Tuesday, July 25, 2023

America’s “Radical” Presidents (1974)

From the Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist

A glance at U.S. political history of this century discloses an amazing fact. From Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, to Richard Nixon, a Republican, there have been a number of Presidents from both major parties who have either been labelled communist, socialist or radical leftist by their opponents or have legislated — or advocated legislation — widely thought of as socialistic. Roosevelt the First denounced the "malefactors of great wealth” and was known as a Trust Buster. Woodrow Wilson’s administration introduced the tax on income for the first time and that was definitely branded as socialist by his wealthy Republican opponents. Roosevelt the Second legislated social security, government relief projects and a number of other agencies that were tagged socialist by his enemies. He was widely denounced as a sort of communist. Harry Truman brought in Medicare which was certainly — according to the American Medical Association — the opening wedge to socialized medicine. Elsenhower was denounced by the Birch Society and by the ardent followers of Senator Joe McCarthy as a communist dupe Kennedy and Johnson both continued to talk in the manner of their predecessors with Lyndon going so far as to join in a chorus of We Shall Overcome when he signed the Civil Rights Bill. And now Richard M. Nixon, that one-time battler of Communists has topped them all by going for government economic controls on the home front and practicing blood-brother summitry with the leaders of his erstwhile enemies In Peking and in Moscow.

Amazing? It certainly is when one considers the fact that American capitalism has seemingly thrived on all of its radical presidents and all of its “socialist” legislation. America has become, in this century, the bastion of world capitalism.

And now comes Senator George McGovern and his running mate Mr Shriver. multi-millionaire and member of the Kennedy family by marriage, with more “socialist” proposals, according to those who are frightened by them, and one cannot but wonder: why the alarm? Since what is popularly believed to be socialism has worked to make America the top plutocracy of all time would it not seem practical to have more of it? Or is the widespread fear of Mr. McGovern’s radical ideas merely a reflection of a widespread admiration for Mr. Nixon’s own “socialist” efforts? If we have to have socialism, the worriers might be thinking, let’s continue with Dick’s brand rather than have George do it.

The fact is, of course, that the terms “socialism” and “communism" have come to mean something quite alien to their true meaning. What is socialism? What is communism? They are different terms for the same system of society, a social order without buying and selling, minus wage labor, a world without nations, a system based upon free right of access, by all mankind, to all that is produced.

What has that to do with the creation of government agencies to handle problems of the poor, both working and unemployed? Obviously nothing. Such agencies are but continued recognition of the only real inalienable right of the workers under capitalism, the right to continue in poverty and insecurity. Is It not apparent after seven decades of so-called socialistic legislation and so-called socialist and communist-type political leaders, from Republicans and Democrats alike, that capitalism in any form can only continue to really enrich the capitalists and do nothing to improve the conditions of life for the vast majority? Any attempt to make capitalism work in the interests of the vast majority is fruitless.

Why “World” Socialists? (1974)

From the Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist

A correspondent asks us: “Why do you call yourselves World Socialists?” A good question and one deserving of a serious answer. To begin with, the pioneers of scientific socialism, Marx and Engels, called upon the workers of the world to unite, rather than just the workers of England or France or Germany or America. And there was a sound reason for this, a reason based upon an understanding of capitalism both from an historical perspective and the economics of the system.

For the first time in history a social system was making possible a world that would sweep away existing national. religious and ethnic differences; making the antagonisms among mankind, the wars and the poverty, all things of the past. Making all this possible, yes, but only after working people everywhere organized to abolish the existing relationships between capital and labor, the relationships that were stymying the very thing that was becoming possible. On the one hand, capitalism had introduced a mode of production that was social in scope while, on the other hand, ownership was vested in private, corporate or state institutions—a serious contradiction, indeed.

Let us look at production under capitalism. In the first place just about everything — whether goods or services — are produced for the purpose of sale on the market. There was this sort of thing during the times of feudalism and chattel slavery, too, but to a limited degree. The systems in those times were based, primarily, on agrarianism and on production for use — plenty for the use of the feudal aristocracy and Church or the various ruling classes within chattel slave society; scarcity for the serfs and the slaves. Commodity production, to the extent it existed prior to capitalism, was by no means social in the sense it is today. A cobbler made a pair of shoes largely by his own efforts. The same was true of the suit of clothes made by the tailor. And so on. Industry was. to a considerable extent a family affair even in the Infancy of capitalism.

