Monday, March 17, 2008
FIST Member Defends Socialism by Tyneisha Bowens
By Tyneisha Bowens
Published Mar 16, 2008 7:44 PM
“I learned about a time in the history of this country when people worked for literally pennies an hour ... worked 12-hour shifts ... and when children worked in factories ... when organizing a union was a crime ... when Black men were being lynched ... the Vietnam War in which 4 million Vietnamese lost their lives ... and while all of this was going on what did they say about the people that were organizing against this? They said what they really want is socialism; they are a bunch of communists. I learned that the first gay rights organization was founded by Harry Hay, a proud member of the Communist Party. And I learned that in women’s liberation ... the suffragists contained many socialists and many revolutionaries. And it was learning all of this that made me think maybe these communists and socialists aren’t so bad.”
Students and community members gathered at Baldwin-Wallace College on March 3 to hear two students debate socioeconomic ideology. The event, entitled “Socialism vs. Capitalism,” took place in Berea, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland.
On the side of socialism was Caleb Maupin, a member of Fight Imperialism-Stand Together (FIST). Defending capitalism was Timothy Davey, a member of Pi Lambda Phi. Both are students at Baldwin-Wallace College and contributors to the college’s newspaper. The debate was initiated through the newspaper, where the two first began to debate their socioeconomic beliefs through articles.
This first student-organized debate in the history of Baldwin-Wallace College began with opening statements by both participants. Maupin explained how his reading of history brought him to socialism (see quote above). To stress the importance of the timing of such a debate, he emphasized the current war and economic crisis, including foreclosures and evictions in which Cleveland is second only to Detroit, the mass layoffs and the statistic that 11.9 percent of the families in the U.S. are food insecure. Maupin ended with the following: “I was taught in school when I was growing up that we have a government of the people, by the people, for the people. But one thing I have come to understand is that in this country we have a government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich. What we advocate as socialists is that the people should have control of society.”
In his introduction Davey stated, “I can’t prove to you numbers-wise that capitalism is the best but what I will do is point to the countries that have tried to implement socialism.” Davey cited the Soviet Union, which he claimed failed because of the “abysmal living standards placed on the citizens of the country” and that the growth of the USSR economy was “inflated by the fact that they had surrounding countries that they sold their products to that they ultimately controlled.”
Davey did not acknowledge, however, the strong attacks that socialist countries, including the USSR, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Cuba, have had to face from imperialist forces such as the U.S. He also failed to acknowledge the situations where the USSR traded with developing countries in order to help them boost their economies with little or no benefit to the USSR. Davey cited other negative occurrences in socialist countries in his defense of capitalism.
In rebuttal, Maupin pointed out that the economic, health and cultural levels of the people in the former Soviet Union dropped enormously after capitalism was restored in 1991. He emphasized how socialist countries, particularly Cuba, have dealt with and rid themselves of the products of capitalism—including racism, sexism, homophobia, unemployment, and lack of healthcare, education, housing and social programs.
When asked about the current wage cuts, layoffs, evictions, foreclosures and lack of education and healthcare in the U.S., Davey admitted to the downfalls of capitalism but insisted, though without any current references, that an altered form of capitalism could remedy these problems.
Some questions included in the debate had been previously agreed on; others were submitted by the audience. These involved the history of former and current socialist countries, the growing divide between the rich and the poor in capitalist countries, the relation of socialism to democracy, and the material nature of both capitalism and socialism.
Each party was given 10 minutes for closing remarks. Caleb Maupin gave a call to action on the part of the people for a socialist revolution. Timothy Davey continued his stance that capitalism is the best socioeconomic system despite its obvious contradictions.
To hear the debate in its entirety, visit fistyouth.wordpress.com.