Back to Home Page
Back to 1990's Archives Index
Text coloring decodes as follows:
Black: Ken Ellis
Red: Marx, Engels, Lenin, etc.
Green: Press report, etc.
Blue: Recent correspondent
Purple: Unreliable Info
Brown: Inaccurate quote
SIU = Socialist Industrial Union
June 14, 1995
Dear Mr. P.,
Thank you for your note of May 20. It is a pleasure to hear from an old SLP hand. I was in the Party from '73-7, and it was shattering at first to have to leave it, even though, in many ways, it was a relief to get away. I have written extensively about my experience in my first and only book so far, over 600 pages long, but yet to be published.
I'm glad to hear from you, of course, but at the same time a little disappointed that you didn't seek to engage me in a dialogue in the pages of the Discussion Bulletin, which is why such a publication exists. You may be robbing a larger audience of the pleasure of seeing your sparring partners refuted and rebuked in print.
From the context of your note, it appears that you would like to replace capitalism with a better system, and I once felt the same way, but I now think that such desires are as likely to get satisfied as are the chances of us getting pie in the sky, except maybe when we die. However, increasing economic and political pressure on the lower classes will surely cause some sort of result, though probably not the result desired, especially if the lower classes cannot unite around a common plan that makes sense.
You seem to think that I would like to "improve the capitalist system to make it less exploitive." I openly embrace wanting 'to make it less exploitive', but who says that 'making it less exploitive' constitutes improving it, and for which class would capitalism be improved? I have no interest in 'improving the capitalist system', as I never used that term, nor would I ever use such an ambiguous term. You insinuated that term on my motivations, and I can assure you that you are mistaken. If humanitarian, I find it hard to believe that you would take issue with making capitalism 'less exploitive', or in making any other system we agree to adopt 'less exploitive', so 'improving the capitalist system' must be what you really object to, but I never mentioned 'improving' it.
Secondly, you state that 'small marginal capitalists lose the most when minimum-wage laws are passed or when the hours of labor are reduced.' Does anyone ever win under these laws, or does everyone lose, or what? Also, you complained about harmful effects of these laws, not upon the lowest classes, but upon a certain portion of the middle classes, which could be interpreted in some circles as betraying a greater concern for the welfare of middle classes than the welfare of the lowest classes. Please clarify.
You mentioned the flight of jobs when organized labor gets its demands met. This could definitely be a problem, but wouldn't you approve of simultaneous international movements and reforms to improve the conditions of labor all over the world?
I agree with what you have to say about competition between workers and between capitalists. But, your last sentence implies that I could, should or would be a better socialist if I was more aware of the "unchangeable nature of capitalism". Wanting to be a better socialist, or even a socialist at all, is something that I definitely gave up last year after rediscovering the fundamental contradiction within the internal logic of socialism, i.e., it is impossible to concentrate the means of production into the hands of the workers' state after winning a ballot box victory, as opposed to the relative ease of implementing socialism after smashing a feudal monarchy, because the workers would then have the force of the state within their hands, and would be able to do whatever they wanted with the means of production, as proven by the experience of the Soviets, but which program led to their eventual downfall. More than a billion people in the world have recently given up on socialism because it doesn't work, and the sooner that American socialists start examining the internal contradiction of socialism, the sooner they can stop working for it and start working for things that have really made a difference to the lives of working people, reforms that work within the context of bourgeois democracies or any other form of state, reforms that Marx himself was in favor of, and if Marx was in favor of reforms in the interests of the lower classes, then who am I to reject them? After all, if Marx made a mistake, it surely wasn't in advocating reforms for the lower classes, but rather in his prediction of revolution in the most advanced capitalist countries before they happen in the rest of the world. Witness Russia, China and much of the underdeveloped world, SLP theories to the contrary notwithstanding.
You won't find the SLP 'leadership' or that of any of the other little sects talking theory like this because they are in the business of promoting socialism, anarchism, or anarchism disguised as socialism, and are looking for suckers to help them keep their bureaucracies solvent. Because socialism and anarchism are totally bankrupt in theory, not much matters to party bureaucrats besides the marketing of the party line. Open discussion is disallowed, members have less freedom of speech than what's offered by the very state they want to abolish, members are punished for speaking 'out of turn', the Party works in strict secrecy, and the members are told that all other working-class parties are staffed by agents of the state. The SLP will never inform its membership that Marx and Engels were in favor of the establishment of democratic republics all over the world, and that they thought that the specific form of the dictatorship of the proletariat is a democratic republic. The SLP has systematically kept that information from its membership, and it systematically lies to its membership and the rest of the world about most anything to do with politics, revolution, anarchism and socialism, which is why I entitled my book 'Left'-Wing Lies.
You will probably not be able to believe a word that I have written unless you can prove it to yourself. So, I invite you to give yourself a treat, a treat which I prepared for the membership, old and new, and to whom I even dedicated it, because I believe the members are basically honest people who are interested in social change, but who have been victimized by bureaucrats who censor in the name of discipline, and operate in a shroud of secrecy in order to perpetuate the fraud that keeps the sect a viable fleecing operation. You may not believe how badly you were swindled, but I worked at the National Office in the '70's and I know how badly that you, I, and so many others before us were swindled by whores and opportunists. For $20.00, I can send you one of the 30 manuscripts I had printed up that details exactly how we got fleeced. Zeroxing alone cost $16.00, so the rest is for postage and packaging, or else you are welcome to wait for the book to be published, hopefully next year, though I as yet fail to have a contract. I sent my old co-worker National Secretary Bob B. a copy of the manuscript, but he failed to thank me for it. I wonder why.
At any rate, I wish you the best, and would be glad to keep up a dialogue, time and circumstances permitting.
July 25, 1995
Dear Mr. P.,
Thanks for your note of June 20. I notice that your contribution to socialist thought includes a provision for post-revolutionary political government, in order "to reflect the revolutionary will of the people". I assume that for decades you adhered to De Leon's program, but at some point you adopted a new perspective that accommodates a degree of post-revolutionary political organization. That would indeed be quite a change from De Leonism, and I wonder if you changed your mind while you were still in the Party, and whether you fought for an airing of your views within your Section and within the Party press, what kind of resistance you might have encountered, whether that resistance led to your leaving the Party or getting expelled, and whether you wrote something about your experience for others to learn from. It must have been quite an act of courage to oppose the dead-in-the-water kind of mentality that prevails in the SLP with regard to changing the Party program, geared as it is toward merely marketing the SIU, all other ideas to the contrary having been judged totally incompatible with the Party, not worthy of discussion, but certainly worthy of being censored, as in protection of business interests. If you haven't written anything yet about your differences with the SLP and De Leonism and how they evolved, I suggest that you do so for the benefit of those of us who are interested in knowing about such experiences. As you already know, I have written extensively about mine, and I'm still looking for a publisher.
Also, I agree with the concept of amending the Constitution. I think, for instance, that we could use a national initiative and referendum to allow people to affect the political process much more directly than by merely trusting our representatives, though this amendment is not as high on my list of priorities as letting the machines do the work and giving people more time to think about the meaning of life, as well as more equitably distributing what little work that remains for people to do among the whole working class. Can you imagine the kind of society we would have if the Republicans continued to force the work load onto the backs of fewer workers while letting those who cannot find a niche within the job market just starve, or get into crime? What kind of mutual stupidity or forced ignorance on our part would it take to allow the Republicans to do this? Not to say that the Democrats are any better, but we know who represents the interests of the ultra-rich, i.e., the 350 people who have as much income as the poorest 2.7 billion people combined. That's a ratio of nearly 8 million to one.
As I write this, the supposed Marxist, Angela Davis, is on the radio talking about political oppression, affirmative action, racism, feminism, capitalism, socialism, democracy, etc., but never gets around to talking about surplus value. Her socialist program seems to be nothing more than a series of pure and simple political reforms. How she expects to get a mere handful of relatively-well-off middle class activists to enact all of that political change by themselves is .... well, she doesn't expect it in the first place. She knows that a mass of poverty stricken derelicts are good only for mindless rebellions that can be put down by force. A working class that has money in its pockets and time on its hands to educate itself is a different story. In a democracy, economic security precedes political effectiveness.
Now, as for your assumptions: I never claimed that reducing the hours of labor was any brilliant idea of mine. I knew about that aspect of the SWP program maybe 20 years ago, couldn't find fault with that aspect then, and can't find fault with it now, even if garbage might cohabit with that good reform in their program. Quoting Marx's approval of reducing the hours of labor in the DB was for the benefit of activists, to remind them that the reform far preceded the birth of the SWP or any auto union, and that it was considered by Marx to be really worth something. Anarchists might want to reject all reforms in favor of violent revolution, but not me. I'm an evolutionist, just as Engels proclaimed himself to be in at least two places (both cited in my book), though I also documented his revolutionary sentiments at least once.
If we could make overtime prohibitively expensive and reduce the length of the work-week to ensure jobs for everyone, we would not be doomed to any alleged fate of lower living standards. But, we will be doomed to such a fate, or a similar fate, if the only leaders we can find are the types that staff the NO of the SLP, or any other supposed party of the lower classes who cannot be convinced of the overwhelming logic behind making overtime prohibitively expensive and reducing the hours of labor, and all because the great leaders can find no financial interest in undoing their little scams.
You have no idea of what whores the NO staff were, how they knew and know that much of what the SLP has to say is pure garbage, but I was there, and I know, and I would like to share it with the rest of the world. Even Engels had foul dealings with the SLP from 1883 until he died in 1895, before and after the anarchist take-over in 1889, and after De Leon became Editor. You should acquaint yourself with the controversy around the De Leon-Vogt pirate translation of "Socialism: From Utopia to Science", and all of the other troubles that Engels had with the SLP at the time. When he visited the USA in 1888, he scrupulously avoided contact with the Party. The Party has had ethical problems for a long time. My book also has an interesting debate between Friedrich Adolf Sorge and De Leon. My next book may be a collection of Sorge's experiences with the Party, and what the Neue Zeit had to say about the Party as well.
My theory is that the left will not give up its infantile state of revolutionism until they educate themselves as to the internal contradictions of their 'isms. With all of their bureaucracy, censorship, secrecy and sectarianism, left-wing bureaucrats hardly open their journals to my kind of criticism, because they can still use their revolutionism to rope in enough suckers to pay the rent. They are not much more than small businesses that have only their own self-perpetuation at heart. They offer far less freedom of speech than does the republic they claim to want to abolish, but without whose protection they would be nothing. Can you imagine a revolution, or even evolution, without freedom of speech? The SLP leadership doesn't want their members to talk meaningfully about the scam that they perpetrate, so they offer no real freedom of speech, and in that regard they trail the bourgeois state that they vilify.
De Leon's idea, if he didn't steal it from someone else, was not much different from Bakunin's, except for its taking into account the vertical monopoly ownership of industries and the corresponding industrial union organization of the working classes, as opposed to craft unionism. In "Proletarian Democracy vs. Dictatorships and Despotism", Petersen's efforts to lend a theoretical rationality to the SIU was based upon pure fraud, quotes out of context, and all kinds of tricks and subterfuge. As did Bakunin, A.P. redefined proletarian dictatorship as a dictatorship over the peasantry and middle classes, and since a peasantry barely exists in the USA, A.P. felt safe in proclaiming that the dictatorship of the proletariat (over the peasantry) would not be necessary in the USA, in spite of all of the existing documentation proving that Marx defined proletarian dictatorship as a dictatorship over the uppermost classes, and that Marx prescribed an alliance between proletariat, peasantry and middle classes, and that the Hammer and Sickle on the old Soviet flag celebrated that alliance (that Stalin later violated). How does it feel to have been swindled by the Party? But, neither this nor Marx says that we need a proletarian dictatorship in a democracy.
Because Marx's program of socialism was essentially a mistake, all kinds of swindles grew up around it, few of which can be repeated in the limited space here. Because the NO staff was content to allow the Party's swindles to continue on ad nauseam, and ad infinitum, I lost all respect for Petersen, the SIU, De Leon, and my co-workers at the National Office, who knew that the SLP was disseminating garbage long before I discovered it on my own. My 'Comrades' at the NO were afraid to tell the membership about the lies for fear that support for the NO would dry up, and they would then have to go out and find honest jobs.
The Party really has a religious attachment to their SIU, is really a church in which the SIU is worshipped, and I may have wasted my time trying to convince old rank-and-filers that they were swindled, for they feel in their hearts that they are revolutionaries, and not mere dupes who can easily be swindled. You gotta be smart to be a revolutionary, isn't that right? What allows the scam to continue is the fact that not all of what the Party says is invalid, having included a few valid criticisms of socialism, and many of capitalism in its literature, and I don't think I ever heard a member repeat Petersen's redefinition of proletarian dictatorship over the peasants.
Converting revolutionaries into evolutionaries might be as feasible as converting straw into gold. Maybe I should just be content that my refutation of the SIU taught me a lot, and move along with my life. I was very much infatuated by revolutionism and socialism at one time, but after I discovered that it was supported by lies, I looked for something worthy of believing in with all of my heart, and I didn't find it until last year. That one and only thing so far is reducing the hours of labor, for overwork is how any upper class, slave-holding, feudalist, capitalist, or socialist alike, keeps the lower classes working far beyond the time required to produce necessities of life, therefore producing surpluses that the rich appropriate to themselves, converting some of those surpluses into courts, jails and the rest of the state apparatus to deal with the unfortunates who cannot find a place in the job market. Marx knew this.
You ought to think seriously about buying a computer to assist you in your writing. You could probably find one for $500 or less that would answer all of your needs, enable you to edit your work very quickly, and make it easier for others to read your writings, etc.
In the meantime, I am working with Labor Party Advocates to build a party that expresses the interests of the workers. I'll keep you posted on my failures and successes.
October 13, 1995
I've been rereading your letter, and want to thank you for beginning to explain how your views differ from those of the SLP. You also mentioned that capitalism and the profit motive 'could lead to the destruction of us all', but in this post-socialist world, blaming anyone but ourselves for our mutual misery seems more appropriate, much more than blaming some lousy system. Getting the lower classes to blame an allegedly unchangeable system for our problems may be part of the strategy of the upper classes to keep us disorganized, for then they can detract our attention away from our own inclination to prostitute ourselves to the fleshpots of the rich and powerful. The human failure within us all that all too few are willing to face is the tendency for us, including myself, to do anything that we get paid to do. Thus, we get G. Gordon Liddy publicly claiming to be willing to blow away his grandmother if the government told him to do that. Many of us daily commit crimes against each other, are told to keep quiet about them, falsify documentation of our crimes, and pretend that nothing happened so that we can hang on to our positions and go on to live another day and commit yet more crimes against our fellow humans and mother earth. Sometimes we commit these crimes as part of the duties of our positions in a system of human betrayal. As an example, IRS uppities squeeze pennies out of people who have never owned a piece of property, while property owners often get off for free, except for the occasional upper class victim whose case is prosecuted as an example to the rest of us, therefore attracting lots of publicity. The uppities may only be following rules, but they have to leave their hearts at home in order to do what they do to people in their offices, and then they get rated and promoted according to how tightly they apply their screws to the public.
As no one has to go very far to prove, there is no system yet implemented that allows any country to avoid pitfalls associated with paying people to commit crimes and then cover them up. This has happened as much in socialist as it has in capitalist countries. People have had to twist any sense of humanity they might have had in order to rationalize nuclear testing in French Polynesia. Look also at the devastation of land and environment that went on in East Germany and in the Soviet Union under their old regimes, while we thought we Americans ruined our environment. Similarly, many revolutionaries are more than willing to sacrifice their revolutionary morals, if they ever had any, when anything comes around that pays the rent, including promoting anarcho-syndicalism disguised as socialism.
There might very well be merit in your criticism of SLP positions on Lenin and the Soviet Union; I am of the impression that they flip-flopped in their position on them, in general first supporting, later condemning. But, I doubt if applying one descriptive term rather than another to them would have made a lot of difference in what happened either here or there. Choices of terminology seem only to affect what happens in this or that sect that is divorced from the interests of the working class. More of a difference would have been made if the Party had reported honestly on what was going on both here and there, but Party bureaucrats chose to run scams on both the Party and the world, and had to be careful not to alienate too many of their ilk by straying from an anarcho-syndicalist ideology that many mistook as socialist or Marxist analysis. Truth and simply reporting 'what really is' became expendable commodities. The SLP has been right enough about a few things to keep a certain following, but so far off the mark in so many areas of social analysis that it could never affect anyone other than its own membership. And this is ultimately the result of the fact that, not only did Party bureaucrats lie about anarchism and socialism, but is also a result of the fact that both anarchism and socialism themselves were born dead, both 'isms offering plausible but faulty predictions about how society would evolve, not every aspect of which was wrong, but wrong enough in their major tenets to wreck any credibility they might have hoped for.
You mention a 'revolution to socialism' in your letter, but I'm not quite sure what that is. Because, to me, socialism was a mistake by Marx that contradicted itself, the word 'socialism' became subject to a variety of interpretations, and, depending on who speaks for it, can mean anything from state ownership to collective ownership, from proletarian dictatorship to anarcho-syndicalism, from communism to Social-Democratic reforms, from the rule of the workers to Stalinism, and other plausible definitions probably exist. So, what's socialism? I hope that you do not mean the SIU, for that has little in common with Marx's program, being much more like its opposite, i.e., Bakunin's anarcho-syndicalism. While Marx claimed that, after smashing feudal states, a transitional stage of proletarian dictatorship would have to be gone through on the way to classless, stateless society, Bakunin claimed we would be able to get there right after smashing feudal states, by means of worker's unions.
If socialism had really represented lower class interests, the present profusion of lies around socialism would never have grabbed such a foothold, the lower classes would have taught themselves to recognize lies and avoid those who promote them, and one socialist party would have had great influence over the lower classes. But the picture in this country is far different from this ideal scenario. Every party calling itself socialist, communist, anarchist, etc., has its own perspective on ideology it professes, and they also have varying perspectives on the ideologies that others promote. Even within a party or movement, there is room for variation. Hence, while I might say that the SLP taught that proletarian dictatorship was a dictatorship over the peasantry, others might not see it that way at all. Did you ever notice the incredible profusion of beliefs around a few little 'isms? It seems as though no one on the left can agree with anyone else on the left, but because socialism contradicts itself without government assistance, I doubt that the profusion of beliefs could ever have been the result of state interference.
Secondly, if socialism really represented the interests of the lower classes, Bakunin's ideas never could have competed with it, nor would they have influenced so many. His plan for monarchies, similar to the SLP's for democracies, was to replace feudal monarchies with a classless, stateless administration of things, which never happened, nor could it ever. All mistakes were derived from faulty analyses of the course of human evolution, society not having evolved far enough in their time for either Marx or Bakunin to detect what would happen either in the short run, or in our time. Revolution in the most advanced countries, indeed. And yet, Marx's predicted scenario of workers and socialists allying with peasants and petty-bourgeois democrats to smash feudal monarchies and push resulting democratic republics through to proletarian dictatorship was actually fulfilled in Russia. [At least a semblance thereof.]
But, socialism in democracies remained but a dream, because the power of the state that protects private property before an election goes on protecting it afterwards, rendering socialism impossible to implement in the very advanced capitalist countries Marx predicted it would happen first! Proving, of course, that socialism, or concentrating means of production into the hands of the state or the workers, cannot be in the best interests of the workers, for if it had been, it would have proven at least as feasible in the advanced countries (where Marx predicted it would happen first) as it proved to be in lesser developed countries. A billion people in the world have recently allowed socialism to be driven to near extinction, proving better than anything I could ever write how worthless socialism is. Worthless!!!! Much blood was spilt, and many lives were lost while trying to make Marx's mistake work. But, let's repeat history, ideologues say. Let's create a socialist paradise. Yeah! It was the very impossibility of socialism in a democracy, it was that very glaring contradiction within socialism that allowed anything to be made of it, allowed bourgeois intellectuals to move into workers' movements and corrupt them with socialist and anarchist ideologies, allowed so many lies to be erected around socialism, allowed monarchists to sell anarcho-syndicalism disguised as socialism (the SLP program is monarchist after all, for, if we abolish democracy at the ballot box, or by any other means, we thereby pave the way for dictators, just the way, in the last century, Napoleon III paid activists to wander Europe preaching anarchism, for dumping the republic would have helped to restore him to the throne). And most of all, it was the inability of socialism to represent lower class interests that kept the masses out of socialist and radical parties. Many curious people get recruited into sects but maintain ignorance of socialism, except for those portions of ideologies their leaders want them to know. Some rise to the top and become opportunists, recognizing business opportunities in niche markets when they see them.
I remained ignorant of the internal contradictions of socialism for years after I left the SLP. I finally became aware of them as late as 1994 while writing my book, and while trying to refute a passage in Arnold Petersen's preface to "Socialism: From Utopia to Science", where he wrote: "It was the genius of De Leon which perceived that to transform private capitalist property into "State property" amounted to consolidating all economic power into the hands of a few capitalists ..."
I thought at first that what A.P. described wasn't the Marxist theory of the state, for I knew that Marx wrote about smashing the state and replacing it with a workers' state, and that, under those circumstances, De Leon's thesis would not have been valid. De Leon's and A.P.'s theories didn't allow for any kind of workers' state to exist, which is a common anarchist denial (with the exception of A.P.'s fraudulent proletarian dictatorship over the peasantry). I then suspected that A.P. was criticizing a different theory, like a Social-Democratic theory of peaceful change in democracies by means of elections and other democratic processes. If workers in democracies were to be so dumb as to legislate the concentration of the means of production into the hands of the state, they would then find themselves in exactly the situation A.P. and/or De Leon described in the quote. But later, I discovered that Social-Democrats got their theory of peaceful change from Marx himself, who in 1872 told the International that workers in democracies could get what they want by means of elections and democratic processes. In the process of thinking this through, I learned that Marx had two theories of the state, one for monarchies, and one for democracies. Lenin later contradicted Marx's theory for peaceful change in democracies by claiming that much stronger military bureaucracies in the 20th century would prevent workers from establishing socialism peacefully, even though there was no evidence to show that the military of any democracy would ever allow workers to walk away with means of production, no matter in what century. I think Lenin's explanation was an attempt to salvage Marx's reputation, by professing some kind of enormous difference in the capability or mendacity of military bureaucracies from 1871 to 1921, a difference of only 50 years. Lenin claimed that what Marx wrote for his time was valid, but that it was no longer valid in our time, while I claim that it never was. A self-serving excuse is what I think Lenin gave us; if you have any information that would shed light on this, it would be most welcome, for I need to clad my arguments in iron.
