Thursday, October 12, 2017

All belongs to all

Socialism has meant many things to many people. Ask someone what socialism means and you get various responses - it means government control, state ownership, regulations and legislation, economic intervention by government, redistribution of income, progressive taxation. It’s the welfare state, the mixed economy, or the command economy and central planning. When someone does proclaim that he or she is “a Socialist”, they have difficulty defining what that actually means other than they are for good jobs, full employment, national health care, etc. The problem with such “Socialisms” is that they all leave capitalism in place. By understanding capitalism and how it works, we come to a clearer understanding of what socialism should mean.

 If Socialist politics means a radical break from capitalism, then all the premises of capitalism must be fundamentally challenged. Capitalism is a system of capital creation and accumulation. Capital must not only be created, it must be necessarily accumulated and expanded (and unless accumulated to a great extent the system breaks down resulting in recession and economic crises). The existence of capital presupposes two things - first, a working class which is divorced from does not own the means of production. The only thing that workers really possess is their labour power, their ability to labour which they must sell for a wage or salary. Secondly, the existence of a class which owns or controls capital, which buys the labour power of the workers and uses it for the creation of surplus value, profit. Thus, capitalism is a class-divided society. On the one hand, those who own only their labour power, on the other hand, those who own capital. On the one hand, those who survive by selling their labour power, on the other hand, those who gain their existence by living off the profit (surplus value) created by the other class. The distinguishing feature of capitalism is not that capital/property is privately owned or that production is anarchic, that there is no planning. It is that labour is alienated, exploited.  If the State intervenes or nationalizes property and eliminates private capitalists the State itself becomes the single capitalist, its bureaucracy the de facto owners of capital. Capitalism as the ‘system of capital’ remains unchanged. It simply transforms into state-capitalism. The actual existence of capitalism as a ‘system of capital’ imposes limits to what that system can do. In the end, the system cannot work in a way that is detrimental to capital and all action within this system of capital (reforms, taxation, public works, health care, issues of the environment and ecology, etc.) are determined and restricted by the inevitable fact that capital must accumulate. Capital not only limits what one can do it also divides people against each other in an acknowledged ‘Rat Race’ that lays the foundation for the politics of despair, racism, sexism, ethnic division as people compete for the crumbs offered.

One of the criticisms hurled at Socialist Party is that we are starry-eyed, utopian dreamers, not versed in the art of ‘practical politics’. The answer to this is that those who defend and work through the system of capitalism and expect a society fit for human beings are the ones who are the utopians.  Their pragmatism cannot go beyond the limits of capital. Their proposed solutions to very real problems are bound up with this inevitable limit.  Socialism is desirable, necessary and achievable. It is in every way feasible, not a utopia conjured from out of the sky and imposed upon society. In place of profit-seeking enterprises,  organisations would be formed by people themselves for the purposes of self-help and mutual aid. The tendency to this free association even exists in modern capitalist society - in the form of people supporting strikes and other forms of working-class solidarity, international railway and air networks, even the Red Cross and the RNLI  lifeboat associations. These voluntary associations are limited and distorted by capitalism; however, they give us a glimpse of what free agreement has in store for us if we establish a stateless society in the future.

People think economics has something to do with bosses, accountants, economists, money, the market, profits, production, the division of labour, work or wage labour. Capitalists claim that all the things listed above like money and the market are natural, and it is impossible to have anything else.  Instead, we need to talk of the economic means for the satisfaction of the needs of all human beings with the least possible expenditure of energy and resources to achieve them.  To satisfy these needs, we need to re-organise society. We need to have a revolution to abolish all classes and wage-labour.

 Socialists reject the market, money, and profit as both exploitative and unnecessary. Instead, we need a society of common ownership and voluntary labour to meet these shared needs and wants. 
The first is the taking into possession of all of the wealth of the world, on behalf of the whole of humanity, because that wealth is the collective work of humanity.  This requires the abolition of all property and the holding of all resources in common for the well-being of all. The abolition of property requires the abolition of the wage system.

The second is organising society around the principle “From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.” This means everything should be produced, distributed and exchanged for free according to need. Everyone would be the judge of their own needs and take for free from the common storehouse whatever they needed. If there was scarcity, things would be rationed according to need.

Socialism is not some impractical dream. Even in today’s capitalist society, we have public roads, parks, museums, libraries and piped water which is 'free' for anybody to use according to their needs. For example, the librarian does not ask you what your previous services to society have been before they get you a book from the shelves or stacks. Again, these are token examples which give us a glimpse of what is possible under a class-free and money-free society.

In summary, socialism is :
(1) The means of production will be owned and controlled communally, and production will be geared towards satisfying everyone’s needs. Production will be for use, and not for sale on the market;
(2) Distribution will be according to need, and not by means of buying and selling;
 (3) Labour will be voluntary, and not imposed on workers by means of a coercive wages system;
 (4) A human community will exist, and social divisions based on class, nationality, sex or race will have disappeared
(5) opposition to all states, even the ones who falsely proclaim themselves to be ‘workers’ states’.

Adapted from here

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