Is this a socialist moment?

Is this a socialist moment? I hear this question when I travel. So here is the answer I usually give when asked at public meetings.

It depends on how we understand a "socialist moment." If it means that the American people in their majority are insisting on a socialism transformation of society, there is little evidence for it.

People are angry and frustrated; they want change; they are ready to struggle for jobs and relief, health care, public education, housing assistance and so on. But are they demanding a system change, a socialist society? Not yet. To say otherwise seems like a stretch to me.

If, however, what is meant is that many more people are ready to give socialism a hearing, not reject it out of hand, then I would say, "Yes, this is a ‘socialist moment'." This is no small thing. It wasn't that long ago that socialism didn't have much currency among broad sections of the American people. It was considered a failed model, undemocratic and worse, a bankrupt idea - something best consigned to history.

In fact, the ideologues of capitalism thought they had buried the socialist idea once and for all, but to their chagrin the genie is once again out of the bottle, thanks in large measure to the conditions buffeting the domestic and world economy. It is not economic determinism to say that force of economic circumstance and the crisis of everyday living for tens of millions is shaping and reshaping mass thinking, although in contradictory ways.

Communists and socialists should welcome the rebirth of this dialogue on socialism and eagerly participate in it.

Like everything else our vision of socialism needs to adjust to new conditions (economic crisis) and challenges (economic and environmental sustainability, nuclear disarmament, world poverty and inequality) as well as examine the experience of socialism in the 20th century.

After all, there are no universal models into which every country fits. The cloth of socialist experience is a beautiful weave of many colors and threads, not a drab monotonous gray. Each country fashions a socialism that bears a deep imprint of its own history, politics, economics and culture.

The experience of successful and unsuccessful socialist revolutions and societies has to be filtered carefully into our national context. In no case can those experiences be uncritically and simplistically imported.

As Gus Hall, the former leader of the Communist Party USA, said on many occasions, "We are for Bill of Rights Socialism," referring to our nation's Bill of Rights, which in his view would be preserved and expanded upon in a socialist society in the United States.

 

 

Post your comment

Comments are moderated. See guidelines here.

Comments

  • You CPUSA left-wing loonies really, really are sad....just move to what's left of your idol, the USSR, and leave this country so conservatives and free-market capitalists can set it right, once again.

    Posted by Frank W., 03/09/2010 10:23pm (4 years ago)

  • Is there some particular reason my comment from yesterday hasn't been posted? Please advise. Thanks.

    Posted by Paul H. Hebner, 02/28/2010 5:48pm (5 years ago)

  • To Dr D. You are a Lithuanian American and have been told about soviet socialism by your elders. With all respect, I am a fourth generation American that sat at the feet of my elders also. America is a country founded on great ideals. But, My great uncles told me about working in the lumber camps of North Carolina where no matter how hard you worked you could never get out of debt to the company store. My grandfather told me about share cropping where even though producing a bumper crop and living on starvation rations of home grown corn meal and wild game you couldn't get out of debt. My grandmother's friend told us about working in a cotton mill where girls as young as ten were molested by the bosses, and trying to organize got you thrown out in the street in winter, homeless and with no food or money. some were even killed. My friend, neither communisn nor capitalism is the utopia that you and I seek. It's about the heart. good men do good things and bad men do bad things. capitalism attracts people who are inclined to greed, self preservation and exploiation of the less powerful. sometimes communism does also,but less so. Communism sides with the poor, the exploited and the powerless. True communism's motives are to level the playing field. sometimes our efforts are taken over by men whose motives are not pure and sometimes good men are weak or stupid but, that is the nature of humanity. Please forgive us and join us in our struggle to make America and the world a better place for all.

    Posted by A cpusa member, 02/15/2010 8:43pm (5 years ago)

  • Despite being a socialist, I find much of Hayek's argument in "The Road to Serfdom" compelling. However, what Hayek was taking issue with were those versions of socialism that advocate some sort of economic planning (whether Soviet-style or decentralized and "democratic"); his critique really has nothing to do with the type of socialism I would like to see implemented, which would be something closely resembling David Schweickart's model of "Economic Democracy," i.e., workplace democracy coupled with a more or less free market. So, under this model, there wouldn't be any economic planners to be chosen; instead, individual businesses would be administered by either directly- or representatively-democratic workers' councils (depending on the size of a firm, the preference of its employees, etc.), with those businesses then competing against one another on the market.

    As far as the argument that such a social change would result in bloodshed, marginalization, and dehumanization, I don't necessarily agree: I think something akin to the civil disobedience practiced by Martin Luther King, Jr., might do the trick just as well as, if not better than, any armed clash or revolution.

    Posted by Chris Myers, 02/15/2010 5:06pm (5 years ago)

  • Socialism is a foreign and incompatible concept in the nation of a free people. Collectivism and individualism are as incompatible as oil with water. Unfortunately, in this "socialist moment" many, including those posting here, have no frame of reference by which to judge the events unfolding. You have been presented with only the INTENTIONS of socialism, without the inevitable results.

    Friedrich Von Hayek in the "Road to Serfdom" pointed out the fatal flaw of collectivist dogma which cannot be re-engineered: For a planned economy to succeed there must be central planners, who by necessity will insist on UNIVERSAL COMMITMENT to their plan. How do you get this total commitment from a free people? Some will always disagree and there will be countless points of contention... How will the planners ("democratic workers' councils") be chosen?...What will be the order of priorities?... How will resources be allocated when competing interests have legitimate claims?... Who will make these decisions?... And, most importantly, how do those decisions get ENFORCED?

