Chodorov explains the popular appeal of socialism.
Excerpt from Chodorov's 'Socialism By Default', from his One is a Crowd
If the run-of-the-mill American is as gullible as this literature
assumes, and there is reason to believe that he is, there
are nevertheless the lessons of experience which even infantilism
cannot dull. Imagine feeding rags-to-riches syrup to
the sharecropper who remembers being dispossessed onto
the highway, or to his children who learned to hold out the
hand of beggary. Then, there's the glorious tale of the penniless
immigrant who rose to affluence; what can be the effect
of this pap on the fellow who lived by the grace of the
W. P. A. when bank bankruptcy wiped out his lifetime savings?
What goes on in the mind of the mechanic who, on
reading about the "overall picture" of national prosperity, or
the tables of comparative wages, recalls the ten years of
wage-less nightmare, until the war brought hypodermic relief?
Even now, dulling the enjoyment of his inflationary
comfort is the spectre of impending depression.
All this experience the anti-socialistic literature passes over
lightly with figures, carried out to three percentage points.
The inference is plain that the "poor ye have always"--and
nothing can be done about it. It's fine solace to be labeled an
"unemployable" or to be put among the "surplus population."
But somehow the lowliest of the species resents being a
statistic. He flatters himself that he is a man. Whatever his
intellectual deficiencies, his sense perceptions are keen; recorded
in the memory of his belly is data the economists cannot
get to. And that memory tells him that there is a lie
somewhere in the pollyannish picture of America being presented
Sure, the "average" wage in this country is a princely income
compared to that of the Chinese coolie. What of it?
The "average" American worker--whatever that is--produces
more; well, if he produces more he is entitled to more,
and why give credit to a "system" for the labor he puts out?
According to the figures in this anti-socialistic literature he
absorbs in wages about all he produces, and yet his eyes tell
him that there are a lot of fellows who produce nothing, or
very little, and they seem to get along quite well. Who produces
what they have? He's envious, to be sure, but he's also
sensitive to a wrong he cannot locate.
The socialists locate it for him. He never will understand
their many-worded fable about surplus-value and the class struggle
and the glories of controlled economy. No matter.
These fellows at least come clean; they admit the poverty-amidst-plenty
incongruity, and in so doing they gain the
confidence of the mass-man. Having gained his confidence,
they find it easy to "teach" him the mysteries of their solution.
Their shibboleths are plausible; they "explain" and
they promise. He accepts their leadership.
This fact the socialistic tacticians have been wise enough
to recognize. From Marx and Engels to Attlee and Wallace,
due homage was always given to the "will of the people,"
although the shaping and direction of that will has ever been
the private prerogative of the intelligentsia, the leadership.
They won the mass-man by appealing to the intelligence
they knew he did not have; in the name of education they
filled him with phrases which served him well enough for
understanding. But--and this is of utmost importance--he
became a willing "student" because they told him what he
knew only too well: that the world as is is NOT the best of
all possible worlds.
The current slogan of this effort to forestall Socialism is
"free enterprise." Now, enterprise consists of nothing else,
in the economic field, than the production and exchange of
goods and services, by individuals acting in their own interests,
and it is free only when the process is rid of legal interventions.
The ultimate object is to provide an abundance of
the things men want, to flood the marketplace. That means
low prices, or prices determined by the equation of supply
and demand without restrictions on supply. If that is what
the "free enterprisers" were really for, they would concentrate
on the rescinding of laws making for scarcities--and
they would inform the mass-man that the cause for his lack
(admitting first that there is an unwarranted lack) are these
laws and the practices that have grown up under them.
First of all, they would direct attention to the scarcities
resulting from tariffs, quotas, the manipulation of money,
fictitious quarantine laws and other devices for preventing
foreign goods from reaching our market. You see nothing
about that in their literature. The inference is that free trade
is not included in their concept of free enterprise. Why? Is
it because of a concern for the higher prices which this limitation
on competition affords them?
Taxation is a major interference with enterprise, simply
because what is taken by the State is production which was
intended for the market. Taxes on commodities are added
to price and therefore decrease the purchasing power of
wages; taxes on incomes and inheritances discourage production.
These facts are rarely mentioned in any of the "free
enterprise" literature; when it does touch on taxation the
comment is limited to "equitable" distribution, which, on
examination, simmers down to the shifting of the burden
from one class of citizens to another. The reason is clear. You
cannot expect the holders of government bonds to attack
the income tax (which is the necessary precursor of State
capitalism), because the prime security behind these bonds
is the power of the State to levy on incomes. Nor can you
expect liquor interests to oppose liquor taxes because if these
were abolished every farmer could open a distillery.
You read in this "free enterprise" literature about government
extravagances. But, what about particulars? Subsidies
to railroads, airplane and shipping companies (via the post
office) are clearly extravagances, supporting and encouraging
inefficiency; but, the values of the stocks and bonds issued
by these companies are enhanced thereby and hence
the subject is taboo; subsidies which cannot be capitalized,
like handouts to veterans and unemployed, can be attacked.
Parity prices provide a cushion for the commodity market,
and also hold up the value of agricultural land; the "free enterprisers"
avoid the subject. Militarism is undoubtedly the
greatest waste of all, besides being the greatest threat to
freedom of the individual, and yet it is rather condoned than
opposed by those whose hearts bleed for freedom, according
to their literature.
One could go on paragraph after paragraph with instances
of State interferences with enterprise which the "free enterprise"
bilge skirts around or ignores. One is driven to the
conclusion that the sponsors are not at all in favor of what
they preach. They are rather for the status quo, for the legal
into favored position. They are for privilege, as is, and not
for the sanctity of private property.
Is it any wonder that the only following this kind of leadership
can muster is what it can buy? Is it any wonder that
the socialists have the mass-field to themselves?