Humans, following a natural course of things, on the way to their liberation, first pursued individual freedom, which in political terms was expressed through liberalism, during the Enlightenment, in a period of feudalism. The ideas of liberalism and the Enlightenment in general, historically emerged with the French Revolution and the American Revolution before that. These are two of the most important events in modern human history that shaped humanity and the world. A branch and distortion of liberalism – with an economistic approach and logic, focusing on the economy – was expressed with the economic liberalism, and historically emerged during the Industrial Revolution. Under the economic liberalism, the individual freedom of liberalism became an individual interest. Under these conditions, during the Industrial Revolution, humans took the next natural step towards their fulfillment and liberation, seeking the collective and pursuing their collective freedom, a tendency that found political expression through socialism. A branch of socialism was expressed by communism and a historical distortive expression of communism was the also called “developed socialism”. The Industrial Revolution laid the foundations of the economic system of modern capitalism. Economic liberalism was distorted and transformed into today’s neoliberalism, while market freedom became market domination.
The “father of liberalism” is the philosopher John Locke, whose ideas influenced both the American and the French revolution, the historical events that formed the modern Western world and the world at large. This was done also through his influence on American Revolutionaries and the Jacobin Club, the movement that was at the forefront of the French Revolution. Locke is often referred to as “the philosopher of the American Revolution” and his ideas are reflected in the United States Declaration of Independence. His ideas were influential in shaping post-revolution constitutions, such as the first French Constitution and the Constitution of the United States, on the basis of which constitutions of the countries around the world were formed.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was also influenced by Locke‘s ideas and in turn contributed to the development of the socialist theory. Rousseau’s ideas in particular, but also Locke’s, influenced the Jacobins, the main political force of the French Revolution, the historical event that laid the foundations of the modern Western world. Rousseau’s ideas also had a significant influence on Maximilien Robespierre, leader of the French Revolution. The impact of Jacobinism was prominent in the 1793 “Declaration of the Rights of the Man and of the Citizen” on civil rights, one of the key declarations that influenced and shaped constitutions worldwide. The movement that was at the forefront of the French Revolution, which shaped the Western world, also expressed the first socialist ideas. Jacobinism was the origin of early socialism in Europe. More than a century later, Vladimir Lenin, leader of the October Revolution, the second and last phase of the Russian Revolution, considered the Bolsheviks to be the Jacobins’ continuation.
The first form of theoretically refined socialism was the theories and ideas of Henri Saint-Simon. Saint-Simon was born in 1760, right at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, which is a notable coincidence, as the Industrial Revolution is the beginning and the foundation of the economic system of modern capitalism. In the year that the Industrial Revolution began, the pioneer of socialism – the one who first shaped it – was born. The term socialism was coined from the term social/society, which is an inextricable part of human nature, as human is a social being. It was a term with a broad concept. This term was coined with a collective content, contrasted and opposed to individualism and to the individual’s diversion to individualism, which also suited the conditions of the Industrial Revolution, when liberalism’s individual freedom was transformed into an individualistic interest, with economic liberalism. Saint-Simon, who pioneered socialism, approaching the collective, was the first to propose a scientific theory of social phenomena, and also influenced his young colleague Auguste Comte to create the science of sociology. This is also a notable coincidence, as socialism and sociology share common origins, having as a background the seeking of the collective. Saint-Simonianism played a special role in the birth of socialist ideals. It was the first form of theoretically refined socialism, a theory that created a school. Two more who first expressed and promoted socialist ideas were Charles Fourier and Robert Owen.
Marx was born and expressed his ideas more than half a century after Saint-Simon and was greatly influenced by him. Marx had jointed the “League of the Just”, an organization with socialist ideas in London, which was to conduct a conference. The conference proceedings brought about changes and a significant shift. The organization, under the influence of Marx, replaced the word “Just” with the word “Communist”, changing its name to the “Communist League”, while its main slogan “All people are brothers” was changed to “Proletarians of all countries, unite!”, the main slogan of the subsequent “Communist Manifesto,” but also of regimes and parties in the course of history. The Communist Manifesto, the document which Marx was assigned to compose for the organization six months later, constituted the dominant document for the development of communism.
