David Stanowski’s recent column reminds us that some libertarians can be awfully divorced from reality (“The definition of true socialism,” The Daily News, Oct. 21). His description of public schools and government programs as socialist demonstrates an important conceptual confusion and leads to the bizarre claim that Republicans, Democrats and elites around the world support socialism.
It’s unfortunate that Stanowski doesn’t recognize that public schools are vital educational institutions and that government programs have reduced hunger, disease and discrimination.
In ignoring the need for government to do what individuals cannot do for themselves, he reveals a striking disregard for the welfare of individuals and the common good.
Stanowski’s perspective on history is similarly impoverished. History is replete with rulers who “lusted after absolute power” but not “from the beginning of time.” Humans lived in hunting and gathering groups without economic surpluses, private property, classes or rulers for about 200,000 years.
Exploitation, class struggle, and political oppression arose with the development of agriculture, the generation of surplus wealth and private control of that wealth.
Stanowski doesn’t understand that governments from monarchies to republics have generally evolved to protect various forms of class exploitation.
And his assertion that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’s Communist Manifesto presented “a vision of bureaucratic authoritarian control” or “totalitarianism” confirms that he hasn’t read or understood this book.
Marx and Engels’s critique of capitalism and advocacy of workers’ revolutions were radically democratic. They condemned capitalism because its exploitation of wage labor, immiseration, alienation and economic crises gravely harm most of the population.
They viewed the workers’ struggle to overthrow capitalism as a “movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority.”
For Marx and Engels, “the first step in the revolution” is for workers “to win the battle of democracy” and take the reins of government.
The masses of people would then be directly involved in expropriating the capitalists, developing democratic control of the economy, implementing economic planning and using social wealth to uplift the entire population.
The workers’ revolution would signal the end of traditional government because state power would now rest with the majority of people for the first time in history.
It would be the masses who repress counter-revolutionary efforts by former capitalists and safeguard the transition to communism. Over time, the state would “wither away.”
Marx and Engels knew that a long historical transition would be required to develop a communist society without any vestiges of classes, exploitation, material deprivation and repression.
But they never wavered in their belief that the abolition of capitalism is indispensable for building a society “in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”
Twentieth century revolutions led by workers and farmers produced historically unprecedented progress for hundreds of millions of people. Thirty years ago, this first wave of socialism receded amid betrayals and unresolved problems.
But today, Marx and Engels’s emancipatory vision is inspiring a new wave of communist and revolutionary socialist movements across the planet.