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Farrell Dobbs

Who Will Do Planning
Under U.S. Socialism?

(29 December 1949)

Source: The Militant, Vol. 13 No. 1, 3 January 1949, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcription & Mark-up: Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The nature of planning under socialism is described by Farrell Dobbs, National Chairman of the Socialist Workers Party, in the following letter to Sylvia T. Porter, columnist on the New York Post.

December 29, 1948

Dear Miss Porter,

Your column of Dec. 21 in the N.Y. Post reports that Norman Thomas, in an interview on the radio program Meet the Press, failed to answer your questions about economic planning under socialism. You ask if “any socialist among you” wants to try his hand at it? I accept your invitation.

You want to know, “What basis have I for believing socialism in practice, as opposed to socialism in theory, will cure the ills of the American system?”

First let me say that revolutionary socialism has nothing in common with the capitalist liberalism of Norman Thomas which he miscalls “socialism.” Genuine socialism will bring conscious aims and rational plans into the struggle to wrest from nature everything man needs and to erect a new culture not for an elite but for the mass of the people.

Socialism will abolish the capitalist system of causing artificial scarcities in order to coin huge corporation profits. Wealthy corporation owners will no longer live in fantastic luxury at the expense of the great mass of the people. The basic means of production and distribution will be nationalized. The country’s rich natural resources, vast industries, skilled labor force and advanced technology will be geared for all-out production – planned to meet the needs of the people.

The first goal will be to provide everybody with adequate food, clothing, housing, medical care, educational facilities, and economic security during periods of disability and in their old age. As social wealth grows, luxuries that only the rich can now afford will be enjoyed by everybody. While collective ownership will prevail in the means of production, each person will retain private ownership of his fair share of the fruits of production.

You may object that this is mere “theory,” not “practice.” For you say in your column, “To date, no one has shown me how to avoid substituting the evils of state monopoly in our country for private corporation monopoly.” I assume you have in mind present conditions within the Soviet Union.

Life under Stalin’s brutal police regime is not socialism in “practice,” as the Stalinist liars falsely claim. It is anything but socialism. Why then – if the revolution of 1917 led by Lenin and Trotsky started Russia on the road to socialism, as it did – was Stalin able to take power and betray the entire world working class ?

Russia, in 1917, was an industrially backward country, with only a small percentage of industrial workers. Before socialism could be established there, it was necessary for highly industrialized countries like Germany and the United States to take the socialist road and come to the aid of the Russian workers. Instead, the ruling capitalists in Europe and America were able to organize military expeditions against the Soviet Union.

The Russian workers defeated their enemies, but they emerged from battle hungry and tired, cut off from the rest of the world. Then Lenin died.

Stalin exploited these conditions to defame and exile Trotsky so he could impose his fatal theory of “socialism in one country.” Next the Stalinist ruling clique utilized scarcities of goods to foster development of privileged layers in Soviet society, as a means of support for their police rule. Under Stalin, instead of advancing toward socialism, the Soviet Union has degenerated.

Basic Differences

Unlike Russia of 1917, the United States is the most advanced industrial nation in the world, with the most powerful working class. Instead of foreign powers launching military assaults on a socialist America, as they did, against the Soviet Union, the working people of the entire world would follow the American workers unto the socialist road.

The great mass of the workers, supported by the farmers and all the little poeple, would be drawn into the struggle for socialism. Once in motion, they would release the country’s tremendous productive capacity to quickly eliminate economic scarcities. There would be no privileged layers of society on which an American Stalin might base himself. The United States, and the whole world with it, would start the uninterrupted march to socialism.

We come now to your question, “Will the economic planning be by me or will it be for me?” Will it ignore or underestimate the human element?

Socialism will give full freedom to the creative capacity of the entire population. For the first time in history, the central instruments of production will be controlled by the majority. Democracy will come into full bloom.

Contraction of the socialist order will begin under the leadership of the Workers and Farmers Government. That government will be composed of democratically elected representatives from all segments of the working population – industrial workers, white collar workers, sharecroppers, working farmers, housewives, professional people, negroes, students, rank and file soldiers and sailors. Unions will be preserved as a means for the workers to defend themselves, by strike action if necessary, against any injurious government policy.

A giant network of democratically constituted committees representing every field of production and distribution will be drawn into the preparation and execution of economic plans under the guidance of the workers and Farmers Government. There will be full freedom of criticism. Initiative will be encouraged everywhere. The working people will decide all questions and build their own life.

Differing opinions over policies and methods in building the socialist society will no doubt lead to great debates. Political parties will crystalize in support of various points of view and contend for government office. There will be genuine freedom of elections with universal suffrage in these contests and free access to all mediums of expression now controlled by the monopolists.

The youth will be guaranteed a complete education in their chosen calling. They will receive every opportunity to criticize, make mistakes and grow up free from regimentation or restraint.

Neither an arbitrary plan nor a shadow of compulsion will be imposed in personal relations or in science or art. The degree to which creativeness is individual or collective will be decided entirely by the creators.

Socialism will free all mankind from the beast-like search for food, from the madman’s dream of profits and empire. Oppressed humanity will be released from the shackles of superstition and prejudice. Civilization will rise to undreamed of heights.

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