The collapse of the Soviet Union was an enormous ideological windfall for U.S. imperialism. President George H. W. Bush delivered a triumphant State of the Union message Jan. 28, 1992: “[C]ommunism is dead…By the grace of God, America won the Cold War…. A world once divided into two armed camps now recognizes one sole and preeminent power.”
It would take years for the world to realize fully the implications of that declaration of U.S. economic, political, military and ideological hegemony. No movement was harder hit than the world Communist movement. Discourse on socialism dwindled down to a trickle under the onslaught. The message was clear: There is no alternative to “free market” capitalism. Resistance is futile.
Challenge to the ultra-right’s ‘New World Order’
Yet under the radar something began to rise to challenge this arrogant “New World Order.” It is the struggle against what the late Machinists union President William Winpinsinger called the “corporate right-wing phalanx.”
Tens of millions of people here in the U.S. and around the world are being radicalized by that struggle. It reached fever pitch in the campaign to defeat George W. Bush last Nov. 2. Of course, the unifying idea that galvanized 56 million people to vote against the Bush-Cheney ticket was not socialism. It was the defense of democracy and the immediate needs of working people menaced by the Bush-Cheney gang’s corporate agenda.
‘Another world is possible’
But in the struggle, millions are also drawing deeper conclusions. Millions now go beyond simply removing a Bush and substituting a Kerry. They are actively debating and discussing the shape of a new society that could replace the exploitation, racism, war and environmental degradation inflicted upon us by transnational capitalism. A popular slogan captures that ferment: “Another world is possible.”
We don’t know what exact program the masses will embrace, or how quickly, to address the myriad critical problems created by monopoly capitalism. But we do know this: Class struggle and our multiracial, multinational male-female working class is at the heart of this democratic, multiclass upsurge.
It is bringing into sharp relief the corrupt, predatory, violent and racist nature of capitalism. A window is opening in which we can convince many that socialism, a system that puts “people before profits,” is the historically necessary next stage of human development.
Worldwide crisis of capitalism
The worldwide crisis of transnational capitalism is setting the stage for revolutionary change. Globalized transnational capitalism is aggravating all the basic contradictions.
Frederick Engels wrote in “Socialism, Scientific and Utopian” that capitalist production has become increasingly “socialized” but the private mode of appropriation funnels the enormous wealth created by labor power into the coffers of an ever-shrinking elite. Certainly, that process of “socialized” labor power has sharply accelerated with the rise of computerized production and the global division of labor. Hundreds of millions of people around the world have been drawn into the working class. The export of capital to lands of cheap labor has moved light-years beyond that outlined in V.I. Lenin’s “Imperialism.”
Transnational capitalism has aggravated the “crisis of overproduction” with the working class unable to buy back the fruit of their labor. This contradiction of “too much” output has driven more than a billion people into poverty, starvation and homelessness while pouring billions in superprofits into the coffers of the wealthy. More than ever before, the world is divided between rich and poor.
The tax and budget priorities as well as the anti-labor policies of the Bush administration enforce that process here at home with chronic unemployment and poverty. Nearly 50 million people are without health care. Millions are losing their pensions. Homelessness is rising as affordable housing vanishes. Bush’s answer is to ram through trillions in tax cuts for the rich coupled with savage budget cuts for health, education and food stamps, and a deceitful crusade to privatize Social Security and Medicare.
The world has become interconnected and interdependent and needs peace, worldwide cooperation and respect for international laws. But Bush exempts himself from international law and unleashed a preemptive war on Iraq in defiance of the United Nations and world public opinion. He and a right-wing dominated Congress squander trillions on weaponry to enrich Lockheed Martin and Halliburton.
Environmentalists warn that the world will soon reach a “point of no return” in global warming and other threats to the biosphere. Bush thumbs his nose at the Kyoto Accord and gives tax breaks to automakers to keep producing gas-guzzling SUVs.
The job of Communists
The job of Communists is to seize the moment, to actively and creatively inject the idea of socialism into this debate. Part of this project is giving working people confidence that this is a winnable fight if we implement a long-range strategy to build the majority movement needed to win it. We should challenge the newly radicalized activists with some questions:
• When greedy corporate profiteers close down steel mills and factories and move them to lands of cheap labor, why not seize the factories and mills under laws of “eminent domain” and operate them in the public interest? Why not nationalize oil, gas and electric utilities? Why not public ownership of the banks? Already there exists a public sector, including public power, that debunks one of the main Big Lies against socialism that “public ownership doesn’t work.”
• And why not socialized medicine? We are living through the alternative nightmare and it doesn’t work for us. It works fine for the medical-pharmaceutical complex. But socialized medicine in Cuba has given it an infant mortality rate lower than the U.S.
Struggle for democracy
The struggle for democracy has the potential of developing quickly into a struggle to replace corporate power with all-people’s power. In fact, we would argue that if that movement does not move ultimately to take power into its own hands, monopoly capitalism will smash it ruthlessly, grab power and nullify any gains working people have won for themselves. But how would a socialist U.S. guarantee more democracy with higher levels of grassroots participation in decision-making? What will such a government do to guarantee the right to vote and have every vote counted? What do we mean by “Bill of Rights” socialism? Would a socialist government curtail free speech and freedom of assembly for reactionary, racist and counter-revolutionary elements? Are there lessons here in the success of the people of Venezuela in defending their Bolivarian Revolution?
Peace and international relations
Peace and policies of international friendship would be the cornerstone of foreign policy of a socialist U.S. We would move energetically to negotiate mutual and multilateral disarmament treaties with the aim of abolishing weapons of mass destruction including our own nuclear, biological and chemical stockpiles. Respect for the United Nations, international law, and the sovereignty of all nations as equals would guide a socialist administration in Washington. The trillions squandered on weapons and war would be used instead as an enormous “peace dividend” to help reconstruction both in the U.S. and around the world. Isn’t there a basis for arguing the merits of socialism in our surging peace movement?
Fight against racism
Combating racism and building multiracial, multinational, multicultural unity would be the highest domestic priority of a socialist regime in the U.S. Affirmative action measures would promote and ensure racial equality in the nation’s workplaces, colleges and universities. Shouldn’t we discuss Lenin’s lessons on building a multinational state based on national and racial equality? How would we implement these concepts in a socialist U.S.?
Women’s equality, gay and lesbian rights
How will we realize equality for women? Socialism will insure the reproductive rights of women. It will protect and strengthen equality on the job, including equal pay. And it will also work to promote gender equality at home. What does socialism have to say about “family values?” And what about insuring freedom and equality for gays and lesbians? Let’s say it out loud: A socialist U.S. will recognize the rights of gays and lesbians to marry with all the rights of heterosexual marriage.
Creation, not destruction
A massive “reconstruction program” would be among the first initiatives of a socialist government in the U.S. It would put millions of jobless workers to work rebuilding our crumbling inner cities and rebuilding the nation’s physical infrastructure.
Socialism would bring a cultural flowering in the arts, literature, music and dance. We caught a glimpse of that with the Federal Arts Project and the Federal Writers Project during the Great Depression.
The experience of socialist and popular democratic revolutions in the Soviet Union, Cuba, Nicaragua and many other nations is that among their first and greatest achievements is the eradication of illiteracy. Paulo Freire, the great Brazilian educator, wrote about this phenomenon in his treatise, “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed.” A socialist revolution in the U.S. would unleash the same kind of energy and brainpower, bringing a new, intense “love of learning” among working people who have been denied the right to a quality, integrated public education. A socialist regime would drastically increase federal aid to our public schools.
Defending the public sector
A more enthusiastic, vigorous defense of socialism, including existing socialism in Cuba, Vietnam, China and North Korea, will put us in the thick of the ideological defense of the “public sector” and “public institutions” such as public libraries and public schools that are now under such vicious right-wing attack. The ultra-right embraces a barely veiled social Darwinism where the strong rule and the weak serve. Theirs is a world of naked “dog-eat-dog” survival of the fittest. They ridicule and red-bait Social Security and Medicare, falsely branding them as “socialist” or even “communist.”
They lure the unwary with “get-rich-quick” scams like “ownership society” and “personal savings accounts” instead of a guaranteed Social Security benefit. The aim of the Bush ideological offensive is to undermine ideas of working class solidarity expressed in mottos like “an injury to one is an injury to all.”
True, Social Security, and Medicare are not socialism. Yet the underlying values of these public benefit programs are, indeed, the same values embraced by socialism. They are based on the idea that the emancipation of the individual is possible only when everyone, without exception, is protected. As he was about to sign the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin also spoke of the need for revolutionary unity and solidarity. “If we don’t hang together, we will assuredly hang separately,” he said.
SOCIALISM makes sense
Our enemies will argue that socialism is a “proven failure” and can “never work” because it “goes against human nature.” In fact, socialism thrived for 80 years in the Soviet Union in the face of fascist invasion and hostile Cold War encirclement. Socialism is the choice of the people today in Vietnam, Cuba, China, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea despite Cold War attacks by Bush-Cheney.
We need to demystify socialism. Explain it in a way that it “just makes common sense.” Once we have the right-wing monkeys off our backs, more and more people will begin to think about socialism, the surest path to “singing tomorrows.”
This article is part of the Education Paper Series initiated by the CPUSA’s Education Commission as part of the party’s preconvention discussion.
The party’s draft program, “The road to socialism USA: Unity for peace, democracy, jobs and equality” also gives extensive treatment to the topic of socialism. In addition, with a forthcoming paper on socialism, the party will launch an ongoing discussion on the topic in the coming months. If you would like to read the CPUSA draft program and other documents go to: www.cpusa.org or discuss.cpusa.org, or write CPUSA, 235 W. 23rd St., NY, NY 10011.