From Fourth International, Vol.13 No.5, October-November 1952, pp.131-138.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
The debate recorded below took place last April 3 before a packed audience of several hundred students at New York University. It was generally agreed to have been one of the liveliest events at the University for a long time. An undivided interest was sustained for well over two hours, the listeners as much participants as auditors. When the floor was opened to the audience, there were more questions asked than could be answered in an entire day, let alone in the allotted time for the session. As the reader will note, a sea of hands went up in response to the Moderator’s request at the close of the meeting for two more questions.
Dealing with the big trends and problems of our time, the debate retains all its timeliness today, seven months later. If it may have seemed daring for the speaker to have made the prediction then of Eisenhower’s election, it should be clear from the text that it was done less as a forecast than as an indication of the trend of military domination of the state. This trend, it can be safely asserted, will go on unabated regardless of who occupies the White House next January.
Except for a few literary and grammatical changes, the text is a faithful document of the proceedings, having been transcribed word for word from a wire recording taken at the meeting. To save space and avoid repetition one or two questions already treated are now omitted from this account. Unfortunately, an important exchange between Professor Raymond and the speaker on the subject of Korea, the “cold war” and the colonial revolutions was lost in switching between wire spools, as were a number of other questions and answers.
The speaker is naturally appreciative that the facilities of N.Y. University were made available for a discussion of Marxism. Once a regular occurrence, this may now appear as exceptional freedom because of the repressive atmosphere in the universities. The Moderator made a special point of this when he closed the meeting saying that even under McCarthy, the McCarran Act and the Feinberg Law we “can still have meetings like this.” How conditional this situation really is, and how much closer the speaker really was in describing how much freedom actually exists, was borne out in NYU itself a few weeks ago when Professor Bergum, the only professor there with views akin to Marxism was discharged from his position because he refused to humble himself in testimony before the McCarran Commission.
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Ladies and Gentlemen: The odds this afternoon are slightly against me. But I have always been guided by the epigram of that famous fighter for freedom, Wendell Phillips (which I have paraphrased), that one man on the side of truth is a majority. (Laughter, applause.) The debate we are having this afternoon is not a new one. It has raged for a hundred years. Marxism has been opposed since 1848, when the famous Manifesto of the Communist Party was written, by professors as today, by the ideologues, by the statesmen, by all official society – led by moharchs or democrats – and always, strangely enough, by the judges, the courts and the armies.
So always at a debate we are somewhat at a disadvantage. The odds are always weighted down by other things than arguments. Even today, the opponents of Marxism range, my friends, from Franco and the Vatican down to the coming president of the United States, General Eisenhower (Laughter.) – I don’t say that by way of casting my vote – to McCarthy on the right, who is the most eminent opponent of Marxism (at any rate he receives the most publicity) to Justice Douglas on the left.
Now I believe this is so because Marxism is a philosophy which more than any other is based on the objective reality. By scientific means it alone has been best able to analyze and discern this objective reality of society in its evolution. Unique among all the philosophies Marxism seeks not only to explain but to change the world. We can sum it up in a nutshell in this way: that man’s age-old conflict with nature, which still continues, has been superseded by his struggle to bring the social organization into harmony with the forms of production and with his daily needs.
It is this struggle which has produced the conflict between the classes. And there have been different forms of conflict between the classes in accordance with the forms and methods of production in which man has engaged. It has continued through the ages until today, when the conflict now approaches its final and cataclysmic form. All of you who sit here today will be participants in this conflict in one way or another. There will be no ivory towers high enough or bomb shelters deep enough to escape this world showdown which has been brought about by the anachronism of our modern productive system. Man working on a social basis of production, at a minute division of labor, producing an infinite number of commodities, has in effect socialized the forms of his production. But he lives with the paradox of private property, private profit and private accumulation which is a form inherited from past class systems, but can no longer be adjusted to present forms of production.
So long as this paradox endures, we will have wars, crises, poverty and the final terrible agony of humanity on a world scale.
Now you can beguile yourselves with the rationalization that all of this doesn’t apply to the United States; that like God’s chosen children, we are exempt from the laws of class conflict, from the inescapable need of social revolution, from the great centralization of wealth on the one side and the increasing misery of the population on the other. You may judge by transitory events; you may think of your tomorrow which may appear secure at the moment. But open your eyes to the reality of our time and you see the trend is toward the restriction of liberty, toward the witch-hunt, toward the erection of a garrison state, and toward the armaments economy being the norm of our economic system.
