Is socialism possible?

Given the unprecedented economic, political and military power of the U.S. ruling class, it may seem like a pipedream to believe that working people can ever take over.

And yet, there are good reasons to believe the foundations of this colossus may not be that strong.

First, the natural evolution of capitalism, in which the big fish eat up the small fish, has channeled an unbelievable concentration of wealth into the hands of an extremely tiny group. Only 1% of the population now owns just over half of all stocks and bonds and the richest 5% of the population holds 60% of all the wealth in our country.

In reality, there are a few thousand families with hundreds of millions and billions of dollars in assets who control the main banking, finance, manufacturing, extraction, media, communications, transport, aerospace and real estate corporations.

Second, the corporate system which has nowhere been more successful than in our country, has clearly failed to guarantee basic necessities of life - jobs, health care, housing, education - to the workers and people. In fact, the system is in crisis. The Wall Street meltdown, massive unemployment, stagnant wages, fierce repression of unions, endless wars and a growing, life-threatening environmental crisis have led millions of Americans to question the entire system of corporate power.

The corporate ruling class faces an emerging political problem. During the decades of the Cold War, advocacy of socialism was considered off limits and repressed on pretexts of national security and patriotism. But now with no "enemy" to point to, the idea of socialism has re-emerged with a vengeance.

To the surprise of many, the conservative Rasmussen poll found in April, 2009, that only 53% of Americans believe that capitalism is better than socialism. Twenty per cent said socialism was better with the remainder undecided. For Democrats 30% preferred socialism. For young people it was 33% with only 37% preferring capitalism.

This was evidently not a fluke as the following January the Gallup poll found 36% of Americans and 53% of Democrats have a positive attitude toward socialism while 33% have a negative attitude to capitalism and 49% having a negative attitude to big business.

While the terms, socialism and capitalism, were not defined and may well be vague in people's minds, the polls, nonetheless, reflect the fact that tens of millions of Americans see corporate power as the obstacle to progress and the negation of the democratic ideal of government of the people, by the people and for the people. They favor major curbs on corporate power and believe that the government has a responsibility to guarantee jobs and economic security for working people. They would subscribe to the defining slogan of the progressive movement: People Before Profits.

An especially significant factor in the growing challenge to corporate power is the re-emergence of organized labor with militant and class-conscious leadership. This was signaled by the election in 1995 of John Sweeney, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, as president of the AFL-CIO, ending decades of conservative leadership that actively collaborated with Cold War anti-communism and offered scant resistance as the corporations suppressed wages and sent jobs abroad.

Labor now has become the magnet around which a broad and growing coalition of progressive forces has emerged. This has taken organizational form in struggles for jobs, health care reform, the right of workers to form unions, the defense of social security and, especially, elections. In fact, labor was critical to Democratic electoral victories in Congress in 2006 and the 2008 Presidential election.

Third, the unprecedented systemic and emerging political crisis has deepened a long-standing division within the tiny corporate ruling class. The dominant section, based in such industries as oil, finance and military contractors, has moved increasingly to the right and pursues vehemently anti-labor, racist, militarist and anti-democratic policies. The minor section is more liberal believing that preservation of corporate power and profits requires that concessions be made to the working class. The division is reflected in the two main political parties.

It was the alliance between liberal and centrist Democrats, the coalition of progressive forces including labor, the African-American community and youth as well as many independents that enabled Barack Obama to be elected. The right-wing, ousted after 30 years of increasingly extremist rule refuses to accept the result of this election and has resorted to unprecedented disruption aimed at destroying the Obama presidency and breaking up the Obama coalition. They hope racism, anti-immigrant prejudice, threats of violence and anger over the continuing economic crisis can be channeled into Republican votes. They have launched and financed the so-called tea party movement raising the specter of fascism.

Labor and its progressive allies recognize the danger and are mobilizing to defend democratic, civil, economic and social rights from the right-wing threat. Once again the progressive coalition is allied with the Democrats as the only way to defeat the ultra-right. The focal point has become the November midterm elections with the aim of holding the line, minimizing setbacks and, where possible, making gains.

Having held power since 1980, the right-wing is deeply entrenched in all branches of government particularly in military, foreign policy and intelligence circles. It also controls major sections of the media, think-tanks and religious groups. Its power will not be destroyed in a few elections and sessions of Congress. We are in for a protracted battle.

The ramifications of this battle go far beyond electoral and legislative politics. Defeat of the right wing of the U.S. ruling class would be a major, possibly decisive, blow to corporate power and set the stage for far-reaching advances, including the possibility of socialism. In other words, the defeat of the ultra-right is both an immediate political and long-range strategic necessity for the working class and broad sections of the people.