Lenin's probable duplicity may prove that he was just as aware of what A.P. correctly labeled as a 'deficiency in the Marxist analysis of the state', but, unlike A.P., Lenin was loath to cast aspersion on Marx's theory, because a certain amount of the success of the Soviet experiment relied upon mass confidence in Marxist-Leninist theory. Stakes were lower in the USA, state power here never relying on the viability of socialist ideology, so A.P. was freer to mount a limited attack on Marxism if it could be turned to his advantage, especially if the suggestion of a deficiency in Marxist theory would make it easier to sell an administration of things theory to take its place, such as the SIU. Had A.P. correctly outlined Marx's two theories and analyzed the deficiency with the scrutiny it deserved, and if he had truthfully compared them to Bakunin's theories, he would have compromised the basis of the SLP program, which depended upon the ignorance of those who were destined to merely market it. A careful and truthful analysis would also have revealed just how badly A.P. had butchered Marxism in order to make Marx appear like an anarchist, (while simultaneously carefully defending his reputation as a socialist) as, for instance, in "Karl Marx and Marxian Science", where A.P. left out of the footnote on page 152, Marx's introductory statement from Fictitious Splits in the International: "All socialists see anarchy as the following program:". A.P. refused to accurately describe Marxist theory for feudal monarchies, for he then would have had to admit that Marx preached a worker, peasant and petty-bourgeois alliance to get rid of monarchies, their replacement with republics, pushing republics through to proletarian dictatorships, the forms of which were still to be democratic republics. The admission that alliances between lower classes had been preached by Marx would have contradicted A.P.'s and Bakunin's theory of proletarian dictatorship over peasants. Both of them claimed to have gotten that theory from Marx, and though I'm not sure how Bakunin used his version, A.P. used it to 'prove' that proletarian dictatorship (over peasants and middle classes) was not necessary in the USA due to large-scale replacement of peasants in this country by agricultural wage-labor, and the consequent small number of peasants that would need to be repressed. The logic A.P. used was, 'if there aren't any peasants in the USA for the proletariat to have to repress, then there isn't any need for proletarian dictatorship.' A.P. gave us his renegade theory in spite of all of the documentation showing that proletarian dictatorship was supposed to be over the upper classes, not over middle classes. As far as I saw, A.P. never suggested or repeated possibilities of proletarian violence against upper classes, who were supposed to be nothing but cowards and run away, though 'where to' was never indicated. Details. Who was he trying to kid? Undermining proletarian dictatorship and alliance theories were essential elements to bolstering SLP theories that proletarian dictatorship, or any other use of the state by workers, was unnecessary in the USA, so that the classless, stateless SIU could take its place. The kind of limited vision the SLP imputed to Marx was not that of giving us a self-contradictory theory, but rather that of not being able to foresee the magical form into which workers should organize so as to avoid the use of 'the state', which to us had no legitimacy except as something to have around for angry people to abolish. Abolish that awful state! Not that I've become a statist, but we will need something to enforce laws to discourage and eliminate overwork.
By the time A.P. had written "Proletarian Democracy vs. Dictatorships and Despotism" in 1931, Stalin had committed many a crime against wealthier peasants (kulaks), but, as well as A.P. knew his own name, he also knew that Stalin could not have gotten his idea for repression of peasants from Marx. A.P. drove down intellect in the Party to the lowest possible level by appealing to vulgar notions like: 'everything that happened in the Soviet Union came from Marx.' A.P. gambled that he wouldn't lose too many members by running one more scam (he had already discouraged or expelled most smart members with his other scams) because it fit in with A.P.'s scheme of making Marxian socialism look like it was intended only for backward countries, so that De Leonism could be posited for advanced capitalist countries.
One level of deceit A.P. consciously used was: while Marx gave us two political theories of state, one for democracies and one for monarchies, A.P. dumped their political content (if not peaceful to the upper classes), and changed the theories into alleged Marxist theories for economically advanced vs. backward countries. While advanced and backward countries certainly corresponded to the democracies and monarchies, respectively, of his day, Marx gave us two distinct political theories of the state, applying one if the country in question was a democracy, or the other if a monarchy. But A.P. et al ignored Marx's political theories (except for peaceful change in democracies), and instead concentrated on economic differences between advanced capitalist democracies vs. lesser-developed feudal monarchies. A.P. persuaded many of us to believe that the higher economic level of development of advanced capitalist countries made peaceful change possible here (by showing us the economic form that would replace the state), and that the lesser-developed economies of backward monarchies made proletarian dictatorship (over peasants and middle classes) necessary there.
Admitting that Marx and Engels had several times specified the form of proletarian dictatorship as nothing less than a democratic republic would also have negated SLP theories that Marx and Engels never specified the future form of socialist society, so statements by Marx and Engels on that subject were never quoted, and instead were ignored. To take the place of political democracy, De Leon took ideas from Bakunin and others that were popularized toward the end of the First International, and made an SIU out of them.
SLP ideologues also twisted Marx and Engels' theories of two stages of communism, and wove a complicated net of lies that will take a lot of space to deconstruct, so I'll save it for my next missive.
The early Party bureaucrats' misrepresentations of Marxism reflected a high degree of sophistication, and could not have been put together overnight. We're talking about a swindle by masters of the art. How many besides those who have made a living out of the lies will defend them? De Leon and A.P. carefully constructed a system of fraud that many people bought into, lived with, and carried close to their hearts until death. In order to perpetrate the fraud for such a long time, De Leon and A.P. had to isolate themselves from the teeming hordes below through a bureaucratic party structure, protect their bureaucracy with internal party secrecy, and censor anyone who might have wanted to inform members of their perceptions of the bureaucracy's hidden agendas. And to parrot the lies, members had to maintain a rather profound ignorance of Marxism, history, democracy and other socialist topics, even though we were not altogether so dumb that rebellions and disruptions never rumpled the apparently smooth surface of the Party. But, how many more old-timers will die with their socialist ideals intact? Or, will they, perhaps due to the fading away of the last socialist organization, eventually see the contradictions in all of the theories, including the mistakes that Marx made, the cover-up by Lenin, and the fraud that De Leon, A.P., and others in the SLP created that enabled them to make a business of selling anarcho-syndicalism disguised as socialism?
Of the messes both Marx and Bakunin made with their impossible theories, their followers may be condemned to an eternal hell of trying to make sense. Will we ever have the additional increment of sense required to let it all wither away, and begin to work for something real like eliminating overwork, so that we can also eliminate unemployment, all of which will enable us to make a living wage? I sometimes doubt it, but not so much that I am willing to very soon give up on the basically honest comrades with whom I once spent so much of my life trying to make revolution.
Give up on radicals, give up on workers, it may turn out to be the same thing. But, few of us are willing to change our beliefs or check things out for ourselves. We often care nothing about anyone but ourselves, our families, our countries, but little for our class, for which many have nothing but disdain. Of the 124 million jobs that exist in this country, 90 million are slated for replacement by automation, computers as smart as humans may be available in a decade, and the working class has yet to do anything significant to resist its replacement. Will even starvation and forced homelessness have an effect on us? There may be more hope in getting the homeless to rebel and raise hell than in getting workers to resist their eventual fate. Who knows? We have never been in the situation we are in at this time, and anyone's prediction may be as good as another's. But, I have a certain amount of faith that radicals who can be shown that they were lied to will acquire the requisite amount of indignation to do something real, and that only a few will be willing to accept lies and make a conscious decision to prostitute themselves to them and keep on trying to sucker others into accepting them.
I am very glad to hear that you 'will never forgive the SLP for ignoring the truth that comes from the right.' The Party's sectarian warnings against reading or paying attention to anything that anyone else in the world had to say immunized me completely from all other parties and influences for a while. I was very naive in the early 70's, and was so taken with what little truth I was getting from them that I swallowed their whole propaganda, hook, line and sinker. A dumb shit like me was just what they were looking for. But gratitude for partial truths never lasts forever. As I finally questioned their premises and increasingly devoted more time to studying, I eventually became useless to their agenda. They used and abused me, and, as S.K. told Mike before Mike quit, "Ken really got f---ed over", and S.K. should know, for he was instrumental in that shafting. Under his influence, Section Santa Clara used majority rule to censor me and prevented me from explaining my analysis of A.P.'s theories of state power. His theories were so flimsy and incapable of withstanding daylight that the Section had to consciously refuse to allow logical arguments to influence them, and instead followed their leaders and censored me, even though they had agreed with the essence of one my first mild analyses of A.P.'s theory of proletarian dictatorship over the peasantry, as A.P. supported it with a quote taken from Lenin, but completely out of context. When I later went 'too far' with my criticism of A.P.'s theory of the state, and the Party's mistakes over Vietnam War protests that were based upon those theoretical blunders, they ostracized and censored me, and rendered me a slave worth only of doing mail and shipping clerk duties. So I quit the company of my dear comrades who loved democracy and freedom of expression so well, and went on to fix cars for a couple of years.
Your confession to having no interest in shortening hours of labor speaks volumes. You seem to profess a solid connection between shorter hours and lower pay, as though the former would inevitably lead to the latter. Where you are right is that it would mean lower pay, though not for workers, but rather for the boss. It makes me wonder if you forgot the lessons in Capital, Value, Price and Profit, etc. Did you never hear the old union motto, "Whether you work by the piece or the day, reducing the hours increases the pay."? Organization and pressure can create the exact opposite of the effect you impute to shortening hours. And that is our real task. Workers' competition for scarce jobs must be converted into bosses' competition for scarce labor, and this project will require a lot of lower class involvement. Every self-professed socialist or Marxist should be aware that surplus value and profit come from extending the time of labor beyond that required to produce necessities of life, which is all that workers have historically ever received, though there has been a lot of room for variation in that formula, especially in America, where productivity gains faster than erosion of earnings by inflation enabled workers to even accumulate luxuries. Much more than just being aware of this economic fact of life, we must act on our knowledge and do something, lest we just continue to waste the planet with all of the surpluses we produce. We cannot, except at risk of perpetually losing the battle, forget that upper classes derive their power from working us far beyond the time required to produce necessities, and this alone explains how they accumulate resources required to pursue their agenda, i.e., out of the surpluses that we provide willingly, just as long as we get our wages. Just give us that living wage, and no crime is beyond the pale of our willingness. Class collaboration for us starts at the job site, extends to our off-duty hours, and, in many cases, lasts all day.
Enslaving ourselves to our jobs night and day, unwilling to resist overwork for fear of cutting into employers' profits, fear of increasing the likelihood of our bosses going out of business, fear of losing our jobs forever, all of these are part and parcel of what keeps us enslaved. What good slaves we would be if such was the limit of our vision. Logical it is that the prime alternative to such depressing slavery to bosses' wishes is the scenario of glorious revolution and getting rid of the system. But, at the same time, we would be getting rid of the very system that enables labor-saving technology to be introduced, the only system that can give us more leisure, if only we had the smarts to make the system work for us instead of exclusively for the bosses. The only problem that exists is our unwillingness to manage our own labor market and translate benefits of capitalism into more leisure time for us rather than increasing profits for them. We have only ourselves to blame for our problems. Our biggest stumbling blocks are our own out-dated ideologies that were dead even before they were uttered, and our dogged allegiance to them.
Regarding your latest letter to DB, I find the term 'libertarian socialist' to be confusing. Libertarians favor free enterprise, but socialists do not, rendering such a classification internally contradictory. If anyone ever writes in claiming to be a 'libertarian socialist', they will prove themselves to be insufficiently familiar with either or both terms, or else far more capable than I of peacefully co-existing with paradox.
Secondly, I agree with much of what you wrote around Lincoln's legacy, but I wouldn't use the Constitution to enact socialism. I'd use it to 'convert competition between workers for scarce jobs into competition among bosses for scarce labor.' I believe that there will be a place for private property and profits as long as people are forced by economic circumstances to go to work.
Speaking of discipline, I'm toying with the idea that people should restrain themselves from speaking for or about socialism until they've written a book about it, for that is a good way to clarify one's ideas about a system that was made very complicated and convoluted by its own internal contradictions. To unravel it takes years of study, and if one can remain objective, instead of infatuated with it, then it speeds up the process of unraveling the lies around it. The history of socialism in democracies is the history of the lies that were told about the internally inconsistent doctrine, the confusion that the lies and inconsistencies created, and the myriad efforts people made to compensate for the lies and inconsistencies.
Mike B. is reviewing my 600 page manuscript, and has questioned some aspects of my refutation of A.P.; some of what I've written to you in this letter explains proletarian dictatorship over the middle classes well enough that I've copied over some of these SLP-relevant portions into my reply to him. You retain your anonymity. Responding to your arguments has been very valuable to me, for I have gained many additional insights into how socialists think. As one who thought in a similar socialist way for over 20 years, I hope that you will regard the exercise as one which will help the left find common ground.
Things are heating up with Labor Party Advocates, and I had my first incident of being censored by a socialist from Peace and Freedom Party when I suggested that our discussion group tackle the appropriateness of various ideologies for the USA. The fun begins.
If you wonder where the greeting 'Citizen' came from, it's what members of the First International called each other.
November 11, 1995
Thanks for your note of October 20, and for recognizing a certain degree of scholarship on my part. Oh, how I wish I could spend more time doing what I want, which is to research socialists' doubts in their own doctrine. On page xiii of A.P.'s Preface to the SLP edition of "Socialism: From Utopia to Science", A.P. hinted that Engels might have had a doubt or two about the value of Marxist theories of the state, and boy, would I love to be able to afford to research that one! What better way to smash religious attachments to outmoded programs than by showing that even those who thought them up doubted their value. A.P. often gave us hints that bore fruit, and just might have done it again. He was as much on top of theoretical ideas as were his contemporaries, for he subscribed to all of the important journals. What he handed down to us, however, was based on the science of making something rotten out of others' sincere efforts to grapple with issues. Indications of doubt might also be found in the premier socialist theoretical journal, the Neue Zeit, from the 1880's to WWI, when German Social Democracy got turned on its head, and for good reasons. If only my German were 10 times better, or, if only I could put away all of my worldly concerns and just practice my German by translating the Neue Zeit. The SLP before 1889 considered itself to be a mere branch of the German Party, which was the very best organized socialist party of the era. Robert Michels' book called "Political Parties" was a good analysis of the German Party, and a classic about the tendency for oligarchies to form in most organizations.
I used to have my own little religious attachment to the idea that exposing internal contradictions in a doctrine would enable people to cast off their religious attachments to them, but now I'm no longer sure that finding internal contradictions in our ideologies is worth anything anymore, for it doesn't seem to have made the slightest difference in the belief system of anyone I know. So, I give up, throw in the towel, resign myself to the possibility that a good portion of the labor movement will continue to remain attached to programs that don't have the slightest chances of being realized, and may continue to advocate a myriad of hair-splitting doctrines and programs. Followers are weak enough to believe in anything. They hardly care if what they believe is correct or not, or may not even think that correctness has any application at all to ideology. Bureaucratic ideologues are in it mostly for the money, to see how many suckers they can attract, and will stoop at nothing to attract people to their causes. Mass confusion may continue to prevail and proliferate, and we may never move any closer to realizing our mutual goal of creating a better world. I have lost much hope. Maybe I'm not doing something right. Suggestions?
You made a very correct point in your letter, which is that my previous letter would not be a very positive thing to use to attract a novice to socialism, for it was an attempt to refute, not to advance, socialist and anarchist theories. I'm sorry if I cannot be part of the struggle for socialism, an 'ism that has had too many meanings attached to it to be of any use. In the Marxian sense, socialism is incompatible with democracy, for, while concentrating means of production into the hands of workers was possible after smashing feudal monarchies in backward countries, or whenever socialist workers concentrated state power into their hands, it was impossible to implement after mere electoral victories in democracies, for the power of the state that protects private property before elections goes on protecting private property afterwards. Much more appropriate to advanced capitalist democracies is an act that is beyond interpretation, namely, organizing to withhold the supply of labor from the labor market, which would create demand for labor, drive wages up, and eliminate unemployment and competition between workers for scarce jobs, and put an end to economic roots of racism.
It's too bad that, in his very next sentence, Marx didn't accurately define what he meant about workers not being able to simply lay hold of ready-made state machinery, for too many interpretations of its meaning now abound. The lack of definition forces us to look at its actual context in the Civil War in France, but the relative size of the task also enables each of us to interpret it differently, which is probably why so many lazy members let the Party interpret it for them. Here's mine:
Just before the Commune, a bourgeois republic replaced Napoleon III's monarchy, and, six months later, workers pushed the republic through to proletarian dictatorship, at least in Paris and a few other towns. Marx noted that, while the bourgeoisie was able to use feudal state machinery for its own purposes, workers could not use the same bureaucracy, military, judiciary, clergy, etc., for their own purposes, so they created new machinery (that came to be known as the Commune) with which to pursue a lower-class agenda, but failed to take over the banks, workers proving to be not naturally confiscatory enough for Marx. It's too bad that Marx didn't learn therefrom that workers don't always naturally do what ideologues expect them to do. Leaving Marx's mistake aside, however, Party ideologues took his statement out of context to make him look like an anarchist advising workers to get rid of the state, as though he had been saying, 'if you can't use the old state machinery, then get rid of it once and for all', even though the context of his statement was a critique of old feudal state bureaucracy, and observations of how well Communal democracy ran things. Unlike what our old Party taught us, Marx advocated getting rid of feudal state machinery, and replacing it with working class state machinery, but that's the condensed form of his scenario. The Commune was the new form of state designed by workers that, in Marx's theory, would have taken them to classless, stateless communism over time, as Communal proletarian dictatorship died out. What happened in Paris was a nearly exact replica of Marx's predicted scenario. It's too bad that every example of Marx's scenario failed, or is being converted to capitalism and democracy, but it was inevitable. If socialism was supposed to happen in the most advanced capitalist countries, then it should have proven at least as feasible there as it proved to be after smashing feudal monarchies in backward countries. The impossibility of concentrating means of production into the hands of workers after mere electoral victories proves, of course, the worthlessness of socialism for advanced capitalist democracies.
So, F.G. would accuse you of violating the intent of Marx's statement? All because you believe that political government will survive the proposed revolution in a democracy? First of all, workers have no known record of abolishing democracy, that distinction reserved for their bosses, as in Chile and Guatemala, but your scenario is a lot closer to Marx's intent than F.G.'s. What he may not be aware of, or may not want to admit, is that the Commune proved to Marx that the form of proletarian dictatorship was a democratic republic, using the same structural form as a bourgeois democratic republic. Back during the First International, Citizens throughout Europe fought to establish - not just republics, but democratic republics that were socially controlled as well. Hence the origin of the term 'Social Democrat', but you'll never learn that from SLP ideologues, who have long had the bloody nerve to call themselves socialists, but who preached an anarchist program in the name of socialism. If any Party ideologues knew, they certainly didn't care that, before anarchists prevailed in the coup of 1889, the SLP rightly considered socialism and anarchism to be opposites. After the coup, anarchists such as Johann Most, Hugh O. Pentecost and others were treated much more cordially in their press. And even before the Commune had been crushed, 'anarchists claimed the Commune as their own, i.e., as an affirmation of their doctrines', exactly the way in which the SLP claimed it as an affirmation of SLP doctrine, as in A.P.'s "Proletarian Democracy vs. Dictatorships and Despotism", the refutation of which forms a goodly portion of my unpublished book.
The interpretation that F.G. and other anarchists lend to Marx's phrase is that 'the state is useless to workers, and if useless, subject to abolition at the ballot box, or by any other means.' Their interpretation is purely anarchist due to their scenario of replacing the state with an administration of things, but they defend it as purely socialist. If the term socialism is substituted for anarchism often enough (and the SLP certainly has repeated it often enough), members and sympathizers believe that the anarchism that the Party really propagates is socialism, due to distasteful connotations to the word anarchism. Sorry to disappoint anyone with the news, but I will never again be conned into selling anarchism disguised as socialism, nor will I ever advocate Marxist, Leninist, Maoist, Trotskyist, or any other brand of socialism or communism, either. In an advanced capitalist democracy, we can accomplish lots better things than what any 'ism could ever do for us, if we only think about it a little. All that abolishing democracy and changing ownership of means of production would accomplish for workers would be to elevate a new ruling class to power, who, if the new ruling class didn't immediately reduce the hours of labor, would only build as great an empire with our surplus values as what capitalists have done with them. That's why socialists are not interested in reducing hours of labor, they only want their day in the sun, basking in all of the wealth and power that comes from having all of those workers working all of those hours way beyond the time required to produce necessities of life, and they would probably rationalize it in the same way as do capitalists today, claiming that the revolutionary USA needs to be able to exploit workers so as to be able to compete on the world market. Few socialists understand that the place for revolution is for getting rid of feudal monarchy, not for getting rid of democracy, which can never be any more than what people want to make of it. If lower classes are blinded by current ideologies, then maybe a little more suffering will enable them to see more clearly, but I personally suffered enough to force myself to understand more clearly, lest the remainder of my life be spent endlessly repeating stupid mistakes. Not representing workers' interests, socialists represent middle class interests of controlling, dominating and punishing big capitalists, politically and economically. So, that is why I am no longer a socialist, for socialism, I learned much too late, never represented my interests, and never could, for concentrating means of production into the hands of the state or the workers does nothing to reduce hours of labor. On page 820 of Capital, Volume 3, Marx stated that the prerequisite to freedom is a reduction in the hours of labor. That's what I want, for I am sick of interminable wage-slavery, though I wouldn't mind working a few hours a day for my own and the common good. In advanced capitalist and democratic states, we have to do things that are appropriate to the milieu in which we find ourselves, even though I may never be able to convince committed revolutionists of that strategic reality. Anarchists always have to 'go further', as Engels and Marx often remarked. Maybe 'going further' reflects a manhood hang-up. I don't know what creates their apathy about thinking correctly, or what enables them to believe in lies with no desire to question them. Maybe it's because lies sound so much better than the reality we find ourselves in, or maybe because reducing hours of labor is so much less glorious than visions of leading a grateful proletariat to victory. Maybe that's why so many would-be revolutionaries wear berets. While we were helping the NO move from Brooklyn to Palo Alto in 1974, my old sympathizer friend wore a beret and a cape(!) to a social function.
About the world crisis that Marx allegedly believed would lead to its destruction - well, there's another mistake for you, no matter who made it. Where did Marx actually say that, do you remember? I need a clue as to where to look. The only world crisis I see coming is a world environmental crisis, not to say that I think that joining a bourgeois environmental group is any answer to that, though they certainly have a lot of data that we could learn from. Major reasons for the world crisis include the intellectual bankruptcy of the lower classes, their lack of scholarship, the ease with which they can so easily be bought off, or led down one blind alley after another, the corruption of their leadership, and the fact that scholars are so easily pressed into the services of the upper classes. I'm waiting to be bought off as well, so that I can also live the good life and not have much more to think about than where I will vacation next. If only I had a product they would buy, or was dangerous enough to be on the list to be bought off.
In your last note, you signed off with a call "For an end to hesitation and confusion". If we can first end confusion, then maybe we can work on hesitation. As an attempt to get dialogue going about confusing issues, I have often quoted back to you portions of your letters that I have questioned, but confusion may never be eliminated unless we actually dialogue about what we take issue with. So, I beseech thee to recall something from my past correspondence that you might want to take issue with and dialogue about. I have tossed into the arena much controversial material, but you have never really taken issue with it point by point. Recently you commented about my 'being well read on the basics of socialism', and the possibility that it is 'socialist theory perfected'. The trouble with being a socialist is that there is no way in which anyone could be a socialist and understand at the same time that it is their theoretical weakness that keeps them in the nebulous world of socialist sentiment in the first place. Socialist theories taught me a lot at one time, and it was as though I had been so far submerged below the surface of a swamp that I was unable to breathe, and socialism was the branch I held onto that enabled me to lift my head out of water. That really felt good at one time, so good that I didn't realize that the rest of my body was still stuck in quicksand, and that there was no way in which socialism could possibly take me anywhere. But, it did feel good to be able to breathe for a while, and all of the folks who were stuck in the same swamp with me enjoyed each others' company, and we had some good times together. It was only when I discovered that I was in a swamp and wanted to get out that things became difficult between me and my fellow socialists. I had to leave them behind so that I could survey the breadth and the depth of the swamp, so as to be able to report back to them about the pickle they were in. A lot of them still like it very much, thank you, and wouldn't think of trying to get out, for, from their perspective, not too many outside of the swamp had any decent intentions toward those inside the swamp, so they were quite content with their environment, even if they can't go very far, or do very much. Maybe it feels good enough to occasionally be able to rescue a lost soul from the murky depths below the swamp, and to teach them how to breathe and enjoy the occasional ray of light that filters through the trees. I can report that there is lots of sunshine outside of the swamp, but many other attractive swamps surround the socialist swamp. It sometimes gets lonely, knowing how few of my former Citizenry are willing to leave their comfortable enough swamp. Home, sweet home. I still haven't found a new home, no new place where lots of other people see the lay of the land and the strategy in the same way that I see it. Like the good scout that I am, though, I sometimes return to report back on all the treasures and opportunities that exist outside of the socialist swamp. But, it mostly falls on deaf ears. If only one other Citizen could see strategy the same way that I do, it might be the beginning of an effective movement.
