Sunday, July 28, 2019

Know your Socialist Party

Everywhere one hears various and opposing views of what the term “socialism” means.  Right-wing politicians often accuse their “opponents” of being socialists. While promoters of reforms and palliatives, medicare-for-all, the green new deal, or a better minimum wage also present their programmes as socialistic.

 Our concept of socialism is one of possible future society where the means of production and distribution will be socially controlled and democratically administered, where use not profit is the objective, where the needs of humanity are deemed paramount, with sale for profit eliminated. One must then see this as a social system where the present means for facilitating exchange, money, will become superfluous.

Assuming that you accept the definition of socialism as presented by ourselves, the question arises: Do you think such a system is desirable as well as possible? Or view modern society as a vast complex of insolvable problems. Despite its many protesting dissidents and discontents, do you consider it still to be necessary? An affirmative response to both these questions is important – especially the second – for if one is not convinced of the necessity for social change, further discussion is merely academic and we are not interested in those who view a study of the socialist case as a mere form of intellectual exercise. We ask again: (a) Is a social change desirable or possible; (b) Is it socially necessary?

A higher and better organised social system, a system of “production for use”, in which the instruments of production and distribution will be socially controlled and administered is not only desirable but possible. Thus every person who accepts the concept of a new society being both desirable and possible becomes one who is liable to reject the notion that the present system is either desirable or eternal.

Under capitalism, we find its creation of both great wealth and abysmal poverty; advance technology accompanied with general pollution; its raping of the earth’s resources and its conspicuous waste of human energy; its destructive wars followed by periods of contrived peace; its efforts to establish markets by which act, if successful, it sows the seeds for the possible growth of a competitor. It cannot erase the pollution it has created even with a vast outlay of capital which would offer no return. This would be contrary anyway to capitalism’s nature. It cannot obliterate city slums it has made; it cannot do away with the periodic unemployment its alleged prosperous periods create; and despite its many achievements it cannot produce permanent peace for it is ever faced with the possibility of war and on so huge a scale that such might result in the destruction of humanity itself. It cannot, in short, act contrary to its own inner nature which requires the constant accumulation of capital and the opening of new markets throughout the world. And it cannot avoid that increasing productivity of labour which means more production for less expenditure of labour.

If one can visualise a possible future society then one should be expected to tell something of what that society will be like. And so one should and so one can, but only within certain limits and with many caveats and reservations. Mankind sets itself goals and ideals, striving to reach such goals and achieve such ideals. Not always (indeed very rarely) do we succeed completely. We may at times hit the target but seldom strike the bulls-eye.

In making projections into the future one should understand that we are dealing with the realm of speculation. Where a definiteness of opinion can be allowed is in the realm of the actual:
what is and what has been, for these can be subjected to close inspection, research and analysis. With the future the best we can hope for is to observe trends in the present and the creation and development of potentials, etc. These can be projected as trends into the future scene which may grow to greater potentials and into actualities that may become definite powers, agencies and institutions. We must beware of dogmatism when dealing with the future. 

Science does not deal in certainties but in high probabilities. It does not depend on clairvoyance or astrological forecasts for its findings. Nor does it admit the prognostications of economic determinists, who tell us that this shall be and that shall not be. Yet, notwithstanding what has been stated, one must allow that science, in its ever restless search for greater knowledge, must permit itself flights of imagination, so to speak, for lacking these it would hardly venture on those essential journeys into the future. In much the same way a socialist speaks of “visualising a future social system”. Science does create for itself what are termed “working hypotheses”; that is to say, it presumes certain things to be so, and for the purpose of establishing a point of departure for definite scientific inquiry it takes its hypothesis as established fact. Of course it recognises that this at best is speculation but proceeds to then gather data that may prove, or disprove, such hypothesis. In the same way we permit ourselves certain speculations and in so doing “we visualise a future society which will be organised for public good”. But we must never lose sight of the fact that these are speculations, but like the “working hypotheses” of the scientist can be considered valid to the extent that such speculations arise naturally out of our knowledge of the past and the present – and in the absence of any contrary body of facts.

So how will production and distribution be carried on in a possible future society? Production and distribution will be carried on as they are now but with the exploiter of labour, the master class, removed from the scene. But surely by then society will have gained greater knowledge of more than these points. If we can imagine socialism being established, say, tomorrow, the same agencies (but without the self-perpetuating “bureaucracies”), the same techniques, etc., will carry out the necessary work. But those potentials of which we have made mention will no doubt by the time socialism has been established have been developed to a higher degree, the technology of society so increased yet controlled, that the work could be carried out with a greater efficiency, with waste eliminated, and greater social benefits accruing.

The potentials we now observe also indicate that since production will be for the social good and not for profit wage-labour will disappear and therefore wages (that badge of modern slavery). Goods being distributed on the same basis and not sold for profit
money would become superfluous. “Production for Use” being the objective of social effort, “distribution”, as such, would be carried out unrestricted by any elements of “exchange”. Thus the socially wasteful efforts represented in banking, insurance, brokerage, etc., would perforce be eliminated. Since society would require from its members contributions to the social welfare “according to each individual’s ability”, and return to each “according to his or her needs”, those economic rivalries – the cause of modern war – would have become things of the past. The disappearance of these hostile elements would allow the development of more humane and harmonious relations among people. Poverty, as we know it will have gone; industry – whose technological development has produced world-wide pollution – could be so organised and operated that further pollution could be avoided and the present pollution eliminated. It is safe then at least to predict that war and its horrors would have ceased, poverty done away with, and a really sane world “created” fit for human habitation.

As to the precise character of the apparatus – the necessary agencies, institutions, etc., that will be developed, – that surely will have to be the work of those then present. That is the future, but what to us is the “future” will be to them the “present”. They will
not be living in the realm of speculation, as we are, but dealing from their greater knowledge of what “is”, and what “has been”. It would be sheer presumption for us “of the present” to specify in detail what they “of the future” shall or shall not do and dictate the form their operations should take. I defy the wisest to tell me the precise condition of the world a year hence, or even a month. Did the great conqueror of Europe in the early days of the last century, Napoleon, foresee “Waterloo”? Nor can we afford to be too definite, or dogmatic, about the future. Nor should we. The important thing now is to try to convince others that a new society is desirable, possible, and necessary. When an adequate majority so convinced, and dedicated to the necessary work, is assured then that society which we envisage will become an actuality. The details of that society can be, and should be, left to those then concerned.

Finally, a word of caution. Many protesters and campaigners today, unable to see any redress to their grievances, resort to violence. Noisy demonstrations are staged and politicians, many of whom elected by sizeable majorities, are made the target of their fury. Wicked men are responsible, not the capitalist system. Until they stop chanting slogans long enough to do a little bit of thinking they will only be ploughing the sand. The Socialist Party is in complete opposition to violence in any form. From the standpoint of a minority in society it is self-defeating and can only produce counter violence, a situation often desired. And sometimes contrived by – the “constituted” authorities using agent provocateurs. The only time we could assure ourselves of its effectiveness would be when it is unnecessary. And that would be when a sufficient and intelligent majority insisted on the establishment of socialism.

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