Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Towards the Socialist Commonwealth

Socialism is rule by the people. They will decide how socialism is to work. The task of the Socialist Party therefore is to help and guide the transfer of power from capitalists to working people. To use the word “socialism” for anything but people’s power is to misuse the term. Nationalisation is not socialism, nor does this constitutes the socialist sector of a mixed economy. Such nationalisation is simply state capitalism, with no relation to socialism. Nor is the “Welfare State” socialist. Socialism will certainly give high priority to health, education, art, science, and the social well-being of all its members, that is the purpose of its economy. But “welfare” in a capitalist state, to improve the efficiency of that state as a profit-maker, is not socialism but another form of state capitalism. It can be an improvement on capitalism with no welfare, just as a 40-hour week is an improvement on a 60-hour week. But it is not socialism. Anyone who attempts to convince a group of workers that socialism offers the only solution for the problems of the working class suffers under a severe handicap. For he or she is immediately confronted with the task of explaining conditions under the old Soviet Union. Most people are under the false impression that socialism existed in the Soviet Union, and knowing what they do of the dreadful oppression which workers suffer in that country, they tend to be prejudiced against any speaker urging socialism as the solution for the ills of society. In spite of conditions in the Soviet Union we in the Socialist Party are convinced that a real socialist society is practicable and will actually solve the problems of mankind.

Workers are, and have been, in a position to take over state power, on the one condition that they themselves wish to do so, i.e. that they understand that this is both necessary and possible. However, almost the whole working people today in our country are capitalist-minded. Why is this? Because they have been capitalist-educated in a capitalist society.  The world about us is falling to pieces. The need for revolution is increasingly widely realised. Technically there is no major problem. The difficulty is a social one. Who are the one class that no society can do without? Those who work. Today it is those who work who have the responsibility together with the opportunity, to reorganise our world. It is going to be difficult, but it is essential. Therefore it must be done. Capitalism is maintained by class power and will only be displaced by other class power. If the working people want power they will have to take it. It will not be given to them. We have to remember that all politics is about power. The socialist calls for power to the people. The reformist is a hypocrite prepared to exercise power on behalf of the exploiting class while claiming to do a bit of good on the side.

Another 2.3 billion people are expected to be added to the planet in just 35 years. By 2050, new systems for food, water, energy, education, health, economics, and global governance will be needed to prevent massive and complex human and environmental disasters. Even if all CO2 emissions are stopped, most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries. Hence, the world has to take adaptation far more seriously. The Millennium Project’s futures research shows that most of these problems are preventable and that a far better future than today is possible. The interactions among future artificial intelligences, countless new life-forms from synthetic biology, proliferation of nanomolecular assemblies, and robotics could produce a future barely recognizable to science fiction today.

The future can be much better than most pessimists understand, but it could also be far worse than most optimists are willing to admit. It is increasingly clear that humanity has the resources to address its global challenges, but it is not clear that an integrated set of global and local strategies will be implemented together and on the scale necessary to build a better future. As Pope Francis said in His Encyclical Letter, “Halfway measures simply delay the inevitable disaster.” Our challenges are transnational in nature, requiring transnational strategies. Doing everything right to address climate change or counter organized crime in one country will not make enough of a difference if others do not act as well. We need coordinated transnational implementation. Humanity needs a global, multifaceted, general long-term view of the future with bold long-range goals to excite the imagination and inspire international collaboration and the World Socialist Movement argues that this can only be accomplished by the establishment of a socialist society – a cooperative commonwealth.

Concentration of wealth is increasing. Income gaps are widening. Jobless economic growth seems the new norm with future technologies replacing much of human labor. Long-term structural unemployment is a business-as-usual forecast. The nature of work and the economic system will have to change or else there could be massive long-term unemployment. Future artificial intelligence that can autonomously create, edit, and implement software simultaneously around the world based on feedback from global sensor networks is a unique historical factor in job displacement. It will affect the whole world, just as the Internet has, however more so. It might be possible that more jobs will be created than eliminated, as in the past, but the speed and integration of technological change and population growth is so much greater this time that long-term structural unemployment is the much more plausible future.

An additional 2.3 billion people received access to safe drinking water since 1990— an extraordinary achievement—but this still leaves 748 million without this access. Water tables are falling on all continents, and nearly half of humanity gets its water from sources controlled by two or more countries.

According to the latest analysis from the UN’s population division, the planet is on course for a population greater than 11 billion by the end of this century

In a simple sense, population is the root cause of all sustainability issues. Clearly if there were no humans there would be no human impacts. The issue is whether there is an optimal number of humans on the planet.

Discussions on population growth often start with the work of Thomas Robert Malthus whose ‘An Essay on the Principle of Population’ published at the end of the 18th century is one of the seminal works of demography. Populations change in response to three driving factors: fertility – how many people are born; mortality – how many people die; and migration – how many people leave or enter the population.

