Socialist United States


#1

M. Soltysik, one of the leaders of SPUSA (Socialist Party of the USA), was recently interviewed by M. Bonanno, as reported in an OpEdNews article:

OpEdNews - Article: LA Socialist Party Local Holds Organizing Meeting (Discussion with Mimi Soltysik, Local Chair)

After briefly commenting on that interview, I wrote my own PoEdNews article:

OpEdNews - Article: Socialist United States

What follows is a summary of my article.

  1. M.S. wants us to discuss socialism without linking it with the USSR, the first socialist country in the world. I objected to this. I think Stalinism must be studied in order to avoid Soviet mistakes and Soviet crimes.

  2. Referring to capitalists, M.S. said “fat cats have had fun at the expense of the working class for way too long.” What should be done with them? Are all fat cats parasitic? Was Henry Ford parasitic? Is Bill Gates parasitic? What fraction of “his” billions is invested in “our” economy, rather than consumed? What fraction is used in scientific research? I suspect that private consumption is below 1%, including luxury homes, private jets, etc.

Why was the Soviet agricultural system, based on collective farms, much much less productive than our own system? What should be done with American agricultural capitalists? Should they be treated as kulaks were in the Soviet Union? Who will run our airline companies, our TV stations, our restaurants and our barber shops? Why is the SPUSA program silent on this? Do you agree that the Soviet experience should not be ignored in answering such questions?

  1. The program of SPUSA, at Socialist Party USA , displays the party emblem. It calls for unity of proletarians of the world. I know this slogan very well; it was always displayed on the first page of the main Stalinist newspaper, Prawda, till 1942. What is wrong in my suspecting that the SPUSA is a Marxist-Leninist party in disguise?

  2. The party program contains this statement: “The Socialist Party is committed to full freedom of speech, assembly, press, and religion, and to a multi-party system." How can anyone dislike such proclamations? The question is how to proceed without creating something that is much worse than what we already have in America. Similar promises were made by Lenin, in 1917, and we know what happened. How to avoid similar disasters?

  3. The program also states that “socialists struggle for the full freedom of women and men to control their own bodies and reproductive systems and to determine their own sexual orientation." That is good. Will this struggle be easier under socialism? Those who oppose abortions will still exist. Yes, I am thinking about “freedom of speech, assembly, press, and religion” mentioned in point 4 above.

  4. What do the SPUSA leaders mean by “democratic revolution”? Speculating about the future, and trying to turn dreams into reality, are attractive but sooner or later, as before, idealists will be pushed aside, by revolutionary leaders, due to “practical necessity.” Soldiers do not win wars by discussing orders; they win by obeying orders. In my opinion evolutionary social reforms are more desirable than revolutions. Do you agree? I do not wish anyone to experience another proletarian dictatorship.

  5. Socialism as a vision of paradise on earth? Yes indeed. But not via proletarian dictatorship! My father was a communist. But he died in Kolyma, the worst corner of GULAG, at the age of 36, about two years after being arrested in Moscow. His two letters from Kolyma, to my mother and me, are in this free ON-LINE autobiography(the link should appear below the signature.

Ludwik Kowalski (see Wikipedia)

Former Communist: Thoughts, Feelings, Reality

This short book is based on diaries I kept between 1946 and 2004 (In the USSR, Poland, France, and the USA).


#2

Hello Mr. Kowalski.

Your post certainly rattles the saber of Stalinism quite a bit. Of course—at least in most of the Western countries—almost nobody would actively defend a dictatorship, and very few still defend state-owned means of production and distribution. This would include the majority of “socialists”; for instance, the socialist philosopher Anton Pannekoek rejected the entire program of the Soviet Union, writing:[INDENT]**“The goal of the working class is liberation from exploitation. This goal is not reached and cannot be reached by a new directing and governing class substituting the bourgeoisie. It can only be realised by the workers themselves being master over production.”
**[/INDENT]Lenin dismissed Pannekoek and other democratic-socialists as “infantile leftists” for their rejection of his vision of socialism-through-dictatorship. While I certainly stand with you in rejecting Stalinism and centralized-state control over means of production and distribution, it seems like beating a dead-horse. Of course, now is a good time to be selling books on the subject if one wishes to cash in on the irrational belief of many individuals (including some on this forum) that Obama is some sort of Stalin-clone who is putting America on the path to a Soviet-style dictatorship.

