Socialism: What is it and why do we need it?



The following is one young Rebels ideas of what socialism is and how it would best suit us here in Ireland.

Socialism is a system whereby the means of production, distribution and exchange are publicly owned and used for the benefit of society as a whole. In English ,this means that the natural resources of a country (oil, land, gas, water), the infrastructure (power stations, roads) as well as the commanding heights of the economy (The large industries, factories and essentially anything that produces anything on a large scale) are owned by the state. However, this is not the same as what we currently recognise in Ireland as state ownership. Under Socialism, the working class, i.e. The vast majority of society who do the vast majority of the work, take ownership of the state and make the decisions through a direct, participatory democracy, such as in Cuba. This ensures that the production and distribution of goods and services is done to meet the needs of people rather than for the profits of a small elite in society. I’ll explain this in more detail later on.

Socialism would be ideal for Ireland. We possess a hugely skilled and educated workforce, have decent natural resources and we have excellent access to raw materials for production. For instance, we have a lot of rain here in Ireland, which is quite obviously a huge nuisance. However, under a democratically planned economy, we could develop ideas on the harnessing of rainwater which could be used to provide water services for everybody in Ireland without worrying about water conservation. Under our current Capitalist system, this wouldn’t be done until it would become profitable and as we know, privatising water services is far more profitable than making clean, reneweable water available for everyone.

Our natural resources are privatised and given to foreign multi-national companies such as Shell to make a gigantic profit on, with a small portion going back to the Irish people. This is an insult to the generations of Irish people who fought for Irish freedom. The Proclamation of the Irish Republic clearly states:”We declare the right of the Irish people to the ownership of Ireland.” I don’t see where it says “the right of a foreign company to the ownership of Ireland.” Of course, the common response to this is that we do not have the same machinery, equipment and money companies like Shell have that would allow us to extract and use our resources. This is true but the reason for it is our government don’t want us to. A socialist government would make the necessary investment in machinery and labour which could allow us to harness these resources. How many are unemployed in the west of Ireland and would jump at the chance to work in such an important industry? Forestry is one of the most viable of all our industries and is worth millions. It could provide sustainable, cheap and environmentally friendly materials and energy as well as employment yet the Irish forestry company, Coíllte, receives very little funding. Why? Because it isn’t profitable.


Socialism would free up billions of money for use in the provision of public services as well. If we abolished the current odious debt the bankers and politicians have forced on us then we could have billions available. The way it stands now, the billionaires and millionaires in our society have amassed vast quantities of wealth which they keep secure in banks or gamble on the stock market, investing nothing in the economy. A state bank, under the control of the workers’ state, would take over this money for the interests of the people. These two acts could immediately make billions of money available. Rather than having austerity and cutbacks, we could improve wages, make education and healthcare free and decrease transportation costs. State projects, such as the socialization of natural resources already mentioned, would eleminate unemployment. We could save money on social welfare because of this and re-invest money into providing childcare services, cultural and sporting institutions, housing for everybody, transport and communication services. Wages in a socialist society would be according to one’s labour, not one’s position on the social ladder. Crime would decrease due to jobs being made available which could save money on security costs.

Industrialisation, the building up of Irish industries, an Irish computer company, an Irish medical company, rather than depending on foreign MNCs, would make us less dependant on outside influences such as foreign companies, the EU and IMF, institutions which have no regard for the Irish working class, and would allow us to become more self-suffecient and independent.

Under a Socialist Republic, all citizens will have the opportunity to participate in the running of the country. Our current system only leads to corruption, bureaucracy and incompetence among public officials who are completely disconnected from reality. This democracy would mean a decision-making council in every town, city and province in Ireland. Take your local residents’ association, you meet and discuss things but you don’t have any real power. At most all you can do is lobby your local councillor who maybe, just maybe, might just bring it up at a council meeting, who, at most, can pass a small act which can grant small concessions such as footpaths and so on. In a Socialist society, the alternative is quite simple. Your local town would have its regular meetings, with all citizens encouraged to attend. Residents will meet and discuss the pressing local issues, and vote on solutions. When passed, it will be put forward to the authorities, in this case a city-wide assembly of all citizens and again voted on with all attendant citizens having a vote. Obviously this depends on the issue, a debate on providing footpaths in the south side of Cork will hardly be debated on the northside of the city. The local councils will be given suffecient resources themselves so after it has been given the go-ahead by citizens they can solve the problems immediately and independently. For nation-wide issues there will be a provincial or country-wide vote. Obviously, you can’t have millions of people attending a vote in a single area so representatives will have to be elected. However, there will exist a right of recall at any time of any representative who is not providing a satisfactory job. This cuts down on corruption, opportunism and incompetence and solidifies democracy.

Overall, this will encourage interest in politics and increase the feeling of community among citizens. A national service, not just military service but also a compulsory involvement in local communty and state projects will increase participation in the economy among citizens.

This is a combined map of all countries that declared themselves socialist states under any definition, at some point in their history, color-coded for the number of years they claimed they were socialist:   Over 70 years   60–70 years   50–60 years   40–50 years   30–40 years   20–30 years   Under 20 years

This is a combined map of all countries that declared themselves socialist states under any definition, at some point in their history, color-coded for the number of years they claimed they were socialist.

This thinking isn’t idealistic. The Socialist model of economics and society was once present in between a quarter to a third of the world to varying levels of success. To give some examples, Burkina Faso under Thomas Sankara was one of Africa’s poorest countries until socialism, having one of the largest transformations in African history with the standard of living skyrocketing. Socialist Cuba has the biggest involvement of citizens in the state and economy in the world, as well as the best healthcare system and one of the best education systems in the world. Socialism was the economic system that allowed the USSR to beat the Nazis almost single-handedly. In modern day Latin America, more and more countries are turning to Socialism. Venezuela under Hugo Chavez adopted socialism only around a decade ago in the early 2000’s. Poverty levels, illiteracy, wealth inequality and other social ills have decreased rapidly while citizens are increasingly becoming involved in politics in a region where the poor previously had no voice. This has spread to Ecuador, Bolivia and is encouraging people in countries such as Brazil, Argentina and Colombia to demand revolution.

The environment, rising global wealth inequality, rising social tensions, war constantly being present, the amount of starving people increasing daily and other evils all make the advancement of Socialism inevitable.

As Rosa Luxemburg said, ”It is Socialism or Barbarism!”


Further recommended reading on the subject;

An Economy for the Common Good published by the Communist Party of Ireland

Forward Together published by the Connolly Youth Movement

Socialism Made Easy by James Connolly.

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