Monday, October 19, 2015

Abundance for all

Socialism is not the politics of poverty but the politics of abundance. Socialism presupposes the abundant availability of material goods to ensure full satisfaction of human needs. The scientific and technological revolution which is working wonders in today's world is only creating necessary material conditions for humanity's inexorable march towards socialism. The development of automation has the potential to obliterate the difference between manual and mental labour. The grounds are being laid, all we have to do is to wrest control of the means of production from the capitalists so that productive forces can grow unhindered and undistorted. Mankind’s inventive genius has developed technology to the point that abundance is possible to all. Between that abundance and its enjoyment an obstacle is interposed. That obstacle is the capitalism, and its defenders and beneficiaries, the capitalist class. The removal of the brake of private ownership which shuts down factories, plows under crops and stultifies the scientists and, instead, putting in its place the social use of natural resources and the productive plant, will mean an immediate and substantial improvement in the standard of living of people. That improvement can be continuous. The specter of insecurity will be removed. The undemocratic economic domination of the few over the many will be at an end. No one can predict the cultural advances which may follow this release of the human spirit. The material and technical resources unquestionably exist in the world today where everybody could have a comfortable and attractive home, abundant food, decent clothing, opportunity for recreation and education, security against accident, sickness, and old age; and the sense of independence and self-respect that goes with these things. What we actually have, however, is widespread poverty. This appalling contrast between what might be and what is does not, in our opinion, spring from superficial causes. It arises from the nature of the economic system – capitalism – under which we operate.

Under capitalism, the working class surrenders its decision-making power over the work process to the employers. The capitalist’s problem is, always and everywhere, to squeeze out of the labour-power he has hired the fullest use he can. All the means by which ‘science’, and ‘rationality’ are applied to the work-processes of capitalist enterprise are means aimed at the crucial goal of capitalist production: managerial control over the work-force, in order that the rate of accumulation of surplus-value may be as high as possible. Capitalism develops its own special kind of ‘division of labour’ which  has several great advantages for capitalist management: labour-power is cheaper, management control over the labour-process is enormously enhanced while the workers’ control over the labour process is thereby reduced proportionately – for workers are more easily replaceable, like machine parts. Work is ‘de-skilled’. Characteristically, ‘automation’, ‘modernisation’, ‘rationalisation’, ‘scientific management’, and the like have the effect, above all, of displacing from one sector of production after another great masses of workers, who ‘become available’ for hire in other, more labour-intensive branches of capitalist work. Capital never stands still but invades more and more branches of human production.

Technology is rational and planned but capitalist production as a whole is economically irrational and socially unplanned. Social planning is realisable only by releasing the newer collective forms from the fetters of the older relations, which means socialism.

Democracy, as we use the term, means a community of men and women who are able to understand, express and determine their lives as dignified human beings. Democracy can only be rooted in a political and economic order in which wealth is distributed by and for people, and used for the widest social benefit. With the emergence of the era of abundance we have the economic base for a true democracy of participation, in which people no longer need to feel themselves prisoners of social forces and decisions beyond their control or comprehension. A social order in which men and women make the decisions that shape their lives becomes more possible now than ever before; the unshackling of humanity from the bonds of unfulfilling labour frees them to become full citizens, to make themselves and to make their own history. This is your choice – capitalism which means chaos or a socialist world which means a higher level of civilisation and culture.

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