The ABCs of Socialism

Fri, Mar 20, 2009

Articles, Class Divisions, Socialism

The ABCs of Socialism

by Susan Rosenthal

Why can’t we have a society that works?

Why can’t we ensure that everyone has good food to eat, that everyone can access health and medical services, that all youngsters get the education they desire, that all seniors retire with security and dignity, that work is safe, that the environment is protected and that our global relations are compassionate and generous?

The answer to all these questions is that we live under CAPITALISM – a global system based on the exploitation of the majority by the minority. And the solution to all these problems is SOCIALISM – a global system based on mass democracy.

Forget everything you ever learned about socialism. It was probably wrong.

Socialism has nothing to do with state control. The governments of the United States and China control a similar proportion of their economies – about 30 percent – and neither nation is socialist.

Both the U.S. and China are capitalist nations with economies based on the private ownership of production. Socialism is based on the collective and democratic control of production.

There are no socialist economies in the world today, no nations where the working-class collectively controls production. Not any – not even close.

Socialism is not possible in one workplace, one city, one state or one nation because only one class can rule. Either the capitalist class imposes its will on society or the working class does.

Any move by workers to take control of production would be fiercely resisted by capitalists determined to maintain their power and privilege. A working-class revolution would have to spread across the globe or be crushed.

Who can we trust?

That people react so negatively to the idea of socialism indicates how deeply capitalism has damaged our connections with one another.

Who is better qualified to meet human needs: the capitalist elite that produces only for profit; or the working people who produce the goods and provide the services we all need?

Who is more cooperative: the bosses who compete for profit; or the workers who must pull together to get the job done?

Humanity has spent the vast majority of its history in cooperative, sharing societies. Class-divisions appeared only about 10,00 years ago.

Modern socialism would differ from primitive socialism in two important ways: it would be organized on a global scale; and it would be based on abundance, not scarcity.

Socialism is not inevitable.

It’s true that capitalism can’t go on forever. However, what comes next depends on what we do.

Either the majority will organize itself to create a socialist alternative, or capitalism will drag us further into barbarism and, ultimately, annihilation.

It’s time that we organized to take back our world.

As Rosa Luxemburg insisted,

Socialism will not and cannot be created by decrees; nor can it be established by any government, however socialist. Socialism must be created by the masses, by every worker. Where the chains of capitalism are forged, there they must be broken. Only that is socialism, and only thus can socialism be created.

See also A Social Definition of Class and “Decide Which Side You’re On”  (Chapter 13 of POWER and Powerlessness)

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4 Comments For This Post

  1. Jim Says:

    it appears we are being set up to destroy ourselves at the hands of the capitalist rulers

  2. Wingnut Says:


    Ok, I’m confused. Don’t we LIKE the rulers (government) because government is “of the people”? And don’t we like capitalists, because they provide the slavery slots (jobs) and the carrot-on-a-string-lure that fends-off the “cost of living” that we made for ourselves with timecarding, invoicing, and price taggings? Isn’t the $22,500/yr “boss” of the little gas station down the street from me… a “capitalist ruler”? He seems like a nice guy to me, and he seems under lots of monetary duress. But he does RULE the pyramid of inequal employees of the gas station… who all make less than he… so he’s running an imperialism/empire. (a little pyramid/hierarchy) Is he evil or good? Is he governing “of the people” or “over the people”? Is he doing “whatever the market will bear” capitalism policies? I wonder where the line between capitalist and government… is at?

  3. Lisa Geiger Says:

    Too bad Marx died before Volume 3 was published. Life is just not fair. Maybe one day it will be.

  4. lisa geiger Says:

    I think the problem, is illustrated on p359 of volume 2, Capital. where Engels declares how he changed/edited calculations on p244 because Marx had used “errors” and “contradictions” in his calculations. Is he sure?

    The derivative related to production, when it is in the unknown state, could be estimated as a range, not one number, therefore it is not arithmetic Marx might have been doing at all, but possibly circuit analysis of the flow of independent capitals, possibly not that independent after all, thus the contradiction, due to how one behaviour of one capital effects the behaviour of another capital.

    As Angels edits Marx calculation on that one page 344 of 602 other pages, which does not include the table of authorities of course, we forget once again the “what if question?”

    What if Marx was right? What if it wasn’t an error? What if the contradiction and what appears to be erroneous sums, is the actual behaviour of captitals in motion.

    Sort of like the error many made in calculating light huh? Light bends, it is not a straight line at all. Thus capital possibly is bending too? Imagine the speed then of decay and growth?

    The question is possibly more important than the answer being right, I would guess.

    So in my opinion conflict often derives from the paradox of unanswered questions.

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