. . . this pursuer of truth decided to make some rounds. First in order of reporting, last night, 4/9/16, at College of Complexes, meeting these days at Dapper’s East, 2901 W. Addison, in the Addison Mall, where I heard a few things.
Speaker Charley Earp, executive committee chair of the Chicago Socialist Party, was winding up a short opening statement for the 35 or so on hand in a back room of a restaurant.
I heard something about Ronald Reagan being a benchmark for suspicion of socialists, which had begun to boom in the ’50s, and something else about U.S. being a tabula rasa compared to Europe, where traditions militated far less against socialism.
Oh. Yes, we are different. Nice to see that recognized, even if as a drawback.
Then the conversation began. It’s important to “transcend the wage system,” Earp said in answer to the first question — replacing it with a system that would not “cramp creativity.”
He works in the travel industry himself, but lives in a commune, though he’s not a member of the commune. This he said in answer to a question about starting socialism one group, or “colony,” at a time, which he called building communism “from below.” He rejected this strategy because all is interconnected and you can’t do it piecemeal.
Nor would he attempt socialism through partisan politics, which he said “only keeps the rich in power.” Hence his declining to support Bernie Sanders. “The rich will still run the government even if Bernie is elected,” he said. He does not feel the Bern.
What’s more, socialism is international or it’s not socialism at all. So the Soviet Union has not been a socialist country since Stalin chose a path of national socialism — one country at a time. But the term, which he did not use (it was Hitler’s), is provocative, is it not? Neither was China ever socialist, because it too was a national venture. World socialism is the true Marxist goal.
“Where does socialism work?” asked an old fellow. We were mostly old fellows, let me tell you, in stark contrast with my first socialism-learning venture a week or so earlier, where in a book talk the median was closer to 25, among a similar size group, 30 or 35 people. More later on that session.
Another asked whether Norman Thomas was a CIA agent. Earp did not dismiss the idea, but noted that suspicions lurked about Thomas, who headed U.S. socialists for decades between wars and into the post-war years. Hmm.
“Seems like we need a revolution,” muttered a woman at my table, one of a dozen or so tables he in this back room, where the working-class waitress bustled about efficiently in pursuit of her wage through friendly service. (Three-dollar cover charge, she told me when I declined a menu. I forked it over next time she flew by. It was College of C. “tuition,” which I already knew.)
A questioner used the term “democracy and freedom,” meaning the two together as peas in a pod. Earp asked, “Do you feel free?” but smiling as he said it and was in no way dismissive. Throughout, he was the pleasantest, most reasonable-sounding Marxist I ever listened to. Not sold on himself or on his cause, for that matter. It made easy listening.
He is “not a Trotskyist,” he said, in one of several byroads into theory cum autobiography,. Theory actually came through as his chief interest, and that contributed to the easy listening part. Nor did he espouse Lenin’s “left communism,” by which the founder meant “too left,” somehow overdoing it.
Talk like this, with perfectionism built into it, led to questions about what he had in mind. He admitted he’s been called “defeatist” in his letting the perfect be enemy of the good (my phrase here).
His personal goal? By now, at age 53, not knowing “all the answers” and no longer wanting to change the world, he wishes only to add to the membership of the Socialist Party of Chicago — whose Rogers Park branch, by the way, had hosted the Loyola-campus book talk, about which more later, as I said.
Asked if stock ownership can be socialistic, in that it means ownership of the means of production, Earp said not if it’s for profit. So the motive is the thing, said the questioner. Yes, motivation, Earp replied.
But more than that, of course, is ownership by whom? Not by some goldarned Wall Street investor, that’s for sure.
End of partial coverage of:
Bernie Sanders and Democratic Socialism:
Beyond the 2016 Election
Meeting # 3,369 – Charley Earp of the Chicago Socialist Party who says: “It’s debatable whether Bernie Sanders is an actual socialist, but those of us who advocate democratic socialism can’t afford to focus on merely getting Bernie elected. A real socialist movement isn’t reducible to one candidate or even a presidency, the working people of the world have to fight capitalist exploitation on many levels and fronts.”