Sunday, August 6, 2023

The blind spot (1974)

From the Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist

There Is a blind spot in thinking, under capitalism, that affects the most brilliant minds in almost every field, a blind spot having to do with the basics of commodities. Let us illustrate our point by looking at the question of food, of feeding the hungry populations of the world.

Recently, a Nobel Prize was awarded an expert in the science of wheat growing. This scientist, by his research, had so contributed to the knowledge of wheat that it now becomes possible to raise enormous crops of that basic food in areas in which it was hitherto impossible. Wonderful! But there is one serious problem, one flaw in the ointment that isn’t even considered and this, despite the many, many examples in the past of the same problem. Wheat is not produced principally with the idea of feeding hungry people. It is produced for sale on the market with view to profit. No profit, no wheat production. It is as simple as that.

Do you think there is anything untrue about this statement? Then let us remind you of miracle rice, for example. Only a year or so ago a new hybrid rice, several times more prolific than traditional rice, had been developed by the International Rice Research Institute and financed by the Ford and Rockefeller foundations. Did this result in the masses of people in rice-consuming areas of the world now being able to get enough to eat? Of course not. What happened was that the vastly increased harvest flooded the rice market and large quantities of that food had to be destroyed because of inadequate storage and marketing facilities. As reported in The Western Socialist of July-August, 1969, a United States aid official in the Philippines remarked: “We never thought about marketing — we were concentrating on production.”

Or take the subject of oranges. We are told by nutrition scientists that the vitamins contained in oranges are vital in maintaining good health. Is there anybody who actually believes that every child in America is able to get all of the oranges they need? The potential for distribution of oranges In the United States — the richest country in the world — is far, far greater than orange production. Yet the orange growers of Florida, according to a recent news story, are searching for new markets for their commodity other than food because they are producing far more of the fruit than the food market can possibly absorb and this spells disaster for their prices. (One remembers those vast mountains of oranges that were plied up In California during the Hungry Thirties, doused with gasoline, and burned, while armed guards stood watch to keep needy people away.)

Whom shall we blame? The orange growers? The wheat growers? The rice growers? Ridiculous! Why should one blame them? Are they their poor millions of brothers’ and sisters' keepers? Or should we blame the Government? But the Government is the executive committee of the ruling class, the capitalist class, regardless of which political party forms the Government. This is capitalism. the market economy, the system of society in which all of the things people need to survive and to make life worth living are produced in order that surplus value may continue to be produced. To blame individual capitalists or the Government makes as little sense as handing out Nobel Awards to scientists who discover methods of producing food in abundance in an economy where food must not be produced in abundance.

The problem will be solved when the majority of us stop supporting political parties that promise to make capitalism operate uncapitalistically. For political parties and governments do not operate capitalism, capitalism operates them. And that is why the World Socialist Party of the United States does not want your support for anything short of an outright abolition of capitalism and the institution of a system based upon production for use by all who inhabit the earth. Examine your blind spot and investigate world socialism!

Who’s on welfare? (1974)

From the Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist

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% 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% 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% 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 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 is no 1 in 7, or 1 in 6 figure, either. In this case the percentage is 1 in 1 or 100%. 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.

The profits of addiction (1974)

From the Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist

It is interesting to observe that there is a direct correlation between the problems that shake society and the economics of capitalism. Lurking In the background, compounding the ills of any serious problem is capitalism, itself. A good Illustration of this point is to be found in the drug problem.

The existence of drug addiction, to a noticeable degree, is not new. One novel aspect, however, is the fact that It has spread beyond the ghetto areas into the better neighborhoods and it is becoming prevalent among school children of teen and even pre-teen age. Another new fact is the widening adulteration of drugs to the point at which researchers are not certain whether the harmful effects are the result of the drugs or of the adulterants. Adulteration, of course, is directly connected with the drive for profits. To the degree one cuts down the percentage of actual drug — the expensive element — and adds other ingredients, to that extent one increases one's margin of profits which should be the goal of every aspiring capitalist. So what if the adulterants might be more dangerous, even, than the drug? That's not the concern of the entrepreneur and shouldn't be. under the jungle-type economics of capitalism

