the esteem of that Sacred Few, whose good opinion alone is worth cultivating. And further than this, it is the best way you can serve Society — live your life. The wise way to benefit humanity is to attend to your own affairs, and thus give other people an opportunity to look after theirs.
    If there is any better way to teach virtue than by practicing it, I do not know it.
  • For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.  Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.
    And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?
     They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.
    So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.
     But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.
    And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,
     Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.
     But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
     Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.
    Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
    So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
    • Jesus, in his parable of workers in a vineyard Gospel of Matthew 20:1 - 16 (KJV)
    • Variant translation: “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard.  He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
       “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’  So they went.
      “He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
       “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
      “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
       “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
       “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius.  So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
       “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
      So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”'
  • The socialist economy has become so strong, so vigorous that from the summits we have reached we can issue an open challenge of peaceful economic competition to the most powerful capitalist country—the United States of America.
    • Nikita Khrushchev, concluding speech to twenty-second congress of the Communist party of the Soviet Union (October 27, 1961); in Thomas P. Whitney, ed., Khrushchev Speaks: Selected Speeches, Articles, and Press Conferences, 1949–1961 (1963), p. 450
  • The historical experience of socialist countries has sadly demonstrated that collectivism does not do away with alienation but rather increases it, adding to it a lack of basic necessities and economic inefficiency.
  • The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few. Where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe. And where we live together, freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect.
    • Clause 4, as redrafted in 1995, from the constitution of the Labour Party in Britain
  • It is true, as I have already stated, that I have been influenced by Marxist thought. But this is also true of many of the leaders of the new independent States. Such widely different persons as Gandhi, Nehru, Nkrumah, and Nasser all acknowledge this fact. We all accept the need for some form of socialism to enable our people to catch up with the advanced countries of this world and to overcome their legacy of extreme poverty. But this does not mean we are Marxists.
    • Nelson Mandela, statement from the dock at the opening of the defence case in the Rivonia Trial, Pretoria Supreme Court, (20 April 1964)
  • The function of socialism is to raise suffering to a higher level.
    • Norman Mailer, as quoted in Peter's Quotations : Ideas for Our Time (1977) by Laurence J. Peter
  • Socialism ... must have a dictatorship, it will not work without it ....
    • Mao Zedong, as quoted in Dikötter, Frank, The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution, 1945–57 (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 1st U.S. ed. 2013 (ISBN 978-1-62040-347-1)), pp. 236–237 (author Dikötter chair prof. humanities, University of Hong Kong & was prof. modern history of China, School of Oriental & African Studies, Univ. of London
  • Christian Socialism is but the holy water with which the priest consecrates the heart-burnings of the aristocrat.
    • Karl Marx, The Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848)
  • It is the common error of Socialists to overlook the natural indolence of mankind; their tendency to be passive, to be the slaves of habit, to persist indefinitely in a course once chosen. Let them once attain any state of existence which they consider tolerable, and the danger to be apprehended is that they will thenceforth stagnate; will not exert themselves to improve, and by letting their faculties rust, will lose even the energy required to preserve them from deterioration. Competition may not be the best conceivable stimulus, but it is at present a necessary one, and no one can foresee the time when it will not be indispensable to progress.
  • Whenever, in any country, the proprietor, generally speaking, ceases to be the improver, political economy has nothing to say in defense of landed property, as there established. In no sound theory of private property was it ever contemplated that the proprietor of land should be merely a sinecurist quartered on it.
    • John Stuart Mill, "The Principles of Political Economy" Vol.1
  • In my opinion, nothing has contributed so much to the corruption of the original idea of socialism as the belief that Russia is a socialist country and that every act of its rulers must be excused, if not imitated. And so for the last ten years, I have been convinced that the destruction of the Soviet myth was essential if we wanted a revival of the socialist movement.
