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Understanding what socialism is

What is socialism? If we are socialists, what are we actually seeking to create. Too often we are offered definitions given new meanings from their original usage. There are “socialists” who wish the term to be associated with various nationalisation schemes despite them often being promoted by certain capitalists interests who have come to realise that private enterprise is failing to provide proper investment and that state aid is required. To call such policies ‘socialist’ is highly misleading. 

State ownership and control is not socialism. The same despotic rule remains. Those who work the most and hardest still get the least remuneration, and the work-force are still deprived of all voice in the administration of their industry, just the same as in all private enterprises. Schemes of state and municipal ownership are but schemes for the improvement of the mechanism of government policies to make the capitalist regime respectable and more efficient to serve the purposes of the capitalist. They also represent the class-conscious unity of the business man who feels that capitalist should not prey upon capitalist, yet all may unite to prey upon the workers. Opportunist politicians and reformists have been agitating for various nationalisations for decades, while never daring to pose the real issue of private property as an institution and as the basis of the social order. Nationalisation and municipalisation are palliatives and meagre ones too. Those who talk about this as “socialism” in any sense at best confuse workers on what really constitutes socialism – namely, the common ownership and control of the means of production and distribution by the community and the ending of the profit system. 

Under state ownership, profits continue for private investors; that is, the bankers, capitalists, etc., who purchase, bonds and receive their profits in the form of interest and dividends. In a limited and small sense, they can benefit the masses avoiding being gouged by the predatory profiteers.

Capitalism does not consist merely in the private ownership of the necessaries for production. If such ownership were the determining feature of capitalism, then capitalism reigned in the days of serfdom. The serf owned his tools, the feudal lord owned the land, two necessaries for production. Yet that was not capitalism. Capitalism is that social system under which the tool of production (capital) has grown to such mammoth size that the class that owns it rules like a despot. 

And there are competing sectors of capitalism, always striving for supremacy:
1. Commercial capitalism, dominated by merchant traders, buying cheap, selling dear.
2. Industrial capitalism, dominated by manufacturers
3. Finance capitalism, dominated by bankers seeking interest on their lent-out money.
4. Land-owning capitalism, those real property magnates living off rent. Like financiers they are parasites upon the industrialists, who in turn leech off their workers

So socialism does not consist merely in the overthrow of private ownership in any or all of the necessaries of life. If such overthrow of private ownership were socialism, then the overthrow of the one-time private ownership of military forces, and the present State-ownership of the same, would be socialism. Obviously, that is not socialism. A limb of a human being is not a human being. Socialism is that social system under which the necessaries of production are owned, controlled, and administered by the people, for the people, and under which, accordingly, the cause of political and economic despotism having been abolished, class rule is at end. That is socialism, nothing short of that.

The conscious support of our fellow-workers is what we want. We are fighting for their hearts and minds. The Socialist Party exposes the real nature of capitalism and reveals the futility of reform.


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