On the Purpose of Socialism

Self-Determination or Managed Freedom?

Der Rhein bei Säckingen (1864) by Hans Thoma

Image: Der Rhein bei Säckingen (1864) by Hans Thoma

In On Anarchism, famed intellectual Noam Chomsky writes,

“And that’s one of the main purposes of socialism, I think: to reach a point where people have the opportunity to decide freely for themselves what their needs are, and not have the ‘choices’ forced on them by some arbitrary system of power.”1

Most of us will agree with this statement, but Chomsky being a linguist, one has to wonder why he thinks ‘people deciding freely’ deserves the label socialism. Similarly, one author pointed out that Karl Marx himself intended his socialist doctrines to stand for nothing other than freedom.2 Still, why call freedom socialism? I previously suspected this Orwellian belief—freedom­socialism—-to serve a wholly different purpose, in my book Return to Freedom:

“If Marx’s philosophy was really about freedom, then why call it socialism? Socialist freedom is managed freedom, ‘for your own good’. Socialism does not, cannot and will not elevate the working classes, because doing so makes socialism superfluous. To stay in power, socialists therefore reduce the people to lemmings that no longer have a say in the direction of their own lives.”3

Both Chomsky and Marx represent a class of power-hungry intellectuals. While they may claim to represent the interests of the people, their personal interests do not align at all with the working classes. Most intellectuals wake up every day to the reality that the capitalist owner classes, despite being far less educated, nonetheless succeeded in accumulating masses of wealth, influence and power. The intellectual’s own investments in the life of the mind often hardly paid off. The poor intellectual, in other words, is jealous. How come the intellectual elites are not in power?

Socialism, it seems, is not really about freeing the workers from corporate slavery, but about jealous leftist intellectuals scheming to install themselves as the new power elite. Merely out of convenience have socialist thinkers appopriated the struggles of the worker, inventing class warfare as a weapon against those currently in power. But that would make socialist leadership no different from its supposed enemy. As I already concluded in my book (Ch. 7),

“Politics is about powerful families competing for the right to exploit the masses. The ‘leftists’ wish to tell the people how to live, the ‘rightists’ wish to tell the people what to consume. Neither regime gives a damn about you.”

The purpose of socialism is not to free the working classes, but to deceive the masses into worshiping new masters. This managed freedom, ‘for the good of the people’, is not freedom at all, but outright manipulation. While capitalism at least to some extent offers working men and women the means to live and feed their families, socialism offers them nothing substantial other than the loss of their global competitive strength.

1 Noam Chomsky, On Anarchism, 1st ed. (New York: Penguin Books, 2014), 35–36.
2 Erich Fromm, Marx’s Concept of Man (New York: Open Road, 2003), 315.
3 Mathijs Koenraadt, Return to Freedom: A Traveler’s Thoughts on Life, Love and the Fate of the World, 1st ed. (Amsterdam: Morningtime, 2015), chap. 7: The Illusion of Progress.


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On the Purpose of Socialism by Mathijs Koenraadt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.