Sunday, December 30, 2018

Never Forget the Class Struggle

“Most people look at the world as it is and ask ‘Why?’. We should look at the world as it could be and ask, ‘Why not?’ ” George Bernard Shaw

What kind of world do we want for the future? We want a world where people live in comfort and security, free from fear of poverty, hunger or conflict. We want a world with a new economic system where peoples of all countries have free access to resources, a system which aims instead at meeting the real needs of the human community in balance with the environment. We can choose the future world that we want. We must join together and work together to create it. In the world, as it could be, people would realise that they can collectively shape the future for a better world. 

Socialism, as it was understood by Marx and Engels, would be the creation of a society that would have no need for repression and oppression because it had overcome economic scarcity. Marx and Engels envisaged a society in which the social productive forces had developed to a point that they would be capable of producing such a surplus of goods and services that the majority of people would no longer have to spend the greater part of their lives in work. The planned allocation of resources and human labour, in such a future society, would also ensure that no one would have to degrade themselves by working for another human being in order to survive. Instead of work being something we all try to avoid, it would gradually be transformed into one of a wide range of creative activities people engage in to make their lives meaningful. They strived for a human society not dominated by exploiters, be they slave-owners or captains of industry. They sought a society in which human beings could enjoy the fullness of life without the need to make others their servants or to be servants of others. Marx and Engels expected that the development of the productive forces under industrial capitalism would for the first time in human history build the material basis for such a fundamental transformation of society. Human progress has until our day relied on the grossest forms of oppression and misery, economic exploitation and repression. These were regrettable but unavoidable features of human history as long as the combined output of human labour, science, the machines and technology were not large enough to provide sufficient food, shelter, recreation, education and necessary luxuries for everyone - economic scarcity.  Today, our productive forces have developed to an extent that nobody need go without what they need for a full human life. Socialism would be a society of free producers, working under a rationally planned economy and no longer made up of buyers and sellers trading goods through the market, but a community of people who turn out products for society at large and receive them for personal consumption from society’s common pool. This vision suggests a society so wealthy, so educated, so cultured that there would be no need or necessity for instruments of direct or indirect coercion. 

When we speak of socialism we are talking about a way of organising society based on the principle of 'from each according to ability, to each according to need', a society based on cooperation, mutual aid, solidarity and meeting human needs. There is no shortage of politicians or political groups claiming to have blueprints for creating a fairer society. However, socialism is not something which can be decreed into being but must be created by workers ourselves. Instead of ownership or control of the means of production - land, factories, offices and so on - being in the hands of private individuals or the state, a socialist society is based on the common ownership and control of those means. And instead of production for exchange and profit, socialism means production-for-use to meet human needs.

Already today, it is us workers who produce everything and run all the services necessary for life. We lay the roads, build the homes, drive the trains, care for the sick, grow the food, design and construct the products, and teach the next generation. Socialism means a money-free society where our activity - and its products - no longer take the form of things to be bought and sold. The principal concern most people hold as to whether a socialist society could is asking if humans really can produce enough for us to survive without the implicit threat of destitution, enforced by the wage system. For most of human history, we have not had money or wage labour, however necessary tasks still got done. In hunter-gatherer societies, for example, which were overwhelmingly peaceful and egalitarian there was no distinction between work and play. Even today, huge amounts of necessary work are done voluntarily for free. 

Many people think that socialism sounds like a good idea but doubt it would work in practice. However, surely, we should first ask if "capitalism works?" as billions live in poverty surrounded by unimaginable wealth, while we head relentlessly towards environmental catastrophe. Our answer is a resounding "no" and we believe there is ample evidence that socialism would function far better than the capitalist system for the majority of people.  Socialism can resolve the major issues we face today, like ecological devastation, freeing us to tackle much more interesting problems. Instead of the need to produce more and accumulate more, we can focus on how to turn our products into quality goods that will be repairable, reusable and recyclable.

With capitalism, there is injustice and exploitation but socialism creates the possibility for a world based on freedom and equality for all. Many of our fellow-workers are puzzled when they find that the Socialist Party claims to be opposed to the Labour Party the left-wing in general, not merely in matters of method, but also in respect of the object to be worked for. This is easy to understand. It arises from the use, by ourselves and by those other parties, of terms and phrases which appear to have a similar meaning.  When a member of the Left speaks of “nationalisation, ” the media will assume that what is meant is socialism, and those on the Left have no interest in correcting the false impression. The Labour Party stands for nationalisation, which is a form of capitalism embodying all of the chief features of the system of society which the Socialist Party works to abolish. It is the practice of many journalists to describe Labour MPs as socialists.

State ownership is capitalism in a new garb. The defect about nationalisation schemes is that they do not so much as touch the fundamental problem of the workers. What is the problem? It is that we live in a world where the means of production and distribution are the private property of the capitalist class. The workers produce everything that is necessary for the sustenance and continuance of society; the capitalist class owns it. The workers receive wages based roughly on what it costs them to live and be efficient and bring up families. The capitalist class keeps the remainder. That is the workers’ problem. That is why they are poor. There lies the cause of unemployment and wars. The solution is that the means of production and distribution should be made the common property of society as a whole. When that has been done there will no longer be a working class, producing wealth but not owning it, and a propertied class owning-wealth but not producing it. That will be socialism. Nationalisation do not solve that problem. They leave the property owners still in possession of their property rights, still able to live at the expense of the producers. The only difference is that they exchange shares in a private company for shares in a public utility company, or for Government securities. The workers are more or less where they were before, getting just enough to exist on, and faced with all the harrowing problems of how to make ends meet. Changing the form of capitalism from private companies to state-controlled concerns is a problem of interest to the capitalist class, the form of whose property is being changed, but it is not a question that is worth the attention of the workers. The next recession will surely be a humdinger! Would it be out of place, fellow-workers, to remind you that this is the wages-system, capitalism; and that socialism is a practicable alternative?

With socialism, there will not be a class of property owners, and a class of non-owners compelled to sell their labour power to an employer in order to live. The wages system will have disappeared for ever. Men and women will produce the articles all need, not for sale and for profit-making, but for the use of all. Socialism seeks to transform societies and persons, bringing them to a higher level of social justice than is possible under capitalist economic system. the limitations of capitalism are becoming ever more obvious, creating greater possibilities for the socialist movement. Socialism is a step toward the development of a democratic, and sustainable worldwide society, based on cooperation and solidarity, rather than domination and exploitation.

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