Just as capitalism is a world system, so must the alternative to it be a world system. In capitalism, the means of living are owned and controlled directly or through the medium of companies, corporations or the state, by a minority class, and function solely for the purpose of enriching that class and protecting its ownership. In socialism, the entire means of producing and distributing wealth will be owned and controlled in common by the whole of society and will function solely for the purpose of satisfying the needs of humanity. Since all will be owners of the productive processes and the resources of the world, and all will freely participate in the production of all the things the human family requires, so all will have free and equal access to their needs. There will be no requirement for a market or the use of money as a measurement of wealth or means of exchange.
The appalling waste and destruction of capitalism will disappear. There will not be a need for armed forces or millions of people to spend their working lives producing the instruments of death and destruction. There will be no need for the vast armies of people who service capitalism's market economy in banks, finance, and insurance palaces, in shops and stores; no need for armies of salesmen chasing one another around the blocks or for ad-men or the mass of people in the 'social' services doling out rations of money and crumbs of comfort. Certainly, there will be no shortage of people to do the work in Socialism, and, unlike now when computer and robot technology threatens the mean security of a worker's wage packet, the application, and development of technology will simply ease the general burden of producing and distributing society's goods.
The priest and the parson will tell you that such a scheme of things is against what they call 'human nature'. According to this theory, 'God' created us as a weak species without the co-operative instincts of many lower forms of life and, as a result of our weakness, greed and envy - our 'human nature', - we could not have a society based on human co- operation. The theory is not very flattering to 'God', but it has always won the approval of ruling classes and they have not been slow in encouraging the priests and parsons in their work of convincing the great mass of 'have-nots' in society - the people who produce all wealth and own virtually none - that their condition is the result of their greed and weakness, and that these defects put the idea of a sane society based on harmony and co-operation beyond their reach. We do not have to look far to discern the reason for the invention and promotion of this quite untenable theory.
The success of mankind is found in its ability to co-operate in overcoming the obstacles presented by nature, and there is an abundance of evidence to show human beings living co-operatively and harmoniously in a condition of social equality before the advent of a society based on class ownership of its means of wealth production. What we call 'fresh air' is the most essential prerequisite of human existence, but no one complains about another's respiratory consumption of it and no one attempts to hoard it. In most urban communities there is easy access to the second most important requirement of human life, clean water. As long as it flows freely, people avail themselves of it rationally and do not fight over it or hoard it. People who have consciously opted for socialism would not be compelled by their nature to hoard, steal and kill. In a world of socialist co-operation, men and women will give according to their abilities and take according to their needs.
The vision of a world without poverty, without slums and unemployment, without crime, racism, and war, without the starvation, degradation and alienation of most of the people on our planet almost defy the imagination. The insanities of capitalism have become a way of life to us; we can immediately see the absurdity of starvation in a world of potential plenty, the absurdity of collecting charity for research into diseases while devoting multi-billions to research into more sophisticated methods of dispensing death. These and the other myriad contradictions of capitalism make it a system that is incapable of being rationally defended and yet, because we have been conditioned into believing that this is all life has to offer, our initial reaction to the idea of Socialism is incredulity. And, when that incredulity is analysed, it usually boils down to the objection that, while Socialism is a highly desirable condition of life, it is not feasible because others, not ourselves, would be unable to co-operate to bring it about or make it work.
Given the death and destruction that capitalism now causes and the vastly greater destruction that it holds in readiness, can any rational human being argue that socialism, the only alternative to capitalism, is not worthy of examination and effort?
It is true that there are many groups, organisations and political par1ies that use the word 'socialism' to describe their policies or ultimate aspirations. But only rarely do they define what they mean by socialism and, when they do, they use the term to enlist the support of workers for some scheme which they hope will improve capitalism by removing one or more of its grosser features. We do not need to go into any political or economic theory to demonstrate the fallacy of thinking that the problems caused by capitalism can be eradicated while the system itself is left intact - that an effect can be removed without its cause. The fallacy of such reasoning is amply demonstrated in the number of Labour, Social Democratic and 'Communist' parties that have presided in government, and continue to preside, futilely grappling with the same old problems and legislating for the continuation of those problems and not their abolition. The first thing we should notice when we consider how society will be changed is that capitalism does not exist simply because the capitalist class wishes it to. On the contrary, it is the great mass of capitalism's victims, the working class, who allow it to exist. Not only do they run the system from top to bottom, producing its wealth and policing their own robbery but, because they have no knowledge of any practical alternative to capitalism, they vote for political parties and leaders committed to its continuation. Capitalism simply could not continue to function without the support, active and passive, of the working class.
