Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Equal Time for Socialism

I'm going to do something completely different (which I love to do), and publish a comment from Stephen, a self-described member of the International Socialist Organization (ISO).  He makes a cogent argument, some of which I even agree with.  Capitalism is not a perfect economic system. 

Hi. I'm a member of the ISO and found your blog. I'd like to make a few comments. ISO's position regarding scarcity/abundance: We believe that there is an abundance of wealth, more than enough than what is necessary to provide everyone on the planet with a decent standard of living, and the potential exists to further expand our productive capacity and output and to increase the efficiency of distribution in order to provide an even higher standard of living with more free time for all. However, capitalism's tendency towards crisis (as we see today) and reliance on exploitation creates a situation of instability and poverty for the majority of people on the planet, while a handful have more wealth than they could ever hope to consume in 1000 lifetimes. One of the bases for the possibility of socialism is abundance. Capitalism has made it possible for the first time in history to meet humanity's needs for food, clothing, and shelter. The problem is that under capitalism all decisions about what to produce and how to produce are subordinated to a simple consideration: how to maximize profits. So long as the economy is organized around this principle, the exploitation of workers, environmental devastation and international economic competition that spills over into military conflict will persist. Capitalism creates artificial scarcity for basic human necessities while pretending that such shortages are natural. The social relations of production under capitalism are a fetter on the productive forces. The capitalists own all the businesses and won't sell or make anything unless they can make a profit off of it. Meanwhile millions go homeless, hungry, and without health care. Despite there being great abundance. What drives our advocacy of a woman's right to choose, is not the supposed overpopulation of the planet, but a woman's right to do with her body whatever she chooses. Regarding the nature of government/the state: Marxists regard the state as the instrument of class rule. It is from class conflict that states/governments arise. Capitalism is a class society. There is a ruling class (capitalists) who have complete domination/a monopoly of economic and political power. And an exploited oppressed class, the working class, who does not own the means of production and have no political power. Whoever own the means of production (capitalists) therefore also commands political and economic power. And both political parties in this system serve the capitalists. Representatives from both parties are all millionaires take lobbyist bribes from big business. The government is the organized violence of a minority (the capitalists) over the majority (the working class). Its the guardian of inequality and protects the capitalists and their system. The police and the military are the bodyguards of the ruling class. The government exists to serve the capitalists. The real question isn't the size of government, its whose side the government is on. And by its actions and the actions of Democrats and Republicans both, we can see its on the side of capitalists. Trillions of dollars in bailouts to Wall St. bankers. Billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to businesses. Tax breaks for the rich. The invasions of other countries for the benefit of energy companies and military contractors.

As Stephen states, "Capitalism has made it possible for the first time in history to meet humanity's needs for food, clothing, and shelter."  This is no small accomplishment.  The problem is that he and his fellow socialists want to destroy this imperfect system and replace it with a system that has NEVER worked any time in human history.  And they want to do this on a global basis.  Can you imagine a Stalin, Mao, Chavez, Pol Pot, or Jung Il as ruler of the entire planet?  The opportunities for corruption and despotism are limitless in a world naively envisioned by people like Stephen.  This is why the Stephens of the world are so dangerous.  They yearn for the perfect world with fair outcomes for everyone.  The outcome in reality is always the exact opposite of their intent.  Socialism inevitably results in two separate classes:  The wealthy all-powerful ruling class and the impoverished proletariat. 

It was the "evil" capitalists who were producing our abundance of fruits and vegetables in the San Jacquin valley.  It was our "benevolent" government that shut off their warter supply and destroyed 12% of our nation's food supply, as well as thousands of livelihoods.  Who do you think has the ultimate power in this country? 

Socialism is the killer of personal freedom, creativity, incentive, and personal wealth.  It results in the death of the human soul.  And for that reason it must be fought with our last free breath.
 
Angel

3 comments:

Stephen said...

Hi Angel. Thanks for reading and posting my comment.

Regarding what you and many other people view as socialism/communism (USSR under Stalin, China, North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, the Eastern Bloc, Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge etc) we in the ISO do not view as socialist. Why? We use a class analysis to get to the bottom of what these societies were/are. When you examine the social/economic relations of these countries you discover that the workers of these countries do not collectively own and control the means of production in these countries. They have no economic or political control. Using that materialist criteria, we correctly deduce that these countries are not socialist. They are socialist in name only. In reality they are class societies, with a ruling class that rules over and exploits the working class. The ruling classes of these societies call themselves socialist to disguise their class rule. In the same way the ruling class here in the US speaks so much about freedom, liberty, democracy etc. These countries we refer to as "state capitalism". They function with the state acting as a capitalist enterprise. A ruling class is in control of society and has total economic and political power. Workers are exploited and oppressed and must sell their labor power to and work for this ruling class for a wage. A country that is state capitalist also is in competition with the other capitalist countries on the planet. Such as the USA and USSR during the cold war, fighting for imperialist division of the planet.

When Marxists analyze things we do so in a dialectical way. We do not take mere appearance or what is said about something/a label taken for granted for reality. Such an empirical analysis can and is often misleading. Instead we analyze the social economic relations to get to the bottom of things. Is the working class of a country in control or not? If not, then it's not socialism. Are the workers separated from owning the means of production themselves and have only the means to sell their labor power to the owners of the means of production in exchange for a wage? If so, that is the tell-tale sign of capitalism. Labor-power being bought and sold as a commodity. This was/is the case in the USA, the USSR under Stalin and later, China, North Korea etc.

We view the Russian Revolution as having failed because revolution in the advanced West (such as Germany) failed and did not come to the aid of Russia. Russia was isolated and attacked by 14 capitalist countries. It was economically devastated by WW1 and the civil war. Socialism could not be built and succeed upon that low devastated economic base. Socialism can only be built upon a high economic base were there is the capacity to produce abundance. When revolution was defeated in the West, the fate of the Russian Revolution was sealed and doomed. It degenerated. As for China, North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam etc, we view them as never having been socialist. The revolutions in these countries were national liberation/anti-colonialist movements. These revolutions weren't socialist since in these countries the working classes were either very small or didn't exist at all. These movements were led by petty bourgeoise intelligensia backed by peasant armies. The working class played no role.

I suppose that's enough for now. I would still like to continue our discussion on capitalism and socialism. And I hope you will continue to have political discussions with your new son-in-law. Hopefully my comments will aid you in your quest for understanding what socialists really believe and why. Let's keep the discussion open. I've found that many (but not all) advocates of capitalism do not want to debate/discuss at length. But again, thanks for posting my comment and I hope we can continue discussion.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I retwit it on my Twiiter
Bob Peters, CA

Col. B. Bunny said...

As all socialists do, Stephen glosses over the problem of how the leaders, managers, or stewards of revolution and socialist economies can be controlled by the "workers." His socialism is nothing but pure democracy with sprinkles and cotton candy. "All" workers "own" everything but which "workers" make the decision to produce shoes and on what basis does a "worker" acquire a pair of shoes? Using wages or dividends? Annual allotment of free pair of shoes?

Economic control for which Stephen yearns means just that, control. Maoist China, the USSR, and North Korea were all about control even if they are or were not "true" socialist systems according to Stephen. They all involved absolute state control over economic planning and pricing decisions which were clearly beyond the competence of human bureaucracies. Penury was the result.

If a "true" worker-controlled economy doesn't involve bureaucracy, how else are prices determined other than by a market system with workers bidding (or voting) for particular products and services? If that's the system, then does "socialism" allow for that system to operate freely or only within certain limits? In the case of the latter (or outright state planning) the inevitable human response is to resort to black markets. No exceptions unless N. Korea has been able to shut down the black market thru its draconian powers.

Socialists ignore that the state is just that, a state with power exercised by a limited subset of the entire population, regardless of what the system is called, whether capitalism or socialism. They ignore human nature as well and, especially, they gloss over the phrase "dictatorship of the proletariat."

In human affairs, someone always gets to be in "the vanguard of the revolution" whether it's your garden variety capitalist revolution involving the creative destruction and creation of economic production (i.e., constant capitalist revolution) or your clumsy political screwing around with the economy and peoples' lives.

Socialists can never point to one example of a country where "true" socialism exists and they never address the problem of guarding the guardians. The U.S. Constitution was the best attempt by humans to deal with the problem of controlling the kings and emperors in our midst. Socialists just pretend that schemers, grifters, sociopaths, psychopaths, misfits, neurotics, deviants, and fools will never gravitate to government as a life unto itself and, I suppose, if they admit such people exist, they rely on other "decent" people who know about human scum to step in and remove them from power. Details to be worked out as we go along.

The day that socialists make the problem of controlling government and preventing oppression is the day I'll start taking people like Stephen seriously. For now, socialism slaughtered upward of 100 million people in the last century and huge numbers of knowledgeable, educated, energetic Western socialists, communists, politicians, statesmen, and professors never said boo about those states not being true socialist regimes. They acknowledged them as socialist day in and day out since 1917 and this idea of Stephen's that socialists don't consider those regimes as truly socialist is preposterous and an after-the-fact concealment of the brutal truth about socialism.