Robert N. Lee

What Socialism Is and Is Not, For Dummies.

Just a few quick and simple reminders here, folks. Feel free to refer to this whenever you see anybody from the United States using any of these terms on TV or the Internet, today, and laugh your ass off, every time!


“Socialism” means total state or collective ownership of the means of production, as opposed to private ownership.

“The means of production” means: farm to floor, the whole shebang, the resources, the factories, the distribution, the infrastructural backbone (roads, rails, air, and every single thing involved), the stores, etc.

So…if you live in a country where you bought the computer or tablet or smart phone you’re reading this on from the government, and the government made that device out of materials the government gathered, and the sales person and the Geek Squad guy who spied on your pron at the store all work for the government, and you drove home from the store in the car you bought from the government, to look at your neat new phone that isn’t exactly “yours” in your government-owned house, you live in a socialist country.

Otherwise, you don’t.

“NAZI” is an acronym that stands for “National Socialist German Workers’ Party.”  (Only, you know, in German.) However, you may have noticed in the odd World War II movie you may have seen that the Nazis didn’t have any particular issues with private ownership of the means of production, nor were those means owned in any sense collectively or by the state in any Nazi or occupied country.

The “Socialism” in “National Socialist German Workers’ Party?” Is marketing, it’s classic deceptive branding. The Nazis helped invent that shit. Socialist parties and politicians were – go figure – kinda popular with workless and breadless workers in sorely hurting Weimar Germany. So when Hitler joined the German Workers’ Party and they needed a new name that would attract lots of starving people to their uber-nationalist, racist, undemocratic, totally fascist and certainly not socialist cause, they borrowed some branding from other groups to look more socialist. (FWIW, Hitler wanted an even bigger change to the name, to the more honest “Social Revolutionary Party.” Wiser heads prevailed that time, but don’t worry, he had them all liquidated a few years later.)

Oh, and if somebody calls you a “fascist,” they’re not necessarily calling you a “Nazi,” either. “Fascism” is: hyper-nationalistic and schizoid isolationist/expansionist, authoritarian, militaristic, traditional/conservative to the point of loathing anything modern or new, in fact considering anything new or unusual (to you) in society that bothers you “decadent” and destructive of society at large, hateful and suspicious of immigrants especially, all about Peace Through Strength and The Kids Just Aren’t Good Enough At Beating On Other People, These Days, That’s the Kids’ Problem, pathologically focused on an entirely mythological version of “the family,” and undemocratic – the majority rules, always, anybody else can like it or lump it, and anybody who doesn’t think just like me is a “socialist.”

In other words, they’re probably just referring to your Tea Party membership. Which is pretty fucking fascist, sorry, you fascist. Stop being one and nobody will call you that. If you believe English should be the official language of the United States, you’re more fascist than not, at least. (Or you’re in the wrong country, you meant to be born in England. They got fascists there, too, who also think Jesus invented their country. You’ll love it.)

And you’re not even remotely “libertarian” if you believe that, either. “Libertarian” means you believe the individual is the supreme element of society, and…anyway, “libertarian” already doesn’t make any sense, right there, it’s like believing that the universe exists for the sole purpose of single atoms or stars or planets. Either you’re an anarchist or not, shit or get off the pot, buddy. (“Anarchist” means: you don’t believe any states should exist, period, or at the very least that states exist primarily to thwart shining, heroic individual efforts. If you’re a Ron Paul supporter, you may actually be an anarchist. But he isn’t, really, nor is he a libertarian. He’s a fascist.) Suffice to say: you can’t possibly believe in a single official language for your country and be libertarian.

Anyway, when Glenn Beck or somebody tries to sell you “The Nazis were socialist” on the TV? They’re doing the exact same thing the Nazis did putting that in their name in the first place, only reversed: you aren’t currently starving on your feet in a breadline in the twenties, you’re not attracted to the term “socialist,” you’re terrified by it, and now everybody except Mel Gibson knows the Nazis were evil, that story already ended a long time ago. So the false branding message is the same: “The Nazis were socialist.” Add that to something like the equally bullshit “Unemployment insurance is socialist” or “Obama is a  socialist,” and you’ve got a recipe for a bunch of totally freaked out ignorant folks who honestly think health care reform is going to lead to Jews in death camps, again. Because some evil fuckwad like Glenn Beck did that to them on purpose.

