Friday, December 13, 2019

Socialism Is About Self-Emancipation

The idea of socialism is very simple. A small minority of rich people exploit the poor people who produced the wealth of the world. If we, the vast majority, got ourselves organised, we could easily take the wealth and the means to produce it out of the grasp of the rich and into our own hands. Then with rational democratic planning we could ensure a decent comfortable standard of life for all with the major problems of social life resolved. If we tried hard enough, we could set up a new way of living. But sadly ‘socialism’ is nowadays interpreted as little more than another name for bureaucratic state-ownership, with a some social welfare policies added. Meanwhile, the continued existence of capitalism entails ever-increasing misery that eats away at the brain and heart of society. A handful of multi-billionaires control huge multinational corporations while billions of people starve. All this is well known.

Our opponents say repeatedly that socialism seemed a good idea ‘in theory’ while sceptics ask: ‘Who will do the dirty work?’ or ‘If there was plenty of everything for everybody, why should anyone work?’ Our answer, of course, is under present conditions, people were understandably selfish and competitive, driven to fight each other for scarce means to live, once provided with a decent way of life, they would respond accordingly. Human nature is not a constant and it can change.

Marx conceives of communism (or socialism – for him, the words are interchangeable) as ‘a free association of producers’, a ‘truly human society’, where ‘humanity’ means the process of free social creation and self-creation, ‘the free development of individualities’.

Marx worked to demonstrate that living humanly, in a manner ‘worthy of and appropriate to our human nature’ (Capital, Vol. 3), would mean a free association of human individuals, an association in which ‘the free development of each individual is the condition for the free development of all’ (Communist Manifesto). He shows that individuals are ‘alienated’, dominated by the relations between them which they themselves have made. A truly human way of life is incompatible with private property, wage-labour, money and the state, but is actually in accord with nature, and the way that humanity, at whose heart lies free, creative, social activity, emerged from the blind activity of nature. Today, we treat each other and ourselves, not as free beings but as if we were things - objects. Wherever labour-power is bought and sold, what is already implied by the simple exchange of commodities for one another comes into the open: individual humans are treating each other and themselves as if they were objects. We cut ourselves off from understanding human freedom.

The socialist revolution does not just imply a change of regime, or a new economic system, but ‘the alteration of humans on a mass scale’ through their own conscious activity. Socialism means releasing human potential in a community of freely-developing individuals. This movement transcends private property. What belongs to me cannot belong to you. The products of social labour become attached to particular individuals, who often have played no part in their creation. The proletariat, the producers of wealth, who are oppressed and exploited, against the power of capital which they themselves create, would emancipate humanity as a whole.

Capitalism promises the people of the world not amelioration of conditions but austerity, oppression, dictatorship and perhaps destruction of mankind by climatic armageddon or nuclear annihilation. Only through an irreconcilable struggle against capitalism and the establishment of socialism, will the people of the world find the full freedom, equality and democracy for which they aspire. Human society, when we get it, will be a free association of social individuals, a true democracy

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