Know your –isms

Wherever you may fall along the political spectrum you cannot help noticing how everyone loves to use a barrage of political/economic nomenclature in a derogatory manner at their opponents – we are all guilty of it. Some of the usage is ludicrous at best and flat out ignorant at worst. Here I will attempt to clarify the popular systems of political and economic ideology are so we can do a better job of cutting up our opposition.

All dictionary entries are from Merriam-Websters Online – citations are below.

capitalism – an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market [1]

socialism1 : any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
2 a : a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b : a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state

3 : a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done [2]

Marxism – the political, economic, and social principles and policies advocated by Marx; especially a theory and practice of socialism including the labor theory of value, dialectical materialism, the class struggle, and dictatorship of the proletariat until the establishment of a classless society [3]

communism1 a : a theory advocating elimination of private property b : a system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed

2 capitalized a : a doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism that was the official ideology of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics b : a totalitarian system of government in which a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production c : a final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably d : communist systems collectively [4]

Leninism – the political, economic, and social principles and policies advocated by Lenin; especially the theory and practice of communism developed by or associated with Lenin [5]

Stalinism – the political, economic, and social principles and policies associated with Stalin especially the theory and practice of communism developed by Stalin from Marxism-Leninism and marked especially by rigid authoritarianism, widespread use of terror, and often emphasis on Russian nationalism [6]

fascism1 often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition 2 : a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control [7]

Nazism – the body of political and economic doctrines held and put into effect by the Nazis in Germany from 1933 to 1945 including the totalitarian principle of government, predominance of especially Germanic groups assumed to be racially superior, and supremacy of the führer [8]

totalitarianism1 : centralized control by an autocratic authority

2 : the political concept that the citizen should be totally subject to an absolute state authority [9]

OK – got it? So no matter what you may think of President Obama and those who support him – he is far from being a socialist and even further from being a communist; claiming that he is a fascist is moronic. Like all Presidents he is an open target for criticism – the press does it – we all do it. But use your brain! There is no part of this country’s government that resembles fascism, communism or socialism. When you look at the size of the economy and how relatively few people get government aid – and how little the amount of aid is, it impossible to consider this to be a socialist society. Having welfare, unemployment, social security and a new health care plan are far cries from socialism. Government regulation to protect its citizens is not “government control of the means of production.” Regulating and monitoring is not remotely the same thing as government ownership – the vast majority of American companies are not owned in, or invested in by the government. Capitalism rules the day in the United States – and because of the money they control will always rule.

Fascism and Nazism that are the favorite derogatory terms of the Left and Right to use on their enemies – these words do not fit. The only thing in this country that approaches nationalistic fervor is the far right flag waving, “America – Love it or Leave It” types. How can you equate this to the nationalistic fervor of National Socialism? Have you ever seen Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will or footage of the Nuremberg Rallies? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilXVkgmJk2E This is not the United States we live in. Glenn Beck loves to find one or two pieces of the United States government that have a common point with the Nazis and use that as proof that we are being led by a Hitler like megalomaniac – it does not add up and it does nothing for intelligent discussion, proving your point and our potential for growth.

So there you have it – your primer on political, economic and ideological philosophies. Read it, learn it, know it. Like and admire, criticize and hate – just do it without being a raving and ranting lunatic and people might actually listen, respect and learn.


[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/capitalism

[2] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/socialism

[3] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/marxism

[4] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/communism

[5] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/leninism

[6] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fascism

[7] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fascism

[8] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nazism

[9] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/totalitarianism

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16 Responses to “Know your –isms”

  1. T Donovan Says:

    Well said, Mike! Of course many folks won’t be bothered with little things like facts…..after all, we can’t let the facts get in the way of a hate-fueled rant.

  2. Ben Deily Says:

    My fave explanation of “socialism” was the phrase popularized by Marx:

    “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

    Interestingly, the United Nations (those crazy hippies) in the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights puts it this way:

    “Article 22. Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security (!!!!) and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation (OMG, it keeps getting worse!) and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.”
    (http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml)

    (Well, of course, what do you expect from those lefty UN-ers? I mean, they have their headquarters in NEW YORK CITY, for crying out loud.)

    🙂

  3. Ben Deily Says:

    And for our Judeo-Christian Bible-centric friends (alas, I don’t know from the Qur’an), scripture offers versions from Testaments both Old and New:

    “This is what the Lord has commanded: Gather of it, every man of you, as much as he can eat; you shall take an omer [about 3.64 liters] apiece, according to the number of persons who each of you has in his tent. And the people of Israel did so; they gathered some more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; each gathered according to what he could eat.”
    (Exodus 16:16-18)

    “All that believed were together, and had all things in common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.”
    (Acts 2:44-45)

    Socialist chosen people!
    Communist apostles!

    Oi, vey.

    Well, anyway. I’m sure some dude in “real America” is painting a hammer and sickle (and a Hitler mustache, natch) on our Commander-in-Chief’s portrait right now, so…oh, never mind.

  4. Kate Says:

    Well written, very clear and with footnotes! awesome!,it is a “ism” 101 for sure.
    I do Agree that Obama is FAAARRR from being a socialist or communist, these are terms that the far right uses to scare little old ladies like my aunt… she is terrified of Obama, and ironically at least when it comes to Health Care, she will benefit the most.
    I wish more people read this article, and take it as it is – what it is.
    America is beautiful! Peace, Freedom and Justice for all my friend.
    Thank you again for trusting me with the read of this piece… I will share it.

