Monday, May 21, 2018

Albert Einstein: Why Socialism? (1949)

The Capitalistic Society & Alienated Man


Albert Einstein and Charlie Chaplin at at the Los Angeles premiere of the film City Lights, on January 30, 1931. “Chaplin was the one man in Hollywood Einstein wanted to meet,” the article (“Einstein in Hollywood; April 1931; p. 36) in Photoplay said. Chaplin’s political and social views on modern society are well known. That being the case, I would have liked to have met both men.


In 1949, the noted physicist and humanitarian wrote an article for Monthly Review (May 1949), a socialist publication, entitled Why Socialism? It was republished 60 years later, on May 1, 2009, for good reasons;  I cite the following the salient points from it that Dr. Einstein made:
I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.
The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor—not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules. In this respect, it is important to realize that the means of production—that is to say, the entire productive capacity that is needed for producing consumer goods as well as additional capital goods—may legally be, and for the most part are, the private property of individuals.
For the sake of simplicity, in the discussion that follows I shall call “workers” all those who do not share in the ownership of the means of production—although this does not quite correspond to the customary use of the term. The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. Insofar as the labor contract is “free,” what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists’ requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.
Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.
How true is this last point, as is the complete article. The conman man and woman will find comfort in these words, knowing that what he felt all along was not mere imaginings, but yearnings validated decades ago by such an eminent thinker. Albert Einstein was not only a genius in physics; he well understood society and how it worked, and much better than many current “experts” on the source of our lingering societal malaise: “The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil.”

Well, it has not gotten better in the last 70 years, has it? It has actually gotten worse. Capitalism has now extended its tentacles into all areas of human endeavors: birth, education, work, marriage, retirement and even death. (Funerals are expensive.) Capitalism has become more avaricious; and Man more alienated. The supporters of Capitalism are still many, even found among those it hinders and harms, but they tend to be older.

Capitalism is pertinacious, but it is also pernicious and non-inclusive. This fact alone might lead to the beginning of the end of Capitalism’s rule, notably for those who are born between 1981 and 1996 (“The Millennials”). As many recent articles and studies show, support for Capitalism in America is diminishing over-all. The younger generation of  Millennials hate Capitalism, preferring instead socialism. For more, go [here] and [here] and [here].

When a system creates so many poor people, who, despite higher education, remain poor, what else can you expect but a rejection of the system that, in many cases, has shut them out. I could go on and on, but a much better mind than mine has stated it with much clarity and humaneness. You should and can read the whole article that Prof. Einstein wrote almost 70 years ago [here]. I would highly recommend it.

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