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DispatchBulletinOpinion

by The United Socialist Federation of Sanghyeok. . 186 reads.

「OOC」Common misconceptions about leftism and worker's rights

Cordel One Nuroblav Borderlands of Rojava Feyrisshire
Please feel free to message me with edits or additions, and also use freely.

Section One: Oft-repeated claims

1. Socialism is when your government does things.
False. Socialism is a political/economic system where workers themselves own the means of production, and are responsible for self-management. Socialism is not compatible with capitalism (which is the current economic structure in most countries). Therefore, welfare programs are not socialist. Nor are infrastructure programs, education, or military expenditures. Government spending is not socialist.

2. Northern Europe is socialist.
See above. Northern Europe is "social democracy", an economic and political system which uses so called "welfare states" to make capitalism somewhat more ethical. However, workers do not own the means of production in Norway, nor Sweden, nor Denmark. They still follow capitalist economic systems. Therefore, they cannot be socialist.

3. Anarchy is when chaos.
A lack of hierarchy does not mean chaos. Anarchists believe in removing all structures which encourage hierarchy, including the state, to be replaced with community based, democratic rule. We know this works because most of human history (or rather pre-history) has been under anarchism. Only following establishment of agriculture did hierarchies become present and rigid. Even in modern times, Catalonia and Rojava have been successful examples of anarchist societies.

4. Democracy and socialism/communism cannot coexist.
Famous revolutionary Wilhelm Liebknecht once uttered "democracy without socialism is not true democracy, socialism without democracy is not true socialism." Socialism, a system which aims to place power back into the hands of common people, must be a democracy in order to succeed. Most (though not all) leftists believe in democracy, however we oppose liberal or "bourgeoise" democracy that exists today and only serves to benefit those in ruling classes.

5. Humans are naturally greedy.
Firstly, let's discuss assume this is true. If that is the case, why do we trust "greedy" humans with capitalism, a system that depends even more on personal greed and profit to run? Under capitalism, bosses are incentivised to provide the bare minimum- and if that boss happens to be greedy, then wages for workers will lower and be treated worse.
Now, let's refute the claim that humans are greedy. A number of studies have concluded that humans tend to be altruistic (for example, Fehr and Fischbacher 2003; Akin and Broesch 2015)1,2. This makes sense: think of the last time you did something selfless for a friend, family member, or even someone you don't know. Furthermore, people even give when they are only in a middling position themselves- despite charities appearing to rely on the rich, the lowest income people in the US tend to donate a larger portion of their income to charity, 3.2 percent to 1.3 percent3.


Section Two: Economic lies and fallacies

1. If we raise the minimum wage, companies will fail to make a profit!
So you're telling me that if a company starts to pay it's workers a fair wage, they can't survive in the market? Then this company shouldn't exist! The well-being of workers must come first before shareholder/CEO profits

2. Minimum wages in the US are the highest they've ever been!
In real US dollar terms, yes. If accounting for inflation, definitely not.

3. Raising the minimum wage is not affordable.
If the US minimum wage (nominal value) had followed the trend of rising productivity since 1938, it would be 20.94 USD as opposed to 7.25 as of 2020 December (Zipperer 2019)4. According to Michaels (2017), "The real value of minimum wage peaked in 1968 at $9.90, adjusted for inflation."5 This gap has existed in almost all industries in the US economy with the exception of mining. According to same source, labor's share of income (that is, wages as proportion of what companies make) has been steadily falling in the United States from 1987 to 2015 (Brill et al, 2017)6. Guess where all that money is going? It begins with "s" and ends with "holders".

4. Raising the minimum wage won't affect anyone anyways/it's not needed
Currently, it is impossible for a person making minimum wage to support their child if they are a single parent and remain above the poverty line (US Census, 2020). Assuming 7.25 per hour, at 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year can expect an income of 15,080 USD per year. The poverty line for "two people, householder under age 65, one related child under 18 years" is 17,6627. The situation will get worse. "By 2024, in areas all across the United States, even a single adult with no children will need to be earning more than $15 per hour on a full-time, full-year basis in order to achieve a modest but adequate standard of living." (Zipperer 2019)8. And, "Earning at least $15 per hour will be a necessity for parents who wish to raise families. Two adults working 40 hours a week at $15 per hour will earn $62,400 per year. If these two adults have two children to care for, by 2024 there will be no area in the country where they can live and meet the basic requirements of their family budget with wage income alone" (ibid).

5. But that's above the poverty line, right? That's a good standard of living.
Nope. "While the Family Budget identifies what we call “adequate standard of living,” I should note that the budgets are very conservative. In particular, they do not include any amount for saving for retirement or buying a home, or even for emergencies." (ibid). Also, why can't minimum wage people enjoy a good standard of living?

