Socialism: Dream or Institution?
The first is that socialism is a good dream which has been conjured for evil causes. This view describes socialism through the dreams of all the revolutionaries who have been inspired by it, talking about worker's control of the means of production, the end to capitalism (or, at least in the early days, its reform and humanization), and the sharing of the resources of society to benefit and enrich all. I am sympathetic tot his view because of the extensive history of the term, because of the acceptance of it in the majority of the world, and because I don't feel I should have to back down from a term because capitalists or tyrants have sullied it through propaganda. If the Left backs down from every such word, they will have given the field to the powerful. These men for institutions often point to the soviets or parecon or libertarian municipalism as socialist institutions.
However, the second points out that there is something disingenuous to the way that each generation of the Left attempts to recapture the term while describing concretely quite distinct institutions. Further, most socialist parties that come to any kind of power advocate market or central planned socialism (whether democratic or totalitarian). While it is true that most socialist advocates reject what happened in the USSR, indeed calling the collapse of the USSR a victory for socialism, there is also something disingenuous about dismissing the ideology of it too quickly as not socialist. Those men could spout Marxism and offer paeans to freedom just as well as anyone else, and Lenin had some quite libertarian writings. Whether it was something unique about Russian culture, or the influence of the state, or what have you, something went wrong... or did it? That may not be the most authentic formulation. It may have been that Marxism or Leninism or socialist institutions propelled the USSR by design. Further, when someone says "socialism", whether in Europe or America, what is implied (aside from connotations, whether negative or positive) is what happens in Europe: good to be sure, but not remotely the ideal a serious libertarian socialist or anarchist would commit to. Even completely non-capitalist market socialism is not my goal. Even the word, "socialism", implies a social focus rather than a libertarian or individualist focus.
So I'll open this up to whatever viewers I have. What would you argue is socialism? What comes to mind when you hear it? Should parecon advocates or advocates of other alternative economies call themselves socialists or not?