Open your eyes for a moment and you will discover that there is no philosophy in this university or any other university of a consistent character, of a world comprehensive outlook, which explains society in its change and its changing forms, to oppose Marxism. There is none. There is only skepticism, nihilism, only argument and criticism, but there is nothing which explains man’s course of development, nor his present critical position, nor indicates the road to his future in the midst of a world shaking with wars and revolutions.
Furthermore, the problem will become clearer when you find in the near future that Marxism is not just a matter for academic study because you will be called upon to shed your blood in a holy war against it. Marxism is a very virile doctrine that finds no real opposition in the form of consistent and comprehensive theory but much opposition in the form of force.
What is the course of world history that we observe today? It is this (and this is what is decisive to the argument at the moment): That the industrial and social development of the backward countries of the human race, which are its greatest portion – Eastern Europe, Russia, China, Asia – in their course from backwardness to modernity, are not taking the road of western capitalist civilization. They are not taking the road that begins with the toppling of the monarchs, the overthrow of feudal relations, the setting up of a system of free trade, competition, surrounded by a system of parliamentary democracy.
On the contrary, 800 millions of peoples throughout the world are moving today directly to a system of collective ownership and planned economy – directly from their ancient backwardness, over the stages of modern private property control – into the future, so to speak, of collective ownership. Oh! you say the path is strewn with blood, and suffering and dictatorship and even with totalitarianism, the favorite epithet of the publicists and the radio commentators. It’s true. But that’s partly because no new system has ever come into the world as did the world of Cinderella, appearing in all its fineries and beauty at the tap of a wand. Every new system that comes into the world has taken this terrible course of development. It is partly so also because of the backwardness of these countries.
We shall have a much easier time once we are ready to begin here in America. (Laughter.) I see you’re not very ready. I hope this meeting will help you somewhat. (Laughter.) But it is mostly because these countries must find their way to industrial development in the teeth of capitalist opposition, from all the big powers of the west. They are shut off from its capital, shut off from its wealth; denied the possibility of easing the course of their industrial development, since the bulk of the world’s capital remains ih the western world and in America.
Stalinist rule, the monstrosity of Stalinist rule, was not produced by the whim or the wish or the evolution of Socialist thought. It was produced, my friends, in the final analysis, by capitalism. It was produced by wars of intervention, by economic blockades. But the Russian people were not to be strangled and hence in their attempt to rise to an industrial society on the basis of collective ownership of property, there arose this temporary monstrosity, just as capitalism in its rise produced innumerable: monstrosities of its own. They will be eliminated when world capitalism, which has blocked the path of free development, ultimately meets its downfall and there is no longer the basis for a bureaucracy because there are no longer shortages, poverty and restrictions, but the world’s wealth is divided on a rational and human basis.
Marx said that the West would lead the EAst and show it its future. He said that the East would go through capitalism and eventually come to socialism. Perhaps Marx was too conservative. Events have moved more rapidly than he could anticipate. The choice before the East today is not a period of such gradual development but a direct one – between capitalism and socialism. It is not even between Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson on the one side and Karl Marx on the other. It is really between MacArthur and Chiang Kai-shek on the one side and Karl Marx on the other.
That choice is being made today, and not all of the armies of the West could stop it in Korea. A revolution sweeps the continents, through Asia, the Middle Bast, Egypt, Tunisia, through all of the backward and oppressed countries plundered by imperialism over the ages. It is nationalist only in form because behind the nationalism there are social struggles in every case. And the rulers are too frightened to carry out the nationalist struggles to the end because behind them stands a mass of poverty-stricken people who cannot wait for the gradual course of capitalist development and exploitation, but must themselves move to the next stage of human society.
This is the biggest reason for the decline of the capitalist west. Its economic props were the east, the Middle East, Russia, Eastern Europe – and they are being knocked out from under it. The west depended in large part upon investments and exploitation in the east for its profit and prosperity. The difference between imperialism having this possibility of investment and exploitation and not having it is the difference between health and decline, between prosperity and crisis.
The crisis of European capitalism compounded with the revolt in the colonies is the crisis of world capitalism. It was in Europe that capitalism flowered, there its civilization and its economy first came into being. Look at Britain, now the land of austerity, once the workshop of the world, and you can see the full significance of the crisis. Not all of the gold of America has been able to put this humpty-dumpty of Europe back together again. The pre-war rate of production has been attained in western Europe – even outstripped in Germany, France, England, Belgium and Holland. But that has only aggravated the problem because the markets of Eastern Europe and of the eastern part of the world have dropped out of their laps and because they cannot profitably trade with America because the economies are non-complementary. And so despite all of the billions of the Marshall Plan, Europe continues to decline.
