Saturday, November 29, 2014

Socialists for a free society

“The affairs of the world are ordered in accordance with orthodox opinions. If anyone did not think in accordance with these he soon discovered this fact for himself. Owen saw that in the world a small class of people were possessed of a great abundance and superfluity of the things that are produced by work. He saw also that a very great number--in fact the majority of the people--lived on the verge of want; and that a smaller but still very large number lived lives of semi-starvation from the cradle to the grave; while a yet smaller but still very great number actually died of hunger, or, maddened by privation, killed themselves and their children in order to put a period to their misery. And strangest of all--in his opinion--he saw that people who enjoyed abundance of the things that are made by work, were the people who did Nothing: and that the others, who lived in want or died of hunger, were the people who worked. And seeing all this he thought that it was wrong, that the system that produced such results was rotten and should be altered. And he had sought out and eagerly read the writings of those who thought they knew how it might be done.” - Excerpt from 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist

Class society is based on scarcity. Capitalism has brought forth the technology and world market that, for the first time in human history, make possible the elimination of scarcity and the creation of an abundance of all human necessities. However, that potential remains trapped by capitalism’s private ownership of the means of production and its sole pursuit of private profit. The principal aim of the socialist revolution will be to redirect economic production toward providing an abundance of all human needs, thus paving the way for the dissolution of class divisions and the development of a peaceful, harmonious society in which humanity can realize its true potential. The Socialist Party rejects reformism, the belief that socialism can be the result of parliamentary or other legal reform rather than a revolution that will destroy the old capitalist state. Eduard Bernstein argued that workers could gradually win more and more rights and improvements from the state until capitalism becomes socialism. Rosa Luxemburg demolished this theory in her work ‘Reform or Revolution’.

It is the very essence of socialism that the system is based upon a conscious and democratic planning of production, made possible by the abolition of private property of the means of the production? That co-operation and planning would replace the anarchy of the market. Waste, destruction and exploitation are the ultimate outcomes of the market economy and production for profit. The market develops and ‘regulates’ the economy through booms and slumps. A socialist economy would for the first time give people, as producers and users, the chance to control every step of production, take initiatives and experiment without being strangled by profit-driven competition. This, together with research and testing, would make possible an economy based on equality and in harmony with nature. Why would people produce poor quality goods when they are producing to meet their own (and others) needs? Virtually everybody, if given the choice, would prefer to work at jobs where the main motivations are to produce goods and services that improve the quality of life of the society, to help others, and to provide themselves with meaningful and satisfying work.

The revolutionary's task is to educate and teach the people that they can and must accomplish their own emancipation. The Socialist Party cannot describe in detail what every nut and bolt of socialist system would look like. That might appear rather pretentious; most of it would evolve through trial and error anyway; the important thing is that the foundation — the crucial factors in making the important decisions — would rest on people's welfare and the common good coming before profit. Humankind's desperate need to halt environmental degradation regularly runs contrary to the profit motive. We see in the worker the potential for building a completely new world, based around satisfying the interests and the needs of the people. If we can agree that it is up to the people themselves to choose how they'll be organised. Ultimately, when the organized workers’ movement have prepared themselves for the overthrow of capitalism and the State , it will be up to them to decide what form the new society will take. The most important part about our revolution is that the decision is in the hands of those effected by them -- that it is the people, themselves, who are organising society to fit themselves. This is the essential characteristic of a real, socialist revolution. We can theorise all that we want, but when the people are ready to overthrow economic and political authority, capitalism and the state, then they will be ready to design and build their new world
Bolshevism has been a blight on the working class movement. But recent years have seen an important tendency not only to recognise Russia as state capitalist but also to question Bolshevik methods and the theories from which they are derived. When socialists say that we need a revolution, we too are calling for a very big change. But we are not using the word as a sales gimmick. In the sort of world we want there will be no private or government ownership, no money, no state and no armies. You must agree that this kind of sweeping change would indeed deserve the name “revolution.”

The word socialism implies a complete revolution in the internal workings of the capitalist system. Social reform proposes nothing of the kind.  Reforms serve two important purposes. (1) They keep the worker in a better working condition. (2) They bolster and patch up the evils of capitalism. Many reformers serve as the Judas goats who deliver the sheep to slaughter.

