Question: How do you propose to prevent the capitalist types

The People
March 20, 1993
page 6
Question Period


You seem to be saying that political democracy is merely a front for plutocracy. If so, how do you propose to prevent the talented and irrepressible capitalist types from taking advantage of the democracy you would have in a socialist society?


Before answering this question, it should be noted that the question itself contains misleading implications. One concerns the reference to "talented and irrepressible capitalist types." No doubt there are capitalists and would-be capitalists who are "talented" in their own way, and "irrepressible" in the sense that they are relentlessly power-hungry or greedy. But the suggestion that being a capitalist goes hand-in-hand with being "talented" or "irrepressible" cannot be permitted to stand.

The capitalists are the private owners of constant capital-productive property. Most capitalists today inherited their class status; a small minority may have gained it by starting a business or by gradually "clawing their way" or "wheeling and dealing," legally or otherwise, to the point where they could acquire substantial shares of ownership. But however they first came to be capitalists, the accumulation of capital itself is accomplished through the exploitation of the working class-the main "talent" involved is comparable to that of the thief.

Indeed, for the well-established capitalists, all that is required is the "wisdom" to know where to invest one's money, and to select the best executives to carry out the robbery of the working class, and continued accumulation of wealth, on the capitalists' behalf.

Also, it is not our contention that political democracy is "merely" a front for plutocracy, or capitalist rule. The political democracy embodied in the U.S. Constitution was a gain for civilization. The democratic rights and civil liberties it carries with it, partially subverted though they are under modern capitalist rule, remain important to the working class, particularly the freedoms of speech and association, and the right to amend or abolish the present form of government through peaceful means.

Plutocracy vs. Socialism

Yet it is also true that our present political state is in the thrall of the capitalist class; it is a plutocracy in substance. This, too, has nothing to do with the "talents" or personal drives of capitalists; it is a consequence of the concentrated wealth, economic power and influence that come with private ownership of the means of production. Capitalists use their tremendous economic power and wealth to corrupt and twist the democratic process, bending politicians to serve their particular interests and bending the state as a whole to serve their collective interests as a class.

There could be no such corruption of the industrial democracy of socialism, for there would be no private ownership of productive property, no concentration of economic power in the hands of a few, no capitalist class or any classes at all. Instead, a unified society of producers, democratically administering the economy through their socialist industrial union government, would be cooperatively producing and collectively sharing an abundance for all. There would not exist either the means or the opportunity to corrupt.

Having addressed the misleading possible implications in the question, the gist of the question yet remains. Rephrased, the question might read: What is to prevent people with capitalist-like ambitions from taking advantage of others in a socialist industrial democracy?

For one thing, the material incentive to even attempt to take advantage of others would be vanquished. Under capitalism, people seek power over others because that is the pathway to a better material existence; it is what the competitive capitalist social environment encourages. But in a socialist society, the social environment would be dramatically changed. All that would be required to share in the material abundance that modern industry makes possible is to do a modest share of the useful work. Further improvements in the quality of life would be sought through cooperative efforts, not through dominance and exploitation of others. Accordingly, to seek such dominance would be pointless.


Second, there would be virtually no possibility for a person who stubbornly clung to such ambitions to "take advantage" of others.

Remuneration and exchange in socialist society would be based on the objective measure of labor time; there would be no money, no possibility of privately acquiring productive property behind society's back, and no opportunity to somehow cheat society and obtain more than what a person's honest labor entitles them to.

The real power in society would rest with the collective bodies of workers, the socialist industrial unions, where all the primary decisions regarding production and distribution are made. Democracy would be a year-round practice, with plant or workplace meetings as required, and not a once-a-year formality. Persons elected to administrative posts would have no special powers, pay or privileges; they would be accountable to, and subject to the directives of, those who elected them. And they would be subject to an immediate recall vote if they ever attempted to misrepresent-or somehow "take advantage of-their electors.

In sum, when there is no money, no capital; when no one lives in want and all may enjoy material security and comfort; when there no longer exist any positions of power permitting one person to exploit or oppress another, then corruption, bribery, extortion, coercion, "office politics," vote buying, and all the other dirty tricks that the "irrepressible capitalist types" now use to "take advantage of others" will be rendered impossible. And with power collectively shared by the producers themselves, through the socialist industrial unions, socialist society will be well safeguarded from any would-be usurpers.