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A FREE SOCIETY


Too often socialists express revolutionary slogans without explaining what they mean. If we want to be taken seriously we have to convince people that what we say makes sense. Our goal is a non-market moneyless economy with the slogan 'from each according to ability, to each according to need'.  In the view of the Socialist Party, an important obstacle stopping more people supporting the idea of a society based on production for use is that they simply can't see how a society without money or wages could work. It seems too daunting - too much of a leap of faith to make. The more we discuss it and argue why it needs to involve the removal of the market and money system, the less daunting it seems. In particular, the closer you look, the more examples we can find of where humans routinely behave (inside capitalism) in "socialistic" ways.

The Socialist Party rejects the idea of exchange between independent workplaces and communities.  Those at workplace level who produce goods should have no say as to how those goods would be distributed or used - since if they did they would have a property right over them and that would not be social ownership but sectional ownership. Society as a whole would be the owner of the fruits of labour produced and supplied. it cannot just be left to the workplace committees to decide what is produced (they can decide how it is produced, but not how much). We should use the local market structure that we will inherit from capitalism. In other words, it is adequate to say you simply look at what people take and that automatically triggers (without the need for money) the demand from the next level upstream of production (ie at a simple level: local store- regional distribution warehouse-manufacturing/assembly factory-raw material extraction). There is no ownership by anyone of the instruments of production, like the land, factories, or transport. Social ownership would not be based on the state (or cooperatives), but based on common ownership.  It would involve the complete disappearance of buying and selling, of money, of wages and of all other exchange. Naturally, there being no money, the goods made available for individual consumption would be available for individuals to take freely without charge. Administration – those bodies that we democratically delegate to make decisions on distribution – will allocate whatever proportion is needed for general services like health, education, housing, etc. Sure there will be disagreements but the difference is that we will seek to resolve them democratically rather than through the rule of the rich. Given that socialism will still need to concern itself with the efficient allocation of resources this will be achieved mostly through calculation in kind. Decentralised production entails a self-regulating system of stock control. Stocks of goods held at distribution points would be monitored, their rate of depletion providing vital information about the future demand for such goods, information which will be conveyed to the units producing these goods. The units would, in turn, draw upon the relevant factors of production and the depletion of these would activate yet other production units further back along the production chain. There would thus be a marked degree of automaticity in the way the system operated. The maintenance of surplus stocks would provide a buffer against unforeseen fluctuations in demand 

It's a common objection that free access to goods and services would lead to people wasting resources by taking more than they need.  Most of the objections, however, tend to be the same old "what about the lazy person who doesn't want to work ?" argument dressed up in another disguise There are plenty of examples today to indicate that free access will not lead to abuses. When there is no requirement to hoard we use resources as and when we need them. Capitalist apologists have invented a fictional person, whose wants are limitless: someone who always wants more and more of everything and so whose needs could only satisfied if resources were limitless too. Needless to say, such an individual has never existed. In reality, our wants are not limitless - people have diverse tastes and we rarely want everything available nor do we want more of a thing than is necessary to satisfy our needs.  We cannot judge people's buying habits under capitalism with their actions in a free society. After all, the vast advertising industry does not actually exist to inform us about the choice of products available but rather to create needs. Conspicuous consumption within capitalism produces individuals who define themselves by what they have, not who they are. An unalienated well-developed individual that a socialist society would develop would have less need to consume than the average person in a capitalist one, a slave to consumerism. There is also in capitalist society a tendency for individuals to seek to validate their sense of worth through the accumulation of possessions. As Marx contended, the prevailing ideas of society are those of its ruling class then we can understand why, when the wealth of that class so preoccupies the minds of its members, such a notion of status should be so deep-rooted. It is this which helps to underpin the myth of infinite demand. In socialism, status based upon the material wealth at one's command would be a meaningless concept. Why take more than you need when you can freely take what you need? In socialism, the only way in which individuals can command the esteem of others is through their contribution to society, and the more the movement for socialism grows the more will it subvert the prevailing capitalist ethos, in general, and its anachronistic notion of status, in particular.

Today we have the possibility of living a life of potential plenty, and nor what we do endure – a life of frugality and scarcity. All previous ages have been rationed societies. The modern world is also a society of scarcity, but with a difference. Today's shortages are unnecessary; today's scarcity is artificial. Planning is indeed central to the idea of socialism, but socialism is the planned (consciously coordinated and not to be confused with central planning concept ) production of useful things to satisfy human needs precisely instead of the production, planned or otherwise, of wealth as exchange value, commodities, and capital. In socialism, wealth would have simply a specific use value (which would be different under different conditions and for different individuals and groups of individuals) but it would not have any exchange, or economic, value. Socialism does presuppose that productive resources (materials, instruments of production, sources of energy) and technological knowledge are sufficient to allow the population of the world to produce enough food, clothing, shelter and other useful things, to satisfy all their material needs. Conventional economics deny that the potential for such a state of abundance exists.


For socialism to be established, there are two fundamental preconditions that must be met.
Firstly, the productive potential of society must have been developed to the point where, generally speaking, we can produce enough for all. This is not now a problem as we have long since reached this point. However, this does require that we appreciate what is meant by "enough" and that we do not project on to socialism the insatiable consumerism of capitalism. Secondly, the establishment of socialism presupposes the existence of a mass socialist movement and a profound change in social outlook. It is simply not reasonable to suppose that the desire for socialism on such a large scale, and the conscious understanding of what it entails on the part of all concerned, would not influence the way people behaved in socialism and towards each other. Would they want to jeopardise the new society they had helped create? Of course not. If people cannot change their behaviour and take control and responsibility for their decisions, not only will socialism fail but itself will not succeed then either.


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