Capitalism & Socialism: A Definition

What is capitalism? What is socialism?

It might sound weird to ask for such basic definitions on a leftist board but I think it would help to have the meaning of the words we so constantly use perfectly nailed down. And of course not everyone is going to agree on what exactly is wrong with capitalism or how exactly socialism should be organized, so it would also foster debate about the very worldview of the different tendencies present on Holla Forums.


Private ownership of means of production where production is organized through wage labor and production for profit with individual producers that allocate surplus value on the market place.

Worker ownership of means of production where surplus is allocated collectively according to use value.

Capitalism is the society we live in today in which impersonal market forces and the logic of capital dominate and alienate workers and cause constant instability. It is characterized by wage labor, capital and commodity production.

Socialism is the abolition of capitalism by the proletariat in favor of a classless and therefore stateless society in which production is controlled consciously by all members of society and the species essense of man can finally be realized.

big co-op = socialism

It should be noted that this definition is the higher stage of communism, not the lower stage of communism which is commonly referred to as socialism.

Co-ops produce for profit you idiot.

monopolistic co-ops = socialism

A monopoly still produces for profit, has wage labor, surplus value, etc.

You won't find this distinction in Marx.

What distinction?

Lower stage communism with a state, higher without one.

He never says that lower stage of communism can't have a state.

He does say that the state is a result of class struggle. Something that wouldn't exist in a classless society. As for diactatorship of the proletariat, he makes it clear when talking about the paris commune that the paris commune wasn't socialist and diactatorship of the proletariat isn't either.

Who are "the people"?

working class


A state has class character, that's why Marx as well as Lenin argued that the proletariat can seize the state and erect a dictatorship of the proletariat. The USSR slowly seized to be a dictatorship of the proletariat after the World War II, as it was a classless society, but had to retain the state since class struggle continued in the sense that capitalist countries surrounded the socialist society. This is something Marx didn't foresee.

seized = ceased

Fucking phoneposting

So why didn't he say that instead of "the people"? "The people" is an anomalous, ever-changing term which could be anything.

"Will it be possible for this revolution to take place in one country alone?
No. By creating the world market, big industry has already brought all the peoples of the Earth, and especially the civilized peoples, into such close relation with one another that none is independent of what happens to the others. Further, it has co-ordinated the social development of the civilized countries to such an extent that, in all of them, bourgeoisie and proletariat have become the decisive classes, and the struggle between them the great struggle of the day. It follows that the communist revolution will not merely be a national phenomenon but must take place simultaneously in all civilized countries—that is to say, at least in England, America, France, and Germany. It will develop in each of these countries more or less rapidly, according as one country or the other has a more developed industry, greater wealth, a more significant mass of productive forces. Hence, it will go slowest and will meet most obstacles in Germany, most rapidly and with the fewest difficulties in England. It will have a powerful impact on the other countries of the world, and will radically alter the course of development which they have followed up to now, while greatly stepping up its pace. It is a universal revolution and will, accordingly, have a universal range." —Friedrich Engels, Principles of Communism, 1847

In a socialist society everyone is working class.

What engels is saying is that capitalism is so entrenched (even allready in his time) that a single country cannot escape global capitalism.

Wrong. It is the self-abolition of the working class which can only exist in opposition to the bourgeoisie.

anyone who produces labour and value for society, there. NEETs get the bullet

I know, that's why Internationalism is important. It's important to note that Engels talks about the realization of communism here.

However, this is not what happened. Due to imperialism and capitalist outsourcing revolutionary situation have been restricted to single countries, therefore, we must try to protect the revolution in said countries which can still erect a cooperative society resembling the lower stage of communism, if the country has enough resources to sustain itself.

Capital is so cemented in place that any sigular or third world revolution will inevitably become entangled within capitalism and degenerate.



Can you be a little more concrete as to how the USSR became entangled with capitalism? Considering its foreign trade made up only 4%?

Can you explain to me where you identify classes in the USSR?

Learn what profit is, you idiot.

What is capitalism? Well it's certainly not defined by markets. Markets have existed for thousands of years. Plato and Aristotle both wrote about them, thinking they were dangerous for social cohesion.

If it's not markets then what is it? Is it simply the process of increasing capital from starting capital? There are three forms of this: the money lending capitalist, the merchant capitalist, and the industrial capitalist.

Money lending capitalists give out loans to make more capital back than they started with through the payment of interest. They too have existed for thousands of years. The idea of debt with interest in fact is practically as old as civilization itself. The ancient Sumerian cultures and others had a tradition where they would wipe out consumer debts regularly to ensure their people weren't reduced to debt bondage (such as when they needed them to raise an army).

Merchant capitalists exchange capital for commodities and then exchange those commodities back for. Again, this is an occupation that arose rather early in the history of civilization as specialization enabled people to travel between cities.

Finally, we come to the industrial capitalist. An industrial capitalist exchanged capital for tools, machines, raw materials, property (the "means of production"), pays a wage to workers to transform those into a commodity, and then exchanges the resulting commodity for more capital than they started with. What then, is the system of capitalism, which replaced feudalism in the 17th and 18th century? Key was the replacement by lord and serf with the industrial capitalist arrangement, boss and worker. Thus, capitalism is an economic system where the predominant productive arrangement is the industrial capitalist arrangement.

