What is Socialism?

Over 150 years ago, a small pamphlet was published that opened a ghost is haunting Europe, the ghost of communism*. (*NOTE: This was before the rise of the Soviet Union and its bureaucracy. At that time, “communism” had a wholly different meaning; it meant a workers’ revolution and a worker-run society.) It was true; within months the whole continent was ablaze with revolution.

Since that time, capitalism has expanded to dominate the entire planet. Presently, capitalism and its overseers do not feel haunted by the ghost of workers’ revolution, however. On the contrary, the rich seem to be more powerful than ever. But in every country, those who don’t live off company profits and speculation, but have to work for their living, are having to work harder and harder to make ends meet. They are facing cuts in their earnings, their welfare, their rights and their very jobs. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the billionaires have been crowing that their system is the only one that works. And yet today too society is haunted. It is plagued by wars, racism, ethnic cleansing, and terrorism; by violence on an individual and a mass scale, by explosions that are ripping whole societies apart. Beyond that looms the threat of environmental disaster caused by global warming and the decline in energy resources.

In short, what we see is the threat of complete chaos in society – the society the capitalist class has organized and lead and has ruled over for centuries.

Capitalist wealth expands by leaps and bounds. Last year (2003) the total profits in the United States exceeded one trillion dollars for the first time ever. Yet every worker will tell you that alongside of this, everybody else is getting poorer. In the same pamphlet that talked about the ghost haunting Europe, Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels explained the process of the working class getting poorer. They wrote:

“The modern laborer… instead of rising with the progress of industry, sinks deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence of his own class. He becomes a pauper (i.e. beggar), and pauperism develops more rapidly than population and wealth…. (The bourgeoisie) is unfit to rule because it is incompetent to assure an existence to its slave within his slavery (as a slave to his/her job – a wage slave), because it cannot help letting him sink into such a state, that it has to feed him, instead of being fed by him. Society can no longer live under this bourgeoisie; in other words, its existence is no longer compatible with society.”

What could be more true today? Even in the wealthiest nation on earth, working class people are chained by economic ties to their job and their paycheck. Even the best paid of workers are little but wage slaves.

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Note: The above pamphlet has been laid out to be printed up back-to-back and folded over. Consequently, when read online it may be a bit confusing, but the reader just goes from one side to the other as he or she scrolls down.

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