“It is not a question of substituting one ruling clique for another, but of changing the very methods of administering the economy and guiding the culture of the country. Bureaucratic autocracy must give place to Soviet democracy. A restoration of the right of criticism, and a genuine freedom of elections, are necessary conditions for the further development of the country. This assumes a revival of freedom of Soviet parties, beginning with the party of Bolsheviks, and a resurrection of the trade unions. The bringing of democracy into industry means a radical revision of plans in the interests of the toilers. Free discussion of economic problems will decrease the overhead expense of bureaucratic mistakes and zigzags. Expensive playthings—palaces of the Soviets, new theaters, show-off subways—will be crowded out in favor of workers’ dwellings. ‘Bourgeois norms of distribution’ will be confined within the limits of strict necessity, and, in step with the growth of social wealth, will give way to socialist equality. Ranks will be immediately abolished. The tinsel of decorations will go into the melting pot. The youth will receive the opportunity to breathe freely, criticize, make mistakes, and grow up. Science and art will be freed of their chains. And, finally, foreign policy will return to the traditions of revolutionary internationalism.”
— Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed, 1936
In late October 1960 I watched John F. Kennedy in a motorcade at Kensington and Allegheny avenues (K&A) in Ward 3 of Northeast Philadelphia, waving to a huge crowd of Irish residents, overwhelmed to tears in some eyes, but nearly all overjoyed with the chance he would be the President. I was just 19 and though not old enough to vote (the age was 21 then), that excitement of a political revolution and government change was intense.
After the parade passed and the crowd left, I looked for something to do. My home was just a few blocks away and the “corner” boasted two large movie theaters, a Horn and Hardart, two “five and dimes”, and it was Monday afternoon, just after 4, too early for dinner, too late for lunch.
I spotted a pair of card tables with signs and pamphlets, but more important, an attractive girl to ply away some time. That began months of involvement with her and the Trotsky-inspired Socialist Workers Party, a group dedicated to changing our economic system to restrict capitalism and enhance worker control of the means of production. I learned much of the support of the group was from young, wealthy suburban youth, and many of the leaders spoke with a Russian grumble.
The party was under attack and membership at Girard avenue and Broad street headquarters was only a few dozen, but you did get membership cards – flimsy and mimeographed. We were recruited for marches in front of the White House, picketing George Lincoln Rockwell at the opening of Exodus, and learning to carry signs on windy days. My major interest was economic theory. The picketing and talks by Slavic speakers grew boring.
The solution was creation of a working group of me and four others, whose mission was to chart a constitution for the party, or just, perhaps, some manifesto to give direction to the party. We gathered once a month at a Meeting House on Arch St., but just before the fourth session, we learned that federal officials had informed the owners not to allow us to use the facility. I never met J. Edgar, but I think he knew my name.
After that, things went sour with the organization. I retained appreciation for efforts by trade unions and the evils of crony capitalism, but I did drift somewhat to the right. In 1964 I was going door to door, urging votes for Barry Goldwater, deploring Lyndon Johnson for leading us to more and more war.
While we might excuse an 18-year-old for economic theory confusion and not knowing a Romney from a Lenin, it is tragic that a former Senator and Secretary of State cannot answer the question from Chris Matthews – what’s the difference between a Democrat and a Socialist? To assist the first lady, someone send her the following in an email, not marked confidential:
Democrats are members of a political party that believes in government by the majority of the public, generally through referendum, not pure representation. In America the opposition political party is the Republican, although both parties today endorse representative, rather than democratic rule. We see this in the Electoral College for the President, and at one time Senators were appointed , not elected.
Socialism is not a political ideology, but an economic one. It is the opposite of capitalism and believes in public ownership or near complete public direction of major industries and natural resources. It also advocates increased worker representation in business decisions.
The economic system of Capitalism believes in absolute control by individuals of property – land, banks, roads, stadiums and factories. It also considers workers as capital assets to be maximized for increased profits.
Everyone has a nearly equal economic stake in a socialist nation. Only owners have a stake in a capitalist one. You can be a democratic socialist, democratic capitalist, or even a dictatorial capitalist or socialist. Most nations have a combination of economic systems and most citizens in those nations are smart enough to distinguish between politics and economics.
While Hillary seems ignorant of these basic facts, I wonder how many of the GOP candidates, who espouse our “free market political system”, should also go back to middle school to study the subject?