Under continuous construction
Isn't "socialist" a bad word?
While it's true that words like "socialism," "Marxism," etc have been characterized by almost a century of stigma, these words are actually best characterized by a simple comparison: the exploitation of the many for the benefit of the few (capitalists) vs. the free association of all. The word "socialism" becoming a dirty word is a result of decades of political struggles between world superpowers competing for global influence. Propaganda can be a powerful thing. However, studies show that much larger portions of the American public (as high as 67%) no longer think of socialism as a dirty word. It's time the word again becomes an acceptable part of the American lexicon!
The same question can be posed in another way: in a country like America where 1 in 7 Americans live in abject poverty, couldn't "capitalism" be considered a dirty word?
How is socialism, as defined by the International Socialist Organization, different from other countries or organizations that use the same word?
The International Socialist Organization (ISO) adheres to the idea of socialism as it was originally intended: socialism from below. Democracy un-influenced by corporate interference, where a person's vote actually matters and can't be hijacked by politicians who are bought off by outside special interest (interests characterized by massive multi-national corporations and banking institutions), which, in reality, set policies. This can be easily seen in the recent domination of the Democratic Party across the board, who, supposedly in the name of the people, continuously craft policies in favor of big business over the needs of people.
What is capitalism?
Capitalism is a system based in exploitation. What is meant by this is that the business owner (or often the banking institution or financier who provides the capital necessary for a business to survive/operate) must pay the worker less than the value of what their work actually produces. In this way the business owner creates profit (much of which goes back towards paying off loans that came from the banking institution in the first place) at the expense of the hard work of the average American worker. So, rather than the now out-dated concept of "trickle-down economics," money actually travels up, not down. The result of this is consolidation of capital, wealth, into the hands of the few at the expense of the many. These few use their power and influence to set legislation and guidelines which continuate the process.
Capitalism has led to massive technological advancements and an improvement to human life, why socialism?
It's very true that capitalism has been an advancement over feudalism and even a type of advancement for democracy. However, the advancements created are only enjoyed by those who have the means to enjoy them. Skyscrapers, yachts, healthy food, adequate health care, leisure time, etc exist for those who can afford it, though it was the workers who created the abundance in the first place. Workers, even those who work 40, 50, 60 hours a week often aren't able to earn enough to enjoy these luxories.
Abundance, however, has been created by the efforts of us, the workers. Socialism not only provides the full return of the value of what is created by a worker, but also gives them access to adequate health care, leisure time, and an enjoyable and meaningful existence--rather than the drudgery, anxiety and unstable existence we are most used to. At the same time, when there are no longer capitalists to buy off politicians democracy can finally function and flourish, creating a society where everyone can have a say in the course of their lives--from the decisions at the shop floor to broader local, national and international issues.
I've heard that capitalism and the "free market" is the final stage of human development, why socialism?
How can the claim be made that capitalism is the final stage of development when 51 million American live in poverty? When, even according to the World Bank, 28,000 people die of starvation every single day around the world? When the United States is 46th in the world when it comes to infant mortality? Just under 500 people in the world control more wealth, privilege and power than 3 billion people? This system shares more in common with feudalism than it does with a perfect society.
Socialism, however, is a system based on meeting peoples needs and re-orienting towards a society where wealth and products aren't guarded and held back by an elite for the purpose of maintaining their status and influence. It is a system based on meeting the needs of those who create the products, services and wealth that the world survives on in the first place.
Aren't places like Canada, Norway and France examples of socialism? They experience the same sorts of problems that we experience here in the United States...
Countries like those mentioned above are not socialist. They have increased social welfare systems that benefit people greater than here in the United States, yet an elite capitalist class still controls society and stands in the way of true democracy. Their economic systems are based on the same exploitative measures that we see in the United States, just a tiny bit more is given back than here. Socialism is an economic and political system in which workers are freed from economic exploitation.
People are powerless against the ruling class of society, why even bother organizing for socialism?
There has never been a society or economic system in the history of the world that has lasted forever, and ours is no exception. Through the organizing of the working class, which runs and creates what our society needs to exist, the political elite, however powerful, can be replaced with a system based on the well-being and freedom of all people--eliminating an elite class forever. History is not over.
Why should I become involved in a socialist organization like the International Socialist Organization?
The International Socialist Organization (ISO) is an organization which can become the platform for greater social change and, ultimately, the liberation of all people from exploitation and tyranny. Change does not come spontaneously and participation in organizations like the ISO is necessary to actually achieve fundamental change rather than just talking about it. As the world is run now, with the exploitation of the vast majority for the benefit of a small minority, we will all be victims--unless we stand up now and do something about it! Change will not come from an outside hero, but from all of us organizing and acting collectively. The ISO is an arena in which to begin to do just that. When you become a part of the ISO you immediately have support and groups of people willing to work and struggle alongside you. Already the ISO has struggled for and achieved valuable change, even within the capitalist system.
All forms of goverment have problems, why would socialism be different/better?
The ISO struggles for a society in which democracy can truly flourish and problems can be actually overcome, rather than the unending back and forth between two capitalist parties, both of which operate on the foundation of exploitation.
Isn't it human nature to be greedy and take advantage of other people?
This is a capitalist myth created to support the current system. Only a cursery glance at the history of humankind will provide numerous examples of how greed and exploitation are not natural or hard-wired in the human brain. These behaviors are learned based on experience and the societies in which we are raised. We've all experienced greed and exploitation from all segments of society. But we have to ask ourselves, in which context was this behavior engendered?
Can't people overcome capitalism by simply changing their consumption habits?
