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UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Case for Socialism

While I do not agree with Dan Roche’s editorial Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos in the February 23, 2009 issue of The Mass Media, I am thankful that he has begun a public discussion on socialist politics in the school’s newspaper.

Roche’s editorial reminded me of how I first learned about Marxism and Socialism in high school.My teacher, like Roche’s editorial, taught us that any kind of political ideology is the same as Nazism and leads to the same conclusions as the Holocaust during World War II.And, there was no reason for me not to believe her.We too learned about the Soviet Union as having a repressive military regime that abhorred public freedoms and democracy.

We learned that Stalin was a dictator who ruled through brutality, secret police and anti-Semitism. And, he did. In fact, as a member of the International Socialist Organization (ISO), I would never defend or define Stalin, the Soviet Union, Cuba or China as ‘socialist’ or ‘communist’. It was Stalin and Mao in China that took Marx’s ideas and rewrote them in order to justify their anti-working class and state capitalist societies as being in the interest of ‘the people’. The Soviet Union, China and Cuba were far from socialist and communist. Workers did not hold power.In fact, a ruling class made up of a minority-maintained power in all three countries did, and still do.

Where my teacher and Mr. Roche are mistaken is in concluding that Stalin and Mao’s interpretation of Marx is what Karl Marx actually intended. They could not be further from the truth.

Karl Marx’s ideas are not only relevant, but also necessary today.Not only does Marx lay out an analysis of capitalism that is most clearly illustrated today, but also he lays out a vision for how we can organize to fight for a different kind of world free of war, poverty and oppression. It really is no surprise that the only book that can compete (in paid sales) with the Bible is Marx’s Communist Manifesto.

At a time when an “economic crisis” justifies cutting jobs, raising tuitions, and setting a gas tax while trillions of dollars are poured into the hands of corporate execs in the form of a bailout, it is no wonder that most people are thinking about radical change.

The starting point for the case for socialism is simple: society should be organized on the basis of human needs and equality, not for profit.

The resources already exist to transform the way we live. No one needs to go without health care, food or a decent place to live. The great wealth of our society could go toward education, public transportation, developing renewable energy sources and many other projects that would benefit the quality of life for the vast majority. Just imagine what could be done with the money squandered on the Iraq war -$1 trillion, according to two economists’ estimate.

Marx argued that abolishing class society would pave the way for the real beginning of human history. Free from exploitation and oppression by a tiny minority of wealthy and powerful people, future generations can grow up free from hunger and war, and liberated from the distorting and crippling ideas of nationalism, racism and sexual oppression.

But socialism can’t be established by a few political leaders or an enlightened minority. Marx argued that socialism must be the “self-activity of the working class.”

The majority of people in our society are workers.They are the ones that make our cities, towns, and communities function. Without our labor, the ordinary functioning of our everyday can’t go on: kids can’t be taught, the subway system won’t run, no products can be delivered to Wal-Mart, the sick can’t be treated, and cars aren’t built. The ability to take collective action gives workers the potential power to take control over the economy and reorganize society based on our their needs. We saw this on May Day 2006, when hundreds of thousands of workers essentially went on strike to protest anti-immigrant legislation in Congress, shutting down businesses throughout the nation.

When polled, the majority of Americans say they want national health care, more social services, better paying jobs, affordable schools, etc.The drive for profit for the rich, which defines capitalism, does not benefit the majority of us and we know that.However, it is not as easy as that. From a very young age, we are told that change can only come from elected officials, and that the majority of Americans are completely content with their comfortable individualistic lives and, thus, will never fight for change. Yet that is not true.

From the fight for civil rights for blacks to the recent fight to force Bank of America to pay Republic workers occupying their factory in Chicago, change has only happened when we have collectively fought for it.

It matters that there are socialists involved in these struggles who are committed fighters against all forms of racism and oppression.It matters that there are radicals who understand that institutional racism against blacks is part of a larger system of exploitation of the entire working class- a system that benefits only the ruling elite.And, it is important that there are radicals who can see the connection between war, oppression, and poverty, and who have a goal of fighting for an entirely different world.

If you think that capitalism is an utterly corrupt system, and that our society is full of the possibility of radical change, and if you have some intuition that we, the working people of the world, could run things in a better way, then you should join the socialist movement and the legacy of Fredrick Douglas, Eugene Debs, Big Bill Haywood, Helen Keller, Malcolm X and thousands of other fighters in this country, and help to make that dream a reality.