All the plans to save Europe – free trade, customs unification, unification – have all collapsed. You may read a lot of rhetoric about this matter but the facts speak a different story. Now the rise of western Germany once more sets up a new source of crisis and competition with the other powers. On top of it comes our “great contribution” to Europe – the armaments economy – which is blowing up everything (I have seen it with my own eyes) that was presumably attained by the Marshall Plan. What is there in Europe? Nothing but poverty, austerity, and social crisis.
In France and Italy, the people are communists. In the rest of Western Europe, they are socialists. I don’t know how many supporters I have at this meeting today, but in Europe most decisive sections of whole populations support Marxism. That is the image of our future. In England, the Labor Party, extremely conservative so far as socialist thought is concerned, has already moved from Attlee to Bevan.
No one will be reconciled in Europe to a return to ‘”free enterprise,” because “free enterprise” (which I may make bold to say does not even exist here) never even existed in Europe in any manner or form. “Free enterprise” is identified there with the great polarization of wealth, with years of irremediable crisis, and the people are through with it. And in the coming years, and especially if there’s a war (let those who wish to make the war take note) “free enterprise” will be doomed and the epoch of socialism will come to Europe because the people will be determined that it shall come.
There are those who think that the United States is outside of this historic trend. They live in a fool’s paradise. Temporarily, but only temporarily, we profit from the decline of the capitalist world. Basically, we are choking from an over-developed, over-expanded economy, amidst a great centralization of wealth, in a shrinking world. We’re still living in the boom-bust cycle even though it may not be apparent at first glance. We never overcame the 1929 depression, and there would be a full-scale depression in the United States today if it were not for the production of the engines of destruction. If it were not for military spending, it is universally agreed that we would be in an economic tailspin. But military spending in the huge national economy of America is not sufficient unless it is geared immediately for war in order to avert a depression.
This war which must be fought throughout the world by American means alone will drain the resources and the wealth and the manpower of this country and reduce it to the status of England. No one atom bomb will win the war, but millions and tens of millions of troops will be required and, behind them all of the national resources and wealth of the nation. There is no alternative for capitalism but this war. Another depression will drag down with America the rest of the capitalist world which is dependent upon it. There is no other way for capitalism to stop the tide of revolution that sweeps through the world.
Harold Stassen called the war a counter-revolution. He was in favor of it. You know where I stand. I’m neither for Stassen nor his ideas. (Laughter.) We’re committed to this counter-revolution. Committed to it in Korea. Committed to it in Indo-China. Committed to it in China. Committed to it in Egypt and Eastern Europe. How? We support the French empire in Indo-China. We support the feudal landowners in Korea. We want to bring back the old regime in China. We support Britain’s interests in Egypt. And in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, we want to bring back the regime of private property.
No, it won’t be a war against totalitarianism. You don’t fight totalitarianism together with Franco, Chiang Kai-shek, the King of Greece, the Nazi generals who are being groomed to head the new Atlantic counter-revolutionary army, the Latin-American dictators, the Japanese militarists, not to speak of Winston Churchill. (Laughter.) And he’s the most democratic of them all. He was a supporter of Mussolini! It will be a war to turn back the clock of history to restore private property but not as we know it in Britain or America. Look at Latin America, where America’s influence has prevailed for years. Look at India, Britain’s colony for centuries. You can see only Asiatic backwardness together with a few developments from which the white man profits.
The lesson of history – I think there is a history professor here who will bear me out (Laughter.) – is that counter-revolution cannot succeed. In the end it must be defeated by tides of history, social organizations, the forces of classes in motion. In the end it must be defeated. It must be turned back. The counter-revolution that followed the revolution in France was temporarily victorious but in the end feudalism by and large was swept from the continent of Europe. Even where it subsisted, it adapted itself to the new forms of capitalist organization which became dominant. Counter-revolution assaulted the Soviet Union for years with intervention, blockades and civil wars and in the end it lost. It lost in China and the “geniuses” of the State Department who tried to stop that, revolution are having their political heads cut off in Washington today.
