There is no doubt that people, especially the young, are experiencing less difficulty and anxiety mentioning and even conversing about socialism as a construct. Unfortunately, most progressives are still reluctant to mention socialism or consider it as an alternative and are engaged in maintaining a capitalist structure and fighting to make it kinder and gentler.
Why do I say, unfortunately? Capitalism has demonstrated since its conception that it is, by its very nature, competitive, hierarchal, and exploitative. It emphasizes the success of the individual regardless of the consequences for the community. Just as we all agree that you cannot change the spots on a leopard, we must begin to recognize the predatory nature of capitalism, a system that will always worship capital and look to exploit labor. Capitalism is and will always be the enemy of working people. It cannot be reformed; it must be destroyed.
The success of capitalism relies on several variables. First, it’s worth mentioning that success to the capitalist is not the success of its workers but the gains on Wall Street. I remember when corporations began downsizing staff in order to cut their costs and, lo and behold, the stock market soared. There have been too many occasions when the workers were struggling while the stock market was producing great profits for investors. It appears that stock values increase when workers’ struggles increase.
For those who continue to feel that capitalism is the best possible system, let us take a look at what capitalism offers us.
- It is true that under capitalism, individuals have successfully risen to an income level that allows them to earn more in one year than the rest of us will earn in a lifetime. But these individuals make up less than 2% of the population while more than 50% of the population earns less than $50,000 per year, a figure that indicates ongoing financial struggles. If we use $75,000 per year as a marker, we find 68.4% of Americans trying to support their needs and their families with that limited income, living paycheck to paycheck. The American Dream is a fantasy and does not exist and should not be accepted as a rationale to maintain a capitalist structure.
- The success of capitalism depends on the ability to constantly expand to new markets and resources. As my dentist once asked, “What is OUR oil doing under THEIR sand?” This is the mindset of the capitalist, one in which he or she sees the world as their personal playground. To fulfill that destiny, we must have a strong military, one willing to march into other countries unfriendly to US imperialistic goals and overthrow these governments by any means necessary. Therefore, it is safe to say that capitalism brings us wars. (See Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Kosovo, Somalia, Yemen, and possibly Venezuela, Iran, and North Korea…these are some of “our” more recent adventures).
- Another requirement for capitalism’s success is a large pool of unemployed or poverty stricken workers, workers who are hungry enough to work long hours for low wages under poor working conditions. Globalism has helped corporations move their operations to other countries that offer low wage workers thus resulting in the loss of millions of jobs here in the US. We can see and appreciate that capitalism offers a large part of the population an opportunity for unemployment and/or poverty. Almost 10% of Americans make less than $10,000 per year.
- The capitalist, so far, has demonstrated a willingness to contaminate the air and water. Many communities have had to contend with illnesses as a result of contaminated air and water. Attempts to hold corporations accountable have been relatively unsuccessful in large part because of a political process that allows the wealthy to buy political representation and, therefore, power. This can be seen as another contribution to our society by capitalism.
What if things were different? Suppose you wake up one morning and find that everyone, from the time of birth, is covered by health insurance. Suppose you find that there is no longer unemployment and poverty, that everyone is expected to work and jobs are provided for all. Suppose you find that there exists affordable housing for all and there is longer the problem of homelessness. Suppose you find that all children are guaranteed a free education through college and do not have to assume major debts in order to complete college.
This is what socialism would look like, an emphasis on community well-being and cooperation. Decisions regarding how we live our lives would be made with the emphasis on what benefits the people not the individual. Those who wish to maintain the capitalist system often rationalize their view by insisting that humankind is basically selfish and interested in advancing their own interests. What they fail to see is that humankind’s survival, historically, has been due to community and cooperation not individualism. Humans could never have survived functioning as separate individuals. It is this very idea of the individual as supreme that is physically destroying our planet as well as life on this planet.
The time has come and we must decide…are we willing to accept socialism or are we going to continue with barbarism? It should be noted that a recent survey of the Russian people showed that over 70% of them would like to return to socialism, a time when people were confident they would be taken care of, they were not alone.
I don’t think there could be a better tribute.
Dave Alpert has masters degrees in social work, educational administration, and psychology. He spent his career working with troubled inner city adolescents.