6. Raising the minimum wage will make people unemployed.
While it is true that minor negative employment effects from raising the minimum wage, according to Wolfson and Belman (2019), those effects are mostly affecting teenaged workers9. Gopalan et al. (2018) found insignificant effects on employment of already employed workers and no closing of existing businesses, although hiring was reduced10. Cengiz et al (2019) also concluded from data over 1979 to 2016 that there were no significant changes in number of low-wage positions immediately following increase of minimum wage11.

7. Billionaires are necessary for society to function/the rich deserve their wealth.

8. Poor people aren't trying hard enough.

9. We can't afford to house everyone.

10. NHS isn't possible to implement.

11. NHS will increase wait times.

12. NHS will be unfair to those buying insurance.

13. NHS would be inefficient.

14. NHS would lead to more spending on healthcare.

15. Landlords provide a valuable service.

16. Government welfare users tend to be wasteful/lazy.

17. Government welfare is spent on drugs.


Section Three: Politics and Propaganda

1. Neoliberalism good, right?

2. Don't leftists want to take away my guns?
“Under no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered; any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary”. (Marx and Engels, 1850). Compare that to dead US President Reagan "There’s no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons" (Bennet, 2020).

3. Leftists don't believe in personal freedom.

4. The Soviet Union was communist, and they were bad.
Communism refers to a "stateless, classless society", and the Soviet Union was a state. The Soviet Union was an attempt at state socialism, and succeeded in several aspects: industrialisation, increase in technology, increase in standard of living. Remember that Imperial Russia was far behind the other European powers during the October Revolution (1917), and a great deal of catching up had to be done. This was done, and within a short time frame; by 1950 the Soviet Union had become a superpower despite massive losses in World War II. Of course, as leftists, we should acknowledge the terrible oppression that unfortunately occurred in the Soviet Union (the worst period was under Stalin's rule.) That doesn't mean socialism can't be successful, nor does it mean socialism means dictatorship of the few.

5. America is freedom and democracy.

6. The US has helped the world by increasing democracy.
This is unfortunately not true. The US has, since its founding, been responsible for over 60 regime changes- and those are the confirmed ones. While some were justified, such as removing Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, others are far more questionable. Many include democratically elected socialist leaders who were seen as a threat to US business interests and their profits due to land reform or nationalising key industries. Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), and Nicaragua (1981-1990) are some examples. In other times, the US chose funding candidates and meddling in elections. Most of the replacement governments were cruel, and only supported due to their ties to the US and corporate interests as well as their anti-leftist stance. Pinochet of Chile is perhaps the most notorious leader, but the US is also partly responsible for massacres in Indonesia (1965-1967), military dictatorship of Argentina (1976-1983), and Paraguay (Stuser 2013, Wikipedia 2020).

6. Our standard of living is the highest in history.

7. Socialist countries suffer from innovation.

8. Nazis were socialist.

9. Vuvuzela no food!
First, Venezuela is not a socialist system and never has been. Reforms under Chavez made Venezuela into a social democracy, in which government programs provide more welfare to the people but the bulk of economy is still a "market economy". Now, let's discuss the Venezuela situation.

10. We need police
viewtopic.php?p=38163628#p38163628

Comrade Kowani made an excellent effortpost on NSG, I recommend you read all of it.


Section Four: Misunderstanding Marx and history

1. How can you use an iPhone and be opposed to capitalism?
How can you eat bread baked by serfs and still oppose feudalism? On a more serious note, iPhones are made possible by labour which exists no matter what "-ism": feudalism, capitalism, or communism. Socialism doesn't mean "no iPhone", it means "iPhone made by workers managing themselves."

2. How can labour have intrinsic value?
Marx never claimed labour has intrinsic value. Rather, he claimed that labour within a commodity gives that commodity its value.

3. But can't the needs of bourgeoise and proletariat be reconciled?
It is precisely this struggle between bourgeoise and proletariat that Marx noted cannot be reconciled.

4. Capitalism has been the most productive system in history.
Leftists agree with this statement in part. Capitalism has been the most productive system in history...so far. But Marx noted that just as capitalism was more productive than feudalism, so socialism must be more productive than capitalism.

5. Capitalism has lifted people out of poverty.

6. Capitalism is stable and natural.
A system which is stable and natural can afford to sustain itself without intervention. Yet we have suffered three recessions in the past 20 years, which would have been even more disastrous if not for various governments providing assistance. Is such a system "natural", or in its dying breath?

7. Fascism and communism share much in common.

8. If the proletariat replace the bourgeoise, then won't they be just as greedy?
You're assuming we keep the same society, in a case where the means of production belong to the few. If that was the case, maybe. However, in a socialist society/communist society, there is no "bourgeoise" or "proletariat". Means of production are commonly owned and used, so nobody is in a position to exploit others.


