This is a time of change and transformation. Many say we have begun to move forward again and difficult decisions, hard battles, and no doubt some serious defeats, lie ahead. But, for all that, we have begun to move forward again. We have reached a turning point in the class struggle. To build the socialist movement we need to clearly state our case. Environmental campaigners are confronting a ‘single issue’ of such enormity that its political ramifications demand a more general critique of the system. Many of these activists have such a critique, although it may not be a socialist critique. Today the movement against corporate-driven globalisation is at a decisive juncture. There are different proposals on how to move forward. Let us not waste the opportunities opening up by being wed to the thinking and strategies of the past.
Freedom is not a thing that can be won for a few. If any are in chains, no one is truly free. Nor can freedom be granted as a gift. It must be taken by the many because only in doing so can we learn to use and expand it. The rich hate the thought of socialism so much that they call ‘socialist’ any reform in the system that cuts into their wealth in the slightest—from public education to environmental regulations Such reforms, however needed they might be, are not socialism. Real freedom, socialism, will mean turning that system over, or, more accurately, standing things right side up. It will mean organizing society and the economy on a totally different basis, where the wealth created by the labor of the many goes to serve the people and not to enrich a tiny handful of parasites. Today the rich and powerful, the tiny handful who squat atop our social pyramid try to claim the banner of freedom for themselves. But we have a different vision of freedom. The great majority of the globe’s women and men want freedom from misery, from exploitation, from the jackboots of the state, from living our whole lives in alienation and insecurity. And more, we want freedom to become fully human, to develop all our gifts and abilities. And millions of us sense that this cannot be done by each of us as individuals, but only by the pooling of our collective strength and wisdom. Because the over-riding law of capitalism is “expand or die,” enormous waste, suffering and environmental destruction are built into the system we live under. In place of this dog-eat-dog madness, we need cooperation, and collective planning.
The original role of money, before the development of capitalism, was to serve as a medium, a standard that made easier the exchange of one commodity for another. But under capitalism, this medium of exchange has taken off with a life of its own. For the capitalist, the aim of production is not to produce goods to exchange and to use, but instead it is a compulsory drive to accumulate capital through exploitation– simply put, to make more money. Once money becomes the aim of production, labour power has to become a commodity. In other words, a worker’s labour power can be bought and sold. Besides the fact that people must be legally free–that is, not slaves owned by others or serfs tied to the land – the labourer must have lost all means of production and thus all ability to produce either for consumption or exchange for himself. An example of this is peasants being driven off the land. Labour power as a commodity is the necessary complement of the private ownership of the means of production by the capitalists.
Only by buying the worker’s labour power can the capitalist make profits. Workers produce more than what the capitalist pays them in wages and benefits. This is the basis of exploitation of the workers. What the workers produce over and beyond the socially necessary labor for keeping themselves and their families alive and working is surplus value. Surplus value is the only source of profits and is ripped off by the capitalists. While with socialism labour power is no longer a commodity, you no longer sell your labor power to the capitalists and we are not thus equating it to labor power in the land-bound, bodily-restricted conditions of the past. The context is modern society, a complex, highly productive and healthy society compared to the past periods.
The employers have one basic goal in life: to make more and more profits, and they accomplish this by dominating the economics, politics, and cultural life of their workers. They will throw workers out into the streets to starve, promote nationalism and racism, and build a military arsenal that can destroy the world several times over – anything for profits! This is an irrational and unjust system. But life does not have to be this way. We can improve our lives and society, and eliminate exploitation and capitalist injustice, by overturning the capitalist system. We can replace capitalism with a rational and humane system – socialism. Socialism is a social system where social wealth is genuinely controlled by society and for the benefit of society; where the common good, not profits, becomes the chief concern; where the everyday working people become the rightful masters of society. It takes a radical solution to bury the miseries of capitalism. The socialist revolution has become a possibility and a necessity. There is no other choice today but for the working people to organise to struggle and, one day, win socialism.
The world today is a land of stark and bewildering contradictions. We possess the greatest technological industrial and agricultural power in history yet cannot feed, clothe and provide a decent livelihood for millions. What is the reason for these contradictions between the promises, the potential of this society, and its stark reality? Why is there such a gap between what is and what could be! The answers to these questions cannot be found “human nature” or apologies about “that is the way things are.” No! Capitalism, the social system under which we live, is responsible for the contradictions of in society. A system of exploitation thrives on the private control and ownership of society’s wealth and production – production involving the interconnected efforts of millions of working people. Socialism, by fundamentally changing the social system will end situation and will qualitatively improve the lives of the working people.
If the working people, and not the capitalists, controlled the great resources of our society, we could improve all our lives. We could all have employment and safe places to work. We could end pollution and the threat to the environment. We could guarantee a decent life for all. Women and men, young and old, and people of all lands are realising we must unite and struggle to survive, to be able to work, eat and live as decent human beings. Today each person on the planet is faced with the choice of either enduring the suffering of unemployment, brutalisation and war; or taking the path of struggle – joining with the millions of others who are dissatisfied and know that a better society is possible. People are crying out against pollution and environmental destruction. We could live in a society that is not preparing constantly for war and self-extinction. These are the promises that encourage us forward. These are the hopes and dreams of socialists.