Few socialists today equate socialism with a centralized public ownership and planning of the economy. Or to put the point in broader terms, few socialists conceive of socialism only as a “mode of production”.
If socialism had to be characterized in a single phrase it would be a movement of human liberation, in which the transformation of the economic system is only one element, and itself gives rise to diverse choices in the construction of a different type of socialism.
In reality, scientific socialism – articulated in the work of the Bolsheviks – set out to achieve state power and transform the economic system, to destroy the rich potential of the instruments of the popular struggle and liberation created in revolutionary Russia. The tyrannical rule of the Soviet party system was exactly as Trotsky had predicted years earlier, and something the Russian anarchists had understood well. Though socialists today do not echo Lenin’s order for “unquestioning submission to a single will” in the “interests of socialism”, do they not appeal to the same transformation of the economic system as one of the primary elements to further the interests of socialism?
It should not be surprising that after a hundred years of socialist failure, socialism is still primarily sought out in terms of transforming economic systems through involuntary distributionist planning as a “mode of production”, though socialists themselves rarely equate socialism with centralized public ownership and the like?
That is, today’s ‘democratic socialists’ are loathe to equate their visions of society in scientific socialist terms, but scientific planning is still central to their thesis. And where voluntaryist popular struggle fails and continues to fail – and we should wonder why – the democratic socialists have become the managers of the increasingly centralized state capitalist systems: the managers of the corporate economy, the arbiters of state power, the bureaucrats inside the ideological institutions. In summary, ‘the people’s representatives’.
Bakunin once said, “the people will feel no better if the stick with which they are being beaten is labeled ‘the people’s stick.'”