Why Socialism Albert Einstein


darkbeaver
Republican
#1



Why Socialism?

By Albert Einstein

This essay was originally published in the first issue of Monthly Review (May 1949).

Is it advisable for one who is not an expert on economic and social issues to express views on the subject of socialism? I believe for a number of reasons that it is.

Let us first consider the question from the point of view of scientific knowledge. It might appear that there are no essential methodological differences between astronomy and economics: scientists in both fields attempt to discover laws of general acceptability for a circumscribed group of phenomena in order to make the interconnection of these phenomena as clearly understandable as possible. But in reality such methodological differences do exist. The discovery of general laws in the field of economics is made difficult by the circumstance that observed economic phenomena are often affected by many factors which are very hard to evaluate separately. In addition, the experience which has accumulated since the beginning of the so-called civilized period of human history has—as is well known—been largely influenced and limited by causes which are by no means exclusively economic in nature. For example, most of the major states of history owed their existence to conquest. The conquering peoples established themselves, legally and economically, as the privileged class of the conquered country. They seized for themselves a monopoly of the land ownership and appointed a priesthood from among their own ranks. The priests, in control of education, made the class division of society into a permanent institution and created a system of values by which the people were thenceforth, to a large extent unconsciously, guided in their social behavior.

But historic tradition is, so to speak, of yesterday; nowhere have we really overcome what Thorstein Veblen called "the predatory phase" of human development. The observable economic facts belong to that phase and even such laws as we can derive from them are not applicable to other phases. Since the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development, economic science in its present state can throw little light on the socialist society of the future.

Second, socialism is directed towards a social-ethical end. Science, however, cannot create ends and, even less, instill them in human beings; science, at most, can supply the means by which to attain certain ends. But the ends themselves are conceived by personalities with lofty ethical ideals and—if these ends are not stillborn, but vital and vigorous—are adopted and carried forward by those many human beings who, half unconsciously, determine the slow evolution of society.

For these reasons, we should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society.

Innumerable voices have been asserting for some time now that human society is passing through a crisis, that its stability has been gravely shattered. It is characteristic of such a situation that individuals feel indifferent or even hostile toward the group, small or large, to which they belong. In order to illustrate my meaning, let me record here a personal experience. I recently discussed with an intelligent and well-disposed man the threat of another war, which in my opinion would seriously endanger the existence of mankind, and I remarked that only a supra-national organization would offer protection from that danger. Thereupon my visitor, very calmly and coolly, said to me: "Why are you so deeply opposed to the disappearance of the human race?"

I am sure that as little as a century ago no one would have so lightly made a statement of this kind. It is the statement of a man who has striven in vain to attain an equilibrium within himself and has more or less lost hope of succeeding. It is the expression of a painful solitude and isolation from which so many people are suffering in these days. What is the cause? Is there a way out?

It is easy to raise such questions, but difficult to answer them with any degree of assurance. I must try, however, as best I can, although I am very conscious of the fact that our feelings and strivings are often contradictory and obscure and that they cannot be expressed in easy and simple formulas.

Man is, at one and the same time, a solitary being and a social being. As a solitary being, he attempts to protect his own existence and that of those who are closest to him, to satisfy his personal desires, and to develop his innate abilities. As a social being, he seeks to gain the recognition and affection of his fellow human beings, to share in their pleasures, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to improve their conditions of life. Only the existence of these varied, frequently conflicting, strivings accounts for the special character of a man, and their specific combination determines the extent to which an individual can achieve an inner equilibrium and can contribute to the well-being of society. It is quite possible that the relative strength of these two drives is, in the main, fixed by inheritance. But the personality that finally emerges is largely formed by the environment in which a man happens to find himself during his development, by the structure of the society in which he grows up, by the tradition of that society, and by its appraisal of particular types of behavior. The abstract concept "society" means to the individual human being the sum total of his direct and indirect relations to his contemporaries and to all the people of earlier generations. The individual is able to think, feel, strive, and work by himself; but he depends so much upon society—in his physical, intellectual, and emotional existence—that it is impossible to think of him, or to understand him, outside the framework of society. It is "society" which provides man with food, clothing, a home, the tools of work, language, the forms of thought, and most of the content of thought; his life is made possible through the labor and the accomplishments of the many millions past and present who are all hidden behind the small word “society.”