But an even more insidious—if such is possible—connection between drug addiction and capitalism is the fact that the addiction leads Inescapably to other crimes for the workers who are hooked. Unless one is wealthy, the kind of money needed to maintain a drug habit must come from shop-lifting, picking pockets, burglary, or what have you. As one N.Y. judge once was quoted: “In all my years on the bench I never had a wealthy addict before me." So it would seem that there might be benefit derived from research into the effects of drug addiction among members of the capitalist class, those who can afford to take their pot. their cocaine, their opium neat rather than contaminated by adulterants. Not that knowledge gained from such testing would make a noticeable difference in the quality of the drugs marketed. The drive for profits would remain paramount and just as there are high grade cigars and alcoholic beverages for those who can afford them, with cheap rot-gut for the poor, there will continue to be high quality drugs for the rich junkies and Junk for the poor ones.

There are those who argue that the problem of drug addiction would be solved were the traffic to become legal and controlled by the government. We would be free, they believe, from the nefarious practices of the underworld that now controls it. The drugs would be. at least, readily and legally available and their ingredients subject to government supervision. And we wonder at the seeming naivete of those who offer this argument. In the face of government-regulated patent medicines and prescription drugs (only about 20% of which totally live up to their claimed effectiveness, according to the Food and Drug Administration); government-regulated rot-gut-type liquor and wines; even government-regulated, but inferior, grades of food; we still get the argument from those who would save us from the evils of drugs while retaining the economic system that makes them an evil: let the government control drugs, they tell us, and all will be well.

The point is, to socialists, that the reasons for the desire to use drugs should be better researched. We maintain that there is something real rotten in the state of capitalism when millions of men, women, and children seek escape, or release, from their problems through the use of opiates. The question is by no means one of how to provide only high quality and safe drugs for all. The task is to organize for the abolition of an economic society that encourages—either directly or indirectly — the use of drugs. We urge you to investigate socialism.

To market, to market (1974)

From the Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist

Have you ever been on a cattle ranch and watched thousands of tons of beef on the hoof stampeding in a single corral? You must have at least seen such a sight in the movie theatres or on your TV. Those animals are being prepared for the market and pretty soon they will be herded into railway cars to be transported to the slaughter houses.

Now what about that other sight we see at least five days a week in the mornings and evenings? Thousands of tons of labor-power on the hoof being herded into surface cars, subway trains, buses, automobiles and trucks, being transported to the labor market and home again for the rest and recuperation needed for the next day's toll.

There are differences, of course. In order to realise the profit in the beef, the steer must first be slaughtered. Humans, on the other hand, have no exchange value when they are dead (excepting to the funeral directors, embalmers, cemetary Industry, etc.) It is that value-creating labor power they generate, while alive, that is of importance to the capitalist class. They don’t want to own our bodies — as was the case In times of chattel slavery — they just want to buy our labor power for stipulated time periods And they also want our votes, on election days, to give approval to their system by electing those who wish to continue it. We are not slaves, they tell us, but free men and women.

Is this a gross exaggeration? It certainly is not and the very language of capitalism underscores its truth Take the word market, for example. Merriam Webster defines it as "a meeting together of people for the purpose of trade by private purchase and sale usually not by auction." In light of this, a labor market would be a place where labor-power (mental and physical) is bought and sold. The only reason the workers must bring their bodies to work is that there is no way — as of now — to ship the abilities without the carcasses. In other words, those who must work for a living in the industries of the capitalists are regarded mainly as the owners of a needed commodity and little more. If their particular abilities are marketable, they work at them. If not, they find something else, go on welfare, "mooch on the stem.” or starve.

As an Illustration: recently there was a feature story in the New York Times of the plight of newly-graduating school teachers. There are few jobs at the profession available today. The market for general school teachers became glutted, the story tells us, and the future of these recently-trained purveyors of capitalist- oriented education is grim. Most of those who do find jobs will be working as waitresses or in other unskilled fields far removed from their intended careers. So what happens now in the school teacher manufacturing industry? The same thing that happens in any other industry under the same circumstances. There will be a shrinkage for a number of years in the production of new school teachers, a falling-off of interest in going to such schools. Eventually, say about 1980 or ’85, a new shortage of teachers will have been created and there will be another rush of applicants to that discipline necessitating a new expansion of the industries — referred to as colleges — that manufacture school teachers.

