Why I am a Socialist

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I am a socialist because I simply refuse to accept that the richest country on earth “can not afford to” provide housing for all, employment for all, guarantee a means of subsistence to all who work, provide universal healthcare, and not exploit the third world. Somehow, it is “unethical” to seize the means of producing wealth in our society, a society that has expropriated an amount of wealth equal to what the bottom half of humanity (3.5 billion people) owns, into the hands of just 5 people, and does not give it the people who produced the wealth in the first place (who themselves live in extreme poverty). Yet somehow it is “ethical” to allow 100 million people die preventable deaths from hunger, poverty, treatable diseases and lack of access to essential (yet abundant) resources every 5.5 years, deaths by the way, that are directly attributable to capitalism. Somehow it is “ethical” to rob Africa, India, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America of their resources and labor for U.S. corporations and economic interests. But it is “unethical” when one of those nations stands up for their people, against the foreign and domestic capitalists who de facto own that country’s political system, but it is “ethical” when that country is attacked mercilessly by the United States and CIA, overthrown and replaced by a government subservient to US imperialism.

I am a socialist because history demonstrates that every economic system and country in the past (primitive communism, slavery, feudalism, and yes, capitalism too) has a beginning, a middle and an end, that going from one to the other often fails at first, and is often rigidly authoritarian and disastrous before eventually it becomes the dominant system in a less extreme form. And if you think that capitalism and the American empire are somehow exceptions to the laws of history then I think it is you who are on the wrong side of history.

I am a socialist because we live in a world where there are 5 empty homes for every homeless person, because there are billionaires with 20 yachts at the same time as there are millions of children without shoes, food, or shelter. I am a socialist because capitalism has outlived its historical necessity, because private property (meaning the private, dictatorial ownership and control of industry and the entitlement to what others produce by a small minority) is fundamentally immoral and wrong. I am a socialist because the working class, the class that makes up 95% of our population and produces ALL the wealth in our society, is robbed of the fruits of their labor by the capitalist class that does no work of its own, but lives on the labor of others.

I am a socialist because capitalism has proven itself to be wholly incapable of addressing not only these issues, but also the impending climate crisis that will undoubtedly be the end of humanity as we know it if we allow it to continue. I am a socialist because I believe in democracy and I recognize the fact that “democracy” cannot exist when money is allowed in politics, and that our current political system and two parties are wholly owned by corporate interests. I am a socialist because I believe a better world is possible, because I believe we can scientifically and democratically plan the economy to work for the many and not the few.

I am a socialist because I was raised a Christian, and because I was always taught by my parents to have empathy and compassion for the poor and oppressed, for the less fortunate. To be a socialist is to look at the world and say that we as a species can do better than this. It is to look at vast amounts of wealth amongst vast amounts of poverty and to say that this is fundamentally wrong. It is to recognize, as Kropotkin put it, that “everywhere you will find that the wealth of the wealthy springs from the poverty of the poor”. It is to recognize, as Marx put it, that, “The workers have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win!” It is to recognize that capitalism is fundamentally based on exploitation and theft. It is to recognize that the “ethics” of capitalism are opposed to the ethical and moral principles of every single major religion, that the current socioeconomic system we live under is fundamentally immoral. In a word, it is to care about the poor and oppressed.

I am a socialist because I recognize that the early socialist revolutions happened in the least ideal countries, at the least ideal times. I recognize that Marx himself thought that socialism could only succeed in the most advanced capitalist countries first, at the end of capitalist development. I take a favorable view of the Russian Revolution, of the genuine democratic gains by the early Bolsheviks. But I recognize the predicament that these early socialist states faced, and if I was alive at the time, even as a socialist, I’d believe they would likely have failed entirely or degenerated. I am a socialist because I recognize the difference between socialism and Stalinism, between the totalitarian pursuit of an economic system and the system itself. I am a socialist because I can recognize that, as Rosa Luxemburg said, “democracy is indispensable to socialism and socialism is indispensable to democracy”. I am a socialist because our society puts profits before people, and not people before profits.

That, in a nutshell, is why I am a socialist.

Pope Francis on Christianity and Communism, and my views as a Christian and a Communist

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Pope Francis himself said:
 
“I can only say that the communists have stolen our flag. The flag of the poor is Christian. Poverty is at the centre of the Gospel… Communists say that all this is communism. Sure, 20 centuries later. So when they speak, one can say to them: ‘but then you are Christian'”
 
“The option for the poor (liberation theology) comes from the first centuries of Christianity. It’s the Gospel itself. If you were to read one of the sermons of the first fathers of the Church, from the second or third centuries, about how you should treat the poor, you’d say it was Maoist or Trotskyist.”
 
