I should like to take just a few moments to clear up a confusion regarding socialism that I think lies at the heart of the lengthy comment posted by LFC. In the nineteenth century, the term “socialism” was used by a number of authors to describe one or another form of ideal community that contrasted with what they all understood as capitalism. These authors wrote about imaginary ideal, and idyllic, small communities, and some of them actually brought experimental communities into existence, at least for a time. Engels referred to these authors as Utopian Socialists with barely concealed scorn. I think he was right to do so.
That was not at all what Marx had in mind when he used the term. By socialism Marx meant a form of society and economy, of what he called social relations of production, that was based on collective ownership of the means of production rather than on the private ownership of the means of production that defined capitalism. Marx had no illusions at all that socialism would bring about a transformation in the character and motivation of individuals, a transformation by which pettiness, greed, and self-dealing would be replaced by altruism, generosity, and magnanimity. [Trotsky did, but that is entirely another matter.]
In a socialist society and economy, Marx explained, the capital produced by workers would be collectively owned and put to uses democratically decided upon. Part of the social product of each cycle would be set aside for investment in the next cycle. Part would be needed to replace depreciated capital goods. Part would be devoted to expanded production – to growth – if the workers so decided, and of course the principal portion of the annual product would be consumed by those who had produced it. There would be no large and endlessly growing accumulations of privately owned capital whose social use required the permission of its private owners. Would the workers make wise decisons? Who knows? Do capitalists?
Would people be different in a socialist society? No doubt. Would they be nicer people, more generous, more public spirited, more caring for the needy and suffering? Again, who knows? That was not the focus of Marx’s concern, and he devoted virtually no time to writing about it.
Are people good enough for socialism? The question is absurd on its face. Are people good enough for slavery, for feudalism, for capitalism? Would socialism work? Does capitalism work? Did feudalism work? Did slavery work? What does the question even mean?
Remember, Marx quite rightly rejected the view that socialism, unlike any other system of social relations of production, would or could be brought into existence by someone’s plan. He said, presciently, that each new social order grows in the womb of the old. What does that mean for capitalism? Marx wrote Das Kapital as his answer. What would it mean for socialism? He does not say. I tried to suggest the very beginnings of an answer in my essay “The Future of Socialism.” Do Bernie, AOC, and America’s other “socialists” have an answer? I doubt that they even understand the question.