They might just as well be so many sausages or legs of lamb, those bright-faces and starry-eyed youngsters who clutch those sheepskins so proudly. — Is there any sanity to such a system of society? The vast majority seem to think so or at least take it for granted as the only possible way of doing things. Socialists disagree and offer a whole new way of life, a sane world — World Socialism. Won't you join us in trying to bring It about?

Togetherness (1974)

From the Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist

There are undoubtedly a great many words in the English and other languages that are improperly used with frequency. As an example of such misusage take the little pronoun “we." How natural it seems to be for all of us to employ that word so as to carry with it the implication of togetherness. All 220 million Americans and, in fact, the entire population of this planet, are supposed to have a common interest; to be joint beneficiaries of all that is in and on the earth, and to share a joint responsibility for whatever goes wrong. And this, of course, is sheer poppycock.

Where is there an area — aside from the few remaining and remote tribal societies — where the land and all the means for producing and distributing wealth does not belong to a small minority of the population? Even in those lands where legal constitutions state, in print, that all property belongs to “the people", the real situation puts the lie to such language if "the people" is used synonymously with the entire population. And there is another example of a misused expression in that “the people" — whether in the so-called socialist and communist world, or in America and western civilisation — certainly does not imply everybody, or even a majority, but a relatively small minority who control and benefit from the means of wealth production.

Especially now. during this energy crisis, do words such as “we" become commonplace. “We" have got to cooperate to save gasoline, heat, and light. This is our America, they tell us, in expensive advertising and editorials in the press and over the airwaves. We're all in this together, is the message and the testament.

Well, there is no doubt that the great mass of the population is suffering great inconvenience. Long lines at the gas pumps, to a great extent made up of workers of all types who must have gasoline to perform their jobs, attest to this fact. Even sections of the capitalist class are being hurt badly as they watch others of their class brethren reap a golden harvest from the world-wide shortages. But despite this, there is a simple test one can make to determine the accuracy of the implied “togetherness". Ask your employers to Include you in the distribution of their profits at the end of their fiscal year. If General Motors, U.S. Steel. Standard Oil and Anaconda Copper; If the Rockefellers, DuPonts, Fords, Mellons and the rest of the capitalist class, are partners with the 200 million odd working class members of this society, this America of "ours," then why should they continue to exclude 90% of America’s population from actual and factual ownership of this great land?

The World Socialist movement has a proposition to make. Not to the capitalist class, because we have but so much time and do not wish to waste it. Our proposal is to our fellow workers, the 200-odd millions in this country. You can help put real meaning into that pronoun “we" and into that phrase ‘the people." The system of society known as capitalism is world-wide in scope, even including that part of the world mistakenly termed socialism or communism. To put an end to all of the problems that prevent 90% of the population from enjoying the fruits of production, a new social order is necessary. What is needed is a system based upon common ownership of and common access to all that is in and on the earth, by all mankind. To achieve this end, the working class of this and of all other nations must organize and unite for the sole purpose of ending world capitalism and introducing world socialism. It is our contention that the same section of the population that carries on all of production for an owning class can do the same thing for all mankind. But class society must first be abolished. Let us organize for this goal.

Is food produced to eat? (1974)

From the Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist

So! You thought all along that food Is produced because mankind must eat That this is the one really important reason for existence of farms, food processing plants and supermarkets. Oh certainly you have heard it said, chiefly by those who disparage the profit motive, that food — like all goods and services in capitalist society — is produced mainly for sale and at a profit. But somehow this didn’t seem to be such an earth-shaking bit of information. You probably tucked the thought away, and went about the business of stretching your food dollars in the markets.

But suddenly you find your dollars shrinking almost from day to day. You stand at the meat counters and gaze, emotionally, at the price tags. You have a family of growing boys and girls who can put away quantities of that food, and you wonder how you can possibly put meat on the table more than once a week, and maybe not that frequently. Or maybe you are a pensioner on a modest fixed income, and you are painfully aware that your check is not designed to include very much of what you might have been used to eating in your more affluent days.

What is it all about’ Why can’t cattle, hogs and fowl be raised in sufficient quantity, as they once were, to make prices more reasonable? And you remind yourself of what you have read in the papers and heard on the newscasts. The growers and processors are either holding back, going out of business or threatening to do so. Why? Because feed grains, it seems, have become so expensive that those producers cannot continue to operate normally under present price freeze conditions. No profit, no food production, they tell us, and so they smother their baby chicks instead of raising them for the table, because it would cost them more to raise them than they could get in their market, and one cannot run a business on losses.

