Catholic Social Teaching: Beyond Left and Right

The Dean of the School of Business of Catholic University of America just came out with an article The Socialist Delusion and the Catholic Business Solution. It does a fairly good job of explaining the difference

Wait, wait, You have actually read the entire Compendium? Really? Or are you basing your opinion on someone’s opinion? Just curious.

Another thing. JPII proposing government control over means of production? You gotta show me where you’ve found that.

Yes I’ve read the Compendium. I just finished it the other day. It’s only like 250 pages.

I’ll find the quotes. For the record he said socialized, not just government control. And of certain means of production, not a whole socialization of the means of production. You stated a straw man, unfortunately.

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Furthermore, in the Church’s teaching, ownership has never been understood in a way that could constitute grounds for social conflict in labour. As mentioned above, property is acquired first of all through work in order that it may serve work. This concerns in a special way ownership of the means of production. Isolating these means as a separate property in order to set it up in the form of “capital” in opposition to “labour”-and even to practise exploitation of labour-is contrary to the very nature of these means and their possession. They cannot be possessed against labour, they cannot even be possessed for possession’s sake, because the only legitimate title to their possession- whether in the form of private ownerhip or in the form of public or collective ownership-is that they should serve labour, and thus, by serving labour, that they should make possible the achievement of the first principle of this order, namely, the universal destination of goods and the right to common use of them. From this point of view, therefore, in consideration of human labour and of common access to the goods meant for man, one cannot exclude the socialization, in suitable conditions, of certain means of production. In the course of the decades since the publication of the Encyclical Rerum Novarum, the Church’s teaching has always recalled all these principles, going back to the arguments formulated in a much older tradition, for example, the well-known arguments of the Summa Theologiae of Saint Thomas Aquinas.

You are right. I failed to grasp the concept of socialized control of production. I checked a few web sites for a definition. Here is one from Engels.

“The society that will organize production on the basis of a free and equal association of the producers will put the whole machinery of state where it will then belong: into the Museum of Antiquities, by the side of the spinning wheel and the bronze axe.” [Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State ]

Here is another definition, in no particular order -

Socialization of the Means of Production

in the transitional period from capitalism to socialism, the revolutionary transformation of private capitalist property in the means of production into socialist public property. A new type of social production is organized to ensure, in a planned way, an ever-higher standard of living and the comprehensive and free development of all members of society.

I am not sure if this is what JPII had in mind, hence my request for a quote from him in this.

No problem. It can get confusing with certain terminology. To me, what he meant is more in line with mutualist thought, or even certain forms of libertarian socialism, as opposed to the Marxist form. Church teaching still supports private ownership of the means of production and a free market, of course.

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A little bit of historical context to JPII’s attitude toward work. At the time of the writing of his encyclical, Poland was in the process of emerging from under 50 years of communist rule, where all production was “socialized”, ie state controlled. Since all socialist countries claimed that they were governed by the people, it was the people who owned the means of production. (see surrent situation in exisitng communist states, such as Cuba, etc.)
Back to Poland, the actual workers were attempting at that time to establish labor unions that were independent from the puppet labor unions that were government controlled. The was an effort to wrestle control of the work place away from the corrupt communist bosses and give the workers a negotiating tool. I suspect that JPII’s comments on socialized control of production had something to do with the struggle of the Polish workers in the 1980’s to overthrow the actual socialized control of production based on the marxist model as it then existed in Poland.

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