    Von Hayek accurately foretold the fate of dissenters and, as he predicted, the socialist vision would not be achieved without BLOODSHED. Though what happens before bloodshed? Currently, ridicule and mockery is used liberally with the hope of self-censorship. How long before opposition is treated as subversion?... before marginalization, dehumanization and failed re-education leads to elimination?

    Think it can't happen in America? What will be utilized after word of mouth, "conversation", marketing and celebrity worship, as is used now, isn't successful? How serious are you about seizing this "socialist moment"???

    Posted by Dr. D, 02/11/2010 1:53pm (5 years ago)

  • I'm a non-affiliated socialist (i.e., not officially a member of any party, though I am ex-SPUSA), so you guys might not really care to hear what I have to say, but I guess I'll say it anyway:

    First of all, I agree just about 100% with the ideas expressed in this article. This is indeed a "socialist moment." For quite some time, I was a Wal-Mart worker, and during my time working for them I had not a few conversations about socialism with many of my co-workers. It may surprise (and encourage!) you to know that even in a setting as "counter-revolutionary" as that, where anti-union, anti-workers' rights propaganda is drilled into employees' heads on almost a daily basis, there were still a lot of people who were open to socialist ideas, especially the Marxist critique of capitalism. The difficult task wasn't convincing them that capitalism is WRONG; it was convincing them that, contrary to what Margaret Thatcher says, there is in fact a workable alternative. All of that to say, basically, that if you want to seize the "socialist moment" being presented to us, that's one practical and often effective way to do it. Keep in mind that it's important to show that the alternative to the Republican party isn't the Democratic party, and that Barack Obama isn't the national savior; instead, the American people need to know that they've got to look beyond both the Democrats and Republicans to self-identified socialist groups.

    That being said, I do disagree with the CPUSA in one particular and important area: I think that you guys should be advocating workers' self-management. From what I've gathered by looking over your positions, it doesn't seem that that's something on your agenda. I don't think that state control of capital, whether authoritarian and centralized or democratic and decentralized, is a good idea. I think Engels really captures the reason that it's such a bad idea: "The modern state, no matter what its form, is essentially a capitalist machine, the state of the capitalists, the ideal personification of the total national capital. The more it proceeds to the taking over of productive forces, the more does it actually become the national capitalist, the more citizens does it exploit. The workers remain wage workers--proletarians." Now, I agree with Sam Webb when he says "there are no universal models into which every country fits. The cloth of socialist experience is a beautiful weave of many colors and threads, not a drab monotonous gray. Each country fashions a socialism that bears a deep imprint of its own history, politics, economics and culture." He's spot-on with that. BUT, IN THIS COUNTRY, I'm convinced that it's a horrible idea to advocate state ownership; what the CPUSA and like groups need to be advocating is WORKER ownership of capital through democratic workers' councils. As I see it, there's a gulf a mile wide between the two, and so long as the CPUSA sticks to advocating state/public ownership of capital, I think that 1.) you're advocating a faulty game-plan and 2.) you're going to scare more people away from socialism than you will attract to it, because it'll conjure up images of the USSR and the Eastern Bloc. However, advocate democratic workers' councils, and I think you'll gain yourself a hearing with a lot of people.

    I'm sorry this was such a long response. Also, I don't aim to fight or anything; I just wanted to bring this matter to your attention and discuss it, if anyone's willing to do so.

    Thanks,
    Chris

    Posted by Chris Myers, 02/10/2010 9:19am (5 years ago)

  • Is bolivarianism an option to bring socialism to the US?
    Can Bolivar be an inspiration force for North America? Can we learn anything from the Venezuelan Revolution?

    Posted by Rojo, 02/05/2010 8:18pm (5 years ago)

  • A short answer is necessary here-and it is-YES.
    This is a socialist moment.
    We call ourselves communists,and given our cruel persecution,prosecution,hunting,hounding,imprisonment,legal lynching,social ostracism,and exclusion, dating at least from our dear Marx,many,even well wishers,question our sanity.
    We work for socialism at all times because we work for public ownership of all capital,by,for and of all labor,for democracy and peace,including labor as "the" natural resource of natural resources of national and international proportions.
    As our W.E.B. Du Bois reminded us,we might consider this African American history Month and 90th year anniversary of our CPUSA that:"These aims are not crimes. They are practised increasingly over the world. No nation can call itself free which does not allow its citizens to work for these ends."

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 02/05/2010 7:23am (5 years ago)

  • American people are not stupid and we don't need seminars about the lie which is socialism. As a Lithuanian American whose parents and grandparents taught family, friends, anyone about the truth of what it means to live under communism and flee their beloved country because of it, I assure you that there are many Americans like them who will continue to inform and teach others. Please remember that Americans are also free to travel abroad and see for themselves the consequences of the lie.

    Indeed, the internet has spawned a revolution, but not quite the one you envision. It has been wonderfully instrumental in exposing the lies of Obama, his administration, government in general, as well as the media. It has inspired and brought together like-minded citizens such as the Tea Party movement and other lovers of individual liberty, free markets, and the Constitution.

    Posted by Dr. D, 01/30/2010 3:59pm (5 years ago)

  • Gary I said what happened to Gus Hall's books. We need to know why this happened. I named it you named it. Where are the explanations? Timing is everything. Webb said it previously and you agreed.

    Posted by waitingfortherighttime, 01/29/2010 7:42pm (5 years ago)

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments