If survival as a human species is our primary long-term goal, then deep changes are necessary to the way we organise ourselves socially. Socialism seeks the end to artificial scarcity of all essential commodities. Promoting the common good is the only way to create a sustainable future that ends deprivation of the poor and the profit-seeking of the upper-classes. Socialism replaces failed capitalism.
How has capitalism failed? The current situation is that capitalism has failed to provide the basic needs of society; even the “social welfare” state only manages to mitigate the misery and suffering of people. The rich are seen as successful by virtue of being rich and the poor are seen as unsuccessful by virtue of their poverty. This is a “Social Darwinist” view of human achievement which makes implicit that having money with little regard to how the money is made. Socialism begins with the assumption that lack of money should not be associated with lack of nutrition, health care, clothing, housing, education and the ability to pursue a productive work and social life. Universal entitlement eliminates desperation. Unlike capitalism, socialism supports the individual – no matter his or her background – in the pursuit of a better life. There will no longer be any starving artists living from hand to mouth in the garrets.
Under the economic system of capitalism, the capitalist class owns the means of production (factories, transport, etc.) as private property. Capitalists hire workers to produce commodities, which are socially produced, but privately owned by the capitalists, and then sold for profit. The state provides an infrastructure to assist the capitalist class in maximizing profit and towards this end provides some basic necessities (such as schools, unemployment insurance, and social security) to maintain a workforce and ward off starvation, social chaos, and revolution.
In socialism, the means of production are not in the private hands of the capitalists, but are socially owned and capable of producing abundance sufficient to meet the needs of all of society. The use of money disappears because commodities are no longer produced for a market, but for distribution on the basis of need. Technology has reached a stage where goods can be produced with little or no labour. This is the turning point at which we stand today. Humanity today faces the choice: will we do away with private property and build a future for all or will a system of private property be preserved at the expense of human beings and the planet?
More and more people are joining the ranks of those dispossessed by capitalism world-wide. A class that has nothing to gain from private ownership of the means of production has to take the reins of power and construct an economic system that can sustain a better world. In theory, physical labour may become totally obsolete. If every house has a decentralised energy source like solar panels and reliable energy storage, as well as an advanced 3-D printer or molecular assembler that can produce almost physical object imaginable from a few basic recyclable chemicals then human poverty will essentially have been abolished. We can just spend the vast majority of our time doing things that we enjoy, while spending only a few minutes or at most hours a day programming our machines to fulfil our material desires. That is the more optimistic vision.
In a less optimistic vision, only a small minority of people will have access to such technologies as while the technology may exist, the costs of mass distribution remain too high (at least for a time). The vast masses, will be stuck in impoverished material conditions — dependent on welfare, and charity — without any real prospect being able to climb the ladder through selling their labour. Only a lucky few — who have an inimitably good idea, or a creative skill that cannot be replicated by a robot — will have a prospect of joining the capital-owning upper class. Not man or woman but technology must be the slave of tomorrow's world.
Socialism says: "Let us go about the task of making machinery provide abundance directly. Let us begin by asking, not what price will bring profit to private owners, but how much food, clothing and shelter do we need for the good life for men. Then let us produce for the use of men, women, and children, in order to supply them with abundance."
Clearly this requires social ownership of the principal means of production and distribution. This in order to give to the exploited workers, for the first time in the long history of mankind, the good things of life. We may make mistakes in social planning, but we can learn by our experience. Abundance is possible when we can set our engineers and technicians to planning for society, instead of planning, in so far as they can plan at all, for the profits of an owning class. The achievement of Socialism will be the result of struggle, and the successful application of socialism requires intelligence and the capacity for co-operative effort. The collapse of capitalism is inevitable. But there is no inevitability about socialism or shared abundance. We may have a long stretch of chaos, wars, dictatorships, and regimented poverty. This can be prevented only by men who will not accept poverty in the midst of potential abundance, and the eternal exploitation of workers.
It is not merely plenty that we want, but peace. Mankind is divided not only into economic classes but into nations. And nations as well as men are divided into the Haves and Have-nots. We live in an interdependent world where not even the capitalist nations with the most resources, the United States, the British and French or Germans, are fully self-sufficient. Yet each nation claims absolute sovereignty, absolute sway over its citizens, and blindly sees its economic prosperity, not in cooperation, but in shutting out its neighbors from its own markets. Meanwhile it seeks aggressively to capture the markets of the world, to obtain sources of raw materials outside its borders, and a place for its capitalists to invest more profitably than at home the surplus wealth they have acquired by the successful exploitation of the workers who are their own fellow countrymen. Modern wars arise out of the clash of nations for power and profit. Patriotism makes men blind and drunk so that they cannot see that out of this struggle for power and profit there can be neither true prosperity nor true peace. One of the hardest task for socialists, as recent history shows, is to bring about a real unity of workers across the lines of nation, race and creed. Yet it is only in the cooperative commonwealth that there is hope of lasting peace.
The Socialist Party seeks a world of freedom. This we do not have and cannot have under the shadow of war and the bondage of capitalist exploitation. All workers live in fear of those who control their jobs. There is, for a great many of us, a kind of haunting fear of a jobless tomorrow or an unwanted and unrecompensed old age. These things can be ended. They can be ended with the end of exploitation which a proper control of the means of production makes possible. They can be ended by a society of comrades. The Tree of Liberty today has feeble roots for itself except as it may grow in the soil of shared abundance. It is asserted that socialism is an end to freedom, not its beginning. Those who make that assertion define freedom only as the right to grab all you can and keep all you have grabbed.
The Socialist Party struggles for freedom, peace, and plenty and know that they can be realised in a cooperative commonwealth. Our goal is a society of abundance, of free men and women who seek life rather than death by the machinery which could produce abundance and which is so desirable that it ought to propel people to make it practicable. Members of the Socialist Party because of our examination of history and the achievements of our class convinces us that socialism is feasible. For sure, workers have made mistakes and it is far from being a perfect record but it is far better than the media and academic intellectuals belonging to Big Business would lead you to believe. Progress has been made in the face of tyranny and counter-revolution. The unions and the class struggle has not fed workers only with the bread of hope in a better tomorrow. The working class will awaken and organise itself in an orderly and peaceful revolution. Once separated from their dupes and lackeys the owning class are weak and ineffectual. The more peaceful the revolution the more priceless will its boon be. This does not imply passivism for we must have the courage to stand up against. We dare not stop with merely asking the ruling class to grant us as a concession what is ours by right. We shall never have a true cooperative commonwealth until men and women think of their reward as workers who create all wealth and not any longer of their reward as owners of property which enables them to exploit other men's labour. That is one of the reasons why our great socialist appeal must be always to the workers with hand and brain, white collar and blue collar, in city and country. It is they who have so long been exploited. It is they who can and must be free. It is only by organisation inspired by socialist principles, that we can fulfill the dreams and hopes of the people.