Developing capitalism transformed the primitive handicraft methods of feudalism into a system of production In which thousands — and tens and hundreds of thousands of workers in our times — in many parts of the world, contribute their labor power to the production and distribution of commodities.

Think of a common needle. It requires steel. Steel is made in the United States but one of its essential ingredients, ferro-manganese, is not obtainable here. Furthermore, the machinery, the transportation, the electrification, the plant erection, that is required to produce needles in the era of capitalism requires the cooperative labor of a multitude of workers. The same is true of all other commodities, from the smallest to the largest. All of production, under capitalism, is socialized production. The rub is that ownership is vested in a class, a small percentage of the population, and the rest of us work for them.

So what does the World Socialist Party plan on doing about this? Expropriate the capitalists? Just take their property away from them? We hear you and we would remind you that class ownership of the means of production is based, historically, upon expropriation There isn’t a country in the world where land and resources were not usurped from the original occupiers or users, violently expropriated in many cases. As Marx so eloquently put It: "Capital came into the world with blood dripping from every pore.” And how do we suppose that capital will go out of the world? We are convinced that the revolution that will transform the means of production and distribution into the common property of all mankind will be relatively peaceful. When compared with the blood-letting that has punctuated the history of capitalism to this day it will be serene. Why not investigate?

The supermarket (1974)

From the Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist

You drive into the vast parking area and jigsaw your car into one of the spaces. The supermarket looms within a few easy strides and in a matter of minutes you are inside the electric-eye doors, selecting a shopping cart; the heat, the cold, the rain or the snow — as the case may be — is left outside and as you push your cart up one aisle and down the next you are lulled by pleasant music, attractively displayed merchandise of hundreds of varieties, the meat counters. the delicatessen counters, the frozen food counters and, occasionally, the smiling demonstrator woman or man who offers free samples of this or of that delicacy.

So you forget, for the moment, all but the fact that here are food items, durables, even — in many instances — articles of wearing apparel waiting to be selected and dropped into your shopping cart. You know you can find good use for much, if not most, of everything in the market and heavens knows! you have been reminded enough that your life will not be full unless and until you have this. that, and the other product in your pantry, your refrigerator, your closets, or some place or other even it in your attic or your cellar! So you sail into the pleasant chore and before you know it your cart is piled high with delectables for the table, with stockings for the kids, with cleaning solvents, can openers and all of the things that go to make a happy home, maybe even a clock radio. Wonderful country, America! Where else could one find so much of what everybody wants under one roof? And all there for the taking. Richest country in the world — highest standard of living — freest democracy—etc., etc. You muse on all of this because you have heard this and read this, time and time again, interspersed between commercials advertising beer, cigarettes, beef, underwear and so forth. "Only in America," you muse.

Then suddenly you are caught up short. “For crying out loud!” you cry out inwardly. “How much is all of this going to cost? I won't have enough money and if I do and I pay for all this I won’t have enough to do till next payday."

Yes! The trouble is that there are cash registers in those supermarkets. And one does not get out of the store with one’s selections until they are paid for — unless you can do it without getting caught, which is quite a trick.

Well, up to a point, this has been a recitation of the right of access to the items which are supposed to constitute a decent standard of living. Capitalism does give one the right of access to what is produced, providing one has the money to pay. But how, you must be wondering, how does this socialist nut think one can run a supermarket without cash registers.

Of course you can’t run a supermarket or anything else without cash registers, under capitalism. The cash registers and the money that is used to transact the business are the hallmarks of class ownership. Everything in the supermarket, including the cash registers has been produced socially by thousands of workers from many different countries using raw materials from areas in far flung parts of the world. But under capitalism, the land, the mines, the forests, the workshops, and the supermarkets are all owned by a capitalist class or a capitalist state — which amounts to the same thing, class ownership rather than social ownership.

