Tag Archives: Socialism

Helen Keller: Oh blind vanity of slaves!

helen-keller-blind-soldier-socialist-isolationist-pacifist-sedition“It is in your power to refuse to carry the artillery … You do not need to make a great noise about it. With the silence and dignity of creators you can end wars and the system of selfishness and exploitation that causes wars. All you need to do to bring about this stupendous revolution is to straighten up and fold your arms.”

Strike Against War

To begin with, I have a word to say to my good friends, the editors, and others who are moved to pity me. Some people are grieved because they imagine I am in the hands of unscrupulous persons who lead me astray and persuade me to espouse unpopular causes and make me the mouthpiece of their propaganda. Now, let it be understood once and for all that I do not want their pity; I would not change places with one of them. I know what I am talking about. My sources of information are as good and reliable as anybody else’s. I have papers and magazines from England, France, Germany and Austria that I can read myself. Not all the editors I have met can do that. Quite a number of them have to take their French and German second hand. No, I will not disparage the editors. They are an overworked, misunderstood class. Let them remember, though, that if I cannot see the fire at the end of their cigarettes, neither can they thread a needle in the dark. All I ask, gentlemen, is a fair field and no favor. I have entered the fight against preparedness and against the economic system under which we live. It is to be a fight to the finish, and I ask no quarter.

The future of the world rests in the hands of America. The future of America rests on the backs of 80,000,000 working men and women and their children. We are facing a grave crisis in our national life. The few who profit from the labor of the masses want to organize the workers into an army which will protect the interests of the capitalists. You are urged to add to the heavy burdens you already bear, the burden of a larger army and many additional warships. It is in your power to refuse to carry the artillery and the dread-noughts and to shake off some of the burdens, too, such as limousines, steam yachts and country estates. You do not need to make a great noise about it. With the silence and dignity of creators you can end wars and the system of selfishness and exploitation that causes wars. All you need to do to bring about this stupendous revolution is to straighten up and fold your arms.

We are not preparing to defend our country. Even if we were as helpless as Congressman Gardner says we are, we have no enemies foolhardy enough to attempt to invade the United States. The talk about attack from Germany and Japan is absurd. Germany has its hands full and will be busy with its own affairs for some generations after the European war is over.

With full control of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, the allies failed to land enough men to defeat the Turks at Gallipoli; and then they failed again to land an army at Salonica in time to check the Bulgarian invasion of Serbia. The conquest of America by water is a nightmare confined exclusively to ignorant persons and members of the Navy League.

Yet, everywhere, we hear fear advanced as argument for armament. It reminds me of a fable I read. A certain man found a horseshoe. His neighbor began to weep and wail because, as he justly pointed out, the man who found the horseshoe might someday find a horse. Having found the shoe, he might shoe him. The neighbor’s child might some day go so near the horse’s heels as to be kicked, and die. Undoubtedly the two families would quarrel and fight, and several valuable lives would be lost through the finding of the horseshoe. You know the last war we had we quite accidentally picked up some islands in the Pacific Ocean which may some day be the cause of a quarrel between ourselves and Japan. I’d rather drop those islands right now and forget about them than go to war to keep them. Wouldn’t you?

Congress is not preparing to defend the people of the United States. It is planning to protect the capital of American speculators and investors in Mexico, South America, China, and the Philippine Islands. Incidentally this preparation will benefit the manufacturers of munitions and war machines.

Until recently there were uses in the United States for the money taken from the workers. But American labor is exploited almost to the limit now, and our national resources have all been appropriated. Still the profits keep piling up new capital. Our flourishing industry in implements of murder is filling the vaults of New York’s banks with gold. And a dollar that is not being used to make a slave of some human being is not fulfilling its purpose in the capitalistic scheme. That dollar must be invested in South America, Mexico, China, or the Philippines.

It was no accident that the Navy League came into prominence at the same time that the National City Bank of New York established a branch in Buenos Aires. It is not a mere coincidence that six business associates of J.P. Morgan are officials of defense leagues. And chance did not dictate that Mayor Mitchel should appoint to his Committee of Safety a thousand men that represent a fifth of the wealth of the United States. These men want their foreign investments protected.

Every modern war has had its root in exploitation. The Civil War was fought to decide whether the slaveholders of the South or the capitalists of the North should exploit the West. The Spanish-American War decided that the United States should exploit Cuba and the Philippines. The South African War decided that the British should exploit the diamond mines. The Russo-Japanese War decided that Japan should exploit Korea. The present war is to decide who shall exploit the Balkans, Turkey, Persia, Egypt, India, China, Africa. And we are whetting our sword to scare the victors into sharing the spoils with us. Now, the workers are not interested in the spoils; they will not get any of them anyway.

