Sunday, May 17, 2015

Socialism is our vision

Socialism replaces a capitalist system that has served its purpose and no longer meets the needs and requirements of the people. The goals of socialist society is a life free of exploitation, insecurity, poverty; an end to unemployment, hunger and homelessness, an end to all forms of discrimination, prejudice and bigotry. Socialism is the creation of a truly humane and rationally planned society that will stimulate the fullest flowering of the human personality, creativity and talent. The apologists of capitalism hold that such goals are utopian; that people are inherently selfish, greedy and evil. Others argue that these goals can be fully realised under capitalism by reforms. The Socialist Party say that such goals can be realised only through a socialist society.

Why Socialism? Capitalism’s inherent laws - to maximise profit on the backs of the working class - give rise to the class struggle. History is a continuous story of people rising up against those who exploit and oppress them, to demand what's theirs. The ideals of justice and equality have inspired peoples for centuries. Socialists say that capitalism won't be around forever. Just like previous societies weren't around forever either. Slavery gave rise to feudalism and feudalism to capitalism. So, too, capitalism gives rise to socialism. Political and economic power would be in the hands of the people. It eliminates forever the power of the capitalist class to exploit and oppress the majority, replacing their control with the participation of the people which will harmonise the interests of all, ending all the conflicts arising from exploitation of workers, ending dog-eat-dog competition. Poverty will be ended quickly with the recovery of the vast resources now wasted in poverty will be ended quickly with the recovery of the vast resources now wasted in accumulation of profits and war production. With capitalism gone, crime will also begin to disappear, for it is the vicious profit system that corrupts people and breeds crime.

By what stretch of the imagination is capitalism really successful? Is it because this wonderful system has eliminated the scourge of war? Of nationalist hatred and neo-colonial exploitation? Of racial, gender, and class inequality? Is capitalism successful in Haiti? Or the Democratic Republic of the Congo? Actually, even in the midst of staggering poverty and failures of economic policy, for a privileged few it is. And that is the problem. Even in the best of times, capitalism really only works for a minority of people. This is how capitalism works. If you happen to be a capitalist it’s a charmed life. Indeed, even when things go bad, they turn out good.    

We say that it may be possible to bring socialism through peaceful means through the ballot box. One thing is clear, there won't be socialism until the majority of the people want it. Socialism is a vision winning more and more people because it is the next inevitable step up the ladder of human civilisation. Despite endless grounds for cynicism, there are reasons to be hopeful. In cities across the country now we are witnessing a rebirth of dissident activism, as tens of thousands protest the culture of institutionalised, sanctioned brutality shown by police and the criminal justice system. In many places we see examples of spirited, courageous resistance. If the future is not guaranteed, at least the fight is on. Our vision is of democratised workplaces and communities and for an end to the top-down, authoritarian capitalism. Our vision is of a world free of the scourge of militarism that torments modern life, and instead one in which the weapons of warfare have been transformed into the proverbial plough-shares of peace and prosperity. This is a socialist vision of a society guided by the deepest values of human solidarity, equality and concern for others, one that values the community over personal gain.

Given the nature of the capitalist system, unable to offer a better life to present and future generations there is little doubt that out of present turmoil and struggle new forces will emerge to create new ideas and new forms for building working class unity. We need to be open to learning as well as teaching when we discuss politics with others. After all, we are asking people to reconsider their most basic assumptions when they think about politics, and we should be committed to doing the same. We can choose to be part of the social discourse by helping to shape it and being shaped by it.

A great many regard nationalised property, government ownership under a State Central Plan, controlled by the “vanguard” Party, as socialism, or at least as the basis for a transition to socialism and many on the Left have been complicit in this crisis of socialist thought. They  have failed to articulate a liberatory alternative an immediate demand thus offering private- and state-capitalism the ideological room to dominate.  Is it now possible to make the vision of a new socialist society more concrete? According to critics, it is not viable, and instead we must continue with half-measures and palliatives. The pragmatists argue that to define the character of the new society is premature and can only be fixed by practice alone, in the course of trying to remake society. Those who believe that there can be no change in the foreseeable future will put up with almost any degree of suffering. One important reason why socialists reject utopian schemes is simply that they are not “utopian” enough and some are actually obsolete. People demand greaterdetail about socialism.  How do we satisfy this real movement from below?  Given the direction in which the peoples’ thinking is moving, hasn’t resistance to presenting a blueprint of what socialism may be like also become obsolete? Of course our basic tenet that working class liberation must self-emancipation means that the actual details about the nature of our future society is to be decided by the liberated working class itself, not by a clique of intellectuals. Andrew Kliman, a Marxist scholar, writes: 
“All proponents of workers’ self-emancipation agree that the policies of the future economy are to be decided upon by the working people themselves, but thinking simply cannot be shoehorned into the old problematic of “who decides?”  Once again, a well-meaning attempt to posit spontaneity as the absolute opposite of vanguardist elitism ends up by placing the entire burden of working out a liberatory alternative to capitalism on the backs of the masses.  And the newly liberated masses must somehow do this from scratch, having been deprived of the ability to learn from the theoretical achievements and mistakes of prior generations.”

He points out that there are limits to what can be worked out in advance.  In part, we face limits because we are the products of this society, not the new human beings that might emerge in a free society.  But this does not imply that concretization of the vision of the new society is a task that can be foisted onto future generations.  Because there are limits to how concretely the vision of the new society can be worked out in advance, we cannot give a blueprint for the future.  He then approvingly quotes Raya Dunayevskaya, “The fact that we cannot give a blueprint does not absolve us from the task. It only makes it more difficult.” 

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