Saturday, July 15, 2023

Too Lazy To Work? (1989)

From issue 6 of the World Socialist Review

Everybody seems to be upset these days about welfare. The percentage of Americans who live— somehow—on welfare monies seems to be steadily mounting, and a rising outcry is heard against the imagined throng of lazy rascals among them who simply do not want to work but who would rather live off the backs of the taxpayers.

Now, there are a couple of interesting oddities about this and about other conclusions, by many, on the issue of welfare. Take, for example, the case of the so-called lazy bums who do not work simply because they do not want to work. Nobody would argue that 100 per cent of the unemployed are simply too lazy to work. There are always a few, it is acknowledged, who are honest and industrious, but who cannot find jobs. The worst diehard enemy of welfare would admit to this.

But the strange thing about this assessment is the fact that immediately one wonders why those few honest and industrious among the welfare recipients cannot find jobs. If 90 per cent of the unemployed don’t work only because they do not want to work, it should follow, logically, that there must be a great number of jobs that are available. Why, then, would the 10 per cent find any difficulty in locating the anxious, would-be employers of their labor? Something funny about that argument, isn’t there?

What upsets socialists about welfare, is something altogether different than the usual complaint. We do think it is a shame, of course, that so many Americans must get by on the skimpy income allotted by welfare while it is continually drilled into their heads that they live in the richest country in the world. And yet this is not nearly so upsetting to us as is the knowledge that the real recipients of welfare are not at all those who make up the official roles. The one in seven or one in six, or whatever the figure may be, who wait from month to month for the welfare checks are working class people, even though they may be unemployed for reasons of physical disabilities or for any other reasons. The real recipients of welfare (and what welfare they receive!) are the members of the capitalist class. And here there is no one in seven or one in six figure, either. In this case the percentage is one in one, or 100 percent. Let’s look into this proposition.

There is only one way to create wealth. That is by applying physical and mental energy to raw materials. Now this sort of activity is the function of the working class, not the capitalists. The function of the capitalist class is to own the industries and to employ those who don’t own the means of wealth production to work in them. True, there are capitalists who work and who draw salaries. But they do not work for a living. They could, and in fact do, employ substitutes for themselves for less than their own salaries— substitutes who have degrees in Business from the finest schools in the world. The $50,000 (or whatever) per year they draw from their business as the salary of management would hardly pay their liquor bills. Any capitalist worth talking about can—and frequently does— spend far more on one social gathering than a welfare recipient could gross in an entire lifetime on welfare.

So what, you may ask, is the point? The point is that if people do not work—and most of the able- bodied adult members of the capitalist class either do not work at all or occupy some managerial function as a hobby—then somebody must be supporting them. They don’t eat their money or their certificates of wealth-ownership. They are supported, and in style, by those who do all the work—many of whom, from time to time, must hold out their hands for crumbs of tax money during periods of unemployment. Let’s straighten out our perspective. Let’s organize to abolish welfare for unemployed workers and for the permanently unemployed capitalist class. Let’s unite for world socialism.

Originally published as "Who's on Welfare?" in The Perspective for World Socialism (1974), a selection of WSP radio talks.

A Revolution Still to be Made (1987)

From Issue 4 of the World Socialist Review
Editor’s Note:  
The following text is taken from a letter issued at the close of a speaking tour of the United States last Spring by two comrades from Europe: Steve Coleman of the Socialist Party of Great Britain (SPGB), and Richard Montague of the World Socialist Party of Ireland. It was written jointly for distribution to the general public, and we reproduce a section of it here because of its relevance to the cause of world socialism.
It is with great pleasure that we can report the success of our recent North American speaking tour, organized by the World Socialist Party of the United States. Activities ranged from debates against defenders of capitalism (in one of which an economics professor ran out of the hall rather than answer our case) to public meetings (some informal, others in large halls with audiences of over 100—all well received) to radio interviews (such as the Fred Fiske Show in Washington, DC, one of the most prestigious programs of its kind on which we were kept on for two hours rather than the one originally planned and succeeded in tearing Fiske’s apologies for capitalism to threads).

We are under no illusion that the tour was the beginning of a socialist revolution or that the many people who gave us a polite hearing all agreed with us. What the tour did show—and it demonstrated this emphatically—was that there is a wide body of people in North America who are receptive to genuine socialist ideas (as opposed to the Leninist defense of Russian state capitalism or left-wing reformism). Those of us who are part of that wide body have a duty to build upon what exists, expanding the world socialist movement into a known political force in this country.

Our Present Situation
The World Socialist Party of the United States is currently a very small political organization and we do not pretend for one moment that we have all the answers concerning the way to transform society from the insanity of capitalism to the socialist alternative embodied in our object and principles (see page 12). We do claim that the case for socialism is simple, logical and in urgent need of dissemination throughout the world.

What are the problems we face?