When the world is socialist, everything — including the supermarkets — will be run differently. Certainly there will be a variety of the things people want although the chances are that wants — when no longer conditioned by hucksters on the mass media and in the newspapers — will be fewer. But there will be no cash registers, because ownership will be vested in all mankind, not an economic class. The money that changes hands today has nothing at all to do with the production and availability of the goods in the store. Only labor power applied to raw materials can produce wealth. Goods and services under socialism will be produced only to satisfy human needs and wants. The world will become one vast supermarket. Better look into this further.

Dedication to wasted effort (1974)

From the Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist

There is a sales manager gimmick, used to put salesmen in a correct mental attitude, that goes something like this: You say you have problems? Your wife is ill; your boy needs money for tuition; your car is ready for the graveyard; you’ve just gotten an increase in your rent? Actually, you only have one problem. Money! So why not get on the territory and make more money?

It might be argued that this is the scientific way of handling a number of problems. Find the common factor that generates them and correct it. In this case, however, the reasoning is not too sound because, at best, it would only work for a few. Money does not really have expansion qualities and the garnering of more by some can only mean the accumulation of less by others. And, yet, there is a lesson to be learned here.

In the world of our times there are all sorts of problems that seem to be shaking society to its roots. War, pollution. crime, uncontrolled population growth, cheating in the realm of merchandising, ghettoization, slum neighborhoods and the struggle for women’s and gay liberation. You name it. And each of these areas has its adherents and devotees: men. women and children willing to give of themselves to aid their cause, convinced that they are involved in the struggle for a better world.

Their dedication is, unfortunately, largely a wasted effort. There is a common factor in all of these problems that not only generates them, to begin with, but operates to prevent their elimination or even improvement. They are all spawned by the economics of the capitalist system and are symptoms of a world-wide system of class or state ownership of the means and instruments of wealth production and distribution.

The problem, in these times of potential abundance, begins with propaganda Not the propaganda of socialism but the propaganda of capitalism. Even before our children can walk and talk, their eyes and ears are bombarded with the capitalist way of life. Buying and selling, profit, wages and the struggle to stretch them from payday to payday are presented as a normal, unchangeable, natural law. Even the progressively oriented kiddles' books and TV shows are designed to educate them to cope with this way of life rather than to abolish it for something better. Yet, all around us, on the other hand, is evidence of the restraining and throttling of production. the potential abundance of all those things needed to make a good life, in order that a system based upon production for a market, for profit, might be maintained.

What is it that causes war, for example, in these times? The ever-expanding need for nations to find markets, sources of raw materials, and the military might to dominate other nations seeking the same things. And flowing from this base, this all-out emphasis on accumulation of capital which is integral to capitalism, those other problems that capture most imaginations arise. The fight against pollution and crime; the spread of slums and ghettos; the need for women's and gay liberation movements; the growth of consumer protection groups are necessary because of a system that places profits above all; vests ownership of the means of a livelihood In a minority while divesting most of us of almost all but our ability to work which we must sell in order to live and pits section against section on the age-old axiom of divide and rule.

Even the fear of uncontrolled population growth Is based upon the needs of capitalism's labor market rather than on humanitarianism. A sane system, based upon production for use would support a much greater population than exists now on earth.

Yes, there really is but one problem. It is world capitalism. Why not organize to abolish it?

Does peace justify violence? (1974)

From the Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist

One subject the World Socialist Movement keeps harping on — and we harp on a lot of subjects — is the necessarily non-violent nature of the socialist revolution. Why do we insist that the abolition of world capitalism must be brought about peacefully? Not because we are idealists, or humanists, although idealism and humanism do have some role in our philosophy. We advocate a non-violent revolution principally because we are convinced that a socialist revolution cannot be brought about in any other way. This is why we do not qualify our terms with ”ifs,'' "ands,” or “buts."

In the first place let us look at the question of ends and means. There is an old cliche, usually attributed to Bolsheviks but also part of the philosophy of capitalism, that the end justifies the means. In other words, anything one can do — not even excepting mass murder — to bring the end of capitalism, or the end of totalitarianism, or the end of something else that so many wars have been supposedly fought over, is justifiable. Which would be a logical argument only for one important factor — at least one. Ends and means are all part of a process, are inter-related. Violent means have to result in violent ends. There has never been a period in the lives of any person living today when nations did not argue that they needed more and more powerful weapons. Why? Because only by building up a powerful armed force could peace be maintained. Yet, violence has grown in scope and in intensity all through the years of the lifetime of everybody living today, and in every country regardless of the professed peace-loving nature of its government.

