By Houston Communist Party

The recent upsurge in interest in socialism and communism prompted us to write this article as a clarification of how we would envision a socialist society in the U.S A recent Rasmussen poll indicated that 11% of U.S. voters believe that communism is morally superior to capitalism. This means that in spite of the campaign of misinformation that has been ongoing since the early part of the 20th century, 34 million people in this country believe that communism is morally superior to capitalism.

This paper is largely based on how the classic works of Marxism-Leninism envision a socialist society. Of course, the classic works also maintain that socialism would be developed differently in various sovereign nations according to democratic struggles and the historical context of the various societies in which socialism develops.

Let us examine what these key terms mean for working people and how they might be worked out in a developing socialist society.

Private property

Many people in the U.S. do not know the meaning of socialism and have little understanding about it, although the label “socialist” is often bandied about these days. Most people misunderstand concepts like social-ownership simply because they do not know what Marx and Lenin meant when they talked about “Private Property.”

Private property, when referred to by communists, only refers to private ownership of industry or the means of production; the things you own personally are not private property in this sense. Marx and Lenin would just call them personal belongings. Socialist economic systems seek to end private property by making the means of production collectively owned and democratically operated by the workers; the state protects the workers’ ownership of the means of production. This means real democracy in the workplace.

In a socialist system, the state would not come and take your things; that’s nonsense! The mainstream media (e.g. Fox News) would have you believe that socialists and communists will take your fingernails and toenails. Nothing could be further from the truth. Lenin wrote that if people try to accumulate and hoard publicly-owned property for their own private gain, then they will have all their personal belongings confiscated and will be sent to prison. But he never says anything about personal belongings in any other sense. The only ideology on the left in which theorists advocate the abolition of all personal belongings are the ultra-left deviations such as anarchism and Maoism. So it is very important to be precise when speaking about private property.

It is important to remember that the capitalist system leads the way in confiscation of working people’s property. The bottom 60% of households in this country owns only 4% of the nation’s wealth. The top 1% owns 37% of all the capital and the top 10% owns 90% of all capital. So, it is important to consider who is seizing what.

Rights of the capitalists

The bourgeoisie (the current ultra-wealthy, ruling class in capitalist countries that own all of the means of production, but do none of the work) will have their rights curtailed. The word “freedom” in capitalist countries has generally been used to refer to the rights of the capitalist to oppress, and exploit the workers in order to maximize profits. Socialist countries who do not extend the freedom to capitalists to exploit workers are deemed to be “not free” by the capitalists and their cheerleaders, which historically has included hypocritical politicians and other community leaders such as right wing clergy, professors and teachers. Some union leaders have also fallen into this trap. Capitalists in a socialist society would be forced to follow the will of the people and maintain dignity and respect in the workplace and would accrue severe penalties for discriminatory, oppressive and exploitative workplace practices.

In a socialist system, the workers would become the ruling class and as such would be fully compensated for their labor which is the basis of all wealth. Profits for the capitalists would be severely curtailed and eventually phased out. When capitalists and their cheerleaders smear socialists by branding them “totalitarian, and undemocratic”, we have to ask with whose democratic rights are they concerned. The answer is obvious, they are concerned about the freedom of capitalists to steal from their workers and amass great fortunes based on the labor of people other than themselves.

Universal health care, socialism vs. reformism

Socialism is not defined by reforms. For example, universal health care is not a defining feature of socialism. Universal health care is one of the many goals of a developing socialist society and it would represent an incremental improvement in any system, capitalist or socialist, since it would make health care accessible to all peoples. However, some capitalist systems have achieved universal health care, but are not socialist economies.
A socialist society would provide health care based on need, not ability to pay. Lenin argued that it is necessary that health care delivery increase in socialist systems to meet the public demand for health services. Hospitals and clinics would be built and organized based on the concrete needs of the community rather than consideration of the “profit margin.”

What does socialism do?

What is the purpose of socialism? To raise the material (i.e. concrete) standard of living of the workers, end the exploitation of one person by another, end all forms of oppression, end racism and sexism, end patriarchy and white-supremacy, end the violence of imperialist warfare, and eventually reach the goal of communism, a society without the struggle between the classes.

How do you identify a socialist country? By asking a very simple question: who owns the means of production and who controls the state? If the answer is the workers, then it is a socialist country. If it is the bourgeoisie, it is a capitalist country (no matter how liberal or “social-democratic” it is). In socialist countries, commodity production for private profit ends; production is no longer designed for the sake of the market, but rather determined by the actual needs of the people.

How does socialism happen?

Socialism must go through many stages. Unfortunately, it is difficult to specify these stages. As Marx pointed out, these stages are necessarily relative to the individual societies that develop socialism. One of the important tasks of communists is to figure out what these stages are in their societies and to educate the workers accordingly. Important questions like “what stage of socialism are we in?” should have a definite answer based on the existing material conditions and historical developments of the community in which they develop.

In the first stages of socialism, the goal is to raise the material standard of living for the working people. That means raising wages and benefits for workers. Socialist societies would provide everyone an opportunity to get an education and this will be most important for the workers. The purpose of education in a capitalist society is to train workers both for manual and intellectual labor. In capitalist countries, worker’s exposure to and preparation for appreciation of the arts and cultures of the world is very limited. A socialist education would give workers the capacity to fully enjoy and appreciate literature, art and music and would prepare them to think critically and understand scientific concepts. In a socialist system, workers would be trained to develop their own art as an expression of their own consciousness of the environment in which they live.

What would communism look like?

As the stages of socialism progress, the workers will eventually attain a comfortable standard of living and will have received a thorough education. All workers will have access both to public libraries and their own books, all of the wisdom of the ages being available to them, just because they are human beings and thus deserve all of the fruits of humanity.

Only when the final goals of socialism are met and a communist society is established will people truly be free; for in capitalist countries, most of the things that people call freedoms are really false freedoms. The freedom to buy one commodity over another is not true freedom. The freedom to choose McDonald’s over Burger King is not freedom. Neither the workers of McDonald’s nor Burger King have any say so over how these corporations are run. The community does not participate in the decisions made about how these companies produce their food. The decisions are made based on the owner’s best guess as to what product will maximize their profits.

There is no such thing as “economic freedom” in a society based on class exploitation. Only in a communist society, where the working class is no longer prevented from living the good life based on their lack of money, will there truly be freedom for all.

Who can make this happen?

Only the working class can liberate itself and claim its historic role. Only the working class can break the chains of capitalism and pave the bright path to true freedom. This can only be done by organizing and unifying the working people of this nation and the world. When working people unite and fight for their rights, it will be possible for the working class to become the ruling class. This is what we are about. This is the side that communists have fought for historically. We want a truly egalitarian and democratic society by the workers, of the workers and for the workers.