The historical experience of countries that established socialism in the 20th century shows that the working class had first to ally with sections of the capitalist class in order to defeat the most reactionary forces. Only then was it possible to overcome the capitalists as a whole.

The building of a multi-class coalition of democratic forces to defeat the ultra-right is a necessary stage in achieving socialism in our country.

 

 

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  • I think socialism allows for better industry

    Posted by Kostya, 02/24/2012 8:10am (2 years ago)

  • I think that before implementing Socialism we should focus on teaching what it is and the many different socialist schools there are. Like you said in the polls, neither socialism or capitalism were defined. If people are to understand what they are, we must teach. We must give people the tools and materials for them to build their own opinions on this matter. We must continue our fight and make things change. Time is running out...

    Posted by , 01/18/2012 9:50am (3 years ago)

  • What's the rationale for the government workers making twice the rest of us?

    Any clever answers? Any way to defend this oppression?

    Posted by Jeff L., 08/18/2010 6:52pm (4 years ago)

  • > The workers are being taken advantage of.
    > Most workers aren't being paid what they
    > are worth. The working poor are working
    > long hours, paying for the elite lifestyle,
    > making their bosses rich off their labor.

    Whine, whine, whine. Please. Go start your
    own company and bury your competitors'
    oppression. Make a place that people want
    to work and contribute. Stop whining. You
    have the freedom to do so in this country. All
    you have to do is demonstrate that your company
    is the place to work.

    Fact is, working conditions have gotten ever
    better over the past century, particularly
    as competition has increased. Meanwhile,
    labor unions are keeping people from being
    hired by sucking up money with their greed.
    Labor unions have caused the loss of thousands
    of jobs in the auto industry by destroying its
    ability to compete with the rest of the world.

    Whine, whine, whine.

    Posted by Jeff L., 08/18/2010 6:37pm (4 years ago)

  • Chris said:

    > During the Ancient and Feudal eras, people
    > believed that slavery and serfdom were part
    > of “human nature.” Good thing history put an
    > end to those beliefs.

    Good thing, agreed. Capitalism is, at its core, an
    agreement between two people that provides benefit
    to both. Comparing that to slavery (my ancestors
    were slaves) or serfdom is ignorant
    and insulting, and perhaps even racist.

    You probably even agree with the basic premise--
    I'll bet you're a pro-Darwinist, a believer in the "survival of the fittest" notion. I am too.
    (Unless you're one of those deluded Christians
    who thinks that Jesus was a socialist.) Human
    nature => self-interest => self-profit. That will
    never change.

    Most humans are motivated to make a better life for themselves. You hopefully agree with this statement. Where we disagree is the means of doing so. You happen to believe socialism provides a better life--I disagree.

    > 1. Get a job. In the workplace, you’ll find
    > an environment every bit as authoritarian
    > as what you imagine “socialism” to be like.

    How bizarre to think I've not been working. I've been an employee for at least 15 of my 28-year career. Around ~20 years ago, I worked at two positions for government entities (federal and state). I now run a successful consulting business in addition to being employed, something that is a great way to escape the oppression of some companies. However, I've also had great times working for several smaller companies.

    In a free market, I can choose to move from employer to employer. I've had to do so when things soured a couple times. But I've also chosen to earn additional income by writing books and articles. It's a wonderful life of choices that I've been able to make to alter my circumstances. It's not all been perfect, but I've enjoyed the opportunity to help determine my own outcome, as opposed to being forced and oppressed by people of your ilk to live a certain way.

    > Hopefully, you’ll encounter government interference
    > in the form of OSHA regulations that will lessen
    > the chances you’ll get injured at work, and a
    > Labor Relations Board that will protect you in case
    > your fellow capitalist employer tries to rip you off.

    Bullshit. I've encountered incidences before, and was able to resolve them just fine on my own, and in one case through the legal system. No union, OSHA, Labor board, etc. has ever come to my aid, and I managed just fine on my own all these years. I also know of no other person who has benefited from these greedy bureaucracies.

    I am thankful to never have been forced to become a member of a greedy union.

    > 2. Find the place in your city or rural district
    > where the poor ethnic and racial minorities
    > live (as you put it, “the ghetto.”) Go there and
    > talk to them about how capitalism ennobles the
    > human spirit.

    I have. I grew up poor. The reason they doubt
    their own potential is because of the progressive
    dominance in education and Great Mistakes like the Great Society that resigned the poor to a life of dependence on the welfare state.

    > 3. Throw away the Ayn Rand and read
    > some nonfiction for a change.

