“I am opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while millions of men and women who work all the days of their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence.
“Of course, socialism is violently denounced by the capitalist press and by all the brood of subsidized contributors to magazine literature, but this only confirms the view that the advance of socialism is very properly recognized by the capitalist class as the one cloud upon the horizon which portends an end to the system in which they have waxed fat, insolent, and despotic through the exploitation of their countless wage-working slaves. ” Eugene Debs
Record numbers of people are now criticizing capitalism and looking for a fundamental change.
A poll conducted by Pew Research in December 2011 found that almost 50% of people aged 18-29 view socialism positively. This is six percentage points higher than 20 months ago. Meanwhile, support for capitalism continues to decline, with 47% having negative views of the system. Meanwhile, a Pew Research poll released in January shows a rapid rise in class tensions, with 66% of Americans now saying there are “strong conflicts” between rich and poor, which is a significant rise since 2009 when only 47% saw “strong conflicts.”
Other polls also confirm that around half of young people do not like capitalism and are looking for an alternative to the crisis, poverty, and environmental degradation of capitalism. This is despite the fact that the corporate media says absolutely nothing positive about socialism. Similar sentiments of rejection of capitalism were to be found among African Americans, women, lower-income people, and those without a college education.
It is no mistake that support for socialism grows in times of capitalist crisis. Despite having been shut out of the corporate media and written out of the official history books, socialists have played an enormous part in organizing social struggles and winning gains for working-class and poor people.
The massive concentration of the mass media – print, TV, and internet – in the hands of eight corporations is an enormous propaganda weapon the ruling elite use to feed us the messages that fit their interests. They blare out one message – “we” must sacrifice to bail out Wall Street and the capitalist system. Yet income inequality is at record levels.
The task before us is to build a powerful mass movement of workers and young people that can break open the straightjacket of the two-party system, challenge capitalism, and build a new, socialist society.
To get there, we need to develop successful strategies for winning our present battles. As part of that, we need to reclaim our history of struggles. But the workers and young people who organized and led those struggles are no longer with us. That’s where socialists come into the picture. Socialists have kept alive lessons from the successful struggles of the past and can provide a strategy to fight back today.
What is Socialism?
With capitalism crumbling both in the U.S. and internationally, the question is: what can we create that can replace it? The Democrats and other liberal thinkers tell us that we must accept cuts and falling living standards in order to feed the beast of capitalism. This is the crucial issue facing the movement today. How are we going to find the money to protect our present living standards, our homes, our health care, our education, our environment – let alone improve them?
We reject this warped logic. How come they spend trillions of dollars to prop up the capitalist system, then have no money to fund our basic needs? How come they have shipped off millions of well-paid jobs overseas in the pursuit of profit, and then refuse to provide new jobs for those who are left unemployed? How can you feed yourself without a job or unemployment benefits? How to can you put a roof over your head without any form of subsistence?
We point to the massive wealth accumulated by the richest 1% of the country. There needs to be a massive tax on the rich and big business. But this can only be a temporary stop-gap solution. Socialists are not trying to redistribute poverty, as is claimed by right-wing talk radio. Socialists point to the massive waste of this system and explain how the economy and society could be organized in a far better way.
For a Massive Jobs Program and a Living Wage for All
Socialist are for massive investment in new jobs and for retooling the economy to both protect the environment and put all the unemployed back to work. Democratic planning by the majority of society would ensure that everyone has a job and that the economy provides the products we need.
Every unemployed person is a wasted resource that would be productive in a new socialist economy and society. Full employment would provide a massive increase in wealth. This would allow U.S. society and the global economy to get out of its crisis and provide a living-wage job, decent housing, and quality health care for everyone.
By taking decision-making out of the hands of the owners of the huge energy companies and affiliated industries, socialist policies would be able to not only create tens of millions of new jobs but also transition the economy away from fossil fuels, which are threatening to destroy the planet as we know it.
Nothing short of a planned full-scale overhaul of the methods by which our society’s goods are produced, distributed, and powered will be sufficient to reverse the damage being done to the earth under capitalism. In November 2009, Scientific American published “A Plan to Power 100 Percent of the Planet with Renewables,” showing it is possible to meet humanity’s energy needs from renewable sources.