Saint-Simon in particular, who was one of their dominant influences, but also Fourier and Owen, influenced both Marx and Engels, who regarded them three as eminent figures. These three who first promoted socialist ideas did not speak about the liberation of a particular class but of all humanity. There was no one left out. They spoke of a society based on cooperation rather than competition. They did not present some kind of view on history, society or humanity, based on conflict among social groups or classes, or some sort of separation or division of humans, but they encompassed humankind collectively, universally. Marx’s standpoint geared to the conditions of the Industrial Revolution, not of humanity in general. Human liberation encompasses and concerns all humans. It is for humankind, for the liberation and freedom of humankind, for human nature and humanity. The main point was neither to make some oppose others, nor to bring about some kind of conscientious division among humans. This creates a division in society, a divisive consciousness, not a universal human one. Human consciousness functions independently of and beyond social constructs. Human consciousness is something deeper and autotomizes itself of any human made, social constructions. The fundamental conflict is between the aspects of the human being, the collective and the profiting. Disorientation and the existential dead-end are common to humankind and the planet.
The so-called “system” is not something invisible or extraterrestrial; it is a social tendency, a profiting social tendency. The profit motive, as a driving force and a social archetype, has established a profiting tendency in society. People are born and the tendency is already there, people die and the tendency still be. It is not about specific people, or any number of people. This tendency has considerable weight and influence in society and actuates it. A social tendency can motivate people and promote specific human aspects. People have aspects and choose directions; Directions are also influenced by the social components. Society, the way it is structured, nourishes to a large extent the profiting human aspects. What humanity needs is not a division but a change in attitude, direction and orientation. Antagonisms in society are value-based. The “values” of the profiting tendency should be deconstructed. The institutions nurturing this profiting tendency should be controlled and restricted. In addition, the structural institutions of society, such as the education systems which are its foundation stone, should be reformed. Human and society-centered education systems should be pursued, focusing on the human being and society, and on the collective good. Such education systems should cultivate social and environmental consciousness, autonomy, collectivity and cooperation, the common good and collective orientation. They should be orientated towards human freedom, progress and well-being but also on the well-being of the planet. Generally, in society there is a need for the fostering and promotion of ideas, structures and institutions that nourish free, humane and collective human aspects.
Economic liberalism is a branch, a distortion and something different from liberalism. It follows an economistic approach and rationale, and focuses on the economy. There has been a shift from the individual freedom of liberalism to the individual interest, a shift from the human to the economic focus. The British Empire was the core of the Industrial Revolution, the foundation of modern capitalism, the center of the economic system with a theoretical background of economic liberalism. Through the British Empire, the first major power of capitalism, the model of economic liberalism, spread worldwide. The theoretician and founder of economic liberalism is Adam Smith. His ideas are, of course, different from those of Locke or Rousseau, the Jacobins or American Revolutionaries, and the French or the American revolutions. Smith was born and expressed his theories nearly a century after Locke. Liberalism, and the ideas of the Enlightenment in general, made its historic appearance with the American and French revolutions, influencing revolutionaries such as the American and the Jacobins, who were inspired and motivated by ideas of human freedom and human rights to stand against various forms of oppressive regimes. Liberalism and the ideas of Enlightenment also had an impact on constitutions and democracy. Economic liberalism made its historic appearance with the Industrial Revolution, which was the foundation of modern capitalism. The French and the American revolutions are separate and distinct historical events from the Industrial Revolution process. The American and French revolutions are also political revolutions, while capitalism is an economic system.
Adam Smith’s ideas were greatly distorted and abused by the theorists of capitalism, while historical developments also refuted him and contradicted his ideas. Today’s neoliberalism is a branch and distortion of economic liberalism, which is already a branch and distortion itself of liberalism. Neoliberalism branches off from liberalism and is completely alienated to it. Adam Smith, himself the theoretical founder of the economic system and the background of capitalism, would be totally opposed to today’s neoliberal capitalism. He would be in conflict with what we call capitalism today, though one of his books – distorted – is the bible of capitalism today.