Most people still seem to think that the trouble is all caused by bad guys — the other country. If only that country or the other country wasn’t made up of intrinsically warlike, or intrinsically greedy people everything would be all right. All we want is to be left alone. This is the usual argument that the average person in every country in the world gives. But the answers go deeper. The very existence of nations implies violence and this is the case whether the nation calls itself capitalist, socialist. or anything else. Which brings us back to the subject of socialist revolution and why we insist it must be peaceful.

For the first time in history, a revolution will be by the immense majority in the interests of the whole population. All previous revolutions have been organized by minorities in the interest of minorities. This is why all previous social revolutions were accompanied by violence, either at the moment of consummation or immediately following. So when advocates of violent revolution base their argument on the fact that revolutions have always been accompanied by violence they are unwittingly rejecting socialist revolution and advocating the overthrow of one group of exploiters and the substitution of another group of exploiters — themselves — in the guise of state officials “Unwittingly?” we said. Perhaps, in cases.

The main point to bear in mind when considering world socialist revolution is that it is a revolution organized and consummated by a majority of the people. And an immense majority has no need for violence. An upsurge of revolutionary-thinking in the population would result in an overwhelming majority of scientific socialists being elected to the central organs of power, the state. And this would mean one all-important thing, that the overwhelming majority of the population would have to be fed up with capitalism and would want no more part of it. A victory at the polls by a genuine socialist organization would be followed immediately by the abolition of class ownership of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth.

Would the defeated capitalist class resist with an organization of violence? Hardly likely when the very basis for their existence as a capitalist class has been removed. What could they offer that isn’t already freely available to ail. including themselves? Think about it and help organize for world socialism.

Brains and money (1974)

From the Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist

A most persistent myth that enjoys widespread belief in modern times is the fable about wealth being the result of brainpower—the brainpower of those who possess wealth. “It takes brains to make money,” we are told again and again. If we point to that considerable percentage of the super-capitalist class—a, majority, in fact—whose wealth is inherited, there is the immediate response: “Well, so their fathers or grandfathers had the brains. And they have to know how to handle the fortunes, too, or they can lose them."

Well, it isn't easy to argue with that because it does take a certain type of brains to found and maintain a financial empire. A reading of American history makes this apparent. The Morgans, the Mellons, the Rockefellers, the Carnegies and Fricks, the Fords, the DuPonts and the rest of the super-rich Americans did have the sort of brains one finds in the Jungle among predatory animals. They were pitiless as they clawed their way to success, with little mercy for the workers and their families whom they used (“employed,” is the word in general usage) to produce their wealth and just as little compassion for one another in their mad competition to sell one another short.

But we must admit the analogy is not altogether fitting. The predatory lower animals, we understand, do not usually devour their own particular species, nor do they seek to store up endless caches of dead carcasses. On the other hand, the two-legged predator has had, and still maintains, institutions that surround his depredations with the aura of respectability, even holiness. He has his charitable foundations and his churches, upon which he bestows vast sums and which reciprocate by saving him on his taxes, keeping his name before the public, and generally singing his praises. They function as pillars of his empire.

Well, we are often told, that might be true of some of the capitalists but it doesn’t fit the majority, it doesn’t affect the proposition that it still takes talent to make money. And of course brains and abilities are invaluable assets. But the industries and institutions of capitalism today are not generally operated by members of the capitalist class. Rare, indeed, is it to find a capitalist in modern times who even knows where his industries are, leave alone have anything to do with operating them. Can one imagine a Rockefeller or a J. Paul Getty concerning himself with the actual details of running his far-flung financial and industrial institutions? They are no doubt busy most of the time with their travels, their political manipulations and their society events. They may conceivably consult, from time to time, with some of their executives. But even allowing for acumen in their own right they would have to be supermen, indeed, to have the time and talents needed to operate the industries of these times. And that is precisely why they endow the prestigious business schools throughout the nation. They pay to train, and then hire the required brains. As a class, the capitalists of our times are completely superfluous and parasitic. They could all be transported to the moon, never to return, without noticeable effect to the total economy, not even to their stock exchanges for they, too, are operated from top to bottom by hirelings.

