People use many labels to describe various political groups throughout history: Socialist, Communist, “Market Socialist” (yes, that was a thing), “Democratic Socialist” (an offshoot of Market Socialist long before Bernie Sanders’ supporters coined the term for their latest iteration on it), National Socialist, and many more. People harp on the various little differences. This one wears red, that one wears black. This one talks about nationalism, that one talks about globalism (which one quickly learns is simply their own nationalism spread over the world). This one has Sturmabteilung. That one has Чёрная Гвардия (Chjornaya Gvardiya “Black Guards”. This other one has Antifa.
One had a Holocaust, another had a Голодомо́р (Holodomor), and another had a Cultural Revolution.
The differences are minor in contrast to what they have in common. They are all collectivist in that they all believe that the “means of production” must be organized for the good of “society” as they define it rather than decided by individuals each pursuing their own interests. Note here, I’m using the classic definition of socialism, not the more modern which includes “redistribution of wealth” of the nature of taking money via taxes from some people in order to give it to others, and certainly not the “anything government does is socialism” used by certain people in an attempt to claim “we are all socialists and therefore socialism is good”.
Minor differences. Some may leave ownership, at least on paper, to private individuals so long as they take their orders from the central planning authority. Outright ownership of the means of production may be seized by force. I suppose it might even be possible that the means of production could be bought although I suspect that the outcry of such an action–use of money taken by taxes to actually pay those no-good one percenters for their ill gotten property? I think not.
But one thing collectivization, of central planning, soon runs into is the inescapable logic that one of the primary means of production that must be controlled is people. After all, if you’re going to dictate how much, say, steel is going to be made you need to have a certain number of people involved in the making of steel, neither more nor less. Since steel making is a more dangerous and difficult job than, say, making flower arrangements, how do you get more people to make steel? Do your central planners set a pay that draws people away from other tasks to steel making but not so much that you’re turning away more qualified workers than you’re hiring? Your central planners might be able to do so for one such product but for each of the millions of goods and services that makes up modern society? No individual or reasonable sized group can possibly do so.
In a market economy competition and the price system handle that almost automatically. Pay for difficult jobs, dangerous jobs, or jobs which require a great deal of skill and training will tend to pay more because that’s what it takes to draw workers away from easier, less dangerous jobs. And employers are able to adjust pay scales as they find that they are either unable to attract enough workers of sufficient capability or find themselves turning away numerous qualified people. A complicated dynamic of hundreds of millions of people involved in myriad tasks that no central planning authority could possibly master not even with the aid of the world’s most powerful supercomputers.
But in a planned economy you don’t have that price structure. So, instead of that dynamic to draw people to the tasks required they have to rely on simply dictating the rolls people will play. You will work here. You will work there. And you will work over there.
This is the end game of any collectivization system, of any attempt to establish a “planned economy.” It is the reduction of the individual to hive insects, each with a roll defined in that hive with no regard that individuals desires. Willing to accept the lifestyle of a “starving artist” to fulfill your dream of being a landscape painter? Too bad. We need you in the iron works.
This is why attempts to paint Nazis as “Right Wing” while Communists were “Left Wing” is ridiculous. The differences are trivial compared to this central reality of any collectivist planned economy. They are not opposites simply because they happened to fight each other any more than the conflict between Stalin and Trotsky after the death of Lenin meant one of them must have been an ardent capitalist. All of them were enemies of capitalism. All of them were enemies of classical liberal ideas (and what a true shame that modern heirs of that enmity have managed to so successfully co-opt the term “liberal”). None of them bear any resemblance to the conservative and libertarian views often called “right wing” in the modern United States.
Collectivism is totalitarianism. The only way to avoid the latter is by turning away from the former.