Tuesday, March 12, 2019

What is to change with socialism

Capitalist society is rushing headlong towards some form of barbarism. So long as the insane striving for profit in this private property economy exists, and it must exist as long as capitalism exists, war is forever the prospect of life, while environmental destruction is forever the reward of the overwhelming majority of the peoples of all countries. Capitalism is incapable and unwilling to produce in the interests of the common good of the people. Its production is organised solely in the interests of profit. Invention, which could lighten the lives of the people and produce enough to have plenty for all, is impossible in an economy where the main aim of those who own the industries, mines, transportation and utilities is production for profit. The capitalist vultures whose main occupation is to exploit workers for their own class benefit gorge themselves on profiteering in war. Society cannot and must not be controlled by capitalism. Society is doomed to destruction if this happens. Only a socialist society, a society without classes, without war, without competition, without unemployment, and poverty can properly utilise the harnessing of the planet’s resources. A class society which lives by exploitation can only subordinate such natural wealth to the interest of private profit. Let our fellow-workers ponder this fact. Let them understand that when the media talks about the risk of destruction to the world, they are not joking at all. The destruction of the world is a grim reality unless the social order of capitalism is abolished and replaced by socialism, the society of all the people.

The Socialist Party does not accept the necessity for inequality, poverty and war as a social and historical fact. On the contrary we can see that social harmony and the common good can be achieved without them. Capitalism has become an obsolete oppressive system that ought to be got rid off. A relatively small minority recognise this and are consciously anti-capitalist, but the masses continue trying to survive within the system rather than by overthrowing it. So, there is no real possibility of overthrowing that system and attempts to do so degenerate into futile reformism and/or terrorism, whatever the “revolutionary” rhetoric. The injustices of slavery and serfdom were eliminated by abolishing the social institutions of slavery and serfdom themselves, not by prohibitions against maltreatment of slaves and serfs. The injustices of wage labour, including unemployment, will be eliminated by abolishing the social institution of wage labour itself, not by directions to employers to treat their workers better. The social revolution as profound as abolishing the ownership of slaves by slave owners. We are talking about a transformation of private/state property to become social property working to a common plan. The social revolution required to transform capitalist enterprises into associations obviously involves far more than government decrees transferring ownership. The revolution itself would have produced various models of workers’ councils in many establishments, which would have taken over responsibility for management from the previous authorities. But that only establishes pre-conditions for the transformation, without actually solving the problem itself. Moreover, in many enterprises the workers’ councils would be weak or non-existent, or a screen behind which the old bosses are still in charge, since revolution develops unevenly.

 Anarcho-syndicalists seem to imagine that if everybody democratically discusses everything, production units will be able to exchange their products to supply each other’s needs, and to supply consumer goods for the workers, with no more than ’co-ordination” by higher level councils of delegates from the lower level establishments. Actually, things are not so simple, and any attempt to realise that vision would only mean preserving market relations between independent enterprises, still not working to a common social plan. No amount of elections from below, directives from the revolutionary government, or consultations with the masses will change the fact that these people will be responsible for the policy decisions in industry and will have to know what they are doing. Nor would it change the fact that they are doing the job currently done by capitalist “bosses” and will have ample scope to develop into new capitalist bosses themselves (and bosses with wider and more totalitarian powers). Electing different bosses does not abolish the boss system. The big issues are not decided “on the shop floor”, to use a phrase much loved by advocates of “self management”. Capitalism is already transferring more and more authority on the shop floor to workers themselves rather than supervisors or lower level line management. This only highlights the fact that questions like unemployment are imposed by market forces outside the control of “shop floor” management, or higher management for that matter. Elected workers’ councils would be in exactly the same position of having to lay off staff, if there is no market for the goods they produce. Revolutionaries have to raise their sights above the shop floor, to places where more important decisions are taken, and to issues on which decisions simply are not taken in a market economy, because there are no decision makers with authority over the economy as a whole, and our fate is still subject to the blind workings of economic laws beyond our control. Just saying “the workers will do it” does not solve a thing. Who are these workers who will do it after the revolution, without discussing what they will do, before the revolution? Power will pass from the hands of the bourgeoisie to the hands of the working class, because the working class will put forward a clear cut program to rescue society from the impasse it finds itself in under bourgeois rule. Slogans simply demanding a change in power because it is “more democratic” will get nowhere. The question of centralisation and decentralisation of enterprise management, is quite separate from the question of abolishing commodity production. The issue of “who decides, who rules” only arises in the context of “what is to be done”.

The socialist solution is to dissolve the antagonism between separate enterprises so that each is directly aiming to meet social needs as best it can, rather than responding in its own separate interests. How do you decide whether to build a steel mill, or a hospital, or a thermal or hydro-electrical power station? Not just by democratically consulting steel workers, or hospital patients, or construction workers, or delegates from all three and others concerned. There must be some definite economic criteria for decision making. It is no good just saying we will build socially useful things like schools and hospitals instead of profitable things like steel mills or power stations. You need steel to build schools and hospitals, and you need electric power to run them. At present the only criterion according to which goods and services are produced and investments are made to produce them, is market profitability. The actively functioning capitalists today are the financial managers and similar functionaries who are not the nominal owners of the capital they control, but carry out the social functions of the capitalist controlling it, and live it up accordingly.

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