[To read "Great Ideas That Were Around Long Before Karl Marx" click here.]
[To read "From Marx to Lenin," which discusses how Lenin solved one problem in Marxism but not its main problem, click here.]
[To read about how the problem with socialist thinking that leads to its anti-democratic nature stems from the elitism in Marxist theory itself, click here.]
AN OPEN LETTER TO SOCIALISTS
If, as is very likely, you agree with PDR--Boston's egalitarian revolutionary aims, you may wonder how come PDR--Boston says "NO to Socialism." There are two main reasons. You may think it is for a third reason that is discussed below, but it is not.
The main reason we say No to Socialism is because, for most people in the world, the meaning of the word "socialism" is the meaning that the large socialist parties give to the word by the policies they enact when (as happens now and then) they gain control of a national government. These socialist parties do terrible things. We are about telling people who don't like the things that socialist parties do when in power that we agree with them that these things are terrible. We are NOT about telling people that they don't know what socialism "really" means (as if anybody does.) The fact that a very small number of virtually unknown people who call themselves "libertarian socialists" may advocate essentially the same thing as what we call "egalitarianism" is not a sensible reason for us to tell people we are for "socialism" and thereby convey the idea that we are for what we actually oppose.
The large and well-known socialist parties give socialism the bad reputation that it now has, and it is not our task to persuade people they are wrong about what socialism means.
The socialist president of France banned demonstrations in solidarity with Palestinians. And the French socialists in parliament voted for a bill that would let the government tap phones and emails without even having to get any judicial permission. People in France are outraged, and opponents of the bill "launched a last ditch campaign against it under the banner: '24 hours before 1984.'" In July of 2016 the working class rose up against anti-worker reforms to French labor law demanded by the socialist government.
The socialist prime minister of Greece in 2009 (Georgios Papandreou, who was the president of the Socialist International since January 2006) insisted banks must be repaid their debts and he therefore promoted austerity measures to do this, thus (understandably!) infuriating the Greek population and causing three quarters of it to demand his resignation.
The gaggle of political parties associated with the word "socialist" include, for example the Greek party, named Syriza, which was "originally founded in 2004 as a coalition of left-wing and radical left parties." Syriza gained enormous support by 2015 because it promised to oppose the draconian austerity that the European banks were insisting the Greek people had to endure. Syriza became the largest party in the Greek parliament and its leader became--and remains as of May 22, 2016--the prime minister.
Then what? The May 22, 2016 Guardian newspaper reports, under the headline, "Greece pushes fresh austerity drive through parliament," that:
The Greek parliament has approved a fresh round of austerity incorporating €1.8bn in tax increases – and widely regarded as the most punitive yet – amid hopes the move will lead to much-needed debt relief when eurozone finance ministers meet next week.
Alexis Tsipras, the prime minister, mustered the support of 152 of his 153 deputies on Sunday to vote through policies that many have previously rejected.
Addressing the 300-seat house during the heated three-day debate that preceded the ballot, Giorgos Dimaras, an MP in Tsipras’ leftwing party, said he was appalled at being forced to support measures he had spent a lifetime opposing.
“I am in mourning,” he said. “This is what can only be called wretchedness.”
Socialist parties don't call for removing the rich from power and having no rich and no poor. This is what most people really want. And this is the only way to prevent the rich from continuing to have the real power in society. It is the only way to get off the treadmill of defeat in which people are forever forced to fight the rich for every single crumb we are able to get.
Socialist parties, when they control the government, boss people around in the name of the working class, and people don't like it. Read about this happening in China under the Communist Party of China here.
Whatever benefits people have in nations ruled by socialist parties is obtained IN SPITE of the fact that a socialist party is in power, not because of it; these benefits are obtained by people fighting for them and often they have to fight the socialist parties to do so.
Where is the socialist party today that calls for ending wage slavery--the system in which people have to work for an employer (often the government itself when socialists have their way) and obey that employer on the job every bit as much as people have to obey a dictator?
Where is the socialist party today that says there should be real democracy, meaning that the only laws people who support equality and mutual aid have to obey are the ones they themselves (not so-called "representatives") have an equal say in writing in local assemblies (with voluntary federation of local assemblies used to achieve order on a large scale)?
To hear some people defend socialism by pointing to government benefits in socialist nations you'd think these people would call it socialism if the slave-owners in the American slavery era gave the slaves benefits such as good food and housing and "job security" and health care (the way a farmer takes good care of his/her farm animals)! We say, "Forget socialism. We need egalitarianism."