What does it take to make money today? Brains and talent, certainly, but not one's own brains and talents. One needs capital. How does one get capital? In various ways: by inheriting it, by luck at the racetrack or lottery, by robbery (but don’t get caught!). Far better to pick the right parents. We wouldn't necessarily agree with the great French novelist Balzac who argued that behind every fortune is a crime. But we do agree with Marx who exposed primitive accumulation as forcible, brutal, even murderous expropriation of the majority and the creation of a propertyless working class. But the secret to riches in modern times is: by hook or by crook, hire the brains to make it for you.

What’s a revolutionary? (1974)

From the Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist

Have you noticed how words have a tendency to lose their original meaning and evolve to a point where once disrespectable terms fall into widespread use by more respectable sections of society? Many examples could be given but we will concentrate, for now, on the word “revolution.”

Are you old enough to remember the times when the very sound of revolution conjured up images of bushy-bearded, long-haired ogres with pockets filled with bombs? When one immediately pictured blood and gore coursing down the gutters? Well, it is true that there are as many bushy-bearded and long-haired people around today, if not more. And some of them possibly do fall into the category of violence advocates. But whatever the extent of bloodshed and cracked skulls in the violent demonstrations of today it has been established beyond doubt that the overwhelming bulk comes from those who are hired to protect “our” institutions, not destroy them — the police and military. Nevertheless, the terrible turmoil that is going on today around the world is widely termed “revolution” and the word has become respectable in the black communities, among the youth, and throughout the mass media.

Scientific socialists reject this meaning. It is completely out of tune with revolutionary socialist thought and has nothing whatever to do with the theories and tactics of the founders and heirs of Marxian socialism This could have a lot to do with the widespread recognition and even occasional toleration of the so-called revolutionaries by the ruling class, itself. One can view black “revolutionaries” and white “revolutionaries” just about any night in the week these days on TV. One can read thousands and thousands of words devoted to them and by them any day in the press. One can listen to and read the “revolutionary” words of preachers, rabbis, priests and even nuns. Everybody seems to be classified as some sort of revolutionary And yet, there is one acid test that can be applied that will give fast results in placing them in their true category. The test would run somewhat like this.

You say you are a revolutionary, that you are anti-establishment; that you want to overthrow the “system.” Let’s see what you mean?

By the “Establishment" do you mean the capitalist class as an economic category or are you referring to the particular representatives and members of this class who now hold and exercise power? Are you asking for the abolition of the “Establishment” as an economic category or are you merely asking for new and what you would call revolutionary substitutes for this establishment?

And just what do you mean by “system?" Are you talking about the organization of society on the basis of ownership of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by a minority of the population, as it is today? Are you advocating that the earth and everything on it and in it shall become the common property of all mankind and that all of mankind shall have free access to its wants and needs? Are you advocating, in other words, the immediate abolition of the wages system — of buying and selling, production for sale on the market with view to profit? Of the end to all arbitrary divisions of the population on the basis of skin color and ethnic background? Do you mean that you favor an immediate end to all national boundaries and the establishment of a world based upon human brotherhood?

If you recoil either in horror or in amusement at words such as these you are no revolutionary. You are merely advocating more of the same that we now have with different people at the top—perhaps yourselves.

But it could be that some of you do mean just these things. If so. we urge you to disengage yourselves from those who would change nothing but the rules of what we now have and the personnel of those who own and control the world. Why not join with the World Socialist Movement to bring it about?

International Socialism (1974)

From the Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist

One of the basic fundamentals of the socialist movement is the fact that it is a world movement. This doesn’t mean that socialists are internationalists in the widely accepted interpretation of that word. In the world of our times the term ‘internationalist" has grown to mean one who advocates such developments as "United Nations" or even "World Federalism." The difference between such concepts and that of the scientific socialists is that socialism envisages a world without nations and without governments, a world without economic class divisions, a world in which government over man as we know it becomes an administration by men over things. Only in this sense are socialists internationalists.

