REALITY-SOCIALISM IN THE 21st CENTURY, A CRITIQUE AND A DREAM
First of all, I would like to say that I have a lot of respect for academics and I don’t mean for this critique of them to be taken as a belittlement of all their contributions to Socialist ideas. What I am trying to do is point their attention to a more pressing problem with Socialism in America.
Too often I am reading about a utopian socialism. A socialism that is devoid of capitalist and working great. But I don’t see any models of this utopian socialism in existence. I do see plenty of reality-socialism models around the world but most of the academics refuse to recognize them as socialism at all. Many of them (socialist models) are corrupt and dictatorial and should be criticized as such but they have socialist economies and they are functioning, for better or worse, differently than our capitalist system. Don’t you think that an honest discussion of factual-socialism, warts and all, would be more useful for the students you influence, year after year?
The “micro-level social transformation” that you observe from your ivory towers should, in my opinion, be the most important place for American Socialist to start a discussion about the need for socialism, revolution and playing a relevant role in American workers’ lives. That social transformation we need is to organize the unorganized. We should hold out a realistic model of what solutions socialism has to offer against capitalism’s shortcoming. When you speak out loud of the days when workers will collectively and democratically distribute the surpluses they produce, please remember that we are a long way from collective or democratic anythings. Our political power is shrinking and the AFL-CIO is the most corrupt and bankrupt leadership we’ve ever had.
Building a new party through which we can build a base among the working class is the first step towards anyone’s dreams for Socialism. It’s nice when you can just skip ahead to the good stuff, but it is a disservice to exclude reality from your academic works. A prediction for the future should also include a plan for getting there that is realistic. A reminder to keep our feet on the ground when we’re dreaming. We need a path to Socialism
A Path for Socialism in the 21st Century
My dream begins with today and the state of affairs within the labor movement in general, and Socialism, in particular. What I see is a 2-party system of democracy and civil liberty in which the working-class is poorly represented by liberal elements of the Democratic Party. I see the biggest labor organization, the AFL-CIO, collapsing under the pressure of run-away jobs in a global economy. Its undemocratic style of leadership is incapable of organizing the un-organized or even fighting for the multitude of issues that affects the workers of America.
The Left-wing of the political momentum of this country is in a free-fall with all kinds of people and organizations claiming to have the correct analysis of the global economy. But none of these groups or individuals has a practice to prove it. Even a failed practice is better than none at all because at least you learn what not to do.
My practice with the New Left organization, For The People, was a failed attempt at starting a new political party, but we were very effective at organizing the workers and involving them in the solutions to their problems. It became dogmatic and undemocratic and eventually its “ultra-leftism” caused the breakup of the core group. Yet, it was labor’s best ally in the face of a declining industrial base. I certainly learned my Marxism and how to organize the unorganized while I was there. We helped workers to organize and to use democracy to “kick the bums” out of office. Our newspaper not only spouted Socialist ideals but also local struggles.
We supported feminist and anti-racist by giving them space in our paper and on the editorial board. Many of our community supporters did not understand all the in-fighting that was going on with ultra-feminist and ultra-racist pointing fingers at each other. Soon they lost interest in joining our committees and we slowly faded away. This or a story ending the same way is what began the demise of most of the New Left’s efforts.
The collapse of the Soviet economy is another failure we can learn from even though it has shaken everyone’s faith in Marxism and rightly so. Dogmatism, such as the Soviets practiced, which called for a socialist economy without any capitalism, we learned is not the proper role for a Socialist economy that is trying to survive in a world dominated by capitalist economies. If it were, then the Soviet model would be booming by now, but instead we have the Chinese Communist model which is a merger of state controlled industries and institutions closely regulating the capitalists it allows into its economy. It dominates capitalism not eliminates it.
Remember when our economy needed two, $800 billion bailouts (Bush & Obama), it was China who loaned us the money. A dogmatist, like the USSR would have refused to help capitalism. But the Chinese-Socialist model is one that needs capitalist to provide innovation and to hire its workers, but it also heavily regulates the business community. In my eyes, it is a new direction for socialism. That is what brings me to the second part of my dream, imaging how America’s workers can lead us from “here to there.” But before I get to that, let me say this about China and Socialism.
Why I Think China is a Socialist economy
The Chinese economy is the second largest “Market” in the world and it was forged from the efforts of a peasant army that took a starving nation and through a Maoist interpretation of Marx (Chinese-Marxism), they formed collective farms and brought it back to life. They firmly placed it on the road to Socialism, and what we have seen over the decades is the transformation of a Socialist- agrarian economy into a Socialist-industrial economy. It is not a utopian Socialism, it’s a living, breathing Socialist Society that has to struggle with a one party system of government. The state runs the economy through its banks and state-run industries and the Communist Party of China (CPC) runs the state. All capitalist must form partnerships with Chinese businesses in order to enter the marketplace. This is not what the Soviet Union did but that doesn’t make it a total capitulation to capitalism by the Chinese either. It’s just not a “dogmatist” approach to capitalism by a Socialist State. Capitalism is still the enemy of the people, but when the only other viable Socialist Economy, Russia, has totally abandoned all the peoples’ assets and returned them to private property, you have to seek a peaceful co-existence with capitalism. That is exactly what I see the CPC doing as it allows Global Wealth Funds to enter the marketplace slowly, with the Central Committee watching what they invest in. This is hardly “Les-affaire” capitalism and it is much more regulation than the European Union or American economies have in place. They still use a planned-economy approach from the Central Committee.
