Monday, May 16, 2016

More on the basics of socialism

I am trying to continue on with our basic approach to defining socialism and socialist means and objectives. I thought that I might include something by Gus Hall or Henry Winston, Communist leaders in the US for many years, but I'm finding it difficult to locate their writings on the web. Hall and Winston were outstanding Communists in their time and wrote a great deal, but web searches for their works mainly locate obituaries, criticisms and items for sale.

Hall came to mind for two reasons. First, much of his writing is easily accessible (if you can find it) and topical. He wrote for workers. Second, he used a method of thinking and writing which still works today---name the problem, look at the push-and-pull taking place around that problem, point out the weaknesses in the other side's arguments and project a democratic and socialist solution. It's not that I agree with Hall on everything, but that I respect his method and his work and his ability to touch workers' lives. The same can be said of Henry Winston.

Hall moved workers in my parents' generation. I remember watching him on television with my mother, a socially liberal working woman who was essentially apolitical. She focused on what Hall was saying and understood him and he had her respect if not her full agreement. They connected on the basis of class and opposition to war and racism and for democratic rights. It's hard to find any left leader in the US today who can do that.

Hall and Winston were two of the standard bearers of the Communist Party in their day. A brief article here gives us a taste of what they were about. The Socialist Party had Norman Thomas and, later, Michael Harrington stamped American "democratic socialism" with his mark. We have encouraged readers to study Hall, Winston and Harrington in the past and to decide which path they want to put themselves on and then join the appropriate organization.

I did finally find something by Gus Hall on the web. Here is a fundamental piece on the fight against racism and here is an audio letter from Gus Hall, James E. Jackson and Ben Davis to Shirley and W.E.B. DuBois. For some context on this audio letter, go here.

The introduction to the article below notes that the copyright is held by the Peoples' Weekly World, which no longer publishes a print edition. Readers can find Hall's Basics and Working Class USA for sale and should snap copies up. Go here to check out an Oregon connection.

Fighting Racism - The Communist view by Gus Hall

This article was reprinted from the February 17, 1996 issue of the People's Weekly World. All rights reserved - may be used with PWW credits.

The following is excerpted from Communist Party National Chair Gus Hall' books, Fighting Racism and Beacon for Our Times.


What gives the working class a sense of oneness, what moves it toward class unity, what gives it class consciousness and what propels it as a class to consider revolutionary action is class exploitation. It is understanding and recognition of this basic premise that must become the starting point and framework for consideration of all questions relating to the working class and the class struggle.

The struggle against inequality is a basic question simply because not all members or components of our class work and live under conditions of equality. The African American component of our U.S. working class is exploited, as are all workers. But they are additionally discriminated against and exploited based on racism. African American workers, men and women, are exploited on the basis of the class of which they are a part.

African Americans are further exploited on the basis of race. African Americans suffer many-sided discrimination because they are members of an oppressed nationality. The gap created by racist inequality (in jobs, in housing, education, etc.) is a major obstacle to working class unity.

A true measure of the class consciousness of all workers -- but, in a special way, of the level of class consciousness of white workers -- is the level of Black-white unity. Black-white working class unity is a fundamental precondition for working class unity in general.

The inequalities suffered by the other nationally oppressed components of our working class take different forms. But they are all based on the system of racism against the African American people, which goes back to the very beginnings of our country, some 400 years ago.

Thus, the racism against Black America feeds the national oppression, discrimination and chauvinism against Chicano, Mexican-American, Puerto Rican, Native American Indian, Filipinos, Japanese, Chinese, Korean and other Asian Pacific peoples. There are Dominicans, Jamaicans, Haitians and others who, to one degree or another, are all victims of racial and national oppression.

Placing the question of racial and national oppression and the struggle for equality as a feature of the class struggle takes into consideration a number of factors:

1) The great majority of the racially and nationally oppressed are workers and, therefore, components of the working class.