“It it has been said many times and my response has always been that, if anything, it is the communists who think like Christians. Christ spoke of a society where the poor, the weak and the marginalized have the right to decide. Not demagogues, not Barabbas, but the people, the poor, whether they have faith in a transcendent God or not. It is they who must help to achieve equality and freedom”
 
I am extremely critical of the Catholic church as an organization. I do not approve of the Catholic church or some of the popes more reactionary views. I do however, feel that he is right about this. I have the unique experience of being both a Christian and a communist. They do not contradict one another, on the contrary, my Christianity and my communism nurture and define each other. It is because I am a Christian that I have become a communist. It is the only view, in my mind, that is in sync with the message espoused by Christ.
 
The flag of true Christianity is not an American flag with a thin blue line and an arrow through an LGBT+ symbol. No, the flag of true Christianity is a red flag with a cross and a sickle.

A criticism of the Stalinist “one-party state”. If the working class is not free to oppose it, then the working class is not truly in power!

“If the sovereign is free to oppose them and does not do so, we must take universal silence as evidence of popular consent” -Rousseau, The Social Contact p. 36

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This quote by Rousseau alone makes the claim of Stalin that the one party state is necessary for the dictatorship of the proletariat fall apart. As I have stated many times before, you will not find a single mention of a one-party state in the writings of Marx, Engels or Lenin. In a Stalinist state the sole legal political party is said to represent “the working class”, even coalition parties are banned from challenging the rule of the communist party. But in fact the working class cannot legally object to the despotism of this monolithic party, even when it betrays its own premises, even when it becomes entangled in a monstrous bureaucracy, comes under the domination of a small clique, becomes extremely unpopular, becomes revisionist, or capitalist.

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There are many examples of this that prove my point, but Poland in my view is one of the best examples. In Poland the communist party remained the sole legal party until 1989 when the government was forced to capitulate to the Solidarity protest movement (a movement by the working class, mind you). When Solidarity was on the ballot, the communists lost 100% of the vote, and solidarity won 100% of the seats. Not 60%, not 90%, but 100%. The party had long before become despotic, tyrannical against the working class, revisionist, and the defining feature of the Polish degenerated workers state. It ceased to represent the will of the working class, but because of its Stalinist heritage, the working class could not object to its rule or found its own party in opposition. Then of course there is the economic consequences of building socialism in one country, but I will refrain from getting into that here.

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If the people are NOT free to oppose the ruling state apparatus, universal silence means neither universal consent OR opposition. It is only when the people ARE free to oppose the ruling party that universal consent can be gauged.

But would the working class in those countries have supported a communist government naturally? Certainly in many. But in Eastern Europe especially, the working class likely would have ended up supporting a social democratic party, and not an expressly communist one. This in particular contributed to furthering the development of Stalinism in the 20th century. In Asia however, the overwhelming majority of workers and peasants supported Ho Chi Minh, Mao, Kim Il Sung, etc. The U.S. president at the time even admitted that he was suppressing democratic elections in Vietnam because Ho Chi Minh would receive over 80% of the vote. The important thing is not wether the working class initially supported the communist party, but if it was free to oppose it under the dictatorship of the proletariat. Because it was not, all but 5 Stalinist states collapsed in the period of 1989-1991.

The experience of Stalinism necessarily should lead to a complete abandonment of a one-party dictatorship, and the favorability of a multi-party system instead, under the dictatorship of the proletariat (the 99%). Democratic rule of the working class can only be maintained insofar as there is genuine democracy among the working class. And after a revolutionary period, the continued despotism of a single monolithic, unchallengeable political party is the anti-thesis of workers democracy. As Rosa Luxemburg said, “democracy is indispensable to socialism and socialism is indispensable to democracy”. And as Rosa also said, “freedom is always the freedom of dissent”.

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How can the working class be in control of a country when the individual members of the working class are not free to voice their opposition? How can they be in control if they are not free to run against the ruling bureaucracy, speak freely, believe what they wish, follow whatever religion they prefer or none at all, to write freely and to be free to act in accordance with their conscience? If the individual members of the working class is not free to do these things after a revolutionary period, then it is not truly in control of the state, and it is not a genuine dictatorship of the proletariat.

