Sidney Gluck has been a professor of economics, a textile worker, a businessman, and a leading voice in U.S. diplomatic relations with China. In the 1950s, he organized the Live and Let Live movement which eased tensions between the United States and China and helped to eliminate the possibility of war over the islands of Quemoy and Matsu during the first Taiwain Strait Crisis. His political advocacy influenced Nixon's diplomacy towards China and helped to set the tone for U.S.-China relations for several years. Recently, at the age of ninety-three,Professor Gluck has come out with a new DVD espousing his social and political philosophy entitled Humanism: The Heart of Socialism. He agreed to an interview with JuliusSpeaks to discuss his life, his beliefs, and and his new DVD. Here is what transpired.
1. What is your background, where are you from?
Well, I was born in Williamsburg(Brooklyn). Williamsburg, 93 years ago was one of the poor sections of the city, it was multi-national, multi-racial, multi-religious, we were in the Jewish section, it was black and white. There were arguments going on among them all the time, it was one of those areas where people learned to live together. And the interesting thing, that impressed me very much, was that my father, who died in 1920, left my mother with four children. They'd come from Europe in 1914. She was raising the children and she got very sick, when I was about eight years old. My neighbor brought her back to life; my neighbor was black, I'll never forget that. You lived with people who were people and that's a reason I never had prejudicial feelings whether it's nationality or color or the like. And that's a very good impression that's lived with me all these ninety odd years. So that is basically my early days.
Furthermore in the early days, you know Jews, age 13 the boys are bar mitzvahed. We weren't very wealthy so we didn't give money to the synagogue, but when you have to do the prayer for the dead on the high holy day, you have to go to the synagogue and you have to pay. I said: why? That's hardly correct. so I told my mother I would not go and say what they call yiskur, which is the prayer for the dead, for my father. They said, oh, that's terrible so I go into the bedroom, the corner of the bedroom, that's where I'll say the prayer and that's the way it's going to be, so I was not bar-mitvahed. So basically that disassociated me from certain aspects of the whole religious thing and basically that had an effect on many things I've thought about for the rest of my life. Those were the beginnings of my life in Williamsburg. Of course I could tell you much more about the whole Williamsburg thing but that would take much too long, those that are interested can ask me.
My first profession was pushing a truck, delivering fabrics to the textile companies in New York City, when I got out of school. In fact, I worked all the way through high school because we needed money to live. One of the things that happened was when I was graduating grammar school they set up Hunter College which had a program so that in seven years you go through the first degree in college as well as going through your high school. I was picked from PS 50 in Williamsburg to be the person who would go to Hunter College at the time. I could not go because we didn't have the car fare to send me. So there you have it, I had to fight for my education just as well. So that's also an impression I've had, learning all my life but sharing my learning. The learning doesn't mean a thing if you don't share it and exchange with people. That increases your learning all the way through and later on I did a lot of teaching and I'll tell you all about it.
2. What was your first profession?
My first profession turned out to be in the textile field. Once I delivered a load of things to a Seventh Avenue outfit and they told me the fabric was no good, take it. And I said 'show me' and they said 'who are you?' and I said, 'I'm the jackass who brought this over, so you have to show me.' So they showed me the coat and it was no good. I had no idea but I had a fabric that had a shine to it in the box and they showed me a piece of cotton and so I said to them this thing shines, it's turquoise, that's turquoise also, you can't expect turquoise that doesn't shine to look like the turquoise that doesn't shine. And he said, 'who the hell are you?' I said, 'listen, I'm going to leave the stuff here, I don't even care if you give me a receipt,' he said, 'get your boss on the phone,' so he got my boss on the phone, he said put this guy on the phone, so I told my boss exactly what I just told you.
He put the man on, he gave me a receipt, but two weeks later my boss called me in and he said you're a good stenographer, you're a good typist, you can become the assistant to the production manager on the inside.
I did pretty well there, later on they were losing their designer and he came to me and asked, would you like to go to school to learn textiles and textile technology? I said, sure. For a year and a half they sent me to school, they paid for enrollment two days a week and a couple of days at the end of each month they took me to the factory, I took the machines apart, I put the machines back together again. So when I was given instructions on how to manipulate machines, I knew exactly what was happening to all the threads. I became a very good designer. So my first profession was that of an expert in textiles and design and I worked mainly in specialized fibers, like rubber, stretch fabrics, nylon, etc. So that went on for a good period of time. So that was my first job, in textiles.