The preparedness propagandists have still another object, and a very important one. They want to give the people something to think about besides their own unhappy condition. They know the cost of living is high, wages are low, employment is uncertain and will be much more so when the European call for munitions stops. No matter how hard and incessantly the people work, they often cannot afford the comforts of life; many cannot obtain the necessities.

Every few days we are given a new war scare to lend realism to their propaganda. They have had us on the verge of war over the Lusitania, the Gulflight, the Ancona, and now they want the workingmen to become excited over the sinking of the Persia. The workingman has no interest in any of these ships. The Germans might sink every vessel on the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, and kill Americans with every one–the American workingman would still have no reason to go to war.

All the machinery of the system has been set in motion. Above the complaint and din of the protest from the workers is heard the voice of authority.

“Friends,” it says, “fellow workmen, patriots; your country is in danger! There are foes on all sides of us. There is nothing between us and our enemies except the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. Look at what has happened to Belgium. Consider the fate of Serbia. Will you murmur about low wages when your country, your very liberties, are in jeopardy? What are the miseries you endure compared to the humiliation of having a victorious German army sail up the East River? Quit your whining, get busy and prepare to defend your firesides and your flag. Get an army, get a navy; be ready to meet the invaders like the loyal-hearted freemen you are.”

Will the workers walk into this trap? Will they be fooled again? I am afraid so. The people have always been amenable to oratory of this sort. The workers know they have no enemies except their masters. They know that their citizenship papers are no warrant for the safety of themselves or their wives and children. They know that honest sweat, persistent toil and years of struggle bring them nothing worth holding on to, worth fighting for. Yet, deep down in their foolish hearts they believe they have a country. Oh blind vanity of slaves!

The clever ones, up in the high places know how childish and silly the workers are. They know that if the government dresses them up in khaki and gives them a rifle and starts them off with a brass band and waving banners, they will go forth to fight valiantly for their own enemies. They are taught that brave men die for their country’s honor. What a price to pay for an abstraction–the lives of millions of young men; other millions crippled and blinded for life; existence made hideous for still more millions of human being; the achievement and inheritance of generations swept away in a moment–and nobody better off for all the misery! This terrible sacrifice would be comprehensible if the thing you die for and call country fed, clothed, housed and warmed you, educated and cherished your children. I thinkthe workers are the most unselfish of the children of men; they toil and live and die for other people’s country, other people’s sentiments, other people’s liberties and other people’s happiness! The workers have no liberties of their own; they are not free when they are compelled to work twelve or ten or eight hours a day. they are not free when they are ill paid for their exhausting toil. They are not free when their children must labor in mines, mills and factories or starve, and when their women may be driven by poverty to lives of shame. They are not free when they are clubbed and imprisoned because they go on strike for a raise of wages and for the elemental justice that is their right as human beings.

We are not free unless the men who frame and execute the laws represent the interests of the lives of the people and no other interest. The ballot does not make a free man out of a wage slave. there has never existed a truly free and democratic nation in the world. From time immemorial men have followed with blind loyalty the strong men who had the power of money and of armies. Even while battlefields were piled high with their own dead they have tilled the lands of the rulers and have been robbed of the fruits of their labor. They have built palaces and pyramids, temples and cathedrals that held no real shrine of liberty.

As civilization has grown more complex the workers have become more and more enslaved, until today they are little more than parts of the machines they operate. Daily they face the dangers of railroad, bridge, skyscraper, freight train, stokehold, stockyard, lumber raft and min. Panting and training at the docks, on the railroads and underground and on the seas, they move the traffic and pass from land to land the precious commodities that make it possible for us to live. And what is their reward? A scanty wage, often poverty, rents, taxes, tributes and war indemnities.

The kind of preparedness the workers want is reorganization and reconstruction of their whole life, such as has never been attempted by statesmen or governments. The Germans found out years ago that they could not raise good soldiers in the slums so they abolished the slums. They saw to it that all the people had at least a few of the essentials of civilization–decent lodging, clean streets, wholesome if scanty food, proper medical care and proper safeguards for the workers in their occupations. That is only a small part of what should be done, but what wonders that one step toward the right sort of preparedness has wrought for Germany! For eighteen months it has kept itself free from invasion while carrying on an extended war of conquest, and its armies are still pressing on with unabated vigor. It is your business to force these reforms on the Administration. Let there be no more talk about what a government can or cannot do. All these things have been done by all the belligerent nations in the hurly-burly of war. Every fundamental industry has been managed better by the governments than by private corporations.

