This post concerns a question from the Libertarian blogger Willis Hart in the context of a discussion on Socialism (in which I stressed that I consider myself to be a democratic socialist and believe in a mixed economy). (This is a question he posed back when I wasn't banned from his blog).
|Willis Hart: Pure socialism ALWAYS leads to a concentration of power in the state. Yeah, there might be an election here and there but the ruling elites always end up in power. Never read Animal Farm, huh? (1/2/2012 AT 7:28pm)|
So, Animal Farm - the allegory by George Orwell (pen name of Eric Arthur Blair) - is a warning against the adoption of socialism, as it always leads to a concentration of power in the State? Apparently Willis believes so.
Given this "truth", George Orwell must have been a strong believer in capitalism, right?
|Animal Farm is an allegorical and dystopian novella by George Orwell, first published in England on 17 August 1945. According to Orwell, the book reflects events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and then on into the Stalin era in the Soviet Union. Orwell, a democratic socialist, was a critic of Joseph Stalin and hostile to Moscow-directed Stalinism... (Wikipedia/Animal Farm).|
So, Orwell was actually writing from the viewpoint of a democratic socialist and criticizing the totalitarianism of Stalinism. Yet Willis thinks Animal Farm is a warning that socialism will inevitably to totalitarianism? No. He says it's "pure" socialism (under which the State owns the means of production) that "always leads to a concentration of power in the state".
Odd then that he'd quote Orwell, who actually did argue in favor of this flavor of socialism (the "pure" kind).
|Socialism is usually defined as "common ownership of the means of production". Crudely: the State, representing the whole nation, owns everything, and everyone is a State employee. This does not mean that people are stripped of private possessions such as clothes and furniture, but it does mean that all productive goods, such as land, mines, ships and machinery, are the property of the State. The State is the sole large-scale producer.|
It is not certain that Socialism is in all ways superior to capitalism, but it is certain that, unlike capitalism, it can solve the problems of production and consumption. At normal times a capitalist economy can never consume all that it produces, so that there is always a wasted surplus (wheat burned in furnaces, herrings dumped back into the sea etc. etc.) and always unemployment. ... In a Socialist economy these problems do not exist. The State simply calculates what goods will be needed and does its best to produce them. (Shopkeepers At War 2/19/1941).
My argument in this discussion was the the Soviet Union failed because it combined socialism and totalitarianism (the same as Orwell's)... and in response Willis asks if I've ever read Animal Farm?!
|Eric Arthur Blair (6/25/1903 to 1/21/1950), who used the pen name George Orwell, was an English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic. His work is marked by lucid prose, awareness of social injustice, opposition to totalitarianism, and outspoken support of democratic socialism. [According to Orwell] "a real Socialist is one who wishes – not merely conceives it as desirable, but actively wishes – to see tyranny overthrown". (Wikipedia/George Orwell).|
So, when I said that I thought that totalitarianism is the reason the Soviet Union failed, more so than socialism, Willis said "the fact that you would even try and cushion it's [socialism's] culpability is disgusting".
If me defending democratic socialism is "disgusting", why would Willis cite a book written by a democratic socialist to make his point? The funny thing about this is, that if Orwell was still living, crossed paths with Willis Hart and began discussing Russia under Stalin... Willis might ask Orwell if he had ever read Animal Farm (provided Orwell didn't identify himself to Willis using his pen name). And then tell Orwell that he found his (Orwell's) defense of socialism to be disgusting.
BTW, although I consider myself a democratic socialist, I do NOT believe the State should own the means of production (as Orwell did). My opinion is that more of the means of production should be owned by the workers (employee owned co-operatives). An opinion regarding democratic socialism that is in agreement with Bernie Sanders' view.
"I don't believe government should own the means of production" Senator Sanders said at Georgetown University on 11/17/2015, "in attempt to widen the appeal of his brand of democratic socialism". In this speech Senator Sanders "tied himself to the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt and called for far-reaching social programs to reduce income inequality" (articulated by FDR with his 2nd bill of rights).