As things exist, however, socialists are compelled to operate within national boundaries. We are ticketed from birth or through naturalization as American or English or German and so on. Whether we like it or not we are compelled to build our organizations within this type of world, attempting to gain political control from the class that now controls it and introduce a classless society. So the members of the Companion Party movement are composed of individuals from many different nations and we speak in the tongue and in the particular accents of the countries and the sections of those countries from which we come. But although our language may differ, our object and our principles are one for despite all differences in language, in customs, or even in dress, the conditions which cry out for the abolition of capitalism in America are basically no different than those that exist throughout the world, generally. Nor are the confusions that fill the minds of most people on the subject of socialism any different elsewhere than they are in America. Take, for example, the situation in Great Britain.

Our sister party in Britain is the Socialist Party of Great Britain. That organization was founded in 1904 prior to the establishment of the British Labour Party and has continued, ever since, to publish its journal The Socialist Standard and to disseminate information on the subject of socialism in various ways. — Nevertheless, the British Labour Party, which has never in its history advocated the abolition of the wages system, is widely regarded throughout Great Britain and the rest of the world as a party of socialism. For more than sixty years the British Labour Party has advocated nationalization of industries. Furthermore they have actually instituted such nationalization. During all of this period the Socialist Party of Great Britain have maintained that nationalization of industries is in no way analogous to socialism and that the contradictions of capitalism would operate just as freely within a Labour regime as they would in any other regime. Scientific socialists have continued to contend that no political organization — regardless of label — can make capitalism operate in the interest of the majority of the population. We have continued to point out that poverty on a wide scale would continue under Labour government, that strikes on the home front and wars on the international front would continue to be the order of the day regardless of who runs the government — avowed capitalist or professed labour politicians. That nothing short of the abolition of capitalism and the introduction of a system of production for use rather than for sale on the market would solve the problems that threaten to destroy us all.

Yet we still hear the friends of reform politics advocate labor parties as governments and we still have the enemies of socialism pointing to Britain as a horrible example of socialism in action.

The time will come, we feel, when the workers in their millions will understand that labor party politics have nothing to do with socialism but are just another scheme to make capitalism somehow become more palatable to the majority who reap no benefits from it. The time will come when the program of the Companion Parties of Socialism will become the order of the day

How to spot a phoney socialist (1974)

From the Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist

There are more bogus socialist organizations around today than you can shake a stick at. To begin with: the traditional long-established, reformer-type so-called socialist is still with us, although not nearly so vocal or numerous as in former days. That era when the Socialist Party of America and the Communist Party U.S.A. could run national tickets, calling for radical reform of capitalism and receive relatively good press and media coverage, is all but gone. They certainly sowed a great crop of confusion in their times. But the case for what they imagine socialism to be was clear-cut. It was either a desire to operate basic industry in the manner of the British Labour Party and, for that matter, of the British Tories, through nationalization, or to emulate the system in the Soviet Union — also nationalization, but with a one-party oligarchy styled the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Yes, the false image of socialism in operation sown by America's social democrats and bolsheviks—as well as the entire bourgeois media—is still the order of the day.

But much confusion on tactics and organisation has been added by other organisations that have either become greatly activated and more widely-known than they once were, or have sprung up rather suddenly. On the one hand there is the tendency to merge more disreputable bolshevik-type tactics of the past with the more respectable variety of so-called socialist program; to present a more traditional type of campaign. On the other hand, there are the more flamboyant sort of phoney socialists who magnify the bolshevik psychology of tabloid-journalism together with frequent attacks on the principle of freedom-of-speech by disruption of public meetings. And there is also the hit-and-run commando and kidnap tactic of the guerrilla fighter. Because the unusual is what constitutes news, the gatherers and disseminators of news are the unpaid press agents of all of these phoney socialists. They provide the sort of publicity that genuine socialists can never get.

The main problem in building a mass movement for a new social order is the need for conscious understanding of socialism and what it entails by those who support such a movement. The mere fact that tabloid-style sensationalism in radical journalism exists is no indication that the mass of workers are ready to accept socialism. But let’s organize them, anyway, argue the phonies The mere fact of commando and sharp-shooter tactics in the so-called revolutionary movement signifies widespread political reaction. Whether right wing or left wing in ideology is of no real consequence. Let’s not talk about taking the means of production and distribution from the capitalists and vesting them in society as a whole, say the bogus socialists. Let’s just compel individual capitalists to organise free-food programs for a section of the working class who can qualify as poor.