I re-read your excerpted contribution to DB, and can report that I agree with the first two paragraphs, with the exception of the last sentence of the second paragraph, when you begin the pitch for socialism, which continues to the end of the letter. Abolish private property? When I think that we fought a civil war over as comparatively small an issue as slavery, just what would people do over private property? You probably remember tales of counter-revolution after Bolsheviks took power. Lots of blood was spilt, and will be spilt again if we try anything similar. Workers in advanced capitalist countries want their bosses to maintain profitable and stable businesses as much as anyone else, it seems to me. I hardly know of anyone who doesn't, except for a handful of radicals with as much influence as a drop in a bucket, but who think that their drop is the most important one in the bucket.
Do you ever listen to WBAI in New York? Former California Governor Jerry Brown has a radio talk show from 7-8 pm, EST. In many ways, he purveys a socialist perspective, and is presently pushing cooperative solutions to production and distribution. Marx also liked cooperatives very much. In plank #5 of the program of the First International, Marx wrote:
"Restricted, however, to the dwarfish forms into which individual wage slaves can elaborate it by their private efforts, the co-operative system will never transform capitalistic society. To convert social production into one large and harmonious system of free and co-operative labour, general social changes are wanted, changes of the general conditions of society, never to be realised save by the transfer of the organised forces of society, viz., the state power, from capitalists and landlords to the producers themselves."
Ruling class oppression directed against cooperatives led Marx to believe that they would never amount to anything important until workers took state power and wiped out all of the oppressive legislation directed against cooperatives. What that might mean for American workers would be the electoral victory of a labor party, and the subsequent reform and repeal of many oppressive laws, rather than the wholesale discarding of what De Leon called capitalist law.
March 21, 1996
Thanks for your letter of January 28. I just got DB #76, and see that your letter finally got printed, even though it was rather critical of Frank's belief system. I see, though, that my last letter remained out of his publication, probably for good, for it was probably too hot for him to handle. My subscription runs out with this edition, which will give me an excuse to write a note critical of his editorial policies. A lot of good it will do me, probably.
With regard to internal party democracy, I will shortly be running for delegate to the founding convention of the new labor party in June, and will advocate a provision that 'Any article that is rejected from publication in the party press will automatically be printed if members apply to their chapters and get their mandate.' Furthermore, 'all internal business should be printed in the new party journal, and salaries and benefits of everyone employed and elected by the new party shall be made public. Summaries of all meetings shall be run in the press, as well as statements of all candidates for internal party offices.' The letters section should be very big, and 'the editor will more categorize issues than edit them out, and will make an effort to set facts straight in various issues.' 'Arguments for expulsion of chapters or members will be printed in full, and will require a majority vote of the entire party after a full hearing.' There can be no dictatorship of a small clique if we adopt such measures. If we had them in the SLP, then ruling class agents like Petersen would not have had a chance to impose his will.
I've been thinking through Petersen's theory of proletarian dictatorship over peasants again, both for the USA and the old Soviet Union (SU). First, in the USA, where A.P. theorized that the bourgeoisie is composed of cowards who would run away at the thought of proletarian rule, thus, over whom, we wouldn't need a dictatorship. A.P. also theorized that, due to the small size of the peasantry in the USA, agriculture here having been very much proletarianized, we wouldn't need proletarian dictatorship over peasants, or over other middle classes, either.
Compare that total distortion of Marx's scenario for democracies, and of his theory of a worker-peasant alliance, to the old SU, where A.P. wrote that agriculture there was conducted by a large peasant class that comprised the bulk of the population, the bourgeoisie and proletariat in the minority. So far, so good, but when he wrote that the resistance of small peasant landholders to proletarian rule necessitated proletarian dictatorship over them, that's when he sunk into a grand distortion of Marx, and even of Lenin. In 'Proletarian Democracy vs. Dictatorships and Despotism', A.P. would also have had an admittedly tiny proletariat wielding a dictatorship over a peasant class that might have been several times as large as the proletariat themselves! Was the proletariat in the old S.U. supposed to be composed of supermen? Can you imagine proletarians in any country being so dumb as to want to pick on classes that are far superior in numbers? Marx knew that the proletariat in any country outnumbered their bourgeoisie, which theoretically was to make proletarian dictatorship over the bourgeoisie easy. But, nowadays, it's all water over the dam, and totally irrelevant to what's happening today.
Now I know where the alleged cowardice of the bourgeoisie came from: They had to be portrayed as 'cowards who could easily be swept aside' in order for proletarian dictatorship over middle classes to become more plausible to us. After all, if the bourgeoisie were merely run-away cowards, then who would be left for the proletariat to dictate over? None but themselves, or the middle classes. But, for A.P., it had better not be the upper classes! What made sense to Marx wasn't good enough for A.P., so all of A.P.'s theories had to be 'proven' by quotes out of context. Also, in order to lead us dumb workers to rise up, it also helps to prepare us psychologically by persuading us that our capitalist enemy is weak, will run away, and that the state is rotten-ripe for overthrow. So, fellow proletarians, what are we waiting for? Let's hurry up and dissolve the state at the ballot box and get on with the glories of revolution! Was our grand old Party a psychological operation? I've never failed to admit to having been gullible and having been taken in by them, but, braver revolutionaries than I may never admit to having been taken in. After all, you gotta be smart to be a revolutionary, right? Much too smart to be taken in by a scam like 'proletarian dictatorship over peasants'.
I used to see good in my fellow workers at the SLP NO in the early seventies. I really loved those people in those early days, that I will never forget, but that stopped after they intended that, if my writings about Petersen were ever to be disseminated, a lot of Party supporters would be alienated, so they knew that they were censoring me as they censored me, but it took me a while to figure it out. After I left the Party, I learned that S.K. told B.V.R. that I had really been "f***ed over". And just who did that deed, knowingly and willingly? None other than S.K. himself, probably with the considered advice of his father. There is a limit to how much I can love people, and with the amount of abuse I have suffered from in my day, I finally learned that I damage myself by remaining in abusive situations ad infinitum, ad nauseam.
I regard the SLP as injurious to the working class, because their program offers nothing of value to workers in advanced capitalist democracies, and their leaders cynically exploit the ignorance of the Party rank-and-file, as well as that of the lower classes. Party leaders themselves even know that what they are putting out is worthless to workers. But, try to find a softer job than what they now have, and it's not too hard to understand their reluctance to change their tune. Rock the boat, and they would find themselves in a stew, like having everyone know that they knowingly and willingly collaborated to keep everyone in ignorance. Deception, according to Marx, is how upper classes rule in a democracy. It is an uncomfortable bed in which my old comrades lie, and uneasy lies the head that wears the crown of hegemony in their bureaucracy.
I don't know whether what motivates me is bitterness, or if it is the frustration of having been in a party that promised revolutionary change in this country, and yet balked so absolutely when it came to discussing the lies that they used to justify their program. To me, true revolutionaries should be brave, courageous and unafraid to discuss anything, and that the way one gets to be a writer for a revolutionary party is by being more honest, courageous, and intelligent than the rest of the pack, but I felt terribly betrayed when I discovered that certain absolutely vital subjects were taboo. If, as Engels wrote, a party progresses by means of internal struggle, there has always been a need for a certain terrain on which the struggle can take place in a reasonable fashion, but, in the SLP, there never has been such a terrain. Due to the absence of an uncensored internal Party press, struggles got 'resolved' by means of internal and secretive intrigue, personal attacks, calumniation, expulsion of members and Sections, attempted takeovers, etc. I may go down yet as having suffered a bitter defeat at the hands of Party bureaucrats, but the battle has not yet ended, for I may never stop seeking to understand, and may never stop seeking to make this a better world, no matter what temporary obstacles, such as one little intransigent Party, may block my way. So, bitter will be a good word to use after I throw in the towel and resign myself to having been completely vanquished forever by the Party. Though I was temporarily stymied by the Party, hindsight shows that it provided me with many precious lessons about the reality of the tough road ahead for the working class. Sure, I wasted time while I was there, and while sulking afterwards, but my experience will not be a total waste if I learned something therefrom. That I did, and if I can learn to use the lessons productively, then maybe the lower classes will suffer all the less for my experience if I can find the patience to struggle on.
There are many things that need to be worked on. I would still like to find out if Engels ever expressed doubt to Bernstein, or to anyone else, about the validity of collectivizing means of production. If A.P. was correct about Engels' alleged doubts, this would be another sad chapter in the history of the left, for having suppressed vital information about their own bankruptcy.
It's also past time that all of the correspondence of Sorge, Kautsky, Bernstein, and so many others who wrote to Marx and Engels was revealed to the world. Much has been emphasized about what Marx and Engels wrote to others, but with what concerns did others write to M+E? What Sorge wrote to Engels might be a gold mine of info about the SLP of early times. I read somewhere that Sorge's books and papers were given to the New York Public Library. Have you ever heard anything about what treasures might lie there?
Thank you for the recognition of my sincerity, no matter how much we may differ in other topics of discussion. Yes, many of us are ready and willing to do what it takes to make things easier for ourselves and our class, and we have to search our souls to find bits of common ground we can all identify and share as our common class property. Speaking of which, I recently listed many revolutionary scenarios that have been put forth in history, and I noticed that they are all mutually exclusive. In other words, society cannot, on the one hand, abolish the state and capitalism at the ballot box, and, on the other hand, create a proletarian dictatorship, and do them both at the same time. Ideologies can only divide us, rather than unite us. Compare that to the half dozen ways by which hours of labor can be reduced, none of which exclude implementation of the others. Rather, they all mutually complement one another, and all push in the same direction of reducing labor time. People who are more interested in raising the overtime premium to double time would not be conflicting with people who were more interested in legislation that would guarantee minimum vacations of a month per year to full-time workers. Since they would be unified in their common goal of shortening labor time, one group would be as interested in the success of the other as they were in their own success. Compare that to bitter competition between sects to attract suckers to a variety of impossible collectivization schemes, and the way in which those same sects would be only too happy to learn that another sect had finally faded away and disbanded. Ideological solutions appeal to our lower instincts, and do nothing to bring us together.
No, we are not free in this society, except in a formal, legal sense. But, that doesn't stop us from wanting to be part of some kind of a community, and willing to give up some of our freedoms to do it. I remember when I was a brand new member of the Party and proudly announced my recruiting efforts among members of an organization in my home town called "For the People", but I was told to immediately halt my recruiting efforts within that group, and only recruit among individuals. I didn't feel that what I had done was so bad, but other members gave the impression that I was violating Party principles, operating outside of the Party Constitution, and that such activities had to be stopped immediately. The stock answer was that all other parties were little better than police fronts. On my way home, I felt as though I was giving up my freedom of association to be a member of the Party, and I didn't like that feeling at all. But, I also felt it was worth it to be a member of the alleged only revolutionary organization in the USA, so I just swallowed the pain and continued on. If I had known then what I know now about the Party, I certainly wouldn't have continued in it as long as I did, but sometimes the only way to learn is the hard way, and by getting one's hands dirty. When I learned that I was serving the upper classes by spreading confusion among the lower classes, I felt as though I was then getting my hands a lot dirtier than what I wanted, and was tempted to leave immediately, but stayed on in order to tell others of what I had learned. But, when all hope of reaching others was lost, I left for good.
I think that what you say about debt has a lot of merit to it. Even if we shortened hours of labor, 'we' would still have a lot of debt to pay off, but who are 'we'? I may have a bit of personal debt, to which I feel responsible to pay off, but I certainly did not contract any of the national debt, and feel no responsibility to work hard to pay off any of that. It may very well be that shortening hours of labor may have no tangible effect on the mountain of existing debt, but shortening hours may prevent ordinary people from contracting appreciable personal debt thereafter. With people making living wages and better, they wouldn't have to go into hock to stay alive, governments could be smaller than they are today, ordinary people would have more time to watch over their governments, which could be better financed without pain to the lower classes, preventing governments from having to pile up appreciable debt thereafter as well. We may have to play that one by ear, and I'm not trying too hard to predict what will happen in every sphere of activity and concern. I also don't think that it would be necessary to default on loans, either, for they could always be paid off slowly. It may be all right for a revolutionary like Castro to bluster and tell the IMF to go to hell, but, in a democracy, things evolve very slowly, and a slow payoff would be no skin off our teeth. But, we very well may have to pay through the nose for our mutual stupidity and our tendency to censor messengers who make better sense than ourselves. If we were smart enough to cut down on the enormous surpluses we produce, many of which simply go to waste, the amount we would have to borrow simply to create more of those enormous surpluses could decline to nearly zero, making interest on loans perhaps comprising the bulk of the future income of the money bags, and we would not necessarily be so niggardly as to want to deprive them of everything, knowing as we would that constantly maintaining downward pressure on hours of labor would be doing something real about abolishing class distinctions, and that the day of abolition of wage-slavery would not have to be all that far off.
One thing for sure is that people presently look at the labor market from one perspective, and from one perspective only. Even in the major media I recently heard a pundit say that competition for scarce jobs drives wages lower, that aspect of the market they have no fear of admitting, but no one is willing to admit that the labor market is a two-way street, and that competition between bosses for scarce labor would drive wages up. After all, no one worth quoting is going to admit the latter, for fear of putting ideas in anyone's head. But, they have nothing to fear, wouldn't you say? For, labor is content to fight over nothing more exciting than conflicting and competing collectivization schemes, or other means of redistributing income and property, such as taxation, nationalization, and expropriation, none of which stand a snow-ball's chance in hell of being implemented after mere elections or through reform processes in a country in which there is little political will to mess with our national ideology of private property. But, there's little chance of anyone listening to me about anything, so sure of the validity of their myriad of conflicting collectivization schemes are they. After all, what was good enough for Marx and Bakunin in the last century has to be good enough for the likes of us today. Otherwise, we wouldn't be able to call ourselves ideologues of one stripe or another, and be part of exclusive clubs, which, for only $5 or so dues per month allows us to argue over the likelihood of various impossible collectivization schemes until we're blue in the face.
I wonder in what ways I could be regarded as a revolutionary, for I certainly no longer call for revolution in any democracy, and ask workers here to consider nothing more exciting than organizing to withhold their services from the labor market, though I do continue to advocate struggles of national liberation against colonial domination, such as Irish independence. If coming around to such a position requires a 'revolution' in thought processes, then, so be it, but the last 'revolution' in my own thinking did not occur until I got most of the way through writing my book, so I do not expect others to follow my lead without themselves having the materials with which they could be logically guided to come to conclusions similar to mine. I wouldn't mind having a school in which people could go to learn about revolution, evolution, and what's possible in democracies. But, that would take lots of money and interest, and people are showing relatively little of one, and none of the other. In the Bay Area, we have a so-called New College, and I just might submit an application to teach a course in re-thinking our ideologies.
I should be patient and respectful of revolutionaries, for many were not born red-diaper babies, and have had to go through lots of soul-searching in order to become revolutionaries. Those who were not born into families of revolutionaries have probably been through much unrest in their thought processes, similar to that which I had to go through at one time in order to become a revolutionary myself. In my case, I've gone through three revolutions in thought so far, from thinking that psychology would free people's minds, to thinking that revolution would free their minds and their bodies, to the present thinking that revolutionaries need to abandon revolutionary aspirations, for reasons I have lain out over the months. I may be trying to swim upstream to a certain extent, for many revolutionaries have already been through quite a bit of agony to get to where they are at, and may think that having achieved a revolutionary perspective has gotten them in their personal evolution precisely where they need to be in order to be effective 'when the system collapses', or 'when the crunch comes down', etc.
Revolutionaries certainly will not appreciate being asked to make another revolutionary change in their thinking, i.e., a revolutionary change away from revolution, for they no doubt to a great extent think that they just happen to be exactly where they should be, and where they want to be. If there's any 'there' to be at, they probably think that they are precisely 'there', and it may take some powerful arguments to convince them otherwise. I may not yet have all of the right arguments, but I keep trying, for I think it is worth the effort to campaign among people who have already gone through revolutions in their thinking, and that, having gone through one revolution, it might be easier for them to go through another. It would be hard for me to change my circles of friends and acquaintances anyway, for, after 24 years of being a Marxist revolutionary, other revolutionaries are just about all of the people I know, having swum in those circles for such an extended period of my little life. But, I don't consider myself in any way to be a revolutionary at the present, except as having gone through a third revolution in my thinking. I can't exactly get giddy over my own personal revolution in thinking anymore, either, as I did when I first discovered what a liar Petersen was, and when I deluded myself into thinking that all I had to do was to introduce other members to the subject, and they would automatically indulge in their own orgies of discovery about the myriad ways in which A.P. lied, how the Party was affected by his lies, and how easy it would be to change other people's minds, once they just got introduced to the material.
The truth is that after a few halting attempts to introduce the material to others right after I left the Party in '77, the blank stares that I received sort of convinced me to put the subject on the back burner, and to put back on the front burner the mundane task of just getting on with my life. So I did, but didn't do so well, and just sunk into a pit of despair for a long time. In the mid 80's, I found my physical health going downhill for as-yet undetermined reasons, so I took up the study of homeopathy (dialectical medicine) to keep myself from going under any too soon, but, in '92, when I felt that I didn't have long to live, in spite of my efforts to play doctor, I decided to get my project off the back burner after Frank Girard got in touch to ask me to recount my involvement with the Party. I suggested that he get a device to record our conversation off the phone. He agreed, but we never got together on the phone as planned. While waiting to hear back from him, I decided to get my notes in order, and the longer I waited for him to call, the more stuff I assembled, and the project soon developed into what I thought I could make into a 25-page pamphlet, so I dropped any plans to give Frank the meat of my discourse. The more I wrote and rewrote, the longer it got, and I could see it turning into a 200 page book. I bought my own word processor in September of '92, and, for the longest time, the whole book was a strictly Marxist and socialist refutation of the Party's anarcho-syndicalist program. Only at the end of '94 did I detect the impossibility of Marxian socialism, while attempting to refute a theory of Petersen that I found particularly thorny. I felt confident in being able to refute it, just as I did to so many other of his theories, but, as in so much of the other stuff he wrote, there was a grain of truth there that I just could not crack, details of which are on page 4 of my letter of October 13 of last year. And that's the problem with revolutionary theory, in that there are often so many grains of truth encapsulated with the bait, that people are often tempted to swallow along with the bait - the hook, the line and the sinker.
I was writing furiously to get the book done before the grim reaper took me, but in '93 I found some medicine that took the edge off of my problems, and when I no longer felt like I was going downhill anymore, or at least not at such a frightening rate, I looked into the Workers' Advocate and the Neue Zeit. The Workers' Advocate stuff was well worth it, but the German stuff still needs to be looked at by someone who understands the language, and can tell me where the juicy parts lie.
After having gone through all of this, and not having any other career or business to occupy my time, this project of telling about what I discovered took on greater significance, especially since I discovered how important the discoveries could be to the left in general. The left needs to acknowledge some of this stuff in order for them to learn how to discard impossible and ineffective ideologies. I'm sometimes as amazed at what I've discovered as scientists would be if they found particles that could be made into quarks.
I may no longer be ready for a socialist revolution, but I've been ready for revolutionary change within the minds of revolutionaries for a long time, ready for them to start rejecting bureaucratic, secretive and censorious practices within their organizations, ready to hear them admit that they might not have cornered the market on truth, ethics and morality, ready to hear them admit that they are only human, and might have made more than one mistake, and might have allowed themselves to be misled. I can refute SLP theories all day and all night long to my own satisfaction, but I haven't been very successful in getting anyone else to be interested in what I've done.
Thanks for the anecdote about Martin Luther. I know practically zilch about what happened in his era, and am interested in what would be a good source of information about all of that history.
I give people false hope? Which people? There are none that I know as of yet. As far as ideas that are likely to work, I would be happy for people to learn about the other side of the labor market equation. More people than ever are becoming aware that competition for scarce jobs drives wages down, but none but a few academics unwilling to share their knowledge - for they know which side of the slice their bread is buttered on - know that the labor market is a two-way street, and that competition between bosses for scarce labor would drive wages up and put everyone to work. Compare that simple mechanism to the false hope of 'revolution in democracies' - on which planet? In spite of all of the opportunities, it hasn't happened yet, though some workers in Chile subscribed to counter-revolution in their Social-Democracy in the '70's, and I'll bet that Pinochet made at least some of them feel sorry for what they did.
July 10, 1996
Well, I'm back from the East coast, back from the Labor Party founding convention, and am fairly well enough caught up on everything to get back to regular correspondence. I wrote an article about my Labor Party experience in Cleveland that finally got printed in a local newsletter; here is the text: (snip repetition of text available at web page dealing with the Labor Party)
I devoted three 3-hour radio programs to the Labor Party, read its Constitution and Platform over the air, critiqued them both without mercy, read lots of leaflets and literature that was gathered in Cleveland, and critiqued all of the literature as well. I spent at least 10 hours a week writing up a script for each of the 3 programs, and plan to make a long critical article out of my script about the Labor Party. There seems to be a lot of Trotskyism afoot in this party.
I had your latest letter forwarded to me on the East coast, including the material on Martin Luther, for which I am grateful.
When, in your letter, you say that "The media has succeeded in distorting and corrupting the meaning of socialism in spite of De Leon and his followers", perhaps you have forgotten that the followers of De Leon have been as guilty of distorting the meaning of socialism as the media has been, the Party having unethically converted the meaning of Marx's 'dictatorship of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie' into the Party's ridiculous 'dictatorship of the proletariat over the peasantry' so that the Party could conclude that the absence of a large peasantry in the USA eliminates any need for proletarian dictatorship here, for the absence of a peasantry for the proletariat to have to oppress excludes dictatorship. In my correspondence, I have outlined this SLP distortion and swindle many times, while your unwillingness to comment on the swindle one way or the other makes me wonder just how carefully you read my letters. Marx also complained that Bakunin distorted the meaning of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the same way, though I don't know how Bakunin used his distortion.
The American public has been scammed so many times by opportunists of all stripes that by now they are not so dumb as to be taken in by socialists. The Russian revolution proved just how much force is required to steal the property of the rich, and just how contemptuous of freedoms of the press, and even of human rights, socialists all over the world have been; so Americans do not want anything that even smells of socialism, and from the way I got treated by the alleged socialists of the SLP and elsewhere, I cannot blame Americans at all for being leery of socialism and for not wanting it. But, being taken in by charlatans is often one's first step in the journey toward social activism. I made my first mistake a long time ago, I paid my dues to devils of all sorts, and hopefully my current interests reflect the wisdom gained from having put myself out there to be battered about in the hopes that I would learn something. If I had just wanted to be selfish and self-absorbed, I had the opportunity to stay with the SLP and make a career out of spreading lies, but, in my youth, I had been a little too sensitized by lies and abuse to want to make a living out of spreading them, and suspected that a movement based on lies would never amount to much in terms of delivering social justice. It is very interesting that a Party that practices censorship within its own ranks should then blame the American media for censoring the SLP (as they did once again on p. 3 of the July issue of 'The People'), and blaming the American media for preventing people from hearing the SLP message. The fact is that a history, philosophy and program like theirs could never withstand the light of day being shone on them, for everything they say would disintegrate as fast as newsprint disintegrates out in the sun. It is better that so few get to hear the SLP message, and that so few gullible and naive suckers, like myself at one time, get corrupted by them.
