Workers around the world are stuck in the mire of exploitation, oppression and war. We’re stuck with the prospect of a dire future. The world desperately needs, not simply a legislative shopping list of palliatives but a vision of radical change, a new sense of revolutionary purpose. It’s old news that large segments of society have become deeply unhappy with what they see as “the establishment,” in the interests of the ruling class. There are good reasons for today’s discontent: decades of promises by political leaders of both the left and right, espousing a host of related reforms which would bring unprecedented prosperity, have gone unfulfilled. While a tiny elite seems to have done very well, large swaths of the population have plunged into a world of vulnerability and insecurity. There is now a gross mistrust in governments and politicians, which means that asking for sacrifices today in exchange for the promise of a better life tomorrow won’t pass muster. And this is especially true of “trickle down” policies: tax cuts for the rich that eventually are supposed to benefit everyone else.
The ills that afflict our society are systemic. The problems of capitalist society are structural and they require deep-going changes. The Socialist Party seeks a system where the “associated producers” would actually run most of their own working lives and there would be free goods and services for all. Capitalism can’t mask the truth anymore. It’s time for change. It’s time for a rallying cry for a vision that virtually transcends status quo thinking. Socialism represents a future without the moneyed interests that think they own it. Let the future it begins to build be one of prosperity and peace for the planet and ourselves.
The most successful social movements are highly organised, not spontaneous upsurges. The working class needs a socialist party. As long as politics exists the party (defined as organisation centred around agreed goals) will be a necessary means of intervening in the collective project of changing society. Politics means a clashing of class interests. The kind of party we need is first and foremost a world party, an organisation where (to use a rather militaristic metaphor) each national section is essentially a battalion in a worldwide army fighting the class war. The socialist revolution will be worldwide, hence there must be global organisation to coordinate it. The World Socialist Movement does not tailor our politics in hopes of gaining popularity by vote-catching. Nor does it sacrifice its political principles through united fronts with or reformist parties. The WSM is a party of opposition to the entire capitalist order, one that stays hard and fast to its socialist aims without embracing reformist coalitions as a shortcut to power. This mean rejecting the notion that we can ‘trick’ the working class into taking power by mobilising it to fight for reforms. It is no use blaming the people caught up in the pressures of capitalist competition. We need an economic and social system from which the profit motive has been removed, in which there is no longer national or international competition, in which progress is measured in terms of human welfare. That system is socialism.
Ours is the case for a class-free society, in which production is geared to satisfying human needs, and in which production for sale and the market economy are abolished, is underlined by the fact that modern industry and technology have now been developed to the stage where they could provide an abundance of consumer goods and services for all the people of the world. The problem of production — of how to produce enough for everybody — has been solved. Humanity’s long battle to conquer scarcity has been won. Potential abundance is a reality. The task is to make abundance itself a reality.
This can never be done within a society based on the class ownership of the means of production, where wealth is produced for sale with a view to profit. The only framework within which abundance can be realised is a society where all resources, man-made as well as natural, have become the common heritage of all mankind, under their democratic control. On this basis production can be democratically planned to provide what human beings need. In such a society, the market, wages, profits, buying and selling, and money, would have no place. They would cease to exist.
Could we really supply enough for everybody to have free access to consumer goods and services? A society of abundance is not an extension of today’s so-called “consumer society”, with its enormous waste of resources. It does not mean people will come to acquire more and more useless and wasteful gadgets. It simply means that people’s material needs, both as individuals and as a community, will be fully satisfied in a rational way. Certainly, the waste of capitalism wastes resources. First, there are the armed forces and armaments. Second, there are all the people, buildings and equipment involved with the market and money economy generally: banking, insurance, government pension and tax departments, salesmen, ticket collectors, accountants, cashiers etc. Indeed, it might be said that under capitalism well over half the population are engaged in such unproductive activities. Third, there is planned obsolescence, the deliberate manufacture of shoddy goods made to break down or wear out after a comparatively short period of time. In a rationally organised society, consumer goods could be made to last; this would mean an immense saving of resources. With the elimination of these three sources of waste that are inherent in capitalism, enough to adequately feed, clothe and house everybody could easily be produced.
Contrary to what is popularly believed and carefully cultivated by the defenders of capitalism, men and women are not inherently greedy; human needs are not limitless. From a material point of view, human beings need a certain amount and variety of food, clothing and shelter; what this is in individual cases can soon be discovered by the individual himself — and would be if there were free access to consumer goods and services. But it may be objected, with free access wouldn’t people take more than they needed? But why should they if they can be certain (as they would, be given the productive power of modern industry and the common ownership of the means of production) that there would always be enough to go around? After all, today when access to water (or at least to the amount of water consumed in any one period) is free, people only use what they need for washing, cooking etc. Similarly, when all consumer goods and services are freely available people could be expected to take only as much food, clothing etc. as they felt they needed. To take any more would be abnormal and pointless.