On Capitalism, Democracy, and the True Soul of Socialism

by Zach Herriges on April 11, 2018

“Capitalist democracy” is a phrase commonly used  in support of the all the “wonderful” achievements the United States has accomplished in the past 200 plus years. Rarely will anyone point out that capitalism and democracy are two ideas that are totally opposed from one another. What is closer to democracy is socialism. This is because capitalism is a system based on master and slave relationships, particularly wage slave. You are either a master, the owning class, the capitalist business owners, or you are a slave, wage earners, and labourers. You cannot be both; it is one or the other.

Some may claim that the idea of wage slavery is a rather harsh critique, however those who claim this often are unfamiliar with the miners who died while mining and exploited for cheap wages, because buying slaves was too costly to the owners of the mines. The mines often collapsed and killed them. It was much more efficient for the owning class that they rent their workers rather than to outright buy them.

Under capitalism, the structure of workplaces is completely top down. Those at the top have total control your life, when you punch in, you are under their complete obedience and servitude. We must also look at what is considered a wage. What are you giving to the owning class, those who hire you in exchange? You are selling hours of your life to survive. If you do not sell hours of your life, there are dire consequences. The consequences of poverty, or falling into a life of crime, because when there are no viable options left, people turn to crime to survive. Since wage labor is needed for survival, nothing in capitalism is voluntary, especially if there are monopolies. You either sell your labor to buy something, or your well-being is harmed by your choice. The free market is only free for those who have the most in their wallets, and for every one else it is complete and utter tyranny.

Socialism is a society based on total democracy. Not just “political” democracy where you elect a politician every 2-4 years, and a politician who doesn’t represent your interest and values, while at the same time you rent yourself to a master. Socialism means there are no masters, and the workers control the resources and the workplaces themselves. This can be referred to as industrial democracy. Since the main decisions are being made by those who work in the workplaces and the people who live where the resources are, there will be reasons to ship jobs overseas or harm workers. Under socialism, there will be no profit for a few people at the top, but the well-being and needs of all, even those at the very bottom. Under socialism, there will no longer be the reason for those to sell their labor, and therefore wage labor will be abolished, in a society of free association where everyone’s needs are met.

We have witnessed the failure of authoritarian socialism of the past. The promise that revolution and blood would change everything, only to allow an elite few party bureaucrats take power and total control over the lives of the masses. It was totalitarian regimes that were created, not direct control for the workers, and only a new class of elites in the party to rule over everyone. They promised that the State would wither away, eventually, when necessary. However, this is not how power works. They said that the State was necessary to oppress the ruling class and make them give up power, yet they used the State to crush all dissidents. A highly centralized power can be abused in the wrong hands; the 20th century proves that. The 21st century will be one of anti-authoritarian socialism.

I have said a lot of what socialism is, now I will say what it is not. Socialism is not equal income for everyone. Socialism is not state ownership of businesses. Socialism is not redistribution of income, but the elimination of the idea of income. Socialism is not a top-down system. Socialism can not be achieved by an elite few who promise to bring change. It can only be brought by a mass movement of workers and the oppressed. Socialism can only be democratic. If it is not democratic then there will not be socialism. Socialism can not be achieved through election. Socialism will only be achieved through revolution. It can not be achieved through the ballot box, as the ruling class will never allow it. If we try to achieve socialism through election, it will either be “social democratic” and reformist, and as we have seen in Europe or Chile, can quickly be undone by the ruling class shortly afterwards. Democratic socialism does not mean electoral parliamentary democracy or through current “capitalist democracy”. Democratic socialism should be based on workers’ councils and community councils, based on direct consensus democracy. It should be what is known as libertarian socialism, or anarchism.

We only have a short time on this planet and in this short time we should not waste it selling our life for a wage, working a job you hate or living in poverty. Where there is great wealth, there is great poverty. This is not utopian or well wishing. This  only denies a reality as long as we allow it to be. Once we accept that it is possible, it is time to stop dreaming and begin building a new world.

Zach Herriges is a 18 year old college freshman at the University of Wisconsin- Oshkosh, he is majoring in Political Science.  Born and raised in a small and conservative town, he became interested in radical politics at 15. His political views have been influenced by Noam Chomsky, Karl Marx, Howard Zinn, Alexander Berkman, Daniel Guerin,  Chris Hedges, Peter Kropotkin, Ward Churchill, Mikhail Bakunin, Rudolf Rocker, Murray Bookchin, Rosa Luxemburg, and Eugene V. Debs. He considers himself a libertarian socialist. He is currently studying different left wing radical political theories.

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