“Ignorant,” BTW, does not mean “stupid.” No, stupidity is actually an excuse for ignorance you just aren’t entitled to, if you’ve read this far in this post. You are as smart as this sign, you are allowed to ride the ride, and ignorance, luckily, is not that hard to fix. You are looking at a magic science machine right now that…“KILLS FASCISTS”…as a man with a guitar once put it. Or you can take your ignorance being exposed as somebody or the whole world telling you you’re not good enough and get all bent, pretend you don’t know how to Google, and…that’s kind of a “come to Jesus” moment. After that, you’re “willfully ignorant.” Which is way, way worse than “stupid.” It means something closer to “damned.”

“Welfare” or “entitlements” for the poor and sick and needy? Not socialist. Fire departments, cops, EMTs, public roads? Not socialist. Voter education efforts, public research funding, public television and radio? Not socialist. Subsidizing agriculture or industry, “bailouts” in times of trouble, even? Nope, not socialist. Emergency disaster funding and management? Not socialist. Public schools? Not socialist. State protection of banks and financial infrastructure? Not socialist. State prisons? Not socialist.

You are one hundred percent free to argue that any of these functions are not the proper role of government, that private industry might do them all better, etc. But if you put those arguments in “capitalist” vs. “socialist” terms, you just sound like you don’t know what any of the words you just said means. Because you clearly don’t.*

Health care’s kinda iffy – the main “industry” doesn’t actually produce anything and thus isn’t really an industry, any more than, say, gambling is. And the aspects of health care that are production business? Heavily subsidized, already and everywhere, by governments, and totally reliant on the “pure research” and generally not trademarked or patented discoveries of state and donation-paid-for science done all the time. Even in America.** Because, uh, paying for advances in health care and life enhancing and saving measures is kind of a big win-win, all around, for a state.

So when – as is the case in pretty much every country except us that actually has an economy of any sort – the government asserts some measure of control over the totally non-production aspects of health care business, you call that “socialized.”
It’s kinda socialist, but not really. Governments do it because it makes their citizenry happier and healthier, health care companies still make lots of money and employ lots of people and still provide a great public benefit so…again, big win for everybody.

And if you’re grinding your teeth at those last two paragraphs? You’re not a socialist, either, nor are you a capitalist. You’re a twisted little ape who deserves to die of treatable cancer alone in a gutter, and lucky you, you may get the chance someday, if all your sweetest dreams come true for everybody else!

Finally, a few other things that aren’t socialist, not even a little tiny bit.

  • Barack Obama
  • Hillary Clinton
  • George Soros
  • Ariana Huffington
  • The New York Times
  • Sexual harassment laws
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Electric cars
  • Taxes
  • The Environmental Protection Agency
  • The FCC
  • Not shitting where you or others eat
  • Turning off your fucking lights when you’re not using them sometimes, Jesus
  • The Post Office
  • The DMV
  • Building codes
  • OSHA
  • Animal welfare laws
  • Business laws (See the “Nazi” rebranding above – assholes selling you a pile of shit like to deceptively rebrand this as “regulations,” like it’s something different. Nope: laws. The person who’s “anti-regulation,” what they really want is for businesses to be under no laws. And you to be under lots of them, mostly to protect businesses from you in the event that a business kills your child or won’t serve you because you’re black. Boy, that doesn’t sound so great when you put it like that – honestly, I mean – does it?***)
  • Making somebody who makes a billion dollars a year pay more taxes than somebody who makes zero dollars a year
  • The National Endowment for the Arts
  • NASA
  • The Evergreen State College
  • The Internet
  • The fact that black people don’t appreciate your repertoire of jokes about black people, in no small part because you are not black, yourself
  • Having a government, period

Here’s something that is kinda socialist, though, just for fun: Alaskan state ownership of all oil and mineral deposits. That, and soaking the Lower 48 for more federal dollars than pretty much any other state is where the state of Alaska gets all its funds, they don’t collect any local or state taxes at all. And every citizen of that state gets a check from the oil and gas companies, every year, for leasing them the resource exploitation rights. That is socialist.