Freedom in the time of Marx and Lenin was exclusively bourgeois freedom, that is, freedom for the bourgeoisie to the exclusion of the proletariat. However times have changed. Even if many freedoms are limited and bourgeois in nature, (such as freedom of the press and travel which requires significant wealth), we are in many ways free. We are free in these ways because of the life and death struggle of leftists in the 20th century. Of course I’m not a moron, full freedom can only exist in a classless society, but the gains made in regards to individual liberty are not merely characters of bourgeois ideology, they are real. But even with this, as Žižek says, “We feel free because we lack the language to really articulate our unfreedom”

A true dictatorship of the proletariat represents an advance in human society, not a retreat. The republic laid by a socialist revolution should cause the working class to be more free, even if not completely free, than it is in modern bourgeois society.

But what of revolution? Does revolution not strip away freedom from a portion of society for a time? Certainly, as Engels himself said,

“A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon — authoritarian means, if such there be at all; and if the victorious party does not want to have fought in vain, it must maintain this rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionists. Would the Paris Commune have lasted a single day if it had not made use of this authority of the armed people against the bourgeois? Should we not, on the contrary, reproach it for not having used it freely enough?”

But what distinguishes a revolution from the republic which the revolution founds? For this I prefer to quote Robespierre,

“The aim of constitutional government is to preserve the Republic; that of revolutionary government is to lay its foundation.”

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In this regard we should think of a revolution as a two staged event. First it destroys the old class rule and state apparatus of the old society. It does this in ways aforementioned by Engels. During this period, historically there can be no freedom of dissent. In this regard my beliefs are the most radical. “Do you want a revolution without a revolution?” A social revolution, at least in its initial stages, can only be a true rupture in the social order, and not merely a formal change of political power. It is the only way to shorten the death agony of capitalism and the birth pains of the new social order.

But afterwards what is to be done? A socialist republic is born from the ashes of the old society. Can it be anything less than an advance forward for the working class? For freedom and democracy of the working people? No! It cannot. By simply dismissing formal liberty as ‘bourgeois’ you are taking a massive step back in human development. Stalinism changed the nature of the initial Red Terror to maintain it, even when it was formally done away with after the civil war. Formally he declared in the 1936 ‘Stalin Constitution’ your typical freedoms that are found in any modern constitution. But history tells us that this was not truly implemented in Soviet society. In Stalin’s Russia, as Slavoj Žižek pointed out on several occasions, you could not publicly criticize ‘Comrade Stalin’ or his policies. If you did, you would not be seen the next day. But here is the strange part, if you pointed out this contradiction publicly (that the constitution guarantees you the right to do so but doing so will get you shot) and claimed that it existed, you would not be seen later that night! Žižek claims that this is how ideology functions, not as the official rules of a society, but as the social, unwritten rules.

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But doesn’t the dictatorship of the proletariat require that he overthrown bourgeois class is held down by the state power? Certainly. What was the nature of democracy in our country when it was founded? It was purely bourgeois. Only white, male, property owners could vote or participate in the democratic process. This was maintained by the state power. Under the dictatorship of the proletariat, only the working class (the 99%) has the right to vote or participate in the democratic process. It is the dictatorship of the formerly exploited over the former exploiters. It is not the dictatorship of a small bureaucracy over proletarian and bourgeoisie alike. After a time, with the disillusion of social classes in a given society, democracy is given back to all members of society as a whole. This is not to say, however, that the dictatorship of the proletariat is done away with! On the contrary, in comparison with other capitalist states it remains a militant dictatorship of the proletariat, but merely one in a higher stage of development. Khrushchev’s claim of an ‘all people’s state’ is inherently reactionary, in this I agree with the anti-revisionists.

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So to summarize, what are my views on this? The one-party state is purely a vestige of Stalinism. To claim it is necessary is to ignore 100 years of Marxist history. The ideal dictatorship of the proletariat is one in which the proletariat truly, and not merely formally, holds all state power. This means that individual workers are free to create or join parties (so long as they are not capitalist or fascist) as they wish, and are free to criticize the government, speak what they wish, follow any or no religion, protest, write, and, in a word, think what they wish. The ideal system is a multi-party state. Individual liberties have been won, even in a limited, bourgeois form, by radical leftists in the last 100 years and should not be done away with under the dictatorship of the proletariat. If anything they should be expanded. A revolution is a most authoritarian rupture which brings about this transformation. The purpose of the revolutionary government is to lay the foundation of the socialist republic, and the nature of the revolutionary government and the republic it seeks to lay have a different character in actuality, and not mere formality. The dictatorship of the proletariat holds down the former oppressor class and forbids it to participate in the democratic process for a certain time, and afterwards, even after this distinction is done away with, it still remains the dictatorship of the proletariat because the state still exists, and international capital still exists in some countries.

