Saturday, October 4, 2008

FAQ: On Socialism and Personal Property

Please also see previous post: FAQ: What is Socialism?

Will socialism take away your toothbrush (or home and VCR)? No. Will socialism seize the means of production--the land, factories, mills, mines, transport--from the capitalists? Yes.

Both Karl Marx and Gus Hall had things to say about this.

Marx and Engels said, in the Communist Manifesto, that: "Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society; all that it does is to deprive him of the power to subjugate the labor of others by means of such appropriation." (Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto, 1848)

Gus Hall, the former Marxist-Leninist leader of the Communist Party USA, explained Marx and Engels' thinking when he answered this question in 1977: "I worked hard to buy a home. If socialism comes to this country would I lose it? Would it become the property of the state?"

Hall answered: "What is good for the people is socialism. Socialism is the most people oriented society in all of history. What is good for the people is the basic guideline to all questions about socialism.

"This year the handful of major stockholders and the banks who own General Motors are going to pocket the hog's share of about $4 or $5 billion dollars of what is referred to as profits. And the president of G.M. will take almost $1 million in what is called a salary. Grand larceny is a more accurate description!

"This is done by picking the pockets of GM workers. That is not good for the GM workers or the people. What happens in GM is what happens in all of the big industries throughout our country. That is the very essence of capitalism. That is why socialism will turn the GM complex into public property. That is why socialism will transfer all of the privately owned industrial properties, the railroads, bus lines, utilities, mines, TV and radio networks, the banks, telephone and the big agri-businesses into socially owned and operated complexes...

"Socialism will not permit anyone to get rich by exploiting other people.

"The propagandists of big business have always tried to frighten people with the falsehood that socialism will take away our homes, our cars and our babies. Socialism will do nothing of the kind. There will be some exceptions, however. For example there are a few mansions around Tarrytown, N.Y., one of which is the Rockefeller’s. That will be taken over because it is not in the interests of the people to permit a few to waste all that potential housing space.

"The land and the operation of the big agri-corporations will be turned into state-owned and people-operated agri-complexes. The people who have small farms and lots will continue to operate them as long as they want to.

"So, my friends, enjoy your homes and cars. Join in the movement for socialism and be assured you will not have to give these things up, because what is good for the people is socialism." (Gus Hall, Basics, 1980, International Publishers)