It is your duty to insist upon still more radical measure. It is your business to see that no child is employed in an industrial establishment or mine or store, and that no worker in needlessly exposed to accident or disease. It is your business to make them give you clean cities, free from smoke, dirt and congestion. It is your business to make them pay you a living wage. It is your business to see that this kind of preparedness is carried into every department on the nation, until everyone has a chance to be well born, well nourished, rightly educated, intelligent and serviceable to the country at all times.

Strike against all ordinances and laws and institutions that continue the slaughter of peace and the butcheries of war. Srike against war, for without you no battles can be fought. Strike against manufacturing shrapnel and gas bombs and all other tools of murder. Strike against preparedness that means death and misery to millions of human being. Be not dumb, obedient slaves in an army of destruction. Be heroes in an army of construction.

-Helen Keller at Carnegie Hall, Strike Against War, New York City, January 5, 1916

Eugene V. Debs “When I shall fight”

Eugene DebsI am not opposed to all war, nor am I opposed to fighting under all circumstances, and any declaration to the contrary would disqualify me as a revolutionist. When I say I am opposed to war I mean ruling class war, for the ruling class is the only class that makes war. It matters not to me whether this war be offensive or defensive, or what other lying excuse may be invented for it, I am opposed to it, and I would be shot for treason before I would enter such a war.

Capitalists’ wars for capitalist conquest and capitalist plunder must be fought by the capitalists themselves so far as I am concerned, and upon that question there can be no compromise and no misunderstanding as to my position. I have no country to fight for; my country is the earth; I am a citizen of the world. I would not violate my principles for God, much less for a crazy kaiser, a savage czar, a degenerate king, or a gang of pot-bellied parasites.

But while I have not a drop of blood to shed for the oppressors of the working class and the robbers of the poor, the thieves and looters, the brigands and murderers whose debauched misrule is the crime of the ages, I have a heart-full to shed for their victims when it shall be needed in the war for their liberation.

I am not a capitalist soldier; I am a proletarian revolutionist. I do not belong to the regular army of the plutocracy, but to the irregular army of the people. I refuse to obey any command to fight from the ruling class, but I will not wait to be commanded to fight for the working class. I am opposed to every war but one; I am for the war with heart and soul, and that is the world-wide war of social revolution. In that war I am prepared to fight in any way the ruling class may make necessary, even to the barricades.

There is where I stand and where I believe the Socialist Party stands, or ought to stand, on the question of war.

— Eugene V. Debs, When I Shall Fight – Appeal to Reason
(September 11, 1915)

Eugene Debs about Jesus Christ

debs5.jpg
The great American socialist Eugene Debs had this to say about Jesus Christ and those who would convince others that Christ was a turn the other cheek, milquetoast pacifist.

‘I told my friends of the cloth that I did not believe Christ was meek and lowly but a real living, vital agitator who went into the temple with a lash and a krout and whipped the oppressors of the poor, routed them out of the doors and spilled their blood and got silver on the floor. He told the robbed and misruled and exploited and driven people to disobey their plunderers, he denounced the profiteers, and it was for this that they nailed his quivering body to the cross and spiked it to the gates of Jerusalem, not because he told them to love one another. That was harmless doctrine. But when he touched their profits and denounced them before their people he was marked for crucifixion.

(Eugene Debs,Speaking to a reporter for Call from his prison cell in 1919 while serving time for making anti-war speeches.)

Contrast this image of Jesus to the one that many in the so-called Christian ‘Peace community’ try to sell us on. Here, we have Jesus, The Living as a revolutionary, not some sort of dead, worshipped saint. We have a model to try to follow that is totally different than the one that is given to us so often.

Jesus the Dead, or Jesus the Living? You choose.

Anarchism as applied to washing dishes

WASH YOUR OWN DISHES via CrimethInc

CAPITALISM
You wash the dishes, the ones who own them profit.
 
ANARCHISM
We all share in the dishwashing.

DEMOCRACY
Even as a dishwasher, you deserve a say in which politician is best suited to protect the economy that keeps you in the kitchen.

NATIONALISM
Forget about those dishes for a second — you’re a citizen of the proudest hation on earth!

