History is littered with examples of words that have been used to manipulate feelings, solicit votes and distort reality. One of the most famous is the German term Nationalsozialismus, more commonly abbreviated to Nazism. The
Nazi Party was founded as the pan-German nationalist and antisemitic German Workers’ Party on January 5, 1919, and re-named the National Socialist German Workers’ Party two years later by Hitler, knowing full well that it was nationalist
in ambition but neither socialist nor focused primarily on the working class.
In my own experience during the civil war in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in the 1960’s and 70’s, the guerrilla forces that were fighting
to be part of the political process in their own country were known either as freedom fighters or terrorists, depending on which side of the fence one stood. More significantly, the white-controlled government argued that the insurgents were the front line
of communism, which was good for emotional support from the threatened white minority who saw themselves as the bulwark of western values, but inaccurate in terms of the ideology of these forces who were motivated more by ‘nationalism’, a legitimate
ambition that, as best I can recall, was never acknowledged by Ian Smith’s propaganda machine. And to my shame I cannot recall anyone demanding proof of these alleged communist links, rather being content to accept them unthinkingly as the
intensity of the war escalated and the need to justify the violence intensified.
As an aside, like most other long-lasting conflicts, the longer that confrontation continued the more the power moved to the extremes on both sides,
and the more the intent moved from participation to revenge. An exception to this trend was South Africa, in which the peaceful succession of Nelson Mandela in 1994 was a stunning feat in the face of history, and can be attributed almost entirely to
his own personal qualities, character and authority.
In this country I have been surprised at the extent to which the term socialism is a pejorative among older sectors of the population. My guess is that this
goes back to the Cold War against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and it was convenient to confuse socialism (which I would suggest is legitimate) with communism (which is not.)
This is of particular interest as an avowed socialist
has entered the 2016 Presidential race, and in the light of a 2012 Pew poll which suggests that 49% of Americans under the age of 30 have a favorable view of socialism compared to the 47% who expressed a positive view of capitalism.
Int the nineteenth century the social deprivations of the Industrial Revolution sparked civic uprisings focused on the relationship between the needs of the individual and the role of government, and in particular a movement towards economic and social
equality. Known originally as social democracy, it argued that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole, with the proceeds being returned to the community in the form of subsidized
housing, education, elderly care and health benefits.
Socialists argued this would happen peacefully through the democratic process, and only the major industries would need to be nationalized (ie. owned by the nation) to pay for
it. Communists argued that capitalists would never voluntarily relinquish control of their wealth, that it required a violent proletarian revolution, a short term dictatorship, and the abolition of all private ownership.
So the question becomes, if we governed on the basis of what we see in a honey bee colony, which of these two systems would it look like, if either?
First there would not be elections as we know them. The nominal leader of such
a community would be chosen at a young age, would be specifically nurtured for her position, together with a few others, and upon maturity would assert herself in the face of any rivals and would be allowed to exercise her role as long as she was productive
and successful. If not the community would make arrangements to replace her. Her role would not be to make decisions for the citizenry but to provide an on-going population for the continuation and expansion of the species.
very small section of society would be entrusted with seeing that, in terms of survival of the fittest, the species would continued as vigorously and as fervently as possible. Only a fraction of this small caste would achieve their ultimate objective, the
majority would die unfulfilled, and in the event of a dearth of resources, they would be jettisoned so that the larger society could survive, knowing that the ‘leader’ could produce more on demand once the resources were again available.
The majority of the society would consist of a multi-functional working class who create the conditions in which the leader can operate, clean house and keep it safe, do the grocery shopping, prepare food to nurture the next
generation and preserve stores for times of need. Each of these workers could do all of the above depending on age, available resources and the needs of the community, because it is the health and survival of the populace which would be their guiding
Democracy is derived from two Greek words, demos (people) and kratos (power) and one could argue that a honey bee colony is a democracy in that the majority have the power; they make the decisions,
instinctively, to replace the leader, eject the males, collect pollen rather than nectar, even whether some should leave home in search of a new abode, and if so, who goes and who stays. It also reflects the socialist side of the spectrum, with “the
means of production, distribution, and exchange owned or regulated by the community as a whole,” and everyone sharing the proceeds.
A more interesting term might be communalism (and please note spelling - communalism, not
communism) which refers to a system that integrates communal ownership within highly localized independent communities.
It was evident in the early Christian churches and later in the Plymouth Colony with its policies of land use and profit-sharing.
In 1621 in New England common ownership was the basis for the contract agreed upon by the venture and its investors, even if it was seen as temporary, with a division of property and profits scheduled to take place after seven years.
Although each family controlled their own home and possessions (ie. their ‘colony,’) corn (ie. nectar and pollen) was farmed on a communal plot of land with the harvest divided equally amongst the settlers.
the secular planters resented having to share their harvest with families whose religious beliefs so sharply conflicted with their own and within three years each family was temporarily assigned its own plot of land with the right to keep what was harvested
from that plot, and as such religious differences led to a more competitive, divisive, capitalist system.
Pilgrims, turkey and honey bees … now there’s a topic of conversation for the Thanksgiving dinner table.