The term Socialism was used a lot during the 20th century, it is even still heard strongly today. Although Plato himself used the word socialism to oppose individualism, in the middle of the 20th century the term was taken up again but with a definition that has a more complex meaning. What is socialism in simple terms?
Since the Industrial Revolution , the concept of socialism has taken on greater importance when the working class begins to demand improvements and recognition . Great thinkers of the time, such as Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, gave force to this ideology.
Socialism is defined as an economic and social organizational system , based on the idea that the means of production must belong to the collective patrimony and it will be the people themselves who administer these resources.
The socialist order has as its main objectives the fair distribution of goods and a rational economic organization. To achieve this, it seeks the extinction of private property and the end of social classes.
Origin of Socialism
The industrial capitalism that emerged in the 19th century, in Europe and the United States, gave rise to the industrial proletariat. This was a disadvantaged social class made up of workers who had no assets but only their ability and workforce to exchange for a salary. What is socialism in simple terms?
It was the proletariat that, realizing its negative conditions, promoted a large part of the social movements in many European countries. Among the most prominent are those that occurred in France: the Revolution of 1848 and the Paris Commune in 1871.
At the height of the French Revolution , socialist ideas were already beginning to be contemplated . However, it would not be until the year 1830 when modern socialism began to take shape at the hands of the so-called utopian socialists.
Robert Owen and Henri de Saint-Simon, figured a society where the production and distribution of goods were very different from what was known until then, their ideas were known as utopian socialism.
But the foundations of modern socialism emerge thanks to the contributions of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels . It is to them that the creation of scientific socialism is attributed, they proposed to end once and for all with the idyllic idealism of socialism and make it a necessity for society to develop.
The objective that Marx’s socialism sought was to materialize the “Revolution of the Proletariat”, with the firm intention that the State would come under the rule of the working class . The Marx and Engels manifesto is not directly opposed to private property. What is socialism in simple terms?
During the 20th century, some countries based their revolutions on Marxist ideas. Among them we can mention Russia, Cuba and North Korea . Although after the fall of the USSR , socialism acquired an unpopular character, in recent years the emergence of a new socialism that seeks to open its way on the world scene has been observed.
Basic Principles of Socialism
The scientific socialism created by Marx and Engels in 1844 forms the basis of modern socialism. Before these ideologues emerged, socialism made strong criticisms of the capitalist model that existed and the consequences that it caused. Yet he did not have the ability to explain why it was a better ideology.
The appearance of the manifesto of Marx and Engels showed that it is the class struggle that forces the proletariat to take power. The consequence of this struggle would be the emergence of a class-free society.
For society to be able to transform itself, Marxism maintains that the oppressed class (proletariat) should take over the power of the State (used by the bourgeoisie as a tool to control the working class). Once control was taken, it was necessary to establish the “dictatorship of the proletariat”, which would end social classes. What is socialism in simple terms?
The concept of the State was to be replaced by an organization that would be in charge of planning the entire life of societies, whether at a social, political and economic level. All this to achieve the common good.
Scientific socialism then traced:
- Topple the bourgeoisie.
- Dominate the power of the state by the proletariat.
- Create a new society where there were no social classes or private property.
The texts of scientific socialism that have the most importance are:
- Principles of Communism (1847), written by Friedrich Engels.
- Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848) Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx.
- Capital (1867-1895), the most important work of Marx.
Great references of Socialism
Karl Marx was a historian, philosopher, and politician who lived between 1818-1883. He was one of the great thinkers of the 19th century. He was the one who was in charge of developing scientific socialism and laying the foundations of what is now known as modern communism .
For Marx, society is always in class struggle. Wealth is owned by only a few, who exploit and oppress society’s counterpart, the workers. It was inspired by the socialist ideas that emerged in the Enlightenment and as a response to a system that only perpetuated the unfair distribution of goods and wealth. What is socialism in simple terms?
Marx develops the idea of scientific socialism, together with Friedrich Engels who was a German sociologist, philosopher, revolutionary, journalist, socialist and communist theorist. He lived from 1820 to 1895. Engels co-authored with Marx such works as “The Situation of the Working Class in England” and the “Manifesto of the Communist Party.”
He helped Marx finance the publication “Capital” and, when his partner died, edited volumes two and three. Through the materialist conception of history that both ideologues had, they tried to change the prevailing system for a more just one . In short, replace the well-known capitalism with communism . According to Marxism , communism will constitute the last stage after capitalism is overcome.
Characteristics of Socialism
- The State is in charge of centralizing and intervening in economic production and administration for the common good.
- The ideas of socialism are characterized by defending economic and social equality .
- It focuses on building a society where there are no social classes , they all belong to the same category.
- Material goods and inheritance wealth must be reduced , the way to do it depends on the mode of government.
- It aims to improve the quality of life of the lower classes , guarantees employment so that society can develop equitably.
- The means of production belong to society , they are not private. They must also be administered by the state, so they are managed by state companies. In many cases, these entities are made up of cooperatives in which the working class carries out the steps.
- The model that governs socialism is monopoly , where all services come to be from a single provider. What is socialism in simple terms?
- To improve this system, economic planning is always necessary .
- In certain socialist systems, it is not possible to freely set the costs or prices of products.
- All the objectives are centralized by the State : employment, capital accumulation, distribution of national income, economic development, among others.
Relationship of Socialism with other ideological currents
Relationship with communism
Socialism and communism are often used as equivalents, but today there are differences between these terms. For example:
- The socialism arises from the capitalism and for this reason is not completely opposed to private property . But communism does seek to completely end capitalism and private property.
- Socialist ideas seek to involve all individuals in society in managing the means of production. Communism, for its part, wants to control the means of production by a select group of people who represent the state.
- Socialism seeks to distribute resources taking into account the work of each individual. In contrast, communism seeks the distribution of resources in relation to the needs of the people.
Relationship with capitalism
The capitalism arises basically from the Industrial Revolution. In turn, Socialism arises from the struggle that the proletariat (the working class and the most disadvantaged of capitalism) assumes in order to end social inequality. What is socialism in simple terms?
So, although one arises from another, they do not have the same ideals or basic principles . It can be said that one is opposed to the other.
Relationship with Democracy
Theoretically socialism pu ede work , on certain terms, under a democratic government . The same does not happen with communism and the idea that it promotes to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat.