Socialist Labor Party letter responding to Albert Einstein, Why Socialism?


Stephen Emery, member of the Socialist Labor Party of America
Letter to Albert Einstein
Reprinted from The Weekly People, December 31, 1949

December 16. 1949
Dr. Albert Einstein,
Institute for Advanced Study,
Princeton, New Jersey.

Dear Doctor Einstein:

I have read with interest your article, "Why Socialism?" and, in the main, warmly approve the views you express there. It is my conviction, too, that the grave evils disfiguring this age can be eliminated only by the establishment of a Socialist economy.

To my mind, you do not exaggerate when you state that "Clarity about the aims and problems of Socialism is of the greatest significance in our age of transition." For certainly the penalty for failure on the part of at least a substantial number of our contemporaries to achieve this clarity must be a social disaster.

Accordingly, it is the solemn duty of every earnest individual to strive for a clear understanding of Socialism, himself and to aid others to reach it. The more so because the enemies of Socialism, Stalinist and capitalist alike, are doing their utmost to sow confusion on this crucial subject.

In this spirit I venture to deal with some questions which you pose at the close of your article.

The questions referred to indicate sincere and penetrating thought. However, they also indicate that you, Dr. Einstein, have not escaped being infected by one of the most vicious of the many fallacies regarding Socialism in circulation today; the erroneous notion that the governing agency of Socialist society will be political in character -- i.e., a State; and the corollary notion that control of Socialist industry will be vested in a bureaucracy.

Can one infer other than this when you ask: "How is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all powerful nnd overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?"

Let me say in immediate reply to these questions that, given the grotesque caricature of Socialism which they imply, there would be not the slightest possibility of avoiding a bureaucratic tyranny. Such a monstrosity might be a "planned economy," yes. But, as you yourself warn, "it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet Socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual."

Now where lies the critical distinction between the type of "planned economy" which totally enslaves a nation and a Socialist economy that will Insure freedom and well-being to everyone? Above all, It lies in the realm of government!

To seek to realize Socialism through the instrumentality of the existing machinery of government, to seek to adapt the present political mechanism to the requirements of Socialist society by even the most radical reforms conceivable -- must fatedly result in a totalitarian "planned economy." Events in Stalin's Russia (as well as elsewhere) speak volumes on this head.

Why is this so? Why cannot the State be bent to Socialist purposes? For the fundamental reason that the political form of government was not designed to serve as the instrument of the popular will. On the contrary, the origin of the political State traces to the desire and the need of a ruling oligarchy to destroy the ancient influence of the people in communal affairs. And down through the centuries of what you aptly term "the predatory phase of human development" -- meaning the period since the advent of so-called civilization, private property and class rule -- the political State has, by a process of adaptation, continued unfailingly to perform its essential function, that of being the organized power through which the majority has been oppressed and a minority's self-interest imposed as the social law. Such has been its role, such will be its role as long as it survives, for such is its central principle.

So much for the State. Socialist society can make no more use of it than of the slavemaster's whip. There remains, however, the larger, question still unanswered: What is to be the structure of government under Socialism?

This problem was solved over forty years ago by the American Socialist, Daniel De Leon, who formulated the ground plan for an industrial representative government, an economic administration democratically constituted by all those engaged in the industries and vocations on which our collective welfare depends.

De Leon's plan is no utopian scheme, no fanciful creation of the mere intellect. This man, of whom Lenin once said that his conception of an industrial democratic government was the single addition to Marxian Socialist science since the death of Marx, was as adamant a realist, as insistent that theory must rest on all the obtainable facts, as you are, Doctor, in your chosen field. And his projection of the proper nature and shape of a Socialist government is the crowning fruit of these traits.

I will not attempt to develop De Leon's magnificent idea at length here since I am addressing one of the world's renowned scholars, a person fully aware thai any question aa profound as this under discussion deserves more than cursory attention, deserves indeed the most thorough investigation.

In lieu of extensive treatment, therefore, I earnestly recommend that you study De Leon's works, and with them the scholarly "Ancient Society" of Lewis Henry Morgan, a masterwork which laid the basis for modern anthropology and deeply influenced De Leon and other eminent Socialist thinkers.

And I close with the fervent hope that "clarity about the aims and problems of Socialism" shall soon become so universal among our fellow mortals that the human family will avert the catastrophe looming before us and enter upon a splendid era of fraternity, tranquility and freedom.

Yours sincerely,


Member of the Socialist Labor Party of America