In 1959, Albert Einstein wrote an article with the same title. Why socialism?
That’s a question often burned into my mind. Why indeed. I think there’s two different kinds of socialism. Category A, who desire socialism because of rational self interest, and Category B, revolutionary socialists.
Intersectional theory is very popular among category A. Contrary to what the American left claims, intersectionalism isn’t simply “working together.” It is a specific analytical framework. One based on the question “What’s in it for me?”
One that is founded on the premise that working class people are inherently racist, inherently misogynistic, inherently homophobic, that we need someone to make a sales pitch on why we need to stop these things.
Of course, it must be a very arbitrary trait. I don’t see a lot of redlining that benefits tenants and trailer parks. I don’t see just where exactly all these working class people are who own stocks in Lockheed Martin or Securitas. Who own stocks in private prison industries. Who become judges and hospital administrators and corporate lobbyists.
I ask myself just how this works, why we need someone to come on down from the ivory towers of academia to draw us a map. Why we need some patronising social studies liberal to tell us why capitalism is ruinous to us. Why we need an entire field of social studies to explain to us why our next door neighbor is a friend, even if they’re from a different culture or have a different gender.
Why people need to tell us about intersections.
When I grew up in austerity after the fall of the USSR, I was the only kid on my street who didn’t have a wife beater for a dad. That’s how I understood why women’s rights were a bit out of whack. When I went to school, we had candlelight vigils, because often in the segregated parts of town, kids would get shot. That’s how I understood racism was an issue.
Then as I grew up, my family fell into hard poverty. My mum became an abusive addict. That’s how I understood class analysis. It wasn’t some “What’s in it for me” bullshit. It was seeing the suffering that my family went through, and then, as I lived in a broken community, the suffering of others.
It came about from how I’d hang out with former convicts, with gang members and petty criminals. With how I saw drug addicts on the street sifting through trash. How I saw the way people with mental issues were put through a system of social eugenics. How I saw social workers abuse the elderly. How I saw people get destroyed by slumlords, alcohol, police abuse, segregation and debt. How I got my own taste of these hardships.
That’s what puts you into category B. And the category A people are what Lenin described as opportunists. Because when you keep asking yourself “What’s in it for me?”, then one day the answer might be power, money, military authority and statehood. The answer might be pretty big. The answer might be that what’s in it for you is all the fruitful perks of being a compadore for the capitalists.
That’s why I don’t entirely trust category A. Because I don’t ask “What’s in it for me?” I know what’s in it for me. If I succeed, then what’s in it for me is going to be torture, prison, state repression and maybe even all out war. I know that what’s going to be in it for me is hard work and very little rewards. I know that what’s going to be in it for me is looking out for others, many of whom will be too miserable to even notice I’m helping them.
For-profit socialism is another word for liberalism. What’s in it for us is sacrifice, and lots of it. What’s in it for us is scary, and stressful, and unpleasant. What’s in it for us is funerals and prison sentences.
That’s why revolutionaries are often considered patriotic. Because it comes with a willingness to shed blood. When Marx said socialism or barbarism, the implication there is that we’re going to have to square up against some barbarians, and if you think there’s any sort of bottom line there for you, then I’m sorry, but you’re a confused barbarian.
The only reward you can expect from real socialist work is to sleep a bit better at night. To not feel so defeated, and helpless and miserable. To know you’re actually doing your best and living up to your potential in a system that’s set you up to fail since day 1.
And if the system hasn’t done this, then I’m sorry, but you’re not category B material.
Yes, socialism in its organising into a dual power structure demands all kinds of roles. Teachers, journalists, authors, intellectuals, agitators, logistics, security, you name it. But there’s no free spot for cowards. There’s no free spot for opportunists. There’s no free spot for “What’s in it for me?” Because that’s the philosophy of the snitch and the turncoat.
