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Sam Adams

A Pamphlet Plugging for the Socialist Ideal

(October 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 40, 4 October 1943, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Before the First World War and for but a short time after, propaganda for socialism was fairly widespread in this country. The socialist movement in those days knew how to talk socialism. While it was wholly inefficient in organizing large groups of workers around the conception of the class struggle and the need for constructing a militant party with the aim of fighting for a socialist society, concentrating almost entirely on the parliamentary struggle, it did quite an effective job of telling millions of people what socialism was.

This propaganda for socialism, and the agitation which supplemented it, was often romantic and sentimental. But the “dream of socialism,” as it was often called, taught thousands that socialism meant a society without classes, without the exploitation of man by man, without a production system operating for the purpose of producing profits for a few.

The Old Socialist Agitation

The old socialist agitators capably demonstrated how socialism could end poverty, unemployment and war by eliminating private ownership of the means of producing the things of life, national and international competition, and the struggle for existence by the overwhelming majority of the population in this and all other countries.

They supplemented this campaign for socialism with a merciless exposure of the evils of capitalist society, its murderous exploitation of the workers, its utter hypocrisy in human relations, and the most evident feature of its class character: the impoverishment of the masses and the enrichment of a small class of capitalists. In addition, the early socialists did a great job in tearing the mask from the great trusts – the railroad, steel, meat-packing and others.

But in the post-war period of 1918–29, this socialist propaganda and agitation disappeared and has remained largely a lost art. There were many reasons for this. We should like to present two of them; first, the rise of the prosperity period, and, second, the influence of the Russian Revolution.

Prosperity and Russian Revolution

The prosperity period APPEARED to answer the socialist criticism. The APPARENT strength of capitalism was the thing most obvious to the eye. Paid propagandists of big business, college professors, economics and intellectuals of every variety took to the pen to explain why capitalism was a wonderful society and socialism a mere utopia. Or else, these paid penmen argued that the new richness of American capitalism was actually paving the way to the kind of life, the socialists wanted. Many called it the new capitalism: no unemployment, high wages, workers owning automobiles and their own homes.

But in 1929 the bubble burst and the whole rotten system, built on a foundation of toothpicks, tumbled down. It was quickly revealed that the prosperity period was a fraud; that the capitalist became enriched during that stage, but that the working class, for all its employment, came out of it worse off than ever.

The Russian Revolution had an altogether other influence – in part challenging the propaganda of the prosperity period. The Russian Revolution showed the way to workers’ power and it showed what steps were necessary to lay the basis for the future socialism. In the very first years of the Russian Revolution, workers all over the world were thus acquainted with practical steps and problems of the new workers’ power. But the socialist goal, the new society, became lost in the support for the first experiment of a modern workers state.

We were to witness a new experience. As the capitalist world system headed into a terrible crisis of decline, the Russian Revolution, which attracted millions the world over, also went into decline. The revolution degenerated at the same pace as the crisis revealed the utter bankruptcy of capitalism. The Russian workers’ state went into oblivion and the total result of the experiences of the past twenty years has been the weakening of the world movement for socialism.

Fulfilling a Need

The necessity of rebuilding the movement for socialism requires the re-establishment of the art of socialist propaganda and agitation, to tell millions what socialism is, its relation and comparison to capitalism, and’how it can be achieved.

These are some of the reasons why the pamphlet, Plenty for All, is an important contribution. Ernest Lund, the author, is a person who has been concerned with this problem for a long time. He was always disturbed by the lack of simple socialist propaganda and agitation, and, above all, the socialist education of the workers. To help fill a gap in the workers’ movement, he sat down and wrote this simple, lucid and educational socialist pamphlet.

A mere glance at the chapter titles of Plenty for All will reveal what a painstaking job it is.

Lund describes the present capitalist system. He reveals how thoroughly rotten it is, how it is an outlived system capable of producing nothing but unemployment, poverty, war, the scourge of fascism and suppression of the will of the people.

But many writers have done the same thing. The importance of the Lund pamphlet is that it points a way out of this foul system. He not only shows why socialism is inevitable and necessary, but he describes What it is and how it can be achieved.

Spread Plenty For All

The great demand for copies of Plenty for All is the best evidence that this kind of writing is badly needed. It is only a few weeks since the pamphlet came off the press, yet already it has sold nearly 1,800 copies.

This is a grand beginning. But it is not nearly enough. Branches of the Workers Party have gone all-out in a campaign to sell Plenty for All. Many readers of Labor Action have ordered copies. And still more have ordered small bundles to distribute and sell to their fellow workers.

This is all to the good. What has to be done, however, is to increase this rate of sale and distribution. More thousands of copies of Plenty for All should be circulated among the militant workers in this country to spread the message of socialism!

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