LIBERTARIANISM
You wash the dishes, the owner profits even more.

FASCISM
The Mexicans who washed the dishes are deported, the Jews who owned the place are imprisoned, and everyone else is conscripted for military service.

UNEMPLOYMENT
The only thing worse than being trapped in a dish room is being trapped outside one.

NEO-LIBERALISM (AKA “Free Trade”)
The dishes are shipped overseas to be washed and you’re free to develop your own combination of Unemployment and Nationalism

REFORM
Smaller stack, warmer water, longer breaks –same dishes!

SOCIALISM
Dishwashers’ wages increase just enough to afford higher takes

COMMUNISM
From each according to his means, to each according to his need –as determined outside the dish room.

MARXISM
Between shifts, the dishwasher studies the intricacies of dialectical materialism. It turns out that thanks to his efforts, the dirty dishes have been accumulating value for his boss to invest in more dishes. The stuff about the dictatorship of the proletariat is more perplexing, but the party theorists reassure him that it makes perfect sense to them. Under their direction, he joins his fellow dishwashers in a risky coup d’etat. Afterwards, he is distraught to find himself still in the kitchen, washing dishes for the party bureaucrats. The bureaucrats reassure him that they will eventually wither away.

SYNDICALISM
The dishwashers join labor syndicates that send representatives to a council, at which it is decided which dishes are to be washed and when.

ANARCHA-FEMINISM
You wash the dishes for the boss — who washes the dishes at home?

ANARCHO-PRIMITIVISM
Down with dishes!

ANARCHO-PUNK
Down with washing!

INSURRECTIONARY ANARCHISM
A quixotic attempt to distill a political theory from the practice of smashing dishes.

-Crimethinc

An American Socialism?

In the current housing bankruptcy “crisis” which was in fact created by the privately owned Fed through interest rates that reached 1% in 2003 combined with lax oversight of the banks, the bail out now being talked about in Congress will help… no surprise… the banks by and large. It is meant to deceive the public again by using words such as “helping” the homeowners, or “saving” peoples homes. NOTE: When you save a mortgage you save the bank’s payments by insuring they keep coming in. Besides the fact that people don’t own their homes, the banks do!

Regardless, in a socialist system this kind of gross manipulation would never have happened in the first place. And the half honest sensible solution by these charlatans in Congress should be to refi these homes to these homebuyers at the new lesser value. Because the value is lost anyway. And these homes were wildly overvalued by an out of control speculatory financial cabal. Besides, the bundled debt obligations and structured investment vehicles are worthless. Adding misery, the value of these homes will keep crashing. The rub? The banks and Investors made millions off these paper schemes and walked away… and probably paid little or no taxes. And now, the home buyers who were preyed upon by these lenders, owe money on a devalued home that was used only as a commodity by the “gentlemen” on Wall St. to manipulate, through the creation of CDO’s and SIVs? Sure! That’s capitalism. Systemic political and corporate corruption. And it’s going to get worse.

Congress desperately needs this property tax, interest payment, revenue stream to keep flowing to the banks and the states. But the reason this is a problem for Congress of “what is the best poison” to cure this, is that to bail out the home buyer who got screwed, is using tax money to keep receiving tax money. It’s double taxation!! And a zero sum game… besides rewarding the crooks. More deficit spending. But the Fed doesn’t care about homeowners and thusly told Congress as much by introducing Paulson’s new scheme to have the Fed take over the duties of the SEC and oversight of the big investment banks and their financial debauchery and chicanery. To keep the graft and secret deals going. The “dark trades” as they’re called. And spineless Congress cannot protest. They are owned by the Fed. In fact they are linked in responsibility by their repealing of the Glass-Steagall act with Greenspan’s urging (which Clinton didn’t veto) and attaching the Commodities Reauthorization Act attached to an appropriations bill in 2000. Ahhh the rewards for the capitalist elite are sweet indeed. No accountability, no worries, no chance of getting the blame. The yellow press at their beckon call.

