FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why Not Socialism?

Photo Source thierry ehrmann | CC BY 2.0

In May of 1949, the first issue of Monthly Review came off the press, with a circulation of 450 copies. It featured an essay by none other than Albert Einstein titled, “Why Socialism?” Why so famous a scientist speaking to so few people, and then out of his field of expertise?

For one, he was asked by a friend, Otto Nathan. For two, at the age of 70 he had fully formed opinions about capitalism. Regarding the deteriorating relationship of the individual to society, he had this to say: “The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil.” This is the sort of thing that earned him 1,000 plus pages in his FBI file.

And then, three, Einstein himself posed and answered the question, “…we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society.”

Einstein had to understand things simply. In developing special relativity, he asked, what do we mean when we say two events occur simultaneously, and then proposed a simple thought experiment to test a proposition that was too obvious to need testing. Obvious to other serious thinkers for centuries, that is, but it ushered in a daring new view of the physical world.

His genius ability to see things clearly did not make him immune from criticism when it came to his secular views. He was regarded as naïve. Upon close examination, a charge of naiveté rendered against a person may mean they have not exhibited the expected deference to established norms. This lack of conformity, when conformity is so easy, makes them the object of curiosity at best, or the object of law enforcement, at worst.

In the almost 70 years since his essay, it’s out in the open now that late-stage capitalism is right on track. Capital long ago seized control of the state and its political apparatus. The reigning oligarchy is flush with satisfaction over its successes: the quasi-merger of corporation and state, corporations attaining rights over people, people becoming more and more dependent upon the very corporations that exploit them, income inequality, even greater wealth inequality, all predictive consequences of predatory capitalism.

Why do some have so much, and others so little? (It has nothing to do with work). Why do some declare wars, while others die in them? (It has everything to do with workers).

Where can it go from here?  Let’s hear from an expert. Credit Suisse’s 2013 Global Wealth Report: “Two generations ahead, future extrapolations of current wealth growth rates yields almost a billion millionaires, equivalent to 20% of the total adult population. If this scenario unfolds, then billionaires will be commonplace, and there is likely to be a few trillionaires too — eleven according to our best estimate.”

The military is outside the pale of political ideology and can be counted on for straightforwardness. From “The Future of the Army” report, September 2016: “Today’s world of haves and have-nots will be greatly magnified, with those fortunate enough to have employment and access to stunning technology living in stark contrast to the hundreds of millions struggling to survive in disrupted environments.”

The report also anticipates accelerating problems due to global climate change (accepting the scientific community consensus), deeply associated with the capitalist model. Resource competition in the northernmost part of the planet opened to commerce due to Arctic ice melt. Low-lying areas made uninhabitable by rising sea levels. Extreme droughts causing collapse of agriculture and economies, resulting in refugee crises. Natural disasters from wildfires to floods to deadly heat waves only increasing.

The ruling elite must be ever watchful for cracks in the capitalist edifice. Small signs of nervousness have begun to appear now that many of our citizens are able to mouth the word, socialism, and keep it on their stomach. People have social motivations as well as ego-driven motivations.

An economic system such as capitalism, based on profit competition, brings out the worst, predatory instincts. In contrast, socialism, based on cooperation in fulfilling society’s basic needs, brings out the best, ethical instincts. If it’s as simple as this, why is socialism so far off in the distance, and what can be done about it?

To the first part, the distance, the ruling elite has ensconced itself since the country’s inception as the propertied, law-writing class. Their problems were the problems of all social hierarchies. How to keep their privileges in place while controlling the masses. To this purpose, class division must be institutionalized and maintained through an educational system that moderates the behavior of the citizen, reducing him/her to mere observer, rather than actor, in respect to existing class arrangement. In its most insidious sense this is known as “respect for the law”.

To the second part, the pitchfork image is delightful but must be rejected in the face of the USG’s armed police force with its tear gas, rubber bullets, real bullets, tanks, helicopter gunships, missiles, and thermonuclear weapons.

For generations, socialism was taboo. Pressing for it made you a cultural outsider. This does appear to be changing. The threat is diminishing. It’s also well to realize that capitalism is doing much of the work by failing to a remarkable degree. Capitalism’s losers are everywhere. And they’re not hiding.

From the perspective of class struggle, people are on one or the other side of the barricades. This much is comprehensible. Just as comprehensible —with the second part in mind — is that there are those blind to the barricades.

 

More articles by:

James Rothenberg can be reached at: jrothenberg3@gmail.com.

December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
Jasmine Aguilera
Lessons From South of the Border
Manuel García, Jr.
A Formula for U.S. Election Outcomes
Sam Pizzigati
Drug Company Execs Make Millions Misleading Cancer Patients. Here’s One Way to Stop Them
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Agriculture as Wrong Turn
James McEnteer
And That’s The Way It Is: Essential Journalism Books of 2018
Chris Gilbert
Biplav’s Communist Party of Nepal on the Move: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian
Judith Deutsch
Siloed Thinking, Climate, and Disposable People: COP 24 and Our Discontent
Jill Richardson
Republicans Don’t Want Your Vote to Count
John Feffer
‘Get Me Outta Here’: Trump Turns the G20 into the G19
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail