Socialism and Aesthetics – WIP

Posted on December 29, 2011 by


by ~TRegnier2795

or, Why I am a Socialist


If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

William Morris

Today in America, we make nothing that is beautiful. Today we fill our homes not with handcrafted and lovingly made pieces of furniture, but with soulless, mass-produced furniture. We no longer treat our homes as things to beautify and love, knowing that life is intolerable without beautiful surroundings, rather, we live in mass-produced homes with no individuality or means of expression.

And what can this be attributed to? The Laissez-faire Capitalism that has been allowed to perpetuate itself over the ages. Contrary to what many would have you to believe, it is pure capitalism that crushes individuality, not socialism.

The purpose of socialism is to provide the necessities so that one can focus on beauty and individualism. Capitalism, on the other hand requires you to think constantly about money and situation, rather than allowing you to express yourself and love the beauty of life. Capitalism places no value on beauty, only work and profit.

So long as the system of competition in the production and exchange of the means of life goes on, the degradation of the arts will go on; and if that system is to last for ever, then art is doomed, and will surely die; that is to say, civilization will die.

William Morris

Let us take mass-produced homes as an example. Now, the idea of mass-produced homes (or, at least, commonly available and used home plans) is not new. However, we have taken it to an Orwellian level. Strolling through any city, you will no doubt stroll past a row of Victorian Four-squares. They are all the same: their porches the same dimensions, their windows in the same locations, etc. But they have an individuality that we no longer have.

Any man could paint or ornament his house in any way he saw fit. He could have his woodwork or his floors or his wallpaper in anyway he choose. He could choose to have stained or leaded glass in the upper sashes of his windows or in his transoms. He could choose the columns on his porch. The result: a row of identical houses, yet each with their own personalities and tastes.

Now? We have whole neighborhoods consisting of nothing but squares and rectangles with windows. They are all the same, with the same woodwork, the same paints, the same exteriors, the list goes on. Everything is the same. Nothing is handcrafted; nothing is built with care. In the days of the home builder as an artist, every piece of the woodwork was hand carved, every wallpaper hand-blocked.

Today, the only human interaction with the building of a home is the construction itself. The rest? Done by machines who labor not for the love of the things they create, but profit, and profit only.

In the modern world, socialism is a “dirty word.” After years of having politicians telling us that socialism will result in a foreman arrive at your house every morning at eight a.m., making sure you will get to the factory, people naturally have an aversion to the concept.

That is not socialism. And no socialist has ever seriously put that forward as the meaning. That is authoritarianism, the very opposite of socialism. Indeed, socialism would create the most free of societies. Socialism is a system in which poverty and need are non-existent.

The ownership of excessive property is demoralizing, as is the ownership too little property is demoralizing. Those in excess think of nothing but keeping it, and those with too little think of nothing but getting it. And that is what prevents them from focusing on the beauty of life, an unhealthy focus on money.

In that ideal world, everyone would be on an equal footing of the middle class. Everyone would have enough to live their lives in comfort, but not so much that it is all they will focus on.

There would be no forced work. Work under coercion is ruinous to happiness. Everyman would choose his own work. It is my firm belief that all work in inherently equal in worth. An artist who produces writing or paintings is just as useful to society as a physician: both of them are necessary for living. The artist produces that which is beautiful, and the physician cares for your health. It is my belief then, that they should be payed upon equal levels.

And for those jobs that are marked as “undesirable” by our society? There always have, and always will be, a group of men and women who will perform that work simply by knowing that it will benefit their fellow man. Even today, there are people who perform jobs of that type for no pay or benefits for “volunteer work.” In the idea society, they would be recognized as noble.

You may have already deduced, ladies and gentlemen, that I am a socialist of the old school. And in the modern world, no-one actually understands what that means. The ideas I espouse are far from new; they originated in the late nineteenth century with men like William Morris, Oscar Wilde, Eugene Debs, and others.

I’m a socialist, so that puts me totally outside any concept…the Canadians get it. But seriously, most people don’t get it. The idea of capping people’s income just scares people. “Oh, you’re taking money from the rich.” Ooh, what a horrifying thing. These people really need $200 million.

Lewis Black

The socialism described above, i.e., capping the income of those whose wealth is already excessive, is not true socialism; rather, it is a starting point. The ideal socialist state would be para-anarchy. One thing that ought to be mentioned, is that anarchy is not chaos. Anarchy is a society without government or an established hierarchy.

Socialism cannot exist where there is not true equality. Hierarchies of any kind, be they religious or social, are ruinous to the idea of equality.

But, I digress. Pure socialism requires no government. Socialism is something to be carried out by people for the common good. It cannot and should not be executed by force: it must be acceptable to the people who choose to live under it. To do it any other way would be coercion, which goes directly against the principle of individuality under socialism.

It is in this respect that socialism and capitalism are strikingly similar. It must be done through honest work. However, socialism, by it’s nature, requires the work to be done together for the common wealth, rather than against each other for individual wealth.

I am not a Labor Leader; I do not want you to follow me or anyone else; if you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, some one else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition.

Eugene V. Debs

Posted in: Freelance