Cibola, El Dorado, the Shining City on the Hill, Camelot? Such are the ideals for which people have been yearning from the days of Sir Thomas More to the American utopian colonies. While these concepts are a reflection of human desires that flow from the inequities of life, they are not rooted in reality.
For those of us who believe in socialism, it is time to ask, what is it that we’re really striving for? Not the Shining City on the Hill, but rather a well-crafted house built on the solid foundations of struggle for the needs of the people.
In conversations with different people, mention the word “socialism” and one comes upon expressions of disbelief: “it can’t be achieved, impossible in our time,” or “socialism is dead.” We’d like to begin a dialogue with PWW readers about these ideas.
To begin with, the communist concept of socialism is not simply about ideals, although ideals become a road map to practical achievements. It is a concept rooted in the absolute necessities of working people that the present capitalist system cannot fulfill.
Time and time again, working people struggle for important reforms, such as lowering the cost of health care or increasing the national or local minimum wage, only to find that even when, under tremendous community and labor pressure, these reforms are enacted, in one swift counter-blow the forces of capitalist power take away and destroy these gains by all kinds of legal and extra legal maneuvers. At that point many individuals start to think and say, “There has to be a better way!”
The reason capitalism cannot fulfill our needs and will seek to destroy these basic reforms is the system’s drive for superprofits, which conflicts with fulfilling the needs of the people. When corporations supply some benefits to their workers, they do it out of the superprofits the workers themselves create for the company, and they do it only after workers organize and fight for their benefits, or under the impending threat of such organizing.
One must state very candidly that there is no country in the world today where fully established socialism exists. There are countries that have a socialist government and where socialism is under construction, such as Cuba, China, North Korea and Vietnam. Despite earlier claims to the contrary, even in the former Soviet Union and the Eastern European countries socialism was still a work in progress. One of the major reasons for this lag between socialist governments’ plans and the final achievement of socialism is the constant attempt by global capitalism to destroy these regimes by blockade, war and bribery, and the need for these societies to divert costly resources for their defense rather than for people’s needs. The capitalist class makes such efforts to destroy these regimes because they are living proof to the rest of the world that humans do not have to live under a system of extreme wealth and luxury for the few and extreme hunger, deprivation and overwork for the vast majority of the population.
Yet, in these beginnings of socialism one can see what kind of socialist future there might be for the United States. Despite the burdens of encirclement and hostility, through the rational use of their own resources, these countries are working to provide health care for all, quality education from pre-kindergarden through college, low-cost housing and public transportation.
In subsequent articles, we would like to discuss with our readers such items as: jobs at livable wages and unemployment insurance under socialism; winning the struggle against racism and inequality of women; the legal and democratic path to socialism; political and economic democracy; how to achieve world peace; and any other related topic that our readers can think of.
We invite readers to participate in this discussion. Please write no more than 400 words, as our allotted space is limited and we would like the chance to reply.
Emil Shaw is chair of the New Mexico Communist Party. Rose Shaw is a member of the Communist Party’s national committee. They can be reached at shawemil @ msn.com.