Regards,

-J


#3

Thank you for replying, Mr. Anderson. I do not think that making people aware of what proletarian dictatorship was constitutes “beating the dead horse.” A lot of very active Marxist-Leninist want to impose it on us. Google makes me aware of their Internet activities. The word “socialism,” means different things to different people. That was the essence of my message. Mr. Soltysiak was very ambiguous on what kind of socialist he is. Have a good day,

Ludwik Kowalski (see Wikipedia).


#4

Obama is some sort of Stalin-clone who is putting America on the path to a Soviet-style dictatorship.

We never said he was like Stalin, Stalin treated Jews, Christians, Muslims as second class citizens etc, the kenyan is going to treat Christians and white males that way, and has already started to do so, for instance, in prohibiting white males from getting government contracts.

Stalin would never be as stupid as obama and his supporters.

If you didn’t work in the USSR, you’d be starved or beat until you did work.

Not true under the kenyan’s socialism, under his socialism, as long as you have a pulse and can vote for him, you live for free off the productive people who by and large don’t vote for him and his minions. (This is the difference between “democratic” socialism and Stalinism)

The kenyan is still a communist 100% and so is Pannekoek. The state doesn’t have to control the means of production for the government to control the economy and modern communists have come to that conclusion. As long as the government rations your food, medicine, regulates the types of employment you can agree to and how much you can pay and then taxes your income, they don’t need to control anything else because they already control everything about your life.

The US government already does all of those things and is now moving on to taking away our voice by regulating the internet.

JAnderson, you seem to still be ignorant of tyranny by a majority, which is all any democracy can ever hope to be. So what if 50% of the people think that they deserve to steal the income of the other 50% and redistribute it and they get one more vote to do it?

It is still theft, it is theft even if 99% want to steal it. The goal of any government should be to stop theft and murder and their “first” derivatives. Everything else is tyranny.

The closest thing that any functional society will ever get to being “true socialism where workers own the means of production” is in an absolutely capitalist system with no income taxes or regulations, and the reason is that each worker owns his labor and can choose any economically viable use for it.

Employees would also be able to unionize in a capitalist system, so there is no threat of intelligent employees not getting a contract that is fair for them and their employers, only stupid employees signing bad contracts as it is their right to do.

Obviously, it isn’t my goal to create a communist utopia, but capitalism is as close as you will ever get in the real world because the worker owns his labor and not the government or his employer, unless he agrees to let his employer through lousy contracts, of course, which he doesn’t have to because it is his.


#5

Thank you for replying, Mr. Anderson. I do not think that making people aware of what proletarian dictatorship was constitutes “beating the dead horse.” A lot of very active Marxist-Leninist want to impose it on us. Google makes me aware of their Internet activities. The word “socialism,” means different things to different people. That was the essence of my message. Mr. Soltysiak was very ambiguous on what kind of socialist he is. Have a good day,

Ludwik Kowalski (see Wikipedia).

Socialism, in any realistic sense, is where the government controls the economy by some mechanism.

There might be a pipe-dream sense, where we all hold hands and sing kumbaya and all work together, but it is never going to produce anything close to a modern society. You might claim Indians had this type of society, but remember, they still had a chief, so even in tribalism, the government still controls the economy.


