From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 23, 16 September 1940, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Johnny had gotten outside of a can of beer at the union picnic, tossed two ringers in a game of horseshoes, and was feeling more self-confident.
“I’ve been thinking over what you’ve been telling me.” he announced to Bill, “and I talked to the minister about it. He said that socialists mostly mean well, but that their system couldn’t work.”
BILL: Did you ask him whether the angels use the capitalist system in heaven? Maybe they buy their harps on the instalment plan for some sainted big-businessman, like Walter Chrysler?
JOHNNY: Well, we’re no angels down here, and he says you can’t expect human nature to stand for dividing-up, like under socialism.
BILL: Dividing up? Maybe the minister mentioned that, but not me.
JOHNNY: Well, socialism wants everybody to be more equal, don’t it?
BILL: More equal in the food they eat and the good things of life they enjoy – that’s right. BUT IT’S CAPITALISM MEANS DIVIDING-UP, not socialism.
JOHNNY: How do you make that one out?
BILL: Just by thinking tor a minute. For example, a few thousand workers, some engineers and managers got together in a big steel plant, and they make a million dollars worth of steel. That’s a million dollars that belongs to them. Then what do they do? They DIVIDE IT UP, with a bunch of stockholders who never laid a finger on the job.
JOHNNY: Can’t say I like that kind of dividing up. I’ll do it with my family, but not with my boss.
BILL: Does your wife pick your pockets too? After the capitalists make you divide up with them, they go go through your pants for some loose change. Like watering your milk and charging monopoly prices. – No, sir. Socialism doesn’t mean dividing up.
JOHNNY: Then how do you expect to make wealth more equal?
BILL: The main idea is simple. Remember I said that the money-lined tycoons gel that way by OWNING, not working. They take away the biggest slice of what you and I produce, and throw champagne parties with it, while the men who do the work can’t be sure of having a steak on the table once a week.
JOHNNY: All right, and if you divided up the wealth, the big money would be back in the same pockets in no time, anyway. So what’s the percentage?
BILL: You’re right, that’s just what would happen. AS LONG AS THE BIG MONEYMEN KEPT ON BEING THE OWNERS OF INDUSTRY, and we kept on being slaves of the job. You’ve got to change the whole set-up, not just divide up the bank-rolls, if it’s all going to stick.
JOHNNY: Maybe I see where you’re getting at now. You mean, let the government own industry instead of the private bosses.
BILL: That’s PART of it. When that little change is made, you won’t see one man rolling in wealth by keeping others in poverty. Why, there’s already enough wealth in this country to give every man $100 a week – the experts say so – provided all of our industrial power is used. It isn’t used now, unless some boss can make a profit. WE’LL use all of it, and some more, because our only purpose is to produce more and more goods, for more and more people.
JOHNNY: That reminds me of another thing the minister said. He said socialism means the government runs everything and everybody, and that means government tyranny, like they have in Germany. It looks like he’s right.
BILL: That brings up the other part of it. IT ALL DEPENDS ON THE GOVERNMENT YOU HAVE. – In Germany, for instance, there are the capitalists who own things just like here. Their government controls things a lot, BUT FOR WHOSE BENEFIT? For the benefit of those same capitalists, plus a rake-off for the government muscle-men. What else would you expect? It was the capitalists set Hitler up to do tbat job in the first place.
JOHNNY: Then how do you know your socialist government wouldn’t look like Germany, or Russia?
BILL: This way. the government has to own industry. BUT FIRST, THE WORKERS HAVE TO OWN THE GOVERNMENT. That’s what you have NOT got in Germany or Russia, and that’s why the government is used to fill the pockets of parasites just as it’s used here. – Do you remember Gene Debs?
JOHNNY: Heard him speak when I was a boy.
BILL: Gene Debs once said – GOVERNMENT OWNERSHIP OF INDUSTRY plus WORKERS’ OWNERSHIP OF GOVERNMENT equals SOCIALISM. Don’t forget either one.
What we want is a WORKERS’ government, that’s controlled by the workers organizations democratically. Don’t let any dictator talk you into believing he’ll do right by you. All that means is: he’ll DO you.
JOHNNY: Well, I’ll see what the minister thinks of that angle.
BILL: Trouble with a lot of ministers is this, same as he said of socialists. They mostly mean well, but they couldn’t work – if they thought anything good about socialism.
Last updated on 6.10.2012