When I was a kid, from as early on as I'd care to recall, I was dragged to church and Sunday school every week. It wasn't bad enough that I had to go to public school every week and get so much government bull drummed into me, but then I had to go and get religious indoctrination drummed in on top of that. My mother's attitude was fairly passive, in that she took us there and exposed us to the notions; if the notions took hold and found good soil, so be it. If religious notions did not take root, so be it as well, but my mother was not plagued with guilt for not having given religion a chance to take root in our fertile little minds. This passive attitude toward religion might have had a long tradition in my family, I don't know.
A movement that is as doomed to failure in this country as is socialism would be quite morose, unhappy and demoralized unless it took a very philosophical attitude toward its work. A socialist must have a lot of faith that the masses will someday flock to and convert to socialism. Going to meetings, listening to socialist speeches, and reaffirming one's faith is certainly an important element in maintaining the socialist movement in any semblance of stability, for, without that constant reassurance that the masses will come around, socialists would certainly be a far lonelier breed than what they already are. It is also good that many socialists have some organized religion to sustain them in these 'dry times for socialists', for, in spite of the presence of the kinds of conditions that are supposed to breed socialists, socialism attracts few takers. The six million homeless in this country, by socialist reasoning, all ought to be socialists, and probably quite a few of the homeless already are socialists, but not enough to make any kind of an impact on their fellow homeless.
In my last letter, instead of my asserting that you were loyal to De Leonism, I should instead have said that I suspected that you were loyal to the basic ideas of Socialist Industrial Unionism. I hope you will forgive my indiscretion, and I thank you for the correction. I readily acknowledge your differences with De Leon on the fate of political democracy, you wisely favoring the continuation of the basic values and precepts of the Constitution. I take it that a few in the Canadian SLP share the same attitude, and it is good that many of you have the independence of thought to modify certain ancient teachings when they no longer seem to serve the cause. De Leon's teachings on the abolition of the state seem to me to be very close to Bakuninism, which teachings Marx criticized in various writings around the time of the First International, which must have been a very exciting time in which to be a socialist or anarchist, an era during which both 'isms were violently persecuted by the existing monarchies of Europe. [Actually, the communists fared much worse.] England and America were just about the only safe half-way-civilized harbors for radicals at the time, many socialists and anarchists coming over to America, especially from Germany. Engels was very critical of those from his old German Party who came over to America, Engels stating that the best of them stayed back in Germany to fight for socialism, in spite of the hardships they had to endure during the despotism of the anti-socialist law of 1878-90. Engels claimed that the worst of the socialists fled to America and founded the SLP, but they didn't bother to learn English, and made a dogma out of Marxism. Engels had a lot of problems with the SLP of the 1880's, and studiously avoided them during his trip to America in 1888, and was very glad when the early swindlers were overthrown in the coup of 1889, but quickly found that the new crew was no better than the old, finding nothing of value in De Leon, Sanial or the early publications known as Der Sozialist and the Workmen's Advocate, so he urged Conrad Schmidt not to waste his time going to America, and to instead continue to write for the socialist press in Berlin.
Your critique of the disenfranchisement of the retired and the disabled in the SIU reveals a few problems with that plan. Consider as well that producers now number only about 17% of the workforce, and comprise an even smaller percentage of the population as a whole, a situation which De Leon may not have foreseen, or may not have cared to think about.
The movement toward which I am increasingly inclining lately is the struggle for a double-time overtime premium, the realization of which relies not a bit on the government or politicians to enact (to begin with), for all that workers would have to do in order to act in solidarity with the unemployed and the homeless is to walk out at the end of 40 hours, unless and until the bosses offer them double time. A twenty year old study has revealed that a double time premium in itself would reduce unemployment by 1-2%, and would encourage the hiring and training of new workers. One can figure as well that the reason that people today are working 50, 60, 70 and more hours per week is that time and a half has ceased to be a disincentive to keeping people working overtime, for what with all of the competition for scarce jobs, wages are already quite low, and time and a half multiplied by something that's already quite low is often not out of the range of affordability for the bosses.
It was only a year and a half ago that I was quite an advocate of the thirty hour week, but, in my greater maturity, I realize that the reason that the 40 hour week no longer works is that time and a half no longer provides a disincentive large enough to prevent overwork, so I no longer will even come close to advocating '30 for 40' until we first win double time. I also like to concentrate on things that can be won by labor action alone, as a means of rejuvenating the labor movement. One can pretty easily figure out that '30 for 40' would be much more happily granted than double time, for time and a half would only be a marginally greater disincentive to working people beyond 30 hours than time and a half presently is to working them beyond 40 hours, and they would continue to work 40, 50, 60, 70 hours and beyond. My niece's husband put in a 100 hour week at a power plant last year, pointing out the need to put teeth in the 40 hour law. He probably never would work beyond 50 hours a week if his bosses had to pay him double time over 40 hours a week.
Continually shortening hours of labor and raising overtime premiums, one step at a time, is enough in itself to eliminate competition between workers for scarce jobs, keep everyone employed, and thereby eliminate the kinds of social tensions that drive people into the waiting arms of extremists like anarchists, socialists and communists. You will have to admit that anarchism, socialism and communism are rather extreme means of delivering 'social justice', compared to keeping people happy by ensuring them all a place in the economy by means of shorter hours and higher overtime premiums. As people in the advanced capitalist democracies have already proven by their adoptions of 12, 10, and 8 hour laws, where these movements actually started, they will be more willing to shorten hours of labor before they will be willing to expropriate the rich.
When automation finally gets around to replacing all physical labor, as is predicted for the latter half of the next century, hours of labor will continue to diminish, and overtime premiums will continue to increase in order to keep everyone employed. If hours of labor ever get to zero, then theoretically the state may have no further reason for existence, and we may have yet one more way by which society can get to classless, stateless society. As you know, the final goal common to all three 'isms is classless, stateless society. I claim that there is yet another way to get there, by shortening hours of labor as technology permits, eventually getting to a zero hour workday, or total freedom from economic slavery. When people stop having to go to work to earn subsistence, capitalism and exploitation will be over, and we will have graduated to some new kind of system, which may not even have to exclude private ownership of means of production, for private ownership arrived in history before the labor market, so private ownership may just last beyond the demise of the labor market, but private ownership could be benign under those circumstances, instead of malignant in the hands of the greedy bosses who love to overwork people, as at present.
Shortening hours of labor will always be easier for humans to do than to rob the rich of their property, and shorter hours has been the tradition of workers in the most industrialized and democratic countries, where movements for the 12, 10, and 8 hour days originated and succeeded. As both Marx and Engels complained about British Trades Unionists, 'All they want is shorter hours and higher wages!' And yet, all that Marx and Engels could do was to scold workers for expressing their own interests. Workers in the west in general did not parrot the desires of communists to fight for political supremacy and the expropriation of the rich. Reducing hours of labor in backward countries, on the other hand, often does not make a whole hell of a lot of sense where workers are not very productive, where workers do not cooperate in processes of production, and where surpluses are at a minimum. In backward countries, land reform could make more sense as an immediate remedy for the misery of masses of peasants. Oftentimes as well, democratic revolution is the precondition to land reform, while, as for expropriation of the upper classes and their industries as the result of democratic revolution, I wonder if that has ever occurred in history. In Russia, the bourgeois-democratic Kerensky republic had to be overthrown in order to expropriate the rich.
Whatever happens, though, you can bet that the era of socialism is over, and Cuba cannot be expected to last much longer as a socialist regime either, unless their reform processes continue to embrace private ownership at an accelerated pace. The only reason their government started to embrace small business and a mixed economy anyway was to avoid being overthrown by their own people, who are sick of austerity. They see the differences between Cuba and the USA, and would rather have the good life, if they could.
September 02, 1996
I just reread your letter to the DB once again, and though it is true that many 'Marxists expect workers to seize industries in a crisis', as you wrote, is there any historical precedent for such workers' action, even in embryo? I think that an alleged 'Marxist seizure of industry' reflects an anarchist distortion of Marxism more than any actual or natural tendency of a workers' movement, because, the tendency toward 'taking and holding' that Marx observed among workers, and hoped would be amplified in future struggles, was the tendency for workers to 'take and hold' state power, and hold onto their arms after the nascent capitalist class armed workers for the task of overthrowing feudal monarchies, hoping to replace despotic monarchies with democratic republics. This tendency to 'take and hold' state power is what Marx actually observed in his readings of the struggles of 1789, 1830, 1848, and 1871, the Commune being the best example of this tendency, each new struggle of socialist workers to hang onto power showing greater tenacity than the last, until the Russian Revolution proved that there was concrete merit in taking and holding state power, which enabled socialists to rip off the rich.
This business of 'taking and holding means of production', on the other hand, has more in common with Bakunin, who far more profoundly influenced the SLP's SIU program than Marx ever did. While Marx hoped that the tendency for socialist workers to take and hold state power would remain in, and be consummated in Europe, the tendency instead moved east across Europe after he died, the events in Russia being as true to the Marxist scenario as could be imagined, considering how distorted the revolution actually became due to its failure to happen within the borders of the most advanced capitalist countries of Europe. Defining the scenario of socialist workers taking and holding state power would have been a triumph of observation for anyone, but it also led to Marx's biggest blunder. Belief in the desirability and inevitability of Marx's scenario of expropriation paralyzes the left to this day with dreams of becoming dominant in government, and using the dominance to confiscate or nationalize property as the quickest, or the only route, to economic justice. But, in a democracy, devoted as it is to protection of private property rights, who's going to vote for a program like that? Just a handful of radicals who will never even be able to get their program on the ballot.
Modern day dependency upon pensions, veteran benefits, subsidized or free medical care, welfare and unemployment comp are a partial result of amazing increases in the productivity of labor, society now being much more able to afford to take care of the disadvantaged, much more than ever before in history, in spite of what Republicans may think. We are 40 times more productive than we were 200 years ago, so there is no excuse for us not taking care of each other, nor for us letting so many, like 14 million, go without adequate access to means of making a living. These 14 million unemployed and underemployed comprise a forgotten class in America, almost no one speaking up for them, and yet the fate of the underemployed is the fate of the working class, as workers increasingly get replaced by machines, computers and technology, especially when computers really get smart in the next century. Us middle-aged and old-timers may be lucky not to be around for what may happen if selfishness continues to rule. It'll be a lot like Huxley's 'Brave New World', each of us just taking care of our own narrow interests, and let 'Big Brother' take care of the bigger issues.
When you say that 'people feel that they are enslaved by the capitalist system', I don't know of any but a few ideologues who feel that way, for it doesn't reflect the attitude of most of the people whom I know. I don't think that I could ever sell people a theory that they are enslaved. On the other hand, it was natural for me in the seventies to believe that I was a slave of some system or other, for, as a child of the forties and fifties, I had often felt like the personal slave of my father in the family auto repair business. Dad said I would thank him one day for all of the forced labor, but I can't remember feeling any more than a sense of regret over the loss of my childhood to boring, hazardous and lonely work that none of my friends were subjected to in their family situations. As the result of constantly being torn away from my friends, communication of my oppression was a futile endeavor back then, knowing that no one was around to listen, causing me to feel different and alienated. As the result of all of the forced isolation from my peer group in those crucial years of development, I never even dated until much later in life. Now I am old and bitter at the whole experience, bitter because I know that my enslavement was entirely unnecessary in the richest country in the world, and bitter because nothing can give me back all of those lost years. I gave in to my early oppression and didn't run away as I had wanted to, for I was so bewildered by the lies about how rough and tough life supposedly was out in the real world, and how lucky I was to have such a nice, stable home life. As the result of lifelong patterns of denial, self-denial and frustration of initiative, I sometimes don't know what to do next, and, as the result of my poverty, I can never afford to do the things that I would like to do, and instead find myself wasting a lot of time aimlessly scrounging for a menial living.
One of the many favorable ways in which Henning Blomen impressed me when he was leading the SLP study class back in Lynn, MA, was when he said that he was a socialist because he wanted to build a better world, for hope beat eternal within him. Through his study class, I acquired the same hope for lasting change. Though I am little inclined to push very hard towards becoming a spanking success in life, at least I can write in my own small way about things that need to be written about, such as the plight of the forgotten class of underemployed. A society that thinks that it can be great in the midst of such needless misery among the lowest classes is a mistaken society, so it needs to be reminded of its mistakes at every opportunity in the hopes that it will recognize its mistakes and make the necessary corrections. The same goes for mistaken movements, such as those dominated by any of the three 'isms. The search for the best definition of the ways in which we err has been a holy grail for me, for we cannot possibly make a positive correction in our course unless we know exactly where we are going wrong, and the limitations of corrective measures that have been applied in the past.
People also need to know about corrective measures that hold out the possibility of doing something real about social problems. We have built an industrial monster, but we don't seem to have found the best means with which to tame the beast. We could be Luddites and tear it down, but that would be going too far backwards. We could join the Republican Party and eliminate the more innocuous features of government, and eliminate taxes for the rich and welfare for the poor, but those measures do nothing to provide access to means of making a living to the 14 million who could use it. We could join the Democrats and try to tax the rich to build a benevolent state, but society seems not to want a large government, especially not the growing militia movement. We could be radical socialists, communists and anarchists and try to rearrange property relations, but rearranging property relations takes a lot of force, and was easier to do after overthrowing feudal monarchies, or after liberating colonies, when radicals had the kind of physical force in their hands that was required to rob the rich of their property. That scenario belongs to the past for the most part.
As you wrote, socialism had more credibility in De Leon's era, but Soviet and other experiences have shown what little use socialism actually was, and how more than a billion people were willing to allow state ownership in Asia to be superseded by capitalism. The sorry state of the SLP and other De Leonist organizations has proven the unwillingness of the masses to be 're-educated' as to the meaning of socialism in the SLP sense, most people having lumped in any plan to rearrange property relations with all of the rest of the failures, or previous stages of development, such as slavery and feudalism. People in this country are riding the crest of a wave of technological success beyond anyone's previous dreams, and they are all looking for a piece of the pie. We cannot blame a dumb system like capitalism for our failure to ensure everyone a piece of the pie, for the motivation to dump workers is an important aspect of improving efficiency in means of production, is accepted as part of the system, and is something we think we can live with as long as we sense that we are making progress of some sort, such as in liberating people from drudgery, adding to the glories of an inflated stock market, or shooting rockets up into space, etc.
We would be wasting our lives hoping for a revolution in our time, though that doesn't mean we are helpless to do anything to improve the life of the common man. Improving the lives of the downtrodden seems to be a long lost goal of radical movements in general, for lately I see a lot of selfish attachment to little causes that hardly complement one another. Some movements would more gladly see competing movements collapse, the competition between them so intense. My contribution is hopefully to show how well-intentioned people have unwittingly adopted programs that are highly unlikely in western democracies. Perhaps such revelations will enable them to discard ineffective and unlikely plans that belong to the past. Maybe I am just kidding myself, so, did I go wrong, and where? Do people's desires to belong to anything at all automatically prevent them from analyzing their frustrations well enough to do something real about them? If things get bad enough, people will always do something about what frustrates them, but will they merely lash out in a futile manner?
Your comments about the small number of people who are capable of explaining Socialist Industrial Unionism rang true, and reminded me of what I wrote in my book:
snip repetition of book material
When you say in your letter that there will be an industrial republic someday, you should be reminded that you are merely repeating someone else's assertion, and that there is little to no evidence to show that people are moving in that direction. Why would anyone want to assert that there will be an industrial republic? Is the idea any more compelling because those who most loudly espouse it are in the leadership of an organization? I hope you are not forgetting that it pays leaders to give people some kind of dream to believe in. If selling the dream pays off, it then gets repeated as often as people are willing to buy it, and the SIU dream has lasted almost a century so far. Will it make it past the millennium, or will the SLP have to fold up its tent someday due to lack of interest? Only time will tell. The SIU kept SLP bureaucrats in dollars for a long time, but people need to learn to be wary of schemes that are perpetrated only by very small groups, and that have had long enough of a run to catch on if they had anything going for them, but which instead seem to be fading out.
I don't think that we will ever get to the point in this, the next, or any century, when capitalism will be outlawed or made illegal. Just like no country ever made feudalism illegal, as far as I know. When a new system comes along that out-competes the old, the old system just fades away as new relations of production replace the old. The problem with feudal monarchies was that they tried to make capitalist relations of production illegal, which necessitated the violent overthrow of the monarchies, no democratic procedures existing for working out upper class squabbles in a fair and equitable manner. Capitalism flourished because it made expensive human labor superfluous, which cheapened the necessities of life, which enabled expansion and accumulation. When no more labor is expended in the production of the necessities of life, necessities of life should then be free, but you can bet that the bosses will still try to sell them to people who will have to find the money for them somewhere. Social-Democrats would like for the state to step into that void and provide government bureaucrats to dole out money, while anarchists would like for everyone to be part of the one big union that will make government jobs superfluous. Commies would like to replace the capitalist state with a workers' state that would convert private property in means of production into the property of the workers' state. And a workers' state would never let another worker down, now, would it?
It is true that the new Labor Party is no big deal, and has only just recently put out its first edition of a newspaper, which others in town have received, but not me so far, due to a little address snafu. Your observation of a great deal of union boss support of the Democratic Party is accurate, but what's the alternative? With the widely acknowledged downfall of socialism, no unionist with credibility is going to advocate socialism, though they may not be able to give a good reason why not, which is what my research may be able to help them with.
From what you wrote, it sounds like you think that the government would like to impose reactionary unionism on workers, but I don't see much evidence of the trend that you identify. A lot of companies spend a lot of time, money and effort trying to break unions, and Pacifica Foundation (WBAI-FM in your neck of the woods) is even trying to break the UE union at their own allegedly progressive radio stations. Tied so strongly to the Democratic Party as Pacifica is, they should be at the vanguard of imposing unions on workers, if there is such a plot. Aside from the constant effort of companies to recognize only company unions, you would have to present more evidence to convince me of the trend you mention. The percentage of workers organized in legitimate unions in this country is at an all-time low.
You are right in detecting that I don't give much of a damn about religion one way or another, so little that I don't care if I get labeled as an agnostic or an atheist, for that's how little that the goddess has touched my life personally; though, if I go too far in trying to deny its influence, I would also be dishonest in trying to deny it totally, so let's just say that I give religion, or God, less weight in my life than brushing my teeth, give it about the same weight as dreaming while sleeping, and more weight than finding that someone who called me on the phone had actually dialed the wrong number, for that only happens a few times a year, if that. I tend to pay more attention to things that intrude on my life, like hunger, the need for money, etc., whereas the goddess has yet to call my name and ask me to do something for her. Maybe someday she will. Until he or she actually calls on me, how do I know what gender s/he is? I'm not just trying to be flippant about him/her, I actually don't know its gender, and I'm not willing to abide by the opinion of organized religion on that matter. When the goddess actually talks to me, I will know what gender he, she or it actually is.
Like many other people, I also have a record of being a no-good, lying son of a you know what, and that fact I will not try to deny. When I finally could not put off going with girls any longer, much as my folks would have liked to see me put it off until they were dead or something so that they would not have to deal with the troubles that I might get myself into if I indulged while they were still alive, in my clumsiness, I was like a guy with two left hands or two right feet. I was unable to get into a relationship unless my inhibitions had been lowered by plenty of booze. Then, once bitten by the grip of desire, I found it extremely difficult to let go well past the time when I should have just gone away. How could I explain to them that all I really wanted was the sex, and none of the stuff about trying to figure out what to do next with our lives, so I shut down, and when I could stand the silence no more, I walked out.
When it comes to the social question, however, I wonder what the hell I would have to lie about, for I am all alone in my political niche and have no damaged goods to sell like all of the political businesses around town that call themselves anarchist, socialist or communist. In my youth, in most of my relations, except for my relations with women, I learned a long time ago that I could get off cheapest if I just told the truth. With women, on the other hand, I was so scared of losing, and there was so much at stake, that the only way I knew how to get what I wanted was by putting up a false front and making myself appear larger than I really was. When it comes to the social question, on the other hand, you have seen where all of the lies of the Socialist Labor Party have gotten them, precisely nowhere but down a path to extinction. If I wanted to be another SLP and just lie, lie, lie about the dictatorship of the proletariat over the peasantry, and how the lack of a peasantry or middle class in America allegedly precludes the necessity of proletarian dictatorship here, or lie about how Marx allegedly taught workers not to use the state and abolish it instead, I might be able to come up with more plausible schemes than what the SLP presently perpetrates, and, if it takes lies in order to create a following, and if gathering a supportive following was my highest concern in life, then it's entirely possible that I could rehash what I know about ideology to create something that I could plead with some investors to help bring to market, but the trouble with that scenario is that I don't believe that there is any means of property redistribution that will win the hearts and minds of any significant segment of the American people. In other words, socialism, anarchism and communism are all so moribund, that anyone who has any illusions about creating a revolutionary movement, or even any kind of movement that relies upon taxing the upper classes, is just wasting their time. The market for ideologies that had their place in the past is disappearing, and the lower classes are just not going to buy them any more, for they fail to address what is going on in the USA and in the world today.
When I first started analyzing SLP theories in the mid-seventies, I discovered that their rejection of the dictatorship of the proletariat was an essential element of their fundamental, philosophical and anarchist rejection of any use of the state or government by the proletariat, which rejection contradicted Marx's ideas about workers' states supplanting bourgeois and feudal states, which theories are easily documentable. A corollary of the SLP's rejection of any use of the state is their abandonment of any minimum program, which means a rejection of any reforms whatsoever. This is consistent with the idea that, if the state is to be abolished, there is no need to make it prettier before knocking it down. I discovered that SLP theories have more in common with Bakuninism than Marxism, and that the SLP lied about the alleged Marxist basis of their program. They are very Marxist in their economic analysis, but Bakuninist in terms of their solution to economic exploitation, and, because the SLP is so dishonest, they vigorously deny their anarchist heritage. It was the willingness of the SLP National Office to maintain and even promote the lies and denials that caused me to quit my job there, for I knew that a program based on denials and quotes out of context would never win the hearts and minds of lower-class Americans who hope that somebody will someday do something more real about lower class problems than merely repeat packets of plausible lies.
The discovery that the SLP was very secretly anarchist, and feared to admit their anarchist heritage, threw me immediately into the camp of the real socialists and communists who very much more accurately documented the Marxist theory of the state, and were not afraid to advocate a real proletarian dictatorship over the bourgeoisie, and would have been much more willing to openly critique the SLP's dictatorship of the proletariat over the peasantry if it were not for the professional courtesy of one gang of thieves to another. Think about the likelihood of a National Office bravely leading the proletariat to victory over the bourgeoisie, while, at the very same time, they presently shiver in their boots at the thought of admitting the truth about the anarchist basis of their ideology. Their lies and denials have just been repeated for the umpteenth time in the editor's reply to a reader in the Sept. 96 edition of The People. Contrast the extremity of SLP denials to the rather complacent acceptance of anarchism as the philosophical basis of the Discussion Bulletin crowd. This bit of candor once gave me hope that the DB would be willing to examine their philosophy in greater depth, but the editor refused, so I no longer even try to get a word in edgewise. Contributing, as you do, to an openly anarchist DB doesn't bother you a whole hell of a lot, now, does it? What distinctions do you bother to make between socialism and anarchism, and how loudly do you deny that your own philosophy is heavily influenced by anarchism? Mike L.'s associations with the DB and the Wobbly's Industrial Bulletin caused him to be totally ostracized by the SLP, and rendered his contributions to The People no longer welcome. The SLP has never been afraid to secretly use 'guilt by association' to keep its members and sympathizers in line with their policy of openly rejecting anarchist ideology, and, if members and sympathizers don't like the policy, and if the myth around the SLP's alleged socialist philosophy too sharply clashes with their anarchist reality for the likes of members and sympathizers, then they can just go away for all that SLP bureaucrats care. In the face of diminishing support, how long will the Party bureaucrats continue to maintain such a cavalier attitude toward expelling members, and toward ostracizing supporters in the name of keeping the Party supposedly free of any taint of anarchism?
