Why Socialism?

When I stop to think of it I realize that few people ever ask me why I consider myself a socialist. I suppose part of it is that people don’t often like to hear polar opinions or, in my case, that most people I associate with support socialism themselves to some degree. At worst I get irrational, silly reactions that claim I favour dictatorships, that I wish us to give up important freedoms or that I’m simply delusional or unintelligent. Really, I simply strive to be compassionate.

When you think of Albert Einstein, what comes to mind? For many years I would think of a genius who helped to transform our understanding of the universe and ultimately helped humanity gain immensely. He was this, certainly, and his contribution in that respect should be praised (He certainly deserved being named Time Magazine’s “Person of the Century.”). He was also, it is largely forgotten and I came to learn only in recent years, an adamant humanitarian and socialist. Dr. Einstein opposed the use and possession of nuclear arms, war, racism, facism and capitalism. He truly was a great thinker, not only because of his scientific contribution but also because he had a compassionate and holistic worldview.

I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.

This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.
I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.
– Albert Einstein, “Why Socialism?

Like Einstein, I advocate an engaging socialism that embraces democracy and seeks to alter the selfish and success-driven mentality that capitalism thrives on and confines us with. I believe in socialism because it is an effective and necessary tool in actualizing compassion and reducing suffering. In an era when we are overusing the world’s resources, overpopulating the planet, fostering vile wars, allowing disease and poverty to spread, destroying environments and permitting countless other tragedies to go unchecked, we need to grasp this truth that socialists live by and that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once spoke: “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of individualistic concern to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

12 comments on “Why Socialism?

  1. Socialism is a filthy word – up there with all the other bandied and dirt-ridden words like 'democracy', 'truth' and 'belief'.

    If you are a Socialist in this world, then you came from Mars.

  2. Perhaps your utopian ideas can be achieved and work once mankind evolves past selfishness. Until then socialism will be a failure. If the lazy get payed the same as the hard worker, the hard worker will become lazy. Socialism says give what you can, and take what you need…that is a beautiful concept…opposite to human nature which says give what I have to, and take what I can.

  3. Socialism is a filthy word – up there with all the other bandied and dirt-ridden words like 'democracy', 'truth' and 'belief'.

    If you are a Socialist in this world, then you came from Mars.

  4. Jay, your vision of socialism isn't quite the same as my own. I do not see it as at all utopian but rather as an effective way to combat the human flaws that we enhance through capitalism.

    I don't believe pay scales should be equal. The goal of socialism is fairness, not numeric equality. If a worker gives more effort there's no reason she should not be rewarded.

    That selfishness you expressed as “give what I have to, and take what I can” is precisely what Einstein was saying we need to combat through education reform. When we know that selfishness harms us and harms our fellow people then we can work to curb such tendencies.

  5. Perhaps your utopian ideas can be achieved and work once mankind evolves past selfishness. Until then socialism will be a failure. If the lazy get payed the same as the hard worker, the hard worker will become lazy. Socialism says give what you can, and take what you need…that is a beautiful concept…opposite to human nature which says give what I have to, and take what I can.

  6. Why do you think of me as an idealist? I see a problem, I see a solution to the problem and I work at it, knowing it's going to be incredibly difficult but is ultimately necessary.

  7. Jay, your vision of socialism isn't quite the same as my own. I do not see it as at all utopian but rather as an effective way to combat the human flaws that we enhance through capitalism.

    I don't believe pay scales should be equal. The goal of socialism is fairness, not numeric equality. If a worker gives more effort there's no reason she should not be rewarded.

    That selfishness you expressed as “give what I have to, and take what I can” is precisely what Einstein was saying we need to combat through education reform. When we know that selfishness harms us and harms our fellow people then we can work to curb such tendencies.

  8. Why do you think of me as an idealist? I see a problem, I see a solution to the problem and I work at it, knowing it's going to be incredibly difficult but is ultimately necessary.

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