The words socialist and communist are changing their meaning to provide a smokescreen for reformers. Some “Marxists” suggest that socialism mean a “first stage” in the development of communism, an invention to camouflage their conservative gradualism. Marx described socialism as the society of the free and equal, emancipation of all mankind. The process of production, freed from private and State oppression, without class friction will yield abundant wealth. Social peace will reign, for, the capitalist class and State bureaucracy being abolished, there can be no antagonism of classes and will give the producers freedom at work and at leisure, freedom for self-expression in their handiwork, and instead of the deadening machine drudgery of the wage-slave for the capitalist, there will be the joyful creation of beautiful things by free men and women for the use of the whole community. A sane society would no more think of rewarding someone because nature had endowed the person with higher intelligence, than it would think of rewarding another because nature has gifted him or her with good looks. All will be looked after’
Socialism is a word that has been so misused for so long that it is worth re-stating that its meaning is that the means of production are owned and controlled by society so that what is produced can be shared out according to people’s needs. The economic laws of capitalism, expressing relations based on the exploitation of man by man, cease to operate. The law of surplus-value, the basic economic law of modern capitalism, disappears as does the law of capitalist accumulation, the law of competition and anarchy of production, together with the categories which express capitalist relations; capital, surplus-value, capitalist profit price of production, wage-labour, the value of labour-power, etc. Socialism means, first and foremost, the abolition of private property in the means of production in the interests of the majority. Socialism means a class-free society, a society where a privileged minority of the population are not in a position to enjoy wealth, while the majority live only on their labour to produce it. It means an end of rent, profit, and interest on stocks and bonds, an end of “surplus value,” an end of the exploitation of labour. The whole structure of socialist society makes any accumulation derived from the exploitation of the work of other human beings impossible from the first. The kinds of jobs created by socialist society are non-exploitative.
We say that we live in a class society. We don’t mean by this that some people have different life-styles from others, live in posh areas or have snobbish attitudes and accents. Class is the material reality on which our society and all others in the world today are based. The vast majority of people work to produce profits for the few, whether they assemble cars or televisions in a factory, type figures into a word processor or check out groceries at Sainsbury’s. Or else they sweep streets, dig coal or scrub floors for the ‘public sector’ so that the system can keep going, with the rich making as much profit as possible and the needs of the poor supplied at the lowest possible cost. This is the working class, and without its labour the lights would go out, food and water would be cut off, communications would break down and society would cease to function.
At the top, a tiny minority of people own most of the wealth and exercise most of the control. They decide when factories will close, when prices will go up, when capital will be moved around so as to browbeat governments into doing what they want. Some belong to families who have held wealth and power for generations, others insist that they have ‘worked their way up’ and are ‘still very working class’. But they are all part of the ruling class, and their wealth gives them power. Governments must look after their interests, and keep everyone else quiet enough for the system of power and profits to go on working.
The essence of the future free world community is not a change in the ruling personnel that working people get to direct their work themselves, collectively. The fundamental change is not a change in the passive realm of consumption as so many environmentalists tell us, but in the active realm of production to build a well-planned world economy. Those on the left who persuade themselves that a government are going to run society in the interest of the Brotherhood of Man and the Co-operative Commonwealth deceive themselves.
A capitalist political party is one that is controlled by capitalists; that makes laws and administers government in the interest of the capitalist class. A capitalist political party is one that elects men and women to office to protect the capitalist class while they steal the wealth produced by the working class. A leopard may be recognised by its spots. So with the pro-capitalist parties. Also beware of so-called “reform parties” with attractive propositions for fooling the workers. They will offer us anything to get into office, but they won’t promise to give up their profit-making system, nor abolish the private ownership of capital or capitalist class rule, both of which are the curse of the working class. Reformist parties advocate capitalist political schemes for fooling the workers. In order to rescue the people from the clutches of the capitalist class, the reformists say we must have public ownership and then the private capitalist will no longer squeeze us with the profit system. The public will be its own capitalist. It will squeeze itself. We do not try to justify the situation in the former USSR and its satellites, or present-day China or Cuba, which claim to be socialist societies but where it is quite clear that men and women have not been liberated. None of these are societies where the working class is in control; they are ruled, and harshly ruled, by a class of bureaucrats whose aims are at the bottom the same as the aims of our own ruling class: to exploit working people, accumulate capital and compete with one another internationally.