3. When did you become an educator?
I was a designer during the day, and I was going to school at night. I did some other intellectual stuff at night. I was then out of high school of course and working during the day and in the evening, I joined a school. I left CUNY because I was studying accounting and it wasn't very interesting anymore. So I went to the Group Theater School, so that was the group that had Karnofski, Odette, and the like and they brought the acting members from Europe and Russia in particular. So I was going to their school at night and I was studying acting and directing. In fact, at City College, downtown, which is Baruch now, I developed a theatrical group and directed it and that was for a couple of years. But while I was at the school for the group theater, they were teaching the history of the theater and the thing that I found the most interesting was that the writing and structure of a play depended on the technology of the times and that affected content as well as form. So, I asked the instructor, Karnofski and he said oh Clendening Logan wrote a book about that, and I said a book about that, what do you mean? He said, oh well, it's dialectics. I said what's dialectics?
Two weeks later he gave me these little pamphlets, the pamphlets were by Stalin, Historical and Dialectical Materialism. I didn't know what it was so I started out reading it and I found it kind of interesting. Later on I found many things that I didn't like that Stalin interpreted, but that's another story. At any rate I found it so interesting that every third Sunday I told the students, let's get together, I want to show you what I'm reading. This went on for some time, every third week I'd finish a chapter and we'd have a discussion. And suddenly I get a telephone call from the Communist Party USA, at the time the were on 12th Street, from their education director and he said, I hear you're teaching a course in Marxism. I said 'what do you mean, I'm not teaching a course in anything. I'm just sharing some things that I learned.' And they said we hear it's going very good, would you like to be a teacher of Marxism. Well, why turn it down? It was a lot of dollars to learn and so I said yes. That was 1939.
So, for the first six months of 1939 through the summer they crammed me: the head of economics, the head of the philosophy department, the head of the school. They gave me all this stuff to read, it really was a cram job, and in the fall of '39 they gave me a class to teach into 1940. I did not know but from those two classes they recruited 58 people for the Communist Party, and then it was not the same situation we have today, at that time there was still some kind of legitimacy to that kind of political development. So it may sound spectacular but it was in consonance with everything else that was happening, so from that time on I began to teach and study.
My teaching was a part of my studying, in other words, whatever I had to teach I continued studying. That went on from '39 until about '42, because at that time the Worker's School shut down and when they shut down another school started which was called the Jefferson School and that was a Marxist school so I was invited into that, the Communist Party had a hand in that but I was invited and I became the head of the economics department. At any rate, I solidified all of my knowledge and that went on for a good period of time. The problem was when a man named Earl Browder wanted to Americanize the Communist Party, I was on his side, I thought that Communism was following the Soviet Union and they wanted me out of the school and they tried, they couldn't get me out of the school, they tried to suspend me but the only black members on the board of the school were on my side so the best they could do was suspend me for six months. And I'm very proud of that fact, because I was honest, they were honest and we were all very correct.
At any rate, I wound up with me having two lives, one life during the day and one life at night. At night I was teaching constantly, I taught for over fifty years. By 1990, I had over 20 years at the New School for Social Research, eleven courses in economics and politics and mostly classical Marxism and the New School was very proud of it, Linus Pauling, the president of the New School, had a special tribute to me in 1990. It was after I had a cancer operation and stopped teaching and forty very prominent people in various humanist movements around the country were on the committee and they honored me for my teaching of classical Marxism. That was in 1990, and I'll never forget that because that was the stamp of my life.
And I'll tell you something about my teaching at the New School, I used to tell the students, I have a distinct point of view, I don't want you to just agree with me, if you disagree you have a perfect right to disagree, if you want a good grade the only thing I ask, I want you to do your study, I want you to be as sharp as you can in defending your position. You turn in a paper that is credible and you get an A. I gave more As in my classes to people who disagreed with me, my basic line, than who agreed with me. And I want to ask you, who do you think learned the most? I learned the most, because they were teaching me things I didn't know in opposition to some things I did know. So constantly it was a process of sharing. So I had basically a double life, so to speak, in other words I had the daytime profession in the textile field and a consultant and all that.
4. What is your specialization as a historian?
Basically my specialization is in economics, classical and neo-classical and elements of philosophy which determine social change. Those are the things that I basically had been teaching. So, the specialization, I can't go into the details on the economics and all that, but I can tell you that I am very sharp on the difference between classical economics and neo-classical economics, because classical economics tells how economics works under capitalism. It was the first time that an analysis of economics, an economic analysis, was made by any system and that was by Marx. That was his contribution as a humanist, trying to get the system to work properly, he added an understanding of how exploitation takes place in a capitalist economy as distinct from feudalism or slavery, so I found that interesting.
What happened is after he established how wealth is created, which Adam Smith did not really understand, the economists in England in particular didn't like that. Wealth was created by the working people who only got a part of the wealth created and there was always a question as to what part they'd get, so in production the wealth is created. So thirty years later, neo-classical economics was developed and that said the wealth is created in the marketplace. Well that's were they realize the commodity form into the money form, but it turned around an understanding of how the capitalist system works and its exploitation. And that understand was that exploitation was the product of one particular class in the capitalist system and to this very day we teach economics that way in this country, not in all European countries because they are closer to the political struggle.
In Europe they have parties of different classes in their political democratic system whereas we only have two parties and both parties prevent the third party because both parties are in the grip of the wealthy classes, of the money classes or to put it simply, the capitalist classes. Usually today it's the ones interested only in the money not even production because they've taken the production and sent it to other countries because it makes more money for them. Now we have to rebuild more industries in this country even to make jobs that will never come back, because we don't have enough industries. So that gives you an idea of my specialization and my idea of the politics that go with it.
5. How did you first become involved in progressive movements?
Well I was involved in progressive movements because through my general background I was interested in people. We had many people who were involved with individual programs, single issue humanist programs, and then of course with the politics I was teaching I was involved with many things. I was never involved up front but I supported many, many movements that took place at the time, and I was very open about it. I paid my dues, so to speak.
Many things did happen, for instance, after the war, they established the Smith Act, where if you were a member of the Communist Party you were already against the law. They got leaders of the Communist Party and they indicted them, and they asked for 50,000 bail. I was in business and I see 50,000 dollars for a Communist who didn't really commit a crime and they had a bunch of gangsters in the smuggling business and all that and they were getting 10,000 and 15,000 bail, so I got mad. I got other businessmen, I was in the Empire State Building at the time, and we got together and we went down to court to reduce the bail, I was the first one, I come on with 20,000 worth of bonds and the judge doesn't want to take them. Why, because if the bonds are for the Communists, you aren't making interest on that money, so I said ok, stop everything, I'll go to the bank and I'll give you cash. So I left in the morning, came back in the afternoon, and he took 15,000 dollars. I said OK, well, that was not the end because by that time I had a very good business going, a bank was giving me a credit line on my signature which would be equivalent to 1.5 million dollars today without collateral, so that gives you an idea of how successful it was. So the FBI came to my bank and told them to pull up my credit.
I paid my dues, I'll tell you why, because, it wasn't so bad that my credit was pulled up and the vice president took me out to lunch because he didn't want it on the record that he was telling me what was happening, because he was my friend and he had no reason to distrust me. Two days later, I called my friend and he said oh, my bank will take you on. The following day, we go to his bank, I get the same credit rating. That was Monday, on Tuesday I drew the full amount of the credit though I didn't need it. On Wednesday I get a telephone call from the president of that bank to come in on Thursday, I come in on Thursday, he doesn't even come to greet me and shake my hand, he's on the other side of the room. I say, what's on your mind? He said, I want to call the loan. I said, why? He said, I don't have to tell you, I said, I tell you what, if you call the loan I'll tell the public why you're calling it. I've got ninety days and you tell me how it works out. I said okay, you call the loan, but I got ninety days to work it out, so I worked it out but it cost me four times as much to finance my business after that. I had to sell my accounts receivable and those who bought it took 2 percent right off the top whereas I was turning over that million and a half dollars four times a year and that was a hell of a turnover, so I knew my business, but from that point on my business was a lot tougher. Well, I did well.
