Socialism is rule by the working people. They will decide how socialism is to work. This was how Marx and Engels defined socialism. The task of the Socialist Party is to help and guide the transfer of power from capitalists to working people. To use the word “socialism” for anything but working people’s power is to misuse the term. Nationalisation of mines, railways, steel, etc. is not socialism, nor does this constitutes “the socialist sector of a mixed economy”. Nationalisation is simply state capitalism with no relation to socialism. Nor is the “Welfare State” socialist. “Welfare” in a capitalist state is to improve the efficiency of the worker as a profit-maker and is not socialism but another form of state capitalism. It can be an improvement on capitalism with no welfare, just as a 40-hour week is an improvement on a 60-hour week. But it is not socialism. (A “Welfare State” can also be described as a Means Test State.)
Capitalism is a system of the exploitation and the subjection of mankind is getting worse and worse. It only needs a good push to bring it tumbling down, to make possible its immediate replacement by a different and better system, desperately needed if the humanity is to continue, indeed, if to survive at all. But it will not fall down by itself. To see the wage and social struggles as the main task is like being concerned about what’s for dinner when the house is burning down. First put out the capitalist fire, the class policy that subordinates everything to profit and threatens to destroy our planet. Then we can all breathe freely again and set about reconstruction. To concentrate on the immediate struggles within capitalism today is to betray the working class. Socialists more than ever today must be champions of the people, not a mere negotiators. Our aim is not a better wage nor improved living conditions, but people’s power. We accept that at the present time that most working people are capitalist-minded. Why is this? Because they have been capitalist-educated in a capitalist society. People today do not in general accept or seek socialism, but very many do reject capitalist values. They can see that the world about them is falling to pieces. The need for some sort of change is widely realised but they have little idea about what to do about it. It is up to socialists to win them over. Men and women for the first time can take charge of their own destiny, no longer having things happen to them and now able to decide what is to happen.
Technologically there is no more a major problem. The difficulty is now only a social one – that mankind as a whole has so far been incapable of making choices because of the class divisions that make it impossible to take decisions for the development of mankind in its entirety. Capitalism is maintained by class power and will only be displaced by other class power. Who are the one class that no society can do without? Those who work. If the working people want power they will have to take it. It will not be given to them. We have to remember that all politics is about power. The revolutionary socialist calls for power for the working people. The first task of socialists is therefore to build a revolutionary party.
The reformist is a hypocrite who is prepared to exercise power on behalf of the oppressor, and calls for power for the working people for some future date. Workers are not political theorists, rather, they are primarily practical men and women strong in commonsense. They can and do organise successfully to improve their conditions. They will organise in the same way to take power, when they see the necessity, and when they see the way to do it. The socialist can and does prove all that the practical person demands. Socialism can and does meet all the standards applied to it.
Socialism is practical.
Socialism is a society in which all the members of the community collectively determine their conditions of life and their way of living. In order to do so, they must control, collectively, the use to which machines, factories, raw materials – all the means of production – are put. Unless the means of production are effectively in the hands of the whole society, not as today where 1 per cent of the population owns more than half the national capital, there can be no question of the collective control of the conditions of life. In the earlier days of the workers' movement it was generally accepted, without discussion, that the State represented Society as a whole, that its parliamentary institutions provided the means for popular opinion to express itself; and when that opinion became socialist, or at least the majority of it, the State would become socialist automatically. Consequently many have still grown up with these ideas and rarely have questioned the soundness of the theory. Therefore nationalisation in various forms is hailed as a method of “socialisation” and “public control” and welcomed as a socialistic measure. In fact they do not constitute an attack upon capitalism, but only an outward form of it. Class relations are not changed. A “socialism” which leaves the working class as a subject class is not socialism. State ownership is nothing more nor less than state capitalism, just as the Post Office is a form of a state capitalist enterprise. The workers within it are as much wage slaves as the workers in private capitalism. Nationalised industries are highly centralised forms of capitalism which leaves the workers subject to more severe rationalisation and makes them more subjugated than ever. The path to socialism is not through public corporations and state ownership, nor even workers representatives on the Board of managements but through a fundamental change in class relations. Socialism means the creation of a class-free order of society.