We live during the most far-reaching social crisis since the Great Depression. It permeates economic, political, and civic society. It’s a world crisis of modern civilization, but one doesn’t have to look as far away as the impoverished Greek youth in Athens to see it: a hustler’s daily graft or gang life are the only real options for untold youth as near as the oppressed Black community in Chicago’s Englewood ghetto. Even in the “wealthiest” country of the world, the United States, one in six struggle to afford the basic needs of life as wages fail to match rising costs.
Conventional public opinion reminds us that we live in the country of the American Dream and the “middle class majority.” Freedom and democracy are our self-stated commanding values; shared sacrifice in difficult times is a patriotic duty for the good of the nation. But when the major media outlets remind us that the Great Recession is over and the economy is recovering, a single mother forced to choose between adequate shelter or adequate nutrition for her child might ask: Recovery for whom?
Rather than a government “for, of, and by the people”, a cynical contempt for the people reigns in political power from the federal level to the cities and towns. During historically unprecedented levels of corporate welfare “asset relief” – $600 billion and climbing for the Wall Street capitalists alone – we are told there is not enough money to fund social services. Schools, public workers’ wages and benefit programs providing a lifeline to nearly half of the national population living either paycheck to paycheck or in outright poverty: everything must be sacrificed on the altar of profit.
The illusion of most Americans belonging to a vaguely defined “middle class” is not a recent development. In addition to enriching American literature with Of Mice And Men and The Grapes of Wrath, author and communist- inspired activist John Steinbeck once remarked on the hold of Big Business ideology over broad popular masses in the U.S.: “the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat [working class], but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”
There’s no doubt that were Steinbeck and other anti-capitalist fighters from Helen Keller to the Reverend Martin Luther King Junior alive today, they would applaud the 2011 emergence of a sorely needed counter against this spiritual bondage: the Occupy movement’s anti-Wall Street battle cry: We are the 99%!
Whatever the shortcomings the Occupy movement’s analysis, they captured a fundamental truth and carried it to the broadest layers of popular consciousness: The United States is a democracy only for the 1% and a dictatorship for the rest.
The capitalist class’s wealth and power comes from its private ownership of the “means of production”: the corporate giants of manufacturing, retail / exchange, agriculture, finance, land and infrastructure, distribution and communication. Under capitalism, production is socialized but appropriation remains private.
Upon ordering a meal at Taco Bell, no private individual or small group painstakingly cultivates the necessary crops and livestock, harvests and processes the ingredients, transports them along to their destination storefront, then personally receives and prepares the food in question. The workers’ living labor creates new value. Yum Brands – Taco Bell’s owner’s owner – is a very wealthy corporation. Its workers not only generate enough value to cover the company’s everyday operating costs including their own wages – they generate a profit. As a reward for their job well done, CEO David Novack and a small Board of Directors appropriate – rather, steal – that surplus and send the money in whichever directions they please, typically toward their pockets and major shareholders’ bank accounts.
Racism, national oppression, bigotry, social isolation and the second-class status of women through systematic patriarchy are the real manifestation of a tiny elite’s need to perpetuate division and mutual hostility between oppressed peoples and the relatively privileged white male workers. Of course, the cheap labor pools that oppressed nationalities and women provide are welcome additions to the ‘race to the bottom’ arsenal of the capitalist class.
Unable to follow the logic of human need when profit isn’t on the line, energy giants plunder and pollute to such an extent that the question is raised of whether the Earth’s future generations will inherit a life-sustaining planet at all. It’s no wonder that half of all Americans under thirty favor socialism over capitalism, or even that eleven percent of Americans identify communism as a morally superior social system despite being submerged in decades of far- reaching anti-communist distortions.
The growing consciousness that something is fundamentally wrong with the existing social order is a positive, essential development – but by itself, it’s not enough. With socialism, humanity could easily meet every person’s needs for food, housing, health, education, culture and recreation.
We recognize socialism as the synthesis of freedom, solidarity and revolutionary democracy.
Moving past capitalism means freedom from the economic theft and social alienation it creates, as well as opening up the only possible path to the pursuit of happiness enshrined in the Declaration of Independence: where the ruling class uses such phrases as only a cynical tool to use on the campaign trail, socialism gives it flesh and blood.
Socialism is an affirmation of solidarity because its international character – already an instinct among working class activists – becomes institutionalized. Like neoliberal capitalism or “globalization” tends to pierce national borders in the search for more money, socialist internationalism tends to dissolve boundaries into a broader community of human relations. Revolution advances across national borders and deepens where it’s already won the first victory over Capital.
