By HAYDEN PERRY
The following is a talk by Hayden Perry at a 1986 celebration of 50 years of service to the socialist movement by Perry and 12 other socialist workers.
As I round out 50 years of activity in the socialist movement and find the goal of a socialist America still some way down the road, I am reminded of the slogan the Cunard Steamship Company used to lure passengers onto their ships. Their ads proclaimed, “Getting there is half the fun.”
Getting there is half the fun I found when I started on the class- struggle road to socialism many years ago. It is a journey I can recommend to young workers who want more than a life of drudgery, boredom, and nagging fear.
Right at the start of that journey to socialism the travelers will be relieved of a heavy burden: the burden to “succeed” in the bourgeois sense. That is, to accumulate wealth and status by climbing on the backs of their fellow workers. The chance of a worker gaining wealth and status is about equal to his or her chances of winning big in the state lottery. Yet workers are failures in the eyes of bourgeois society if they do not climb out of the working class.
Not so for socialists. They do not want to rise out of the working class-but to rise with it. For the working class is inevitably going to rise and take power out of the hands of the capitalist class. This will be success, not for just a few, but for the vast majority of humankind.
On the class-struggle road, young workers will not have to keep up with the Joneses. They won’t worry that they can’t find any prominent people in their family trees. They won’t care if their car is the oldest on the block. They won’t have to push their neighbors aside to reach that “place in the sun.”
Instead they will be concerned that everyone can emerge from the shadows. It is far more fun to pull people up than to push them down. This is especially true when their neighbors are Black or brown.
Freed of the burden of race prejudice and other forms of chauvinism, socialist workers travel farther and faster. And how much pleasanter is the journey when women and men of every race share their company.
As they travel the road to socialism, the workers will find their horizons widening. They may be residents of the United States, but they will truly become citizens of the world. They will gain a world view that transcends the narrow boundaries of American nationalism. Workers’ victories in the most remote corners of the world will excite them as much as events at home.
Like the rest of their class, socialist workers have to trudge that weary road to work. Work, under capitalism, is usually boring, tedious, and tiring. Only fear of starvation drives many workers back to the factory day after day. For socialist workers, however, a day on the job can be fun. Here is the primary arena of the class struggle, where workers fight for higher pay, for better working conditions, for job security.
As the best soldiers in this fight, the socialists are in the front lines of the almost daily skirmishes to wrest concessions from the boss and to defend their fellow workers. A little victory, or sometimes a small defeat, enlivens the day and counters the monotony of the job.
From time to time the small skirmishes expand to a full-fledged war as the entire plant walks out on strike. Then socialists feel the exhilaration of pitting organized labor’s strength against corporate might-and winning. Even if they lose, socialist workers do not become demoralized. They know it is only a single battle in a far broader war that is yet to be fought.
Most workers have not gone to college, but in the revolutionary socialist party they will find a university that will prepare them for the most important job on earth-helping to lead the workers’ movement that will win the final battle. It is a school which does not offer prestige degrees, but presents some of the profoundest concepts of the world’s greatest thinkers-and also how to design and print a leaflet. He or she will become a modern Renaissance person.
Young workers will find the revolutionary party the most indispensable vehicle on the road to socialism. It marks out the route through all the twists and turns of the class struggle. In the party, young workers find the warm relationships and sense of personal worth that the cold capitalist world so often denies us. Traveling with the party, they will never feel alone in a hostile world.
Finally the party will reinforce their conviction that they are on the right road. There is little fun on the capitalist road, and nuclear annihilation at the end. I have found 50 years of fun on the road to socialism. I invite every worker to join me on the most vital journey humanity can take.