It is evident, therefore, that the dependence of the individual upon society is a fact of nature which cannot be abolished—just as in the case of ants and bees. However, while the whole life process of ants and bees is fixed down to the smallest detail by rigid, hereditary instincts, the social pattern and interrelationships of human beings are very variable and susceptible to change. Memory, the capacity to make new combinations, the gift of oral communication have made possible developments among human being which are not dictated by biological necessities. Such developments manifest themselves in traditions, institutions, and organizations; in literature; in scientific and engineering accomplishments; in works of art. This explains how it happens that, in a certain sense, man can influence his life through his own conduct, and that in this process conscious thinking and wanting can play a part.

Man acquires at birth, through heredity, a biological constitution which we must consider fixed and unalterable, including the natural urges which are characteristic of the human species. In addition, during his lifetime, he acquires a cultural constitution which he adopts from society through communication and through many other types of influences. It is this cultural constitution which, with the passage of time, is subject to change and which determines to a very large extent the relationship between the individual and society. Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organization which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.

If we ask ourselves how the structure of society and the cultural attitude of man should be changed in order to make human life as satisfying as possible, we should constantly be conscious of the fact that there are certain conditions which we are unable to modify. As mentioned before, the biological nature of man is, for all practical purposes, not subject to change. Furthermore, technological and demographic developments of the last few centuries have created conditions which are here to stay. In relatively densely settled populations with the goods which are indispensable to their continued existence, an extreme division of labor and a highly-centralized productive apparatus are absolutely necessary. The time—which, looking back, seems so idyllic—is gone forever when individuals or relatively small groups could be completely self-sufficient. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that mankind constitutes even now a planetary community of production and consumption.

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.

The situation prevailing in an economy based on the private ownership of capital is thus characterized by two main principles: first, means of production (capital) are privately owned and the owners dispose of them as they see fit; second, the labor contract is free. Of course, there is no such thing as a pure capitalist society in this sense. In particular, it should be noted that the workers, through long and bitter political struggles, have succeeded in securing a somewhat improved form of the “free labor contract” for certain categories of workers. But taken as a whole, the present day economy does not differ much from “pure” capitalism.

Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumers' goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before.

This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.



 
mt_pockets1000
#2
DB, the more I read on this subject the more I see how messed up we really are. Thank you for opening my eyes. Perhaps my eyes have been open all along but the brain refused to accept the truth. In any case, my perception of the world around me has definitely been affected since reading the discussions on this site. Folks like yourself with your unrelenting fight for your beliefs, Dexter with his solid straightforward manner, Karrie with her gentle honesty, MikeDB with his sarcastic wit, Praxius with his youthful feisty exuberance and others are an inspiration to me. Dare I say it, you've all helped restored my faith in humanity again. At the risk of sounding naive (and I really don't care if it does), I'll always be the eternal optimist and believe we can come together as human beings to make this world a better place. To hell with the conspiracies, the bankers, the boogie man around every corner. You're doing exactly what they want you to do...live in fear. If everyone does their little bit to spread some joy in this world, no matter how small, you will see the results and that fear will drop away. Say hello to your neighbor, speak kindly to a stranger, give some spare change to a homeless person, heck take him to dinner sometime, make a child smile, sing a song OUT LOUD, learn to play a musical instrument...and on and on it goes. Yeah, I know it sounds corny but hey what are your alternatives? Drive-by shootings? Gang warfare? Locking yourself in a box? Peace out....
 
darkbeaver
Republican
#3
Quote: Originally Posted by mt_pockets1000 View Post

DB, the more I read on this subject the more I see how messed up we really are. Thank you for opening my eyes. Perhaps my eyes have been open all along but the brain refused to accept the truth. In any case, my perception of the world around me has definitely been affected since reading the discussions on this site. Folks like yourself with your unrelenting fight for your beliefs, Dexter with his solid straightforward manner, Karrie with her gentle honesty, MikeDB with his sarcastic wit, Praxius with his youthful feisty exuberance and others are an inspiration to me. Dare I say it, you've all helped restored my faith in humanity again. At the risk of sounding naive (and I really don't care if it does), I'll always be the eternal optimist and believe we can come together as human beings to make this world a better place. To hell with the conspiracies, the bankers, the boogie man around every corner. You're doing exactly what they want you to do...live in fear. If everyone does their little bit to spread some joy in this world, no matter how small, you will see the results and that fear will drop away. Say hello to your neighbor, speak kindly to a stranger, give some spare change to a homeless person, heck take him to dinner sometime, make a child smile, sing a song OUT LOUD, learn to play a musical instrument...and on and on it goes. Yeah, I know it sounds corny but hey what are your alternatives? Drive-by shootings? Gang warfare? Locking yourself in a box? Peace out....