    Not sure what you're talking about. I read across the political spectrum. I was a leftist as an oppressed youth of the public education system, I moved into conservatism, then libertarianism, and then realized all of it is or becomes corrupt, driven by power-mad and self-righteous moralizers on the left (yourself) and right.

    In other worse, try being open-minded yourself for a change, and understand other people's viewpoints. Unless you're so blinded that you think yours is the only right way to live.

    I enjoy my life. Obviously I will never convince you that my choices are the way you should live, and vice versa.

    Your only path to global socialism would be to force your morals on me through the violence of government.

    Yet I would never wish the same on you. I honestly hope you have the opportunity to enjoy your life in a socialist setting--and I'm not going to even suggest you move to a country where it already exists (which I sometimes do). I am not full of hatred for you or your choices, but only for when you insist I must live by them.

    As mentioned in earlier posts, the beauty of the free market system is that it accommodates socialist collectives. Go build yours, and leave the rest of us out of it. The enmity between your beliefs and ours is necessary. Acting like it's a war is a sick, violent stance.

    Posted by Jeff L., 08/18/2010 6:29pm (4 years ago)

  • During the Ancient and Feudal eras, people believed that slavery and serfdom were part of “human nature.” Good thing history put an end to those beliefs.

    Jeff L., since you posit yourself as a “ capitalist,” (because in your dimension, everyone is a capitalist), I suggest you go out and learn about real-life capitalism following these easy steps:

    1. Get a job. In the workplace, you’ll find an environment every bit as authoritarian as what you imagine “socialism” to be like. Hopefully, you’ll encounter government interference in the form of OSHA regulations that will lessen the chances you’ll get injured at work, and a Labor Relations Board that will protect you in case your fellow capitalist employer tries to rip you off.

    2. Find the place in your city or rural district where the poor ethnic and racial minorities live (as you put it, “the ghetto.”) Go there and talk to them about how capitalism ennobles the human spirit.

    3. Throw away the Ayn Rand and read some nonfiction for a change.

    Posted by chris e., 08/14/2010 5:23pm (4 years ago)

  • On the comment by one of the posters to the effect that socialism goes against human nature: Modern human beings first appeared on earth perhaps 200,000 years ago (having been preceded by a whole series of well developed, but not-quite-modern varieties). Society divided into classes arose perhas 5,000 years ago, maybe a little more. Capitalism as we know it is only a couple of hundreds of years old.

    During the 195,000 years that Homo sapiens existed on earth before the rise of class-divided society, we lived in egalitarian communities without classes, without an exploiter stratum and without money. This is the context in which "human nature" was shaped. We are adapted to such a way of life, not the dog-eat-dog system of capitalism. Through socialism, some day we will understand that we have to return to that kind of life, enriched by modern technological advances.

    Posted by Emile Schepers, 08/14/2010 1:31pm (4 years ago)

  • Immegration is the way our culture grows. But we need A common language to make it work. Please come to ther U.S. and add your portion to the mix. I only ask that you do what my Grand parents and many friends did. Turn in Russian, spanish, or chinease in for english. If my people could learn the latin alphabet, from cyrillic then learn english. Im sure the masses of Spanish speakers could learn to speak English too. They dont have to exchange a writing system like many slavic people do.
    I sometimes think of going to Russia. At least you don't need a translator to go thru the checkout at the store.(providing you speak russian, and increasingly the language of trade english.)
    Again come and add your portion. But learn the nations language English.

    Posted by Vincent P Matson, 08/14/2010 11:38am (4 years ago)

  • > First, the natural evolution of capitalism, in which
    > the big fish eat up the small fish,

    More lies and/or ignorance, Rick. It is not the natural evolution--we witnessed large corporations fail (e.g. Montgomery Wards) in the absence of government manipulation. That's how capitalism works--when you become too big to compete, you fail.

    The problem is the corrupt politicians, particularly the Bush and Obama administrations, who continue to support corporate welfare and bailouts for auto manufacturers who can no longer compete. Witness the bank failures, too--these are corporations whose size was largely due to government control.

    Posted by Jeff L., 08/12/2010 5:35pm (4 years ago)

  • > Today I eagerly and proudly fight against the war,
    > the right to organize unions and against right
    > wing legislation like SB 1070. Will I personally ever
    > see socialism? Not until I retire to Cuba.

    Please. Return to Cuba where it is part of their chosen government. Our Constitution guarantees individual freedoms instead--such as, the right to organize unions. It guarantees a lot more freedoms than in Cuba--such as the ability to criticize the government. Go to Cuba and try to change the oppressions there by speaking out against them. I dare you.

    This is a war? It is. Socialism can only succeed through violence.

    Posted by Jeff L., 08/12/2010 5:19pm (4 years ago)

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