Socialism would put all properties under the ownership of the people with all rents going to the citizens public fund and distributed to each social association for necessary services, loans, needs. There is no reason for housing or land to have any kind of increased value over the years. NONE. Ask yourself why your car then, doesn’t appreciate in value? Or your furniture? Real estate has been another way to oppress and exploit people by putting them into massive debt and making them pay banks twice the value of the home over the term of the loan. Besides the fleecing by the middlemen realtors and speculators using homes as commodities,(thus the current death spiral in housing). Have you ever looked at your amortization schedule? On a fixed rate 30 year loan? You pay twice or more of purchase price, if you paid off your loan! And you’re paying the bank first. We are insane for agreeing to this but that’s why the banks are the most powerful sector of capitalism. Which include the privately owned Federal Reserve. Oh you say, I made thousands when the market was good! No, you made the banks richer and more powerful by putting the next person into new debt for 30 years at 1 1/2 to 2 times the mortgage payment. Now your house increasing in value, puts upward pricing pressure on all homes and finally drives them out of reach of buyers. Thus the 1% housing bubble. For every person who “wins” in the capitalist system, 8 people lose (and those who depend on them). Otherwise you wouldn’t have a system where 10% of the population own 85% of the household wealth and property. The trick is to keep you thinking you’re winning when you’re really just up to your neck in debt in this American Casino Land.

Capitalism is a constant barrage of fairy tales and propaganda aimed at deluding the masses into believing there is no other way a social/economic system can be run. And that to be rich (or at least have the opportunity-possibility to be) is the ultimate goal because that is the genuine expression of self freedom and self worth! Or the lie that mercantilism and worker owned production could not work alone… without the corporate structure or Wall St. But the facts on the ground show us the truth, that capitalism is a fascist system designed to concentrate wealth at the top, steal our productive gains, and by doing so, makes those at the top the most powerful, privileged members of a society. It’s Monarchical. A plutocracy. Oligarchs rule. Fascism! Congress, the court system and state/city regulatory systems are subservient in every way to maintaining the fascist construct. Question: Ever taken part in an organization by volunteering to help change one of the many injustices in this country? You know what I’m talking about then. Wall after wall after obstacle after pot hole after bought off politician …all lined up to trip you, slip you and flip you upside down. New rules to increase petition signatures required for public ballots. Electronic vote stealing and manipulation. Redistricting. Third parties crushed. City council and board meetings held during weekdays. Hundreds of fees and licenses required to run business. Lobbyists at every turn. Zoning codes that dis-allow creative housing solutions and energy use. State insurance commissions. Mineral rights sold for pennies on the dollar… On and on and on… Unless of course your organization/church is involved in taking up the slack for capitalisms failures… then you’re a Mother Theresa! What’s that saying? “I work to feed the poor, they call me a saint. I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”

Many people I talk to, on all fronts, are frustrated. And many realize that it is the corporate structure, their power to manipulate policy, to move jobs overseas, encourage wars, and the massive deregulated profit taking and currency manipulation that is at the center core of this American milieu. Besides the fact that no one I talk to has make a thin dime or dollar on Wall St. But the thing I keep running into are differences on how to solve the problem without changing the system drastically. A hypothesis that can be presented is that there is much delusion and neurosis in this land. The idea that we can somehow keep the system we have and make it work for the masses of productive working people, is the delusion as repeatedly, the corrupt one party system consistently proves otherwise. The neurosis is contained within this same idea that is the crux of the delusion. Knowing that something needs to change drastically and on the other hand knowing (by experience or observation) that it is irrational and impossible within the corrupt fascist matrix that will not allow drastic change that is needed. This creates neurosis. The constant tension of this negative psychic entrapment, is energy that has to be released and is finally. Usually negatively in some way. But it could be positive and productive IF there were a real alternative to work toward. Democratic socialism.

Socialists are realists. They are objective creative intelligent humanitarians who know that this delusion and neurosis is not healthy and requires a clean break from the causation. Often I am scoffed at by others for this view. Where? Where would – could this happen? I think that if it’s possible anywhere it would be in a state that seceded from the nation. Vermont’s trying and testing the water. Though even then, there would be no consensus for a socialist form of citizen led, decentralized government. No, until the public is re-educated as to the true intent and purpose of democratic socialism and its platform, and can be persuaded that exploitation of man by man is unacceptable, they will forever bicker and fight among themselves, as children who fight for a place in the lunch line or over possessions. Seemingly without the skills to reassess, re-strategise, and break away from the malignancy present all around us. Socialism takes a deep commitment and concentration to assess the situation on the ground (objectivism) and rationalize, then actualize the alternatives that will then benefit the real producers of capital (us) and replace the owners of the means of production and pushers of propaganda. It’s time to consider socialism as the correct answer to our dilemma.

Marx and Steinbeck

Steinbeck Grapes of WrathKarl Marx died today in 1883. Though I consider communism to be largely a failed experiment, I do agree with many of Marx’ tenets. Here is the opening paragraph of The Communist Manifesto:

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.