But capitalism can’t do this. Under capitalism, if someone can’t make a profit, it isn’t done. Capitalism can’t make profits building quality low-cost housing, protecting the environment, or ensuring everyone has a living-wage job. Corporate interests get in the way. And the government won’t do it because it is controlled by the two corporate parties.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. said in the last year of his life: “We must honestly face the fact that the movement must address itself to the question of restructuring the whole of American society. There are forty million poor people here, and one day one must ask the question, ‘Why are there forty million poor people in America?’ And when you begin to ask that question, you begin to question the capitalist economy.” (Speech at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, August 1967)
Socialism is a very simple concept. It is the idea that ordinary working people can run their workplaces and schools, as well as society as a whole, without bosses. Workers already make all the products and provide all the services. The capitalist elite hardly step into the workplace. The majority of working people – the working class – already run this system. Our power is enormous if we are conscious of it. This country would stop without our labor. Our same labor can build a new and far better society, based not on profit but mutual cooperation and democratic planning.
But big business wants us to be ignorant of our real power and keep us divided. Racism, targeting immigrants, nationalism, sexism, and homophobia have always been in the arsenal of weapons used by big business to keep working people divided.
For a Democratic Plan of Production
In a socialist society, a democratic plan would be drawn up by the majority of the population based on their needs. In that way, the needs and priorities of the people in society can be worked out. A national plan of production, with decision-making taking place at a local, regional, and national level, would then be drawn up to ensure that the economy is restructured to provide for these needs. It’s not a question of a lack of technical skill, as had plagued human societies in the past. We have the technical skill. It’s a question of power and how decisions are made.
At present, 500 huge global corporations are the power brokers in capitalism and dominate our society and our government. While those corporations maintain their power, we cannot make the fundamental changes we need.
Socialist Alternative says that we need to end the monopoly of power by big business over our society. We ask the question, who elected the leaders of these corporations that have such power? Who are they accountable to? As any economic textbook will tell you, they are accountable only to their shareholders.
Today, 83% of all U.S. stocks are now in the hands of 1% of the people (ACS, Lending Report via Financemymoney.com), and this richest 1% of all Americans gobbled up 66% of the income growth between 2001 and 2007 as a result of this share ownership (Harvard magazine, July/August 2010).
In order to change our society, we need to take the wealth of these 500 largest corporations out of the hands of this elite 1% and put it into the hands of the majority of the population. Then we need to have a broad level of participation at a local, state, and national level by ordinary workers (not the millionaires who run our present government) to plan how we would administer this wealth to provide for the needs of the majority. That is genuine socialism.
Today more than ever, our problems are global. Capitalism is a global system. Not only is it attacking living standards around the world but, due to its insatiable drive for profit with no regard for social consequences, it is threatening the survival of life as we know it on the planet. The ruling capitalist elites have done nothing to stem the growing threat of global warming. It is only by building a mass movement to challenge capitalism and taking power out of the hands of the corporate elite and into the hands of the vast majority of people on the planet that the threat to living standards and the planet can be ended.
Join Socialist Alternative
Socialist Alternative is a socialist organization made up of members who are fighting in our workplaces, communities, and campuses against the exploitation and injustices people face every day. We campaign for workers’ rights and fighting, democratic labor unions. We are a diverse organization combating racism, students organizing against sweatshops and war, ordinary people demanding full legalization for all undocumented workers, women and men fighting sexism and homophobia.
We have organized numerous protests on a number of issues, including against military recruitment in schools, to defend hospitals facing closure, and against budget cuts. At present, we are focusing on a campaign to defend higher education against budget cuts, and defend K-12 education and teachers against school closures and the broader attempt to privatize public education.
We support any initiatives that stand up to corporate power. We support anti-corporate, pro-worker candidates that challenge the corporate two-party system. We will work with all genuine groups and individuals to build a new left-wing political party that can represent the interests of working people as a necessary first step to challenging this corporate power and to organize the millions who are looking for a real alternative to the Democrats and Republicans.
We see the global capitalist system as the root cause of terrorism, war, poverty, discrimination, and environmental destruction. We are for democratic socialism where people will have control over their daily lives. We believe the dictatorships that existed in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe were perversions of what socialism is really about.
Socialist Alternative works with its co-thinkers in the Committee for a Workers’ International in socialist groups in over 30 counties around the globe to achieve this goal. Capitalism is a global system of inequality. We need to build a whole new world based on the socialist principles of democratic planning by the majority of the population in the interests of the majority of the population and the planet itself.
We ask you to join us and get involved in our campaigns.