Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Socialism Vs. Communism

 What’s the Difference Between Socialism and Communism?

By Mark Nichol


The terms socialism and communism, and the concepts they are labels for, are often confused. The following post attempts to clarify the distinction.

In short, socialism is often the goal, while communism is the result. Those who advocate for socialism, as well as those who discuss it neutrally from a scholarly perspective, see it as the first stage toward the ideal result of communism. Both systems of politics and economics are intended to engender a society in which there is public ownership of the means of planning and production.

Socialism, however, is seen as the bridge between capitalism and communism. In socialism, the distribution of wealth is based on the quantity and quality of work performed. In theory, this merit-based system engenders great productivity as a result of workers producing not because they have to, but because they want to. In the ensuing world of abundance, the transition to communism, in which everyone (supposedly) has access to all that they need to live happy and fulfilled lives, is assured.

Of course, when human nature—specifically, corruption—is inserted into the equation, it doesn’t quite work out that way.

What does this political discussion have to do with writing and language? As I mentioned in a previous article, socialism was one of the most frequently looked-up words on Merriam-Webster’s website. That popularity is due in great part to US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’s open admission that he is a socialist and to claims that based on many of the policies promoted by the current president, Barack Obama is one as well.

Does that mean that if elected, Sanders would seek to realize the ultimate workers’ paradise, or that such was Obama’s unrealized goal? Not necessarily. To clarify, Sanders is a social democrat, espousing a compromise in which the democratic political form is combined with economic socialism. That’s an essential distinction to make: neither Sanders nor Obama wants the totalitarian form of government seen in the world’s communist regimes, especially China and the former Soviet Union, though that’s what many people, especially those who lived through the Cold War, think of when they hear about socialism.

And what is totalitarianism? This political system is one in which the state seeks absolute control of society; it is marked by the restriction of political activism to a single political party, a cult of personality around the state’s leader, and widespread propaganda and control over mass media with attendant mass surveillance of the populace and repression of free speech. (Although some people may argue that the recent administration pursued most of those goals, Obama’s presidency has been an extremely tepid totalitarian one.)

Another fraught term is fascism, which refers to a form of totalitarianism based on nationalism, which is focused on geopolitical and ethnic identity. Technically, fascism is far removed from communism—they are polar opposites on the right–left political spectrum—though in casual usage the two may be used interchangeably.

When using these or similar terms, as with any other word, writers should take care to observe distinctions in connotation, lest the language become muddled by ambiguity.



Monday, February 14, 2022

Academic Con Game


An excerpt from The Splinter an online publication about public policy

The role of the adjunct in Academia

The accepted story of what an “adjunct professor” is—the myth that has drawn so many hopefuls into the world of professional academia—is that adjuncting is not a full-time job at all. It is something that retirees do to keep themselves busy; something that working professionals do on the side to educate people in their field; something that, perhaps, a young PhD might do for a year or two while looking for a full-time professorship, but certainly nothing that would constitute an actual career.

In fact, this is a big lie. The long-term trend in higher education has been one of a shrinking number of full-time positions and an ever-growing number of adjunct positions. It is not hard to see why. University budgets are balanced on the backs of adjunct professors. In an adjunct, a school gets the same class taught for about half the salary of a full-time professor, and none of the benefits. The school also retains a god-like control over the schedules of adjuncts, who are laid off after every single semester, and then rehired as necessary for the following semester. In the decade since the financial crisis, state governments have slashed higher education funding, and Florida is no exception. That has had two primary consequences on campus: students have taken on ever-higher levels of debt to pay for school, and the college teaching profession has been gutted, as expensive full-time positions are steadily eliminated in favor of cheaper adjunct positions. Many longtime adjuncts talk of jealously waiting for years for a full-time professor to die or retire, only to see the full-time position eliminated when they finally do.



Unions Matter

There is power in a union. Here's why.  

I try my best to understand people who work for big enterprises, like Amazon, Walmart, or some of the auto companies down South, I try to understand how they can vote no in a union certification election. It’s true that retail giants like Amazon and Walmart conduct propaganda campaigns against unions, but the workers still have the right to make up their mind (if they have a mind) and vote their self-interest. Despite all the bullshit about union corruption (how about corporate and political corruption?) the most significant difference between a non-union shop and a union shop is that in a non-union shop the boss can fire you at will, while in a union shop, he has to prove you’ve done something to violate the contract. When it comes down to it, managers who want a non-union shop are lazy. It’s easy to fire somebody at will; all you have to do is say “You’re Fired!” the catch phrase made famous by fatso Donald Trump. But it takes some work to “make a case” against a worker you’re trying to fire. About every state in the South and many in the rest of the country are so-called right to work states, which it makes harder for unions to organize and collect dues once they’re established. Union workers call this provision “Right to work cheaply”

Anyone who thinks that unions are bad should keep in mind that every safety and work requirement that has improved working conditions for everyone resulted from unions’ struggle, often through protracted strikes: the forty-hour work week, paid holidays, the weekend, child labor laws, and guaranteed safety in the workplace. If you want to increase your knowledge about this issue, you should read any one of these excellent books.  


Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream   Bruce Watson


Why Unions Matter Michael D. Yates


There is Power in a Union Phillip Dray