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Lenin On Imperialism, On Exploitation In Our Country and Abroad

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“[There is] the need constantly to explain and expose among the broadest working masses of all countries, and particularly of the backward countries, the deception systematically practiced by the imperialist powers, which, under the guise of politically independent states, set up states that are wholly dependent upon them economically, financially and militarily.”
 
– Vladimir Lenin
 
(V.I. Lenin, Works, vol. 31, p. 150, Eng. ed.)
 
That is one of the ways imperialist countries like the United States dominate the world and constantly stay on top. The wealth of our national bourgeoisie is the source of the poverty of the “underdeveloped” or, in reality, the over-exploited, poorer nations of the world. This seems to be a fact that everyone knows, but is “too depressing” to be looked at or dealt with.
 
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The device you are reading this on was assembled by extremely poor factory workers making just dollars per week, whose working conditions are comparable to slavery. Their factories have nets to prevent them from committing suicide because there is no end to their exploitation. The raw materials of your device were probably mined by child laborers in the Congo, among other desolate places. Your clothing was made in sweatshops by people who work 16 hours a day for mere pennies. You say that capitalism is best demonstrated by a walk in an American shopping mall. I say that capitalism is best demonstrated by going to where the raw materials used to produce your commodities first come from, where they are assembled, how they come to you, and how you get them. The end of the line is like a polished diamond, its  beginning is like brimstone from hell.
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Yet despite these desolate conditions, if you receive a wage or a salary in this country, in America, then you too are being exploited. You produce 50$ an hour, the people on the top “give you” 15$ an hour back, and pocket the 35$, or the 20$ that is leftover after taxes and other necessary expenditures needed to maintain the business for themselves. You work 50 hours a week and still live in poverty? Can’t afford rent or to feed your kids? You’re told “tough shit, pull yourself up by your bootstraps”. You need food assistance? You’re taught to call people on food stamps “lazy fucks” and “welfare queens”. Well, the real welfare queens are the bourgeoisie, the capitalist class, whose wealth is the source of the poverty of the poor. The real welfare queens are those capitalists who do no productive work of their own, and live off of the life blood of those who do- the working class.
 
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When Karl Marx said “Workers of all countries, Unite!” he didn’t mean merely that the end goal was better wages, or social democratic reforms. He meant that the working class should unite to seize the means of production, the means of creating wealth in our society, and bring them under common ownership and democratic control. He meant that workers are entitled to all that they produce, and those who do no work are not entitled to anything- until society is productive enough to make constant toiling obsolete. You want to hate those who do no work and still eat? Don’t hate the poor, who require food stamps and government assistance, hate up. If you have to hate, hate the people who pocket half of what the super poor produce in this country and take the rest for themselves, leaving them in poverty and hunger. Hate the people who create the material conditions that cause people to require food stamps. You’re being taught to hate down and its disgusting.
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Cincinnati Protestors Occupy Senator Portman’s Office Overnight In Protest of Trumpcare!

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A group of concerned citizens of Cincinnati gathered today inside and outside of Ohio Senator Rob Portman’s office in a sit-in protest of the proposed Trumpcare bill. If passed, the bill would deprive an additional 23 million people from access to health insurance, and undoubtedly cost countless innocent lives. It is a well known fact that not having access to insurance kills. Not providing healthcare to all in a society with 10 times the needed potential to do so is in and of itself a crime against humanity and we stand in full solidarity with the protestors.

The protest is a peaceful act of civil disobedience to convince Rob Portman to vote against the bill. The sit-in began earlier today at 4PM and those who were not willing or able to risk arrest left earlier today. The remaining protestors managed to gain access to the Senator’s office on the 33rd floor and have been there ever since, even though the office is officially closed. The sit-in is expected to last well through the night. The building owner has forbidden anyone from delivering food or other necessities.

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Members of Cincinnati Socialist Alternative, Our Revolution, United We Stand, Democratic Socialists of America, ADAPT, Democracy Spring, concerned citizens, and others have courageously gathered today in defense of human rights. This is a historic moment for Cincinnati. When human rights are under attack what do we do? Stand Up! Fight Back!

☭ 100 YEARS AGO ☭: On The Great October Revolution

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When speaking of the great October Revolution, I tend to draw a historical parallel that puts the revolution in historical context. Karl Marx and the early Vladimir Lenin believed, in accordance with the findings of Marx’s thorough scientific investigation of the capitalist system, that the first socialist revolutions would inevitably occur in the most advanced capitalist countries, at the end of capitalist development. The young Lenin believed that the first socialist revolution wouldn’t even happen in his lifetime. In 1917 the exact opposite happened due to both the internal peculiarities of early Russian development and the external imperialist war (World War 1). The first socialist revolution took place in one of the most backward country on earth, in a country that just had a long awaited bourgeois-democratic (capitalist) revolution.

