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Web Letter

The complexities of modern corporations mean that comparatively few of the people involved will have the bilateral adversary psychology that this sort of confrontation requires. Too many of today's real problems do not fit neatly into the old role models. For example, in the Detroit Three, it is the unions rather than management that are taking too much out of the company's cash flow.

The old socialist model has another spect which is greatly outdated. In their ideas, people were divided into only two main "classes." Either one was a worker, and was hired to preform whatever tasks were needed, or one was an owner, who did the hiring and other management functions. There was a recognition of some independent shopkeepers, artisans and small farmers who were neither, but in old socialist theory, these were going to be ground down until everybody was a "wage-slave" to the master class. Such opposite figures as John C. Calhoun and Karl Marx actually agreed on most of this, but with greatly differing value judgements about it.

Modern corporations, however, consist of quite a few specialized skills, most of which have separate power bases inside the balanced functioning of the large corporation. Some of these may not even work directly for the company itself, such as the network of independent dealerships that sell the manufacturer's cars or large equipment.

Consumers and customers are another absolute necessity to the organization. Vendors may make essential parts while working at other companies, or independent shops. There can be engineering and technical staff who would seldom consider themselves as being oppressed subordinates. Ownership is spread among stockholders or, more diffusely, among the holders of mutual or pension funds who might never have heard of the company they indirectly own. So, too might the holders of the corporation's long-term debt or bonds. So, not only do we have traditional "labor" and "management," but one can actually be in most of these various groups at the same time.

Any or all of these can be on a different continent, speaking a different language, yet still be coordinated to the workings of a single corporation. This makes socialism very unlikely.

John D. Froelich

Upper Darby , PA

Mar 26 2009 - 11:24am

Web Letter

Inspired by the "Reimagining Socialism" forum, I began flirting with the idea of perhaps shifting my political designation from independent to socialist. I did what anyone in their mid-20s would do when they are curious and seeking knowledge: I typed "socialist party" into my Google search. The first few websites that I navigated towards immediately reflected that I am not prepared to join the socialist party, and in fact the socialist party is not prepared for people like me.

The first site I visited was that of the Socialist Party USA, and it looked to have been designed sometime in the mid-'90s and updated sparsely since then. While sifting through banners that supported protest causes and hawked T-shirts, I quickly realized that this was not a political party I could take seriously. This was not a political party that presented a viable and logical alternative for someone who did not share the "peace-and-love" values that so noticeably predominate the number-one socialist website in the United States.

It is a sad realization that the socialist party, as it is reflected on the Internet, is a meaningless entity when it comes to modern American politics. I see a lonely old hippie, standing in the Seattle rain brandishing a home-made peace banner in a one-man protest and wondering where everyone else has gone. The values and lifestyles of today's liberals, those who could feed the ranks of today's socialist party, have shifted away from what may have been commonalities in the '70s.

Until forward-thinking socialist leaders can figure out a way to wrestle the identity of the party away from those who have made it into a memorial to the long-gone days of the Vietnam protests, the socialist party is effectively dead in America. The ranks are obviously dwindling, and soon there will be none left willing to replenish them.

Drew Lorona

Boise, ID

Mar 25 2009 - 8:37pm

Web Letter

Socialism has to be legitimized for open discussion. As it stands today, not even "liberalism" is allowed to be discussed in polite "mixed company." No one is offended by being called a neoconservative, but just recall how many people are offended at being called "liberals."

For ironic economic reasons--like book publishing, or TV appearances, or speech making contracts--few legitimate influencers would walk on a TV stage with, say, a T-shirt that says, "I am a Socialist."

We have many closeted socialists in our midst, and yet none will dare self-identify. For any movement to be legitimized for the public, you have to be able to say the "word" on TV, right?

Just imagine, if A-list pundits, economists, writers, pols and commentators, not only insisted suddenly that was it OK to say "socialism" on-air but they insisted on being called such.

Now you can see the depth of the problem. Maybe we need to take a lesson from the Gay Pride movement.

Mark Deneen

Eureka, CA

Mar 24 2009 - 11:06am