Barack Obama is not a socialist, but Sarah Palin totally is one, or she was as Alaska’s head of state for ten minutes, anyway. Ha-ha, you let a commie tell you other people were commies because you’re so insanely scared of commies, dope.  Then again, you also let Palin convince you she’s “anti-pork” and Alaska’s far and away the biggest and most corrupt “pork” state in the…what the fuck, it’s not even “in the union.” It may as well be a whole other scary nation. It’s ten hundred thousand miles away from here, in Eskimolandia, someplace. AND IT’S RIGHT NEXT TO RUSSIA. AND CANADA.

You stay away from me, you Tea Party Nazi Stalinists. I see your game, now…


*It’s like saying “Evolution is just a theory.” You should really look up the word “theory” in any old dictionary, if you’re fond of saying that, it has different meanings in colloquial, academic, scientific, and artistic contexts. Words are complex, that way. And if you don’t know what the words in any of the definitions mean, look those up, too. If you are not deeply ashamed of years of saying “Evolution is just a theory” when you’re done, you missed looking up some words and/or you really shouldn’t ever argue about anything in public that isn’t “NO, IT’S NOT C-A-T, IT’S K-A-T.” Just…stop. Please. Take up macrame or smoking cigarettes or something, instead.

**That’s right, when you see the spokesman for BigDrugCo on Fox News explaining that the reason this cancer medication costs ten grand a month in the US and ten dollars a month in Canada is IT’S MY PATENT AND OMG SOCIALISM, he is fucking lying to you. The US government flat-out paid his company to make that drug, and they never would have made it even with that government money, not without a whole pile of discoveries made at universities and etc. all over the world, previous.

Only the United States does this for companies and then lets them sell the resulting products for whatever they like to sick people. Every other nation that produces medical products requires that giant medical corporations that live on the public dime at least do them the courtesy of not gouging their sick and dying citizens, in return. And that’s why the same drugs cost so much less in Canada.

Oh, and also unlike other countries, we let those companies patent other people’s and other companies’ work, all the damn time. Just take somebody’s discovery, make it into a pill, and file a piece of paper saying MY COMPANY INVENTED THIS AND IT’S MINE BECAUSE I WAS THE FIRST ASSHOLE WITH ENOUGH LAWYERS AND FEW ENOUGH MORALS TO GET A PIECE OF PAPER INTO THIS DRAWER. Which…isn’t very capitalist of us, is it, really? Not socialist, either. It’s something else entirely. Robbery works for me.

***See also “tort reform.” If you’re bright enough to read all the way down here, you also have no excuse if you’ve never noticed that every single effort to restrict lawsuits is entirely about restricting the ability of individuals to sue businesses. And, uh, you can be forgiven if you don’t know this, but: the lion’s share of civil court action in the United States involves businesses suing each other and individuals. The bank that told you you were a good risk for a home loan when they knew that wasn’t true six years ago? They don’t want you to ever be able to sue them for anything, and they got forty billion of your tax dollars to tide them over until they rebounded from all the bad loans they made on purpose and knowing they were bad, which they used to lobby the government to give them more and more ways to sue you for defaulting on that loan.

That’s who wants “tort reform.” Banks. And Taco Bell. And Monsanto. And Wal Mart. And AT&T. And BP. So they can all fuck you over six ways to Sunday and then sue you when you get hurt and sue each other all the time just to piss each other off and gain leverage that has nothing to do with the actual cases (the very definition of “frivolous lawsuit,” BTW), and you cannot ever do anything about any of it except maybe kill yourself.

And then they’ll spend your kids’ taxes that the government gives them ten years from now them for fucking over your kids and getting a boo boo themselves in the process, just trying to figure out some way to reanimate your corpse and wring a few more dollars out of it. All on behalf of the great cause of individual liberty, natch.

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  1. That just made my day. I’ve been an IWW member, live in Sweden, and pay 25% income tax, which I do happily, because the money comes back to me and my children in many very important ways. After living in the U.S. for many years, I GotTFO with my capital a few years before the bank-induced econ-crash. I was a *war tax resistor*in the U.S. for over 20 years. Here, I buck up and pay my dues, it ain’t a perfect system, I’ve some complaints, but it’s as close as middle class me is going to get to satisfied. I like to tell people I’m a Socialist just to see the look of horror on their ignorant faces, but the truth is, as you so well point out, I’m not one. 