Why socialism? Is simple to me. Because we built society, and it’s ours. We have a birthright to fight for it. We have a birthright to end the cries of hungry children, to end the ringing of bombs overseas, to end our own rents, debts and immiserating conditions. We have a right to proclaim dignity. To take back our schools, townhalls, factories and fields. We have a right to govern by common sense. To govern by decency and by honesty, and to overthrow our leaders if they betray such a decency.
Why socialism? Simple answer: Why not? The world is falling apart, climate catastrophe is getting worse, geopolitical tensions grow stronger, democracy and civil rights are in a decades long decline since 9/11 all over the world. Pointless armed conflict is waged every single day for the benefit of arms dealers and military industrialists.
The air we breathe is so polluted that living in a city is more dangerous than smoking. Medical, housing, finances in general is ruining entire generations with debt. Slave labour is running rampant in sweatshops, private prisons and chattel markets in US-backed dictatorships all over the world. The IMF, the WTO, NAFTA, you name it, are taking over nations by the dozens, slowly spreading their tentacles throughout the world, rigging economies and elections, and forcing countries to adopt policies that endanger public welfare and human rights just so that some fat American in a pinstripe suit can stress test the race suspension on a Bugatti convertible using your tax money.
So that his fat ass can be cradled in the leather seats of a top of the line racing vehicle that he will cruise in throughout a polluted and gentrified city where the speed limit never goes above 50kmph. That’s why your family has to worry about costs of education and healthcare and rent, just so that he can use a top of the line racing vehicle for something a city bus could do, in the middle of an unprecedented climate catastrophe.
Heated swimming pools, penthouse suites, cocaine, callgirls, private jets and summer houses is why millions of people die each year in poverty.
A single one of these parasites have a carbon footprint bigger than some African cities, and they expect your children to die in the resulting hurricanes and floods.
And then they have the audacity, the audacity, to make you pay them to read about this in the economist or the washington post, where they tell you that the situation is hopeless.
I’d say we double check just to be sure. I’d say we organise a vanguard, take the streets, unionise the workers, arm ourselves, and demand what they owe us, just to check. Maybe it is hopeless, but it would be pretty damn pathetic to give up without a fight.
Why socialism? Why not? A few decades down the line, and there will be a last straw to break the camel’s back.
Why socialism? Because it’s the only way the majority of working class people will have a chance at growing old.
Why socialism? Because if we don’t have socialism, then you’re going to die in a rat infested slum covered in your own filth, as the neoliberal government cuts off your retirement and your family will be too broke to save you.
Why socialism? Because even if they could save you, it’d take food out of their own mouths after rent and cost of living will skyrocket, and wages will continue to plummet.
Why socialism? Because you don’t want to see your grandkids eat dogfood.
Why socialism? Because you don’t wanna see what happens when 150 million climate refugees show up at the doorstep and the liberals in charge are thinking up new ways to introduce budget cuts.
Why socialism? Because it’s long overdue. Because the age of cowards and rich kids is coming to an end whether we like it or not. Question is whether the sun is setting on capitalism, or all of humanity.
Why socialism? Because you’d be surprised just how much you have left to lose even after everything’s been taken from you. You’d be surprised to just what extents the imaginations of the ruling classes run. Just what they will do to you if you let them.
I’m not here to offer you utopia, that was possible in 1959. The reason why we need socialism is because the only way that we can fix the economy, the only way we can fix the environment, the only way we can become a civilisation of science and prosperity, is by removing the parasites who are currently steering the ship towards an iceberg.
Either we start fighting for a spot at the steering wheel, or the twilight years of our species will be spent in rising waters, regretting all those nights we decided to sit at home and do nothing.
The reason why Lenin managed to save 150 million lives was not because of “What’s in it for me?”, it was because he fought, and went to jail, and died early from neglecting his own health after having tirelessly devoted his life to the working class.
Drop the intersectional mentality, stop fighting for yourself, and start fighting for your country and your class. Because as it stands now, we’ll either die alone, or live together.