The transition from economic liberalism to today’s neoliberalism has been intense. It transformed from the profit motive and economic liberalism into the uncontrol profiting, profiteering and neoliberalism. The profit motive as a social archetype also leads to the irrationality of profit. The “rational” individual interest and competition turned into individualistic interest and extreme individualism, while it produced propensities of the jungle law in society and led to profit irrationality. The rational self-interest that Adam Smith described, can get selfish interest, turn into irrationality of profit and become in many cases self-destructive to humankind. Freedom of the market turned into uncontrollable markets and domination of the market. Under neoliberalism, commercialization also surged, as did propagandistic, materialistic and consumeristic ramifications.
The Industrial Revolution is a process that shaped the course of modern human history. It was a process that started and brought a lot of growth and excessively rapidly, in many and various fields, but also a process through which humankind started to have truly negative impacts on their natural environment, the planet and itself, becoming dangerous. This is also causing climate change today, which has become highly and dangerously intense in the past decades of neoliberalism. When the profiting, competitive tendency gets out of control, it leads to irrationality of profit and to existential vacuum. The Industrial Revolution, the foundation of modern capitalism, also started the environmental catastrophe of the planet, that grew and became uncontrollable and dangerous under neoliberalism. Humanity has existed for more than 300 thousand years, and the planet for more than 4.5 billion years, while within just a few decades the catastrophe that has come about and is still evolving is unprecedented. The destruction of the planet is a truly self-destructive phenomenon for humanity with a shortsighted, irrationally profiting and uncontrollable turn. The Industrial Revolution and the beginning of modern capitalism also gave rise to a series of historical events that have been extremely hazardous to humanity.
England, the center of the Industrial Revolution, was also the first major power and the core of capitalism. The fierce economic competition and the heightened competition between rising Germany, that had become an industrial power, and England for economic domination, did not take long to lead to World War I, the first great war of capitalism. The divisions brought about by World War I and the Great Depression of 1929, the first major financial crisis of capitalism, led to yet another war for domination, the World War II, the most devastating period in the history of humankind. Then the US took over from England and became the next major power and core of the economic system of capitalism, of the time. Once again operating essentially in a similar context, as it was a matter of fierce competition between countries for world domination, the US and the Soviet Union almost led humanity into a third world war. This period is known as the Cold War. Both great powers operated on capitalistic terms, with competition and domination. The profiting tendency fueled, nurtured and produced all the above devastating situations. This uncontrolled, competitive, profiting tendency of humans and their countries has brought a lot of suffering to humanity. The question is how long countries, especially the economically powerful countries, would go about on the basis of economic competition, short-sighted, vain, dead-end and irrational domination and their business and financial interests. Finally, they do not prioritize the true reason for their existence, which is none other than the well-being of people and society, while economy is simply a means of achieving it.
On the other hand, the world is charting another, different parallel course. The Enlightenment, liberalism and socialism, the American, French and Russian revolutions, democracy, individual and social rights, human and environmental rights, are all landmarks on the same path, the common pursuit of human freedom. Locke, Rousseau, American Revolutionaries, the Jacobins, Saint-Simon and many others of course, all had a common background; they were thinkers or seekers of human freedom and the continuance of the same course.
Socialism has been mistakenly identified by some with the so-called “Eastern bloc”, as it just emerged there historically, a distortion of its branch, communism, which was developed socialism. In fact, socialism is a trueborn of the Western world, and comes from its heart, from philosophers of the Enlightenment and on, and from movements in the heart of the Western world. Socialist ideas appear in Rousseau, Jacobinism and Saintsimonism: thinkers, ideas and movements that interacted and interconnected, the human freedom being their common goal. Rousseau’s ideas contributed to the development of socialism influenced by Locke, the father of liberalism. They both influenced the Jacobins, the movement that shaped socialist ideas, the main political force of the French Revolution, that formed the foundation of the modern Western world. Locke and the Jacobins spoke about freedom and human rights and had the purpose of common good. The Jacobins, who were at the forefront of this historical foundation of the modern Western world, clashed with the manifestations of today’s capitalism and with profit-seeking, profiteering, plutocracy, inequality and financial exploitation, while embracing economic interventionism. They spoke of a collective consciousness and of democracy, of the common good and of orientation towards humans themselves, considerations that are also at the very heart of socialism. Rousseau could be described as a link between Locke, the father of liberalism, and Saint-Simon, the pioneer of socialism, while the Jacobins were a movement that was a link between liberalism and socialism, all of them being interconnected and interdependent on the road to human freedom.