#6

Mr. Kowalski,

Thanks for the response. A book on your experiences surely is not “beating a dead horse,” but rather I think it is (what I perceive to be) your insinuation that the “dead horse” of Stalinism is still alive and “kicking” as it were. For instance, you write:
[INDENT]The program of SPUSA, at Socialist Party USA , displays the party emblem. It calls for unity of proletarians of the world. I know this slogan very well; it was always displayed on the first page of the main Stalinist newspaper, Prawda, till 1942. What is wrong in my suspecting that the SPUSA is a Marxist-Leninist party in disguise?
[/INDENT]Of course, this is a guilt by association fallacy. It’s little better than if one were to say “Mr. Kowalski is an anti-communist; Hitler was an anti-communist; What is wrong in my suspecting that Mr. Kowalski is a Nazi?”

Best,

-J


#7

Yes, associations do play an important role in first impressions. One or two associations might be coincidental, but several associations, pointing in the same direction, is a different thing. Suppose you start read a post in which the author claims that s/he is an antifascist. Then you notice a flag with swastika in the signature. What would your first impression be? Suppose you continue reading and see that the author advocates elimination of race enemies, referring to them as poisonous rats. Would you not become suspicious? Soltysik did refer to class enemies as “fat pigs,” and called for their elimination. Am I being over-sensitive in suspecting that the SPUSA is a revolutionary Marxist Leninist party?

Ludwik Kowalski (see Wikipedia)
.


#8

Still spamming, I see.


#9

The philosopher Daniel Dennett produced my favorite example of a common phrase when he wrote—of his philosophical arch-nemesis Jerry Fodor—that if Fodor didn’t exist, Dennett would have to invent him.

You may be correct in your suspicions, but I find the evidence from your article unconvincing. At least, I do not find it compelling enough to believe that the SPUSA is lying about their explicit goals in order to hide a nefarious ulterior agenda.

In any case, I think that this is much less interesting than discussing whether actual democratic socialism is viable or—if so—if it is even desirable either ethically or in terms of utility. While I consider democratic socialism to be ethically admirable (contra Rand), my current tentative position is that it is neither viable nor desirable in terms of utility.

Also:

Professor Kowalski is obviously not “spamming”. He is taking time out of his day to answer questions regarding his experience and life’s work. Ironically, if anyone has spammed this thread, it is Susanna.


#10

Yes this would be a more interesting topic. I agree that democratic socialism is “ethically admirable.” ** But I would like to read your elaboration on the last sentence. **

Ludwik Kowalski (see Wikipedia)


#11

This is one of the posts to which I was referring when I addressed the issue. It has taken the appropriate turn – In fact, one of the two directions I hoped to see.


#12

I suspect that democratic socialism in the strong sense (i.e., complete democratic control over the economy for the creation of a more just or egalitarian division of resources) is unviable because it seems unlikely to me that a democratic system could be devised which would be robust enough to handle the billions of economic decisions and transactions which are currently handled by market games. Due to my ignorance of such technical matters of economics, however, this position is tentative. I have a poor imagination for economics.

But if I am correct, then democratic socialism would also be undesirable in terms of utility as it would be unable to achieve the same level of consumer satisfaction as a capitalist market economy.

Besides, I tend to agree with Hume when he writes:

[INDENT]'Twere better, no doubt, that every one were possess’d of what is most suitable to him, and proper for his use: but besides, that this relation of fitness may be common to several at once, 'tis liable to so many controversies, and men are so partial and passionate in judging of these controversies, that such a loose and uncertain rule wou’d be absolutely incompatible with the peace of human society.
[/INDENT]“Democratic socialism” in its weak sense—viz.: the idea that the workers of a factory ought to also own the factory—is more plausible and compelling, and can be traced directly to the classical liberal tradition.


#13

[quote=“J.Anderson, post:12, topic:28826”]
I suspect that democratic socialism in the strong sense (i.e., complete democratic control over the economy for the creation of a more just or egalitarian division of resources) is unviable because it seems unlikely to me that a democratic system could be devised which would be robust enough to handle the billions of economic decisions and transactions which are currently handled by market games.
[/quote]Exactly – assuming by “handle … decisions” you mean “decide correctly.”