We’ll fight this counter-revolution alone and on two continents and against hundreds of millions of people. There are no allies for us. I saw that in Europe. The slogan in Germany is “ohne mich.” “You can have your army but ohne mich” – without me. (Laughter.) The slogan of the French workers is: “We’ll never make war against the Soviet Union,” and I have listened to tens of thousands of them chant it in unison.
In England it’s Bevan’s day; and Bevan says that in 1954 the danger will come from a militarized Prussianized America and not from the East, and he reflects the sentiment of the British working people against the war. No allies anywhere in Europe or in the world.
What we can only succeed in doing is converting the United States into the spearhead of this counter-revolution. And to do that means that it must become like the land of Hitler. We start from economics: all guns and no butter. Then we proceed to the McCarran concentration camp law. And we wind up with the General as president of the United States in a garrison state.
Look at where we are today without war. The Bill of Rights is virtually a fiction. People are deprived of a livelihood – they’re terrorized by political police, they’re thrown into prison for the mere advocacy of ideas. Teachers are forbidden the right of assembly. Justice Douglas was so agitated about this state of affairs that he said a “black silence of fear” is about to descend upon America, that it is already stifling our universities where only the orthodox is tolerated, while the heretic and the critic, which Douglas says is what youth ought to be, is afraid to raise its voice.
But I say, when you take the discussion of Marxism, as is being done in America today, out of the public forum and into McCarthy’s defamation and character assassination chambers, into Truman’s courtrooms, then you concede in advance the ideological victory of Marxism over all other doctrines which cannot fight it in any other way.
This, mind you, is being done in the United States in the midst of unprecedented prosperity where the Marxists are a tiny, unfortunately, a tiny minority. When I was in Ohio recently, I saw hysterical headlines in the newspapers screaming: “809 Communists in the State of Ohio.” (Laughter.) But many of the people who read that headline have been so psychologized with this propaganda that they probably forgot that there are seven million people in that state.
What does this hysteria signify except that the defenders of capitalism, who say that the United States is the best of all possible worlds, fear that the social revolution must eventually sweep over this country as well. And it is correct that they should have such fears. America will take the road of Marx but under the goad of great suffering, terrible tyranny, unbearable tensions and class conflicts. America cannot win the counter-revolution. It cannot dominate the world as a capitalist power. But it can lead the human race to new heights as a land of socialism. And under that land of socialism, when America brings its economy, its productive forces, its culture to bear, the shadows of dictatorship, which are temporary, will be removed. Prosperity and abundance will create the situation for real democracy throughout the world.
Marx said that in 1848, and I repeat it here again today – and I am convinced from what I have seen in Europe, from what I have read of Asia and from what I have discovered from a study of the laws of the American economy that there will be no other road than that for our country. And it will be a good one. (Applause, laughter, more applause.)
PROF. FRIEDRICH: As your chairman said, I am occupying a dual role – one as participant and the other as moderator – between virtue and sin. Now I have a brief introductory question which I hope will still leave me time for others. Well, Mr. Clarke, as I was listening to your statements a thought occurred to me: Supposing you had taken a point of view opposite to that which is generally prevalent in the United States (as opposite as your point of view is to that of the United States) in Moscow, Budapest and in the countries which are on the road to the social ownership of the means of production? Supposing you had taken a point of view there as opposed to that which is forced by the dictatorship of the state? Just what do you think would have happened to you?
CLARKE: Well I would really like to pose the question back to the professor. Suppose that I were a representative of the National Manufacturers Ass’n (God forbid!) and you as a professor were defending Marxism against me. How long would you last in this university? (Professor Friedrich indicates disagreement.) I cite you as evidence the case of Professor Wiggins, the only Negro on the staff of the University of Minnesota, who was discharged from the university for speaking in favor of Marxism in a campus symposium called “Issues in Social Conflict.” Or of the notorious Feinberg Law in our own state ... (tape becomes inaudible at this point.)
PROF. WERTHWEIM: I like the phrase “capitalist democracy.” It has offered us quite a bit in the past and will continue to offer us quite a bit. I feel that capitalist democracy has more of a hope for the future than any acceptance of visionary myths or tenets that don’t seemed to have worked out. I see no particular crisis at the moment other than the fact that we have gone through in history various periods of crisis. That doesn’t mean the complete collapse of all forms of capitalism.
