Many people think that no matter what the geographic and social conditions, “human nature” is always greedy and aggressive. The Socialist Party, however, concludes that a basic aspect of “human nature” is the drive, and the never-ending struggle to be free and to live in solidarity and harmony with one another, in other words, to be happy.
Many will argue that greed and selfishness are essential parts of “human nature” that any socialist sharing of the wealth is impossible. Obviously being greedy and selfish runs rampant within present-day society, but it has not always been that way. Greed (like human nature) has a history. For generations we lived in a “primitive communist” sharing society. In many societies private ownership of land was unknown. Later when we were existing in a class-divided society, people were continually and constantly trying to throw off the yoke of exploitation and oppression. Greed emerges with the onset of class divided society, with enough economic surplus that one person can produce enough to support others (slavery). With the development of exchange value mediated by money, accumulating money became an end in itself.
Capitalism, which has become the epitome of greed and aggression, has created the conditions for potential economic surplus which is so extensive that a true sharing of the wealth (never before seen in history) is possible. Today unheard-of productivity, via automation can potentially free us all from the drudgery of wage-slavery. But. of course. capitalism is only after more and more profits, so liberating mankind from sweat and toil is the furthest away of its aim. In capitalist society a worker is not, in fact, a person at all; but is simply apiece merchandise to be bought in the open market the same a any other form of item merchandise.
Nevertheless, humanity has the ability to to imagine something better, to develop once again a vision of happiness, a sense of fairness and connectedness, loving and living out of enlightened self-interest, enjoying a better world. We need social control over our tremendous means of production and destruction to turn our swords and spears into ploughshares so that we shall experience war no more.
Nothing is eternal and unchangeable. Human nature is in flux and is variable, and it is socialists who explain the differing forms and varying directions of its change. By showing that the struggle of the classes is at the base of history, Marxism unveils the historical mechanism and shows that every given social form is entirely relative, entirely conditional. Mankind by definition is a social animal who unlike other animals in that he doesn’t merely use nature, but tries to master and control it. Such activity is necessarily social. Not only does labour change man, not only is it a necessary condition of human existence, but labour created man himself. It is literally impossible to think of a human being outside of some labor relationship, apart from some social context, how we lives, loves, dreams, thinks, “projects,” and idealises – is determined basically by the kind of society in which we live in. Classes and social systems succeed each other and differ from each other.
Humanity has the capacity for love, solidarity, compassion AND the capacity for great aggression and cruelty. Which capacity dominates depends on certain geographic and social conditions. In “primitive” pre-literate clans where there is virtually no economic surplus, there is always sharing of land, resources, products, labor. By necessity (for the clan could not survive with a dog-eat-dog outlook and practice) the capacity for love and solidarity is dominant within the clan – a family of extended families.
This proves the human capacity for love and sharing; the capacity for aggression and cruelty shows up when there is some economic surplus, but not enough for the whole tribe or nation to share the wealth. Here we find tribal wars over limited hunting grounds, cannibalism, and slavery. This is class society, the beginning of so-called civilization.
This class-divided aggressive society has been with us for many centuries, perhaps seven thousand years (roughly 210 generations). But what we see during this long period of class domination and severe cruelty and greed is a constant periodic struggle of those who are the oppressed and exploited—a struggle for freedom and justice. We can conclude that a basic aspect of human nature is the drive, the never-ending struggle to be free and to live in solidarity and harmony with one another.
In other words, humans have a drive to live AND a drive to be happy, to live in peace, love and freedom. Is the drive for happiness doomed to be forever frustrated, leaving us stuck indefinitely in the situation of dominant cruelty and aggression? Many people think it is so basic that no matter what the geographic and social conditions, “human nature” is always greedy and aggressive. Many Christians believe that human nature is “fallen” and cannot extricate itself from “Original Sin.” Thus any historical progress is dependent on divine intervention.
Marxists shows not only that socialist society is possible, but also that it is necessary. Collective organisation of labour is possible because it exists. It circles the world. Individual ownership and exploitation is in flagrant contradiction with this collective organisation. From this come crises – catastrophes which demonstrate more and more that the capitalist system is becoming impossible.
Soon it will be no longer for us to show the possibility of socialism. It will be the task of the partisans of the present tottering capitalist system to prove the possibility of its continuation by any normal and progressive development. Socialists will only expropriate the expropriators. They will restore to society the property which has been stolen from society. We struggle against capitalist property, against the oligarchy of property – the monopoly of the means of production.