In the meantime, I was an advisor to the youth festivals at the time that were going overseas that the Soviet Union was involved in. I was inside the Communist Party for a year and I quit it because they didn't know how to deal with people who were a little different. They treated everybody as though they were the same, whereas Karl Marx said, 'from each according to their ability…' that means, he recognized that everybody was different whereas the Communists never did. I could never take that. I was their friend, I can't even attack them, I won't even do it now, but the point is that they didn't have the right atmosphere.
I was always in the background. In 1955, we were almost at war with China, the party came to me and said what are we going to do about this. I said, look, there are a lot of people, business people and intellectuals, who don't want to have a war with China. I said pull them altogether, he said why don't you do it, well I did, in 1955 we formed Live and Let Live, which addressed the American and Chinese people saying, No war over the Taiwan straits. We'd already sent in gun boats there but they all pulled back and we had peace. That was one of the things I did, I did it in the background and never up front and there were many things like that that continued to go on.
I was constantly involved in various small committees, always in the background. So finally we got to the late 1950s, early 1960s, and Dupont had developed nylon, incidentally, Dupont had developed nylon in 1938 but they couldn't use it for parachutes because it was too uneven. Well it turned out that the manufacturers of nylon parachutes didn't give a damn because they sold it in the market and when they sold it in the market they sold it for twice what it was worth. It could be used as a fabric but not for a parachute because you need a uniform type of fabric so that the canopy stays open and doesn't collapse. At any rate, when I came into the picture I used a heating rubber on the fabric which stabilized the nylon, that way we stabilized the rubber and that worked. The industry hated me because now any fabric they made they put it through the process and they couldn't go into what was a semi-black market at the time, so I've done my duty here and there as far as the country was concerned. In 1960, Dupont was developing lycra. Lycra is the stretch fiber that comes out of nylon but they couldn't get it to stretch uniformly, so it was very difficult for it to be used. Being an expert, one of only two or three in the country, I resolved that problem by using the heating process I had developed with rubber, that heating process stabilized the Lycra. From that point on my customers were Catalina, Exquisite Form, the best people in the country, swimwear and underwear, stuff like that.
Dupont wouldn't sell me lycra even though I solved their problem. Why? For political reasons. So the president of Catalina and the president of Exquisite Form and the president of Best Form, they all went to Dupont to tell Dupont to sell them the lycra, they'd give it to me. Dupont said no. I shut my business down in 1974; I gave it to my brother.
From that time on, I became a consultant in the textile field and for many years continued to make my living during the day as a consultant in many areas of design and technology in the textile field. In the meantime, I was teaching at night. Some I got paid, some I didn't get paid. That was not the purpose of my teaching because I'd done alright during the day.
So there you have some idea of how I first became involved in the progressive movements. I must have been behind ten different movements, in the background because I was being an entrepreneur and knowing how to organize some stuff and I'd be called in, it was very interesting. At one time the Communist Party were having some problem dealing with someone in the Midwest. They'd say, what would you do, I said, look you got people on the East coast and people on the West coast, I said, why not do the same thing with the people who are disciplined and when they're already there and functioning in the country why not join the three together so you'll have a minority of the people you agree with? And they said, would you organize the East coast? And I said, that's crazy but I thought it was a good idea. I had 425 professors of Marxism from Florida up to Maine and they came to a college here, to Hofstra College, and the president opened up the college saying, we want the same things that you do only we have a different way of going about it. I think it was a great success. Some of the left wing people in that thing turned against me, why, because I was not taking orders from them. I told the leaders of the Communist Party I wanted no part in it and I turned it over to them and they died, they never had anything going on again.
I've had a number of things like that and all I know is, I always learn from it, I always contribute to it, and I'm not unhappy as to some of the consequences that are taking place. So there's an idea of how someone functions with political ideas and as an entrepreneur.