If property redistribution schemes hadn't been extremely unlikely to take root in America, there might have been a greater chance for one of the three schemes to play out in America, much the same way in which communism triumphed in much of Asia and the third world. Communism won in Asia simply because of the amount of force that was available to socialists and communists after they had helped to overthrow feudal monarchies or liberate colonies. Speaking of force, you know how well documented was the amount of force required to abolish slavery in the USA. That which progressive and leftist forces refuse to acknowledge, however, and what they are in a constant state of denial over, is the truly awesome amount of force that is required to rearrange property relations, no matter into what kind of form the proletariat organizes itself, meaning that there is as little chance of an SIU form preventing violence as there is in Houdini coming back from the dead. Research shows that, at the time of the First International, Marx critiqued Bakunin's idea of one big union conquering all, but proletarian dictatorship was so weak an idea in itself that the one big union idea was able to survive and prosper in the proper hands, just like proletarian dictatorship prospered in the hands of equally unscrupulous true believers of Marxism-Leninism. But, in my case, at first, after having been suckered by the one-big-unionists of the SLP and seeing through that scam with a certain degree of success, I then allowed myself to be suckered by proletarian dictatorship for the next several years afterwards, in fact, until 1994. The only difference was that, as a Marxist socialist revolutionary, I remained unaffiliated for those 17 years, for I wasn't particularly attracted to what little I saw of existing socialist and communist parties.
One of the few things I found decent about the SLP when I was a revolutionary was that they never compromised their revolutionary program. They remained so dedicated to the revolution that they didn't water it down by peddling reforms. The SLP put its revolutionary intentions where its mouth was, whereas it seemed to me that other socialist and communist parties who also claimed to be revolutionary were always organizing people around this, that or the other thing, but never got around to organizing anyone to overthrow the government. As mistaken as I and so many others were about the need to overthrow or dismantle the government, at least the SLP had the dismantling of government in their program, smack dab in their agenda, whereas it was last on the list of so many other organizations, which is one of the reasons why I stayed away from them. Those revolutionary communists who were up front about smashing the bourgeois state were just too strange or lumpen for me to want to have anything to do with, so I wallowed in frustration for 17 years after leaving the Party, always looking for something to do that would be real, but never finding anything.
Anyway, it is true that I criticized the SLP for those 17 years for not advocating proletarian dictatorship, but I now consider a critique like that to be much too simplistic. It reflects where I was in my thinking for those 17 years, before I all too recently acquired more complex tools of analysis. If we bother to think at all, we can go forward. If we sit back and follow a party line, we are likely to merely repeat what ideological entrepreneurs want us to repeat.
For reasons already mentioned, having to do with all of the force that is required, people are wise to associate dictatorship and brutality with socialism and communism, and even some of the previously most ardent believers of the theories are now admitting that communism in Asia was based upon force and violence, such as in Irwin Silber's new book. He used to write for the National Guardian, a defunct Maoist journal that Wilfred Burchette used to write for. You no doubt saw many an issue on the streets back in the sixties and seventies. I think that it was founded back in the late forties.
Maybe the SLP was 'wise' to disassociate itself from dictatorship of any kind, for dictatorship definitely rubs people the wrong way, especially after our involvement in what Studs Terkel labeled "The Good War", one in which you yourself might have been involved, if you're part of the generation I think you are from, and if you are in your 70's, and perhaps a generation older than people like myself who were born in the middle of the good war. But, for the SLP to disassociate itself from proletarian dictatorship because 'it is a dictatorship over a peasant class that barely exists in the USA' is to disassociate itself from dictatorship based, not on truth, but rather on an illegal redefinition of a dictatorship that most of the people of the world recognize in theory, at least, as being over the uppermost classes, not the middle classes. In short, the SLP disassociated itself from dictatorship by cheating, and that's not fair to the class they were supposed to be educating with the truth about anarchism, socialism, communism and dictatorship. The SLP's rejection of dictatorship was based on pure opportunism, and any group that thinks that the hearts and minds of the lower classes are going to be won through 'dirty pool' of any sort will win its own re-education the hard way. Any group that thinks that shoddy goods will win a few converts is doomed, but so few of their rank and file even suspect that they are marketing shoddy goods.
The question before us all is whether we should organize, or whether we should remain disorganized. If we decide to organize, the question is then 'around which issue we should organize', rather than 'what form of organization we should use', for our form will most likely follow our function. Ensuring that everyone has a job is one of the most democratic goals that we can endorse, and is without competition, if being more democratic than the next goal is a concern. Because the goal is so democratic, there will be no need to organize into any kind of bureaucratic form, nor will there be any need to censor anyone, for the debate will not be like those we've experienced before, such as that between proletarian dictatorship vs. the SIU, both of which concepts are severely damaged goods for the many reasons I have already lain out in my letters. Shorter hours is so superior to both of those concepts in terms of the basic morality of putting everyone to work that there would be no reason to censor anyone's advocacy of anything they would like to propose, for anything except shorter hours, or any other measure that gets labor off the labor market, can easily be refuted as wasteful or unlikely. Higher overtime premiums, earlier retirement, longer vacations, a guaranteed number of paid holidays, paid sabbaticals, bringing all workers under the protection of the Fair Labor Standards Act, all of these fall into the category of getting labor off of the labor market, which would create demand for labor, raise wages to a level that sustains workers, would stop the prostitution of workers to the almighty dollar, and would give labor the choice of boycotting occupations that are destructive, for hours could be further shortened to render inconsequential the loss of any jobs due to moral or environmental considerations. This could be a major way in which labor could control what gets produced. So, all of these measures are to be striven for, and it may take a combination of all of the above to put everyone to work, which should be labor's highest goal. What could be healthier for us? Pollution could be brought under control, while life-sustaining services and commodities could be carried on. Unsustainable methods of harvesting lumber, such as clear-cutting, could be brought to an end, and without a single act of force or 'monkey-wrenching', such as tree-spiking. We can make capitalism as peaceful and responsible a form of production as the SIU was ever touted to be, but only by recognizing our class interests and ending the competition among ourselves for scarce jobs can we begin to make lemonade out of lemons. Shorter hours across the board is where our political will should be concentrated, for, this is where workers are most opposed to the bosses, for bosses want us to work long hours to minimize their production costs, while workers would like the opportunity to enjoy life once in a while. Workers know instinctively that the harder and longer we work for the bosses, the richer bosses get, even if it may not be so obvious that our hard work and long hours makes it harder for others to find jobs. For that we sometimes need to read the newspapers, where, in a recent analysis of the welfare reform bill, the bosses told us just exactly how they plan to reap higher profits after the bill gets passed, i.e., through the lower wages that will result from the increased competition among ourselves for the same small number of jobs.
It seems like every new generation must learn the hard lessons of politics anew, and I wonder just how far back into the conditions of the industrial revolution we will have to go before we realize the full impact of the loss of the eight hour day, which we may be bound to lose if all we are capable of thinking about is making our own individual bosses rich. I've never written anything that would imply that workers should not be concerned with doing their best to get the job done on time. We should, and we are, concerned with that, but we should also be concerned that we don't get so carried away with performance that we become willing to grab all of the work for ourselves at the expense of those who can't find jobs. This is where class morality and class consciousness should come into play, and a little bit of education applied to all of us about the necessity to share what little work that remains for humans to do, so that we don't race each other to the bottom. The moral question of our time is whether we continue to prostitute ourselves to every demand and desire of the bosses, and trample ourselves in the process of trying to please the bosses, or whether we step back with an eye to the consequences of our actions, environmental as well as social. If the consequences of our choices are too destructive, then maybe we will have to organize to do something to retard the destruction. More work and longer hours will only increase the destruction, while shorter hours, and an organized stepping away from production, is the best way to lessen it.
The hope of America is not in any kind of revolution, for we are too split in our ranks between anarchist and communist revolutionism, and therefore will not be able to choose one without alienating the other half of the revolutionaries who would rather do it the other way. It's a workers' state vs. one big union, with the bosses encouraging us to fight among ourselves over the two equally unlikely revolutionary scenarios, adherence to which will prevent us from unifying around shorter hours. Split as we are over anarchist vs. communist revolution, the bosses are the big winners, who could easily defeat either of our tendencies. They are itching to crack our foolish heads if we give them the chance. We are foolish not to heed Engels' early advice to abolish the competition among ourselves for scarce jobs, which would result, according to him, in the defeat of property. From 1845:
"The working-men cannot attack the bourgeoisie, and with it the whole existing order of society, at any sorer point then this. If the competition of the workers among themselves is destroyed, if all determine not to be further exploited by the bourgeoisie, the rule of property is at an end."
It's too bad that Marx and Engels didn't just stick to that simple formula, but, because they didn't, the lower classes have filled their heads with all kinds of foolishness. Is there anyone foolish enough to claim that we need a revolution in order to abolish the competition among ourselves for scarce jobs? Abolition of competition will prove to be the only way to end the rule of property in democracies. As confused as the political theories of Marx and Engels were, which is something that A.P. wasn't afraid to admit (but was afraid to explain correctly), there are elements of their theories that nevertheless should be taken to heart, such as 'peaceful change in democracies' and 'violent overthrow of monarchies'. None of their theories should be taken out of context, but rather should be compared to all the rest so that we can make lemonade out of all of the lemons they handed to us. It's too bad that the businessmen who run all of our revolutionary parties don't like to be reminded of what Marx and Engels advocated for democracies, so we have to learn the hard way, myself no less than any other foolish victim of enthusiasm for rapid change, and we will have to learn without the benefit of the leadership of 'great modern revolutionaries' who can lead us only to defeat, doom and self-destruction.
When you say that 'the capitalist system is determined to use all resources to survive', you imbue the system with a life force that I haven't been able to detect in it. To me, it is as dead as a door-nail, so it can't logically be embodied with a sense of struggling to live. To me, capitalism is only a set of relations between people, a set of evolving rules that govern interrelationships between players in the economy, from buyer to seller, to worker to boss, to lawyer to client, to voter to politician, etc.
Well, I enjoyed getting your letter and replying to it, and hope we have the opportunity to dialogue again. I enclose my latest letter to the editor of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, who finally decided to print something of mine. Perhaps because he doesn't like people who are associated with KPFA, and because I haven't felt like having so many of my submissions rejected by him, I haven't submitted anything to his paper for more than half a year. I was surprised that he printed it, but, because the letter is so closely linked to forestry practices, which so many people in his neck of the woods are interested in, he must have felt a little obligated to give my unique perspective some exposure. Enjoy.
November 22, 1996
Got your latest letter a few weeks ago. Thank you for clarifying your position on going from capitalism to socialism by means of the Amendment clause. I need to know what kind of wording you propose for that amendment. What would it say? Considering our tradition of protecting private property, do you see any possibility of abolishing it? Given the excesses of confusion and violence that occurred when Russians, Asians, Cubans and others tried to abolish private property, I don't think that people here will be willing to give up on it any too soon.
Private property is such a religion in this country that I wonder at the value of trying put anything into the Constitution that contradicts or negates it. You certainly aren't going to take away the personal property of the littlest owner, so everyone is going to ask where you will draw the line. When it comes to the differences between small and large business, there is an awesome number of gradations between sizes of companies. Smaller ones employ one, two or a dozen workers, and you are not going to be able to be anything but arbitrary when it comes to 'who will be expropriated and who will not', so you will meet with more disagreement than agreement over where to draw the line.
I see a big confab in a Discussion Bulletin that should have held your attention, i.e., the one about the Canadian De Leonists' perspectives on socialism. I'm almost tempted to add my two cents in my own reply to Irving Silvey's letter. No matter how many times the inadequacies of the SIU compel people to modify it, opponents of any change at all crawl out of the woodwork to defend it. One reason the SIU was bound to be inadequate was due to the fact that it was forged as a compromise between a few different competing tendencies: between revolution and peaceful change, between Marx's two theories of the state, and between Bakuninist anarcho-syndicalism and Social-Democracy.
Marx had two theories of the state; the oldest from the Communist Manifesto for helping middle classes overthrow feudal monarchies, and then pushing the resultant democratic republics through to proletarian dictatorship. The second was announced at the 1872 Hague Congress of the First International, where Marx said that workers in democracies could get to socialism by peaceful means. Marx thought that workers wanted socialism, but that was his mistake, for workers wanted what the bourgeoisie wanted, which was to be integrated into the economy. The bourgeoisie had the means and the will to put workers to work, but often didn't have the legality, until they proved by their ability to organize revolution that they were a force to be reckoned with. Which brings up the reason why workers cannot get behind our present-day self-styled revolutionaries, who don't have the means to put anyone to work, preferring instead to encourage workers to 'smash the state', 'fight the right', or 'tax the corporations to create a benevolent government', etc., but cannot, or will not, do a thing to put everyone to work. We will never be able to build a just society until everyone feels like productive and cooperative members of society.
Unlike his very well documented and scientific critique of capital, Marx's political theories were always seriously damaged goods, even before he told anyone else about them. It has always been impossible to go to any single one of his political works to get a single definitive wrap-up of his political theories. For that reason, it has always been fairly easy for charlatans to take Marx's political theories out of their overall context in order to make almost anything that they wished out of them. De Leon and Petersen were some of the worst offenders in this regard, but now I'm beginning to include Lenin as well, with all too few starry-eyed consumers of their ideologies any the wiser, and many would-be revolutionaries only imagining that they know what the theories of Marx and Engels were really about. One has to do the research associated with writing a book in order to come close to figuring out what Marxism is really about, but, if a researcher is dishonest, then it is easy enough to quote Marx out of context in order to justify socialism, communism, anarcho-syndicalism, Leninism, Trotskyism, etc.
I no longer think that revolution is appropriate or necessary in the USA, but the part of the SIU program about workers organizing to hold industries and lock out the capitalist class is both revolutionary and Bakuninist; but, to the contrary of what De Leonists would claim, such a rearrangement of property ownership would require a lot of force in order to accomplish, no matter into what kind of form workers decided to organize themselves. The assertion that organizing into the SIU form would render the use of force unnecessary or ancillary is just that, a mere assertion, unfounded in any of the proletariat's experiences. If it really was his, Marx's claim that workers in democracies could get to socialism by peaceful means was also a mere assertion. Peacefully getting to socialism has always been highly unlikely, considering that it took us a Civil War in America just to abolish private ownership of other people, but there was no political will to provide the freed slaves with their promised 40 acres and a mule. In the face of our experience with our Civil War, one would have to be in a serious state of denial to assert that we could peacefully achieve socialism, or otherwise divorce the rich from ownership of their property, given the willingness of the poor to fight with each other for the chance to murder any revolutionary who would dare to threaten the sanctity of present property relations. Why socialists won't admit that 'we are all prostitutes' is that too many socialists have prostituted themselves to the fleshpots of socialism, i.e. professional socialists are making a decent enough living promoting socialism, even though many in the National Office of the SLP know that their brand - and every other brand - of socialism is worthless to the workers, but effective in splitting them.
Socialists are in such a state of denial that they are willing to ignore arguments like this, and merrily go on espousing whatever brand of socialism strikes their fancy. If it wasn't for zealots like rank-and-file socialists, the bureaucrats of little parties would not be able to make good livings perpetrating their party lines, and censoring any who dare to depart from rigid party dogmas. It's somewhat like trying to talk a Methodist into becoming a Catholic, or whatever. Our sectarianism is a lot like what religious people partake in. I've spent a lot of time practicing my arguments while trying to talk the converted out of their dogmas, but to no avail, for no one is willing to apply logic to their belief systems, but instead have unshakeable faith in preaching about the allegedly higher nirvanas of either workers' states or stateless societies. All that it took was for the SLP to declare their socialism as 'scientific' to get their entire membership to repeat the mantra: "We are scientific socialists." Such a statement is much more appealing than saying that "We are dogmatic socialists", which is a lot closer to the truth. The only part about the SLP that was scientific was their method of lying that still gets members and sympathizers to part with their hard-earned dollars.
The peaceful and social-democratic aspect of the SIU program is the abolition of the state at the ballot box. On what planet could that possibly occur? One might as well try to vote private property out of existence under the present circumstances. One could at least wait until we went to an all-volunteer work force. The scenario is for the workers' party to win the election on the basis of its program, which includes the abolition of political government. A lot of people are going to vote for what Marx criticized as Bakunin's 'social liquidation', aren't they? The victorious party is supposed to adjourn the government, and allow the SIUs to continue with the management of society's productive concerns. If victorious socialist and communist parties in western Europe couldn't even nationalize industries without compensation after their election victories, how can a workers' party possibly hope to abolish the government? De Leonist diehards might say that, 'Oh, those European parties weren't true parties of socialism and communism'. As if a program like the SIU ever had much in common with Marxism. Marx had already criticized forebears of the SIU idea at the time of the First International. But, if there hadn't been so many people who didn't give a darn about this very history, the SLP couldn't have made a business of selling anarcho-syndicalism disguised as socialism.
The reason that the SLP was forced to say that its brand of socialism could be implemented peacefully was that Americans were already living in a democracy and expected peaceful solutions to problems, so it was almost a no-brainer for the Party to have to reject violence. But, property relations cannot suddenly be changed except by force and violence, as proven by our own Civil War, so the SLP's assertion that De Leon had at last found the form with which property relations could be peacefully changed was only an assertion propounded by charlatans in order to capture as many utopians as they could rope in. We were roped in! The SIU is worthless, the SLP program is worthless, and socialism, whether of the SLP variety, the Asian variety, or the Western European variety, are all worthless to the lower classes in this country, the best forms of it only marginally helpful to workers, and all forms of socialism doomed to extinction by technological progress. The SLP's socialism is far less likely to be implemented than any of the others because the SIU was based upon lies and quotes out of context, whereas Asian and European versions of socialism were, at the very least, based upon what millions of workers were actually willing to do for themselves, were based upon real motion of the masses, detectable in what the Jacobins led the masses to do as early as in the Great French Revolution of 1789, and in what Marx detected their successors were willing to do for themselves throughout the 19th century. There is the science! Science consists in detecting what people are willing to do to create a measure of social justice for themselves, whereas what the SLP, and so many other socialist, communist and anarchist parties have to offer is based on mere assertions and wishful thinking. It's as though many of the socialists and communists are thinking, 'What the Europeans and Russians did for themselves so long ago is what people will do for themselves for all eternity.' As though pushing bourgeois-democratic revolutions through to proletarian dictatorship could possibly be valid in a country that had its bourgeois-democratic revolution decades before Marx trod the earth. We have stronger respect for private property than any other country. Parties have made mere businesses out of their highly unlikely task of divorcing the rich from their property, and they kept all doubts to themselves about the unlikelihood of their mission in order to preserve the marketability of their 'isms. The fact that they have made mere businesses out of their 'isms is proven by their extreme reluctance to even bring up the subject of what people are willing to do for themselves to create social justice, and the fact that people who do bring it up always get censored by alleged 'scientific socialists'.
Silvey went on to give a very fair presentation of the issues around unemployment, shorter hours, and the effects of competition for scarce jobs, perhaps unaware that shorter hours to put more people to work was constantly won by the American labor movement during the century between 1820 and 1920, shortening hours a few percent in each decade up till the 1920's, with or without legislation, until the jerks at the top were scared by the increasing leisure time that the lower classes were winning for themselves, knowing that leisure fails to create profits, except in the entertainment industries.
Socialists want to affect both the government and property, while, in the proletariat's present state of disorganization, the proletariat can have little effect on anything, never mind affecting property and state. When it does organize, it will be smarter to start doing something about competition for scarce jobs, which will fix most of what's wrong with the lower classes, and will sweep away any sentiment for socialism. We will do the easier thing before we attempt the more difficult. One would be extremely mistaken to think that workers would have to mess with the state or property relations in order to abolish competition for scarce jobs, for that is a task that belongs to us alone, down here within the ranks of labor. And, according to Engels, that alone would be enough to end the rule of capital, for then, with no competition for scarce jobs, and with a positive demand for labor, wages would go up, everyone would have a job, and workers would be free to boycott jobs that do not sustain life. In that manner, we would have a very powerful veto over what does and doesn't get produced. The prevention of prostitution to the money-bags will make workers' control possible. There is no better way to enable workers' control.
Socialism was only a niche opportunity that never applied to countries like the USA, and which applies to fewer and fewer countries as all of them industrialize [and democratize]. Rapid increases in productivity is making labor redundant all over the globe. In their mad dash to make the rich richer and their governments more powerful, workers are racing themselves to the bottom of the heap, and are continually less able to afford the things they produce due to their increased willingness to accept lower and lower wages caused by desperation for any kind of work at all.
Labor is the source of all social wealth, and yet socialists behave as though property is the source of all wealth, what with the way socialists want to redistribute property. But, property isn't the source of all wealth, labor is. What socialists may not be ready to admit is that it is labor that must be redistributed to all who could use it, not property. Our appetite for labor is quite limited by the length of the day, though our appetite for property knows no such bounds. Most socialists are weak in the theory department. In fact, in order to be a socialist, you have to be weak in theory. Most socialists have been swindled by schemers who would have them redistribute property, which is the basis of the profits of the people who have the means to put others to work, and without which concentration of property, incentive to invest and produce would be eliminated, as proven by the history of the USSR before Lenin reintroduced capitalist incentives through his New Economic Policy. Instead of attacking the problem of our willingness to do anything the bosses pay us to do, many of us have adopted upper class ideology that blames the poor for their poverty, and have adopted as well the idiotic ideology that holds that people will have to revolt in order to do anything about it. Revolt may have worked in Russia and Asia during the past century, but it won't work here now, nor will it ever. I, for one, hope to see to that, by helping to lift the level of discourse.
Do you remember why workers followed the capitalist classes into battle to create democratic republics? It was because capitalists had the physical means with which to put workers to work, and that's what made workers follow their bosses, which they still do. On the other hand, what means do socialists have to put people to work? None that I know of, unless they can successfully rip off the property of the rich; so, without a following of workers, and without a leadership that is capable of providing jobs, workers are not going to merrily follow socialists down a path to revolution. They will share the work first.
Those who call themselves revolutionaries in America are not really a revolutionary class, for there is only capitalism and democracy to revolt against, which are insufficient reasons. If, on the other hand, we were still a colony of England, or if we were a monarchy that brutally repressed bourgeois-revolutionary sentiment, then we would have good reasons for being revolutionary. In recent history, the purpose of revolution has been to bring democracy and independence to where it didn't exist before.
The thing that people are going to be more willing to do in the future is follow a movement that has 'putting more workers to work' as its main purpose, and that means sharing jobs by means of shorter hours, which American workers actually practiced during the century up until the 20's, before the bosses and the government got frightened by the lower profits that were caused by the shorter hours that workers were winning, so FDR took bad advice and decided that, instead of giving labor the 30 hour week labor wanted, they were going to create government programs to put people to work for unnecessarily long hours. This is our actual documented history that Professor B.K. Hunnicutt dug up, which socialist swindlers (like professional SLP revolutionaries) will probably never acknowledge, for it is too detrimental to the businesses they promote.
The only revolution we need in this country is a moral revolution in which all of the revolutionary movements, including SLP sympathizers and members, exposed to material like mine, finally decide to admit that they were fooled by highfalutin propaganda, and decide to no longer support impossible idiocies, and instead decide to organize to put everyone to work. In an advanced bourgeois democracy, where vast productive capacity combined with long hours for some workers prevents millions of other workers from making an honest productive living, little more than putting everyone to work is needed to start us down a path of true democracy and equality. If anyone ever wanted to do anything as radical as equalizing the classes, shorter hours couldn't be a better place to start. There is a record of organizing people to do just that in this country instead of taking away property, or smashing the bourgeois state that protects the property. We have the slogans to shorten hours, we have the expertise, and we have the possibility. It is the one thing that makes more sense than anything else in advanced capitalist democracies. Taking away property, on the other hand, was possible in Eastern Europe, Asia, and in the colonies in the recent past, but has never applied to a country that puts enjoyment of private property as one of its highest priorities.