Today in 1939, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath was published. The following passage typifies the message of the book which made Steinbeck and his novel a capitalist-socialist battleground.

One man, one family driven from the land; this rusty car creaking along the highway to the west. I lost my land, a single tractor took my land. I am alone and I am bewildered. And in the night one family camps in a ditch and another family pulls in and the tents come out. The two men squat on their hams and the women and children listen. Here is the node, you who hate change and fear revolution. Keep these two squatting men apart; make them hate, fear, suspect each other…

When word of the book burnings, bannings, denouncements and death threats reached Congress, an Oklahoma representative rose up to “say to you, and to every honest, square-minded reader in America, that the painting Steinbeck made in this book is a lie, a black, infernal creation of a twisted, distorted mind.”

I don’t know if it makes me feel better or worse to know that truth that threatens the status quo has always been suppressed, and its proponents ever maligned. But remember that those on the fringe are the ones whose positions provoke a rethinking of assumptions, who spark epiphanies and change the course of human history. In the immortal words of another rabble rouser, Henry David Thoreau, Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine. Yes, let’s!

The falsity of Stalinist “Socialism”

Socialism does not equal tyranny, unlike the claims and demagoguery of the capitalists. A true democratic Socialism and fair market system is a natural course for human society. It is free of predatory and parasitic capitalist schemes to dominate and exploit everyone and everything. It is decentralization of power distributed to citizens, as opposed to the fascist model that benefits from centralization and concentration of power. It can disperse wealth and enrich citizens if they can be de-programmed of their false worship and idolization of wealth as success and exploitation as the norm.

And it doesn’t have to be an exact model of Marx or Engels or Trotsky or Lenin. But it should include the takeover of production from the fascists with community worker councils in control. And the shift away from enslavement of the worlds workers by the bankers and through globalisation. And control of currency back to the citizens. The capitalists are middlemen who get in our way of a just fair society that we have the ability to create. It is they who have created all of the false propaganda about Socialism. They who choke by way of embargoes, sanctions, and political disruption, any countries attempt toward a just socialist society. Their domination as a minority over the majority cannot and should not stand any longer.

Here’s a good read. Dated but still valid. Enjoy. Also enjoy the many thorough and insightful articles on www.wsws.org

Socialism and Democracy
James P. Cannon gave the following talk to a meeting at the Socialist Workers Party’s West Coast Vacation School, September 1, 1957. It was first published in the Fall 1957 International Socialist Review.

Comrades, I am glad to be here with you today, and to accept your invitation to speak on socialism and democracy. Before we can make real headway in the discussion of other important parts of the program, we have to find agreement on what we mean by socialism and what we mean by democracy, and how they are related to each other, and what we are going to say to the American workers about them.

Strange as it may seem, an agreement on these two simple, elementary points, as experience has already demonstrated, will not be arrived at easily. The confusion and demoralization created by Stalinism, and the successful exploitation of this confusion by the ruling capitalists of this country and all their agents and apologists, still hang heavily over all sections of the workers’ movement.

Shakespeare’s Mark Antony reminded us that evil quite often outlives its authors. That is true in the present case also. Stalin is dead; but the crippling influence of Stalinism on the minds of a whole generation of people who considered themselves socialists or communists lives after Stalin.

Now, of course, the Stalinists and their apologists have not created all the confusion in this country about the meaning of socialism, at least not directly. At every step the Stalinist work of befuddlement and demoralization, of debasing words into their opposite meanings, has been supported by reciprocal action of the same kind by the ruling capitalists and their apologists. They have never failed to take the Stalinists at their word, and to point to the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union, with all of its horrors, and to say: “That is socialism. The American way of life is better.”

They have cynically accepted the Stalinist definition and have obligingly advertised the Soviet Union, with its grinding poverty and glaring inequality, with its ubiquitous police terror, frame-ups, mass murders and slave-labour camps, as a “socialist” order of society. They have utilized the crimes of Stalinism to prejudice the American workers against the very name of socialism. And worst of all, comrades, we have to recognise that this campaign has been widely successful, and that we have to pay for it. We cannot build a strong socialist movement in this country until we overcome this confusion in the minds of the American workers about the real meaning of socialism.