As history evolved, socialism was expressed by a human need to speak about the collective and to be differentiated from individualism. It was shaped under the conditions of the Industrial Revolution, historically making this need even more evident. Above all, it is the continuation of the expression of human liberation, which, following the pursuit of individual freedom, the natural development of its fulfillment, was the pursuit of the collective. Both are integral aspects and expressions of human nature. The individual and the collective are integral to each other, as they are both aspects and expressions of the human being. There is no conflict on the basis of liberalism and socialism, they are both manifestations of the same thing, human freedom. Socialism does not oppose liberalism, they both have common background, they are parts of the same common course, they are interdependent and complementary; Socialism is the continuance of liberalism, the next step, the natural evolution of things on a quest to and on the road to human liberation.
The opposition is with the profiting tendency in society. It is capitalism that is on the opposite side with a different background, on the road of profiteering, individualism and selfish, mercenary interests, that, opposes rights and democracy, primarily of liberalism. Rights are the product of the pursuit for individual and collective freedom, while the irrational turning of profit is a product of the profiting tendency. Capitalism can be described, with a societal approach, as the dominance of a profiting tendency as a social tendency in human society. Liberalism is a political expression of the pursuit of individual freedom, an individual aspect and expression of human nature, institutionally expressed by individual rights. Socialism is a political expression of the pursuit of collective freedom, a collective aspect and expression of human nature, institutionally expressed by social rights. Individual and social rights were institutionalized and established through the ideas of liberalism and socialism, and contributed to the development of democracy. All together, humankind, human nature and the pursuit of their freedom were institutionally expressed by human rights. They historically emerged as a reflex of humanity after World War II, as a result of the most disastrous human manifestations. Environmental rights emerged as a reflex to the catastrophe of the planet, due to the shortsighted uncontrolled profiting, the catastrophe that began with the Industrial Revolution and was became really dangerous under neoliberalism.
The ideas and thinkers of freedom were expressed each according to the specific standpoint and the needs of their era but with human freedom as their common purpose. Any distinctions were made, later, by others. In general, people take a political and ideological stand in proportion to the standpoint and conditions of their time and place; they do not identify with an ideological label over time, but are perceived according to their attitude in relation to the conditions of their time.
Liberalism and socialism have evolved and been expressed in a logical, historical and anthropological sequence. Liberalism was expressed in the period of the circulation of ideas, during the Enlightenment, when humans had to be liberated from monarchy or other oppressive regimes; then socialism was basically expressed under the conditions of the Industrial Revolution, when humans had to liberate their society, so that profiteering and exploitation would not prevail in human society. According to the logical evolution and course of the human being, the expression and pursuit of individual human freedom under conditions of monarchy or other oppressive regimes preceded. This was followed by the expression and pursuit of the collective freedom of human society, among other things, to turn the individual away from individualism under the conditions of the Industrial Revolution. Society has created socialism as a social need and reflex also to confront inequality. Social inequality opposes social well-being and society has its reflexes to meet with the human needs. Liberalism and socialism were social expressions and requirements through which a human pursuit towards freedom and fulfillment found expression. Human nature as human is a social being, expressed also through social expressions. Society is a living organism and reflects human nature, composed of all human beings. Liberalism spoke about humans and socialism later spoke about society, with the social aspect being a structural element of the human being as a social being. Socialism is a part of the pursuit of the collective, a means of a human need for social justice, balance and cohesion, social progress and well-being, things that are necessary for human progress and well-being. The human being progresses and thrives as a society. Ideologies are human inventions, social constructs, from a specific standpoint of and expressed by some people, under the circumstances of a previous era in the past. Ideas themselves and universal human values, that may also make up ideologies, are timeless. The core are humans themselves, along with society, being an inextricable part of human nature, in correlation to nature of which humanity is a part. The human being and society need to be combined as a focus and a perspective for human society, for human freedom.