  5. peter choyce Says:

    Fascism was a construct invented under the Mussolini regime in 1920s Italy. The specific economic doctrine was written by one, Julius Strieker in 1925 in some obscure, hardly read manifesto. The summary was basically that the economy rule over the state. It did not mention dictators, Hitler or anything. It is pretty much like Reagan, surrendering the POLITIK to Wall street by deregulating and crap in the 1980s, making the ‘FREE MARKET’ above Government in general. what the hell do i know? I just remember sucking it all in and spitting it out at times, like now!

  6. karen Says:

    Love it!!! Very well said. As one of the commentators above said, though, too many folks won’t let facts get in the way of their rants.

  7. Tracey Says:

    Where is the freedom, when I am FORCED to pay for health care?

    • Ben Deily Says:

      Let’s take a look at that, Tracey. You are also already “forced” to pay for fire protection (for yourself & others), police protection (for yourself & others), public education (for others, which you may not use at all), the national defense–including wars you may or may not support, highways you may (or may not) use, and on and on.

      Do any of those things make you feel less “free”? Which ones? (Where do you draw the line? I’m genuinely curious.)

      And out of curiosity, have you ever visited any of the nations where citizens AREN’T on the hook for those shared expenses? People may be more “free” in, say, Somalia, but I don’t think you’d enjoy living there.

  8. sapblatt Says:

    Tracey – thank you for reading and commenting – it is appreciated. Any member of our society is free to a point – but none of us are totally free. The medical community would be forced to care for you if you were found on the side of the road and they have a right to be paid – should that be on the taxpayer’s dime if you choose to not pay for your own coverage and you do not have the financial ability to pay your bill? There are many instances where you are not free – you have to pay taxes, some people are subject to a military draft registration – yes, you can skip doing these things, but at the penalty of fines and imprisonment. Thanks again for reading. Take care, Mike

  9. Know your –isms (via Symptom of the Universe) « Symptom of the Universe Says:

    […] Wherever you may fall along the political spectrum you cannot help noticing how everyone loves to use a barrage of political/economic nomenclature in a derogatory manner at their opponents – we are all guilty of it. Some of the usage is ludicrous at best and flat out ignorant at worst. Here I will attempt to clarify the popular systems of political and economic ideology are so we can do a better job of cutting up our opposition. All dictionary en … Read More […]

  10. Larry Says:

    Thanks for the clarification, Mike.

    With all that is going on vis a vis world capitalism, I recommend that we go back to Marx (the young Marx, to be precise).

  11. Angela Says:

    You know I love this article: it’s one of my favorites! I tend to agree with Tracey, but you make an excellent point in your response. Although we live in a “free” soceity, we’re not technically free all the way around. We have to pay for auto insurance, otherwise pay a fine, so why not make mandatory health insurance? I’m sure that’s how most look at it; not to mention those currently with no coverage at all will no longer be a “drain” on tax dollars…(not my opinion)
    I’m not for mandatory healthcare for a number of reasons: One being the loss of jobs in the small business sector. Many small business can’t afford to pay healthcare for their employee’s; it will put them out of business (my employer is one of them). Our nation’s Healthcare definitely needs a HUGE overhaul, but not at the expense of even more jobs lost. Individuals who desire healthcare, should have the opportunity to purchase it at a reasonable price (even with pre-existing conditions). Those that don’t want it, shouldn’t be made to pay for it. You know most of those insurance companies are making money hand over fist on those individuals paying higher premiums that never go to the doctor. They’re paying for the possibility of getting sick, while those that actually need the coverage can’t get it because they are sick and can’t afford it…makes no sense to me.
    In my humble opinion, the Insurance companies are to blame for the outrageous price of healthcare and are even more responsible for those that need coverage and can’t afford it. (What ‘ism’ do I fall under….LOL!)
    I believe you and I have had this discussion before Mike 🙂
    I’ll say it again, I LOVE this blog!!! It needs to be spread among the masses! GREAT JOB!!

  12. Scott Ireland Says:

    Mike – Sadly, the people who most need to understand these proper definitions are probably not readers…alas, they will go on shouting epithets in their ignorance. Perhaps Ferris Buehler said is best “I don’t believe in -isms” – except perhaps for humanism, which is desperately needed.
    I also suspect that many who are quick to shout ‘socialism’ have not been to countries where it is reality….I’ve been fortunate enough to have traveled the world, and to have lived in Spain (socialist), Turkey, and Libya (what category fits here?), and as a result have a different sense and appreciation for different ways of life.

    Most importantly, the biggest problem we now face is not an -ism (but should be), and that is Greed and Selfishness. When a restaurant in Las Vegas submits a claim to BP because their shrimp prices went up, that’s more than capitalism, it’s greed trying to take advantage of the system. And when an oil-stock holding judge over-rides the deep drilling moratorium, that’s Greed as well.

    We definitely have our share of problems, but socialism taking over is not of them – thanks for sharing this Mike…let’s hope enough people see it.

  13. Anna Johnstone Says:

    Awesome!!!

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