Capitalism can emerge in other forms retaining, I hope, as we have under a “capitalist democracy,” certain of our own ideals, the ideals that we do have the right to certain privileges. We have the right, in my ppinion, to compete freely and openly with others. I don’t put it on the basis of mere accumulation of money – the profit motive – but I feel there is room for talent; there is room for initiative, and I don’t feel that in any leveling process of the so-called socialist state in the future that those ideals would be maintained. I don’t know whether he expects to project us into a vision that somehow or other we are going to arrive at tomorrow.
If this is the final crisis of world capitalism, what does he mean? Is this,the crisis today, is it tomorrow, is it 10 years from now, is it a century from now? What is the topic we are discussing? Are we going through this final crisis today merely because he indicates that here and there you have imperialism and you have wars? We’ve had those things before. You have communist imperialism today as much as you’ve had capitalist imperialism. You can denounce imperialism, but I can’t see that there’s going to be that radical a change and all of you are going to live in some future world where it’s going to be happy for every one of, us if you don’t permit certain of the ideals of liberalism and the liberal democratic form of government which has emerged from “capitalist democracy” (if you want to call it that) which permits us the right to speak here today and to gather here today.
I don’t think those liberties are going to disappear from this country quite as rapidly as everyone indicates merely because some isolated individual or some isolated professor is in chains here or there. I have no particular question other than that I would like to have an optimistic view presented. Just what is socialism to achieve if capitalism, as you call it, goes down? What’s the vision? What’s the solution? (Applause.)
CLARKE: Well, I am trying to put my finger on just exactly what the professor wants. 1 must confess it’s a little difficult to get at though. One thing the professor reminds me of (and I think he and I are among those here old enough to remember) is the period of the Twenties. (Laughter.) I remember much similar reasoning then. If you read the books of Thomas Nixon Carver, Irving Fisher of Yale, and the first edition of Charles Beard’s Rise of American Civilization, among others, you will find that in that period it was generally believed that America was entering its golden age of prosperity in which poverty was finally going to be eliminated ad profit-sharing spread among the great bulk of the people, and all of the causes of the cyclical development of capitalism, of boom and bust, would be eliminated in a general onward and upward march. But just as they had finished writing those books in this optimistic note, a ten-year depression began. Most of those writers are not even known today!
I say there’s the most decisive factor – that we are on the eve of war and depression. It is not for me to provide an optimistic note but for you to show how we can avoid this holocaust that is being prepared for us and for humanity.
Now I don’t deny the great wonders of capitalist civilization. Marxists were the first to recognize them. Marx borrowed many of his ideas from the classical economists, from the German philosophers and from others. But this society has gone through a number of stages and, as I tried to indicate before, it is now in the stage of its decline when it can only be bolstered, as in our country, by armaments production in order to continue the present level of production. This is decline. There is nothing in the history of capitalism like it except in the period that followed World War I.
When 800 millions of people have left the orbit of capitalism, when European capitalism, once so prosperous and wealthy, is in a state of perpetual deficit and crisis and can only be bailed out by American money (and that in turn puts new burdens on Europe) – put these factors together and you will see where the final crisis is. Will it come in one year, five years, ten years? Well, in the course of history that’s a short time. But in the last 35 years, we have seen a development that has completely uprooted and altered a society that has lasted for years along entirely new forms, and only those predicted by Marx.
What of the future? The conclusion is self-evident. Eliminate the vested interests and their centralized domination over man’s wealth and resources; eliminate the 60 families and the 265 companies in the United States which have within their hands this tremendous wealth, and who prevent the living standards of the mass of the people from keeping pace with the output of the productive plant. Organize our economy on a socialized, planned basis and then the foundations will be laid for the withering away of the state as an agency of repression.
What we are witnessing in the United States today is something entirely different – the withering away of capitalist democracy. That is the real problem before us today. This is not the work of this or that individual. It pervades our entire society.
The Supreme Court can say of the Bill of Rights that free speech is now to be limited to the point where advocacy of Marxism, which is falsely equated as the advocacy of the overthrow of the government by force and violence, is a punishable crime.
Add to that government by decree which establishes a “loyalty” ruling in which an organization can be designated by the government as “subversive” without a hearing. and you have a new limitation on the rights of assembly. Who will come to a meeting or join an organization which is so stigmatized by the government and for belonging to which he may be fired from his employment?
Deport a person who came to this country believing it to be a haven for all immigrants fleeing from oppression, not because he is a communist today, but because at one time since he came to this country he may have been associated with communists ...