Firstly, the bosses own and control the institutions of education (indoctrination), the media and the big, well-funded political parties of capitalism.

Secondly, the concept of socialism has been systematically distorted over the past century, both by those who have a vested interest in opposing it and those who claim to be defending it.

Thirdly, many workers have been driven to cynicism by the history of capitalist politics and want nothing to do with any "isms” or political organization.

Fourthly, America is a vast country and the tyranny of distance makes it much harder for those of us who are not rich to organize than for our bosses who possess the technology of mass communication.

Barriers to a Socialist Movement
There is no point in ignoring these obstacles to the growth of a socialist movement in this country. Neither should the problems lead us to defeatism. History is the story of humankind overcoming its problems and, without exaggeration, if we are to survive at all it will only be by overcoming the mighty barriers before us and developing a World Socialist Party which can defeat capitalism.

It is instructive at this point to consider the position of our fellow socialists in Ireland, who are mainly based in Belfast: five years ago there were only two of them in the WSP there, fighting a lonely struggle against bigotry and violence. Today they are a party to be reckoned with—probably the most visible party in Belfast—with their own office, a printing press, a regular journal which is selling very well and a growing membership.

So what can be done?

We need a commitment from as many people as possible to join, or at least support, the WSP in its North American efforts. We do not want support from those who do not adhere to our principles, for only on the basis of common understanding can we be a movement of equality, without leaders or led.

Above all, we need activity of a conscious kind so that we can build this movement on the basis of the strength of principled socialist knowledge.
Aaron Feldman (WSP-US) 
Steve Coleman 
Richard Montague

Editorial (1986)

Editorial from issue 1 of the World Socialist Review

To Our Readers,

In your hands is the first issue of the World Socialist Review.

The articles that appear in this journal have been written by members of the World Socialist Movement. Not all of the articles that appear, or that will be appearing in future issues, will be finely phrased. But, what we lack in refinement of style we shall make good by our deep sincerity and by the correctness and truthfulness of our principles.

We shall for the present, content ourselves with issuing the World Socialist Review four times a year. This could, however, change. We will notify our readers if we increase or decrease the number of issues we plan to put out each.year.

We do regret to inform our readers that if they want subscriptions, they will have to pay a slightly higher price of 30c per issue. We deeply regret this, but the high price of postage forces us to charge more to defray the cost of sending each issue to your home.

Finally, let us state that we would very much like to hear from you. We shall be pleased to consider any articles submitted to us for publication in this journal. However, please do not be disappointed if what you submit does not appear or if it gets slightly edited. We have a very hard job of deciding what is to appear and what is not to appear. Also, because this journal is an official voice of the WSP, all articles do have to represent the platform of the WSP. Hence, the need for editing. We also would like to encourage our readers to send us suggestions on how to improve our journal, to voice their criticisms of the journal or any of its articles, to comment on something they liked and to ask questions about the World Socialist Party and its principles.
Rich Foland

Reflections on Right Wing Talk Radio (2011)

From issue 22 of the World Socialist Review

Right-wing talk radio seems in search of a savior, at least those that broadcast the gospel as interpreted by the religious right who seek to impose a biblical order while abandoning the social aspects of traditional Christianity. The religious right holds a quasi-Calvinist view (with the terror of End Times thrown in), according to which God rewards those who outdo their brethren in cut-throat competition to earn the big bucks. So hold on to your job at all costs and climb the corporate ladder, stepping on the fingers of the guy on the rung below. This worship of cut-throat competition is naturally accompanied by cynical paranoia – heated exaggeration, a suspicious attitude, outright dishonesty, and conspiratorial fantasy. Paranoia is hard to confine to one part of the mind and expands into a worldview.

The function of paranoia
Right-wing talk radio is full of distrust and fear – fear of the unknown, fear of Moslems, fear of invasion – and this feeds the paranoia.

Paranoia actually performs an important social function. It’s one way of bringing order to a disorderly world. Seeing conspiracy everywhere you look at least makes sense of things beyond your understanding. The threat of climate change, financial collapse, nuclear weapons, terrorism – these are phenomena of such magnitude that any conceivable action feels like David versus Goliath.

The millions of Americans who listen to religious conservative talk radio are gradually bringing the United States closer to fascism. Is this because a growing number of them believe there is no alternative?

Twenty-five years ago, Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale actually presented the U.S. electorate with real policy choices, even if they offered no alternative to the established system. Today, however, any differences are a mere matter of degree. The neoliberal stance is shared by both parties. Republicans rail against the Democrats’ bailouts, government takeovers, and budget deficits, hoping the populace forgets that all these things also occurred under George W. Bush. Meanwhile, almost every single concept in Obama’s health plan has been pushed by senior Republicans, from Bob Dole to Mitt Romney.