So! It is true then what socialists have been saying all along. The prime reason for producing food — or anything else under capitalism — is not to satisfy the needs of mankind but to sell at a profit. True enough, it is explained today, that there have been serious crop failures due to drought conditions not only in America but throughout much of the world. And there have been those big grain sales to Soviet Russia and Red China that have added to the shortages here. And these are behind those ridiculous prices in the supermarkets.

But then another nagging thought hits you. How about those times, and there were many of them over the years, when there were none of those problems, and when all sorts of grains and vegetables and fruit were grown for the market, and when great quantities of these vital necessities were dumped in the oceans, plowed under, or burned? There was such an abundance that the growers and processors could not get a price that made it profitable for them to sell the food. Oranges, mountains of them, in California in the Thirties, were burned. Potatoes In Idaho, thousands of bushels of them were dumped, even in recent times. Coffee in South America and fish in New England destroyed. Why? Because of Government price freeze policy? Of course not. There was no need for Government intervention then. The problem was glutted markets.

So the difficulties in the supermarkets today are not caused by drought conditions, previous crop failures, big business deals with the so-called Communist nations. It is not that it is impossible to produce enough feed grains or vegetables or fruit or meat. The problem is that the owning grower-capitalists must make a profit, and economic conditions are such that they are being squeezed by rival capitalists. Would it not make sense, then, to get to the source of the trouble, the capitalist mode of production, abolish it, and introduce a socialist society in which the things mankind needs to survive are produced only because mankind needs them? We think it does.

A World Without Money (1974)

From the Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist

Time was, when the idea of a social system operating without a medium of exchange was held only by a relative handful of scientific socialists Today, one hears the concept kicked around a bit more on talk shows and by people who do not necessarily consider themselves revolutionary in the sense of the World Socialist concept of revolution. But one gets the impression that there is not too much understanding of the economics of the question even among many of those who favor a moneyless society. They do openly disagree with the popular notion that no social order could operate without money of some sort but they seem to believe that it is going to be a case of a government of one sort or another proclaiming the abolition of money.

In order to understand why such an act will be not only unnecessary, but impossible, it is all important to comprehend why a medium of exchange, money, is necessary within the present system. Production, under capitalism, is carried on primarily for the purpose of sale on a market with view to profit and, as a result, we have an exchange or a circulation of commodities. Now it stands to reason that if eggs, shoes, whisky, houses, automobiles and all the other commodities exchange on a market in certain proportions there has to be a medium for effecting the circulation. This medium must be, itself, a commodity and one that is universally acceptable as an equivalent of the values of all commodities. So we have the commodity gold acting as the universal equivalent behind the various nominal monies of the world. And unless some other commodity with the necessary properties and the universal acceptance of gold comes along, gold will continue to act as real money.

Besides acting as a medium of circulation, money must exist, then, as a means of payment and as a measure of the values of commodities. Much of this may even be learned in a college economics course.

But the system, today, in the whole world is one of production for sale on a market with view to profit whereas the system advocated by socialists is something quite different. In a socialist world there will be no production of commodities. Goods and services will be produced only for the purpose of satisfying the needs and wants of the population. Eggs, shoes, whiskey, houses, automobiles and whatever else is wanted by society will be produced only because these things are wanted and not to sell. There will be no buying and selling at all and in such a situation there could be no need for anything to act as money.

Two questions might immediately leap to mind. First: do socialists advocate a return to simple barter? and Secondly: when has a moneyless system ever existed, at least in recorded history. The answer to the first question is “No” and to the second. “Never!” But with a but.

Obviously, barter could not exist under socialism any more than could money exist. There is just no need to exchange goods. We produce and we consume and the only difference that would be really noticeable from what takes place today would be the absence of cash registers and private or state ownership of the means of production. Should production of a particular item be inadequate to satiety the needs of the population, production of the item would be increased. If more than enough, it would be decreased.

As for the point that money always existed throughout recorded history: Yes, but not for most of the population. In previous social systems most people never had occasion to require money. Production was mainly geared to the needs of a slave or serf population and their masters. Money appeared only among a minority of the population, in trade.

And NO! We do not advocate a return to slavery or serfdom. We urge the abolition of all slavery, the end of wage slavery, the establishment of world socialism — a system in which the need for money will vanish.