PDR--Boston also disagrees with some important things that practically every person who calls him or herself a socialist agrees with. For example, practically everybody who calls him or herself a socialist believes that the huge numbers of people who oppose same-sex marriage do so because of bigoted ("homophobic") and anti-equality ("reactionary" as some socialists would say) thinking. We believe, on the contrary, that for many people their opposition to same-sex marriage stems from a very reasonable concern for children. Specifically they believe that social laws should promote the opportunity for a child to know and be known by its biological mother and its biological father. They believe that, since a marriage certificate confers formal social approval for a couple to make a child of their own, that therefore making same-sex marriage legal gives formal social approval to same-sex couples to make a child of their own, but the only way such a couple can do that is by third party gamete donation, which means the child will be denied the opportunity to know and be known by its biological father (or mother as the case may be) in a genuine parent/child relationship if-- as is legal today and as is typically the case--the gamete donor remains anonymous.
We call for a mutually respectful discussion of this question among egalitarians, and promote that discussion here, where we propose making same-sex marriage legal only when anonymous gamete donation is illegal and anybody who deliberately conceives a child with their gamete must, by law, at the time of conception genuinely intend to be fully in the life of the child as its co-primary (with the other biological parent) parent, regardless of any marriage or non-marriage status.
PDR--Boston believes that very good and well-intentioned people who are genuine egalitarians can disagree about whether the psychological harm to a child caused by being deprived of knowing and being known by its biological father (or mother) is sufficiently harmful to be a reason to ban same-sex marriage. Before penicillin was available to cure syphilis, most people, because of a concern for the child such a marriage might produce, agreed that being infected with syphilis was a reason to make it illegal for a person to marry, which is why most states used to require a blood test to get a marriage certificate. Virtually everybody agrees that siblings should not be allowed to marry because of the potential harm to the children such a couple might produce. Nobody says this former ban on syphilis-infected marriage or the ban on sibling marriage stems from bigotry against people infected with syphilis, or bigotry ("sibling-phobia"?) against siblings, or opposition to equality. Likewise, it does not follow that concern for a child's right not to be deliberately denied the opportunity to know and be known by its biological mother and father stems from bigotry or opposition to equality.
The fact that a very large proportion of people who call themselves socialists view huge numbers of good and decent people as awful people simply because these good and decent people have a genuine concern for the welfare of children and believe that the welfare of children trumps the desires of adults--well, this makes us want to distance ourselves from the word "socialism."
Another topic on which PDR--Boston disagrees with an opinion held by very many people in the "socialist camp" is this. We think that racial discrimination against blacks and Hispanics is a) rampant (socialists would agree here) and b) NOT a benefit to those ("white") working class people who are not discriminated against. The "socialist camp" disagrees. It refers to racial discrimination against blacks and Hispanics as "white privilege," which means something that benefits whites (the word "privilege" means a benefit.) We on the contrary say that "An Injury to One is an Injury to All" as discussed here.
Reason #3 is NOT why we don't call ourselves socialists.
The reason we do not call ourselves socialists is NOT that we believe some things that socialists stand for but we are reluctant or afraid to say so openly. The most radical things that some socialists (you, perhaps?) stand for are the very things that we say most prominently and clearly to the public. We are for revolution. We are for having no rich and no poor. We are for abolishing the system of wage slavery and class inequality altogether. We are for a society based not on money with its buying and selling but rather based on sharing according to need among those who contribute reasonably according to ability (Note that we disagree with Karl Marx on this point. Marx argued that society could NOT be based on "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" until "a higher phase of communism" is reached when "all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly," in other words far FAR in the future. We say it can be done now, and in fact was done in 1936-9 in about half of Spain to a very large degree (when peasants and workers acted on the basis of revolutionary non-Marxist ideas and the economy's level of productivity was quite primitive compared to today.)
We strongly encourage you to think about the very serious problems that come from calling oneself a socialist.
Unless you go around telling everybody, "No, socialism doesn't mean what you and millions of others think it means" and people believe you (not always the case!), then you are pretty much guaranteeing that most people will believe that you support terrible, in fact oppressive, governments as long as they have a socialist president or prime minister. Calling yourself a socialist amounts to telling huge numbers of good and decent people that you think they are nothing but a bunch of homophobic anti-equality bigots. It amounts to telling white working class people that racism benefits them and (as they naturally infer) that "anti-racism" is code for "anti-white." (The ruling class is delighted that socialists do this, as discussed here and here.)
If you share our criticisms of the bad things done by people in the name of socialism, but nonetheless want to call yourself a socialist and tell people that their understanding of what socialism means is wrong, then you will be in the business of telling people they are wrong. PDRBoston, in contrast, is in the business of telling people who like what we call egalitarianism (which is the vast majority of people) that they are right. The way to build a successful movement is to tell the people who share its values and aims that they are right. Telling those people they are wrong is a losing strategy if ever there was one.
If you are for egalitarianism, you agree with PDR--Boston!