  2. I always like pointing out to religious conservatives who believe that state aid to the poor and needy is some kind of newfangled commie thing, that the Old Testament is filled with civil laws ordering people to do just that under pain of severe Old Testament style-punishments. It’s kinda the thing that pisses off God the most, really. 

    And then I usually don’t like that, because I just made it plain that they’ve never read the Bible or have decided to ignore vast chunks of it, and since they’re ostensible “Biblical literalists,” for the most part, they then get all bent out of shape and become insulting or change the subject or start quoting shit from Shakespeare and Milton about the Debbil knowing the Bible real well they think came from the Bible.

    What’s funny is…and the conversation never winds around to this, or almost never…they talk about nothing but Canada, because that’s the only socialized medical system they’ve heard about on Fox News, ever. But they’re talking about some fantasy Canada. And…if we could just get past that, they’d find out I really don’t like Canada’s medical system. It’s all-government and no private offerings. Which is why I’ve known a couple of people with weird diseases who moved down this way and became American for the health care. Believe it or not.

    I like systems like yours, that provide basic, widespread care for everyone, which government run systems are good at. And then if you want to and are able, you can get your own specialized treatments from private concerns, with help from the government system, if needed.

  3. Hey, Robert, if you can provide those OT verses so I can show them to my conservative FB friends, I’d appreciate it.

  4. I thought this was for dummies.  Why is my head spinning?

  5. According to Miriam-Webster, fascism is:
    a political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader… Not sure from where you conjured the rest of the definition, but it seems to be your personal word for a certain type of people, which is the exact thing you’re roasting people for. Also, because of the military element of fascism to enforce their national ideal on other countries, Ron Paul can be easily identified as non-fascist. A tendency toward anarchy, maybe, but not fascist. An entertaining read, but due to hyperbole and emotional rants, no more informative or accurate than Glen Beck. Flame away.

  6. “And you’re not even remotely ‘libertarian’ if you believe that, either.”

    If you believe what?  I got lost here.  That the Tea Party is fascist?  

  7. This was a very cool read. I’m a Canuck and have always taken it for granted that I knew what socialism is. I had always assumed that there was a much larger difference between communism and socialism.
    I do think it could be argued that socialism has evolved a bit from what it was for most of the 20th century. For example, when I say I am a socialist I technically mean that I am a social democrat (for example Canada’s New Democratic Party is a social democratic political party) and I think that for most people that this is what they mean when they use the term socialist.
    Not that what you’ve said is any less factual, just that I think that for many of us outside the US, socialism has come to mean social democracy instead of decentralized communism.

  8. I grew up in Alaska and am constantly fighting with my family and friends about politics.  They call me a socialist, which i am ok with, but my rebuttal always pisses them off.  Keep spending that dividend check you commie bastards.  (I no longer live in alaska)

  9. bonjour mister Robertnlee!  i’m an american, yet i seem to be missing out on this ‘basic, widespread care’. also, i’m without health insurance of any kind and of an age where i am no longer covered by my parents’ insurance plan and since i’m graduated from university they no longer cover me either.  please tell me, where can i acquire said care?  i’m most interested in the basics like medical and dental, not just coverage for getting knocked up or sent to the emergency.  if you know of any place that works on a sliding scale that would be most helpful.  i make less than 20 grand a year. most of which i spend on things like food and shelter and threads from the goodwill so i can look fly.  or perhaps you have a friend or two in the dental business that may be willing to get paid under the table for some basic drilling and filling.  i appreciate your views on social and privatized health care.  i’m assuming you’re from canada, so maybe you can’t help me.  but i’d be willing to apply for canadian citizenship if that means i could get my teeth fixed for less then $1200  thanks, sincerely disaffected uninsured underemployed postgrad.

  10. i spoke too soon mister robertnlee.  you are probably not canadian at all and the widespread care you referred in response to was that of sweden’s.  therefore i will now be sticking my figurative foot in my mouth and begin looking into attainment of swiss citizenship.  but if you do know any dentist’s, still interested.

