“Give us Imagination enough to conceive; courage enough to will; power enough to compel; and then I say, the thing will be done.” - William Morris
Might we suggest you should spend a little time and thought on the issues that affect you, as a member of the working class. Our purpose is to gain your attention in order to state our case. Regardless of how enthusiastic you are in support of a particular political party’s position and policies, deep down you know that their success will not make any real change in your conditions of life. All the election promises were designed to persuade you that it meant something to you but, experience has taught you not to expect any real change. These ‘changes’ have been applied to capitalism elsewhere throughout the world and yet your problems remain those of the working class internationally. It is true that these problems assume different forms in the local conditions of their origin but all the problems of your class, including those that you may feel are peculiar to your own circumstances, are duplicated throughout the world of capitalism. Capitalism has provided us with ample evidence that it cannot be operated in the interests of society as a whole. All the schemes and plans of its political apologists have been tried and yet the old miseries prevail, sometimes eased a little by the politicians’ schemes and just as often aggravated by them!
Whether you are a factory worker or high-salaried “professional’ you are dependent on a wage or salary in order to obtain the necessities of life. The recent US federal shutdown demonstrated that clearly. On the other side of the social scale we have the capitalist class, the small minority of people who own not only the means and instruments for producing wealth but the very resources of nature which provide the ‘raw materials’, so to speak, of wealth production. The members of this class do not have to work, they can enjoy a life of wealth and privilege on the surplus value created by the working class. This class owns, and by virtue of that ownership, controls all the productive resources of society; whether that ownership is through the medium of private or public companies or corporations or through the medium of bond holding in state or municipal enterprises, the capitalist class are the effective owners and controllers of the means whereby the rest of society lives.
Under capitalism wealth is class owned and produced for sale so that if you want anything you must have the money to buy it. This presents no problem for those who own the means of wealth production since they get a free income as rent, interest and profit merely because they are the owners. It certainly severely restricts the choice of workers in jobs but at least they have their wages. But what about those with no property and no job—workers who are unemployed, sick, disabled or old? The government cannot really let them starve and kill the goose that lays their golden eggs and must make some provision for them if only to avoid bread riots by providing those who would otherwise be destitute with an income however low.
It is no part of the Socialist Party’s case for socialism to suggest that the members of the capitalist class are simply greedy or evil people: their greed is a vice of capitalism and is not peculiar to any particular class. We do not condemn capitalists, we condemn capitalism as a social system while recognising that it is an inevitable stage in the history of our social evolution. Nor is our condemnation based simply on the facts of its miseries—its poverty amidst organised waste, its degradation of human life, its wars, crises and all its other social failings: our condemnation is based even more on the fact that it has long since outlived its usefulness as a means of developing society’s productive resources and now only blocks the way of a sane alternative that can provide the material basis of a full and happy life for all mankind.
At present all the values of the capitalist society in which we live are being challenged even though despite the failures of capitalism workers still doubt that socialism offers them anything better. They cannot imagine a world that is essentially different from the present one. Luke-warm visions do not raise consciousness. They cannot maintain the high level of commitment needed to keep the movement going. Reformist gradualism is a roadblock to liberation. The argument for radical, utopian visions is thus not just one of principle, but also of effectiveness. Workers unified, in solidarity, working together and voting together, can conquer. Divided and factionalised, our doom is sealed. Building a movement for socialism now requires presenting a picture of such a world, expressing socialist ideals to which future society can be adjusted. The socialist form is not just the conquest of political power, but also the socialisation of productive property and replacement of the anarchy of the capitalist market by a rational plan of production and distribution which will lead to the full democratisation of society.
The starting point of socialism is the elementary truth that men and women working in organised co-operation can produce far more than working in independent competition. The greater the number of co-operating workers, the more complete can be the co-ordination of the labour process. Interposed between that enormously amplified power are all sorts of social obstacle—property rights, economic institutions, legal relations, frontiers, states, traditions and superstitions. A socialist system of production will by its superior efficiency. Capitalism exists today simply and solely because you and your fellow members of the working class, who produce its wealth and endure its miseries, permit it to exist. It is parliament that makes the law and it is the law that says it is legal for capitalists to own Nature's resources and the tools and instruments of production which the working class have produced. The law further enshrines the right of the owners of wealth production to use their property in their own interests— to produce wealth for sale and profit and not for the satisfaction of human needs. When there is no profit in employing workers, in building homes, in clothing or feeding the needy the law does not require the owners of society’s means of production to provide these things nor does the law ensure capitalism when its profit needs create the conditions for crime, bad social relationships, violence and war. In fact the law is made to suit the needs of capitalism and is relevant to the needs of the working class only insofar as such needs are compatible with the requirements of capitalism to disguise its function, keep down social discontent and prevent open rebellion.
It follows that if we are to change things the working class must organise for the purpose of making the means of production the property of society to be used solely for the satisfaction of human needs. Given such a change, all the complex mechanism of the present market economy could be scrapped. Means of exchange, money, would no longer be required, hence wages and social classes would disappear as would the need for banks, stock exchanges, doles, most of the clerks, ticket clippers, insurance and sales agents and all the vast hordes of people whose present function is necessitated only by the existence of capitalism. All could then enter into the co-operative and efficient activity of producing the requirements of the human family and, freed from the obstacles which capitalism’s buying-and-selling imposes on production, enough could be produced to satisfy the needs of all and all would have free and equal access to the fruits of such production.
Conditioned as you have been to the vast complicated economic arrangements required by capitalism, you are as staggered by what sounds like a staggering proposition. You can accept that members of the working class can run this society from top to bottom, can even formulate the tremendous mathematical data and technical knowhow to build a computer or send a man into space and yet you are staggered by the simple proposition that mankind can own in common the resources of the world and can use those resources to provide for his and her needs without markets, money and all the other useless and wasteful obstacles of capitalism.
Socialism is a feasible proposition NOW! Its introduction is delayed not by the capitalist class but by your reluctance to look beyond the narrow limits of capitalism that keeps that system in operation; your support gives it its legality.