A few hundred years from now (if there are any human beings left), historians will look back on the time we live in and call it the Period of Transition from Capitalism to Socialism. I believe this transition is the fundamental thing going on in the world today, and that everyone must define his politics in relation to it. I consider myself a radical in that I applaud the coming of socialism, and seek to assist rather than to resist it.
At the same time, I regard socialism as a mere apparatus rather than an apocalyptic consummation. Public ownership of the means of production, and public economic planning, are the necessary housekeeping devices for any modern society seeking to cope with its problems. Whether a given society which possesses this socialist apparatus will be a humane society is quite another question. It is, as I see it, a question which depends not on historical forces, but on human activity, on ourselves. The choice facing modern nations is not, capitalism or socialism?, but, a humane or an inhumane socialism? Just as De Tocqueville advised his fellow-aristocrats that democracy was inevitable and that they should seek, rather than resisting, to humanize it, so we should be telling the American public that socialism can be democratic and humane, if they will make it so.
We must not delude ourselves into the belief that America’s permanent war economy can drift on endlessly in its present form, that the question of socialism is a real question only for other societies. Apart from the great economic depression which would ensue if America stopped spending on defense; apart from the ever-increasing danger that the arms race will tip over into nuclear holocaust; apart from the life-stifling and late-Roman-Empire atmosphere of our society, which twists and frustrates all simple constructive impulses—apart from these considerations, the spread of socialist economic planning throughout the world is going to produce more and more panic and hysteria in America. Like the South on the eve of the Civil War, although prosperous and threatened by no serious internal discontent our society is nonetheless a society in crisis. The immediate political possibility in America is not socialism but fascism, and socialism, if it comes, is likely to come by way of resistance to fascism.