We spoke with SEP National Secretary Joseph Kishore about his organization, the USA's favorite taboo word and what an actual socialist wants for the country. (Hint: It's a little different than what Barack Obama wants.)
The words Socialism and Communism are used interchangeably. What's the difference between the two?
Words take on different meanings. Communism, the term, has become associated in people's minds with Stalinism whereas Socialism has become associated with social democracy as sort of a reformist character.
The fight for the reorganization of society, the establishment of a worker's state in the interest of the working class that will democratize control of the economy, in fact, the vast expansion of democracy to the basic levers of power, the productive forces, that's genuine Socialism and that tradition is represented by Trotskyism which is the Marxist, Socialist, Internationalist opposition to Stalinism. Stalinism was, in fact, the opposite of Socialism. It was a bureaucratic degeneration of a worker's revolution in the Soviet Union.
We trace our heritage to the Russian Revolution but Stalinism was really a rejection of that and the counterrevolutionary current. Our tradition is Marxism, International Socialism and that's the perspective defended by the heritage of Trotsky.
There was a strong Socialist movement in the early 20th century with people such as Upton Sinclair nearly winning the governor's seat in California. How does the history of Socialism in the United States tie in with the history of the Fourth International?
There were various Socialist currents. He ran as a Socialist although he was really in the orbit of the Democratic party. That's not our heritage but, in an earlier period, Eugene Debs received two million votes. There was a lot of support for Socialism as there will be in the future.
There's a differentiation in the Socialist movement around the time of the Russian Revolution in which there was a political differentiation. There was the formation of a big Communist party. Actually, a lot of the people in the IWW, for example, ended up joining the Communist party and there was an establishment of a Marxist party before that. Debs was a Socialist but the political differentiation between revolutionary Marxism and social reformism was not yet established. That became established out of the Russian Revolution.
The degeneration of the Russian Revolution and the emergence of Stalinism immensely confused that political question. It's not only in the United States but internationally. We trace our heritage beyond the Fourth International. There is a Socialist tradition in the United States going back to Debs and the IWW but a lot of the political issues were first clarified after the aftermath of the Russian Revolution.