Keeping to Basics

By Cade Olmstead

“Wealth is a social creation and should be controlled by society as a whole,” is a quote from Toward Freedom: Democratic Socialist Theory and Practice, a piece written by DSA members Joseph Schwartz and Jason Schulman. This was the defining statement that set me on a path towards left politics and socialism.

Socialism can be a hard concept to define; as Michael Harrington states in Socialism: Past and Future, “We should speak of socialisms.” I find the opening quote from our own DSA literature to be truly definitive of what socialism calls for. The idea that wealth is a social creation rests at the crux of socialist theory; understanding that idea helped to clarify for me the opinions of this movement.

Lots of people have a poor idea of what socialism means. When leftists try to explain what it means, we too often get caught up in the massive amount of theory that is out there. When we say that wealth is a social creation, and the economy should be built upon democratic ownership and focused on the needs of people, we provide an accurate and simple vision of socialism. I have found that using these basic principles in my own explanations allows me to engage in more meaningful conversations and build a greater degree of interest in the movement. I believe that this is a more effective technique for clearing up so much of the confusion that exists.

Understanding the idea that wealth is a social creation on a large scale is vital to moving away from the current capitalist system. Many people do not realize this fact of nature regarding wealth. It is ingrained within our minds from the time that we are born that if someone works hard enough they can achieve anything. The focus is completely centered around the individual. The truth is that successful individuals would not be where they are if it weren’t for others, if it weren’t for the multitude of interactions and relationships that they had. No matter if these interactions and relationships were between the seller and the consumer, the teacher and the student, or the individual and the government. They were all instrumental in that person’s success. This is a critical concept that people must become aware if we wish to make progress.

When introducing people to what socialism is about, let’s stick to these basic principles: Wealth is a social creation, the economy should be based upon democratic ownership, and the economy should be focused on the needs of people. A society where all people have an understanding of the true nature of wealth and our social relationships is an egalitarian and democratic society, a socialist society.

 Cade Olmstead is a YDS member from Iowa.


Showing 1 reaction


commented 2015-09-24 03:10:45 -0400 · Flag
I think wealth is both a social and an individual creation. If it were only an individual creation, capitalism would be a just system. If it were only a social creation, communism would be a just system.

Revolution at the Crossroads: Igniting the Socialist Resistance Against Trump

February 17, 2017 · $20.00 USD

Location: MayDay Space
Where: 176 St Nicholas Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11237
When: Friday, February 17th at 6 PM to Sunday, February 19th to 4 PM

Political Context

This Presidents’ Day weekend, the Young Democratic Socialists will gather for our annual winter conference in New York City titled Revolution at the Crossroads: Igniting the Socialist Resistance Against Trump. We did not choose the name lightly. In doing so, we call for leftists to collectively confront Trump and Trumpism at every possible opportunity. When a Trump administration attempts mass deportations of undocumented workers, when it attempts to register Muslims or roll back worker protections, when it attempts to take away reproductive, LGTBQ, civil, or any other rights, then we must militantly resist to prevent such measures.

To succeed, this must be explicitly socialist resistance. With liberalism having repeatedly shown itself incapable of combating the far right, it is now the time for socialists to openly declare our place in building the mass, multi-racial, and working class movement necessary for defeating the Trump administration. In this struggle, millennials will play an outsized role. That is why this conference comes at such a critical time—together we must create spaces for democratic and strategic discussion, spaces to gain organizing skills, and most importantly, spaces to form networks of young radicals for the future struggles ahead. These spaces will only come together if socialists come together. Join us this Presidents Weekend and help ignite the movement to defeat the Trump administration, continue the political revolution, and build the socialist alternative.

Key Deadlines

  • January 8th: Travel Scholarship for Air Travel (for application see below)
  • January 15th: Travel Scholarship for Non-Air Travel (ex: bus, car, train, etc.)
  • February 3rd: Early Bird Registration Ends - Tickets prices go up from $5 to $10
  • February 10th: Free Housing - We have limited free housing. You need to first register, then you will be sent an application for free housing.

Apply for a travel scholarship here! (First Deadline January 8, 2017)

Check out the working program (subject to change)