Of course they have problems with their model of socialism. It is corrupt, undemocratic and oppressive. New class lines are being drawn by the existence of capitalist in China and many of the Party’s leaders are millionaires. Chinese businesses are gaining influence with the central committee members. Reality, this is what destroys all utopian models of Socialism. But just because it is corrupted by reality doesn’t make it a capitalist economy. It is Reality-Socialism instead of Utopian-Socialism and that is difficult for some people to accept. If it doesn’t conform to their vision of Socialism then it’s not Socialism, to them. Well remember that America is a corrupted society but that doesn’t mean we’re not capitalist, we’re just Reality-Capitalism. I am surprised at how many people, today, who say they are Socialist, don’t recognize it when they see it and don’t support Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, Viet Nam, even Sweden or any emerging socialist economy. None of these are perfect but they are, for good or for bad, Reality- Socialist models.
I feel that China has moved the ball forward for Socialism by establishing some strong elements for a socialist society that other nations can emulate. They have a strong State-bank and most of their natural resources are under the control of a State-run company. They are not afraid to regulate any industry it feels is getting more powerful than they need to be. What China represents today is a realistic model of what labor can achieve with state power and state control of the basic industries, including banking. But it is still a class society with Cadre as the ruling and middle classes and workers still in need of independent organizations to represent their interests. It’s also undeveloped in the areas of democracy and civil liberties and that too is part of its Socialist model.
Back to The Dream, getting to there from here.
To begin my journey to Socialism in America, I must first look at the leadership that will take us on this adventure. It all begins when the strongest leaders of the American socialist movements care enough to make our scattered efforts to change the world a united one. Start a political party that is organizing the unorganized and letting the people write the platform for change. As I mentioned earlier, we are in disarray, basically leaderless unless some organization is ready to step forward. In order for this organization to be the legitimate, third Party that our 2-party system needs, it must have its base firmly planted in the Labor movement. Hopefully, it will be a Marxist party with a distinctive “American” point of view and analysis that will slowly but surely guide the workers of America to a new American Marxism, whatever that may become. This American Marxist party will be the catalyst, hopefully, for a revitalized labor movement that will want to bring more socialist idea to the American economy, without destroying it first.
From our base as a democratic labor movement, we can form a labor party to bring together all of the progressive elements to combat the negative ones that are presently vying for leadership of our class to promote their anti-worker agenda. “Organize the unorganized and democratize the undemocratic” should be our new slogan as we tackle the first hurdle toward American Socialism, building our base.
Trying to call for the formation of an American Labor Party without having any workers to bring to the party would be stupid. But calling for the “need” for an American Labor Party while you are building your base could be a rallying point for attracting vanguard workers and activist. Once the party has reached a certain level of visibility and influence, its call for the third party will be taken seriously by its allies. At this level of organizing, running candidates and a political agenda of positive reforms will open up more opportunities to bring socialist ideas to Congress and even the White House. Will we try to mirror the Chinese model or will we try something new? Will we write a new chapter to “Das Capital?” I’m not sure what socialism will look like when it finally comes to America but I can hope. I hope it brings a better life for everyone in society, but especially for the working-class who truly are the backbone of any economy.
What kind of Socialism do I Believe in?
Socialism is a moving, growing and shrinking thing that can’t be defined once and for all. Every day the facts change and so should our analysis. I read the manifesto as most of us have, and I got fired up to defeat capitalism and live the dream of “form each according to his skills and to each according to his need”, but the best I could do was try to organize a union. There was not going to be any armed revolution like Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea, etc. In America, Marx’s revolution is still in its infancy. We suffer from “Infantile Disorder” to the highest degree. We fight among ourselves and call each other names and use the internet to try to do virtual organizing, but we can’t get anyone’s attention. In our journals we are skating around the real issues of organizing the unorganized. I read a story here or there about some workers fighting back but, I don’t read any articles about how a Marxist should be organizing those workers. We discuss how good it will be after capitalism and what a great society we will form when there are no more classes. But we don’t look out the window and see just how far away we are from overthrowing capitalism in America. America is capitalism’s, “top of the world.” It will be the last bastion of capitalism to fall to the revolutionary masses. So what do we do in the meantime while we wait for capitalisms demise, play video games, perhaps?
When we do look out the window we see that everywhere socialism has planted its seed and grown, the fruit is bitter. “This isn’t Socialism,” we proclaim and go our merry way. We just keep promoting Utopian-Socialism everywhere we go and in everything we write. No one wants to talk about the 800 lb. gorilla in the room, the lack of leadership from American Marxist, the lack of a Marxist Party and the lack of a Marxist strategy for the American working-class.
Socialism has been tried in a lot of different places, with mixed results. We as Marxist should be studying these “Socialist Models” and critiquing what we like and dislike. What caused one to fail and others to change their attitude about capitalism? Then we still have to decide how we are going to assist Global Socialism in the Global Economy from our position in the belly of the beast, the American political system and the US Capitalist Economy.
I don’t care about the crisis of neoclassical economics or the rift in the universal metabolism, I want to talk about organizing models. I want Labor to become the “main contradiction” that all good Marxist want to resolve. I am tired of listening to discussions that don’t contribute to the efforts to become more than a marginal group of intellectuals. Let’s skip to the part where we start getting to the subject of objectively perceived, Reality-Socialism. Let’s talk about the good and the bad in every country that is trying to build a Socialist economy. Let’s build unity around our analysis and a plan which we all can implement, to build a Socialist movement again. We need to apply Marxism to the American economy with the idea of increasing our political base among the working-class. We need to organize enough political power to start dominating capitalism and its political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans. This should be the focal point of every Marxist editorial board. We don’t have to wait until we over through capitalism to start laying the ground work for the eventual nationalization of our economy. Each time we defend our standard of living, we are doing the work of revolutionaries and building a path to Socialism.