Getting Beyond the Label

February 29, 2008 at 8:49 pm (Libertarian Socialism)

red-iceberg.jpgWhenever anyone admits that he is a socialist, it takes about seven seconds before Soviet Russia finds its way into the discussion. The USSR was evil, the USSR was socialist, therefore socialism is evil.

But when faced with this objection, Chomsky often points out that there is an “R” in USSR — it’s the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. But no one claims that republics are therefore evil, do they? Why not?

Well, Chomsky answers, it is simply because calling something a “republic” doesn’t mean it really is one, nor does the title “people’s democracy” mean that a true democracy exists. By extension, then, the mere fact that Russia was once called “socialist” doesn’t mean it really was.

The essense of true socialism is the decentralization of power, taking it from the hands of an unaccountable elite and placing where it belongs: in the hands of the people. When seen in this classical sense (rather than in the more popular American version), “socialist” and “libertarian” are synonyms, not antonyms.


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