Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Albert Einstein, Socialist

Some very interesting stuff - Albert Einstein pimping Socialism as the only way to fix our broken society:

...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?


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. ...


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. ...

Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy 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: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?

Clarity about the aims and problems of socialism is of greatest significance in our age of transition. Since, under present circumstances, free and unhindered discussion of these problems has come under a powerful taboo, I consider the foundation of this magazine to be an important public service.

Sounds to me like he's spot-on about some things. The idea of Socialism really scares me just because of the implicit threat of the 'all-powerful and overweening' bureaucracy that Einstein imagines possible - and it's not like we don't have any role models (USSR - though, I think the story is probably more complicated). But, that said, this radical anarchist capitalism that reigns under the Bush administration is just no good for those of us who weren't born rich. Einstein didn't like the 'economic anarchy' of his day either. Has all that much changed since Einstein's time?

I've never heard it described that way before - 'economic anarchy'. I don't think Einstein was using the term 'anarchy' in the way that Chomsky would use it - as in 'Anarchism' - but I get his point. By 'anarchy', Einstein meant 'wild wild West'-type of capitalism - where anything goes, even if it means infringing on the rights of other people. This would not be 'Anarchism' as it is traditionally used within the context of political theory - where anarchists seek 'a stateless society with voluntary social harmony'. That means nobody has to participate in some action if they don't want to - they can't be _forced_ to do something.

Need to prostitute yourself so you can afford to feed your children? This is the 'economic anarchy' that Einstein describes - it's soulless, and it drives people to despair.

Society formed under Anarchistic principles, however - as per Chomsky's use of the word - would, I presume, never allow situations like this to happen? Got me. I need to do some more reading on this Anarchism to see how it might apply to 'real world' situations. I suspect much of what I already believe and practice can be lumped under the political theoretical definition of Anarchism. Don't start wars. Don't infringe upon other people's rights. Don't force people to do things they don't want to do, like work 7 days a week to boost IBM's profits. Stuff like that.

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