Malthus’ first error was he was unable to appreciate that the process of industrialisation and development that decreased mortality rates would, in time, decrease fertility rates too. Higher living standards associated with better education, in particular female education and empowerment, seem to lead to smaller family sizes – a demographic transition that has played out with some variations across most of the countries around the world. This may explain how populations can overcome unsustainable growth, but it still seems remarkable that the Earth can provide for a 700% increase in the numbers of humans over the span of less than a few centuries. This was Malthus’s second error. He simply couldn’t conceive of the tremendous increases in yields that industrialisation produced - the “green revolution” that produced a four-fold increase in global food productivity since the middle of the 20th century relied on irrigation, pesticides and fertilisers.

If industrialised agriculture can now feed seven billion, then why can’t we figure out how to feed 11 billion by the end of this century?

First, some research suggests global food production is stagnating. The green revolution hasn’t run out of steam just yet but innovations such as GM crops, more efficient irrigation and subterranean farming aren’t going to have a big enough impact. The low-hanging fruits of yield improvements have already been gobbled up.

Second, the current high yields assume plentiful and cheap supplies of phosphorus, nitrogen and fossil fuels – mainly oil and gas. Mineral phosphorus isn’t going to run out anytime soon, nor will oil, but both are becoming increasingly harder to obtain. All things being equal this will make them more expensive. The chaos in the world food systems in 2007-8 gives some indication of the impact of higher food prices.

Third, soil is running out. Or rather it is running away. Intensive agriculture which plants crops on fields without respite leads to soil erosion. This can be offset by using more fertiliser, but there comes a point where the soil is so eroded that farming there becomes very limited, and it will take many years for such soils to recover.

Fourth, it is not even certain we will be able to maintain yields in a world that is facing potentially significant environmental change. We are on course towards 2 of warming by the end of this century. Just when we have the greatest numbers of people to feed, floods, storms, droughts and other extreme weather will cause significant disruption to food production. In order to avoid dangerous climate change, we must keep the majority of the Earth’s fossil fuel deposits in the ground – the same fossil fuels that our food production system has become effectively addicted to.

But to be reminded 50% of food is lost before market or after purchase. So there’s an opportunity to hugely increase food “production” (or the amount that can be consumed). If the world is feeding 7 billion now and will need to feed 11 billion, this requires a 58% increase. The target is closer with such a simple remedy. Changing diets from a predominantly meat one to a much more vegetable and grain diet is perhaps just as important as growing more food. So there are two simple ways of finding the food to feed an extra four million,
a) by cutting food waste to a bare minimum and
b) humans eating crops directly instead of feeding them to livestock

The immigration threat did not appear out of nowhere and nor is it one only popularised by the far right. One fact is that the migrants are enduring or have endured lives that the majority of Europeans would find it difficult to imagine, except perhaps by those who suffered in the series of Balkan Civil Wars.

All of the talk of preventing Mafia-like trafficking of migrants, and sending aid to countries to support their own populations is nothing but political propaganda. It has often been Western involvement in many of these nations acts which have been the destabilising factor creating the refugees, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria - all places that have been victim to Western intervention. Not to mention those fleeing from the chaos of many African nations, and the long-lasting implications of colonialism by the French and the British.

Isolationism has been the expressed policy for many on the Right and reflected in the strength of even anti-EU movements everywhere. And for the more “internationalist” pro-EU supporter, this is replaced by the doctrine of “Fortress Europe” such as British foreign secretary Philip Hammond labelling displaced human beings as "marauding" people potentially hammering Europe's living standards, ignoring his own part in the austerity policies that have lowering welfare benefits, affordable housing, living wages and working conditions, a much stronger influence on native workers than the effect of newcomers on the standard of living. They equally neglect to cite the obvious detrimental role of the ECB’s economic sanctions upon the Greek people. No migrant movement has possessed the similar power of the Troika in creating poverty. It isn’t the migrant who is raising the rents of houses, leading to the gentrification and the social cleansing of our cities.

Political leaders in Hungary and the UK are simply exploiting popular opinion and giving voices to the nationalists most active in their parties. General Secretary of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Bishop Nunzio Galantino, warned against "a handful of cheap peddlers willing to say extraordinarily inane things just to get a vote". In France a supposedly “socialist” government are often unable to offer policies that provide alternatives to those of the right and are busy deporting migrants back to Italy. Such anti-immigrant sentiments is appeasement and an appeal to the nationalism. Right-wing politicians have, for years, been influencing mainstream parties regarding immigration and discussions on citizenship and belonging.

“From each according to his ability and to each according to his needs”

It is a sign of the times that more and more people are discussing the meaning of socialism. The words socialist and communist are changing their meaning just as the word christian did. The Socialist Party has always visualised socialism as the highest stage of human society, economically and socially. All technological power created by the genius of mankind, all that science and art had given to the human race in generations is to be utilised, not for the few, but for the benefit of mankind as a whole. Based on the common ownership of the means of production and distribution, a new economic system is to be built, ending all social oppression by dissolving the hostile classes into a community of free and equal producers striving not for sectional interests, but for the collective good. This socialist commonwealth, liberating the individual from all economic, political and social oppression, would provide the basis, for real liberty and for the full and harmonious development of the personality, giving full scope for the growth of the creative faculties of the mind. 

No piecemeal reforms or partial solutions can bring an end to this state of things. We must resist the efforts reformists to sow illusions about offering palliatives, and instead build our movement with the perspective of overthrowing it. If you want to fight the only battle worth fighting, for the socialist revolution – join us.

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