6. What triggered your involvement in U.S.-China relations?
Well, China had a revolution, China after 5000 years, in 1912 they finally get rid of imperialism. They had a revolution and the revolution was supported by the Soviet Union, because when they split in the 1920s, the Kuomintang, the Communist Party went to the West, the Communist Party supported Mao Zedong, they didn't support Zhou Enlai because he was French trained but they were the two top people out in the west. Well, that continued for a long time until WWII. In WWII, with the mainland in China and no access from the East, the East states supported the war against Japan by giving support and weapons to the West, what happened to be the Red Army of the Communists in the West. So the Communists had the Red Army and the People's Army and the two armies of the Communist led armies, they were the ones who finally defeated Japan, because the Kuomintang wasn't very active in that war. When it was over the Civil War began, in '49 the Kuomintang went off to Taiwan, taking many of the treasures of China with them and then there was almost the war with the US in 1955, I told you how that settled down.
I became interested in China because I was interested of course in socialism. I was following everything that was happening. And then they fumbled around in China from 1957 until 1970s, they were fumbling because in 1957 Mao asked the Soviet Union to industrialize China in a modern way and the Soviet Union said, don't worry, we'll take care of you and Mao said, nobody takes care of us, we take of ourselves. So they split and I followed the split but Mao Zedong didn't know the first thing about economics, in the Communist Party only a few people did. So they began what they called the Great Leap Forward, the Great Leap Forward was the Great Leap Backwards, the only good thing was collectivism but what you collect about and what you can feed people with is also very important. They really didn't do it. So a lot of criticism developed and then they started to Cultural Revolution, which was to get rid of the intellectuals who were criticizing Mao Zedong. So they sent him out into the countryside.
The interesting thing about collectivism incidentally is that it fits into the philosophy that developed in China over a long period of time. It joined in with Confucius, Confucius' main line was fairness. So the fairness and collectivism, they fit together which is a very interesting Chinese characteristic but I kept following what was going on. I split with the Soviet Union in '57. Not just because of what happened with China but because the Soviet Union invaded Hungary and Czechoslovakia, where they had socialist revolutions after World War II but their socialist revolutions were on a democratic base because they'd already developed social democratic forms which was another way of moving toward socializing the economy. The Soviet Union didn't like that so they invaded. The East Germans were smart they never even told the Soviet Union what they were doing but they couldn't hang on once the others fell apart. So, we found the end of socialist development in Europe after WWII. I split with them because the Soviet Union was dead wrong. I had this kind of thing where if the Soviet Union needed help on certain things I would help them but I wouldn't get involved in their political line and certainly some of the political line here I didn't think was very effective which follows the history of the world. So that's why I became involved in China.
And I knew they didn't know anything about basic classical Marxism and I followed that for many years. In 1978 when Zhou Enlai succeeded through Deng Xiaoping, who was not only a leader of the Communist Party but, before he died, he gave it to him and China went on the only road possible to take care of their people: industrialization, modernization, open to the west, become a part of the economy of the world and build up their economy on the basis of industrialization. So they started with the feudal base, industrialization with private capital, social capital, so they have three ways of looking at the world, a very complex situation: feudal relations, capitalist relations, idealistic socialist relations without understanding fully what the economics would be even of socialism. It's a hell of a situation and I've done 45 essays incidentally on China, beginning in the '70s up until recently, which we might do into a book.
I've been following China and what I've found is all these complexities work together and I've been talking all over the country on China and I'm considered quite an expert on it. But what I like very much is to be able to teach people what the complexities are in China and how special it is. The fact that they really began to study economics in 2003 and 2005, for the first time, apply the knowledge of economics to building a kind of a socialist country that would be clearly socialist, but at the same time with many errors. They still had a plan that would favor exports, which put them into a terrible position in 2008 because they were dependent on a foreign market and because of that they had to suffer but they had a lot of social capital, in the amounts of 3 trillion dollars US bonds and 3 trillion that they had accumulated that was social capital. They were using that to create industry that was high tech but we won't go into that.
The present leadership in China they are now graduating experts in classical economics, which is classical Marxian economics and they know their business. I've been in conferences with them in the last couple of years and they really know, one thing they ask is what happened to the new economics proposed by Lenin to Stalin before Lenin died, because they couldn't find anything, I said, I was there. I said, Stalin tore it up, he didn't want a new economic policy because a new policy called for capitalists to come into Russia and build up industry as private industry. And Stalin thought that that was the correct thing to do so they were very grateful because that was the end of their research. So that gives you some more ideas about the way I think and the way I got to think.