  11. Funny. I would like to add a qualification, though. State run institutions are not socialism; rather, Socialism is community control over the means of production. The Soviet Union is a not very good example of socialism. I presume this is where you gather such an idea. The USSR was a Totalitarian regime under the guise of Socialism. Socialism is the means of production owned by citizenry, not state run institutions. Anarchism is a means to organize to achieve such an aim through volunteerism without the use of the state. In this way, Left wing Marxism marries very well with Anarchism. These words however should be avoided for they have been evacuated of much of their meaning. Even the term Capitalism, only exists in the classroom and in the minds of people. There is a kind of fringe Capitalism to our economy, but what we have is essentially state run institutions that prop up key privatized institutions; as you mention later in your example of pharmaceutical companies. As Karl Polanyi in the Great Transformation put it so succinctly, markets are a state run institution. In this way, our system is not very different from Bolshevism, except that in our system the states role is to decentralize the economy through privatization, and in Soviet Russia it’s role was to have total state control over the economy. Ours is authoritative decision making made by an oligarchy whose power resides in the state,designed by the principal architects of policy making; mainly the corporations. Which is why I think Corporatism is a more accurate term to describe our political economy.

  12. It’s also an old-as-the-hills printer/typestetter and then designer joke: if you get the phrase “the pen is mightier than the sword” to set up, make it say “the penis…” 

  13. “Socialism is the means of production owned by citizenry, not state run institutions. ”

    Except for “the citizenry” to own the means of production, you have to have a state. Citizens are just a community until they get together and build a highway and decide how big a truck can use that highway.  Then they’re a state. 

  14. I’ve never even been, which is strange for my life – mostly west coast, PNW, lots of friends and family visit and live Alaska, etc. 

  15. Thanks…I haven’t been looking at my email, and didn’t even know all these responses were here. 

  16. Oh, you bet…I can use a project before I get writing this morning, anyway. “Big Government” governing legal codes from the Old Testament, coming up…

  17. Okay…ancient Jewish laws mandated by God that would drive Tea Partiers into strokes, all of which are detailed in the Bible, so Tea Partiers are supposed to accept them as inspired… 1. Mandatory crop rotation, land set-aside, combined with enforced giving to poor and needy and debt forgiveness. And no legal concept of property ownership, either:Exodus 23:10-11 – ““For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, 11 but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what is left. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.”Leviticus 25 expands on this “sabbath year concept,” and then goes into the mega-sabbath Year of Jubilee, after every seven times seven years, or…every fifty years, twice a century. In that year, all debts are over, all indentures entered into are complete, all slaves freed, and…everybody goes back to their own land. What that means is: “The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers. Throughout the land that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land.”If one of your fellow Israelites becomes poor and sells some of their property, their nearest relative is to come and redeem what they have sold. If, however, there is no one to redeem it for them but later on they prosper and acquire sufficient means to redeem it themselves,  they are to determine the value for the years since they sold it and refund the balance to the one to whom they sold it; they can then go back to their own property. But if they do not acquire the means to repay, what was sold will remain in the possession of the buyer until the Year of Jubilee. It will be returned in the Jubilee, and they can then go back to their property.”Nobody actually owned their land in ancient Israel, it all belonged to God, and it was impossible to build a lasting “corporate empire” anything like the common business practices we see today. Because if you got enough capital together to buy up everybody else’s little farms or factories to make your one big giant farming company…you’d have to give them all back, eventually, and reset. Not only that…“‘If you sell land to any of your own people or buy land from them, do not take advantage of each other. You are to buy from your own people on the basis of the number of years since the Jubilee. And they are to sell to you on the basis of the number of years left for harvesting crops. When the years are many, you are to increase the price, and when the years are few, you are to decrease the price, because what is really being sold to you is the number of crops. Do not take advantage of each other, but fear your God. I am the LORD your God.”Wow, God-mandated land price controls based on how many years left until Jubilee.  WHY DOES GOD HATE FREEDOM? Leviticus 25 is pretty interesting, generally. Actually, that whole book is. Here comes building/upkeep codes…2. Q: Why does the Bible have pages and pages of instructions in it about how to deal with different kinds of mold in your walls?A: Because they didn’t want that shit spreading from your hut with the car on blocks parked on the lawn to the other huts where people cut their grass, and that’s what governments are for. You might want to skip the opening of Leviticus 14. And then don’t go to Leviticus 15. They’re both pretty nasty and all about how to deal with infectious skin diseases and bodily discharges. Sandwiched between those, in vv 33-56, is a series of instructions for what you are supposed to do if you find mold in your house. You’re supposed to call a priest, who checks the mold to see what kind it is and how advanced it is, then prescribes various steps for dealing with the infestation. If you don’t do anything about it, or fail to get the mold out of your walls, mounting penalties are applied and enforced. These are primarily religious/ritualistic (as are some of the “remedies” for the mold, we are talking about cave men, here…), but if you won’t deal with that shit, after everybody stops talking to you or doing business with you or letting your kids play with their kids, they finally just tear down your house and take the rubble outside town. …anyway, there’s a few things. As Davinci said, too, look up tithing, too. Some tithes were specifically aimed at the care and upkeep of poor and sick and alien, and poor sick aliens. 