  • The Spanish war and other events in 1936-7 turned the scale and thereafter I knew where I stood. Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism, as I understand it. It seems to me nonsense, in a period like our own, to think that one can avoid writing of such subjects.
  • Since 1930 I had seen little evidence that the USSR was progressing towards anything that one could truly call Socialism. On the contrary, I was struck by clear signs of its transformation into a hierarchical society, in which the rulers have no more reason to give up their power than any other ruling class. Moreover, the workers and intelligentsia in a country like England cannot understand that the USSR of today is altogether different from what it was in 1917. It is partly that they do not want to understand (i.e. they want to believe that, somewhere, a really Socialist country does actually exist), and partly that, being accustomed to comparative freedom and moderation in public life, totalitarianism is completely incomprehensible to them.
    • George Orwell in the original preface to Animal Farm; as published in George Orwell : Some Materials for a Bibliography (1953) by Ian R. Willison
  • In three ways unemployment would be reduced. First... by greater equalization of purchasing power and consequent stimulus in the form of effective demand. Second, by utilizing the national credit and socialized industries for the creation of new industries and the extension of existing ones. ...Social ownership and operation of the basic industries, and especially socialized banking and credit, would greatly facilitate the task of shifting the masses of unemployed into productive channels. Third, if necessary, by shortening working hours and dividing the available work among all the people.
  • The actual participants in industry under individualism are prompted to action by the following combination of incentives: desire for an income, desire for a higher income, desire for security, satisfaction received from shouldering responsibility or from wielding power, the joy of participation in creative activity, and the desire for applause and prestige. ...And all these motivations may be conserved and strengthened under socialism.
    • Kirby Page, Property (1935)
  • A social order in which the maximum legal income is not more than tenfold the minimum... and in which competition for private profit has been eliminated, and in which social motivations are more dominant, is certain to be a more harmonious community than can ever be created by economic individualism.
    • Kirby Page, Property (1935)
  • If individuals exercise the freedom to seek their own gain through competitive struggle and to acquire unlimited wealth and property, the result for most of the population will be bondage to destitution and insecurity.
    • Kirby Page, Property (1935)
  • When we pray, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth," we are praying for the abolition of individualism and the coming of the higher individuality through collective action as members of God's Home on earth.
    • Kirby Page, Property (1935)
  • The consolidation of financial and industrial power in the hands of a small section of the people leads inevitably to more and more intense congestion of money.
  • If it had pleased them [the legislators] to order that this wealth, after having been possessed by fathers during their life, should return to the republic after their death, you would have no reason to complain of it.
  • In the strictly Marxist sense, there is not even in Soviet Russia a state socialism but a state capitalism. According to Marx, the social condition "capitalism" does not consist in the existence of individual capitalists, but in the existence of the specific "capitalist mode of production", that is, in the production of exchange values instead of use values, in wage work of the masses and in the production of surplus value, which is appropriated by the state or the private owners, and not by the society of working people. In this strictly Marxist sense, the capitalistic system continues to exist in Russia. And it will continue to exist as long as the masses of people continue to lack responsibility and to crave authority.
    • Wilhelm Reich, in his Introduction to the third edition of The Mass Psychology of Fascism (1945)
  • You are afraid of life, Little Man, deadly afraid. You will murder it in the belief of doing it for the sake of "socialism," or "the state," or "national honor," or "the glory of God."
  • The Idiots of socialism are slaves, but they are no one's property and therefore no one's loss.
  • Under communism (socialism), there is no incentive to supply people with anything they need or want, including safety.
  • It is not the truth of Marxism that explains the willingness of intellectuals to believe it, but the power that it confers on intellectuals, in their attempts to control the world. And since, as Swift says, it is futile to reason someone out of a thing that he was not reasoned into, we can conclude that Marxism owes its remarkable power to survive every criticism to the fact that it is not a truth-directed but a power-directed system of thought.
