Notes on the transition from capitalism to socialism – the gradual abolition of the capitalist system
We need to educate the young workers and to bring them aboard the socialist train showing them how the overthrow of capitalism will make life for the working class far less stressful, much more predictable and reliable so they can actually plan for the future of their families and communities without economic crises coming along every decade or so and throwing all their careful planning into the garbage bin. We aim to create a far more egalitarian and intelligently run society that is a true meritocracy. We have to patiently explain how through the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of a workers democracy we can rise from a corrupt, greed and patronage-ridden system to a system based on full equality of all citizens and put an end to racism, war, poverty and homelessness once and for all. Instead of everyone chasing dollar bills all their lives, we will finally have as our most important societal tasks not the amassing of personal fortunes at the expense of the vast majority but in bringing the hundreds of millions of our brothers and sisters all over the world out of the crushing poverty that oppresses them under capitalism. Instead of narrow personal goals, we will take on the tremendous problems that beset the entire planet and harness all the productive resources of a unified world to solve such things as poverty, which under capitalism will never be solved. In our meritocracy the best trained and qualified workers will get the most responsible jobs and will be held to the highest standards. These are goals worthy of human beings; capitalism is just a selfish, greed-based system of exploitation of the working class worldwide for the benefit of a handful of families.
The key thing is that the transition from capitalism to socialism must be a TRANSITION, not the sudden “overthrow of capitalism”. One of the most important lessons of the Russian Revolution is that an economic system cannot be “overthrown” at a single blow – doing such a thing threatens an economic disaster. Certain things can be seized and nationalized immediately: banks, railroads, electrical generating plants, hospitals, etc. But even such things as mines and food production must be allowed to run in the old way until the new workers government has got all the reins of the entire economy into its hands and has taught itself how to drive this unwieldy 200,000 mule team of an economy, which in its ad-hoc capitalist, corrupt, conflict-ridden way still successfully distributes such critical items as raw materials and electricity and food to 340,000,000 people 24/7/365. It is extremely complicated to run an economic engine that is responsible for feeding, clothing, sheltering and caring for 340 million people – the anarchists who jabber about establishing a system of barter or some other ridiculous pie-in-the-sky alternative to capitalism will never be able to run a large city, never mind an entire country. The responsibility for feeding, clothing and sheltering 340,000,000 people falls upon the revolutionary government at the very moment that they old regime is overthrown; immediately, the workers will look to us and say: “well, you’re the drivers now, where are you going to take us?” And we’d damned well better be able to shoulder this immense responsibility immediately, or the revolution will be doomed. In fact, it would be better to keep capitalism rather than to overthrow it and put power in the hands of a bunch of irresponsible, economically illiterate fools who think that a revolution gives them a blank check to make wild experiments in the economic management of the nation. This is not a project to be undertaken by charlatans and fools.
Lenin – as brilliant as he and his Bolsheviks were – was forced to completely reverse the engine of the revolution and to restore elements of capitalism to the USSR’s economy in order to get FOOD and INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION running again. This was because the Bolsheviks erred in trying to go too far, too fast with the overthrow of the old economy. TRANSITION will take many years and will take longer in some economically critical areas than in others. We must allow the process to take as long as necessary, provided that it is made clear that the restoration of capitalist private property is OUT OF THE QUESTION just as the creation of a new monarchy was OUT OF THE QUESTION after the American Revolution.
Also, we have to make it clear to workers that the abolition of capitalist private property DOES NOT MEAN that we will be seizing everyone’s homes and cars and TVs. It means the nationalization of the largest corporations and industrial enterprises. Only the extremely wealthy will perhaps have some of their property seized, and even that must be during a transition; we do not intend to make enemies for the revolution any more than is necessary. Those rich people who do not take up arms against the revolution will be allowed to keep more of their property than those who sabotage the revolutionary transition. Here too, we could even allow the inheritance of property for a generation or even two before the extraneous wealth of these families would be turned over to the workers state to be put to the use of society in a useful way.
It will be an inexorable transition from capitalism to socialism, in some areas very rapid in pace, in others very slow. Above all, we do not wish to create jarring upheavals in critically important economic areas upon which the entire population depends for food, clothing and shelter. The new regime must learn to run the entire country in a professional and responsible way – and this too will require many years of education and practice before the new system will function even as smoothly as the old system did. We must not place artificial limits on how long this transition should take, nor should we hesitate to speed up the transition in areas where it proceeds smoothly and without disruptions. It is an extreme example of the dialectical method as applied to the revolutionary transformation of society.
The miscalculation of the Bolsheviks in regard to the peasantry were enormous! The Bolshevik theory was that the peasants would leap at the opportunity to collectively farm the countryside: big error! In fact, what every peasant had always dreamed of their whole lives was owning their OWN farm, where they could till their OWN plots of land in their own way with their own animals and their families working it all. This miscalculation of the Bolsheviks cost how many million lives? Fortunately, in the US, there is no peasantry and the industrialization of farming is extremely advanced. Without massive government subsidies family farming would have been wiped off the map long ago. The socialization of food production should be much easier in the US than it was in the USSR; however, we must make certain that THIS is not also a major miscalculation, or we will create the collapse of food production in the US just as the Bolshevik policies created the collapse of food production in the USSR. This would be a tremendous tragedy were it to occur. The collapse of food production in the USSR gave a massive impetus to the growth of the Stalinist bureaucracy – in fact, it was the perfect growth medium for that vicious bureaucracy.
Analogy: We can cross the Grand Canyon in an adventurist, ultra-left way: by just sending millions of people up to the rim of the Grand Canyon and trying to leap across it. In this way, eventually enough bodies will pile up in the Canyon that we can finally just walk from the South Rim to the North Rim. OR, we could survey the Canyon, find its narrowest point and then build a bridge across it, in which case – if we do our jobs intelligently and professionally – very few, maybe even not a single person will have to die crossing the Canyon. Let the wisest among us decide which method is best – the IWP will strongly support the second method.