Follow these trends in American society today and you can see the withering away of this capitalist democracy. Why? Because we cannot fight this kind of war, we cannot maintain this inequality of wealth and poverty without such restrictions on human rights. Eliminate the classes and you will eliminate the causes for repression and inequality and man’s way will be opened to a better world. (Applause.)
PROF. FRIEDRICH: I think that perhaps a preliminary statement on my part is called for also. There are several things characteristic of Mr. Clarke’s statements that bother me greatly. One is the utterly unqualified acceptance of what he calls Marxism. I don’t know of any human figure, human writer, human philosopher that has taught absolute truth with such certainty. As a matter of fact, if you follow Marx’s predictions they are not borne out at all. There are incidents in history which are incidents to which he refers.
But if it is a causal process you have in mind, then you Marxists have to make qualifications. He calls Marx impatient because it was Russia, an agrarian country, it is China, an agrarian and backward country that has taken the lead in establishing social ownership in the means of production. But it was Marx’s firm prediction, and it can only be the prediction, because it’s inherent in Marxist logic that socialism must come first in a highly industrialized state. It did not come in the highly industrialized states. Then another thing that bothers me in his logic is that whatever is wrong with the world has but one single cause. I think probably he would exclude measles, but practically everything else has one single cause. That the people of Russia are poor, starving, depressed, terrorized people is because of American capitalism or because of capitalism. If the North Koreans invade South Korea, it’s because of American capitalism. Was it American capitalism if we go back to Egypt and elsewhere?
Then there’s a third part. I think something should be said for American capitalism. In 1870, the normal work week was 72 hours. It’s now 40. All right. American capitalism is not a perfect world. American capitalism has many faults and weaknesses. But it nevertheless remains a fact that in 1870 the normal working week was 72 hours and now it’s 40. And if you travel along the highway today and see the millions of cars and then say that the American working class is depressed, it’s sheer nonsense. And then say that if we follow the road of Russia and Czechoslovakia, then what? Would we have more cars, shorter work weeks? No.
Marx predicted the progressive impoverishment of the working class. But where is the working class the poorest? Where do they work the longest hours? Where do they work under the most severe disciplines and terrors? Is it the working class in America that are picked out of their homes at night, loaded on freight trains sent off to work camps and there worked to death? I suppose the slave labor camps in Soviet Russia are also due to the Sixty Families, the mythical Sixty Families in the United States. Now Mr. Clarke, do you really believe what you’ve been saying? (Laughter and Applause.)
CLARKE: Yes, I do believe in what I’m saying. And that’s why I’m not a professor. (Laughter and applause.) Marxists claim no infallibility for Marx. They claim only that he discovered a set of laws in the materialist philosophy which describes the changes which have occurred and will occur in man’s evolution. Marx was not confirmed that the first countries to come to socialism would be the advanced capitalist countries of the West. But his predictions have got to be judged also in the light of world developments.
Capitalism remained not a European phenomenon but became a world phenomenon. Its links were tied to every country in the world. Even China, and India, not to speak of Russia and Eastern Europe, were linked to Western capitalism in the world chain. When the chain broke in the backward countries, it proved more that while Marx was not infallible in the sense of laying down an absolute prediction, he did foresee how the system would finally break up through the struggle of the classes. Now, the fact that it breaks up in the East has become a further cause for its decline in the West.
You make much here in a propagandistic way of the number of automobiles and the good life that the American workers presumably enjoy as compared to the long hours and slave labor camps and oppressive conditions in the Soviet Union. I tried to state briefly what the cause for that development was in the USSR. The Soviet Union had to industrialize without Western capital, which was denied them, and that’s a big reason for the distortions in their system.
But the question can better be understood if we turn our attention to the development of capitalism in the United States and England. Where did the capital come from that ultimately went to American industry and to its industrialization? From slavery in part. There was slave labor here and much worse: families were wrenched apart, women were sold on the auction block and children were whipped. The capital came from the slave trade from Africa that everybody has read about in the history books, which enriched the Yankee traders. It came from the inhuman exploitation of immigrant labor in the mines, from the 14 and 16 hour a day labor for women and children in the factories and the sweatshops. You will find the same process in England except that India took the place of Negro slavery for the English capitalists.
America had the benefit of foreign capital until 1914. In the war of 1914-1918, we were still a debtor country. What’s the meaning of a debtor country that is in the process of industrial development? It means that it is being aided by foreign capital. Capital was made available to the United States, easing its development which occurred on a capitalist basis. But it has been denied the Russian people because they were determined to take the socialist road. (Applause.)
