A Very Brief Introduction to Socialism

The Basics of Marxism and Socialism in Ten Minutes

Socialism is all the rage again. Bernie Sanders is the leading Democratic candidate for president, a 29 year old latina democratic socialist primaried and unseated one of the highest ranking members of the Democratic establishment in 2018, becoming the face of the left wing of the Democratic party over night, and openly avowed socialists are running up and down tickets all over the country mostly through an overwhelmingly popular presence on Twitter and Tik Tok — they’ve even formed a caucus, the Rose Caucus, to support each other and unequivocally state the positions to which they all hold, such as abolishing ICE and the CIA, and passing a Green New Deal, and Medicare for All. It includes over 30 candidates so far! (You should go check them out and follow them online).

Karl Marx

Karl Marx was a philosopher/sociologist in the 19th century (1818–1883). You probably know that he spent his career critiquing capitalism, or, a mode of economic production by which a few people own business, factories, and resources, and most people “sell” their time and energy in the form of labor to those owners.

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Our boy Karl

Marxism

The term Marxism, technically speaking, refers to Marx’s philosophical theory through which he understood the world. This theory is called Dialectical Materialism.

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Thesis + Antithesis = Synthesis (New Thesis)
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When extrapolated, Hegel’s dialectic becomes an unfolding of history towards an end goal — the “Absolute,” or “Freedom”

Socialism

As stated, Marx saw socialism as the next stage in that dialectical process of Hegel’s. This meant that Marx didn’t think capitalism was bad. He just thought it was time to move beyond it. He thought it had achieved its purpose, which was to be the next step in human history beyond feudalism, to increase our productive capabilities. Marx wholeheartedly agreed that those things had been achieved! People were no longer legally bound to a plot of land which they had to work, as in feudalism or serfdom, and we had factories and trade networks and organized specialized labor that gave us the ability to produce more goods than we could ever possibly need.

So how does one do a socialism?

Well, that would depend upon whom one asks. Ask 100 people how to do socialism and you will get 101 answers. Since this stage of the dialectic hasn’t technically happened yet, we are still a bit unsure of what a socialist stage of history would or will actually look like. And not everyone who subscribes to dialectical materialism and agrees that we ought to negate capitalism and usher in a new system agrees that that new system should be socialism proper. For one example, Mikhail Bakunin (1814–1876) was a dialectical materialist (he might object to being called a “Marxist,” being a contemporary of Marx, but dialectical materialism is generally attributed to Marx’s name) but Bakunin was not a socialist or a communist necessarily. He was technically an anarchist, anarchists having their own theories about the economy and the role — or lack thereof — of the state in it.

I was evangelical but then I got a degree in Bible. Now I write about navigating the hellscape of post-evangelicalism and late capitalism.

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