For many reasons, it must be said that the Bolshevik experiment was doomed from the start, or at the very lest had a very slim chance of succeeding. Had it taken place 1 or 2 centuries later, in an advanced capitalist country, the prospects of success would have been 10:1 and not 1:10. I like to say when referring to October that it was as if the French or American revolutions took place in ~1570 and not ~1770. Without the enlightenment, without the birth pains of the industrial revolution, without the death agony of feudalism and the crowning of the head of capitalism, the prospects of a successful French or American Revolution would have been extremely grim. But even this is an understatement. The French and American revolutions took place in extremely advanced nations for their time, not in the most backward, as did October. It would suffice to say that October was as if the French revolution took place in India or China in the 1570’s. Not only were the prerequisites for capitalism non-existent, but the prerequisites for even basic bourgeois (and especially not proletarian) democracy as well.

Despite its failure, and later Stalinist degeneration that is in my view comparable to a Soviet Thermidor, it marked something that the world had hitherto not seen. In the past every democratic system was at once the democracy of a small property owning minority (Greek slave owners or American and European white, male capitalists and land-owners) and a class dictatorship over everyone else. Even today, as bourgeois democracy has evolved to edit out the ‘white’ and ‘male’ attributes of the ruling class, the government still remains under the firm iron grip of the capitalist class. For instance, in the United States, the House of Representatives and Senate are so wealthy that less than 10% of elected representatives are in the bottom 80% income bracket. Virtually all elected officials of any significance in both parties in out country are preselected and funded by capitalist corporations via Super-PACS, etc. to maintain and reinforce the capitalist order. ‘The people’ do not elect them, they are elected and chosen by the bourgeoisie, which owns the electoral process, the media, the means of producing wealth, etc.

This brings us back to Lenin’s time tested and true statement about bourgeois democracy, which he recognized as a historic advance beyond the barbarity of medievalism, “Even in the most democratic and freest republics, as long as capital rules the land and remains private property, the government will always be in the hands of a small minority, nine-tenths of which consist of capitalists, or rich men”. What the October revolution represented was the turning of this system on its head. The ‘democracy’ that was the de facto dictatorship of the 1% property owing class over the 99% property-less proletarians and peasantry was replaced with the genuine democracy of the 99%, of the proletarians and peasantry, and the class dictatorship over the former oppressors and exploiters, over the 1%.

It represented for the first time in human history, a genuinely democratic system that represented the interests of the overwhelming majority of society, and not the interests of the property owning ruling class, which owned the means of producing wealth in a particular epoch. Lenin was undeniably on the right side of history, even if he was admittedly in the wrong time, and in the wrong place. I will leave the final verdict, of course, to history. But I have zero doubt in my mind that history will absolve the Bolsheviks of any wrong doing on their part. The ends of genuine Bolshevism, and not Stalinism, undoubtedly justify the means.

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“Does not caring about politics make me a bad person?” No, it does not.

A friend asked me “does not caring about politics make me a bad person, in your opinion?” I said no, for several reasons.

First let us look at Rousseau, in the ‘Social Contract’:
“If the sovereign (meaning the people) is free to oppose them and does not do so, we must take universal silence as evidence of popular consent”

But this only applies insofar as we take a bourgeois republic seriously, as the will of the people and not as the will of the bourgeoisie. Which any serious look at politics in the U.S. or Europe shows that these republics represent the will of the 1%, to put this in terms that most people can understand.

Plato once said that “The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men”. But we are still ignoring one of the key facets of modern politics: it is intentionally alienating.

Lenin once said in ‘The State and Revolution’ that “A democratic republic is the best possible political shell for capitalism, and, therefore, once capital has gained possession of this very best shell (through the Palchinskys, Chernovs, Tseretelis and Co.), it establishes its power so securely, so firmly, that no change of persons, institutions or parties in the bourgeois-­democratic republic can shake it.”

Naturally it follows from this that the proletariat is alienated from politics. Why? Because as Lenin said, the bourgeoisie establishes its power so securely, so firmly, that no change of persons, institutions or parties in the bourgeois-­democratic republic can shake it.

So why should anyone be interested in whether Clinton or Trump is elected? The fundamentally exploitative social system we live under will not change, the bombs will not stop falling from the skies, the proletariat will gain no meaningful concessions from the ruling class. Politics is designed to be this way. What difference will it make to someone working 50 hours a week and still living in poverty? Or someone who is unemployed? Why should they vote for a party that won’t even give the working class 15$ an hour?