Farewell to Keynes
The Democrats once accepted Keynes’ approach to economic policy. Keynes concern was to ensure social stability by maintaining full employment at relatively high wages. His utopia was a society of leisure and prosperity, beauty, grace, and variety, where “love of money” would be regarded as an aberration. The new neoliberal paradigm sacrifices all social values – and is prepared if necessary to sacrifice democracy itself – on the altar of “sound finance.” Today’s spineless and stupid Democrats also kowtow to the neoliberal god.

Glen Beck bleats over the airwaves that the call of the “socialist” and “Moslem” Obama for voluntary national service is “something out of Maoist China.” But the “progressive” president of “change” and “hope” copied this idea from George W. Bush, and he in turn copied it from his father, George H.W. Bush, who first proposed it in 1989.

With names like “No Spin Zone,” “Nothing But Truth,” and “Steel on Steel,” right-wing talk radio programs appropriate the “news” format and masquerade as news broadcasts. Many liberals get their news from satirical programs like “The Daily Show” or “The Colbert Report.” The disinformation is so effective that all these people actually imagine that they are hearing the news!

Both political parties represent the same class interests and strive for the same class goals. The strident yap-yap-yap that endlessly streams forth from the radio talk shows does not express any significant policy differences, but is contrived as a substitute for them.

An objective critique must resist all attempts to manipulate its ideas for purposes opposed to its own. “Criticize all that is.”
Joe Hopkins

Prisoners of capital (2004)

Editorial from Issue 19 of the World Socialist Review

Millions of human beings around the world are forcibly detained, their liberties removed by governmental authorities. Anyone who takes seriously the immediate potential for replacing capitalism with a world of real abundance and freedom knows already that the great majority of crimes are either crimes against property or involve the illegal trafficking of property — or are the likely direct result of living the restricted and stressful life of a wage- slave.

While there are those who justify the existence of laws on moral and ideological grounds, the defenders of the status quo must always argue their case referring to a swashbuckler’s haven of spurious doctrines, some of them philosophical (“free will”), theological (“good and evil”), psychological (“mental illness”) or political (“justice”). And yet the wasting away of countless millions of human lives remains a potent critique of a society of private property, as much as the maltreatment and exploitation of animals or children in our society. The sheer hypocrisy and failure of the law is inevitably the feature subject of this issue.

It is illegal to kill one’s fellows in a fit of rage but perfectly legal to kill fellow workers from other countries to satisfy the ruling class’s need to protect or assert its economic or political spheres of influence in another part of the world. One must not steal, say both the law and the Bible, and yet it is perfectly legal and morally acceptable to rob working people every day of the wealth they produce above their wages, distilling the high life for the greedy and lazy few out of the gradated deprivations visited on the majority, stymying people’s efforts to provide enough for themselves and their children. The subject of prisons goes to the very heart of our so-called civil society, putting to shame the naive suggestion that we live in a democratic society. The truth is that a society of privilege must be protected by the brute powers of the law. We are not allowed to enjoy more wealth than the crumbs we are permitted in our wages or welfare income, and anybody who attempts this in our society will be handcuffed and taken away.

Make no mistake about it, the lack of freedom inside the prison cells directly mirrors the lack of freedom for working people outside them. On the outside you will be forced to work, unless you want to live in a cardboard box and seek food in a garbage can; you will be forced to accept your wages or salary for the work you do, forced to accept the nature of the job, forced to spend vast hours of your life even outside work just preparing for it and getting to and from it. You will be forced to put up with the other side effects of capitalism — its pollution, its stress, its shoddy goods, its wars, and the fact that billions must starve to death, including tens of millions of children each year. Your “free” time itself will be carved up into the various consumer “entertainments” and “pleasures” available for the right price. What is truly yours in capitalism is debatable.

Your fate and that of the prisoners who languish behind bars every day are inseparably intertwined. Indeed, inside or outside prison, we will never be free until we establish a society in which humans come first and the production of wealth is oriented toward meeting our needs and those of our children — one in which we are no longer forced to work in order to be adequately fed, clothed and housed, and in which the economic priorities of the rich no longer send poor and uneducated youth to die abroad, or condemn the planet to a slow death by self-poisoning. When property is owned in common, we will find ways as a community to better meet our needs for wealth, creativity, decision-making, love, rest, productivity, and freedom.

We challenge the myth of the present era that some people are good and others evil, or that crime is an entirely moral issue. We maintain as scientific socialists that behavior must be understood in its social context: that of a society divided into two classes, one owning the vast proportion of wealth without working for it, and the other producing all the wealth while owning but a miniscule proportion of it.

Until the vast majority of us are liberated from the prison of being workers, we must denounce all the moralistic assumptions and shoddy social analyses of our public behaviors that lead so many of us to be locked away behind bars. We will on such a glorious day liberate our brothers and sisters in jail, and we urge them now to join us in the worldwide project of designing a system that promotes for real the enjoyment of the abundant wealth and freedom that are our birthright.