[QUOTE=J.Anderson;421500[/INDENT][/INDENT]“Democratic socialism” in its weak sense—viz.: the idea that the workers of a factory ought to also own the factory—is more plausible and compelling, and can be traced directly to the classical liberal tradition.[/QUOTE]Workers owning the factory is completely compatible with the free market concept. It is the imposition of such circumstances by law that bothers folks like me. When you consider what ownership ultimately boils down to, control, mandating by law that the employees now “own” X company sounds like government ownership. What the government giveth, the government taketh away. Even still, employees often own their business. It’s common here in the Northwest. Several prominent businesses here are employee owned. Further, the number of folks who own stock is growing, although I think our economy is far from the free market I would like to see.


#14

Exactly, anyone who wants can invest in any Corporation under our system. The workers can buy shares in the companies they work for any other company with a mouse click. I own a piece of many companies I have never worked for.

If people choose to buy Starbucks coffee at 4 bucks a cup and feed themselves at restaurants instead of at home when they could be investing in some shares of a growing company (or evil, greedy corporation if you are a Liberal) then that is their choice.

Our system works fine, any American can choose to participate as much or as little as they want in investment. Nothing stops any of us from developing a budget, shaving it down and setting aside a percentage in an online brokerage account.

Nothing but ourselves anyway.


#15

The other side of the coin I mentioned is ethical. And here I think socialist criticisms of capitalist economies tend to have some force. This does not mean, however, that I accept socialist solutions to such problems (in fact, as I mentioned in my last post I reject their solutions). In short, while I agree that it would be prima facie a good thing if the world’s resources were more evenly distributed—particularly to those in extreme poverty and need—I do not accept socialist proposals for accomplishing this end. One need not be an Ayn Rand-style cheerleader for corporate capitalism to hold that it’s simply the best of the options put forward so far.

But back to moral criticisms of capitalism. The classical liberal J.S. Mill offers I think an eloquent pen for us to read. “No longer enslaved or made dependent by force of law,” Mill writes, “the great majority are so by force of poverty; they are still chained to a place, to an occupation, and to conformity with the will of an employer, and debarred by the accidents of birth both from the enjoyments, and from the mental and moral advantages, which others inherit without exertion and independently of desert.” “That this is an evil equal to almost any of those against which mankind have hitherto struggled,” he continues, “the poor are not wrong in believing.” In addition, the system quite plainly fails to prevent harmful waste of human talent: “an immense proportion of the industrious classes [are] at some period or other of their lives (and all being liable to become) dependent, at least temporarily, on legal or voluntary charity.”

Worse still, the rewards in capitalist economies “instead of being proportioned to the labour and abstinence of the individual, is almost in an inverse ratio to it: those who receive the least, labour and abstain the most. Even the idle, reckless, and ill-conducted poor, those who are said with most justice to have themselves to blame for their condition, often undergo much more and severer labour”. Moreover:[INDENT]If persons are helped in their worldly career by their virtues, so are they, and perhaps quite as often by their vices: by servility and sycophancy, by hard-hearted and close-fisted selfishness, by the permitted lies and tricks of trade. . .not seldom by downright knavery.
[/INDENT]This will have to do for now, as I have class very soon and must get ready.


#16

Thank you for interesting posts. A lot of food for thought.


#17

J., for what it’s worth, today, no one labors as they did in the past. Even garbage men and wastewater treatment technicians are paid well and only put in a 40. In fact, it’s the white collars that put in more overtime, I believe; but they don’t really “labor,” I suppose, at least not according to physical laborers. The poorest merely feed for free on the productiveness of the wealthy and to a lesser degree the middle class. I don’t know if you’ve personally know and interact the poorest. I have and do. I’m not impressed with the excuses. Most of the ones I’ve met and know are leeches and mooches. The politicians and voters who enable them are looters.

Yes, there certainly are a small group of real losers who sincerely want to work hard to improve their lives (I’ve personally met very few in this category), and I don’t think free market capitalism would solve that problem either. That’s where the ethics of giving and charity can help, and I’ve seen that work too. We could try to manage the economy to help those folks, but that’s sort of like trying to manage the weather. I think trying to do it only creates more problems because we do not understand or know all of the variables. I think it tends to be destructive to folks on the margins, creating a larger group of sincere losers. The good that has come over the years, I think you’ll agree, arises from the free trade among the members of the economy.


