Saturday, March 03, 2012

Charity vs. Socialism, some thoughts, with ideas from James Connolly

The great Irish Republican. There's quite a difference between the two, yet folks often think that socialism simply means a welfare state on steroids instead of a transition to a fundamentally different state of affairs. Dependency is not the goal in socialism, the goal is a modified self sufficiency that's created by everyone first producing, then pooling that wealth to produce a baseline social structure that applies to everyone, and that everyone benefits from, then allowing individual variations within that social structure based on effort and skill. Even hardcore socialist, Communist, countries operated in this way. The difference between this and the welfare state is that a socialist society would largely work in the background, with many everyday things being subsidized, instead of being provided for through direct transfers of wealth, or cash benefits, except possibly for people in emergency need. It would also establish maximums in income and power as well as minimums, upper limits as well as lower limits. On edit: this would also take place within the context of public ownership.

Connolly, in his "Workshop Talks", outlines some of the humiliation and condescension that folks needing assistance under capitalism face, as well as the notion that under socialism this would either not be necessary, or if so it would be done in a way where people could maintain their pride in themselves.

"There are tens of thousands of hungry children in New York today as in every other large American city, and many well-meant efforts have been made to succour them. Free lunches have been opened in the poorest districts, bread lines have been established and charitable organisations are busy visiting homes and schools to find out the worst cases. But all this has only touched the fringe of the destitution, with the additional aggravation that anything passing through the hands of these charitable committees usually cost ten times as much for administration as it bestows on the object of its charity.

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Also that the investigation is usually more effectual in destroying the last vestiges of self-respect in its victims than in succouring their needs.

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In the midst of this difficulty Superintendent Maxwell of the New York Schools sends a letter to a committee of thirteen charitable organizations which had met together to consider the problem, and in this letter he advocates the method of relieving distress long since initiated by the Socialist representatives in the Municipality of Paris. I quote from the New York World:

A committee of seven was appointed to inquire more fully into the question of feeding school children and to report at a subsequent meeting. School Superintendent Maxwell sent a letter advocating the establishment in New York schools with city money of lunch kitchens, these to sell food at actual cost and to give to needy children tickets just like those paid for, to the end that no child might know that his fellow was eating at the expense of the city by the color of his ticket. This is done in Paris.

Contrast this solicitude for the self-respect of the poor children, recognized by Superintendent Maxwell in the plan of these ‘foreign Socialists’ with the insulting methods of the capitalist ‘bread lines’ and charitable organizations in general."

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