How, then, does one go about spotting a bogus socialist? Whether the old-style confusionist of the social democratic or the Communist variety; the new-style merger of those two tendencies; the loud and active advocate of scare-type organisation against individual capitalists; or the left-wing commandos whose bag of tricks consists of kidnap, ransom and extortion; them is a common thread that runs through all of them. They all see socialism as a continuation of the system of production for sale on the market; for wage-labor; for capital; for buying and selling; all vested in a state rather than in individual capitalists. And until the present basis of production is abolished and productlon-for-use only introduced, it makes little difference how the various bogus socialists organize their tactics. They may even be successful in driving the present exploiters out of political control. But they will have done nothing at all for socialism and that is the only thing that really matters.

What class are you? (1974)

From the Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist

Do you believe that America is a free society, one in which each citizen has the same rights as all citizens, where hard and fast socio-economic class divisions do not really exist? There are not many today who believe that old wives’ tale although the time was, in the memory of many of us, when it was a widely accepted myth.

We do not mean to imply that most Americans, today, are any clearer on the question of class. In fact, sociologists in these times have done a remarkable job in confusing the issue. In America, they inform us. there are a number of distinct classes. The writer Vance Packard, in “The Status Seekers," sets down a total of five divisions, two of them in what he calls "the Diploma Elite" and three in “The Supporting Classes." On top of the heap are the members of “The Real Upper Class" and “The Semi-Upper Class." On the lower levels running from top to bottom are “The Limited Success Class," “The Working Class,” and “The Real Lower Class." Note well that Mr. Packard does recognize that there is a working class but it is but one among three distinct "supporting'’ classes. The working class, in Mr. Packard's scheme of things, seems to be sandwiched between a top slice of white-collar and higher income blue-collar workers, and a bottom slice of the lower I.Q. workers, the slum dwellers.

There are, no doubt, other class designations, that are better known, designations such as upper upper, lower upper, upper middle, lower middle, upper lower, and lower lower. If you were not confused before now you should be by now. And yet, such terms are used by professionals who are supposed to know what they are talking about because their field is sociology.

Well, let’s take a closer look at the confusion. How does one go about determining one’s class? By education? By Income? Or perhaps it should be based on one’s parents' education or income, or on one’s children’s education or income? Where do the operators of a mamma and pappa grocery store that keeps open on a 12-hour-per-day, seven-day week basis fit? Suppose they wind up with $10,000 a year but have no better than high school education, or perhaps not even that much? Are they lower middle? But supposing they have a doctor or lawyer son and own a house in a better-type neighborhood? Then they might be upper middle. Or perhaps even lower upper If their son’s income is away up there.

Or how about the college graduate with an income of $12,000 per year. Is his class determined by his education or his income or both? And is he in a higher or lower class than a construction worker who dropped out of high school but who earns $15,000 per year and owns a split level home next to his? But, you might protest, the construction worker is not secure because were the building boom to slow he would suffer in income. Ah yes! But the college graduate is in the same boat or have you forgotten the engineers, doctors, and lawyers who adorned the WPA rolls In the 30s? Professionals with degrees also sell the commodity labor-power, their particular skills, and are subject to the vicissitudes of the labor market, too.

Socialists have a far simpler and far more scientific method of determining class. Do you work because you must work in order to live, be you doctor, lawyer, engineer, bricklayer, hod carrier, grocery clerk, or casual odd job laborer? Then you belong to the working class and there’s no use trying to kid yourself into thinking otherwise. Certainly some workers earn more than others, live better, but the size of one’s salary is not pertinent to the question of class. If your income is not based upon wages or salaries but upon rent, interest and/or profit you are a member of the capitalist class, one of some 10% of the population. You may be a big capitalist or you may be a small capitalist but this is not the point. Socialists divide society into two basic classes based upon ownership or lack of ownership of the means for producing and distributing wealth. And socialists aim for a world in which classes, real or imaginary, will cease to exist, where people will no longer be classified as capitalist or worker but simply as people.