By Caleb T. Maupin
Published Oct 23, 2011 10:42 AM
The billionaire mayor of this city, Michael Bloomberg, is still refusing to sign a “living wage bill” currently before the New York City Council, despite revisions that watered it down somewhat. This bill would require some businesses that receive city funds to pay not just the minimum wage, but either a “living wage” of $10 per hour plus benefits or $11.50 an hour without benefits.
The Census Bureau recently reported that one in every five city residents lives in poverty as a result of unemployment and low wages.
In stating his reason for opposing the bill, Bloomberg said: “The last time people tried to set rates, basically, was in the Soviet Union, and that didn’t work out very well. I don’t think we want to go in that direction.” (New York Times, Oct. 5)
Bloomberg needs to learn history.
In the Soviet Union, where workers took power in a popular revolution in October 1917, things did work out well for a long time.
After the USSR launched its first Five Year Plan in 1928, the world looked on in amazement.
While the capitalist countries were plunging into a deep depression, the USSR went from being a country with no steel industry and barely any railroads, indoor plumbing or electricity, to a world economic power. The largest hydroelectric power plant in the world at the time, the Dnieper Dam, was constructed during this mass move to build an industrialized socialist economy.
The impoverished, agrarian countryside that had prevailed in Russia, Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia and the numerous other nations that made up the Soviet Union were soon filled with mighty industrial centers.
With the banks, factories and 91 percent of all economic institutions in the people’s hands, there was no need for anyone to be unemployed.
Thousands of jobless U.S. workers went to the Soviet Union in this period. Even though every citizen in the USSR was put to work at living wages, this wasn’t enough. Workers from all over the world were hired to go to the USSR and help out, in exchange for a living wage.
Illiteracy was abolished during this period of Soviet history and a national educational system constructed. Newly built universities allowed many former peasants to become engineers, artists, technicians and other kinds of skilled workers needed to build a socialist society. The country was on the road to realizing Lenin’s statement that “Socialism is Soviet power plus electrification.”
In 1941 German imperialism invaded the Soviet Union along an 1,800-mile front. They did terrible destruction to this struggling country, but at the heroic battle of Stalingrad, which lasted from August 1942 until February 1943, the people’s resistance defeated the Nazis and turned the tide of World War II. It was troops carrying the hammer and sickle flag of the Soviet Union, not the red, white and blue, who liberated Berlin and the majority of Nazi concentration camps in Eastern Europe.
In the postwar period, the Soviet Union had to repeat its economic miracle, rebuilding what the Nazis had destroyed. It also aided other war-ravaged countries in Eastern Europe and Asia.
In 1946 the U.S. and Britain began the Cold War, which forced the USSR to devote much of its scientific and material resources to defense against the U.S. nuclear threat
Nevertheless, the USSR was the first country in the world to launch a space satellite, called Sputnik.
Until the 1980s, the USSR provided aid to countries and liberation movements threatened by U.S. imperialism with the kind of “regime change” forced on those who disobey Wall Street’s orders.
South Africans fighting the fascist apartheid regime and Angolans fighting Portuguese colonialism received Soviet weapons and training. Cuba, just 90 miles south of Florida, faced a U.S. blockade after its socialist revolution, but was able to survive with Soviet economic assistance. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which lost millions of people in the war against invading U.S. troops from 1950 to 1953, got Soviet aid to help its socialist construction.
The Soviet Union built up a mass media apparatus to spread its message of socialism and anti-imperialism. This global megaphone publicized the horrors of Jim Crow segregation in the U.S. South to the peoples of the world, exposing the “democracy” the U.S. claimed to advocate.
China began its great revival with Soviet aid. Now one of the most powerful economies in the world, just 60 years ago it was dubbed “the sick man of Asia” because of its horrendous conditions of impoverishment.
Just where is this failure Bloomberg speaks of? Yes, the USSR collapsed, but only after Premier Mikhail Gorbachev and his allies turned toward imperialism and actively began dismantling the Soviet economy. The USSR did not collapse until it was more polluted with “market reforms” than ever before.
In the modern world, the poorest countries of this earth, where people are suffering from mass unemployment, starvation and extreme poverty, all share governments that believe in Bloomberg’s “free market” nonsense and are backed up with Pentagon bombs.
Contrary to Bloomberg’s rhetoric, the construction of socialism in the U.S. will not be as simple as passing this “living wage bill” he loathes. The mass movement now emerging in the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon must lead to an uprising of revolutionary youth, workers and oppressed peoples against the capitalist system itself. It will take the formation of a mass, Marxist-Leninist party that can coordinate revolutionary activity to eventually liberate the banks and factories for the people themselves and create a new, working-class government to replace Wall Street’s cast of hired actors in Washington, D.C.
That’s when the successful economic model of socialism will be created in the U.S. At that point, we will in fact see what Bloomberg fears the most: a world without billionaires (like him), a world that instead provides a decent life for all.