Because capitalism is based on a profit system there is no way to buy your way out of it. Profitteers are genius at coming up with new markets for alternative consumption habits. For instance, organic, free range and alternative foods have become multi-million dollar industries. They don't care what we're buying, so long as we're consuming. There has been no alternative consumption trend that has not been capitalized on.
What is the working class and why is it so important?
Do you create your personal profit from the hired labor of others? Then you are the working class. And even many who do profit from the hired labor of others are only able to do so by outside financing from banking institutions. The working class are not just industrial workers. Teachers, truck drivers, garbage collectors, office workers, doctors, nurses, service industry workers, etc etc etc all have one thing in common--they work for a wage. All of these people, whatever pay-grade or background, share far more in common with each other than they do with those who dole out their wages (especially since it's in the interest of the owners to constantly pay less, cut benefits, reduce hours, reduce holiday and sick leave, etc in the name of increasing their personal profit). Especially in the sense that workers are almost all practically powerless in decision making in the very work they do and they know how to do best. Owners don't make decisions based on efficiency, they make them based on profit.
So who is this elite ruling class you're talking about?
Go to your local bank and ask to talk to who is in charge. Then ask that person who is in charge of them, and they'll point you to someone else. Then ask that person, and you'll again be pointed to someone else. Keep going, it will become harder and harder to meet with these people, you'll have to schedule appointments and get on their calendar. The last person at the very top won't even bother to meet with you. He or she is a member of the ruling class. You can often see their children on the front pages of celebrity tabloid papers.
I've heard that the ISO is only focused around campuses and students, is this true?
The ISO has branches all across the country and is growing very rapidly. Many of these branches don't exist in college towns. It's true that many branches do exist in college towns, but the ISO is not a student organization (though students are welcome). Campuses are areas of radicalization, so there has been a focus on these cities, and students graduate to join the working class. At the same time, however, the ISO is working with and made up of members of unions, the working class, students and non-students around the country.
Since there is such a stigma against the word "socialism" shouldn't we give it another name or act more secretly, even if we believe in Marxism?
To quote the Communist Manifesto, "Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims." Our work is based in honesty. While it may be true that it's not always advantageous to alienate people in certain circumstance, the ISO proudly exists as an openly socialist organistion. Only through our struggles, solidarity and successes will we reclaim the term after decades of Cold War propaganda. Based on a recent and respected Rassmusen poll 30% of the population thinks socialism is superior to capitalism, and another 37% isn't sure. How can this great interest be exposed to socialism if we don't use the word itself?
If capitalism is so bad, won't the workers spontaneously rise up on their own? Why hasn't this already happened?
Everyone works very hard to survive every single day. That is one of the consequences of capitalism--it doesn't proved a lot of time for political focus. That's why, in America, political issues are often boiled down to reductionist slogans. Greater social, economic and political change has always come from hard work from dedicated people before larger segments of society come over to new ideas. This work doesn't always yield immediate results, but always has an effect.
Isn't socialism the opposite of freedom, including state oppression and dictatorship?
On the contrary, socialism is the total expansion of freedom. Again, without the belligerent influence of a capitalist ruling class democracy can finally flourish. A state is only oppressive and dictatorial when it isn't under the control of the people (and argument that can be currently made about the United States). There is a lot of confusion and misinformation about the term "dictatorship of the working class." The working class statistically constitutes practically everyone in any given society around the world. So what is meant by this is all state power into the hands of the people, democracy. The economic changes brought about by socialism remove these outside influences and allow people to finally, after centuries and thousands of years, hold the reins of their own society and set standards which truly serve the greater good.
Hasn't socialism died out with the 20th century?
That's what capitalists would love for us to believe. However, just a glance at situations around the world and here in the United States the socialist movement is still alive and gaining influence everywhere. In fact, the ISO, as an internationalist organization, has sister organizations all around the globe. As Marx wrote, "the ruling ideas of any society are those of the ruling class." This is as true in the United States as it is anywhere. Until liberation is achieved, people will struggle for it.
Sure, socialism is a great idea, but how can it compete with the rising right across the world?
While it's true that the right in this country, including the Democrats, have most of the power and money it is crucially important to remember where that power and money comes from--all of us, the working class. We are, truly, the ones who hold world power. It is only up to us to organize and exercize it. That is what organizations like the ISO is seeking to accomplish.
Aren't places like Cuba, North Korea, China and the former Soviet Union examples of how the socialist experiment was tried and failed? Why should we struggle for something that has already proven to have failed?
It is the opinion of the ISO that places like Cuba, North Korea and China are not socialist countries. While industry is greatly nationalized in those countries (though in many countries nationalized industry is being returned to some degree to private industry and following more overtly capitalist models), nationalization by itself does not equal socialism. Socialism is worker power and not bureaucratic rule. However, this is a complex subject and these countries should not be grouped together or treated in an overly-simplified way.
For instance, Cuba has made many advancements in regards to removing itself from imperial capitalist domination and has struggled in its course towards self-determination. People in Cuba and in many other countries enjoy benefits and rights that simply don't exist in the United States. We support countries in freeing themselves from capitalist control, yet see some problems which we don't believe lives up to fully developed socialism, particularly when it comes to democracy. To quote Karl Marx: "“Democracy is the road to socialism." However, advancements that countries make in regards to liberating themselves from imperialism should be respected.
Socialism is great on paper but will never work in the real world...
This is an interesting argument because those who usually make it have never picked up or read a single book on Marxist theory. Marxism does not require a society of perfect individuals. Collectively human beings have proven time and time again that they can set standards and live by them that exceed their personal shortcomings. In capitalism what prevents us from creating standards that greatly improves the lives of all human beings is the power the capitalist class has over our political landscape.