7. What were your thoughts on how Nixon handled diplomatic affairs with China?
My thoughts on Nixon's handling of diplomatic affairs in China during his visit in 1972 is that he established recognition of the legitimacy of the Communist Party's ascendency to the state and agreed to work with them. In 1978, the modernization program opening to the west, establishing a regulated market and inviting foreign capital to help build industry. Nixon's visit was instrumental in maintaining peaceful relations, though, of course, it was the hope of US capital that they would influence the development of industry in China, essentially in a capitalistic mode of production. Which in fact was a major challenge in the 1990s, resulting in the election of a liberal communist in 2002, which was a turning point on the road to socialism in China.
8. You are an educator, an historian, an entrepreneur, and an economist. How did these things come about?
I still am an educator, I still do a lot of lecturing all over the place, drop a hat, tell me where you want to go, give me an audience and I'll get going. Whether I get paid or just expenses, we'll always work it out, depends on who, where, and how. I'm interested constantly in sharing my knowledge which is quite different than most people who are Marxist because I have a damn good idea of how society economically develops, I've been a part of it and I can talk about it.
9. As an entrepreneur, you embodied many of the traits that are upheld by capitalism as exemplary and worthy of recognition. Mostly these ideals conflict with socialist principles that revolve around valuing all of humanity. I do believe that entrepreneurship and socialism can coexist. In your opinion, how can a vibrant spirit of entrepreneurship exist within a framework that is dedicated to the recognition of human rights and human dignity?
Well, I didn't embody many of the traits that upheld capitalism because I never made the quest for the money the number one issue in my life. I paid my dues and I only made one or two things that I'm sorry I did, a person got hurt, but that's it. I always say to myself, I don't believe in god but I've got god in my heart. If you've got god in your heart and you're your own self critic and you're interested in other people. I also want to tell you right now I've got five heroes: Moses, the Ten Commandments, Christ, Sermon on the Mount which is the last six of the Ten Commandments incidentally, Karl Marx who indicated how Marx exploitation takes place under capitalism and added it to the humanist approach of religion, Hu Jintao since 2005 who did a thing called dos and don'ts two years ago for the Chinese people and if you read it reads pretty much like the Sermon on the mount only different kinds of words and one more thing added, that's the question of working with the state power but in other words, respect for the governmental structure.
It's all the same respect for humanist ideals and I just added another one recently and that's Martin Luther King and two of those heroes gave their life for humanism and for people, Christ and Martin Luther King. With god in your heart you have it all made as an individual and you make sure you don't do something to hurt someone else and you try to be very sensitive when you get into certain situations. Humanism is the most important thing of all and that's the name of the video-book that I've done, Humanism: the Heart of Socialism and that can answer the other question.
Now let's talk about entrepreneurism. There's no contradiction between entrepreneurism and being interested in socialism. To begin with people don't understand socialism is a combination of private capital and social capital, they work together. The objective of socialism is to build up the industry to the point where it takes care of everybody, capitalism doesn't do that, it only takes care of the people who can pay for the products. In order to do that you have social capital which doesn't make the social capital the main thing while you're giving money to the private capital so they can continue to develop the industrial structure of the country. When you develop it long enough, you get the capitalists to cooperate; you're changing their human nature. So socialism is very interesting and complex. It's not communism, it's a transitional period of developing industry in a better way to take care of all people.
That being the case, this whole question of socialism is not what it's been cracked up to be. You're not going out with a saber in your hand and going after people you don't like, or what Stalin did which is not to have any democracy in the country. Socialism means more democracy not less democracy, that's another reason the Soviet Union fell apart. Anyway, I know these things out of experience, so, they need entrepreneurism in socialism, they need people who know how to set up a business, how to set up production, know how to set up distribution, know how to develop new ideas and these people are different. In fact, Marx used to recognize this, in fact, he used to say under socialism 'from each according to their ability, to each according to their contribution.' People with more ability can contribute more, people with less deserve at least to live.
