Which Way for the American Working Class?
In the 2016 elections, the idea of socialism has been embraced by many people. Recent polls report that 31% of Americans “react positively” to the word socialism; among 18 to 29-year olds, almost half view socialism favorably and only 47% view capitalism as a good thing. This means that 31% of Americans believe some part of the idea that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned by the community as a whole.
According to Pew Research polls, “Fewer than three-in-ten Americans have expressed trust in the federal government in every major national poll conducted since July 2007 – the longest period of low trust in government in more than 50 years. In 1958, when the American National Election Study first asked this question, 73% said they could trust the government just about always or most of the time.”
These views represent a sense of what the world can be and are fueled by the enormous loss of jobs, the lack of education, health care, and general well being. Hundreds of thousands of people have gone to rallies for Bernie Sanders, drawn to his message as a vehicle to fight for these things.
The American working class faces the serious question of how it is to move forward, not simply as belonging to one society or another; one ethnic group or another; one country or another; suffering under one form oppression or another, but as human beings. How will we contend with a system that allows people to be intentionally poisoned through toxic water?
Socialism and Communism
It may appear as though any person, groups of people, political organizations and classes can simply put forward and fight for an idea and those who garner the most forces can possibly win. History, however, shows that the process of change is much more difficult and complex.
The political revolutions around the world during the 20th Century coincided with the transition from agricultural production to industrial production. This was a huge leap forward, and created large scale production that brought the entire world into a new era. Words are lacking to describe the human suffering, war, turmoil and progress this era brought forth.
Communist revolutionaries in Russia, and later in China and other parts of the world, seized power and established socialist states that tried to build the means of production up to the point where they could begin to introduce communism. These countries had States that were organized to manage the new industrial machinery for the benefit of their populations. In Russia the battle between the old feudal lords, the new bourgeoisie and new industrial, working class ended up with a new workers socialist State being established. Industrialization in the Soviet Union had to first strengthen the country’s ability to defend itself by producing war material and the means of subsistence. After both the Civil War and WWII the State turned its attention to producing more for the needs of the people and efforts to rebuild the country. The Russian Ministry of Defense estimates that the total Soviet population loss due to the WWII was 26.6 million, including military dead of 8.7 million. They had a huge task to recover from these losses.
Developments since WWII have thrown the world into a new epoch of social revolution. Robotic and electronic production are overthrowing the industrial economy, just as the double acting steam engine did away with economies based on agriculture. Electronic production is doing away with human labor in every sector of the economy, while at the same time it is producing the possibility of untold abundance. A new kind of society is possible. Are we to settle for extreme wealth alongside of extreme destitution? The new epoch of social revolution demands new thinking and new ways forward.
The American people face a very important question: What is to be done with the people who have been driven out of the labor market and yet must consume? Today, the need for a transformation of society is being forced upon people. Communism is no longer an abstract, ideological consideration. People are beginning to organize and fight to get what they need for their daily lives. The goals of peace, freedom and social democracy are only attainable with a collective or communist system. It is along these lines that revolutionaries introduce new ideas that take the class through stages of thinking, to become conscious of its class interests and the necessity for a new society.
The United States has fully developed the economic basis for communism. With the capacity of the new electronic production, a truly communist society can be realized. Private property can finally be abolished.
What is communism?
In essence, communism is a way of organizing a society in which the socially necessary means of production are publicly owned. It is the rational distribution of the necessaries of life according to need, including food, shelter, clothing, education, culture, health care, entertainment and other comforts. These needs can be satisfied with the ever expanding technology.
So how do we go from what we live with today to such a system? It sounds impossible, but history shows that with the changes in the various forms of manual and animal motive power (the bow and arrow, animal husbandry, agriculture, manufacturing), and machinery, society has necessarily had to change to accommodate the new ways of producing. With the introduction of the microchip and the exponential development of electronic production, the society developed for industrial production is impossible to maintain.
This revolutionary process underlies all of the small and large changes society is going through today. It is transforming the entire world.
The ruling class has its own vision for a world based on electronics, and it doesn’t include all of those being pushed out of the economy. As long as the means to produce the necessaries of life are privately owned, those necessaries will not be distributed according to need. As the need for labor is replaced by robots, the things being produced have got to be distributed without money. The ruling class has no intention of giving up their wealth and privilege. The only way for them to maintain private property is to replace the bourgeois democracy we have known with outright fascism. That is exactly what is happening.
Fight for the necessities of life come up against the State
With more workers being replaced by computerized production in every aspect of the economy, and an abundance of goods being produced, the State has to manage the interests of the ruling class more actively. The State is stepping in to protect the interests of the corporations rather than guaranteeing that the abundance of the necessaries of life are distributed to those who need them.
It does this in many ways, such as protective legislation, privatization of public goods and services, and transferring social welfare to corporate welfare. It backs up its actions with the police, the armed forces, the courts, and prisons. We are seeing this happen with the replacement of local elected officials especially in Michigan, with the Emergency Manager dictatorship. Public assets are privatized and handed over to the corporations. This is becoming common practice.
Teaching the people why society is unraveling, while promoting a vision of peace and well being, is a responsibility revolutionaries are being handed. Where do we start, with a working class that doesn’t see itself as a class; one that lacks a basic sense of unity with others who are living in the same worsening conditions?
The battles people are fighting today are coming into conflict with a State that is representing the corporations. Revolutionaries put forward the idea that the State must be forced to act in the interests of the people. We have to talk about the nationalization of critical elements of the economy at the expense of the corporations. In many parts of the country, water is being privatized, and people who cannot pay for water cannot get it. No one can live without water.
The elections express growing evidence that people want to right the wrongs and that their thinking is different than in the past. They are beginning to make demands that the government be accountable to the people and act in their interests. It is through this process that the working class can learn that their demands will only be met if they take over the State and transform private property into public, communal property.
July/August 2016 Vol26.Ed4
This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
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The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011