Human nature has always been invoked every time there has been any question of social progress. The slave-holders said some people were born to be slaves. The slave was a possession of the slave owner and only lived and worked for his benefit. The master had full control of the life and family of the slave. The owner was everything, the slave nothing. It was the natural order of things.
Capitalism has been responsible for a great deal of human suffering. Concentration of wealth and property, exploitation of labour, the abuse of nature for profit, the violent suppression of opposition, the manipulation of democracy and control of information, surpluses of food and medicine for the rich while millions of the poorest die of malnutrition and disease. Supporters of capitalism, however, insist that “human nature” creates the ills associated with the present system – greed, competition, war, inequality. Socialists declare it is not “human nature” that is the cause of the problems people face today. It is the way society is organised
Opponents of socialism say that we are not being practical: that we are dreamers and utopians. Our opponents confront us again with human nature and say; “You want to change society to ensure happiness to all and give everyone equality. You forget human nature! Man is by nature selfish and evil. You will never be able to change people.”
Socialists do not believe that there is no such thing as the nature of man; that man at birth is like a blank sheet of paper, on which the culture writes its text. Socialists are never tempted to assume that "human nature" is identical with that particular expression of human nature prevalent in their own society. Socialists do not accept that there was a fixed, eternal "human nature". In human society nothing is unchangeable. Everything is variable. Human nature is strongly shaped by the society it exists in and does in fact vary from one society to another. Through history classes and social systems have succeeded each other and differed from each other. It is a mistake to maintain that human nature does not change. Everything changes in Nature and in life. Everything is in a process of transformation. Movement is the universal law of everything that exists. We never meet the same person twice because during the interval they have grown older, their constitution and character changed; they is no longer the same. If everything changes, is subject to transformation and modification, how is it possible to believe for a moment that the present system of property will always remain the same? That would be, indeed, contrary to nature.
The satisfaction of human needs is impossible for an isolated individual. Only by taking part in the collective production process, working alongside everyone else to produce what we all require, can an individual become truly human. It has also been said that if men do not have the spur of hunger and want and of the desire to make profit they will become lazy. To argue this is to forget the necessity for clothing, feeding and sheltering oneself. Who does not work neither will they eat. It is to forget too, that idleness is not the characteristic of a sane person.
Laziness is a social malady, spawned by our system, which is in itself a stimulus to laziness. It assures all riches, all the pleasures of life to those who work the least possible - the idle rich parasites. Laziness also develops from the intolerable conditions of forced and excessive labour in unhealthy factories. How can people work with enthusiasm when they know that their work will go to the enrichment of others? When the producers know that the products of their work will belong to them they will throw overboard the old repugnance which forced drudgery engenders in them. Work well regulated and fairly apportioned will become attractive. It will become a joy and a pleasure, and this is because work is necessary for the physical and mental well-being of the individual. Altruism/co-operation/communism, call it as you will, is basically the "we" and the "us" versus the egotistical bourgeois, "I" and the "me". "All against all" would properly express capitalist values.
Socialism does not depend on some miraculous change in human nature. Thirsty men will fight tooth and nail for a drink of water in a desert. But if they are up to their waist in water they may have a thousand differences among themselves, but they will not even dream of fighting for a drink. A dozen men in a prison cell with only one tiny window may trample over each other in the fight to get to that tiny source of fresh air. But outside, who ever thinks of fighting for air to breathe, or for more air than the next man? Announce a shortage of bread, and immediately a long line will form, with everyone racing to get there first. But if everyone knew that there is an ample supply of bread today, and there will be just as large a supply tomorrow and the next day, there would be no line, no race, no conflict; nobody would try to hoard an extra loaf in order to make sure of eating the next day. If society could assure everyone of as ample and constant a supply of bread as there is of air, why would anyone need or want a greater right to buy bread than his neighbor? Bread is used here only as the simplest illustration. But the same applies to all other foods, to clothing, to shelter, to transport.
Capitalism cannot exist without the working-class. It is the working-class which sets in motion the machine. As soon as the proletariat becomes conscious of this fact it will begin to revolt against a state of things. Socialism is very simple. A small minority of rich people exploit the mass of poor people, those who produced the wealth of the world. If we, the vast majority, got ourselves organised, we can take the wealth into our hands, along with the means to produce it. Then with rational planning all major problems of social life can be resolved to the satisfaction of all.