The purpose of socialism is to make life better for everybody with out knocking out private industries as long as the private industry conforms to the laws of the times and that of course depends on the laws of each country. So there is no contradiction between the two. And there was an interesting question because the person who asked these questions already indicated that he didn't see a contradiction between the two and I appreciate that thought because it's precisely the way I've been functioning my whole life. And I don't see any contradiction. I really think what socialism is is a transitional stage where you can really say 'from each according to their ability, to each according to their need.' Now you know that's similar to the tribal community situation where they didn't even have industry and it's bringing the production aspect of society all around the cycle back to communal society, to high tech communal society with industry, and you call that communism. That's a thought that I have, you don't have to share it with me, but socialism is nothing that should scare you if you want to be a decent human being and you want to see everybody taken care of.
10. Do you see any companies or high profile business leaders who exemplify these ideals?
Yes I do. There's a book written by Nader on Buffett who just established a committee of 15 or 17 financial leaders of industry incidentally not finance capital. People who are humanists at heart, who made a lot of money, like the 10 billion dollars made by the Microsoft leader who's now putting it into the development of all kinds of technology and all kinds of things that's going to help them with their health. It's going to be a ten-year project, new types of medicine and stuff of that sort. There are many who have a humanistic feel and have made a lot of money and still are supporting things, the point is they support generally single-issue humanist organizations.
11. There has been a funding crisis on the left for decades. The Black Panther Party is the most recent model of a well-funded, functional political organization on the Left that I am aware of. Right wing organizations, publications, and think tanks, however, are not only fully funded, but they are thriving. Why do you think the Left has so many issues with funding or the lack thereof? What do you think might be a solution to this problem?
Now my advice, I say they should go to these people; it happens that the name of the book is the Rich Will Save Us. I don't believe that, I believe the rich joining in with the mass movements and helping them to express their desire to change things so that people are taken care of, that's going to make the real difference. At the same time I think the people who are left of center should go to those who are supporting single issue movements and convince them to support movements who seek social change and are not a threat to decent people who are even rich in this country. So that will be a new approach to the way the left operates and I recommend that very highly to those who might be listening and might be interested in that sort of thing. Then he said, I just answered that question, which is fundraising by other people.
12. Do you consider yourself a Marxist or a socialist?
I don't see a contradiction between those two terms. The trouble is that Marxism has taken a very bad road in the 20th-century due to the fact that the first countries that established a so-called Socialist system didn't really do a good job and I was in the Soviet Union many times that were corrupt, I'll give you one that they didn't plan, they did develop planning for the army, the military, they did a beautiful job, but to involve people in building industry to take care of people they didn't do such a good job at all. A good example, as one of there guests in the agriculture sector I saw things that were fabulous, I saw cherries that were as big as my thumb so I thought my god I'm going to take a couple of kilos of it and bring it back to Moscow so I did, I had to protect it of course, and I brought it into the writer's union, because my wife, she's a famous writer, she was invited, at any rate, the writer's union were all of course a part of the political structure, the writers, who were in with the political elite, never even saw the cherries in Moscow, why?
Because they didn't have a distribution system that depended on bringing together the work of all the people, a kind of industrialization and distribution of the wealth being created for consumption and to make that consumption available for all of the people, so the best that some do could go to many of the people that can't do it, they weren't really building a socialist economy and they certainly weren't building a socialist milieu in the way of democracy.
I was sitting with Gorbachev in the Kremlin in 1981 and I said to him, you ought to do, it was he and I at a table on the side, we were drinking, and I said you oughta do what Roosevelt did and he said what did Roosevelt do and I said, Roosevelt broke with his class and you have to break with your ministers, because your ministers are not behind you. He wanted to develop democracy and the ministers weren't behind it but that really wasn't what it was about, the ministers were very corrupt because that very morning I can tell you a story of something that was offered to me to do something illegal that would make me a millionaire.
Of course I turned it all down, but I had a good insight, I also helped them with building up their textile industry, building up their partners over here and then they go back and they don't even acknowledge my share in what we did together. So I knew them inside out and I was warned by someone, get out, and I did get out the last time I was there, very, very quickly. So, I knew that they did not have socialism so I say socialism is a democratic structure and I'm a Marxist and a socialist and Marx was for democracy, he said, there will be bourgeois right long after the state represents socialist development, bourgeois right and democracy. Lenin called together all the trade unions a couple of times in the 1920s and he said, there is no socialism without democracy, the road to socialism is a many sided struggle for democracy.