Words, handle with care (1974)

From the Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist

Revolutionary socialism must be extremely careful about words. The only way one can convey thoughts is through a vocabulary and it is surprising how quickly the meaning of words change. We have dealt on this program with the word ‘revolutionary” and commented on its adulteration to the point at which the advocacy of political change within the framework of the present system of production makes one a revolutionist. Socialists insist that the vesting of ownership in the state is not socialism and the managers of state-owned industry are not socialist managers. Unless there is a change from production for sale to production for use with the total elimination of a market economy, there is no revolution. Let us examine some other terms commonly used by professed revolutionists.

“Establishment.” The fiery orator thunders his hatred of the establishment and his supporters give wild approval. “The establishment must be overthrown!” They raise their fists in the clenched salute. And what exactly do they have in mind? It seems they mean the existing managers — industrial or political — not the institution itself that vests ownership and political control in private or state hands. The word is not used by socialists because we prefer to be explicit. We are opposed to capitalism and to the ownership of the factories, mines, mills, workshops, land and all other means and instruments of wealth production and distribution by a capitalist class or a capitalist state.

But even here one cannot be too careful because a majority of the world’s population today live in areas where capitalism is declared to have been abolished. Even though nobody pretends that production in those countries is intended for any other purpose than sale on a market with view to profit, it is still popularly believed to be something other than capitalism. So when we declare ourselves to be in favor of the abolition of capitalism we are generally greeted with something like: “Oh you are in favor of the Russian, or the Chinese system, or maybe the Scandinavian or the systems in many of the Arab nations, or perhaps even Israel!”

Nor does it help all that much when we use the term “world socialism” or “scientific socialism” for we find that both terms are embraced by almost all of the so-called socialist world from the USSR to Ghana and Syria.

But there are some terms that socialists can still use that do separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. Socialists are in favor of the forthright abolition of the wages system; the prices, money, profit system, the system of buying and selling, the market economy. What about the USSR, China, Scandinavia, Ghana, Egypt, Israel, Syria, Cuba and so forth. Have they abolished the wages system and production of goods and services for sale on a market? Do they even advocate, in their professedly socialist propaganda, such action? If so we haven’t heard about it and we find their commodities from raw materials to finished goods of all types for sale in America as U.S. commodities are finding their way into the so-called socialist world. And who is there today who does not know that workers in those countries are paid wages and salaries as here, even if lower?

But, they assure us, they are in the early stages of socialism and will attain the society of which we of the World Socialist Party speak later. To which we must answer: “rubbish” The very concepts that prevail in the so-called socialist world are anti-socialist and indicative of a growing capitalism. Nationalism and patriotism. thrift, obedience to political authority, are all hallmarks of capitalism and the antithesis of socialist thought. Socialism can only mean one world where all mankind has free access to all of its needs. Speak up, Mr Brezhnev, Mr. Mao. Mr. Castro, Madam Meir and the rest of you so-called heads of socialism. Is that what you advocate? We can’t hear you.

Human Nature and Behavior (1974)

From the Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist

"Socialism would be wonderful but it won't work. It's against human nature and you can’t change human nature." How many times have we heard that judgment, usually delivered in a tone of finality. And how many more times will we hear it in the future! It seems almost to be ingrained in the thinking of the average individual, as though he was born with the thought. It is universally accepted in all countries and among all age groups and educational classifications. And yet it is so wrong that one can't help but be amazed. Wrong, that is, if by human nature we mean human behavior. And this is what is generally meant because the nature of man to be human hasn't been subjected to change and is not at all what socialists are talking about.

But human behavior certainly is possible to change and there are many examples around the world today and in the history of civilization of changing human behavior. In fact, there is a branch of psychology that is based upon the knowledge that human behavior can be changed. Practically every university worthy of the name, today, offers courses in behavioral psychology.

However, this is not our field, nor are we ready to embrace this science as an ally of socialism other than to note that behavioral scientists certainly agree that human behavior is changeable. The science of socialism is based on the historical fact that social systems, just as plants and animals, have gone through a process of evolution. Just as man was not always man, nor a rose always a rose, the capitalist system of society was not always part of the scene. Capitalism evolved out of feudalism; feudalism and chattel slavery evolved out of primitive tribal societies when they reached a point in their development that made these higher forms of society possible.

