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The Necessity of Socialism

By Punkerslut

Image by NiD
Image: "Blasphemy" by NiD

Start Date: 9/8/01
Finish Date: 9/8/01

     In history class, we learn about two primary economical systems. We learn about Capitalism which was defined by the philosopher Adam Smith and was later advanced by the writings of Ayn Rand. We also learn about Communism which was developed and conceptualized by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, and later was practiced by Vladimir Lenin of Russia, Josef Stalin of Russia, and Mao Tse-Tung of China. Capitalism is the economic system where the citizens are given the freedom to private property and to do with it as they wish. Communism, on the other hand, is the system where the property of the people is owned collectively by the entire government and no person owns anything that is personal. So much debate rages on between these two possibly economical systems - in a debate that has been labeled "C Versus C" - yet rarely is a third economical system considered. However, I contend that to have any well working system of an economy we must have Socialism. A Socialist society can be defined as an economy where the government has placed a restriction or a limitation on one of various economical factors: wages, working conditions, working hours, prices, etc.. The minimum wage as we have it, for example, can surely be considered a Socialist invention.

     The 1800's were the dawn of a new time and new inventions. It was the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Men and women were leaving their places as shopkeepers and tradesmen to work in conjunction with each other in large factories to produce higher quality and quantities of goods. This was surely not a glorious time. Men, women, and children where all thrown into a dangerous work place with dangerous machinery that could cause their deaths or amputations. Some children were forced to go into coal mines while other children worked in hazardous factories; much of the time children would fall asleep on the job with 17 hour a day jobs, so an overseer was hired to beat them if they had fallen asleep. They worked in poor conditions for long hours that seemed endless and they were paid pennies per an hour. This was not a few poor people, but the majority of the working class. It was with the blood and sweat of these individuals that industrialists made countless dollars. Men, women, and children died horribly deaths, sometimes with incredibly short lifespans, to feed the insurmountable greed of a handful of individuals. In 1894, Albert Leffingwell makes note of the various social reformers of his century...

"...there may be names that Humanity will forget, or remember only to execrate. But whenever in time to come, men shall long to lessen in some way the awful sum of ache and anguish in the world, may they not rather turn for their inspiration to those ideal examples of self-sacrifice which still encourage us; to Howard, risking life in prison and lazar-house, that by revelation of their infamy he might stir the conscience of Europe to the need of reform; to Wilberforce and Clarkson, toiling amid obliquy and abuse for more than twenty years to put down the African slave-trade; to Garrison, waging war for thirty years that he might help to free America from the stain of human bondage; to Shaftesbury, confronting the organized greed of England in his effort to protect children in coal mines and factories; to Arnold Toynbee, making his home amid the squalor and wretched ness of Whitechapel, that he might know by hard experience the bitterness of life for the London poor. Are not these better examples for the emulation of youth... whose pitilessness is their supreme title to the remembrance of posterity?" [*1]

     Sometimes individuals were forced to work 17 hours a day. In his glorious speech of "Eight Hours Must Come," given in 1890, Robert Green Ingersoll addresses the issue of a working day.

"I HARDLY know enough on the subject to give an opinion as to the time when eight hours are to become a day's work, but I am perfectly satisfied that eight hours will become a labor day.

"The working people should be protected by law; if they are not, the capitalists will require just as many hours as human nature can bear. We have seen here in America street-car drivers working sixteen and seventeen hours a day. It was necessary to have a strike in order to get to fourteen, another strike to get to twelve, and nobody could blame them for keeping on striking till they get to eight hours.

"For a man to get up before daylight and work till after dark, life is of no particular importance. He simply earns enough one day to prepare himself to work another. His whole life is spent in want and toil, and such a life is without value.