We cannot over-emphasise this point for it demonstrates not only the path forward to socialism but the lunacy of those who preach violence or opportunism as a means of overthrowing the system. Those advocating political violence or subterfuge are in practice saying that they will force or deceive the workers into socialism. But this is impossible, as socialism is a system of free and voluntary co-operation dependent for its success on the precondition of the majority consciously opting for it in the full knowledge of the implications of such a form of society.
There are two classes under capitalism: a majority non-owning class who produce all the wealth; and a minority capitalist class who monopolise the resources of the earth and have the legal right to appropriate rent, interest, and profit as a result of the exploitation of the wealth-producers. It is worth emphasising the legality of capitalism because it illustrates the point that it is the state machine, with its legislative processes, its judiciary, its police forces and, ultimately, its armed forces, which endows the capitalist class with the right, the authority and, if required, the coercive capacity to carry out its exploitative function. The role of the state as the force behind the private or corporate ownership of wealth production and distribution or, in starker terms, the state's role in excluding the great majority of human beings from ownership and control of their means of living - to the point where they often perish from starvation in the rich, or potentially rich, lands of their birth - is one that has to be concealed, mystified and generally obscured from the working class. The law, with its judges, policemen and soldiers, must be made to appear as the guarantor of the just to sleep peacefully in their beds and enjoy their freedom; in fact the law that enshrines the right of capitalist ownership denies millions a bed to sleep in and keeps the great majority of people in the position of wage slaves.
It is the task of the World Socialist Movement to combat the political ignorance on which the foundations of capitalism rest. It is the task of Socialists to show that capitalism, with its market economy, its wages and money system, its anarchy of production and appalling destruction of the earth's resources, can only hold the promise of poverty, unemployment, war and all the other evils which are an undeniable and permanent result of that system. It is the task of the World Socialist Movement to expose the fallacy spread by Labour and 'Communist' parties, and the myriad disaffected offshoots of such organisations, that they can run capitalism in such a way as will alleviate or eliminate its problems. Those problems originate in capitalism; they are an inevitable consequence of capitalism and the idea of political reformers trying to run a system based on the exploitation of the working class in the interests of the working class is laughable in theory and tragic in fact. And it is the task of the World Socialist Movement to show that a wage-free, class-free, money-free world, in which the resources of the earth are owned and controlled in common by all and used to satisfy the needs of all, is a practical and pressing alternative to the miseries of capitalism.
THE VOTE AS AN INSTRUMENT OF SOCIAL REVOLUTION
In many parts of the world, workers are afforded the opportunity from time to time to vote for the type of society they want. Up to the present, they have used that vote to determine the political complexion of the party or personnel they wish to administer capitalism. With socialist understanding and organisation, they can use the vote as an instrument of social revolution - to elect socialist delegates mandated to abolish capitalism: to end government over people and establish the democratic administration of things. It is a monumental task, one that strains the imagination and credulity of many who see the need to replace the poverty and cruelty of capitalism with socialism. It seems an impossibly daunting task for a small Socialist movement to acquire the strength to offer a serious challenge to the mammoth organisations that defend and promote capitalism. But the socialist movement is only part of our strength. The rest of that strength is in capitalism itself; capitalism proving by its own anarchy and caprice that it is a system not fit for human beings. The evidence grows more abundant every day.
When we look at the impotence of all the political parties and reformers today and at the bankruptcy of the slogans we can only be impressed with the urgent necessity of socialism. The working class throughout the world can waste their time supporting parties that openly stand for capitalism; they can delude themselves into believing that there is a half-way house between capitalism and socialism; or they can bury their heads in the sand and say they are not interested in politics, even though 'politics' is interested in them and condones their exploitation and impoverishment. Alternatively, they can study the case for socialism and help to build a strong socialist movement. How that movement will progress and when socialism will be achieved will be important questions which they will then be helping to resolve. More immediately relevant than these questions, however, is the fact that, if they were pursuing any other political course, they are wasting their time.