Section Five: Culture and society

1. Leftists are godless.
Many people have heard the oft-repeated phrase "religion is the opium of the masses", attributed to Karl Marx in his writing "A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right". However, we must first analyse the context in which it was written to better understand what Marx truly meant. The full quote comes first: "Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."

Marx was arguing against the role of organised religion as a way of placating suffering masses and giving them an illusion that their conditions were bearable, rather than attacking religion itself.

2. Leftists want to destroy families.

3. Leftists hate (insert group here).
Any action which is discriminatory against any group (see: transphobia, homophobia, sexism, racism, etc) are completely invalid with leftist values. Leftists reject those ideals which claim superiority or inferiority of any group based on uncontrollable characteristics- and in many cases have even been allies with movements such as feminists and racial equality supporters.

4. Leftists want revenge on the rich by swapping poor and rich people's positions.
Some people believe that leftists want to enact revenge on the rich by turning society upside down, thus leaving the former proletariat at the top and bourgeoise at the bottom. Nothing could be further from the truth. Leftism aims to erase the class divides and create a "classless, moneyless, stateless" society. While it is true that there will be a stage named "dictatorship of the proletariat", this doesn't mean enacting revenge on the rich but rather creating a temporary state on the transition to communism during which force is used to ensure the proletariat hold political power.


References

Section One
1. Fehr, E., Fischbacher, U. The nature of human altruism. Nature 425, 785–791 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature02043
2. Aknin, L. B., Broesch, T., Hamlin, J. K., & Van de Vondervoort, J. W. (2015). Prosocial behavior leads to happiness in a small-scale rural society. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 144(4), 788.
3. Stern, K. (2018, June 28). Why the Rich Don't Give to Charity. Retrieved December 11, 2020, from https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/04/why-the-rich-dont-give/309254/

Section Two
4. Zipperer, B. (2019). Gradually raising the minimum wage to $15 would be good for workers, good for businesses, and good for the economy. Address presented at Testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor in United States, Washington. https://www.epi.org/publication/minimum-wage-testimony-feb-2019/
5. Michaels, M. (2017, December 22). If the US minimum wage had kept up with the economy, many low-wage earners could earn double what they're making now. Retrieved December 12, 2020, from https://www.businessinsider.com/how-much-higher-the-federal-minimum-wage-should-be-2017-12
6. Brill, M., Holman, C., Morris, C., Raichoudhary, R., & Yosif, N. (2017). Understanding the labor productivity and compensation gap.
7. Bureau, U. (2020, August 21). Poverty Thresholds. Retrieved December 12, 2020, from https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/income-poverty/historical-poverty-thresholds.html
8. Zipperer, B. (2019). Gradually raising the minimum wage to $15 would be good for workers, good for businesses, and good for the economy. Address presented at Testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives
9. Wolfson, P., & Belman, D. (2019). 15 years of research on us employment and the minimum wage. Labour, 33(4), 488-506.
10. Gopalan, R., Hamilton, B., Kalda, A., & Sovich, D. (2018). State minimum wage changes and employment: Evidence from one million hourly wage workers. Unpublished Paper, Olin Business School, Washington University.
11. Cengiz, D., Dube, A., Lindner, A., & Zipperer, B. (2019). The effect of minimum wages on low-wage jobs. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 134(3), 1405-1454.

Section Three
Marx and Engels. (1850). Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League. Retrieved December 12, 2020, from https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/communist-league/1850-ad1.htm
Bennet, J. (2020, June 01). When the Protesters Carried Guns. Retrieved December 12, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/01/opinion/protests-george-floyd-anti-lockdown.html
Stuster, D. J. (2019, April 16). Mapped: The 7 Governments the U.S. Has Overthrown. Foreign Policy. https://foreignpolicy.com/2013/08/20/mapped-the-7-governments-the-u-s-has-overthrown/
Wikipedia contributors. (2020, November 30). Operation Condor. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Condor
Wikipedia contributors. (2020b, December 3). United States involvement in regime change. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_involvement_in_regime_change
Gilens, M., & Page, B. (2014). Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens. Perspectives on Politics, 12(3), 564-581. doi:10.1017/S1537592714001595

Section Four
A. (2018, March 22). Misconceptions about Communism - International Worker’s Press. Medium. https://medium.com/international-workers-press/misconceptions-about-communism-2e366f1ef51f

Section Five
Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right 1844. (1843). Marxists.Org. https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/intro.htm
A. (2018, March 22). Misconceptions about Communism - International Worker’s Press. Medium. https://medium.com/international-workers-press/misconceptions-about-communism-2e366f1ef51f
Draper, H. (1987). The “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” in Marx and Engels by Hal Draper 1987. Marxists.Org. https://www.marxists.org/subject/marxmyths/hal-draper/article2.htm

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