Response: Does Socialism Destroy the Traditional Family Structure

Submitted by hadrian on Tue, 02/12/2019 - 14:22
TW: Discussion of Child Abuse.


In recent weeks, there has been an upsurge of articles in the right-wing media in the US of articles proclaiming socialism to be the next disaster looming on the United States. This red scare has been looming for a while now. Trump was elected on an incredibly reactionary ticket in which he blamed all bad things on what passes for the left in the United States. This is part of a greater global trend where we see an increase of right-wing candidates winning elections. According to David Harvey, neoliberalism is quickly losing legitimacy. For this reason, it is becoming necessary for neoliberalism to become ever more violent. Given the rising popularity of social-democrats like Corbyn, Sanders, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez it does ring true that a large section of the working class wants change. Many of those who stand to gain just slightly less under social democracy as opposed to neoliberalism - for they will still be rich beyond measure - seem hell-bent on stopping this threat to their hoarded gold.

This red-scare, so far, contains nothing new. We see the same cries about how socialism will destroy the economy and how socialism is inherently violent. The word socialism is interchangeable in this case with communism, and often used to refer to anything left of Sauron. Of course, capitalism has repeatedly led to crises that threw millions more into economic insecurity. Moreover, the bailouts after the 2008 crisis meant a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich. Various groups of people referred to as socialists have different views of how to organize an economy. Anarchists, for example, envision a completely different economic organization built on very different foundations that social-democrats and neoliberals envision. For a proper response to the claim that socialism will destroy the economy, we need to define what is meant by socialism and what is meant by destroy. Right-wing pundits do neither, for it would open up the possibility of an actual debate. Debate and scaremongering are mutually exclusive.

The same could be said about the argument that socialism implies violence. I became an anarchist because I abhor violence, and many comrades have a similar disdain for violence. Neoliberalism was first instituted by a military dictatorship in Chile which is still remembered for its gruesome disdain for human life. Capitalism itself is built on violence both physical and economic. A proper response to this claim also means we need to clarify what exactly we are talking about.

A third very common part of every red scare has now also popped up on The Epoch Times. If creating fear about economic viability and violence isn't enough, then the traditional family suddenly pops up. This article will cover two things: a critique on the article from The Epoch Times, and an Anarchist view on family structures.

Critique of the Article

The article by The Epoch Times covers a speech provided by Edward Feser at the conservative think-tank The Heritage Foundation. This think-tank is known for its anti-communist stance and support for Donald Trump. The Epoch Times calls Edward Feser an expert, but does not list exactly what his expertise is. They list he is a philosopher, but do not list any reasons why he can authoritatively speak about family, socialism, or the relation between these two concepts. By leaving this intentionally vague, they imply he can legitimately speak about these matters. When one looks further, we see he's merely a philosopher who specializes in religious studies. His main body of work consists of a book trying to prove the existence of god, a Catholic defence of the death penalty, and a refutation of New Atheism as a superstition. Nothing seems to indicate he has done an in-depth study of the broad body of socialist theory, nor of history. He may be an expert on certain religious matters, but he certainly is no expert on family and socialism.

Feser goes on to claim that liberalism has replaced an emphasis on family with an emphasis on the individual. He forgets the 'neo-' in front of liberalism, and does so on purpose. In the United States, the word liberalism has become a synonym of any progressive thought. According to Feser, liberalism means the government will have to take more powers and start instituting social welfare programmes. The conflations of different terms are a mess. He jumps from one to the other vague term in a deliberate attempt to confuse the reader. The argument goes that liberalism implies that government must intervene in the economy and this becomes socialism. Why? Feminism, for some unclear reason. The article leaves the explanation of the cause-and-effect incredibly unclear. Given the recent attacks on feminism from the right-wing, we can only assume the article invites people to fill in these blanks themselves. This is probably done purposefully, in an attempt to allow confirmation bias to take effect. The goal of this article is not to inform, but to create fear and this is done more effectively by tapping into already existing fears.