#18

I agree that it is morally despicable to leech off of society when one has the ability to make one’s own way under reasonable and fair circumstances.

However, I’m relatively certain that you still cannot make coherent or consistent your claim that “politicians and voters who enable” social welfare programs are “looters,” but not those who force people to pay for other programs (such as defense programs, justice systems, and so forth). The moment you start allowing for non-voluntary taxation is the very moment you lose any serious and plausible moral high-ground in terms of talk about “looting” and so forth.

Also:

I certainly agree that free trade has been an essential and important aspect of improving the human condition.


#19

The other side of the coin I mentioned is ethical. And here I think socialist criticisms of capitalist economies tend to have some force. This does not mean, however, that I accept socialist solutions to such problems (in fact, as I mentioned in my last post I reject their solutions). In short, while I agree that it would be prima facie a good thing if the world’s resources were more evenly distributed—particularly to those in extreme poverty and need—I do not accept socialist proposals for accomplishing this end. One need not be an Ayn Rand-style cheerleader for corporate capitalism to hold that it’s simply the best of the options put forward so far.

Ha, basically, you just agreed with my post above. I’m shocked.

However, I’m relatively certain that you still cannot make coherent or consistent your claim that “politicians and voters who enable” social welfare programs are “looters,” but not those who force people to pay for other programs (such as defense programs, justice systems, and so forth). The moment you start allowing for non-voluntary taxation is the very moment you lose any serious and plausible moral high-ground in terms of talk about “looting” and so forth.

Actually, it is very easy.

Protection from invasion (IE, defense) is a service that is equally shared amongst all of the people and a service that they could not provide themselves regardless.

Food, medicine and public housing only benefits the recipients and not the people who pay for it, whereas the money spent on defense will actually come to benefit everyone who pays for it. (And in proportion to what they pay, even if the tax is based on a percent of income, because higher income gives more incentive to pay for protection.)

The exact same argument can be made about the police and similar arguments can be made for roads, although it is not as strong as for police or military and is no longer that strong for fire protection because it is not anyone else’s problem if your house burns down because you didn’t pay for fire protection.

The problem with governments is when they grow beyond protecting you from murder and theft, and there are limits even to that.

That was the original idea behind what we view as a justice system, because there should be appeal the police’s decisions to limit their power.

It becomes looting when the government takes action which can no longer be of benefit to everyone. That is why many liberals try to frame welfare as being necessary because poverty supposedly causes crime when the reality is that poverty does not cause crime. (Crime rates have gone down since the new depression began and poverty has gone up, proving a counter example)

You might disagree with being defended by the military or the police, in which case, it should be your right to LEAVE society.

In summary, Police (to defend against criminals) and the military (to defend against foreign invasion) are what is necessary for society to exist at all and each payer benefits in proportion to what he pays if everyone pays the same rate because people with more wealth require more protection and therefore is fair to them.

Everyone should be able to turn down protection by leaving the country but everyone who lives in it should be required to pay because it is impossible to predict when or where criminal actions will be taken or when or where a country will be invaded and so an equal payment by all is fair and a compromise could be worked out the details. You could argue that people on the borders and coasts should pay higher taxes, but people in the interior will be invaded all the same if the invaders manage to break through.

The government taking an individual’s money and using it to buy someone else’s medicine, house, food or schooling does not benefit him at all, or at the very least, only indirectly and marginally with much more benefit for the person who did not pay for it, so it is not a fair trade, and you are taking something from someone without giving anything back in return so it is theft.


#20

And again on the roads topic, the fairest way to pay for government funded roads is through a gas tax with funds from no other sources.

This is absolutely fair and doesn’t hurt people who don’t use roads because they don’t have to buy gas, although the government does hurt people by controlling the land the roads are on, so people who live in the path of the road would have to willingly sell it.