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I believe that the soviet union really wasn't socialism, it was redefined to mean state capitalism. And I think state capitalism and socialism are inconsistent. Socialism always meant that workers control their workplace so it is more a theory of economics and not a political ideology. I know that there are a lot of sources from prominent marxists and socialists at that time who would agree with me. But I think these guys are marginalized.

Is there any major and credible study that agrees with me that the soviet union (or other nominally self described "socialist" governments) was/were not socialist?

edit/ Ok since my question wasn't answered (the only answer was that the soviet union was socialist) I reframe my question into: What "reliable" sources exist, that say that the soviet union wasn't socialist?(except Chomsky)

  • The soviet union was communist, not socialist. (or at least claimed to be). – user1530 Jan 6 '16 at 19:42
  • The state owned MOST means of production in USSR (with minor caveats not worth mentioning), so it was socialist by that definition. Capitalism is defined by means of production being owned by capital investors. </ghost_of> – user4012 Jan 6 '16 at 19:52
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    This question is asked on two sites, so it probably should be closed at least once. – bytebuster for Long Usernames Jan 6 '16 at 20:09
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    Socialism is when workers own the means of production, socialism doesn't need a government at all. – JonnyPython Jan 6 '16 at 20:34
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    Question demonstrates a poor understanding of the academic definitions of socialism and capitalism, further complicated by a reliance on belief, opinion, and unspecified metrics. – Drunk Cynic Jan 7 '16 at 4:35
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The problem with word definitions in politics is that people tend to interpret them vastly different. A word has the meaning people give to it. So people often try to change and shift the definitions of words to repurpose them as it fits their agenda. That means for many political ideologies there are different, often contradicting, definitions.

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines Socialism as this:

Simple Definition of socialism

a way of organizing a society in which major industries are owned and controlled by the government rather than by individual people and companies

Full Definition of socialism

  1. any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods

    • a: system of society or group living in which there is no private property,
    • b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state
  2. a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done

As you can see these are four different ways to define socialism which are partially overlapping and partially contradicting. Let's see how they fitted the Soviet Union.

Simple definition: way of organizing a society in which major industries are owned and controlled by the government rather than by individual people and companies

Applies. Most industry in the USSR was state-owned.

1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods

Collective? Not really. The USSR collectivized the agriculture sector quite a lot in the 30s, but in practice it just increased government control and reduced the self-determination rights of the farmers instead of improving them. Government ownership? Applies to most other industries, as explained in the last point.

2a: system of society or group living in which there is no private property

There was private property in the Soviet Union, but there were regulations about what could and could not be owned by private people. Such restrictions usually exist in any country, but while most non-socialist countries mostly ban the possession of certain items for safety reasons (weapons, drugs, hazardous chemicals...), the USSR also did it for property because it had economical value (housing, factories, farmland...).

2b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state

This is a stronger form of the simple definition and the definition 1. Mostly applies. Most means of production were controlled by the state, but not all of them.

  1. a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done

There definitely was an unequal distribution of goods and pay. One could argue that the totalitarian Soviet Union regime was a necessary step on the road to true Communism which was never completed. But because the Soviet Union doesn't exist anymore, we can only speculate if the Soviet Union would have ever transited to Communism if it had the chance or if it would have developed in a different direction.

Summary: The Soviet Union was socialist according to most of the possible interpretations of the term.

Socialism always meant that workers control their workplace.

The system you are talking about here is often referred to as Syndicalism. And the variant of it which "doesn't need a government at all" is called Anarcho-Syndicalism.

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    @JonnyPython I already told you: The truth about the definition of a word depends on who uses it. Socialism for Chomsky means something different than it meant for Stalin which is again something different than what Marx, Mao, Lenin, Guevera, Trotzky or Il-sung meant when they used the word. There is no consensus about the "true" meaning of the word "socialism". That's why there are so many terms for sub-categories. – Philipp Jan 7 '16 at 12:23
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    "I think the nominally socialist states called themself socialist to defame socialism" - that thought makes no sense. Why would you assign a label to yourself and then defame that label? That would mean to defame yourself. And democracy, by the way, is a term which is just as ill-defined and subjective as socialism. – Philipp Jan 7 '16 at 12:41
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    @JonnyPython what are you really looking for, here? Your questions asks if the USSR can be considered socialist. The answer provides you with a definition from a well-known source and compares that definition to historical facts. – Schorsch Jan 7 '16 at 13:17
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    @JonnyPython, maybe you're getting a little too bogged down in terminology. What matters is specific policies and ideas, not the words we use to describe the whole. It complicates it, but there's really no other way that makes any sense. – PointlessSpike Jan 7 '16 at 15:45
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    BTW, 2a is not entirely correct. While "there was private property in the Soviet Union" as a broad statement is true, a LOT of property wasn't allowed to be private if you look into details. You couldn't own housing (at least in urban setting) or land. You couldn't own a small business (after N.E.P. and before Gorbachyov). – user4012 Jan 7 '16 at 16:31

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