Humanity’s resources are wasted in senseless adventures while people’s basic needs remain unsatisfied, land is spoiled, misery increases, and poverty spreads. The gap between rich countries and poor ones, far from diminishing, is increasing. There is an increasingly evident imbalance between humanity’s capacity for progress and the wretched reality that hundreds of millions of people must live under daily. In many countries, hunger, poverty, illiteracy, and all kinds of degradations make the lives of hundreds of millions of men, women, and children scarcely tolerable. Every year millions of people starve to death.
Why do we put up with it? Who is responsible? How can things be changed? Some teach that it is because of the laws of nature while others preach that it is because of divine laws. These are the explanations of those who profit from this misery and whose power depends on maintaining the present conditions. Reality shows despite diversity in political regimes, in language, and in culture, the vast majority of the people of the globe share a common condition: that of living in a society where the owners of the means of production impose their will over those who possess nothing or little. In other words, the vast majority of people live in a society divided into social classes where the propertied classes, the capitalists and landowners, dominate the classes who have little or no property, the working class and the small farmers. The economic base of this social regime is the capitalist system. In the past few hundred years capitalism has become the dominant form of production and the key to the economic and political power of the capitalist is the ownership or control of the means of production and exchange (land, factories, transport , etc.) and the exploitation of the labour-power of the working class. The whole reason for existence of the capitalist is the accumulation of capital, i.e. the continual growth of its economic power; a capitalist who does not grow is, as a general rule, a capitalist condemned to disappear. On the other hand, the capitalist has nothing if he cannot find in society people who have no other means of subsistence but the sale of their labour-power in exchange for a wage equivalent to the strict minimum for survival. The secret of capitalist exploitation lies precisely in the fact that what the capitalist buys from the worker is not his work but rather his labour-power. If the capitalist had to pay for the work furnished, he would not be able to make the profit he does.
Suppose that a worker produces 10 pairs of shoes a week which sell for $25.00, thus making a total value of $250.00 per week on the market. This worker receives a weekly wage of $100.00. Where does the value of the shoes come from? The raw materials – the leather, thread, and glue – along with the other means of production such as electricity, the machines, etc. alone account for $75.00 to which is added the value added by the worker’s labour, i.e. $250.00 less $75.00 or $175.00. This sum represents the amount that the worker added by his work to the value of the materials that he was given at the beginning. If the capitalist paid the worker according to the value of his labour, he would have to give him $175.00. However, this is not what happens because the wages paid to the worker do not correspond to the value of the work he furnishes; rather, they correspond, on the average, to what it costs the worker to reproduce this labour-power or, in other words, to recuperate his energies and ensure his subsistence given the cost of living and the living conditions at a given time. There lies the essence of capitalist exploitation: the worker gives a certain value of work to the capitalist but his wages do not correspond to this value but to only a fraction of it. The value of the non-paid work is called the surplus-value; the capitalist appropriates this non-paid fraction which constitutes the source of his profit, the source of capital.
Here lies the key to the exploitation of the worker by the employer, the key to the enrichment of the ruling class on the backs of workers. The development of capitalism leads it continually to socialize work further. This means that the production of a consumer item, a pair of shoes for example, is no longer the work of an individual leather-worker and his apprentice, but of hundreds of individuals. Thus work takes on an increasingly collective form requiring a great many workers. This division of labour takes on gigantic proportions under capitalism. In these conditions, the contradiction between this cooperation of a great number of workers in production and the fact that the means of production (the factories, machines, etc.) and the product of labour are the private property of a very small number of persons becomes sharper. The gap between the large number of producers and the very small number of idle owners provokes increasing conflicts and unrest. But to attain their ends, the capitalists have to weaken the means of resistance of the working class and of the people in general. And to achieve this goal, there are no methods they won’t resort to. On the whole, the employing class combines two types of tactics to check the workers’ movement: on the one hand, minor concessions, crumbs, and superficial reforms, the carrot, and, on the other hand, political and economic repression, police brutality, intimidation, etc., the stick. In periods of relative prosperity for capitalism (which are increasingly rare and increasingly short) when the bosses has the economic possibilities of making concessions, the carrot is used more willingly. In periods of crisis, however, it quickly reneges on what it had given and frantically tries to smash any resistance of the working class.
There was a time when capitalism was progressive. By breaking the ideological and political holds with which feudalism held back the material progress of human society, capitalism considerably developed the productive forces, i.e. the means to satisfy the material needs of people. In combining science and technology for the production of goods.it increased production quantitatively and qualitatively. But capitalism, whose fundamental law is the search for individual profit, has reached the point where the development of the productive forces is incompatible with the search for profit. Now corporations with their patent laws and intellectual ownership claims prevent the utilisation of technical and scientific innovations which although they would benefit the majority of people, would not be good for profits. The system of capitalism is holding back the future. The longer it lasts, the more capitalism degrades life, increases misery, and invites huge ecological disasters. The workers have nothing to lose but their chains. This is the way in which the class consciousness of workers developed, i.e. the consciousness that to improve the condition of workers, the struggle must be waged against the capitalist class; the consciousness that the interests of all workers are the same and that they form a class distinct from the other classes of society; the consciousness that, in order to reach their goals, workers must wage a political struggle whose aim can only be the abolition of capitalism itself. Those who claim to fight for socialism do not understand that reaching this goal required revolution and at most are mere reformist parties. In attacking the foundation of the capitalist system – the private and state ownership of the means of production and the exploitation of wage labour – the working class undertakes at the same time the elimination of classes themselves. In effect, to eliminate the private ownership of the means of production is to destroy the material basis on which all exploiting classes are founded. Consequently, it is also to eliminate classes themselves. This is why we say that the aim of the workers’ struggle is the classless society, i.e. the communist society, a community in which no person exploits the labour of another. In contrast to the capitalist which ousted the feudal sytem in the aim of exploiting the working class more “freely”, the proletariat has no one to exploit because it is the most deprived class in society. After the proletariat, there are no classes to serve as the object of exploitation. To eliminate the exploitation of the proletariat is to eliminate all exploitation!