It would be a tremendous blow to the ego of revolutionaries who think that taking away the property of the rich is the answer to everything, to discover that it isn't what it was cracked up to be, as proven by the unwillingness of a billion people to defend state ownership. Pride in their hard-won ideologies, however, may forever prevent socialists from taking a fresh look at the old problems. It's hard to say if the cleansing isn't impossible. We are supposed to be using appropriate means to achieve social justice, and different means have been appropriate to different countries at different times. In a world in which technology threatens the livelihoods of all but the most avid bootlickers, we have to assure humane and productive means of making a living to all people in the world until we get to the zero-hour day, when capitalism will perhaps evolve into something else. With the end of the economic incentive to work for someone else, it is hard to imagine capitalists benefiting from ownership of their means of production. I can imagine us going to an all-volunteer work-force within 50 years if we put our heads together in a cooperative way, instead of us fighting each other over the 'best' way to take away the property of the rich. There is no best way, for every scheme for taking away the property of the rich is just as good as highly unlikely. The sooner that honest dupes of socialism begin to realize this, the faster we can move to an all-volunteer work force. Otherwise, 1) we will just be fulfilling the true goal of professional socialists: to get the masses of workers and party drones to elevate professional socialists to positions of power (hopefully to state power), and then the professional manipulators will be able to live high off the surplus values that we dumb workers will stupidly produce for them. But, do you think that the history of the betrayal of the working classes by professional socialists will be able to be repeated any too soon in this country? I think that Americans are smarter than to saddle themselves with yet another class of oppressors, either socialist, communist, or anarchist.
But, 2) as long as we remain dupes of communism, socialism and anarchism, the longer the capitalists will be able to continue to profit from our divisions among ourselves. The capitalists are actually profiting from our continued willingness to work long hours, so, in the absence of people who understand theories of surplus value, and who can thus see beyond the ends of their noses, it will pay the bourgeoisie to promote 'isms like socialism, anarchism and communism that will keep workers divided among themselves. Anything except shorter hours is good for the bosses, so they can promote revolutionary 'isms with full confidence. If they are keen observers of what people are willing to do for themselves, they will know that none of the 'isms, no matter how heavily promoted within reason will stand a snowball's chance in hell of being adopted. One of the best reasons is that revolutionaries will not be able to decide among themselves whether to build a workers' state, smash the state, or create a big 'benevolent' state by trying to tax the rich. During WWI, the super-rich funded both Lenin and the 'white' opposition to Lenin, knowing they could do business with either side. In a similar manner, the bosses in this country have funded both the militant right wing and the militant left wing. Let us stew in our own juices. And, like Engels wrote about SLP members in his day, maybe we, in our day, will learn through our own misfortunes. That may remain our only hope.
I correspond with socialists because I cannot get to my goal all by myself, and the more of us who are turned on to this kind of information, the more people there will be able to fight to make the gradual transition to an all-volunteer work force a reality.
April 30, 1997
Thanks for your latest letter. The De Leon editorial from the Daily People of Jan. 10, 1901 was interesting, but I couldn't believe the faux pas De Leon made on the bottom of the first page, where he wrote:
"When the social system was feudal the representatives represented the feudal system of production and distribution; now that the social system has become capitalist, the representatives represent the capitalist system of production and distribution; when the social system shall have become socialist, the representatives will represent the collective system of production and distribution."
What De Leon may not have known (but I'm sure that he did), was that, during feudal times, there were no representatives as we think of them today, for there was no representative form of government back then under feudal monarchies. De Leon was on a roll in that particular paragraph. He wanted us to gather the impression that socialism follows capitalism as logically as the way capitalism followed feudalism, but he blew his logical link by lying about 'feudalism having a representative government'. The genius of De Leon consisted in his ability to lie convincingly about the necessity of socialism, or, of changing property relations. What made capitalists revolutionary was that they had a following of workers who helped their bosses to overthrow feudal monarchies, so that representative forms of government known as democracies could be established. Today, of course, we know that socialism followed feudalism in many backward countries, and then capitalism followed socialism, which was not the progression of social systems that Marx had wanted.
In the words of the 'Communist Manifesto', workers were to ally with revolutionary middle and capitalist classes get rid of feudal monarchies, and to help establish democratic republics, as in the first stage of the Paris Commune, and, under the right conditions, as Marx warned the Communards not to do in their own particular instance, to push the resultant bourgeois democratic republics through to proletarian dictatorship, an event that would have applied to the Commune only if Germany and Spain had gone along with French revolutionary sentiments, and had revolutions of their own. It would be only then, under the circumstances of successful simultaneous revolutions in advanced countries, that workers would finally be able to go after the property of the rich. If history had gone that way instead of the way that it did, then ripping off the rich would have been the order of the day, which would have been just fine with me, and I probably would have been a lot happier to live under a revolutionary proletarian dictatorship in a Western country that paid a lot of attention to ecology and workers' interests, than in the present capitalist swamp of ignorance, exploitation and fear that I seem to have barely survived.
In light of our actual history in the West, a history that contradicts wishes of people who would like to mold the world according to their own vision, socialism, or any other plan for changing property relations, makes no sense. Hundreds of thousands of plans for changing property relations have been proposed, but too many of the plans conflict with too many of the others, preventing unity among sincere people who would very much desire to change the world.
As opposed to the zillions of plans for changing property relations, hours of labor can be dealt with only 3 ways, which are 1) to lengthen hours, 2) keep them the same, or 3) shorten them. There can be little doubt as to which way the majority of progressives would like to take the hours of labor, and there is little doubt as well about the opposing way that the bosses would like to take the hours of labor. The bosses have been winning lately, with little opposition shown to Governor Pete Wilson's abolition of time and a half after 8 hours, and double time after 12, presently embroiled in the courts, but the April 11 ruling to downgrade our overtime standards to the national standard of time and a half after 40 per week was immediately challenged by the California Labor Federation.
Most people are asleep in California, and in the rest of the world as well. I hardly know what kind of suffering it will take to wake them up to the advantages of shorter hours, rather than longer hours, for shorter hours works to their advantage, and longer hours works to the bosses' advantage, but the lower classes are seemingly oblivious to this type of struggle, even though the bosses know exactly what makes them rich. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the longer the hours that we work, the richer the bosses become, due to the extra wealth we create, but which never enters our pockets, for wages represent only necessities of life, for the most part.
De Leon, as an anarchist, knew that the basic idea of 'the rule of the workers through unions' had been put forth as early as Bakunin's struggles against Marx. The extent of De Leon's contribution to this already unworkable idea was that of a workers' government through industrial unions. The only reason that De Leon's basically flawed idea was able to compete well with socialist and communist ideas was because they were all equally bad, due to the basic flaw of all 'isms dedicated to taking away the property of the rich. The history of the struggle of these ideologies has been the history of competition of these ideologies for hegemony within the marketplace of bad ideas. Leninism dominated the arena for decades, but now seems to be quite obsolete as a guide for any nation, no matter how advanced or poorly developed countries may be. Due to the decline of communism, anarchism is in resurgence among many people in America. But, the fact that they are all bad ideas has been proven by the actual history of what people have been willing to do to obtain measures of social justice for themselves. Lenin wanted Western European workers to overthrow their Social Democracies in favor of revolting in support of the Bolsheviks in 1917, much as Marx himself wrote of the necessity of such cooperative and simultaneous revolts in order to establish a world-wide proletarian dictatorship. But, Western workers refused to overthrow the democracies that their ancestors had fought to establish. Workers have the exact same interests in democracy, private property, equality, liberty, and fraternity that their bosses did. The only place where their interests differ is on the question of hours of labor, one class wanting more, the other, less. Socialism is dead, and socialists ought to take the cue that history has handed them to start figuring out something to do that is real for the poor and oppressed of an increasing portion of the world. The struggle for shorter hours will eventually become a world-wide struggle for social justice, but is more logically started in the most productive capitalist economies.
In terms of greatness, De Leon pales before Marx, Engels and Lenin, who all saw a mode of struggle that was possible for their age, so they ideologically prepared the way for a mode of struggle that didn't really begin until 1917. With his absurd SIU program, however, De Leon was much further off the mark than Marx and Lenin were, so De Leon just ended up running a business based upon the unlikelihood of Marxist predictions.
I'm glad to hear that you got something out of my last letter, but I would never* claim that it is an approach to socialism, which is too tainted with the notion of taking away the property of the rich. It is hours of labor that workers should be concerned with, not taking away the property of the rich. Workers can agree with each other over whether hours of labor should get longer or shorter, but will never be able to agree over which way to redistribute property, there being too many ways by which property can be redistributed, whereas hours of labor can only be shortened, lengthened, or made to remain constant. With our constantly increasing productivity, there is only one way of dealing with hours of labor that makes sense, which is to shorten them.
*2002 note: Actually, I do claim that 'shorter work hours are an approach to socialism', but socialism only in the sense of 'classless and stateless society'.
Work used to be about producing necessities of life, and 200 years ago, 95% of labor was associated with production of necessities of life. Now it is down to 5-20%, which means that we have gotten away, as a society, from what labor used to be for, thereby greatly increasing our demands on natural resources and the environment due to our vastly increased productive capacity. In order to take it easy on the environment, we must work less, not more, no matter what the bosses want us to do, and no matter how unsatisfied our souls may remain by putting in fewer hours. In order to decrease unemployment, and allow everyone a job who wants one, we should eliminate all work beyond 8 hours a day and 40 per week, by making it prohibitively expensive to the bosses to try to do so. Raising the overtime premium from time and a half to double time would be a good step in this direction. Having to pay people double time for overtime would make the bosses think twice about keeping us beyond 8 hours. We, as a society, could certainly do without so much work. With workers going home earlier, bosses would have to train people from the great surplus army of the unemployed in order to maintain the same level of production.
You are right about me not being a revolutionary, though I was one in the '70's when I was an SLP member, and for years after, when I considered myself to be a Marxist-Leninist. At least the latter revolutionary philosophy was based upon a measure of implementation in reality, instead of wild-eyed dreams, like the SIU is.
I'm not so much interested in 30 hours of work for 40 hours of pay as I was earlier in the decade, for I recognize that we must first enforce 40 hours. It's cheaper for the bosses to keep us working longer hours at time and a half than it is to pay insurances and fringe benefits associated with hiring new workers. In order to discourage overwork we must make overtime much more expensive, and we must prevent union bosses from bargaining away workers' rights to overtime pay, as many of them now do, in exchange for other benefits.
I always was suspicious of the Trotskyist formula of 30 for 40 anyway, for it doesn't say anything about overtime premiums. It doesn't make any sense for workers to get mere time and a half after 30. If time and a half after 40 isn't enough of a disincentive, then time and a half surely won't be enough of a disincentive after 30 either, and, the way that overtime premiums are presently set up, it can probably be shown mathematically that, 'the shorter the work week desired, the higher the overtime premiums will have to be.'
I will be the first to admit that reduction of hours has become a fixation, for I do tend to go head over heels over ideas that seem to make sense. In the early 70's, it was socialism that I went head over heels over, mainly because I was so taken with theories of surplus value and class struggle, but, like so many suckers before and after me, I went beyond surplus value and class struggle and bought the whole message, hook, line and sinker. The sinker is 'taking away the property of the rich'. When I discovered that Petersen took quotes from Marx, Engels, and Lenin out of context in order to justify the SIU program, it was then that I knew that the Party was just marketing a scam, but my mistake until 1994 was to think that Marxism or Leninism was any better than De Leonism. At least I am willing to learn from my mistakes, for, to remain ineffectual at this stage of human history is to allow crime after crime against humanity and the planet to be endlessly committed. My worst enemy is complacency. I am determined with the last ounce of strength in my body for future generations not to have to suffer as I did when I was a kid, when I felt like I was in jail and had no freedom.
I used to worry about my intellectual capacity much more when I was younger, but not so much now, for my ways are so permanently set, that what I am now, I will be in the future. The important thing now is to be able to recognize mistakes, and not to repeat the same old mistakes decade after decade, while things just get worse. At least sharing work through shorter hours has the potential to put everyone to work, as opposed to just changing ownership of means of production, which does nothing in itself to enable people to share the remaining work. Socialist, communist and anarchist parties can't seem to agree on the 'best' way to change ownership, if there is one. So what if a thousand Trotskyists, a thousand Leninists, a thousand Maoists, a thousand De Leonists, and a thousand Wobblies all want to take away means of production from the capitalists. That doesn't mean that they will be willing to cooperate with each other to do so. They are more likely to fight each other before they fight the bosses, which is why it is of no value to try to change ownership. That is a lesson that can be gathered from the Spanish Civil War of the 30's.
That is why I am interested in working for a couple of complementary initiatives in California that I hope we can get on the next ballot. The first is to free all of those who were put in jail for totally non-violent 'crimes', such as for drug usage, which presently accounts for an enormous percentage of people who have been put away in jail. The second initiative is to replace time and a half with double time so that workers will no longer work such long hours, the work will be redistributed more equitably, and former prisoners will more easily be able to find jobs after being set free. That would be synergy in action.
As for love, if you look at Engels' November 12, 1875 letter to Lavrov, he speaks of the hatred, rather than love, that was needed to divorce workers from their sentimentality, and to rally them to the revolution that he felt was needed. Can a violent overthrow of a government be based upon anything other than hatred of the upper classes, and, in his century, could revolutions have been based upon anything other than forceful overthrows of anti-democratic feudal monarchies? I may have felt like I was in jail while I was growing up, but I also felt as though my membership in a revolutionary party was a slap in the face of the values that my folks had tried to inculcate in me. I could no more convince them that revolution was right for America than they could convince me that the pain that I was feeling was the result of my own doing. One of my father's favorite sayings was, "You made your own bed, and now you have to lie in it."
Revolution may very well have been based upon hatred, but 'sharing what little work that remains for people to do among everyone who could use some' can only be based upon the love and compassion of the lower classes for themselves, something that is sorely needed in this world. Adopting a new attitude toward ourselves may very well be the first time that the lower classes in this country break with bourgeois ideology. We should not make ourselves as dispensable to the bosses as they want us to be.
I hope that you will soon join the movement to share the work, and stop trying to do the unlikely thing of taking away the property of the rich.
June 30, 1997
Thanks for your latest note of May 14. Sorry to see that your latest letter to the DB didn't get published. Not to fret. Maybe next time. You have a good record of getting published.
Even though you suspected a long time ago that I might be 'naive about economics', you remained ambiguous about whether you still, to this day, believe that I am. Am I?
In my last letter, I pointed to a flaw in De Leon's theory about people allegedly being represented under the system of feudalism, but you had no opinion of my critique, unless your statement that 'De Leon had a more basic grounding in knowledge than you do' was an acceptance of his theories, and a rejection of my critique. I can only reiterate the reason for our history of overthrowing feudal monarchies, which reason was that people were not adequately represented under feudalism. If people had been adequately represented, they wouldn't have had to overthrow monarchies, which proves that De Leon was wrong. You may recall the words of the famous French king who said, "L'etat, c'est moi", or, "I am the state." The reason why monarchies were overthrown should be part of what every Marxist should know. Please address this point.
Or, was your silence part of the syndrome of denial that revolutionaries maintain about the value of democracy to workers? Some revolutionaries, like those in the SLP and in other movements, purposely cultivate disdain toward our present democracy in order to get dumb workers to think that the loss of our democracy through its overthrow wouldn't be any big thing to lament. If there is nothing to lose, then why not overthrow our democracy? Just like Lenin wanted us to do. But, I've never known socialist regimes to offer any more political freedoms than Western democracies. Rather, they always offer less.
I do not understand what is supposed to be so 'emotional' about the arguments that I have presented so far. I have painstakingly based my arguments on the fact that 1) productivity of labor is constantly increasing, 2) it takes less time than ever to produce necessities of life, 3) the majority of the people are no longer producing necessities, and 4) people are consequently fighting among themselves over decreasing opportunities to make the rich richer, and the government more powerful.
What else is the argument over affirmative action about, other than determining whether or not women and people of color will be able to more equitably share declining opportunities to please the bosses? This is not an appeal to the emotions, it is a definition of the problem. Is there that much here to argue about so far, even for socialists to argue about?
Socialists will tell you, depending on the type of socialism they espouse, that the solution to the problems I defined is 1) more government programs to put people to work, 2) abolition of the government, 3) stronger affirmative action, 4) collective ownership of means of production, 5) taxing the rich, etc., etc., for there are dozens of alleged socialist approaches to the problem. One type of socialist will loudly denounce solutions proposed by other kinds of socialists, and the result will be more heat than light, and there is where the emotions will edge out the logic. Under these circumstances, it is nothing short of ridiculous to want to compete for the title of 'The Most Scientific Socialist', for there is little science to its program, it having been nullified by the actual experience of billions of people.
I will not use the term socialist or socialism to describe my solution to the problems of unemployment and poverty, for the word 'socialism' is too tainted with notions of taking away property from the rich. Socialists waste their lives fighting among themselves over the many ways to rip off property, for they don't recognize property ownership as the nearly unassailable principle it has become in this country. Instead of learning lessons by involving themselves with real life, many socialists end up isolating themselves within the refuge of their sects, and get to learn little to nothing from cold hard reality. The SLP has been one of the most extreme in terms of its isolation from reality, and is consequently on its way to oblivion by virtue of its extreme irrelevance. If lying to the people could ever be made into a crime in this country, and if the lies that the SLP told in justification of their program ever had to be unraveled in a court of law, their National Office would be convicted, and their employees would spend the rest of their lives in jail.
As opposed to sectarian obsession with schemes to affect property and government relations, I say that we can solve our problems by simply removing the glut of labor from the labor market, and then there will be good paying jobs for everyone who wants them. We simply need to learn to cooperate to share the remaining work, for the era of work will not last forever, and we have far more chance of cooperating to share work than we do to cooperate over some kind of socialist scheme that too many other kinds of socialists will find fault with. Since the ratio of surplus to necessary labor is higher than ever, then it almost won't matter how much the work week will have to be shortened to put everyone to work, because bosses will always have to pay enough to entice workers to go to work, no matter for what portion of the week. Therefore, workers will continue to earn a living wage if they work less, and will earn less if they work more. In the labor market, less work will mean more money to masses of workers. Without us organizing with this purpose in mind, people instead will continue to be desperate to throw themselves on the labor market for whatever returns they think they will get out of it. Such is the destructiveness of laissez-faire competition for scarce jobs. The prevailing attitude of just about everyone, however, is to merely allow workers to race themselves to the bottom, and, if workers refuse to adopt socialism, socialists could give a damn if workers eventually hit bottom, for the socialist attitude is that 'the program of socialism has been presented to workers a countless number of times, and if workers refuse to pick up on it, then workers can just suffer as the consequence of their refusal to adopt it.' This, however, is a perfectly bourgeois and inhumane attitude.
One reason why all too few people advocate shorter hours is that there isn't sufficient economic incentive at this point in our history to do the right thing. Hence, we lie like hell, especially if we can make a living doing it. I recently saw in an issue of the People's Daily World (the communist newspaper) a wonderful concise analysis of the burgeoning of surplus value since World War II, and I don't need to remind you that surplus value is generated when we work beyond the time required to create the necessities of life. And what was their proposed solution to the creation of too much surplus value? Instead of simply saying the right thing - that we should work less - they proposed socialism! In other words, they laid out the nature of the problem very well, and then they proposed a solution that had nothing at all to do with the elements that defined the problem. But, any thinker of correct thoughts should be able to argue that, if the working class is producing too much surplus by working too much, then they ought to work less! Less work is the solution to too much work - not socialism! It's almost too simple for us to accept, and so many people who have been fed the same old formulas in leftist journals and propaganda have been trained to obediently think that socialism must be the answer to something as simple as workers working too much. Less work, however, is also the solution to fighting bitterly over the few scraps of work that remain for humans to do, and is the solution to the glut of competing workers that enables bosses to offer low wages, and to the competition that forces workers to accept those unsustainable wages. But, people are too conditioned to leaving their brains outside when they join what can appear like a promising organization.
Anyway, you can see that our need to cooperate to work less is based upon our increased productivity, and the consequent foolishness of workers competing with one another. No matter what else is going on in the world, there is no way in which people should be able to get away with arguing against these basic facts of life. The logic of our need to work less, instead of more - or the same amount - can't be anything but irrefutable. This is logic, not emotion.
On the other hand, that which is emotional is the appeal to collectivize means of production based upon the problems of modern society. Collectivization does not logically solve the problems that have been enumerated, and collectivization has never even been possible after workers' parties won mere elections in democracies, even though Marx theorized that they would be able to collectivize at that time. In reality, though, collectivization was only was possible under certain historical circumstances that were brewing in Marx's day. His theories better reflected what was developing to the east of England, instead of in the more developed countries.
The only times in actual history during which collectivization was possible was 1) after socialists manipulated republican movements in order to get workers to strip the rich of their property after overthrowing feudal monarchies, and put the property in the hands of socialist states for the benefit of socialist bureaucrats. I probably don't need to remind you of the class privileges that the Bolsheviks and other ruling socialist elites created for themselves. If socialism had been anywhere near as productive a system as capitalism, socialist bureaucrats would have gotten as rich as the capitalists of the West, but the economic problems of the Soviet Union started on the day of their Revolution.
2) the other time when collectivization was possible was after socialists co-opted anti-colonialist movements and nationalized the property of the rich. But, socialist revolution in the West did not result from the liberation of the colonies, as Lenin wanted. Nowadays, most of the previous colonies have reverted to capitalist relations, but with more democracy than ever. Cuba, North Korea, and the other last few hold-outs will surely follow someday, and the imperialist West will not be able to be blamed for the final fall of socialism, because socialism - not capitalism - falls apart due to its own internal contradictions. Capitalism, as cruel or as kind as we are willing to make it, will go on for a long time, precisely because a market economy is a feasible means of determining what will be produced. In order to make capitalism a fair system until work is completely taken over by robots, we need to make capitalism fair by doing what we can to abolish unemployment.
Like Arthur Dahlberg wrote in '32, capitalism would be a very fair system if forced to operate under a chronic shortage of labor. It is our duty as humanitarian people to create the shortage of labor that will enable everyone to get a job. It is totally inhumane for us to allow people to go without work. We can act on our humanitarianism today to create that shortage of labor, whereas we will never be able to compromise on a way to take away the property of the rich, or compromise on how much to tax them. Some socialists will want to expropriate more property, and others less; but, if the West can be swindled into someday going on some kind of socialist path, it will be to the credit of the ability of socialists to get together to compromise, and it will also be to the discredit of the alleged intelligence of the working class. I don't think that we will be dumb enough to repeat a mistake like socialism that was never appropriate to the advanced capitalist countries of the West, where 'less work' complements our greater productivity, while violent revolution suited the need to get rid of feudal monarchies, and to liberate colonies.
Since both of those activities required violence, and since ripping off the property of the rich also requires violence against the rich, it follows that socialism is suited to a less civilized state of development of society. This is why, in part, socialist empires never seemed to be very civilized, as in the purges of the kulaks and old party cadre in Russia, and in so many other atrocities at the hands of socialists and communists, such as Pol Pot. Also, Russian socialist bureaucrats enriched themselves at the expense of the lower classes. The Bolsheviks didn't allow for workers' control of industries, and had top-down attitudes toward production and political relations. While the Paris Commune wanted to do the Western thing of compensating owners for taking over idle factories, the Bolsheviks expropriated all forms of property without compensation, which took lots of force. I can't understand why, with all of the experience people have had with the tragedies associated with state or collectivized ownership - and I by no means exhausted the list of things that went wrong - people still want to try it in the USA. The only reason I can find is that a living can still be made by marketing bad ideas to gullible people, exactly like I was at one time.
