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.