I agree, but I still think …
Updated: 12 April 2010, 17:48
Originally written: 13 January 2006
Previously published in the World Socialist Review, #13, 1997
Edited by the original author for Capitalism’s Gravediggers
“I agree with everything you said, but I still think ….”
This a relatively common end to a discussion of the socialist case, or parts thereof.
The non-socialist listened to the arguments from the socialist and found no error in them. They all make sense, but the final results of the socialist case, somehow, just do not make sense to the non-socialist. We can define those “final results” as
- Capitalism is a recent social organization.
- Socialism has never been tried.
- Capitalists contribute almost nothing to society.
- Capitalism must exploit the working class.
- Reformism does not work.
- socialism is a desirable, practical society.
- Humans are not anti-social.
- The working class should establish socialism.
Considerable time and effort, and a reasonably large body of literature suggest that the arguments are sound and do in fact logically lead to the results claimed. Socialists have been using a basically unchanged line of reasoning and argument for more than a century, and it has stood the test of time. It has not been refuted — contrary to the claims of those who wish to discredit socialism. This strongly suggests that the arguments put by socialists are indeed sound.
Non-socialists who find no fault with the arguments or facts as presented, still believe that the results are not “right.” How can we explain this?
Society today, in many subtle and not so subtle ways, discourages reason if it starts to delve into the social affairs of society. It is good to use reason and logic at work, to solve problems of production and generate profits, but apply reason and logic to how society works and somehow it does not make sense.
The social order, as it exists today, benefits from this situation.
Most people agree that those with power and wealth would like to maintain it. Is it at all unreasonable to expect that they, directly and indirectly, consciously and unconsciously, use their power and wealth to convince the rest of us that they deserve their power and wealth?
If the rest of us thought that those with power and wealth did not deserve it, and that the rest of us did, would we support them? Would we keep making them powerful and rich? Maybe we would if we thought there was no alternative. But what if we knew of an alternative?
One can understand, or one can believe. The two are quite different. Belief does not require understanding. One need only believe that something is, or something works in a certain way, and belief is complete. Understanding, is on the opposite end of the spectrum. To understand, one must question all of one’s beliefs. Each belief must be shown to be true, not just believed.
Understanding requires a scientific approach, using logic, experimentation, observation, history, and reason. Not all of these scientific mechanisms will always apply to everything we want to understand. A scientific approach does not mean that one must be able to set up controlled experiments to prove everything. In the realm of social affairs that is very often impossible. Understanding is simple once we, individually, start to recognize the myths and lies of capitalism as the myths and lies they are.
Relative to the “final results” of the socialist case, let us consider why some common beliefs benefit the rich and powerful capitalist class:
1. Capitalism is a recent social organization
Belief: Things have “always been like this.” The basic structure of society has never changed and there is no reason to expect that it could.
Why beneficial to the capitalist class: If things cannot change then those at the top will stay there and the rest of us can do nothing to affect that.
Fact: Capitalism is only a few hundred years old, and is not the same as feudalism, or chattel slavery, or primitive agriculture. Things have changed. Class division (a minority at the top, and the majority on the bottom) has been around for longer than capitalism, but not forever. Today the class division is between the capitalist class and the working class.
2. Socialism has never been tried
Belief: Russia, Cuba, China, Albania, Sweden, Canada, England are, or were, socialist.
Why beneficial to the capitalist class: Showing that “socialism in all its forms” has not worked, steers people away from socialism. It also grossly distorts the meaning of the word “socialism.”
Fact: Socialism has never been tried in any country. Most so-called socialists do not have a clue what socialism means, and instead promote reforms to capitalism (“alternate” ways of administering capitalism). None of these countries were wageless, moneyless, leaderless, and democratic — therefore they were not socialist.
3. Capitalists contribute almost nothing to society
Belief: Entrepreneurs and capitalists create wealth.
Why beneficial to the capitalist class: The capitalist is seen as a necessary part of production and without capitalists society could not function.
Fact: Capitalists do not create wealth, they simply appropriate the wealth created by their employees. Production took place long before there was a single capitalist, and will continue after the working class eliminates capitalism.
4. Capitalism must exploit the working class
Belief: People get out of society what they put into it.
Why beneficial to the capitalist class: Society appears to be “just,” nobody is exploited, those who work hard benefit, and those who are lazy do not. Capitalism does not take advantage of the working class. Capitalism is not the problem, the problems, whatever they are, lie elsewhere.
Fact: Profit is derived solely from working class labour. The working class produces the wealth, but does not own it. Nor does the working class get paid the full value of what it produces. The surplus goes to the capitalist class.
5. Reformism does not work
Belief: Things are getting better.
Why beneficial to the capitalist class: As long as people believe that society is continually improving, they are not likely to see a need to change the structure of society.
Fact: Wars continue. To the best of our knowledge, there has not been a day in over a century during which there was not a war. Poverty continues. Even the Left has stopped talking about ending poverty. Now they are content to work to try to make poverty less awful. Several hundred years of reforms, supposedly to solve the problems, have not even come close.
6. Socialism is a desirable, practical society
Belief: It sounds OK, but it is impractical, or it will be like Russia.
Why beneficial to the capitalist class: If the only possible alternative to capitalism is seen as impossible, or a lie (like Russia), who would work for it? Nobody. The new society is killed in the womb.
Fact: Socialism is completely practical. It cannot be imposed from above (as the Bolsheviks were supposedly doing), but when the vast majority of the world’s population chooses to cooperate, it cannot fail. An end to poverty and war, and real democracy in production is clearly desirable.
7. Humans are not lazy, vicious creatures
Belief: People are naturally anti-social.
Why beneficial to the capitalist class: If most people were naturally anti-social, socialism would obviously be impossible. Further, if most people were anti-social, it would support and excuse the use of daily repression against people.
Fact: Human beings are social creatures by nature. They socialized by their very nature, and built (long before class division began) societies of cooperation. A society of more than 5 billion people, living in close quarters, did not come to be because its members have no desire to work and want to hurt each other.
8. The working class should establish socialism
Belief: Socialism is not possible.
Why beneficial to the capitalist class: If socialism is not possible, people will not work to make it happen, and the capitalist class will remain at the top of capitalist society.
Fact: The only thing standing in the way of creating a socialist world is the lack of socialists. It is possible, according to non-socialists who should know, to produce enough goods and services, without destroying the environment, to satisfy everyone’s needs. The working class has a choice. It can live under capitalism, or it can create and live in a desirable society: socialism.
It is not the socialist case which does not make sense. Brainwashed by capitalism from birth, people find it difficult to understand when reason confronts their beliefs.
As Marx and Engels wrote, “the ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class.”
You can believe that you should be ruled, or you can understand that as a conscious class we can eliminate rulers, forever.