When it comes to romantic love and sex, I have few opinions, and those that I express are bound to be tainted with my own personal prejudices. When I was growing up, I rarely ever heard of gays and lesbians, but it was said that a colony of them lived in Provincetown, Mass., 90 miles from where I lived at the time. Having grown up in a climate of fear, hatred and distrust of anything different, P-town was far enough away for me, and I never had much curiosity about it. Living in the Bay Area since the 70's, however, I can report that gays and lesbians are everywhere, many of them are 'out', which means 'open about it', and I even worked with quite a few outwardly gay and lesbian people at the radio station. Contrary to my original prejudices, I can also report that they are also ordinary people, just like you and I, and don't go around raping, pillaging and marauding any more than you or I do those things. Because of all of the prejudice against homosexuality that exists in society, many gays and lesbians acted upon pure courage to openly declare their preferences.
If one thing seems for sure, it is that there are either more gays and lesbians than ever before, or else they were far more closeted back in the old days than they are now. That's my impression, anyway. Either way, the rise in their visibility seems to have coincided with the decline in the standard of living of the lowest classes over the past couple of decades. Could that mean that the intensification of the class struggle has contributed to an escalation in the level of homosexuality? I couldn't tell you for sure, but allow me to share a theory.
I think that increases in competition for scarce jobs have also resulted in competition between the sexes themselves, and that men and women have been thrown in competition against each other more intensely than in a long time. Nowadays, fewer people than ever are involved in traditional relationships, and the pressure on the lower classes to survive economically puts severe pressures on relationships whenever one or the other partner finds themselves without work. Back in the old days, the normal thing, as portrayed on TV, which also reflected reality to a certain extent, was for mother to stay home to raise kids, while father went out to earn a living that supported the whole family. Increasingly, however, both parents now need to work for a living.
In relation to the dating game, class differentials may play an increasing role in determining whether couples will mate for a long time. It wasn't too long ago that people who were thinking of marrying didn't have to think so hard about the economic class they were marrying into, but such thoughts may increasingly bear on the minds of prospective partners. One partner certainly does not relish the idea of marrying 'down', while the other partner might not so much mind marrying 'up'. Such a consideration might be a cause of the fact that white people, who may very well experience the greatest degree of economic differential within its color group, no longer reproduce at a rate that ensures its survival, reproducing at the rate of only 176 offspring per hundred couples, whereas 211 offspring are required for Zero Population Growth, or ZPG. So, if whites are not heterosexually coupling up at a rate sufficient to ensure the perpetuation of their whiteness, then the possibility exists that they might be turning to members of their own gender group for sexual release, resulting in increased rates of homosexuality. This remains a theory, and god only knows how many experts I would have to turn to in order to get a definitive answer. Maybe I'm being arrière about this, I don't know.
To continue along on less treacherous ground, consider what the world would be like, on the other hand, if people truly valued each other's existence. In a situation like that, we would be concerned enough about joblessness to share what little work that remained for people to do until the robots had taken over every last bit of it. Class concern over joblessness - if people could even think in terms of class - would cause workers to create an artificial shortage of labor that would ensure jobs for all at high wages until the end of class distinctions, which end of class distinctions, in such a scenario, would happen after the robots had taken over all productive work, and there no longer remained a reason for people to go to work for anyone else.
This also implies the need for a great change in our consciousness, which is our becoming aware that work's finest purpose is to create necessities of life and essential services, and not just be insurance agents and salespeople, jobs that might not be as plentiful in a saner society. In the meantime, while classes still exist, just the care that we would be expressing toward each other by sharing work would prevent class distinctions from building up at anywhere near the rate that they presently do, under dog-eat-dog. Americans seem to be very reluctant to think in terms of class and class difference, maybe because they want to maintain the illusion that they could be rich if they just wanted to be, which is still possible for a certain portion of the class, which props up the illusion that everyone could be rich if they wanted. But, being rich may be less often the result of individual determination than it is a stroke of luck, as in winning the Lottery, or the result of inheritance, or the result of someone else's beneficence. Everyone being rich, well off, or just plain getting along could also someday be the result of our collective will, if we ever again wanted to express collective will.
To return to treacherous waters again: In the more ideal situation of less economic competition among prospective partners, the resulting much larger number of acceptable partners of the same socio-economic status might ensure far more successful pairing off along heterosexual lines, and might ensure a more equal propagation of all of the races and colors. But, I need not remind you that the human race at this time can barely think of any terms to operate under other than dog-eat-dog, even among socialists, who are so selfishly insistent on social change on their own selfish terms that, if socialists can't have socialism, then they won't cooperate to enact humane policies, except for French socialists. I don't know what they put in their food, but they sure are doing the right thing with their program to share work by reducing their 39 hour week to 35 hours, which proves that it can be done, if one portion of the human race is willing to do it. I only wish I knew where to find out how the arguments went over there. On Lehrer's News Hour, jackass prostitute of economics textbooks fame Samuelson said that he felt his heart sink when he heard Jospin say that the French solution to unemployment would be shorter hours, for Samuelson felt that it meant 'a return to the old way of doing things'. Long live tradition!
I could be all wrong about this, but, I think that some forms of competition among the lower classes are just fine, such as sports + academic competition, but I think that economic competition among the lower classes leads to little better than heartache. I think that economic competition rightly belongs in the arena of capitalist interests, so the permeation of economic competition into every arena of human existence is a big symptom of the sickness of modern society. Wanton leaderless capitalism without a moral anchor makes us sick. It tears apart families, and enables class warfare to endanger the existence of us all. None of us are safe on the streets, or even in our homes, for no matter how many security devices we own, or security services we subscribe to, those who want to get us will get us if they pick us out as a target. Federal buildings go up in smoke, CIA agents get killed on the way to work, kids get shot for wearing the wrong colors in the wrong neighborhood, these are all examples of class warfare caused by economic competition run amok. I'm sick of it enough to advocate the minimization of economic competition among the lower classes over decreasing numbers of opportunities to make the rich richer. Making people outside of our class rich and powerful is not what we need to do in order to make a better world.
You say that 'substituting cooperation for competition will enhance the acceptance of homosexuality', and I can agree with that as a likely result, but I would add that, acceptance of the human condition is not all that un-Christian a value, for it is akin to forgiveness of what we have no chance of changing. Even though homosexuality itself might be more apt to be forgiven by more people in a more cooperative society, I think that the pressures that drive people into the practice of homosexuality would diminish. Those who think that 'homosexuality is genetic' are entitled to differ, but I doubt if all of the existing data can lead us to such a firm conclusion. As on many other subjects, though, I could be wrong.
Those who promote homosexual life styles may not like what I wrote in the last paragraph, but promoters have a few economic incentives of their own. So, let promoters condemn what I wrote, but I do not infringe upon their rights, or prescribe treatment for them, for I am content to live and let live. Upon the subject of the morality of homosexuality in society, I have no more to say about that than I do about the presence of deer in Berkeley's Rose Garden. Presence of the deer may certainly offend some people, but not me, for I am neither a visitor to the Rose Garden nor one who has a personal agenda for its future. I feel the same way about homosexuality. It has hardly been a personal issue for me, nor do I think of it as an illness to be treated, nor do I condemn it as a moral issue.
Those who are bourgeois enough to want to do something about how others lead their lives offend me more than homosexuals ever will. It's a control issue. I am without resources to control any more than my own little life (and I suppose that it could be argued that my life is less under my control than it could be), but other people gather into associations in order to affect that which has no direct bearing upon their lives. We must surely be a rich nation if our citizens can afford to stick their noses into other people's personal business. That Salvi kid would never have needed an abortion, and yet he stuck his gun right in the middle of the debate and performed ultimate acts of censorship until he ran out of either luck or bullets. Unlike Salvi, I can't get excited over issues that have no chance of affecting me, and are merely the choices of individuals as to how to lead their lives. Neither do I care what the people next door do, as long as they don't wake me up in the middle of the night with a lot of noise. I like to live and let live. That's my philosophy. The bane of the world is people who have money or power that they don't know how to handle, and instead of using it humanely, they use it to bother others.
It irks me to see so many movements so well funded that do not have any socially redeeming values, movements such as the SLP, for instance. They can spread their lies ad nauseam, ad infinitum, at the same time that the truth I discovered about them goes unpublished. This is a perfect example of the kind of class justice that goes practically unquestioned in this country. Those with wealth and power get to spread their noxious influences, while those without are fit only to silently serve the evil ways of wealth and power. Our inability to cooperate on clear humanitarian issues has allowed, by default, the almighty dollar to rule far more transactions between people than what is healthy. A society with so much wealth that allows people to go hungry or without housing truly has to have its priorities mixed up, so what else should we expect but trouble, or for an increasing number of people to 'go postal'?
I discovered socialism relatively late in life, compared to how young some people were when they became socialists, and, after studying psychology and sociology, socialism became my ideal. I never expected to have to give it up for the unexpected reason that 'socialism didn't make sense for the people for whom it was intended'. Even most of the people for whom it was not originally intended, but for whom it was possible, gave up on it later on. How did you feel when a billion people in the world gave up on their brands of socialism a few years ago? Tiny anarchist sects like the SLP can argue all they want that Asian and African socialism never approximated what the SLP calls 'real' socialism, but sects like them are outnumbered by millions who know first hand what socialism evolved into, so millions know better what socialism was really all about. Sects like the SLP call themselves Marxist, and yet entertain scenarios of societal evolution that are far different from the evolution that Marx envisioned. The SLP may never renounce its revisionism, for their revisionist definitions are what separate them from what other people believe in, and provide them with a little niche market of people who like to think that they are special. Sectarians so many times like to feel as though they are 'members of an elite who know so much more than average people'. I also enjoyed feeling elite for awhile, before I figured out that I had been a mere dupe of unscrupulous charlatans.
All through the 80's, people were claiming that socialism was weakening, and that the end was near. 20 years ago, when I figured out what was wrong with De Leonism, and I reacted by becoming a Marxist-Leninist, I used to wonder why people never took to straight Marxism-Leninism, so I eventually just gave up trying to convert anyone, figuring that things in this country were not yet ripe enough for it. When the Berlin Wall came tumbling down and the Eastern Bloc started to privatize, I was disappointed in the decline of socialism to a certain extent, but not as much as I thought I should have been. I was also disturbed at twinges of feeling glad for its demise, almost as though socialists deserved punishment by having their system taken away from them. At that point I questioned my commitment to the doctrine, but nothing in everyday analyses of why communism evaporated persuaded me to adopt the reasons given by spin-doctors. There was no logic to their analyses, rather it was just a number game, as though 'capitalism was stronger than socialism, and could therefore out-produce it.' To the average critic, it was just a power relation. Capitalism's ability to out-produce was certainly evident, but why did lower-class people give up on socialism if it allegedly was so much more beneficial to poor people? Why didn't the lower classes fight against the abolition of socialism, even though the resulting harsh treatment of the least-powerful segments of the population could have been predicted, and probably was predicted? This I could not answer until '94, well into writing my book, when I discovered that socialism made no logical sense for humans on any lasting basis, and was only possible for a certain period of time for those who lived outside of democratic frameworks.
Socialism is based upon force and violence, for, in real history, that's what it has taken to divorce the rich from their property. That requisite amount of force has only been available to socialists after helping middle classes to overthrow feudal monarchies, as in Russia, or after liberating colonies, as in Cuba and Africa. Socialism was possible after using force to replace despotisms with socialist states, but, when socialists realized that socialism and freedom could not coexist due to the amount of force that was required to maintain collective ownership, socialist regimes soon lost whatever democratic credentials people wanted to think they had. The reason that such rip-off socialisms were never possible in the established democracies of the West was that socialists were never able to rip off property after winning mere elections, for winning elections never confers the power that is required to rip off property. All they could do was nationalize with compensation, which was nowhere near as radical an operation as expropriation without compensation.
Another reason that rip-off socialism will probably never happen in the USA is that, if it took a Civil War to abolish as unpopular a form of ownership as slavery, the amount of force it will take to abolish private ownership of means of production will never avail to socialists. It will simply take too much force to abolish an institution as popular and cherished as private ownership of means of production, no matter what kind of Amendments to the Constitution could be enacted. But, there simply isn't enough interest in socializing property in this country to enable such an Amendment to become a popular cause, for everyone knows that the property of the littlest guy would always be exempt, so everyone would wonder where to draw the line as to whom would be expropriated. There is no natural point of demarcation among the various gradations of wealth, so people would constantly be arguing as to where to draw the line. When private property is as much a principle as it became in this country, then any inroad into property ownership is a violation of an institution that could remain a principle without hurting anyone, and could remain as much of a principle of Western life as is democracy. On the other hand, the 8 hour day has never been a hard and fast principle in this country, for we had a 10 hour day in the last century, at least for Federal workers, and England has had 12, 10, and 9 hour days in its history.
So, this is the reality of the world we live in, but socialists never draw the same lessons from history, for socialists are blinded by their faith in what a few philosophers said a long, long time ago, philosophers who never saw their dreams go smash like we saw them go smash. In an effort to remain on top, though, some socialists even deny what the dream was all about in the first place. By maintaining a state of denial, socialists can always claim to be correct, no matter what happens. They can always say, 'if Marx said that something will happen, then it will happen, for Marx was right about so many other things that he couldn't possibly have been wrong about the inevitability of socialism.' Well, Marx might have been right about a lot of things, but that didn't make him infallible. I have proven to my own satisfaction that his doctrines were logically inconsistent, and though my reasons satisfy me, they have yet to satisfy enough others so that they can stop wasting their lives working for the impossible, and start working for what's possible.
Articulating a bogus definition of socialism enabled the SLP to survive the period of the Russian Revolution. A.P. saw what was happening over there and refused to let the SLP become an arm of the Bolshevik movement the way a lot of people had wanted it to become. The foolishness that the SLP was selling was good enough for SLP bureaucrats to make a living at, and there were never enough radicals to make a successful revolution in the USA anyway, so even unity between anarchists and communists would never have allowed for a revolution to occur over here. Such unity never would have been possible in reality anyway, for anarchists and communists never would have been able to agree on whether to create a workers' state or a stateless anarchy. The split along this line, and along others, was fought with bullets during the Spanish Civil War. If one was a capitalist, what else could one learn from this but to promote socialism, communism and anarchism as the best ways to keep the working class split along various lines? But, few of them can never even bring themselves to discuss the anarchist-communist split, for such contemplation is too depressing for them, so they prefer to content themselves with spinning utopian fantasies, such as the SIU, OBU, council communism, etc. They maintain revolutionary posturing with regard to social problems, and they ignore reality, which is why they never offer practical suggestions for curing unemployment. A country that can put people in space, but cannot cure unemployment, cannot be criticized as a stupid population, but it can be criticized for its craftiness.
Like you say in your letter to the DB, the right wing sure believes in a bunch of crackpot conspiracy theories. I guess that our job is to just keep plugging away with the best counter-theories that we can come up with. People on the left have their own conspiracy theories as well. Some people in my town think that there is a government agent under every bed, just the way McCarthyites used to think that there was a red under every bed. Others think that the fall of the Eastern block was wrought by the pure force of capitalist evil over socialist good. A real battle of ideas rarely occurs, for people are content to propagate ideas as finished goods, not subject to modification. A bourgeois society, and bourgeois sects, can afford to be static, and can afford to denigrate solutions that do not correspond to their desires to punish the rich by taking away their property, or by taxing them. Thus, there is little real dialogue, and even the DB, so far, is merely a battle of bad ideas, for Girard won't let my harsher theses contaminate the pages of his DB.
It is possible that F.G. considered your critique of Marxism to be 'not suitable for the readers of the DB', for Marxists, by definition, are of like mind in thinking that Marxism remains a good guide for changing the world. If only they knew of what they speak. It is entirely possible to read a lot of Marx without learning why his program applied only to what was possible in backward and non-democratic countries.
I would never blame capitalism for any of our social problems, for capitalism is only a marketplace. With the exception of the bourgeoisie, I wonder how many people during the past few centuries ever blamed feudalism for their problems. With the exception of the bourgeoisie again, I also wonder how many people blamed socialism for their problems. Maybe the lesson of this little exercise is that being bourgeois may be a prerequisite to thinking that economic systems are to blame for the problems of society. With regard to political systems, it was easier for our ancestors to blame the king for their problems, but at least our bourgeois ancestors had the option of doing something about the repression of the king by getting rid of kings and queens, and establishing democracies. The height of folly is to think that the way to get rid of capitalist oppression is by overturning democracies, but that's what a lot of socialists and revolutionaries want to do. The price of their ignorance will be their continued inability to convince sufficient numbers of people of an alleged need to revolutionize, and with insufficient numbers, socialists will never get anywhere. As a non-socialist, and at the rate that I am proceeding, I may never get anywhere either, but at least I am not mindlessly fulfilling some greedy bureaucrat's agenda, as I did during so much of the first part of my life.
The second half of your letter to DB was a strange mix, containing sentences that I agreed with right in the middle of stuff that I couldn't agree with. When you wrote that it was 'demoralizing for Marxists to reject our constitution and government for the present and the future', you didn't say who was 'demoralized'. I assumed that you were demoralized, at the very least, but, if that's who you meant, then you could have made that clearer. When you said that 'patriots are concerned with the welfare and survival of the people rather than with the defense of outmoded institutions and ideas', you should have specified those institutions and ideas, unless you meant the fascism and Bolshevism that you mentioned several lines above, but it wasn't clear what you meant. It may have been a combination of the ambiguities, the unusual long length, and the fact that you prefer to operate within the framework of our Constitution that made Frank reject your letter. I also noticed that there have been times when your copy has been 'camera ready', and ready for cutting and pasting, that made some of your previous letters more easily selected for publication, but your latest letter would have made Frank have to typeset it, so if you could get back onto your computer, that would help him a lot.
Let me know why you didn't put your latest letter to DB on computer. If nothing else is available, I could transcribe your script into typeset letters, if you would like. We've been writing to each other for so long that I feel like an old friend, almost. I say 'almost' because we could have gotten along better, I suppose. You could have been more on point, I think. You could have addressed more of my concerns than what you have, instead of ignoring them. But, I would still be willing to transcribe your letters for you, if you would like.
October 06, 1997
Thank you for your letter of July 19, and for the material about Global Exchange. GE seems to be an organization that does quite worthwhile things around struggles, trials and tribulations of workers in 3rd World countries. I hear about their work all the time on KPFA and other media. They even have a retail outlet within two blocks of where I live here in Berkeley, though nothing I see in their display windows attracts me enough to entice me inside, their having little to do with the kinds of necessities of life that I usually consume.
The second sentence of your note is what our new movement and consciousness will have to be all about. You wrote, "We compete with workers in this country as well as all over the world to attract capital so we may work." That statement is absolutely true, but the competition between workers that you mentioned is what I consider to be the heart of the problem. The same competition was observed by both Marx and Engels in the last century, and is what we must convert into competition between bosses for scarce labor by organizing to withhold our labor power, and create the kind of artificial shortage of labor that will put everyone to work. I say 'artificial', because, thanks to the assistance of machines for the most back-breaking kinds of work, people may be willing to work longer hours these days. Labor-saving technology enables us to spend long hours on the job with less fatigue than in previous decades, which also enables us to steal scarce work from other workers, so we will have to limit the amount we will allow each other to work so as to enable everyone in the class to share a bit of the work pie. It's the only moral thing to do.
Many years ago in this country, immigrants who got tired of wage slavery could go West to set up their own independent farms, but that option is no longer available to those who presently can't find meaningful work in the cities, so we must consciously do something to make places for them in our economy, whether or not we love our jobs so much that we are willing to work day and night. Sharing what little work that remains for people to do has become a modern moral issue like it never could have been during the halcyon days of our country's expansion to the West. Nowadays, life is quite a bit more complicated than it was not so awfully long ago.
If we are going to organize to do anything, organizing to put everyone to work (by sharing it more equitably) will be easier than taking away the property of the rich, which is what post-revolutionary socialist tasks are all about. But, taking away the property of the rich has been tried before, and has recently been rejected by more than a billion people living in previously socialist countries. Workers in the advanced capitalist West are not going to adopt plans of action that didn't last for very long in less-developed parts of the world. Limited successes with some programs in socialist countries are not inspiring enough to convince Westerners to reject capitalism and adopt socialism.
Socialists in less-developed countries were able to take away the property of the rich because they captured the physical power to do so. Socialists became dominant in movements for democracy and independence, and, by being victorious and taking state power, socialists used their dominance to fulfill the Marxist dream of taking away the property of the rich, which provided socialists with unbeatable combinations of political and economic power. After victory, the ideals of the revolution were betrayed, netting previously supportive masses with little more than massive state bureaucracies to support. That is what happened to many of the socialist countries that actually existed, and is part of the reason why common people living under socialist regimes refused to fight to retain their socialist systems. Enough was enough for them.
It all really makes me wonder what exactly could be gained by collectivizing ownership of means of production in the USA. What could possibly motivate workers to do such a thing? Is it unemployment and poverty that socialists want to fix? Could those problems possibly make workers want to overthrow the government that protects the system of property? Though most workers whom I know are very critical of our government, they usually also want property of their very own, and many of them go on to acquire their own homes, boats, autos, etc.; so they will not be able to be counted on to abolish the government, for the government defends property rights that they are very interested in.
After a socialist revolution of the future in this country, however, there would be no natural cut-off line below which a certain amount of property would be able to be retained, and anything over that line confiscated by socialist revolutionaries. People on the wrong side of whatever line that got drawn by revolutionaries would shout 'Unfair!' at the arbitrariness of the cut-off point. Private ownership is a principle that makes little sense without 100% of one's property protected, and there really is no good reason for workers to change the government or change property relations just because the lowest classes can't find enough work to make ends meet.
Disenfranchisement among lower strata of society that lose competitive struggles in a glutted labor market can generate a certain amount of revolutionary sentiment among them. It can be brutal out there. The heartlessness of the social safety net can drive poor people into the arms of waiting revolutionaries. My own experiences can testify to that, for my alienation drove me into the waiting arms of the SLP 25 years ago, and, even after quitting the Party in '77, I considered myself to be a Marxist and a socialist revolutionary for another 17 years, even though my socialist perspective contradicted SLP notions of socialist revolutionism. It is a funny thing that socialism cannot just be socialism, but, instead, there are lots of different versions of it, leaving one to wonder how to choose between them, sort of like having to choose between Fords, Chevrolets, Plymouths and scads of other kinds of cars. They are all cars, and all get us around town, just the way in which most socialisms, communisms and anarchisms are about taking away the property of the rich. The different versions may represent slightly different ways of taking away the property of the rich, but how to choose? I have known people who have gone from anarchism to socialism to communism, just the way others have gone from Fords to Chevies to Plymouths. I guess that it's all fair in the great marketplace of ideas. While well-intentioned revolutionaries have fun and frustration while playing around with ideas that do not get the lower classes anywhere, the lowest classes continue to go homeless and hungry.
Our nation pretty much universally models itself around a rather worn-out ideology to the effect that 'some may win, but the rest must lose in our common race for survival'. But, that ideology has been superannuated by the kind of productivity increases that recently makes it possible for us all to survive, whether we do anything or nothing to ensure it. While it took 80% of the people to produce all of the food 200 years ago, it now takes only 2%. As a consequence of mechanization having permanently shunted so many people out of agriculture, and as a consequence of our government having guaranteed certain levels of unemployment for the benefit of the bosses' profits, some people have a hard time finding work, but our stupid bourgeois ideology treats such honest difficulties as a punishable crime, and the poor get demonized for their unemployment almost without question, many people not taking into account that it is our national policy to ensure certain percentages of unemployed, which logically takes the blame for unemployment off the backs of the unemployed. If unemployment is our national policy, then national policy can be reversed when the situation becomes sufficiently untenable, just as when we were forced by popular pressure to violate our national policy by withdrawing from Vietnam.