After all that has happened in the past quarter of a century, the American workers have become more acutely sensitive than ever before to the value and importance of democratic rights. That, in my opinion, is the progressive side of their reaction, which we should fully share. The horrors of fascism, as they were revealed in the ’30s, and which were never dreamed of by the socialists in the old days, and the no less monstrous crimes of Stalinism, which became public knowledge later—all this has inspired a fear and hatred of any kind of dictatorship in the minds of the American working class. And to the extent that the Stalinist dictatorship in Russia has been identified with the name of socialism, and that this identification has been taken as a matter of course, the American workers have been prejudiced against socialism. That’s the bitter truth, and it must be looked straight in the face.

The socialist movement in America will not advance again significantly until it regains the initiative and takes the offensive against capitalism and all its agents in the labour movement precisely on the issue of democracy.

The authentic socialist movement, as it was conceived by its founders and as it has developed over the past century, has been the most democratic movement in all history. No formulation of this question can improve on the classic statement of the Communist Manifesto, with which modern scientific socialism was proclaimed to the world in 1848. The Communist Manifesto said:

““All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority.”

The authors of the Communist Manifesto linked socialism and democracy together as end and means. The “self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority” cannot be anything else but democratic, if we understand by “democracy” the rule of the people, the majority. The Stalinist claim—that the task of reconstructing society on a socialist basis can be farmed out to a privileged and uncontrolled bureaucracy, while the workers remain without voice or vote in the process—is just as foreign to the thoughts of Marx and Engels, and of all their true disciples, as the reformist idea that socialism can be handed down to the workers by degrees by the capitalists who exploit them.

All such fantastic conceptions were answered in advance by the reiterated statement of Marx and Engels that “the emancipation of the working class is the task of the workers themselves.” That is the language of Marx and Engels—“the task of the workers themselves”. That was just another way of saying—as they said explicitly many times—that the socialist reorganization of society requires a workers’ revolution. Such a revolution is unthinkable without the active participation of the majority of the working class, which is itself the big majority of the population. Nothing could be more democratic than that.

Moreover, the great teachers did not limit the democratic action of the working class to the overthrow of bourgeois supremacy. They defined democracy as the form of governmental rule in the transition period between capitalism and socialism. It is explicitly stated in the Communist Manifesto—and I wonder how many people have forgotten this in recent years—“The first step”, said the Manifesto, “in the revolution by the working class, is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, to win the battle of democracy.”

That is the way Marx and Engels formulated the first aim of the revolution—to make the workers the ruling class, to establish democracy, which, in their view, is the same thing. From this precise formulation it is clear that Marx and Engels did not consider the limited, formal democracy under capitalism, which screens the exploitation and the rule of the great majority by the few, as real democracy.

They never taught that the simple nationalization of the forces of production signified the establishment of socialism. That’s not stated by Marx and Engels anywhere. Nationalization only lays the economic foundations for the transition to socialism. Still less could they have sanctioned, even if they had been able to imagine, the monstrous idea that socialism could be realized without freedom and without equality; that nationalized production and planned economy, controlled by a ruthless police dictatorship, complete with prisons, torture chambers and forced-labour camps, could be designated as a “socialist” society. That unspeakable perversion and contradiction of terms belongs to the Stalinists and their apologists.

All the great Marxists defined socialism as a classless society—with abundance, freedom and equality for all; a society in which there would be no state, not even a democratic workers’ state, to say nothing of a state in the monstrous form of a bureaucratic dictatorship of a privileged minority.

The Soviet Union today is a transitional order of society, in which the bureaucratic dictatorship of a privileged minority, far from serving as the agency to bridge the transition to socialism, stands as an obstacle to harmonious development in that direction. In the view of Marx and Engels, and of Lenin and Trotsky who came after them, the transition from capitalism to the classless society of socialism could only be carried out by an ever-expanding democracy, involving the masses of the workers more and more in all phases of social life, by direct participation and control.

Forecasting the socialist future, the Communist Manifesto said: “In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association.” Mark that: “an association”, not a state—“an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all”.

I say we will not put the socialist movement of this country on the right track and restore its rightful appeal to the best sentiments of the working class of this country and above all to the young, until we begin to call socialism by its right name as the great teachers did. Until we make it clear that we stand for an ever-expanding workers’ democracy as the only road to socialism. Until we root out every vestige of Stalinist perversion and corruption of the meaning of socialism and democracy, and restate the thoughts and formulations of the authentic Marxist teachers.

