Socialism: a definition

Socialism, in spite of all that has happened, is still an idea that can save the world, but it is also an idea that is now frequently misunderstood. So to be clear, when I use the word ‘socialism’ on this blog, this is what I mean:

  1. Real socialism is fundamentally democratic. Like most on the democratic left, I define socialism as the democratic control of the economy, and for real socialism, control is the key; control is more important than ownership. Citizens of communist countries may have nominally ‘owned’ the economies in their countries, but without real democracy, they did not meaningfully control them.
  2. Socialism works best when it is small-scale and diverse. There are so many different ways to democratically control an economy, and different models will suit different situations. One size does not fit all. True, some industries really do work best if they are simply nationalized, but most don’t, and we now have a wide choice of different models of democratic ownership that, depending on the situation, might work much better than nationalization: worker-ownership being chief among them.
  3. Socialism also works best when it is open and market-based. This modern version of socialism is founded on a mature understanding of the market: markets are neither the root of all evil, as classic communist theory would have it, nor are they the solution to all problems, as current neoliberal theory would have it. A market is simply a tool for setting prices and motivating efficiency, the only tool we have that actually works. Markets are human institutions, and if we want to, we can design the rules of our markets to efficiently and fairly serve a democratic economy.