2) This framework makes the connection between our emphasis on the working class, the concentration on workers in the basic mass production industries and the struggle for equality.

3) This emphasis lays the foundation for the unity of racially and nationally oppressed peoples with the working class.

4) It makes clearer the necessity for the working class to seek unity with oppressed minorities.

5) It places a correct emphasis on the economics of racism, its relationship to corporate profits and to class exploitation. It places the capitalist system as the root and ultimate source of all racism.

6) This approach more clearly focuses on the special and unique contributions that Communists must make in the struggle for equality.

7) This framework also provides a stronger foundation for and an added dimension to the general human, civil and moral aspects of the struggle for equality.

8) Because the cause is just and because it is in its class interest, the trade union movement must be convinced to accept as a major responsibility the struggle for equality for all components of the working class.

9) As its class consciousness deepens, the working class will see itself more clearly as a class.

10) However, as this consciousness deepens, the working class must learn that to be able to fight for the best interests of the whole class it must take on the special struggle against the inequalities faced by the racially and nationally oppressed components.

These factors provide a firm basis for the struggle against racism, national oppression and chauvinism in all areas of life -- in housing, in public education, in medical and child care, in social services and political representation.

The basis of of racism is super-exploitation at the workplace that results in extra surplus value -- super profits -- for the capitalists. Thus, understanding exploitation of all labor is a prerequisite to understanding the source of super-exploitation of African American and all racially and nationally oppressed workers.

The profits of the capitalists can come only from the labor of the workers they hire. The law of surplus value (profits) operates very simply. The corporation pays the workers just enough so that they can continue living and working.

But the workers produce much more than the value of the wages they get. This is the source of all profits.

Part Two

Let' say it requires four hours of labor for the worker to produce what he needs to live and work. However, in most cases the worker works an eight-hour day. Thus, the capitalist uses the worker' labor power (ability to work) for the full eight hours, which means he gets four hours clear profit from the labor of the worker.

We can see how important this law is when we translate hours into dollars to measure surplus value or profit. If a worker produces $24 worth of goods in an hour, the value of an hour of labor is $24. If the worker is paid only $8 per hour, the extra going to the boss is $16 and the rate of surplus value or profit is 200 percent.

Surplus value is, therefore, the gross profit of the capitalist class. It is profit before dividing it up among the stockholders, the banks, landlords and corporate executives.

U.S. capitalism has been racist from its very inception. Its origins coincided with the bloody genocidal campaign against the Native American Indian peoples.

The oldest of all big lies is that of "inferior races" and 'uperior races." It accompanied the forcible uprooting of people from Africa to work as slaves. When slavery was abolished, racism was integrated into the system of capitalist exploitation.

The U.S. is a nation with sharp class divisions and contradictions. It is multiracial and multinational, as is the working class. It is a nation of many cultures and religions, each retaining its own heritage and traditions, but also integrating into the common life of the nation.

But because of the practice of racism, the different racial and nationality groups of the U.S. are not living as equals. Racism distorts and slows down the objective, progressive process of intermingling of different peoples into a single national entity. Nevertheless, there is an overlapping of basic interests of all the people of our country, and therefore a tendency to unite in struggle.

Thus, super-exploitation simply means that based on the ideology and practice of racism, corporations pay minority workers less than white workers, achieving two things -- greater (super) profits and pitting workers against each other. In reality, by keeping wages of Black workers lower, the boss also keeps white workers" wages lower.

In uncovering the law of surplus value, Karl Marx also helped to reveal the law of class struggle between the capitalists and the workers, which gives the ultimate lie to all concepts of class collaboration, the lie that "the bosses and workers are one big happy family."

There is a clear relationship between the struggles against class exploitation and the struggles against exploitation and oppression based on and fed by racism, directed in the first place against the African American people.

Therefore, for us in the U.S, the alliance between the working class, which is itself multiracial and multinational, and the over 65 million racially and nationally oppressed peoples, is a key ingredient in all fields of struggle -- economic, political, social and ideological.

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