Those who already have work seem to be largely ignorant of the need to make some room for the folks at the bottom. That is what most needs to be changed in our collective ideology, and you can see from my description of the problem that it lies entirely in the ranks of the lower classes, and has less to do with the government or the upper classes than what socialists would like to think or to propagandize, for those who have work unwittingly deprive those who don't have work out of opportunities to find places in the economy. Unfortunately, no one is talking about the problem in the way that it needs to be talked about in the major media. But, it doesn't mean that the upper classes are ignorant of the problem. The situation is just the opposite with them, for many of them carefully take care of their own class interests by keeping mum about the real nature of the problem, and by keeping mum about its only sensible solution, for that solution also reduces profits.
Today's non-revolutionary situation in this country differs a lot from the situation in Europe in the last century, when there really were revolutionary situations in the more technologically advanced countries that were hobbled by monarchies that simply had to be converted into democracies - either by revolution, as in France so many times, or by more peaceable agreements between landed aristocracies and upwardly mobile bourgeoisies, as in Germany. Today's world contains so many more democracies than ever before, so the number of revolutionary situations dwindles down to a precious few. Revolutionary situations also generally reside on other continents, so joining up with the revolution generally lies outside of the normal capacities of lower class domestic revolutionaries, who often do not have sufficient resources to adventure outside of the democracies they were born into.
If people were more aware of the root of today's problems in our technologically advanced democracy, then most of them would spring at the chance to be part of the solution, and spring at the chance to more equitably share what little work that remains to be done by their fellow human beings, unless I am being overly optimistic. But, both the bosses and the government recognize that equitably sharing work reduces short-term profits, which is why none of them whom I know want anything to do with helping workers to share the work. So, it is up to us workers to work relentlessly to bring up the subject in as many ways as possible so as to elevate consciousness around our country's and world's absolute need to share what little work that remains for people to do. All physical labor is due to be replaced by robots toward the end of the next century anyway, so what are the remaining workers going to do when there will no longer be any jobs for them to go to? The replacement of labor by technology is becoming more and more of a palpable problem, and more insistently presses on our consciousness, especially since the rise of the personal computer, when the joke that went around toward the late '70's was, "You can be replaced with a computer", and people were replaced in droves. Lucky for them, most found other places in the economy.
Machinery was long ago supposed to have freed workers from drudgery, and to provide them with the leisure with which to develop higher qualities, but the rat race allows for little spiritual growth. Instead, the rat race is more about us competing with one another over diminishing opportunities to make the rich richer, and the government more oppressive, as society increasingly turns to jailing the poor for the 'crime' of being poor, and for the 'crime' of having given up the struggle to do much about their own poverty, as in being 'discouraged' workers.
By outlining the debates that occurred in upper circles of business, government, labor and other important groups in this century, Professor Hunnicutt's books make it clear that the government and the upper classes agreed to keep us workers competing with one another over scarce work. But, so what if the bosses conspire within their class? That doesn't mean that we can't conspire with one another to put every one of ourselves to work if we want to.
In the more highly developed Western democracies, technological advancement and struggles for shorter hours pre-dated Marx and his socialist ideas by many years. Because socialism logically applied only to non-democratic and less-developed countries, socialism was the ideology of choice for a number of over-educated middle class people who came to power on the back of republican and anti-colonial movements, or, in other words, on the backs of movements for democracy and independence. Socialists in the already-democratic countries played the role of frustrated cheer leaders, wishing that socialist successes in less-developed countries could be replicated in the West, but it was not to be, nor will it ever. All over the world nowadays, the dream of socialism is dead, except in the minds of the dwindling numbers of socialists.
There was nothing proletarian about Marx, Engels or Lenin. Lenin even stated that workers by themselves could never go beyond trades-union consciousness, and that was because trade unions intrinsically belonged to the most advanced capitalist and democratic countries, where trade union consciousness was the legitimate expression of proletarian aspirations, which reflected little desire to take away the property of the rich. Lenin was right in saying that socialist consciousness would have to be imposed upon workers from without, by a class of over-educated middle class people. And it can be added parenthetically, 'middle classes who would use peasants and workers to elevate socialists into positions of power', which is what many socialists wanted for a long time. If socialists merely wanted workers in democracies to share the remaining work until there's no more work left for people to do, then socialists in democracies had more than a century to say so, but the worst of the socialist revolutionaries really wanted unemployment to get worse so that workers would be inspired to propel socialists into positions of power. The SLP is one of the worst offenders of morality in this regard, and the SLP of Canada is not far behind, for propagandizing for socialism while waiting for things to get bad enough for workers to overthrow democracies is worthless to workers. Socialism for democracies has never been liberatory; on the other hand, it has always been reactionary, for it involves little more than replacing one set of masters with another, and who is going to be dumb enough to do that?
In a country like Russia in 1917, with its smaller proletariat and bourgeoisie, replacing the Romanov Dynasty with democracy was primary on the agenda, and was accomplished with the establishment of the Kerensky republic. Then the bourgeois-democratic revolution grew over into a socialist revolution, practically just the way Marx hoped that it would, except that the first socialist revolution didn't happen in the heart of Europe, and it didn't spread to the rest of the world in the much-anticipated explosion of universal socialist sentiment. Because the Bolshevik revolution didn't conform to Marx's framework (which, in itself, contained only a limited amount of internal logical consistency) it proved that there had to be something wrong with the way in which socialism was fated to be expressed in the world, and, because the socialist revolution didn't conform to the way it was supposed to have happened according to theory, Russia's revolution proved to be the beginning of Russia's troubles. They may have thought they could get around their theoretical difficulties by means of the theory of 'socialism in one country', but it didn't work for me. Socialists who pushed the Kerensky Republic into socialist (not proletarian) dictatorship maybe got more than what they could handle, as evidenced by the Bolshevik revolution's unsustainability, and by its collapse within the last decade.
One logical inconsistency within Marxism centered around the question of peaceful vs. violent change. To Marx in 1872, existing republics would allow for peaceful transitions to workers' state power, and possibly to a peaceful transition to socialism, while, on the other hand, in his December 1889 letter to Trier, Engels was adamant in his assertion that 'the proletariat cannot conquer political power, the only door to the new society, without violent revolution.' In that letter, Engels did not distinguish between attaining power peacefully in a republic and attaining power while violently overthrowing monarchies. So, the question we are left with is, 'Can power peacefully be attained in republics?' It may be too bad that we were not provided with a definitive answer from Marx and Engels, and may be forced to determine our own answer to the question by means of our own practical attempts to attain social justice.
In spite of Marx's and Engels' best attempts to bring clarity to socialist theory, society's universal lust for property shows that people will always fight to retain their property, and will fight to defend the kinds of governments that will protect their property. It's too bad that socialists never accept this undeniable fact, and always butt their heads against this hard and cold reality instead of trying to find a more intelligent way to achieve social justice than by trying to abolish private property.
At our present stage of human development, private property is a higher stage than collectivized property, which is what the actions of billions of people should have signified to socialists, if they had been open or inquisitive enough to take lessons from what the lower classes actually did for themselves in various countries, and if socialists had wanted to bother to do a comparative analysis of social justice measures. The only reason that present-day petty-bourgeois socialist leaderships cannot be led by billions of peasants and workers is that socialists can still make a living by endlessly repeating the damaged goods of socialist ideologies to alienated workers who sincerely want to create a better world, but who have neither the time nor the inclination to do their own research into what makes sense for the part of the world in which they live, or for which they have opinions. That is where pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps comes in, so as not to endlessly follow tragic paths that are inevitable if we follow petty-bourgeois revolutionaries who can afford to publicize their programs, can afford to run party presses, and command armies of fanatics willing or dumb enough to market damaged goods, which recently hasn't netted them very much, which is one reason why the ranks of extreme leftists was considerably thinned by the demise of the Soviet bloc. What I was also pointing to was the bourgeois nature of socialist revolutionism that middle-class people can more easily afford to dabble in than can the lowest classes.
Collectivized property may be a stage that the world may someday get to, but that stage is so far away that it isn't worth dwelling on how to get there from here. Collectivized property is totally beyond our capabilities at this time, given our dog-eat-dog mentality that is more appropriate to the bygone days of scarcity. It is an absolute absurdity to think about changing the system of private property when the majority of the population look upon property as essential to their pursuit of happiness and well-being. Instead of trying in vain to do the impossible, it would be a wonderful humanitarian evolution if we simply looked upon one another as valuable parts of the family of humankind, each with our own inalienable rights to take active parts in the economy until a day in the future when the struggle to survive will be regarded as something that people had to do in the old days, kind of like how 80% of us once had to work the land in order to provide food for all, a figure that has shrunk in the past 200 years to a mere 2%. It is entirely possible that the economy as we know it today will someday cease to exist due to the replacement of wage labor by an all-volunteer work force, or by some other development that I can't foresee.
Advocating the collectivization of property is one of the most alienating things that socialists can do, which is why they so often are observed to be preaching only to their own choirs. In fact, many socialists are alienated by the poor reception that socialism receives, as I once was. I ended up liking the company of socialists so much that I couldn't stay away from them, for my early days in the SLP were a honeymoon of shared interests. But, socialists often have been reduced to endlessly whining about the horrors of capitalism, and then presenting the word 'socialism' as the answer, as if the problems of capitalism by themselves were sufficient reasons for us to switch to socialism. The question remains, which problem of capitalism makes capitalism worth abolishing, or is it the whole package of problems?
It would be schizophrenic for the lower classes to denigrate the rich, or to claim that we have to lead a bloody revolution against them, for who is it who makes the rich rich in the first place, and how do we make them rich? It should be fairly obvious that the reason they are so rich is that we work long hours ensuring the flow of wealth into their coffers. And, if we spend so much of our lives ensuring their well-being and comfort, we surely are not going to revolt against them. Once again, this oppressive scenario is totally different from the scenario of revolt against monarchies in Europe in the last few centuries, when the monarchies were very clearly the common enemy of both the bourgeoisie and proletariat. In our country at this time, we are surely not going to bite the hand that feeds us, and provides us with work. In other words, just proposing that the working class will revolt against the bosses is a crime against logic that the left perpetrates over and over again until it is just a big lie that no one in the left wants to try to address, no more than many Germans 60 years ago didn't want to address the big lie that they were a 'master race'.
When I bother to speculate about the future, and, as opposed to any of the socialist, communist or anarchist scenarios, I think that we will someday soon make real progress in putting everyone to work by means of sharing it, because that measure of social justice is an option that will soon come to be regarded as making more sense, not that making sense is any great yardstick by which human activity is constantly being measured in a society which is so productive that it believes that it can go on wasting lives and materials for ever and ever, amen. But, once people get a handle on what really works in terms of bringing social justice to this country and the world, the movement to put every last person to work by sharing it may accelerate to where we may someday declare as 'free to the masses' the necessities of life that are prepared without any human intervention, leaving us to work only for items that are out of the ordinary. In other words, we will work if we want, but only for extraordinary things, the ordinary necessities having been prepared in abundance by robots, there being absolutely no need for anyone to fight over them, sell them, buy them, or even to consider them to be anyone's possession. In that scenario, private property will decrease in value to people who consider themselves to be owners, for wage labor that will be worth exploiting will become increasingly scarce, and the ideology of us having to compete with one another in any kind of labor market will become increasingly extinct.
This new situation will eventually correspond to Marx's idea of classless, stateless society, and you can see that it can be achieved without any transitional stage of proletarian dictatorship. If Marx had really wanted to think out the full ramifications of his theory of proletarian dictatorship, he may never have wanted to project that idea at all, for all of the mess that it created, and for all of the blood that was spilled while trying to achieve it, and while succeeding generations tried to maintain the illusion that the oppressive systems that were created anywhere closely approximated Marx's concept of proletarian dictatorship. Some socialists may never admit the truth that those dictatorships were dictatorships of leaders of parties, and not of the proletariat. States of denial abound everywhere, especially in socialist societies.
I have trouble with the concept of demanding anything from the greater society when the masses can't stand behind the demands, as in the example of socialists 'demanding social ownership of means of production'. To me, a battle is as good as lost if socialists demand certain things that they have little chance of obtaining, for such demands around property relations are so unrealistic that they can be totally ignored without negative repercussions to those who ignore the demand. For lower classes to demand things that authorities can easily ignore may even be an improper use of the word 'demand'. A more correct use might be when bosses demand that we do such and such a thing in the course of our occupations, and if we do not comply with such demands, then the bosses will find others who are more willing to fulfill their demands, and out the door the moralists will go. In that case, negative repercussions result from non-compliance with demands. Demanding things of others implies a degree of authority that socialist groups in democracies do not have in relation to the larger society, never had, and never will have. My experience in the left, however, can testify to enormous amounts of authority being exerted within socialist circles on a constant, ongoing basis.
I can agree that we will not use our Constitution to substitute industrial government for political government. But, then you went on to say that 'our Constitution provides for the confiscation of private property for the general good through due process.' I doubt that seriously*, for the Fifth Amendment to our Constitution says that 'private property will not be taken for public use without just compensation', which means that any takeover of private property by the government, new or old, will be justly compensated. Most of us would not think about 'borrowing' our neighbor's lawn mower with the secret intention of keeping it forever. Property is nine-tenths of the law, indicating that much legal work is concerned with the rights of property. Such a preponderance of interest in property rights and their protections in our bodies of law, and even in our psyches, indicates that we are not about to 'collectivize property ownership without compensation' any too soon, for most people regard the right to accumulate property as a constituent part of their inalienable rights to pursue happiness. Property is so much a part of our consciousness that even our great socialist leaders have so much invested in their movements that they treat them as their own property that they are loath to turn over to any other group or individual with better ideas. To protect their property, they build secretive and protective bureaucracies around themselves, and they censor their opposition, necessitating dissidents to split from the parent organization, which is just the opposite of what workers and intellectuals should be doing, for only unity around a simple program that makes sense will ever get us anywhere.
* 2002 note: Monroe was correct there, but I mistook his intent, which is why I rambled on.
You implied that socialism would end 'massive corruption in the world, end poverty and insecurity, eliminate the cause of war, and eliminate the staggering costs of militarism'. But, socialism didn't end corruption in the socialist countries, didn't end poverty in Russia, didn't make them any less likely to go to war to defend their interests, and didn't prevent them from bankrupting themselves trying to keep up with Western militarism. I would concede that some of their social safety nets for the poor, while they lasted, might have been better than the American safety net. But now, within the past decade, social safety nets all over the world are deteriorating or are in shambles, and average life expectancy in Russia plummeted due to poor nutrition and inadequate health care, many hospitals not even providing hot water.
Socializing ownership of means of production, therefore, does not protect against bureaucracy, militarism, or censorship of unpopular views, and socialism actually afforded the Russians far fewer freedoms than their gangster capitalism now does. It is unfortunate that they presently choose to exercise their new rights to exploit one another to excess, but it just goes to show the ineffectiveness of the old socialist regime to stamp out dog-eat-dog mentality, which must always have been lurking in the background. What was worse in Soviet society was the amount of brutal force required to maintain the system of public ownership and distribution of goods and services. The free market, on the other hand, is superior in that goods and services can move about without the need for state-mandated micro-management.
You are right when you say that 'the abominable conditions we live in under capitalism keeps the socialist movement going'. I would then suppose that the only way to make socialist sentiment pick up speed is for conditions to get even worse for the lower classes than what they are now. The best way for things to get worse is for socialists to push the same old socialist and social-democratic agendas. That will guarantee the worsening of conditions. As long as people remain socialists, they will prove their incapacity to learn anything from experience and history. Total inability to make things better for people is not a good way to build mass confidence in socialist programs, or in socialists. Socialism will continue to garner disfavor among the masses, because socialist programs are totally impotent in the face of constantly increased productivity, a factor that no program of socialism can ever fully take into account.
The problem with organizing people to take away the property of the rich is that the day after that deed is accomplished, you will find that you have accomplished just that deed and little more, for you must then organize to do something about the problems of society that will be around as much the day after the revolution as the day before. There is no guarantee that anything beyond the rip-off of the property of the rich will happen. Not only that, but, in order to take away the property of the rich, the government will have to be overthrown, for the present government represents the class of owners, and the present government will have to be replaced with a government that represents the interests of those who want to collectivize ownership of land and means of production. Be prepared to shed a lot of blood in that quest, whereas everyone could be put to work without shedding a drop. All we have to do is amend existing laws that regulate hours of labor.
Taking away the property of the rich was conceivable to Marx after the establishment of the Commune, and if Berlin, Madrid and other great European centers had joined the quest of the more radical fringe of the Paris Commune to build a universal socialist republic. The world-wide proletarian dictatorship might have begun then and there, and we would be living in a much different world today. But, there wasn't enough solidarity between the various proletarian forces in Europe, which should have shown socialists right there that the socialist dream for Europe was a long shot at best. With the establishment of the Third French Republic on a lasting basis in 1871, away went most dreams for further proletarian revolutions in France. But, the socialist dream was maintained in central Europe, where many monarchies remained, and socialism saw its realization 46 years afterwards in Russia, and later on in increasingly poorly-developed countries. If their activity is any indication, which it is, then people in democracies would rather protect the status quo than take away the property of the rich.
Purveyors of 'isms may have to learn of the error of taking away the property of the rich the hard way, by having history prove to them that fooling around with property has no validity in a country in which everyone thinks that property is a great way to personal salvation, and where that feeling is so strong that it is useless to try to overcome it.
Though socialists in backward countries were able to lead democratic movements, and use them to elevate themselves to power, socialists didn't take into account what people in the more advanced capitalist countries of the West have been willing or unwilling to do to create measures of social justice in their own countries. Due to the impossibility of taking away the property of the rich after winning mere elections in the advanced capitalist West, socialism's inapplicability to democracies kept the masses out of socialist movements in America, and ensured that petty-bourgeois business interests would take them over and make small businesses out of them, forcing members and sympathizers into subservient roles of merely marketing party programs, and singing the praises of whatever personalities, such as De Leon, Trotsky, Dunayevskaya, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, etc., happened at one time to have led movements, or managed to actually win struggles for power in various colonies, or less-developed countries. America has had more than a century to turn to socialism if it had made any sense to us, but the fact that it never has, at the very same time that billions of people all over the world are abandoning socialism, show that socialism is doomed to extinction. Socialism is much too much based upon the twin evils of force and government to appeal to Americans. There is too much sentiment in this country against both force and government for socialism to ever appeal to the man on the street.
It may be true that the stock market may not be able to continue to go up indefinitely. Some within the left may even want to make it go down. Some revolutionaries might love to make it crash so as to drive people to embrace socialism in a panic, but I wouldn't want to be part of such a revolution. Sharing the work would also make the stock market go down due to diminished profits, but it would go down slowly, step by step, as measures were adopted one-by-one, at least until everyone who wanted to be part of the economy were able to find productive and meaningful purposes for their lives.
Socialism, communism and anarchism share the same common goal of society someday getting to classlessness and statelessness. Simply because I say that there is a better way to get to that common goal of state and classlessness by means of constantly diminishing hours of labor doesn't mean that people will be willing to change their belief systems. I have no advanced degrees, nor do I enjoy a seat in the halls of academia, nor do I have a published book that I can proudly point to, so people may be content to think that I have no credibility, but I am capable of thinking rationally about where we have been and where we are going, and it doesn't look very good so far. When it comes to the realm of thought about where we have been and where we are going, it seems as though there are as many people who are willing to believe in rubbish as there are those who are willing to crank out such rubbish from propaganda mills.
When you consider how much of the rubbish gets planted there, such as what the SLP and so many others plant, it is all so absurd as to make one think that it is put there precisely to confuse us enough to render us incapable of doing anything about the gross amounts of profit-taking going on. Then it is easier to understand why we are so surrounded by rubbish, and we find such a dearth of common sense approaches to our problems. Socialist, communist and anarchist plans to change property relations are so far out of the realm of what is a possible or probable path of building a sane movement that they all end up perpetuating the very capitalist system that they are pledged to ending. It may be one of those small ironies of history, but it's inevitable when the 'isms have become little better than small industries in themselves. They have such vested interests in promoting their own little 'solutions' to social problems that those who oppose them are looked upon as 'enemies of the people' who cannot be debated or cooperated with in the search for some common ground on which to stand that will allow for something better to be arrived at. Without even realizing it, purveyors of 'isms became such intense competitors in the field of social ideas that they obey all of the rules of the dog-eat-dog marketplace. They refuse to debate intelligently, they promote the financial interests of their small movements with the same considerations for money and publicity that pervade companies like IBM and GM, they operate in secrecy, and they create intransigent bureaucracies that censor their opposition. The organizational principles of some leftist groups are barely distinguishable from the organizational principles of the businesses they are pledged to abolishing, as they are better practiced in the bourgeois politics of exclusion than they are in the proletarian politics of inclusion.
Movements that are driven solely by hatred of powerful institutions (such as corporations, capitalism, private property and democracy) are like birds trying to fly on just one wing. The time has never been better than now for us to operate with a deep interest in how our programs are going to affect the people and the planet. It should be clear that revolution has absolutely no place in a democracy, for revolution's purpose in the past has been to bring democracy to where it didn't exist before. Only a handful of fanatics argue that America is not democratic, and for that reason needs to have a revolution. It is less clear why social-democracy, or taxing the rich, has been superannuated by our tremendously productive economy, for a lot of people are still infatuated by the reforms of the FDR administration, such as welfare, social security, unemployment compensation, minimum wages, etc. Sharing work, the sanest solution to our problems that exists, is unfortunately still off the map in all too many public discussions. That is the problem that I attempt to deal with, but my resources are all too scarce, and I consequently get all too little done.
Recently, a new organization in Berkeley has sprung up, a Committee for a Shorter Work Week. I have just begun to work with them, and one of the things we will be attempting is to to gather some 4-5,000 signatures on petitions to get a measure on the next municipal ballot for a 35 hour work-week with double time after 35. We now call the organization "Share the Work", as befits our goal.
The article you sent entitled "Organizing for Socialism" was amusing, for they took a very principled stand against socialists advocating reforms of any kind, and campaigned in favor of socialists allowing things to get bad enough to make revolution the only alternative. The trouble with such a policy is that it is very inhumane, for things have been bad enough to cause us to do something positive about our problems for a long time. Fortunately for society, revolutionaries will always be out-flanked by reformers, for reform of what we have is the only thing that makes sense in a democracy, which is what our ancestors fought and died for, and is what succeeding generations will not so easily give up on any too soon, democracy and capitalism having made the USA the most powerful and successful nation on earth. It's too bad that logic cannot as rigorously determine the course of politics as it does the course of some scientific research. We could save ourselves a lot of pain if it did.
The De Leonist Society
of Canada quoted Furdeck's critique of Dave Stratman's 'We can change the world, part 2'. Furdeck
claimed: "It is private ownership of
the means of production and distribution that give the capitalist
class its power" ..... I don't think that's what gives
them their power, however, for ownership by itself is static.
Instead, what is dynamic is our willingness to work far beyond
the time necessary to create the necessities of life. Such a surplus
of unnecessary activity is what constantly adds to the coffers
of capitalist wealth. WE ARE WORKING FOR THEM. Our willingness
to daily create vast surpluses is the true root of the power of
the capitalist class and their state. Our on-going production
of vast surpluses must be attenuated in order to scale back the
excessive power of the upper classes, as well as to save the environment.
Shortening labor time is the only peaceful and environmentally
responsible way to cut down on the power of the bosses. Can you
think of any other?
Back to Home Page
Back to 1990's Archives Index