Socialism -- its meaning an promise


Socialism -- its meaning an promise
This is the text of an undated leaflet that
was distributed in the 1950s or 1960s by the
Socialist Labor Party of America

Socialism -- its meaning an promise

Many people think that Socialism means government ownership. They have been taught this through the schools, newspapers and other spokesmen for capitalism. This lie about Socialism has been spread because it keeps people from finding out what Socialism really is. The U.S. Post Office is wholly owned and run by the government. So are many hospitals and the U.S. Marines. Yet who in his right mind would call these institutions examples of Socialism ?

Furthermore, Marxian Socialism has never existed anywhere, in any country, at any time. There has never been Marxian Socialism in Sweden, in the Soviet Union, in Cuba, in China, or in any other nation that claims to be Socialist.

What then is Socialism? It is a wholly new concept of government in which the people collectively own and democratically control and manage the industries and social services through a Socialist Industrial Union Government. When we say this, we are not talking about your house, or your car or any of your personal belongings. We are talking about factories, mines, railroads, stores-in short, the tools of production and distribution.

Under Socialism, the workers would operate and manage the industries themselves. In each factory and plant, they would elect their own foremen and management committees. In addition, the present political government run by politicians would be replaced by an industrial government run by workers.

Instead of a Senator from Ohio or a Representative from Mississippi, there would be worker-delegates from the automotive industry, from the transportation systems, from the mines, from the clothing factories, from services such as restaurants, hospitals, schools, and so on. These representatives would have the single task of deciding what should be produced and how best to produce it.

Today, we have political democracy only. Workers do not have economic democracy. The owner of a factory has almost absolute power over his employees. He can fire whomever he wishes, whenever he wishes. He can close his plant down and move to another state. In fact, he can manufacture something worthless or even harmful. In short, he has all the power of a dictator.

But under Socialism we would have industrial democracy, which is truly meaningful. Instead of voting once every two or four years for politicians, workers would be making decisions every day where they work and in the field in which they are most qualified. Here is where their vote counts because it vitally affects their own personal lives.

When we use the word "worker," we mean anyone who sells his labor power, or ability to work, at so much per hour, or so much per week, to a capitalist employer. Musicians are workers. So are scientists, nurses, teachers, architects, inventors and mathematicians.

Benefits of Socialism

Under capitalism workers receive only a small fraction of the wealth that they alone produce, while the lion's share goes to the capitalist owners and to the bankers, landlords, insurance companies, lawyers, politicians and all the other parasites who live off the back of labor and perform no useful work. By ending this robbery of the working class, Socialism will enable a worker to enjoy the equivalent of what an annual income of $50,000 would buy now -- and this could be accomplished by working only four hours a day and four days a week.

This estimate is undoubtedly low since Socialism would also raise our living standards by ending the billions of dollars thrown away on foreign wars and defense profiteering, by ending the waste, duplication and inefficiency of capitalist industries, and by returning the millions of soldiers and unemployed workers to a useful occupation.

In a Socialist society, there will be no wage system. Workers will receive the social value of their labor. And since the people will collectively own the industries, anyone will be free to select any occupation in which he has an interest and aptitude. No longer will workers live under the fear of being laid off, or be compelled to spend their lives at some job they hate or are unsuited for. Also since the people will collectively own the colleges and universities, no longer will workers be denied education or training because they lack the money to buy it.

Production for use, not for profit

Furthermore, under Socialism we will produce for use and to satisfy the needs of all the people. Under capitalism, the industries operate for one purpose-to earn a profit for their owners. Under this system, food is not grown primarily to be eaten. It is grown to be sold. Cars are not manufactured primarily to be driven. They are made to be sold. If there are enough buyers here and abroad, then the capitalists will have their factories turn out cars, TV sets, pianos and everything else for which buyers can be found. But if people lack money, if the domestic and foreign markets cannot absorb them, then these factories shut down, and the country stagnates, no matter how much people need these commodities.