Socialism has meant many things to many different people at many different times. Anyone who tells you there is one definition of socialism is being a little disingenuous. What we should be seeking is a most meaningful definition of socialism. Socialism is supposed to be the systemic answer to the failures of capitalism, and thus must address exploitation and class. The answer, then, is that a meaningful definition of socialism is democratic control of the means of production. Socialists are free to quibble over markets or planning however much they like, but as the presence or absence of markets have nothing to do with defining capitalism, so too should they not be inherent in a meaningful definition of capitalism's antithesis.

To ignore this last point is to leave yourself vulnerable to argument over semantics, letting your enemies more easily engage in straw man attacks and other fallacies, and dull your own thought process.

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers.
–George Orwell

He's right though, co-ops produce for profit. Otherwise, they wouldn't even work as businesses. Just because the surplus extraction is managed by the workers themselves directly rather than by a dominating parasite doesn't change the fact that profit is what drives production.

A worker self-directed enterprise isn't a business. Perhaps that's where your confusion stems form.

WTF Mondragon is socialist now

There are some concerns over international employees and how and whether get promoted into joining the cooperative, but largely yes. Socialism is not whatever you want it to be, learn to articulate yourself more clearly if you find the term insufficient to describing what you really want.

Capitalism is not unrelated to markets. It's entirely true that markets predate capitalism by centuries, but what makes capitalism is the transformation of a "society with markets" into a "market society" — that is, a society in which market-based relations are not a mere possibility but an actual compulsion that shapes and even determine virtually all social relations.

How is it not?

but largely yes
… Wait, you seriously believe Mondragon is socialism? Like, for real?

No, because socialism is a systemic response to capitalism and would only truly exist when it has displaced capitalism entire. But a world full of Mondragons would be socialism, yes. Is that an argument for markets? No it isn't.

Capitalism can exist just fine without markets, check out the USSR and China.

Not, it wouldn't. Capitalism isn't just about surplus extraction, it's about commodity production and the law of value. A world full of Mondragons would simply be self-managed capitalism, a society in which workers exploit themselves without the need for a boss to do so.

How did the USSR and China not have a market? A market with a state monopoly is still a market.

And your answer to resolving the contradictions and exploitation of capitalism is what then?

Too often a problem that socialists have is they attempt to call capitalism everything they don't like and socialism everything they like.

You're moving the goalpost. This thread isn't about anyone offering the solution to capitalism on a silver platter; it's about determining what capitalism even is. And your definition is garbage. We'll never get anywhere if our horizon for "socialism" consist in co-ops.

I'm not moving the goalposts, I was simply trying to coax a definition of socialism out of you. You seem to follow the logic in your posts that whatever you define socialism to be must be the entire revolutionary program you want people to follow. So what is it?

Frankly I think it's more intellectually productive to accept the limitations of the term "socialist" and supplement it with adjectives and details.

Look at my flag and you know what my answer looks like.

This thread isn't about revolutionary praxis my dude. It's about what capitalism and socialism is, and a world full of competing co-ops would be capitalist just with evenly distributed shares.

Yeah, that's called revisionism. It's utopian, socialism is not about what you like it to be, but rather a system that doesn't share the same contradictions as capitalism. Market "socialism" still has monopolization, falling rate of profit, etc. - because all the underlying laws of capitalism still apply.

Capitalism. Or, more accurately, state-capitalism, is when people stay stupid shit. Socialism is when people say stuff I agree with.

Like a Jackson Pollock painting?

Abolition not only of private property and surplus extraction but also of commodity production and the law of value. In short, not emancipation of labor but from labor.

This never happens

Meh, I'd say that happens sometimes. Just look how people idolize Cuba and condemn North Korea despite them both doing basically the same shit.

What you've described are end goals, but what structures would you put in place to actually achieve them? If capitalism is an economic system dominated by the industrial capitalist production arrangement, feudalism is an economic system dominated by a hereditary tie to land with an oath to give a lord part of the production, and slavery is the ownership of whole people and everything they produce, then what will socialism be?


Too often a problem that capitalist have is they attempt to call socialism everything they don't like and capitalism everything they like.

We live in capitalism, not socialism.

Boiling it down to necessities:
Capitalism; privatization and production for exchange
Socialism; social ownership and production for use

Any critiques?

Well Marx is pretty clear in that he views the generalization of commodity production and through it wage labour as the predominant form of labour as the defining feature of capitalism. Any other definition leads to some really weird conclusions like capitalism existing in ancient rome. It's pretty clear when you look at how Capitalism spread worldwide in the golden age of imperialism. One of the most defining features of how that happened in what is now known as the third world is that people who were previously subsistence farmers all started to have to rely on cash crop cultivation.

I came


For what?

That text. Did you produce it?

Karl Marx

The Babylonian/Sumerian debt jubilee has been researched extensively by Michael Hudson. I think he was a major influence on David Graeber's Debt.

Capitalism is freedom, socialism is when the government does stuff. How can't you know that? It's basic economics.

Who determines "use value?"
Who allocates the wealth?
Saying "the people" is liek saying that the USA is run by "the people"
A meme. Who actually determines who gets resources and how much?
Cnsidering the fact that many US corporations are in part government run, is this socialism or capitalism?

Define "social ownership" and "use".