If it’s good enough for Einstein…

It’s funny how conservatives always complain about left-wing thought dominating academia. They set up absurd organisations like Campus Watch dedicated to rooting out liberal bias, and hound anyone who dares to criticise capitalism, the government or the status quo in general.
Could it be that there is in fact no “sinister” conspiracy to subvert our youth? Could it be, in fact, that intelligent people – people who teach at university level – are drawn to socialism/liberalism/leftist ideology because it makes sense? Could it be that these same intelligent folk reject free-market conservative trickle-down every-man-for-himself ideology because it’s bullshit?
Consider, for example, Albert Einstein. Widely considered a genius, one of the most intelligent people ever. And he was a socialist. Here’s an article from the inaugural issue of Monthly Review in May 1949, entitled Why Socialism? Some good points to chew on: the current system of property ownership is based on conquest, on domination of the weak by the powerful. The purpose of socialism is to move beyond this “predatory phase of human development”, and therefore he thinks that the science of economics which describes this present state is of little value.
Einstein then describes the crisis of his time, which sounds a lot like the crisis of our time:

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.

He finishes by lamenting the “crippling of the individual” through wasted labour, forced mass unemployment, ceaseless competition, and sees the solution in a socialist economy in which “the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion.”
Now the “planned economy” part I’m not so sure about. And indeed Einstein does foresee the problems in this (of course he does, he’s Einstein!):

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?

Almost sixty years later we still haven’t come up with a good answer to this. But it’s more important than ever that we try. Now that we understand how capitalist consumerism is inconsistent with our continued survival as a species, now that we have a better understanding of the damage caused by the racism and patriarchy that are inseparable from capitalism, now even more than in 1949 it’s clear: There Is No Alternative to ending capitalism.

2 thoughts on “If it’s good enough for Einstein…

  1. Greetings from a fellow “frustrated mainstream journalist” in New Zealand.

    I’ve read right through your blog and I really enjoy it. Alas, it’s rare to find a truly thinking journalist, some one who does not always accept the status quo. I’m frequently annoyed by the sheep-like mentality of some of the journos in my newsroom.

    I’m the environment and education reporter for a regional newspaper here in NZ. I graduated from journalism school only in October. I’ve also worked as a sub-editor, and for several years was the editor of a student magazine.

    I look forward to reading more of your posts.

    Peace,
    Eugenie

  2. Hi Eugenie,

    Wow, my first commenter! (well, apart from some guy earlier who just said “Please link to my blog.”)

    I’m glad you like it, and it’s nice to know someone is reading it. I’m doing it primarily to work off some of the frustration I’ve built up in my four years of journalism (yes, only four years and I’m already jaded!), but it’s good to hear that another person got something from it too.

    I was sad to learn from your blog that exactly the same shit is happening in New Zealand – consolidation, outsourcing, costcutting, profit over news, etc. Keep up the fight!

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