At the present time, farmers know that they can produce more than market conditions and price-protecting government restrictions, compensated for by cash subsidies, permit them to. Meanwhile, millions of Americans suffer from malnutrition and hunger, as recent surveys have shown; and most housewives count their nickels and dimes when they shop for the families' food.

The periodic depressions and recessions of the past 150 years have occurred, we are told, because too much was produced-overproduction. Factories turned out so vast a quantity of goods that their owners shut them down and laid off the workers who produced this abundance.

Under Socialism, the factories and industries would be used to benefit all of us, not restricted to the creation of profits for the enrichment of a small group of capitalist owners. Under Socialism, our farmlands would yield an abundance without great toil; the factories, mines and mills would be the safest, the most modern, the most efficient possible, and productive beyond our wildest dreams- and without laborious work. Our natural resources would be intelligently conserved, our schools would have the finest facilities, and they would be devoted to developing complete human beings, not wage slaves who are trained to hire themselves out for someone else's profit. Our hospitals and social services will create and maintain the finest health and recreational facilities.

An end to poverty

In all previous ages of human history, poverty for most of the people was inescapable. There was simply not enough to go around. But not so today. Automated machinery and our industrial and scientific knowledge have so vastly increased man's ability to produce what he needs and wants, that there is no longer any excuse whatsoever for the poverty of a single member of society. Today, we have the material possibility of abundance for everyone, and the promise of the leisure in which to enjoy it.

But under capitalism, automation and computers are used to replace workers and increase profits. Millions of black workers in the South who used to do farm work have been replaced by agricultural machinery and have migrated to Northern cities. Instead of creating a society of abundance, capitalism uses machinery to create unemployment and poverty. Our cities are being converted largely into festering slums in which impoverished people, not understanding the cause of their miseries, engage in mass violence to release their frustrations, hopelessness and anger.

But it is not automation that threatens us at all. Improved machinery is not an evil. It is a blessing. It is under capitalism that automation is used for antisocial purposes.

To make this point clear, let us suppose that a husband buys a lot of new appliances for the home -- a washing machine, a dryer, a vacuum cleaner, a dishwasher and a sewing machine. Is the wife now going to lose her place and be thrown out on the street? Is she going to have her allowance cut in half? Is she told to eat less? Is her whole future threatened by these labor-saving devices? Obviously not.

The reason is that the entire family owns these machines. The father doesn't own them and then hire the mother to use them. The appliances are the common property of the family as a unit. And the whole family will benefit because the number of hours required to do the work around the house will be greatly reduced. And so it is in industry. There is nothing threatening about labor-saving machinery. The only threat is the fact that this machinery and industries are the exclusive property of a small minority of the American people -- the capitalist class; and the fact that these industries are used for the private profit of their owners and not for the benefit of the vast majority of the American people -- the workers who invented and built them.

But when these industries belong to all of society, then everyone in that society will benefit. New machinery would no longer kick workers out of jobs. Instead, under Socialism, new machinery would kick hours out of the working day. Under Socialism, automation would be used to produce a superabundance for all.

A nonviolent revolution

The Socialist Labor Party does not advocate violence. It seeks changes through lawful and constitutional means. When the time comes that the majority of the American people want to change from capitalism to Socialism, they can make this move through peaceful and lawful means. That is why the Socialist Labor Party has candidates in every national and many state and local elections. But if Socialist candidates should be elected to office, they would have only one task-the task of teaching the workers from national, state and local rostrums how to abolish the present government in every city, state and in Washington, D.C. And this would be done through the amendment clause in our Constitution -- the clause that legalizes peaceful revolution. The Socialist Labor Party would also be dissolved.

Then workers all over this nation would take possession of the factories and industries where they work. The bus drivers and truckers would take possession of the transportation systems. The mechanics and auto workers would take possession of the automobile plants. The printers, reporters, and all other newspaper workers would take possession of their plants. The nurses and doctors would take possession of the hospitals. The teachers would take over the school systems. Then these industries and services would be declared the property of society and would be operated democratically in the interest of all.


The Socialist Labor Party, founded In 1890, to the only bona party of Socialism In America. It has no connection whatsoever with other parties or groups calling themselves Socialist or Communist.