The Western Socialist
Vol. 35 - No. 266
No. 6, 1968
We socialists are often accused of being opposed to reforms: social legislation designed to ameliorate some more or less intolerable situation — Medicare, Social Security, etc.
"Not so," we respond. We of the World Socialist Movement are not opposed to reforms per se, any more than we advocate them. We do not support or agitate for them precisely on the grounds upon which they are ostensibly presented. For they do not cure the ills to which they are addressed. We contend further that the interest of the ruling powers lies in attracting votes for their various political programs. Witness the reforms, or promises, offered by the politicoes in an election year. They are a necessary policy of governments seeking a broader base of support in their efforts to maintain a sufficient degree of viability in the capitalist system; to keep order in a social system whose nature is to engender disorder; to maintain an unstable equilibrium in a system continually facing crises; and in times of great stress the offering of reforms to a restless and dissatisfied populace, helps to provide a "breathing spell" to a badly harassed government.
The Roosevelt reforms of the New Deal, immediately following the "Great Depression" were instituted not only as a sop to the enraged dispossessed, but to rebuild and reinforce a sagging business economy and fractured financial structure. They succeeded only to a very limited degree. As a worried mother tries to appease a howling infant by placing a pacifier in the child's mouth and sometimes sweetens it by coating it with syrup — so these reforms were offered with promises to do away with "fear" — that of the dispossessed and also of those who own and control.
But they did nothing whatever to help resolve the basic contradictions in the economic system. The gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots" remained and even widened, and the economy was "saved" only by the outbreak of war. This war basis has continued throughout the ensuing "peace" years.
Consider also two outstanding reforms of the past few years: The "Alianza por Progreso," and the "War on Poverty." The former is now dying of inanition and the latter never succeeded in getting off the ground.
The Alliance for Progress was undertaken to underwrite the "Good Neighbor Policy," to fasten Latin America to the chariot of U.S. Imperialism, so that the countries to be "helped" might become suppliers of raw materials, and sources of capital accumulation. The denizens of the slums of Peru, Guatemala, Brazil, etc., still wallow in their unrelieved poverty, and any great protest on their part is taken care of by dictatorial rulers, aided and abetted by the C.I.A. and the Green Berets. Meantime here at home the increasing poverty and hopelessness of the ghettos of all our large cities gives the lie to the "Great Society" and its "War on Poverty." And that great reform which one writer says "is daintily referred to as Urban Renewal" does not even begin to touch the fringe of the problem. Capitalism here produced the ghetto with overcrowded and frustrated inhabitants, yet capitalism cannot reform it. It may, however, destroy it, for the introduction of more sophisticated weaponry and a National Guard specially trained in "riot control" is now suggested as the answer, an increasingly voiced response to the chaos and disorders of the moment. This now seems to be the only response of the selfish egotism of a ruling clique. A half century of reforms, which do not reform, leaves this society more affluent in the upper levels and more poverty stricken in the lower. The fewer rich become richer and the increasing many, poorer. Despite growth in the Gross National Product, despite an apparent rise in the general standard of living for some, the gap remains and widens.
SOCIALISM IS NOW POSSIBLE
While we contend that capitalism cannot be genuinely reformed in the interest of the whole of society, we contend also that it can be superseded by a better, higher, social order. It is to this end — that of changing the world — we direct our efforts.
It once was asked of this writer at a public meeting: "How would you socialists suggest, right now, on organizing production?" To which I replied, "Production is already organized, there is no problem in that area. There is no anarchy in production today. Anarchy appears when the products reach the market. So production, we suggest, would be carried on as it is now but with the other fellow, the capitalist owner, out of the picture. But, there being no problems in production—only in distribution—these important changes would occur:
(1) Distribution of goods and services instead of exchange; thus "use" instead of "profit."
(2) Administration of things instead of government over people.
(3) A complete social body; not one divided into ruler and ruled.
(4) An entire economy administered democratically in the interest of the entire community.
In closing permit this observation: Any socialist with a correct reading of Marx and knowledge gained from his own researches into history knows that societies have passed through various periods, with different social formulations, but ever possessing rulers and ruled, until today we face another "eternal order," capitalism. This present order, despite its cruelties and oppressions represented social advance and in its early stages was "liberal" and "progressive" compared to its antecedents. It is no more "eternal" than feudalism or chattel slavery. Its increasing and continual crises indicate its time of dissolution; as it was with previous social orders: "Where wealth accumulates and men decay."
Growing affluence above, among the few; abysmal poverty below, the lot of the many. Chaos abounds and confusion reigns; crime in the streets and warfare abroad. These and one thousand and one other distressing items are featured daily in the news media and presently exercise more and more minds in the populace.
The politicians cry "Reform," "Law and Order," etc. and the pity is that so many are thereby fooled.
When we say capitalism cannot be reformed in the interest of the majority but it can be abolished we speak the language of history. We have learned from a study of history that no society ever sets itself the task of dealing with any situation or problem without that society having first developed the necessary and sufficient conditions — or at least perceive those conditions in process of emergence. Nor can any society be dissolved and replaced by a higher one until it has developed all those forces requisite for its replacement. These forces are now abundantly evident.
We see the high technological perfection in modern society — automation, which does not come about automatically (it is often restrained because of the influence of various vested interests).
And we see also a productive apparatus capable of producing more than a sufficiency for all. The age-long problem facing man — production — has been solved. Poverty, chaos, war and social strife can be eliminated by doing away with the root causes of these horrors. This is our objective: To abolish capitalism, not vainly attempt to reform it.
Think, think, and think again and thinking aright join in this great and only meaningful task.