Socialism is built through and protected by revolutionary democracy – any process that runs counter to this, to whatever degree, runs counter to the only way socialism can grow into itself from the capitalist society it inherits. This kind of democracy has no room for distantly unaccountable politicians or corporate bribes, nor any other aspect of the “dollar democracy” to which we’re all accustomed to living in. Socialist democracy is rooted in the conscious control by the people over every sphere of society, spanning from workers’ committees on the job, popular councils in cities and towns that become the basis of the new government, to open media access for the entire population.
Socialism itself is a transitory phase from the capitalist society from which the working class and its allies find themselves in charge of after the social revolution to communism, a classless society that knows neither money nor the state. In other words, communism represents humanity’s rise from the “kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom.”
As class antagonisms, such as exploiter versus exploited, disappear, so too will the need for a state to defend the socialist revolution against capitalist restoration. As our productive technique grows, and more and more of the world is in the hands of workers’ republics building world socialism to replace world capitalism, even the need for money itself will disappear. Thus, the fight for socialism today represents the fight for the communist – in other words the liberated – future of humankind.
But this transition won’t happen overnight or automatically. The current political landscape in the United States is dominated by the “two-party system.” The capitalist class finds its willing representatives in the Democratic and Republican parties. While the Republicans are the more enthusiastic party of big business, socialists recognize that neither one is – nor can be reformed into – a working class party.
Breaking the Democratic Party’s hold on the minds and organizations of the working class is one of the principal tasks faced by American socialists. To do this, revolutionary workers will need to build their own mass party-movement, one that engages in electoral campaigns, builds protests, demonstrations and strikes, and ties itself to economic, social and cultural organizations.
The Red Party advocates principled revolutionary unity among the existing socialist organizations as the crucial first step toward building the mass revolutionary party of the future. Instead of a scattered array of sects, organized on a mutually competitive basis and requiring the strictest theoretical unity on every issue in the workers movement’s history, we need a common party united around a Marxist program. Instead of bureaucratic centralism, where leading bodies impose straitjackets on their organizations’ politics, we need genuine democratic centralism, where party members can work out political differences publicly while still uniting in action. Since the workers’ movement requires global coordination to confront the global capitalist class, we also need a revolutionary workers’ International (a federation of world parties) organized on the same basis.
■ Abolition of the Senate and the presidency, their power to an expanded House of
■ Nationalize all banks and consolidate them into a single, nationally administered central bank.
■ Abolition of the electoral college.
■ Open all high-level government positions to competitive election.
■ Election of all legislatures by proportional representation.
■ Creation of a computerized infrastructure allowing citizens to vote directly on legislation.
■ The right to recall all elected officials.
■ Expansion of the National Guard and the general arming of the working class as a step toward abolishing the standing army.
■ The right of soldiers to elect and recall their officers.
■ Workplace election of all managers in socialized industry.
■ Immediate closing of all military bases on foreign soil.
■ Immediate release of all non-violent offenders from incarceration; rehabilitation, not prison, as the first resort in criminal justice.
■ Citizenship right for all immigrants residing within the United States. Free movement of people across our borders
■ The right of self-determination to all Native American tribes, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
■ Immediate shutdown of the CIA and NSA.
■ Full legalization of marijuana for all adults over the age of 18.
■ Full sexual education in school; full access to birth control and abortion.
■ End the war on drugs.
■ The treatment of addiction to illicit substances as a social concern rather than criminal.
■ End all foreign aid to repressive, reactionary regimes abroad.
■ Full legal and social equality for LGBTQ people.
■ Democratization of the major media to allow for sustained public participation; protection and expansion of the commons.
■ Replacement of police forces as presently constituted with democratically controlled committees for public safety.
■ Establishment of a national health service to provide universal care to all residents.
■ A right to housing and utilities without debt.
■ Immediate abolition of all student debt.
■ Immediate repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act and all other anti-union laws.
■ Guaranteed employment.
■ Full trade union rights to the armed forces.
■ Establishment of a guaranteed minimum income.
■ Establishment of a six-hour working day and a thirty hour work week with no loss in pay.
■ A minimum wage of $15 an hour as a first step toward a living wage.
■ Establishment of socialized, worker-controlled cafeterias, day cares and laundries as a step toward women’s liberation.
■ Immediate creation of a massive public works campaign to rebuild national infrastructure and transition to a renewable energy system.
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