We need a revolution because the world’s most terrible problems, such as war, poverty and loneliness, cannot be solved any other way. Reformers, social workers, charitable individuals, priests and other well-meaning folk, have all failed. By now most of them realise they will never actually solve the problems they are tackling. They are like nurses on a battlefield: all they can do is to keep slapping on the bandages and hope that somehow the slaughter will stop. And to many of them occurs the agonising thought that they are helping to keep it going.

Every society has its stabilising platitudes, along with more or less universally accepted codes of conduct and belief, but that does not mean they cannot be changed if they are called into question strongly enough. For the moment, however, the workers continue to accept the “rules of the game”. It is quite all right to put on a uniform and kill thousands of little boys and girls with bombs and napalm or sanctions, but perfectly hateful to kill one child.

If revolution is the only answer, why can’t people see that this is so? The difference of "what is possible” and “what is possible in capitalism" which people can't see, or choose to ignore, and go on pretending there's no such a thing, is like a kind of political schizophrenia. They simultaneously assume food is both produced to sell and to satisfy hunger. Why can't they see the contradiction? Because they are educated not to see it. The brainwashing we get at school, on television and in the news, papers tells us that things are getting better all the time, that it is good to be patriotic, that everything hinges on “our” balance of payments, that we have a duty to work harder, that the sweet life is within our reach.

But the most effective indoctrination does not come through the mass media. It comes from our family, friends and workmates. We all desperately need the acceptance and approval of other people, at 1east some other people. In the homes, factories, offices, pubs, bingo halls and shops these words are uttered thousands of times a day: “You can’t change human nature.” “Just look after number one.” “Why don’t they go back where they came from?” “Britain’s going to the dogs.” These are ritual statements. The people who make them don’t want to discuss them, have probably never speculated that they might be wrong.

Many workers can clearly see the vast gulf between the pampered minority who own the world, and the rest of us, the propertyless wage-slaves. But they think the way out is merely their own individual advancement, not a social revolution. Obviously there is nothing wrong with a person’s wishing to move up within capitalism: it is inevitable that workers will want to do so. But rags to riches stories are rare: that is why they make headlines.

Despite all the ideological cul-de-sacs, capitalism goes on sowing the seeds of its own-destruction. To function efficiently capitalism demands healthy, educated slaves, workers trained to think clearly and critically. Around the world we have seen the growth of protest movements. We have also seen a great deal of disillusionment and despair. Russell Brand’s popularity is a sign that many thoughtful people are casting around for an answer. The workers will increasingly see how deeply entrenched are the causes of their misery. Patching up, tinkering and minor adjustments will in the years ahead seem more and more futile. The crying need for root and branch change will be obvious to ever greater numbers. As the socialist movement’s size grows, its ability to spread its ideas will also grow. Faced with the spread of this determined, uncompromising movement, with its withering contempt for stock idols like “the national interest,” the promises of our rulers will become even wilder. To stem the socialist tide the capitalist parties will sink their differences and draw closer together, much as religions do today in the face of the world avalanche of atheism. Reforms now derided as Utopian will be two a penny - in an attempt to fob off the workers. Perhaps, for example, capitalism will provide various free services, on the understanding that this is “the beginning” of a free society, but socialists will not be fooled. Finally the time will come when a majority of workers, in the majority of countries, will send their delegates into the parliaments of the world, thus taking control of the state. From then on production will cease to be organised at the dictate of profits. Instead, the principle will prevail that things will be produced to satisfy needs.

There will no longer be any patents, so all workplaces will have access to the most advanced technical processes. There will no longer be any banks, stock exchanges, wages offices, advertising agencies, and although some of the workers previously in these fields will continue to be concerned with statistics relating to production and distribution, hundreds of millions will be released for house-building, food production and other rapidly-expanding sectors. Resources and manpower invested in armaments and the arms race will be switched to the satisfying of human needs. Tackling destitution will not be given the ludicrous low priority now awarded but instead be given the top priority that is now offered to “national defence”. In fact, since socialism will grow directly out of capitalism, the present organisational machinery of the armed forces could be used for this end, since they are the best thing capitalism has developed for moving men and materials fast.

Socialism will be a planned society, not in the sense of an authoritarian state but as Engels put it: “The seizure of the means of production by society puts an end to commodity production, and therewith to the domination of the product over the producer. Anarchy in social production is replaced by conscious organisation on a planned basis . . . The conditions of existence forming man’s environment, Which up to now have dominated man, at this point pass under the dominion and control of man, who now for the first time becomes the real conscious master of nature, because and in so far as he has become master of his own social organisation . . . It is humanity’s leap from the realm of necessity into the realm of freedom.”

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