A number of people have asked that we explain some of the terminology and jargon used in political discussion. If there are terms or jargon that you would like added to this ‘Jargon Busted’ directory, drop the Communications & Social Media team an email by clicking on the image below.
Socialism is an economic and political system where the ways of making a living are owned by the workers who run them and the people who depend on them, meaning the value made belongs to the people who make it, instead of a group of private owners. Socialism is a populist economic and political system based on public ownership of the means of production.
In a purely socialist system, all legal production and distribution decisions are made by the government, and everything from food to healthcare is the responsibility of the government who manage a planned economy. Shared ownership of resources and central planning provide a more equal distribution of goods and services and a more equitable society. Until Tony Blair was successful in getting it removed for the Labour Party constitution, Clause 4 of the Party’s constitution is stated, i.e. “To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry.” There is a growing lobby to reinstate Clause 4.
Capitalism is an economic system based on private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. In it the government plays a secondary role. People and companies make most of the decisions and own most of the property. The means of production are largely or entirely privately owned (by individuals or companies) and operated for profit. The production of goods and services is based on supply and demand in the general market with minimal regulation, i.e. everything is driven by the ‘market’. The role of the state, or the planning of the economy, is kept to a minimum.
Neoliberalism is characterised by free market trade, deregulation of financial markets, individualisation, and the shift away from state welfare provision.It seeks to transfer control of economic factors to the private sector from the public sector. It tends towards free-market capitalism and away from government spending, regulation, and public ownership.
George Monbiot wrote an incisive critique of Neoliberalism for the Guardian newspaper: Neoliberalism: the ideology at the root of all our problems . Monbiot wrote, “Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning
Attempts to limit competition are treated as detrimental to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.
We internalise and reproduce its creeds. The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages – such as education, inheritance and class – that may have helped to secure it. The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.
Never mind structural unemployment: if you don’t have a job it’s because you are unenterprising. Never mind the impossible costs of housing: if your credit card is maxed out, you’re feckless and improvident. Never mind that your children no longer have a school playing field: if they get fat, it’s your fault. In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind become defined and self-defined as losers.”
The previous definitions on these pages clearly show that there is a stark difference between socialism, the politically ‘left’, and capitalism, the politically ‘right’. In short, left wing people generally believe in public ownership whilst the right wing believe that private individuals and corporations should run everything for their own profit. However, there are a whole range of shades of perspective along the political spectrum between left and right.
So, a person who is on the ‘hard left’ is likely to believe that most economic activity should be run by the state for the benefit of us all. A ‘centre-left‘ person is likely to believe that services like schools, hospitals, public transport, prisons, the probation service, water authorities and energy companies should be organised as either publicly owned or democratically accountable services with all ‘profits’ being reinvested or spent for the common good of all citizens.
A person on the ‘centre-right’ is most often characterised as someone who believes in a small amount of state intervention or involvement where only very basic services such as the army, police, and the courts should be the responsibility of the state. The hard-right believe that absolutely everything should be driven by a profit motive including every service mentioned previously.
As the press and media is owned by the super-rich and powerful who are steadfastly on the right, their aim is always to attempt to discredit and undermine left wing views and left wing politicians with, very frequently, misleading and inaccurate stories, a strong and obvious bias, and a very loose regard for facts.
However, the voting public often see through these malevolent attacks on left wing politicians and disregard the malicious headlines of shallow tabloid arguments. Recent research has revealed that less than 10% of voters support privatisation of the NHS while only 6% support state schools being run by private businesses. On the other hand, 60% believe that the railways should be nationalised, 59% want publicly owned water companies and 53% want to nationalise the energy companies.
As for the ‘let’s take back control’ slogan of the Tory hard right, they show neither loyalty to their fellow UK citizens nor a morsel of patriotism. It is the hard right Tories who saw to it that our publicly owned services were sold off so that the rich and powerful could extract huge profits. Whatever happened to British Airways, British Railway, British Telecom, British Gas – all sold off to generate private profit to, very often, foreign investors. 74% of rail companies are operated by foreign governments. The Chinese and Qatari Governments own large pieces of the assets like national grid and water supplies. There are numerous examples of pubic assets being snapped up by foreign investors. We are edging closer to selling off the NHS to American profiteers: this is a service that we own and that we paid for through our taxes. It should not be a Government’s to sell. These so-called Tory patriots have been selling off UK Ltd on a grand scale.
In conclusion, there was a time when people accused politicians of all holding roughly the same views: “there’s no difference, they’re all the same”. It is true that the left wing traditions of the Labour Party were temporarily fudged after its leaders were seduced into favouring the Neo-liberal economic dogma of the right. However, the Labour Party now again offers clear left-wing alternative to the capitalist parties.
Social democracy is an ideology that has similar values to socialism, but within a capitalist framework. It is an ideology that favours social, political and economic interventions by the state for the explicit purpose of promoting social justice within a capitalist economy. Social democracy requires a commitment to representative government.
Democratic socialism is a political philosophy that advocates political democracy alongside a socially owned economy, with an emphasis on workers’ self-management and democratic control of economic institutions within a market or some form of a decentralised planned socialist economy.
Standing Orders: The Standing orders are simply the rules that govern how our Branches and Constituency operate. In many away, the Standing Orders are a localised version of the Labour Party’s Rule Book.
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