He's a Socialist? He's a Communist? Do any of the finger pointers know what the %##??//% they're talking about?

Historically, socialism, as labelled by the public, seems to be whatever people say it is, almost always, people who have no idea what it is, but what those people imagine it is.

And the people who call themselves Capitalists -- those who, today, we might call Wall Street types, have been screaming about it, also without a clue as to WHAT it is, seemingly throughout history.

A relevant tangent begins here:

I grew up in Philadelphia where the American Revolution was still alive in the red brick of most of the buildings. It seemed as if every second or third institution -- from the Free Library to the University of Pennsylvania -- had a plaque which read "Founded by Benjamin Franklin..." and then gave the specific date. So it wasn't unusual that Tom Paine was one of my historical childhood heroes. (Actually, he still is -- The Age of Reason reads as if it were written last week to point directly at the people who regard any "wall" between church and state as agents of communism)

Tom Paine -- the man who financed much of the revolution with all of his royalties from Common Sense (and they were substantial), the man who gave us the name for this new thing that was to be -- The United States of America , the man who published The Crisis* on December 23, 1776 and convinced/inspired/shamed the freezing, starving soldiers at Valley Forge into staying on beyond December 31, when their contracts of service expired. (No "Stop-Loss" bullshit in those days.)

But when, as a grammar school tyke, I gave a report on Tom Paine, and was stopped partway through by an elderly teacher who shouted at me: "Tom Paine was a COMMUNIST!" I was labelled a smartass by responding with a completely sincere and spontaneous "But that's impossible. It hadn't even been invented yet." (In later years, I learned he was what we call an "Agrarian Socialist" when we look at early 20th century Midwest Heartland America, but the way it was said to me back then was very definitely that he was some sort of Party Official or KGB agent.) Which brings us around to come back down to where we began -- what IS socialism?

In 1928 George Bernard Shaw wrote a witty and educated book titled: The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism. (You can read 300+ pages of it at the site above -- and if reading an entire book online doesn't appeal to you, there are plenty of copies around, paperback used ones starting at around a dollar and going up from there. You can do a search on ADDALL and you'll find more than 500 copies being offered by various booksellers).

One of the items in it that comes to mind, since I can't find my copy, that back then, the idea of free intercity roads -- roads that WERE NOT privately owned, roads that were built by the government and did NOT demand a fee from travelers -- in 1928 that was the hideous specter of rampant socialism.

So -- Marxists and Socialists and Communists and Capitalists -- protean terms that -- while each HAS meaning -- generally mean whatever the person saying them wants them to mean.

One example:

In the 50's and 60's, "profit-sharing" was denounced as COMMUNISM by those who -- literally, not judgmentally -- didn't want to share.

In the 90's, I had a business supplied by a privately-owned company in Shanghai. When touring the plant and the sights around town, the President of the company pointed to some employees, and said -- quite proudly -- "We have profit-sharing." When I asked how that was working out, I was told: "Well, the government allows it but they don't like it -- they denounce it as CAPITALISM."


The Crisis

*"THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman..."


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