The goal of the workers is a stateless society, for the State has never been anything but the instrument of dictatorship of one class over another. Since time immemorial, the State has been the means with which an exploiting class maintains its domination over the other classes. The State is the monopoly of violence, the army, the police, the legal apparatus, the laws, the judges, the prisons, the control of the educational system... In the capitalist system, the State is the means whereby the capitalists ensure their domination over the proletariat. All States so far have been built as mechanisms for controlling and regulating class antogonisms with the aim of maintaining the power of one of them. The very existence of the State is an expression of the fact that society is divided into classes and that it is necessary to fix the relations between the classes. This is why the State monopolized violence by depriving the exploited and oppressed classes of the weapons necessary for their liberation. This is why the State seals in law the rules of the ownership system. Thus, to say that the struggle of the working class leads to a classless society is to say that it leads to a stateless society. The first act is the socialist revolution. Strengthening the fighting capacity of the working class means struggling against economic, political, and social factors of division which weaken it.
We are unable to predict the future so we cannot say for certain if the class struggle for socialism will be violent or peaceful but in a situation where the there still exists confidence in the institutions of bourgeois democracy, socialists must not hesitate to struggle within these institutions, including Parliament. Thus the Socialist Party may participate in elections and then use Parliament as a tribune to spread the communist point of view as widely as possible with the aim of winning people away from the influence of reformism and pure and simple electoral parliamentarism.
In socialism,vital factories won’t close because investors don’t think they’re making enough money from them. Production will no longer depend upon the wishes of a handful of capitalists whose only goal is maximum profits, but on the collective will of all of the communities. The abolition of the exploitation of man by man means first and foremost the total ban of the exploitation of the work of another person, i.e. the appropriation for personal ends of the product of another’s work. Thus it will be impossible for individuals to enrich themselves from the work of others. Socialism means and must mean the elimination of the exploitation of one person by another in any form. The active and direct participation of the the people in all affairs of society is an indispensable condition for a successful socialist society. Whether it be in a factory, a hospital, an office, in a village, town, or region, be it a question of material production or of culture, individuals must exercise their power everywhere. It is they who must determine what is to be done. They must also directly control their elected delegates at various levels. In practice, this means that they can, at any time, remove an elected official from his of her functions if he or she has failed to act in the interests of his or her electors - direct democracy.
Socialists who wish to maintain the state are simply not socialists. Those who compose the state depend on the producers to feed, house and clothe them. The relation of ruler and ruled is also a relation of exploiter and exploited. The state is exploitation. Those who oppose class exploitation must, necessarily, oppose the state. Those who want to preserve the existing state machinery in the struggle for socialism are not simply arguing for a different road to socialism; they are arguing against socialism itself. The aim of all those who want working class self-emancipation has to be the destruction of the capitalist state. Its existence is incompatible with the development of socialism.
Many people, who call themselves socialist, still hold the idea that socialism is about increasing the power of the state and expanding its sphere. For them, socialism is the nationalisation of property. The more militant their ‘socialism’, they assume, the more they must favour state ownership. Marx and Engels did not identify socialism with nationalisation of property. In 1845, he and Engels declared ‘... if the proletarians wish to assert themselves as individuals, they must overthrow the state.’ And in 1884, Engels looked forward to the day when the state would end its life ‘in the Museum of Antiquities, by the side of the spinning wheel and the bronze axe’. Marx and Engels insisted that the state is in no sense an agency of the ‘general’ interest. It exists for the protection of private vested interest. None of this is to deny that the state can and do perform ‘useful functions’ for society. They do, in their fashion, preserve ‘law and order’ and provide valuable services from roads to hospitals. Stateless societies did not lack social regulation and life within them could be orderly. In many areas of our social life, we live by our own rules. We keep each other ‘in line’ by various forms of peer pressure. A lot of the time, we hardly even notice these rules: yet they are the real basis of social order.
A self-acting society of associated producers will be classless inasmuch as its members will have no differential relation to the means of production and distribution. Property will no longer belong to the state, which is the instrument of a class, but to the community, which is now classless; and the state itself, if the term be permissible for an apparatus of the nature that it will be, will be concerned not with the government of men but the administration of things.
Socialism is a classless, stateless, self-governing community based on an abundance of material goods, in which ‘the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all’. The aim of revolution is to overthrow the capitalist class to bring about the socialist transformation of society throughout the world, in the creation of a classless and stateless communist society in which the guiding principle will be ’From each according to his ability, to each according to his need’. As the working class abolishes capitalist relations of production and replaces them by non-oppressive, non-exploitive ones then the alienation characteristic of capitalism will disappear. As the great mass of people gain control of their productive activity and the products of their labour so their antagonistic estrangement from each other and their aversion to work will be overcome. Productive activity will become once again a creative, fulfilling and truly human activity. The division between work and non-work will gradually disappear and people will freely choose what to produce rather than being constrained by immediate necessities. It is not only the material basis of society which will be transformed. As the new communist person displaces the old bourgeois man the human species will embark upon a completely new stage of its historical development free from the oppression and exploitation of class society. Relations between the sexes and family relations will undergo change. Education will be thoroughly transformed and closely integrated with production and community life. The arts will no longer be a narrow specialised activity engaged in by a few, but a shared activity.
The only demands that can really lead to working class emancipation is the abolition of the private ownership of the means of production, the abolition of the exploitation of Man by Man, and the construction of a socialist society. These are the fundamental tasks of the socialist revolution and the Socialist Party.