Socialism is coming to mean ‘anything that firms can’t make a profit from’.
The term ‘Socialised medicine’ is a common US term to stand for such as the NHS, where healthcare is provided free when needed, and paid for by all through background taxation. In arch-capitalist America, it is usually as a slander term as their political class is dominated by corporate money looking for the last few vestiges of human life left to exploit.
That usage is beginning to happen over here. However, it’s a problem because it defines the discourse in terms of what big business wants, or doesn’t want. And that’s not what the focus of socialism is (or isn’t).
More precisely socialism is the workers’ control of the means of production. We can understand how a cooperative fulfills that definition. A mutual society is another example of where that can happen, eg a credit union. some of these have been going a long time now so it’s no great surprise that any number have been floated at which time they’re not owned by workers anymore, generally, but the 1% who own the vast majority of stocks and shares.
Most of the items below, for example, don’t apply because they’re infrastructure. Infrastructure is not the type of thing you are supposed to make money out of! It is obvious that they are the benefit of all and they are also usually prohibitively expensive so it makes sense for the state – on behalf of all – to foot the bill. When you start to look around at infrastructure to see how it can be privatised for corporate gain, that’s a good sign of corporate capture – that your politicians are being bought and paid for by capital, centralised evonomic power, also known as the wealthy.
So it’s in their interests to demonise socialism and describe it as in the way and to be annihilated. So socialism is coming to mean ‘anything that firms can’t make a profit from’.
But who, and what countries, would want private corporations to make tons of money off infrastructure!? Obviously involving business is going to push up costs! There’s no economies of scale, there’s shareholders to pay off, more expensive loans to service. That is, unless you can show, or claim by owning the media, that publicly provided goods and services are inefficient or overly expensive through unionised wage claims, or whatever.
It’s obviously going to cost more and grossly unfair on those who might suddenly have to pay for medical prescriptions or for road tolls, etc.
But it’s not unknown in the UK. Our very own health system, under Blair in particular, but predating him, invited and used corporate money to fund a large number of projects, called PFI, now thought to be going to cost the NHS some £300bn by the time it’s (planned to be) paid back.
Now you don’t have to be a country with a NHS to regard hospitals as infrastructure, but inviting corporations to have a slice of the action is the essence of corporatising infrastructure, which we’ve also seen with schools and other public-private schemes.
Bosses, as a class generally, already have control of the means of production, but control of infrastructure enables not only control of production but control of the means of a civilised life.
If socialism is reduced to who runs a service, and then demonised by big business, then the debate becomes, You don’t want to control roads, bridges and traffic lights, do you? And the answer becomes, Yes! Because then they can charge for them, like toll roads, or like corporations charge for each medication.
This is as good adefinition of the economic centre ground as any. It’s also a mark of how far to the right the UK has been pushed, since Thatcher, to look at how many utilities and services have been privatised, train companies too, and the interminable slicing up of the NHS to get privatisation by stealth ,despite every claim to the contrary.
For socialism, the question is what do the workers want, not what do the bosses want! The disadvantage is that we have daily media telling the workers precisely what they should think! I suppose this is one price we pay in an arch-capitalist nation, but discovering what workers really do want, not a hard thing in a highly polled society, will be a step forward.