    • Roger Scruton, Political Philosophy : Arguments for Conservatism (2006)
  • As we know, socialism is calculational chaos. Rational appraisement and allocation are eternally elusive. It is a gigantic negative-sum game in which each player quickly grabs a piece of the pie, and all the while the pie shrinks before the players' eyes. The welfare/warfare state, the interventionist state, is no improvement. Each intervention begets yet another. Bureaucracy is the only 'industry' guaranteed to experience growth. Each new regulation taxes the private sector, relentlessly shifting resources out of the hands of the productive, and into the hands of the unproductive. Capitalism is the only positive-sum game in town.
  • It is far more likely that by the time nationalization has become the rule, and private enterprise the exception, Socialism (which is really rather a bad name for the business) will be spoken of, if at all, as a crazy religion held by a fanatical sect in that darkest of dark ages, the nineteenth century. Already, indeed, I am told that Socialism has had its day, and that the sooner we stop talking nonsense about it and set to work, like the practical people we are, to nationalize the coal mines and complete a national electrification scheme, the better. And I, who said forty years ago that we should have had Socialism already but for the Socialists, am quite willing to drop the name if dropping it will help me to get the thing. What I meant by my jibe at the Socialists of the eighteen-eighties was that nothing is ever done, and much is prevented, by people who do not realize that they cannot do everything at once.
    • George Bernard Shaw, The Intelligent Woman's Guide To Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism, And Fascism (1928)
  • The trouble is with socialism, which resembles a form of mental illness more than it does a philosophy. Socialists get bees in their bonnets. And because they chronically lack any critical faculty to examine and evaluate their ideas, and because they are pathologically unwilling to consider the opinions of others, and most of all, because socialism is a mindset that regards the individual — and his rights — as insignificant, compared to whatever the socialist believes the group needs, terrible, terrible things happen when socialists acquire power.
  • Socialism is nothing but the capitalism of the lower classes.
    • Oswald Spengler, The Hour Of Decision, Part One : Germany and World-Historical Evolution (1934)
  • Wealth in modern societies is distributed according to opportunity; and while opportunity depends partly upon talent and energy, it depends still more upon birth, social position, access to education and inherited wealth; in a word, upon property.
  • In reality... the greater part of modern property... is merely a form of private taxation which the law allows certain persons to levy on the industry of others... it confers upon its owners income unaccompanied by personal service.
    • R. H. Tawney, The Acquisitive Society (1920)
  • The real economic cleavage is not... between employers and employed, but between all who do constructive work, from scientist to laborer, on the one hand, and all whose main interest is the preservation of existing proprietary rights upon the other, irrespective of whether they contribute to constructive work or not.
    • R. H. Tawney, The Acquisitive Society (1920)
  • If by "Property" is meant the personal possessions which the word suggests to nine-tenths of the population, the object of socialists is not to undermine property but to protect and increase it.
    • R. H. Tawney, The Acquisitive Society (1920)
  • Socialism accepts... the principles, which are the cornerstones of democracy, that authority to justify its title , must rest on consent; that power is tolerable only so far as it is accountable to the public; and that differences of character and capacity between human beings, however important on their own plane, are of minor importance when compared with the capital fact of their common humanity. Its object is to extend the application of those principles from the sphere of civil and political rights, where, at present, they are nominally recognized, to that of economic and social organization, where they are systematically and insolently defined.
  • As for me, I am deeply a democrat; this is why I am in no way a socialist. Democracy and socialism cannot go together. You can't have it both ways... socialism is a new form of slavery.
  • A nationalized planned economy needs democracy, as the human body needs oxygen.
    • Leon Trotsky in a statement of 1936, as quoted in The Informed Vision : Essays On Learning And Human Nature (2002) by David Hawkins, p. 25; sometimes paraphrased "Socialism needs democracy like the human body needs oxygen."
  • Nothing has spread Socialistic feeling in this country more than the use of automobiles. To the countryman they are a picture of arrogance of wealth with all its independence and carelessness.

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