Socialism: Can You Get There From Here?


The old joke has the farmer giving  confusing directions and then concluding, “No, I guess you can’t get there from here!”

I just read, on Peoples’ World, a pretty good explanation of anthropology, from primitive communism through slavery and barbarism to capitalism. Then there’s a nice projection about a much better stage of economic production called socialism.

Millions of Americans, and probably billions of people in the world, have had about all the capitalism they can stand and are ready for socialism. The Bernie campaign showed that clearly here at home. So folks are ready to move on to a better place, but the problem is trying to get the directions straight.

As I said in my last post, some people got discouraged and have already concluded, “You can’t get there from here.” I’m not one of those, but I do recognize that there are a lot of differences in opinion in just how socialism could be achieved.

Socialism from an Invading Army?

I received a note just yesterday from someone who said socialism won’t happen in the U.S. but will come in from elsewhere in the world. He didn’t say exactly how that was going to happen, but it’s possible that he thinks socialism will be established elsewhere and then they will send an invading army to bring it to America. When capitalists have their nervous fingers on nuclear weaponry, I kind of hope that’s not likely.

I think, at one time, a few people might have hoped that the Soviet Union would defeat the U.S. in war. I don’t think the Soviets ever thought that. I know I didn’t. I’m sure glad they didn’t try!

It’s not very hopeful, either, that Americans will come to admire some socialist society so much that they will want to emulate it. The best example I can think of is Cuba. Like any revolutionary society, they find themselves suffering mightily from the economic machinations of the capitalists who control the world’s economies. People might want socialism, but they darned sure don’t want to be poor if they don’t have to!

Socialism from elections?

I think a lot more Americans are hoping socialism will come about in an election.


Socialist Eugene Victor Debs received a million votes while in prison for opposing WWI. Communists and socialists received fairly decent vote totals in the 1930s. They won some races in New York. Socialist groupings still run candidates, and one of them actually won a minor race a couple years ago in, was it Washington state?

Candidate Bernie Sanders wasn’t afraid of the word “socialism” in his campaign, and his millions of followers aren’t afraid of it either. I think they, some of them, believe they are going to reform the Democratic Party to the extent that it will actually break with capitalism and lead us to a better world. Wouldn’t that be nice? Whether they win that battle or not, everybody wins when we achieve more democracy.

I don’t think they are going to reform the Democratic Party, but bless them for trying. I do think that their efforts might someday result in a workers party, and that would be a tremendous step forward for the American people. It wouldn’t be socialism, but our electoral choices would be a lot better than they are now.

Socialism from Guerrilla Warfare?

In my day, a lot of young people were so taken with Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution that they thought we should pick up rifles and head for the mountains here in the U.S.. You really have to admire the brave  Fidelistas. I admire a lot of people in history, but I don’t think that copying them amounts to much of a plan. As far as I know, all the Americans in the mountains with guns right now aren’t on our side.

At one point the Black Panthers had guns, but they weren’t trying to overthrow anything with them. They were trying to provide decent protection for African American communities suffering from certain policemen and other criminals. Even that was mostly unsuccessful.

Socialism Through Unionism?

The Industrial Workers of the World thought they were going to achieve socialism by on-the-job organizing. Once all workers, or a sufficient number of workers, were organized, they could just sit down until capital capitulated. I admire that. I’m 100% for more unions and stronger unions. Actually, it seems kind of reasonable, but the IWW’s thinking has the same flaw as the other simple theories I’ve already mentioned. What flaw?

We Aren’t In This Game by Ourselves

There are people on the other side. Enemies. Smart people. Powerful people. Secret people, so secret that we hardly ever hear about them except every now and then when somebody writes a great book like Dark Money. We might call them “the 1%,” or “capital,” but the simplest designation is “the bosses.”

If they didn’t exist, or if they were stupid, or if they were impotent, any old strategy to achieve socialism would work just fine. But they’re not.

If we want to achieve lasting progress, we have to get really serious.

–Gene Lantz

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