The human being needs both an individual and a collective consciousness, aspects and expressions that human beings possess as autonomous and social beings at the same time. Human liberation begins with the individual and is fulfilled towards society. Human fulfillment is an individual affair with a collective orientation. Human nature is interwoven with its collective aspect and expression in such a way, that common good and the collective orientation fulfill the individual. The human being in their society needs the expression of individuality, but with the promotion of individual autonomy and not of individualism, along with the promotion of well-being of society, both of which interact. Society’s well-being can strengthen the expression of individuality and the expression of individuality can promote society’s well-being. Every individual is intertwined in such a way with society, as the human is a social being, that the reality of a society, having whether positive or negative features, reaches, touches and affects in some way every single person who is a member; a better society is better for all. Humankind progress and thrive as society. Social well-being means at the same time human well-being. Human and social well-being intertwine and interconnect with each other. Humans can pursue, as far as possible, a freer, more humane society of true democracy and social justice, with free, autonomous individuals with a collective perspective, consciousness and orientation, constantly pursuing human well-being.
Markets and business interests, the way they operate today, in many cases afflict and operate to the detriment of democracy and rights. Market domination and the domination of corporate and financial interests in politics and society also work this way. Society and institutions should control and restrict interests and profiting. Politics and institutions should control and regulate the economy rather than being manipulated by it. Society ought to be protected from the profiting tendency, especially from its uncontrolled diversion. It is also obvious that profit-seeking in society without control becomes in many cases profiteering and can be destructive and dangerous. Self-interest can become selfish and mercenary and in many cases self-destructive to humankind. In addition, society, humankind and the planet must be institutionally protected from the uncontrolled profiting tendency of human self-interest, which has now taken on self-destructive propensities for humanity and the planet. In general, the profiting manner as social attitude and behavior is disorienting for the essence of human life and human society. Politics, institutions and society should aim at their real role, common good, human and social well-being, humans and society itself. The human being and society should be the purpose itself. Politics of a country should be concerned with and chosen on the basis of how to improve the standard of living for the citizens of the country, improve society, the life of its people, their own life and their society, which is the logic and the essence, instead of an effort to prevail over other countries with no end. Peoples gain nothing but lose a lot from this. This domination process also is endless and no one wins, until an existential catastrophe for humankind and the planet. There is no meaning and prospect in this, and after so many centuries it is obvious and can be seen by today’s humanity. This pointless domination process has to be stopped. It is being done today by countries for the sake and service of business interests and at the expense of peoples. There is a need to abandon the futile competition for domination and business interests among countries; countries’ economies should be adapted and oriented towards the well-being of citizens and society. There should be an overthrow of “economism”, that is to say, of the priority that is recklessly attributed to the economy. The economy, not as an end in itself, should not run people and society but be at their service instead. The role of the economy is not to manipulate, but to be of service to society and humans. They should be at the core. Human society should be human and society-centered itself.
Socialism is one thing, developed socialism is another, and the same goes for communism and Marxism. Similarly, liberalism is one thing, while economic liberalism is another and so is neoliberalism. Markets and corporate interests, the current economic system, the way it operates, in many cases work to the detriment of and in opposition to rights and democracy, the primary features of liberalism. Those who support them, are not liberal; they are in fact neoliberal, something that is completely different.
Democracy and rights are conquests and constant demands of humans and their society. Democratization is a process of human and social progress, a process that must be constantly evolving, as is the ever-deepening establishment of rights in society and in human consciousness. The world and society are not only about capitalism, they are also about capitalism. There are two parallel worlds. Two worlds that oppose each other and are frequently conflicting. Democracy and rights conflict with profiteering and mercenary, business, interests. The profiting tendency tends to clash with the human reason and the free human and collective tendency. Protecting, fostering and promoting democracy and rights, the planet, society and humans from profiteering and mercenary, corporate interests, is an urgent challenge in today’s world. The prospects of humanity itself on the planet are at stake. The world and humankind must decide where to turn their attention and direction. We need to make an existential decision of what to prioritize, be it humanity or profiteering. There is the way of priority to the irrationality of profit, the economy of mercenary interests, the short-sighted and futile competition for domination among countries, the self-destructive propensities for the planet and humanity, directed towards an existential dead-end with an orientation to profiteering. Or there is the way of priority to democracy and rights, human reason, nature, humans and society, the common good and human freedom, directed towards the human well-being and the well-being of the planet with an orientation to humanity.