LaborTalk for April 18, 2012

Why Is 'Socialism' Such a Dirty Word in America?
Yet Why Do We Use Its Principles in Our Daily Lives?

By Harry Kelber

"Thinking of Labor's Future" — (Article One)

To most Americans, Socialism (or worse still, Communism) is either a sinister, alien doctrine or a hopelessly utopian ideal. They believe it has nothing to do with their daily lives, and it rarely crops up in their conversations.

The Russian, East European and Chinese models of Socialism are linked in the public mind with low, per capita income, lack of free speech, an insensitive bureaucracy and drab, dull life-styles.

While more than half of the world's population live under some form of Socialism, Americans pride themselves that they are the exceptions. They will be the first to admit that Democracy and the Capitalist System in the United States (they lump the two together) have faults.

They will concede that unemployment, inflation, racial tensions, hunger, poverty, pollution, decaying cities, crime and political corruption are serious problems. But in the next breath, they will assert emphatically that the United States is the greatest nation on earth, and they wouldn't trade it for any other.

Unions Were Born by Applying Socialist Principles

Millions of American workers learned long ago that if they acted on their own to ask the employer for a wage increase or improved conditions, they could be rebuffed, harassed, demoted and fired.

To win any rights, workers had to band together to confront their employer as a group and press for collective bargaining of their demands. That's pretty much how unions were born, adopting the Socialist principles of worker solidarity and collective action.

The first president of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), Samuel Gompers, was a Socialist. He abhorred the Capitalist system in which workers were compelled to compete with each other for survival, while capitalists amassed profits from their employees' labor.

One of Gompers' many pointed, quotable statements: "Where trade unions are most firmly organized, there are the rights of the people most respected." Isn't that true in 2012?

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When another top AFL Socialist leader was asked, "What does Labor want?" he responded: "We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures; to make manhood more noble, womenhood more beautiful and childhood more happy and bright."

Given an update on women's rights, if this is what socialists want, isn't it what we also want?

Article 2: "Thinking of Labor's Future" will be posted here on April 23, 2012 and on our two web sites: and on

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