PROF. RAYMOND: Well, I hate to get serious (laughter) but (applause) I happened to live for six years in the USSR and I studied their socialism very carefully even allowing for the armaments and so forth. And there are certain things that strike out right immediately.
In the first place, socialism has natural faults. Don’t kid yourself. First of all everybody gets lazy. They’re all working for the state. You know it’s an old attitude. “Why work hard? It’s our state.”
Secondly, planning has never been perfect yet, and if you don’t believe me, go down and look at the current digest of the Soviet press in our serials room and see what the economic sections say, using textual quotations from the Soviet press, how a planned economy is working. It has all kinds of ups and downs and illogical things. An economy is just too big to ever work perfectly.
Thirdly, a point that I think is one of the most horrible things I have ever seen: the Soviet Union had unemployment, and had it until it started arming. It is armaments in both worlds that has removed unemployment. But you cannot say that socialism is the cure-all. Go look at it. It’s been tried. It was tried in China in the Middle Ages. And always it has had trouble. So have we got trouble. Perhaps there is some way in between them that will be the answer. But you always have difficulties. And don’t think that just because Marx wrote something that it’s going to work out that way. I’d like to ask why a half a million people run away from the Soviet Union? Is that because Marxism is a perfect state? (Applause.)
CLARKE: The only thing I wish you would tell us, Professor, is – you don’t like Marxism and you say there ought to be something else. What else?
PROF. RAYMOND: That’s for you to find out.
(Laughter and applause.)
CLARKE: I’m trying to find that out and I’ve arrived at my own position. It’s not an academic question. It’s a question of humanity being faced with atomic destruction. It’s a question of innumerable crises. It’s a question of servitude of a great portion of a human race. As a thinker, Professor. I think the least we can ask of you, is to come up with some idea, something that the human race and not merely its most privileged part – which perhaps at the particular moment can afford to turn its back on these problems – can be interested in. And you will not hear as a rule such ideas, such arguments.
Your position is based on the transient status quo in the United States. It is based on the fact that planning has not been perfect in the Soviet Union. Far from it. How could it be? It was deformed by the backwardness of the country. It had the obstacle of the lack of foreign capital. It was first tried in a country that was primarily illiterate. Nevertheless by planning, in the course of 28 years, no, less, in 22 years they have built the first industrial country in Europe. With that imperfect plan, with that bureaucratic incubus, with that obstacle and opposition from the West, that’s a tribute despite all of its faults, all of its evils.
Now, you say people have left the Soviet Union because Marxism is not a perfect state. Professor, Marxism is not a state. Marxism is a system of ideas, a doctrine. (Laughter.) I have to say that at a University! What exists in the Soviet Union is a transitory society. It is not socialism. That is the great lie of Stalin and those who sit on top of the regime. To justify their bureaucratic privileges they must tell the world that there exists the society without classes, the society of abundance. That is their great disservice to the cause of socialism.
But the truth is clear. It was stated by the founders of that state, by Lenin and Trotsky. It is a state of transition between capitalism and socialism. And they were the last to hide from the people of Russia that they would have to enter a vale of tears to complete that transition. Lenin thought that Western, industrial Germany would come to their assistance and come to socialism. Then the road would be much easier. It didn’t happen that way. I won’t enter upon the reasons for that today except to repeat again, Professor, that the capitalist West did its level best to prevent Germany from coming to the aid of Russia. The international magnates saw to that. It was with their aid that Hitler came to power, rearmed Germany, and finally hurled his Nazi legions against the USSR.
And now in the midst of this, people leave the Soviet Union because of the terrible situation that exists there. It’s true. But do you know what the refugees say? I have read reputable studies on this matter. They’re all against the Stalin regime, but they say that if the Stalin regime is overthrown, the system of collective property must remain. They say that it is progressive and want only to add the control of the people and the elimination of the bureaucrats. Similarly the people of Eastern Europe don’t like their Stalinist overlords, but they are in their overwhelming majority wedded to the new forms of collective property relations, and they are against any restoration of the old regime.
A poll was taken in Eastern Germany by a reputable Western agency. You can see both sides of the question here. Western agencies wanted the poll because they had to have some clear facts to determine future policy. They found that of the people canvassed only 20% said that in the event of a free election in Germany would they vote for the Communist Party, so great is their hostility to the bureaucracy, its brutality and its methods. But of these people, 80% said that they were in favor of and would fight for the retention of the changes in property relations from private property to collective property which had occurred.
