If we are socialists, what are we actually fighting for? Many understand the need for social change, but why do we need a revolution? What is socialism, and why is it necessarily better than capitalism? Where is there socialism today? The answer is that it does not exist anywhere and hasn’t done. Many dismiss socialist ideas as Utopian. It’s a good idea, they say, but people are too greedy and selfish for it to work in practice. They forget that each and every day we work together co-operatively on a massive scale. They forget too, or perhaps have never been lucky enough to experience, the co-operation and solidarity that are displayed in every strike. Socialism sets out to provide security for all human beings.
We can produce what people need – but we don’t. Socialism releases the creativity of the common people, who are capable of tremendous advances when not labouring under a system of exploitation. When socialists talk about ending “exploitation,” we mean the process of capitalists not paying workers the full value of what they produce. The capitalists withhold as profits part of the wealth that workers produce, a process called “exploitation.” Capitalism organises and exploits workers collectively. Our work is organised on the basis of social co-operation and the division of labour. Capitalism has in fact given workers tremendous collective power, power which runs factories, hospitals, schools, transport systems. This power creates all the things that we need as human beings. Many people today across the planet are involved in issues and struggles to improve their situation or stop injustices that they face. In practically every community, there are struggles and efforts by workers to obtain a living wage.
Socialism is a society in which all the members of the community collectively determine their conditions of life and their way of living. In order to do so, they must control, collectively, the use to which machines, factories, raw materials – all the means of production – are put. Unless the means of production are effectively in the hands of the whole society, not as in the world today where 1 per cent of the population owns practically all property, there can be no question of the collective control of the conditions of life.
By revolution, we mean the overthrow of the capitalist ruling class and the basic economic system of society. We believe a revolution is necessary because the problems of this society – the economic problems of inflation and recession, national oppression, social ills – are all the product of the capitalist system itself. The basic nature of capitalism is that while the vast majority of people work and produce the wealth of society, a handful of capitalists control all the wealth – the factories, mines, railroads and fields, and all the profits that are produced. The ruling class prospers at the expense of the vast majority of the people, and their constant drive for profit and more profit results in only more problems and suffering for the people. We believe that no amount of reform of the present system can offer any lasting improvements, security or stability for the masses or fundamentally alter their position in society. Great reforms won by the people, reforms such as the winning of the franchise, trade union rights and certain welfare guarantees such as free education and free healthcare were major victories but they have not fundamentally changed things. Furthermore, the ruling class always tries to limit or negate those concessions that have been won. The ruling class will always do this so long as it holds the power of society; it will try to milk everything it can from the working people to enrich or protect its own interests.
Under capitalism, the private ownership of the means of production makes society-wide planning impossible and leads to a socially anarchistic process of social reproduction. At the same time, socialised production leads to an increasingly complex, interdependent, large-scale division of labour in all modern industrialized societies. This is the basic problem and the essence of the destructiveness of capitalism. Capitalists not only do not direct the capital but in fact are themselves directed by and enslaved by capital. Capital spontaneously flows wherever the most profit can be made. There is no society-wide overall planning under capitalism, nor can a capitalist economy as a whole be a planned economy. The interests of the capitalists are individual interests. Under the system of private ownership of the means of production, the capitalists all fight for their own immediate interests, the interests of a particular company or sector. By their very nature, that is their sole consideration. Thus they come into antagonistic conflict with other capitalists, other sectors and other industries. Under capitalism there is nothing to prevent anyone with capital from producing identical products as long as the goods can be sold. Conflicts and waste inherently exist because products are duplicated. And there is even a contradiction in artificially creating demand and falsely advertising simply to sell these hyped products. So it is clear the private ownership precludes planning. This is true within each sector as well as for any sector’s relation to other sectors. Capitalists don’t sit down together and plan (except to monopolize pricing and markets, which further destroys the basis for capitalism), and there’s little interest for them to do so. As long as many different corporations exist, there is competition among them. As long as there are different domestic and foreign corporations, they are constantly driven to compete with each other. Without the profits, they cannot compete.
If someone is building a house excavating and laying the foundation is the key task. Other tasks, such as selecting the building materials, are undertaken simultaneously but are influenced by the type of foundation being laid. All these tasks must be accomplished, but laying the foundation is the central task at that moment. The same is true in making a socialist revolution. In any particular period, one task must be the central task, the accomplishment of which will enable the entire process to move ahead. Deciding the central task does not mean that that task is the only thing one does, but rather clarifies the key thing that will help along all the tasks in making a revolution. Today the central task must be forging a socialist party to widen socialist influence in society. Every successful revolutionary movement in history has had organisation. The working class needs its own party. The capitalists themselves are organised to defend their own interests. Without its own organisation, workers would be unable to resist the attacks of the oligarchs and plutocrats, let alone overthrow their rule.