But the Stalinist definitions of socialism and democracy are not the only perversions that have to be rejected before we can find a sound basis for the regroupment of socialist forces in the United States. The definitions of the social democrats of all hues and gradations are just as false. And in this country they are a still more formidable obstacle because they have deeper roots, and they are nourished by the ruling class itself.

The liberals, the social democrats and the bureaucratic bosses of the American trade unions are red-hot supporters of “democracy”. At least, that is what they say. And they strive to herd the workers into the imperialist war camp under the general slogan of “democracy versus dictatorship”. They speak of democracy as something that stands by itself above the classes and the class struggle, and not as the form of rule of one class over another.

Capitalism, under any kind of government—whether bourgeois democracy or fascism or a military police state—is a system of minority rule, and the principal beneficiaries of capitalist democracy are the small minority of exploiting capitalists; scarcely less so than the slaveowners of ancient times were the actual rulers and the real beneficiaries of the Athenian democracy.

To be sure, the workers in the United States have a right to vote periodically for one of two sets of candidates selected for them by the two capitalist parties. And if they can dodge the witch-hunters, they can exercise the right of free speech and free press. But this formal right of free speech and free press is outweighed rather heavily by the inconvenient circumstance that the small capitalist minority happens to enjoy a complete monopoly of ownership and control of all the big presses, and of television and radio, and of all other means of communication and information.

But even so, with all that, a little democracy is better than none. We socialists have never denied that. And after the experiences of fascism and McCarthyism, and of military and police dictatorships in many parts of the world, and of the horrors of Stalinism, we have all the more reason to value every democratic provision for the protection of human rights and human dignity; to fight for more democracy, not less.

Socialists should not argue with the American worker when he says he wants democracy and doesn’t want to be ruled by a dictatorship. Rather, we should recognise that his demand for human rights and democratic guarantees, now and in the future, is in itself progressive. The socialist task is not to deny democracy, but to expand it and make it more complete. That is the true socialist tradition. The Marxists, throughout the century-long history of our movement, have always valued and defended bourgeois democratic rights, restricted as they were; and have utilized them for the education and organization of the workers in the struggle to establish full democracy by abolishing the capitalist rule altogether.

The right of union organization is a precious right, a democratic right, but it was not “given” to the workers in the United States. It took the mighty and irresistible labour upheaval of the ’30s, culminating in the great sit-down strikes—a semi-revolution of the American workers—to establish in reality the right of union organization in mass-production industry.

When it comes to the administration of workers’ organizations under their control, the social democrats and the reformist labour leaders pay very little respect to their own professed democratic principles. The trade unions in the United States today, as you all know, are administered and controlled by little cliques of richly privileged bureaucrats, who use the union machinery, and the union funds, and a private army of goon squads, and—whenever necessary—the help of the employers and the government, to keep their own “party” in control of the unions, and to suppress and beat down any attempt of the rank and file to form an opposition “party” to put up an opposition slate.

In practice, the American labour bureaucrats, who piously demand democracy in the one-party totalitarian domain of Stalinism, come as close as they can to maintaining a total one-party rule in their own domain. The Stalinist bureaucrats in Russia and the trade-union bureaucrats in the United States are not sisters, but they are much more alike than different. They are essentially of the same breed, a privileged caste dominated above all by motives of self-benefit and self-preservation at the expense of the workers and against the workers.

The privileged bureaucratic caste everywhere is the most formidable obstacle to democracy and socialism. The struggle of the working class in both sections of the now divided world has become, in the most profound meaning of the term, a struggle against the usurping privileged bureaucracy.

In the Soviet Union, it is a struggle to restore the genuine workers’ democracy established by the revolution of 1917. Workers’ democracy has become a burning necessity to assure the harmonious transition to socialism. That is the meaning of the political revolution against the bureaucracy now developing throughout the whole Soviet sphere, which every socialist worthy of the name unreservedly supports.

In the United States, the struggle for workers’ democracy is preeminently a struggle of the rank and file to gain democratic control of their own organizations That is the necessary condition to prepare the final struggle to abolish capitalism and establish democracy in the country as a whole. No party in this country has a right to call itself socialist unless it stands foursquare for the rank-and-file workers of the United States against the bureaucrats.

Capitalism does not survive as a social system by its own strength, but by its influence within the workers’ movement, reflected and expressed by the labour aristocracy and the bureaucracy. So the fight for workers’ democracy is inseparable from the fight for socialism, and is the condition for its victory. Workers’ democracy is the only road to socialism, here in the United States and everywhere else, all the way from Moscow to Los Angeles, and from here to Budapest.