The behavior of serfs and peasants in pre-capitalist society was certainly different from the behavior of wage and salaried workers in our times. Serfs and peasants, like chattel slaves, rarely if ever handled money so the variety of behavior common to people who must have money in order to exist could not have been present among most of the population. The ideology of nationalism was not present among them because nations—in the sense we know today—did not exist. Armies in those times were composed of mercenaries — a separate class — and so it certainly could not be said of peasants, serfs and chattel slaves that they were inherently warlike as so many believe workers of our times to be.

In fact, there are all sorts of evidences In more recent history, particularly in the history of American capitalism, of changing human behavior. Americans are, generally, immigrants from countries all over the world. How long does it take them to change much of their old country behavior patterns? It may seem in many cases that they cling to the old customs but all it takes is a trip back to the homeland after having been through the mill of American-style capitalism a few years to bring into sharp focus their changed behavior. The manner of life dictated by American capitalism has brought about many changes in their way of thinking. And despite their traditional hatreds, the melting pot of developed capitalism has a tendency of mellowing and breaking down hostility.

Socialists maintain that capitalism will, ultimately, compel those who toil for wages or salaries, who produce all but possess little more than their ability to produce, to lay aside the differences that capitalist propaganda still seeks to promote. The working class of the entire world will be forced by the very nature of capitalism to unite in the interests of a higher form of social order — socialism. And a new generation, born under socialist freedom, will look back in amazement at the behavior of their fathers and grandfathers.

Christmas (1974)

From the Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist

There are several, differing ways of looking at Christmas. The pious Christian regards It as a religious festival, the commemoration of the supposed birth of the S-O-N as opposed to the pagan Egyptian's celebration of the birth (or re-birth) of the S-U-N. The kids all look forward to toys and other presents (if they are young enough) from Santa while the charities and the press have a field day raising funds to buy gifts for the more poverty-stricken victims of capitalism.

The joy in this joyous occasion, in the case of the merchants and money-lenders is directly in proportion to their take from the shoppers and borrowers. And millions of struggling wage slaves, bracing themselves for further escalation of their debt levels, manage somehow to enjoy the festivities, postponing their added worries until December 26th.

The socialist observes this annual scene with a jaundiced eye. Not that socialists are opposed to festivals as such. The custom of celebrating the changing seasons long predates Christianity and it is at least conceivable that festivals will be enjoyed when religions of all sorts have become a remembered historical episode in man's development. So our emotions at this time can best be termed "mixed.”

For leaving aside the religious and the commercial significance of Christmas there is a certain something in the air at this time that underscores the true nature of mankind. The propagandists of capitalism would have us believe that we are, intrinsically, competitive and aggressive toward one another, that a society that can (we claim) best be described as cannibalistic, such as capitalism, is a natural way of life. We are supposed to believe that it is normal for big fish to eat little fish in the world of man as well as the world of fish. There is supposed to be nothing bad about a society that compels working people to compete among themselves for the opportunity to work, to support themselves and families, that divides them on the basis of skin pigmentation or ethnic background or religion.

But despite all of the pressures, including the added pressures of a capitalist Christmas, the gregarious, cooperative, nature of man does bob to the surface, if only briefly, during this period as it does on other equally brief occasions throughout the year. True, the feeling to which we allude is largely debased by the spirit of charity for charity debases the giver at least as much as it does the receiver. Charity is and must be accompanied by the attitude that it is normal and right that there should be those who are in a position to give and those who must be compelled to receive. It is a non-recognition of the fact that divisions such as this exist only because of the economic organization under which we live and that such organization has long outlived its usefulness. Charity fosters passiveness and reaction rather than a spirit of genuine revolution, the urge to organize for the abolition of the social system that degrades humanity.

What, then, would be the nature of a festival in December in a socialist world? We can, of course, only speculate on the positive aspects at this time. It is much easier to predict what will not exist. For one thing, any religious significance will have vanished. It will be no longer necessary for society to support institutions that serve no useful function and with the knowledge of man's dominion over economic forces the urge to maintain religions will undoubtedly disappear. There is nothing, certainly, instinctive in man that makes him believe in a supernatural. Religion must be learned —Secondly, the custom of exchanging gifts, if indeed it will exist, will not be based to any extent on the proddings of an economic class that benefits from such an exchange. For the rest, we are content to leave it to a socialist future.