Later on, Feser begins to claim that the liberals, now called socialists, are calling for big government plans such as Medicare and the New Green Deal. He claims that these, and other welfare schemes, create a reliance on the state instead of on parents. This, he claims, will lead to the decline of the family. What an absurd logic, if you look at it for any longer than a mere moment. According to Feser, the thing that keeps families together is parents fulfilling financial needs for the children. All-in-all, this does not seem like a very sincere argument as he doesn't talk about the ways in which many parents simply cannot pay for many things like an education. Social-democrats generally want the state to step in so that children have better access to the basic necessities of life. This can be a perfectly fine pro-capitalist argument as a well-educated population can create large amounts of value for the capitalist economy. However, as the Democratic majority is talking about higher taxes for the wealthy, it is also an inherently anti-neoliberal stance. It seems Feser is only using the family as a red herring to distract from this greater concern.

An Actual Socialist about Family

Family is an incredibly complicated topic. For some, family is a blessing and the rock on which they stand. Others have suffered from various kinds of abuse at the hands of members of their family. In the United States, almost 700.000 children were abused in 2015. Such abuse usually happens within the family. As such, we should at least have a more critical view of family.

First of all, anarchists have no desire to force families apart or to create dependence on the state. Both are against the core tenets of anarchism. However, we can think about family in new ways. The place of one's relatives has historically always been in flux, and there are countless models. The nuclear family so popular in Germanic cultures is completely alien to many other cultures. For example, care for older members of a family is often seen as naturally part of the duties of children and grand-children. The way we envision family is historically contingent, and will change as history progresses. Moving towards an anarchist society will change the way we conceive of the family in ways we cannot completely understand at this moment. What we must ask is what people are afraid of when they think of the demise of family.

Feser claims to be afraid of everyone becoming subservient to the state, instead of most people being subservient to petty patriarchs. An anarchist society requires a higher level of mutual cooperation than capitalist society does. In neoliberalism, the individual is an atomized entity with few connections to people around hir. In capitalist society, for many people, family may be the only place of reliable - though not necessarily healthy - relations with others. Losing this coherence would, for many, certainly be a bad thing. As such, raising fears about the loss of family as a coherent unit of organisation is indeed a scary proposition. I doubt a well-to-do conservative like Feser fears this, but he can certainly use it to strike fear into others. However, because an anarchist society can only be built on mutual cooperation, people would be primed to build stronger bonds between each other. The family, envisioned to be people who are genetically close, could certainly become less important to some in this sea of potential friendships. Nevertheless, kinship is unlikely to disappear.

There are potential advantages that we can imagine now to such organisation. For example, it is quite likely that children will be more able to build relationships with adults as mentors. These adults are not necessarily parents. At this moment, parents are considered the final authority over their children and outside commentary is generally less than welcome. However, child-rearing could be the duty of an entire community. An example of this is that it is possible that abuse is more easily discovered because of greater social control. In our society, it is far too easy for abusive parents to hide, allowing egregious abuse to continue for months or years with barely any control.


The Epoch Times has shown us a great example of fearmongering. Their article provides little analysis and tries to appeal to existing fears by leveraging confirmation bias. The goal of the article is crystal-clear: to turn people against social-democracy and towards further neoliberal policies. The recent red scare makes one thing very clear, the ruling classes are clearly aware that the world around them is changing. Fewer and fewer people are buying their ideology and they're looking for something new to help them line their pockets. The family is one of the main scarecrows of old, and it has always been a weird one. Socialists have never been out to end family relations. Historically, many socialists of many persuasions have had critiques of certain elements of families as units of organisation. However, kinship in one way or another is likely to always be integral to the human experience. However, bonds between people as we know it now could be but a shadow of what we could have. One thing is sure, neoliberalism is not going to improve family structures but, by atomizing everyone and putting more and more strain on the bonds between humans, is one of the greatest threats to all forms of socialization.

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