Capitalism vs. Socialism

A Battle of Wits in The Indianapolis Star (Letters)

The Mossadegh Project | April 30, 2020                       

Before there were Twitter wars and other forms of argumentation on social media, citizens matched wits in the Letters to the Editor section of their local newspapers.

The merits and drawbacks of Socialism was a particularly hot topic in the letters page of The Indianapolis Star, a Midwestern paper with a decided anti-Socialist stance.

As the following exchange of letters show, the political debates of previous generations sound much like the ones Americans are having today...and nothing ever seems resolved.

United States media archive

The People Speak
October 9, 1953

Waiting To Gloat?

To the Editor of The Star:

We old-time Socialists get a big laugh out of your daily effort to make your readers believe that Capitalism is the greatest blessing the American people have ever had. In your Sunday’s paper, you go into ecstacies over the William E. English home for charitable enterprises. [late Republican Indiana congressman] If your free enterprise economy is such a grand success, why does it bring depressions as certainly as the sunrise?

Of course, your pundits are whistling past the graveyard and trying to tell us that a depression isn’t coming, but it is just around the corner unless you can drag us into a war in Indo-China or Iran.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans are idle right now, and more are being laid off every day. You can fill up every page of your paper every day with optimistic predictions by bankers, Chamber of Commerce presidents, etc. but the old Capitalist bugaboo will get you “over-production.”

What we Socialists are waiting for is to see what your alibi will be.


The People Speak
October 14, 1953

Socialist Gloating Will Neither Prevent Nor Cure A Depression

To the Editor of The Star:

The letter of Robert T. Hallihan of Linton should not go unanswered because weak characters and those wavering in their beliefs could easily be misled. It is very true that in any society there are those who are perfectly willing to sit back and feed and live on the sweat of the brow of their neighbors. Put fortunately, in every society too, there is a vast majority who enjoy their freedom sufficiently to go out and struggle against great odds to protect their freedom, fight for it and die for it.

Likewise, in every society there is an element who are ever eager to exploit their fellowman for their own aggrandizement, but this is a very small percentage. And freedom lovers so value their freedom that they are willing to fight and die to protect these exploiters too. But they have no patience with the group who believe the world owes them a living, whether they exert themselves to meet it halfway, or not.

Just suppose everyone in this country wanted the government to supply his every want, year in and year out, without booms and busts, and without taxation, what would the future be? The very fact we have booms and busts, prosperity and depressions, is living proof of the elasticity of a free economy which cannot be said for any sort of regimentation, controls, or other socialistic-communistic economy.

Just look around at the communist-socialist regimes. Where would England, or Spain, or Yugoslavia be without our free enterprise? Show me a socialistic regime and I can show you aid from free enterprise. Why does not England help socialist Poland or Russia? Or why doesn’t Yugoslavia help socialist England? The only answer is that they can’t even help themselves. With these concrete examples of the practical workings of socialism so fresh is our minds, we will have to do more than theorize and gloat, to convince our people that we need a revolution.

Of course, I will admit that there are plenty of people who will sit idly by and gloat and push us into another depression, but gloating will not prove the perfection of a socialist Utopia. While some are gloating, millions are struggling to prevent a depression, including many good neighbors.

All of which points up the splendor of the William E. English building at which Mr. Hallihan sneered. That building is a monument to the wisdom of a free enterprise or capitalist economy in which a man can exert himself to earn a fortune which he cannot take with him, but which he can, if he chooses, leave behind in a way that it will work for the betterment of mankind and those less fortunate than himself. What could a socialist leave behind?


The People Speak
October 18, 1953

Sees Socialism As Ready To Save Nation

To the Editor of The Star:

For the last several years I’ve been reading with something less than enthusiasm letters of A. J. Schneider in Indianapolis newspapers. One thing may be said for Mr. Schneider: He is consistent. He was against Roosevelt and the New Deal. He was against Truman and the Fair Deal. If he had been living in the days of Copernicus, he would have been against the theory that the earth was round and that the earth revolved around the sun.

He attempts to answer my prediction that capitalist “overproduction” is bringing on a depression. He says we Socialists are “gloating” because a depression is coming.

He is mistaken. We are not “gloating.” A capitalist depression with millions jobless and homeless and hopeless, with bread lines, soup houses and Hoovervilles is not something to “gloat” over. But the fact remains that capitalism can produce but can’t distribute and depressions result as inevitably as soil, seed, sunshine and rain produce growth.

Didn’t the English voters turn out the Labor party and return Winston Churchill and his Conservative party to power? Isn’t Spain a capitalist dictatorship under Franco who is kept in power with the aid of capitalist United States of America and capitalist England? [Gen. Francisco Franco] Didn’t Yugoslavia break away from Socialist (Communist) Russia and join the capitalist West led by capitalist United States of America?

We Socialists are genuinely amused when coupon-clippers like Mr. Schneider criticize “regimentation, controls, creeping socialism, etc.”

What keeps capitalism from collapsing? The answer is plain: The government steps in, grants huge subsidies, allows huge tax refunds and makes huge loans to keep the wheels turning. That is “regimentation, controls, creeping socialism” for the rich. When capitalism collapsed in 1929-32 under Hoover and the bankers begged Roosevelt to save them, that ought to have been the complete and final answer to advocates of free enterprise. [Presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt]

Mr. Schneider says: “We have no patience with those who think the world owes them a living.” No Socialist believes that. We do believe that every American is entitled to a permanent job at a living wage, free from worry about war, unemployment and depressions. Capitalism has been tried and found wanting. So capitalism must go to be replaced by socialism.

I am a retired coal miner and put in more than 50 years digging coal that is, when the mines were not shut down by capitalist depressions or when we were not on strike for a living wage.


The Vietnam War | IRAN | What Lessons Did America Learn? by Arash Norouzi
The Vietnam War | IRAN | What Lessons Did America Learn?


Related links:

The Socialists’ False Premise | Albert J. Harno (Oct. 1953)

Not People’s Choice | The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (July 29, 1952 letter)

Taxpayer Does Not Get Money’s Worth? (1953 letter on Socialism)

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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