  18. Um…I formatted that reply, here, Disqus fucked it all up, I’m not going and trying to fix it again. Sorry about the one big paragraph. 

  19. I have never read such cockamamy bulldung in my entire life. By your very own definition of the word Socialism, (“Socialism” means total state or collective ownership of the means of production, as opposed to private ownership.) You have identified O’bama and his minyans beliefs. They believe that the citizenry and the country would be better off if the Government owned and ran things.  They are not Private Enterprise advocates. They are Public Enterprise advocates. Whatever you were smoking, the day you penned this, that is what you should be sharing with the world.

  20. Your claims are not substantiated. If you check Thomas Ferguson’s site, you will find the financial community is overwhelmingly backing  the Obama Administration. The Business Political Class value him and the administration. There is no way this class, who controls our entire political apparatus, would allow a socialist agenda. It would take massive grassroots efforts to elect politicians at every level in order to have a Social Democracy in the US. We are far from that, and require much more organizing.

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  22. Can’t say I think you are 100% right (more like 95% or so) but enough to make this work sharing. Thanks for writing it.

  23. Oh my, if I could only drag this past the eyeballs of every political neanderthal I have to deal with…

  24. -I would add that the state health care  here is not just basic, OTC, it’s very specialized, sometimes it means being placed on a waiting list for a few days or weeks if the treatment is not for something acute. If you believe your’e being asked to wait too long, you can request a paid visit to a private specialist. Dental care is free up to (20 or 21?) years. after that there is low cost dental via a state clinic – my last root canal cost me around 80USD. and it required re-drilling and re capping 5 times=5 different visits (stubborn, that root was)

  25. This is glorious… except that the people who need to read it are very much TL;DR types. 🙁

  26. Changing the definitions does not help the dialogue. Socialism is not as you defined it. Your definition more closely aligns itself with Communism and the rest of your definitions are skewed accordingly. 

  27. Changing the definitions does not help the dialogue. Socialism is not as you defined it. Your definition more closely aligns itself with Communism and the rest of your definitions are skewed accordingly. 

  28. “Most cruel joke of all, however, has been played by Hitler & Co. on those German capitalists and small businessmen who once backed National Socialism as a means of saving Germany’s bourgeois economic structure from radicalism. The Nazi credo that the individual belongs to the state also applies to business. Some businesses have been confiscated outright, on other what amounts to a capital tax has been levied. Profits have been strictly controlled. Some idea of the increasing Governmental control and interference in business could be deduced from the fact that 80% of all building and 50% of all industrial orders in Germany originated last year with the Government. Hard-pressed for food- stuffs as well as funds, the Nazi regime has taken over large estates and in many instances collectivized agriculture, a procedure fundamentally similar to Russian Communism.”(Source: Time Magazine; Jaunuary 2, 1939.)

  29. Pingback: Roads are not socialist. And yes, I will prove it. | The Modern Day Free Thinker

  30. Pingback: What Socialism Is and Is Not, For Dummies. | | Wallacedarwin's Blog

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