Anyone in Europe will tell you that the reason the Voice of America is a flop is because it says that we will restore private property, so-called “free enterprise” in Eastern Europe, and the peoples in that part of the world are finished with it. There you can see the two stages of this development. The first stage distorted by bureaucracy and dictatorship, and the second stage reflecting the consciousness of the people that they have made a great stride forward, that they will continue to move that way but will unlimber themselves of this bureaucracy. (Applause.)
PROF. FRIEDRICH: I only hope, Mr Clarke, that if your prediction should come true, your hopes that the people who get the power will be the kind of people that will do only good. That there will be no Stalin or others to pervert and divert this movement away from the heaven on earth. Now I’d like to ask for questions from the floor. We have some minutes left. I’m sure some of you have questions to ask.
(A number of questions and answers were missed here by a break in the tape.)
QUESTION: Skimming over the predatory state of Soviet Russia, will you please explain the relationship and the right of the individual in a Marxist society?
CLARKE: In the society of socialism, what are the relations or the rights of the individual? Well, you won’t have any loyalty oaths (laughter), any McCarran Acts. The right to accumulate private property in the means of production will be eliminated (Question: By whom?) by the action of the people (laughter) and enforced by the state. The right to discriminate against people because of race, color and creed will be made a punishable offense – punishable, I believe, in the first stage of the new society by the final means of punishment which no capitalist society dares employ against race-haters. All of these measures will establish a new relationship between man and man, eliminating the inequality and oppressive features which exist today. (Applause.)
QUESTION: From my understanding of your speech, . I believe that dearth of conditions in the Soviet Union today is not due to the system, but to the methods in which the system is run. Now, what guarantees have we that were Stalin and his ilk to be taken from Russia that another group of the same kind would not rise in its place?
CLARKE: I think that if Stalin and his group were taken from Russia today and just any other group placed in charge of Russia that it might proceed in the same way. Because as a materialist, I believe that similar conditions tend to produce the same results. What I am saying is this: Stalin was created by a situation of poverty, isolation and the encirclement of the Soviet Union, a situation of the lack of material goods, of backwardness.
What guarantee is there in any future revolution that a Stalin should not arise? There is none if the same conditions prevail. It is only when there is abundance – and that is what the Western part of civilization has – only where there is plenty; it is only when developed countries take the road of socialism that bureaucratic repression can be averted. And the very extension of the revolution, as it proceeds to the more advanced countries, immediately produces an opposition to Stalin’s bureaucracy.
We have seen that, for instance, in Yugoslavia; in the great difficulties the Stalinist machine faces in Eastern Europe. These more advahced people, with a higher standard of living, are already the source of opposition to the bureaucracy. When Jhe movement spreads farther West – -to France and Germany and England and finally to the United States, then the past and the position of the people and their economic basis will prevent the rise of a similar bureaucracy.
PROF. FRIEDRICH: Now, you can note that Mr. Clarke’s voice is getting somewhat frayed. He’s been talking a great deal. And – would you answer two more questions? (Clarke: Yes.) What’s that? (Many hands are raised in the audience.) All right, then I will choose blindly.
QUESTION: In other words the society you envision would have to be a world of people populated by a conglomeration of Jesus Christ, the socialistic man conducting himself for the betterment of society, in other words in the spirit of Jesus Christ?
CLARKE: I think that under socialism man will rise a step in the ladder higher than Jesus Christ. (Amused reaction and applause.) Man has been transformed many times in the course of history. From barbarism, from cannibalism to the methods that existed under feudal society, to the comparison that we can see today between the backward countries of the world and advanced America – there you can see many transformations. How has this occurred? Not by missionary teachings, not by the prior transformation of man’s values, but by the changes of man’s relation to man in the process of production. The changes in the mode of production, and with it the change in the relationships of men, will eliminate greed and the other driving motive forces under present-day society and replace them with entirely different ones. With that, man will begin to undergo a great transformation.
PROF. FRIEDRICH: Well, I tell you. It’s a quarter to five. We’ve been here an hour and 45 minutes. Mr. Clarke’s voice is getting hoarse. I’m getting tired. (Laughter.) This discussion could go on from now until six months from now and we would still have most of the questions unresolved. What this meeting proves is that the McCarran Act, McCarthy and a lot of others in the United States still allow the expression of a point of view which, according to the speaker, is anathema to those who control the United States. Good night. (Applause.)
Last updated on: 26 March 2009