Road of the Party: The Necessity for Change

February 11, 2007

The following is excerpted from the book Creating the Subjective Conditions for Revolution, written by Michael Thorburn in 2000.

Literally from the day of birth, we are subjected to a continuous propaganda which claims that U.S. capitalism is the "best of all possible worlds."

This propaganda insists that the so-called "free market" system offers "equal opportunity" and "prosperity" for everyone; it insists that the current political system is the "epitome of democracy," guarantying "government by the people" and equal rights for all.

Yet, even as a child, I remember becoming conscious of all kinds of problems and contradictions both in the immediate conditions of my life as well as in the society as a whole. I remember how my father worked endlessly long hours just to keep our family alive. I remember how my own drive to learn about the world and my role in it was repeatedly suppressed by the arbitrary discipline of the authorities at school. I remember questioning "what kind of democracy is this?" when I saw civil rights protestors beaten and jailed for asserting their elementary human rights.

Over the years, listening and learning from others, I have found that this experience is nearly universal. The real facts of life show that

- While the ruling circles never stop boasting that "America is the richest country in the world," millions of children live in poverty, tens of millions of Americans are denied needed health services, tens of millions live in substandard housing, millions of youth are forced to go to school in overcrowded, run-down facilities, tens of millions of workers can only find part-time jobs, etc., etc.

- While the capitalist politicians boast about "American democracy," the vast majority of Americans feel alienated and excluded from the political process and political system.

- While the leaders of U.S. capitalism never stop advertising their commitment to "freedom" and "democracy," U.S. imperialism has militarized the entire globe and is at war against the peoples' movements for national liberation and social emancipation.

I could go on and on, drawing up a list of almost infinite length chronicling the oppression and exploitation of the people - recording the murder and arbitrary repression against the oppressed minority peoples, depicting the out-and-out barbaric conditions which U.S. capitalism continues to impose on women, exposing how the youth of our country are being marginalized and criminalized, etc., etc.

All these stubborn facts of life refute the capitalist fairy-tale about the "best of all possible worlds." The urgent problems facing the people, the very contradictions inherent in the economic base as well as the political and cultural superstructure of our country, make the necessity for change the fundamental reality of America today.

From Every Pore

Capitalism is characterized by the contradiction between the social character of the productive forces and the private, capitalist ownership of the means of production. Today, in our country, capitalism has reached the stage of monopoly capitalism and imperialism and this contradiction has reached the bursting point.

Who cannot see how capitalism is suppressing the productive forces of our country and how it is unable to put our modern economic infrastructure in service of the people?

Thousands of years of civilization have put, at the disposal of humanity, all the productive forces necessary to insure the economic well-being of everyone, to enable humankind to take a giant leap from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom. But the daily life of the vast majority of Americans is still dominated by the economic struggle to make ends meet - we still live from paycheck to paycheck and with continuous economic insecurity, haunted by questions like: "What happens if my job gets 'downsized?'" "What if my parents get sick?" "What does the future hold for the children?"

Indeed, the productive forces at the disposal of our country are enormous. Over the decades, we have created a modern economic infrastructure, including a system of scientific agriculture which enables a tiny fraction of the population to produce an abundance of food, factories which can produce such an excess of all the necessities that large quantities remain warehoused and unsold, an instantaneous mass communications system, advanced science and technology which enable humanity to harness the forces of nature.

These productive forces are, in the first place, a product of generations of labor of the working people. What is more, the vast productive capacity of modern economic life arises from the revolutionary character of cooperative labor - in today's workplaces, the minds and muscles of thousands and tens of thousands of people work together and more than 100 million American workers cooperate in a social division of labor. It is this collective character of the modern production process - the common labor of the working people - which is the secret of the vast productive capacity of our country.

Yet, under the capitalist system, this social mechanism is set in motion with the narrowest aim. The only goal is for the capitalist owners to grab maximum profit. Thus, health care is not produced on the basis of the needs and rights of the people but only for the profit of the HMOs; science and technology are not used to lessen the burden on the working people but to downsize and deny workers a livelihood while the capitalist owners increase the rate of exploitation of the remaining workforce. In the midst of abundance, the elementary needs of the people remain unmet. U.S. monopoly capitalism produces every conceivable luxury item but it cannot guarantee adequate housing for tens of millions; it does not even provide sufficient food for millions of children or guarantee health care for tens of millions.

All these contradictions arise from the fact that the socialized means of production - the very tools needed to reproduce life - are owned by the capitalist class. These means of production - the product of generations of collective labor and the birthright of the people - are already social in character. But this social character is denied and suppressed by the system of capitalist ownership.

The necessity is to recognize the social character of the productive forces, to replace private ownership of the means of production with social ownership. This is the starting point of modern socialism and communism.