"Of course, I cannot say that the present effort is going to succeed -- all I can say is that I hope it will. I cannot see how any man who does nothing -- who lives in idleness -- can insist that others should work ten or twelve hours a day. Neither can I see how a man who lives on the luxuries of life can find it in his heart, or in his stomach, to say that the poor ought to be satisfied with the crusts and crumbs they get." [*2]

     One of the most cruel and vindictive Capitalists was John D. Rockefeller. He broke up unions and forced men, women, and children to work in horrible conditions, long hours, and low pay. After he had trampled over the dead bodies of children in rushing to his greedy fortune, he had donated large sums of it to the Christian Church. To quote Margaret Sanger...

"Cannibals at least do not hide behind the sickening smirk of the Church.... Their tastes are not so fastidious, so refined, so Christian, as those of our great American coal operators.... Remember the men and women and children who were sacrificed in order that John D. Rockefeller, Jr., might continue his noble career of charity and philanthropy as a supporter of the Christian faith...." [*3]

     The vices of pure Capitalism can be seen with clear vision: dead children, abused people, and countless suffering. What of Communism? Perhaps it holds some virtues that Capitalism does not? A pure Communist state accomplishes many of the objectives of a pure Capitalist state: depriving the rights of its citizens to fundamental needs. In a Communist state, the workers cannot advance any further, as all of the property that they create and all of the prosperity they create ends up in the hands of everyone but themselves. In a Capitalist state, no one can advance in their social or economic status, either. They are bound to a job and they may not advance, much like serfs were bound to land in the old Feudal system. There are exceptions to this rule, however; the comrades - or dictators even - of a Communist state as well as the industrialists of a Capitalist state are left with the unbridled opportunity of squeezing the blood and sweat of their workers to fuel their own greed. Is there a solution to these two conflicting economical systems? Is there an economical system I believe so, and it is called Socialism.

     One method of Socialism is putting a minimum wage in economy and making sure that every gets at least enough money from their work to get by with a few luxuries. Another good law of Socialism would be to have safe working conditions, where men and women may go to work without fear of death or amputation. Another law, described by Ingersoll, would be to have a set number of working hours, namely eight hours. These are all good laws and regulations of a Socialist economy. In these conditions, both the industrialists and the workers may advance themselves further and they may contribute to society. No Humanitarian or social reformer could ever find Capitalism to be an attractive, economical system. Socialism is also generally the system which the United States economy operates under as of today. It is surely a fine, working system. However, if every person is granted the right to their property and to what they wish to do with it, then in what way is the government justified in controlling that property so that the industrialist has a minimum wage? How is it justified? Can it be justified? I believe so.

     A government is a utilitarian system, made for creating a better outcome than we would have with anarchy, or no government. When a citizen is a member of a government, they have entered into an agreement with the government to follow its rules and regulations. John Locke referred to this as the Social Contract. It is not the industrialist who makes a government, nation, or society work. It is the working class. The voters, the cleaners, the clerks, the plumbers, the librarians, the teachers, the professors, the police officers, the farmers, the engineers, the doctors, and in general the working class that make society function and flow as it does. When we - the working class - have entered into this contract, this Social Contract, with the government in hopes that it would improve our living and we end up under the control of a tyrannical industrialist, it is obvious that the government has failed on its part of the Social Contract. We as citizens follow the laws put forth by the government, but the government fails to make laws which protect its citizens, namely the working class. The government is purely an intellectual invention to creating a better life for everyone involved; when children die at the age of 8 in coal mines and adults have limbs torn from their bodies from dangerous equipment, can we honestly consider this to be a government that attempts to improve the life for its citizens? It certainly is not and the government can easily be considered a failure. The working class have a right to Socialism - to minimum wage, to safe working conditions, to eight hours in a work day - and the justification for this is as follows: we are the members of society who turn the gears that make this economy move; and we are the citizens who have agreed to the Social Contract with the government to improve our lives.


1. Animals' Rights, 1894, by Henry Stephens Salt and Albert Leffingwell, chapter 2 of "Vivisection in America."
2. Eight Hours Must Come, 1890, by Robert Green Ingersoll.
3. I'm quoting from Carole Gray, designer of the 1992 Atheist Desk Calendar and the 1993 and 1994 Women of Freethought Calendars, Columbus Ohio.

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