Don’t confuse socialist with Soviet
To the editor:
I would like to respond to Tony Portello’s May 2 letter. But before I do I must say my family has asked me to tone down my rhetoric for their sake, and I will try to oblige them.
First, anyone who believes the founding fathers intended to create a government for and by the people is tragically mistaken. Initially only propertied, white men were allowed to vote. The leaders of the American Revolution were quite explicit about their intentions. James Madison said the role of government was to “to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.” John Jay argued “those who own a country ought to govern it.” We need to stop idolizing the founding fathers. They were, frankly, racist, woman-hating class supremacists, by which I mean they would have despised the overwhelming majority of the people reading this newspaper.
Second, the Stalinist countries that Portello references had as little to do with socialism as those who murder abortion doctors and protest military funerals have to do with the teachings of Jesus Christ. Socialism means public ownership and control of the economy. The public simply can’t own and control the economy without democracy. So to call any undemocratic country “socialist” is to strip the word of all meaning. Further, I’d argue that giving up now on the project of socialism, or economic democracy, would be akin to France giving up on the project of representative government, or political democracy, after its first attempt descended into Bonapartism.
Third, to retread ground I covered in my original letter, I would ask Portello whether he received public education. Perhaps through luck, as I was, he was born into the small percentage of families capable of affording private schooling. Whatever the case may be, chances are most people he knows would have very limited, if any, access to schooling without public education. What are public schools if not a touch of socialism in action? Perhaps Portello is unaware, but free education for all children was a central demand put forward in “The Communist Manifesto.”
Fourth, I want to clarify why I recommended the Trotskyist website I did. I am not a Trotskyist. I consider myself a non-sectarian socialist. While I believe Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky were sincere and committed revolutionaries, I think the authoritarian policies they put into place, which were more understandable given the context of the Russian Civil War, ultimately allowed for the rise of Joseph Stalin. I would like the modern, revolutionary left to abandon any remaining qualified allegiance it may still harbor toward pre-Stalinist Russia, as this allegiance engenders useless historical infighting and, more importantly, furthers the false association by the masses between socialism and the Soviet Union. I would prefer United States socialists look to our own revolutionary tradition, as exemplified by people like Eugene Debs, for inspiration. But as it currently stands, socialistworker.org is the best one-stop-shop for class-conscious news and analysis I know, and thus my link to the site.