Wednesday, July 08, 2020

From class-divided to class-free

Class is not about your accent or your old school tie: it's about what you own and whether you have to work for your living. In theory we all have the freedom to buy a flat in Mayfair or a forest in Scotland. But you don't get far without money. The capitalist media say that everyone is free to become capitalists. But we can't all be rich. After all would we employ and exploit. Only a fool or a liar would contend that we are now living in a society of human equality. World capitalism has as its first characteristic the unnatural, artificial inequality between class and class. 

In a socialist society all human beings will be equals. Without equality there could be no society which could accurately call itself socialist. What do we mean by social equality? We mean that we seek to create a condition of social organisation in which no person is entitled to be regarded and rewarded as superior to others and no person is to be condemned to the disadvantaged position of being socially inferior. In a society of equality there will be no socially superior or inferior people.

We are not advocating a social situation in which no person is superior to another person in any respect. In a society of human equality one person might be a better violinist than another. The inferior violinist might be a better poet or bricklayer than the superior violinist. The significant point is that such differences of achievement (which are almost certainly conditioned rather than innate) will not lead to social inequality. In a society of equals the better violinist will have no opportunity to live a more comfortable life than the violinist whose music sounds awful. The person who is an expert at cutting up human bodies (a surgeon) will have no greater access to pleasant accommodation or decent cigars than the person who is skilled at fixing motor cars (a mechanic). Society needs surgeons and mechanics, violinists and poets.

Just as a society of equality will include people with different levels of talent and skill in various areas of life and work, so it will be a society of humans who are different from each other. The distinction must be understood between equality and sameness. Equality does not imply conformity or uniformity.   Clearly, social equality will not require the elimination of natural human differences. If one person has natural advantages over another (such as the physical strength of the young over the old and feeble) that will not allow such a person to have social domination over those who are so-called natural inferiors. Natural differences such as gender or skin colour are no basis for social differences; it is only in a society of human inequality that these natural distinctions become parts of a battle for power.

 "The market rewards hard work and enterprise," they say.  In reality their rewards are legally stolen from the efforts of ordinary women and men. The capitalist's reward— profit—is no more than the unpaid labour of working men and women.  Even if we had a "share-owning democracy", and everyone had an equal stake in society, even if we divided all the money out with "fair shares for all", the whole system would still be a roller coaster that is not amenable to rational and democratic control. This is because the market system is geared towards production for profit, stimulated by advertising, marketing and credit. The whole aim of the system would still be production for profit and all that this entails—even if there were not the sickening levels of inequality that we now experience; we would still have wasteful hyping of competing products, banking and built-in obsolescence.

The market system has provided the impetus for technological developments but doesn't allow us to take full advantage of them. In a sane society everyone would benefit from advances in technology. Under capitalism research is duplicated and advances in technology are restricted by the patent system. All in the name of the great god—Competition. The market system is characterised by superficial rationality and efficiency within individual firms, but global insanity when all these unco-ordinated and anti-social decisions are added together and seen in the light of the needs of the whole world population. And under this supposedly efficient system there is also the huge waste of unemployment where people living on a pittance are robbed of a chance even of wage slavery. There can be no democracy when decisions about work organisation and how to provide goods and services are made on the basis of profit. Trying to meet the needs of seven billion-plus people through the clumsy workings of the market is like performing microsurgery with boxing gloves on.

In a world where buying and selling dominate. there is a complete disregard for the experience of people in the workplace since the whole emphasis is upon what is produced and whether it can be sold. Wages, health and safety and work satisfaction will always come a poor second best to the need to make a profit. Much welcome discussion about "Green" issues and "quality of life" has managed to avoid one of the main limits upon our real quality of life—the lack of control and creativity that most people experience in their work. Environmentalism has been seen to be largely about buying the right sort of consumer goods. Important though this may be, it leaves aside the fact that the whole reason for capitalist production is not production for need, nor for the satisfaction of the people in the workplace, but production to make a profit on the market.

This is at the very centre of capitalism; and the consequence is that decisions about how goods and services are made are still in the hands of the large corporations. The system cannot gear itself to producing fewer useless goods, producing them in a more satisfactory way for the workers, or democratically deciding how to solve a problem globally.

The only free society will be one where all human beings, without any distinctions of race or sex or age, have free and equal access to the common wealth of the world. Once goods and services are freely available to all, on the basis of self-defined desires, without the interference of money or markets, humans will be able to say in honesty that we are members of a human family—a family of equals.

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