Stalin killed it and he killed a lot of other things. I'll tell you one more thing, the Communist part of Russia, China, of the Soviet Union, was giving money to Communist Parties all around and even the American party they were included and the battle that took place in 1945-46 with the man that they kicked out of the leadership of the Communist Party and I supported him. I didn't know at that time what was happening with the finances, but I can tell you this, in the ten years before 1981, the Soviet Union had given the Communist Party of the United States 26 million dollars in things, in, I don't know how much money but in various things, publications and that was being put to an end by Gorbachev and that's why they knocked him out.
Anyway, I'm telling you I'm a Marxist and a socialist because there is going to be no socialism unless you follow the real ideas that Marx developed, socialism is an extension of industrial development, it's an extension of democracy, it's a development of communal forms of society which reduce the influence of privatization, which has been the notable point of capitalism. It means changing human nature from the serfdom human nature to the capitalistic human nature to a human nature of collectivity where you have different levels in society and different levels of consumption but that's what Marxism and socialism teaches and I'm very proud to be able to express it to people without any, I don't have to make any excuses because it happens to reflect reality.
13. What are your core values and beliefs?
My core values I told you already: humanism. I think that socialism developed out of humanism, out of religion, before even Marx and that political wing developed in the 19th century the forces before that were telling the British government that there had to be some socialism in the government. At that time they meant give the people the vote because the serfs who were being pushed off the land who were very free weren't given any rights. It was religious people who developed the push for socialism in the 16th, 17th and into the 18th century. And in the 19th century it was the political people who were battling and in 1837 non-religious workers joined with the religious workers in a movement that was called the Charters and they approached the government and they were beaten down by the British government.
In 1847-49 when Marx wrote a manifesto for the working people he didn't call it the socialist manifesto he called it the Communist Manifesto, because he was interested in moving towards a communal society ultimately. He hadn't spelled it all out. Other things he didn't do, he didn't explain why the kinds of social revolutions in Asia would be different from the socialist revolutions in Europe, because in Europe socialism was growing out of industrialized society, whereas in Asia it was dominated and growing out of feudal society and some elements of industrialization were in control. So that the development of socialism would be different there and he never got around to writing it and I've done a lot of study that socialism is different in every country depending on its own culture, its own history, its own development of the forces of production, its own development of humans and human nature so that you will find for interest elements of socialism developing in Venezuela, in Cuba, in Vietnam, in China, etc.
The Bolivarian states in South America, they all have elements of moving into socialism in their own way but what we're seeing in the 21st century, this is the century when capitalism has lost the right to dominate society because they are not developing industry anymore, they are not developing that which will help people, they are investing where they can make money and they don't give a damn whether people are eating or not eating, so they've given up the historic right to dominate society.
It's all becoming quite clear, little by little, in spite of all their propaganda against it. So what we are developing now, and keep your eye on it, is a bipolar world, in which those who want to work together and build each other up and trade with each other but leave each other's politics alone, that's a new pole that's developing. If you want to stay with capitalism, bless you. We're all going to get buried anyway but I'd rather see us have a decent funeral rather than a pauperish one, so thank you very much for giving me all these questions.
14. What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in all of your ninety-two years?
I've told you, it's humanism with a humanist religious base and the humanist political base for the struggle for socialism. That's what I've learned, I've put it into my breast, I've put it into my heart, I do not need anybody outside called God, I got god right there, it criticizes me and I try not to be bad to other people, whatever it costs. Because inside I tell you I feel very rich and very welcome with many, many people and I hope you'll all be my friends after this tirade.
15. Is there any other wisdom that you’d like to impart to your readers?
Put the idea/concept of god in your heart, be sensitive to humanity and defend it. Help people and be with them. Thank the people who criticize you. They have a right. You have to change if you’re wrong. You have to absorb new ideas and new approaches that correspond to god and your heart. God is a socialist. And with god in your heart be highly self-critical.
Thanks for this fabulous interview.