I understand completely MT-pockets, we must celebrate life while we live, there are many good people here, right left and center, the most damageing conspiracy is silence right. Old Albert had some strange ideas eh. hahahahahah
 
mt_pockets1000
#4
No surprise the man had it going on upstairs, not just in the science department but on the human and political side as well.

And yeah, shout it from the rooftops.
 
jimshort19
#5
Albert, "... the real purpose of socialism is ... to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development..."

This is nonsense Albert. You just made that up. Go back to physics.

The real purpose of socialism is to put a nice new dress on the old monster, to morally justify 'alternatives' to freedom and democracy, to allow the unbridled persuit of centralized capitalism.
 
darkbeaver
Republican
#6
Quote: Originally Posted by jimshort19 View Post

Albert, "... the real purpose of socialism is ... to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development..."

This is nonsense Albert. You just made that up. Go back to physics.

The real purpose of socialism is to put a nice new dress on the old monster, to morally justify 'alternatives' to freedom and democracy, to allow the unbridled persuit of centralized capitalism.

Well Jim I have a solution to overcome that minor problem we will eliminate capitalism and make the practice criminal, which won't be hard to prove beyond doubt.
 
Walter
#7
Albert ended up living in the land of the great satan, you'd think he would have ended up in the bosom of "Uncle Joe".
 
darkbeaver
Republican
#8
Thankyou Walter the big print makes it a pleasure to read your short pieces, you're a considerate man.
 
Walter
#9
Quote: Originally Posted by darkbeaver View Post

Thankyou Walter the big print makes it a pleasure to read your short pieces, you're a considerate man.

I have poor eyesight, too.
 
jimshort19
#10
Walter, "Albert ended up living in the land of the great satan, you'd think he would have ended up in the bosom of "Uncle Joe".

What nice big print you have, Grampa!

Albert was a great scientist, on that I may presume agreement with you, but Uncle Joe didn't like them Jews, so Uncle Joe wasn't the right socialist.

We're always sent by socialists to find a good one, and there are none but a many bright but deluded men, like Trudeau who caught on too late for Canada, and Tommy Douglas who remains a mystery to me. 'It just hasn't been done by me!" pleads the materialist loser.

Socialist is materialism and capitalism is freedom. A wise man said, "Judge a tree by the fruit it bears." This is a short manual on how to use the human mind correctly. Albert might be selected by a moron to judge opera, but opera is not an I.Q. test.

It is funny how intelligent people make conceited mistakes when approaching subjects that they have trouble penetrating. The same problem appears as a more common problem to the simple man who has a devil of a time penetrating anything the least complicated or obscure. But the simple man will resort to the fundamentals and be satisfied with what they dictate. The intellectual get lost in the same problem and never come out.
 
darkbeaver
Republican
#11
Capitalism is freedom, but only for capital, socialism is materialism for all.
 
darkbeaver
Republican
#12
Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Einstein, not only was one of the greatest scientists of all times, but he also was a great revolutionary and a prominent humanist.
Einstein was a member, sponsor, or affiliated with thirty-four communist fronts between 1937 and 1954. He also served as honorary chairman for three communist organizations.
An exhibition of his handwritten manuscripts which was displayed on November 2002, in the museum of Natural History in New York City, showed that he was an ardent supporter of socialism and social justice in the world. That was why an investigation was conducted by the FBI, in order to link him to a Soviet espionage ring.
Uncovered FBI files with 1800 pages were revealed in a book by Fred Jerome who writes: from the time Einstein arrived in the U.S. in 1933, to the time of his death in 1955, his phone was tapped, his mail was opened and even his trash searched. Edgar Hoover the director of the FBI even ordered to bug his secretary’s nephew’s house.
Einstein’s social career was far more glorious than his scientific life. Quite the opposite, the U.S. states and pro-capital media intentionally highlighted his scientific life to put his social career under the shadow of ignorance.
Einstein in his famous essay “why socialism?” which was published on May 1949, in the opening issue of “The Monthly Review”, expressed his concern about a plan economy which is not yet socialism. “A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems”: He also warned about emerging an all-powerful and overweening bureaucracy in a “far-reaching centralization of political and economic power”. A danger that must be counterweighted with political democracy; the main problem that eventually led to the dismantlement of the Soviet Union.
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