Are the planet’s resources of energy, and raw materials coming to an end? Is a real society of abundance only a dream, impossible to realise because there are not enough resources to do it? A yes answer to these questions is a common assertion against socialism. It comes from environmentalists who think that capitalism is quickly depleting the earth of its supplies of forests, minerals, etc.
Instead of a society of abundance with free access to all that is produced — eco-activists often talk about a return to “a simpler life”.
It is true that because of its profit motive capitalism is abusing the earth’s resources so as to give rise to the fear that, nuclear war or continued massive pollution, really destroys the potential for abundance which is necessary for the establishment of socialism. But it has not done that yet and this possibility only underlines the urgent need for socialism here and now.
When the Socialist Party is told that socialism is impossible because of lack of resources, we reply that there is no direct connection between capitalism’s consumption of various raw materials and the standard of living of the majority. Socialism will abolish all the waste connected with capitalism: no labour, energy or raw materials will any longer be wasted on banks, armament production, parking meters and the thousands of other articles which are only needed in a commodity-producing society.
Socialism will also be economical with the earth’s resources by only producing what is best. Instead of cheap consumption articles which will soon wear out, it will produce durable articles which will last.
Still, many critics are not satisfied.
“In any case”, they say, “it can only postpone the time when the earth has been emptied of its resources.” And they generally seem to think that this postponement will not be very long. Sometimes they are even producing “evidence” for this in the form of statistics on the world’s supplies of various raw materials and how long they will last with various paces of consumption.
In reality, no one knows how big the earth’s absolute supplies of different raw materials are. No such investigation has ever been made. What has been investigated are supplies and resources that capitalism needs. And that is something very different.
Socialism will be a world-wide system established by a politically conscious majority. We should expect support for it to grow first in the “advanced" industrialised capitalist countries, where the contradictions of capitalism are most glaring and the need to replace it most obvious. Here, in America and most of western Europe for example, political democracy is well-entrenched. This is no accident. Capitalism demands free movement and a free flow of information, and this is the form of political organisation which enables it to function most smoothly. The pressure for a democratic state comes from the capitalist class—which then exhorts workers to regard this “freedom” as an end in itself. A growing socialist movement will itself have profound effects on the political situation in the world at large. As it gathers pace workers anywhere will be able to see that this is where their interest lies and will organise politically. A working class aware and organised enough to work for socialism could take the establishment of political democracy in its stride.
Political education is necessary before we can get socialism, and working-class at the moment most workers are politically ignorant since they believe problems like poverty and unemployment can be solved within capitalism. The main job of the Socialist Party is to combat all the political parties which spread and reinforce this belief. But the case for socialism is not complicated; it can be understood by anyone of normal intelligence (the majority, by definition). And once again capitalism works in our favour It makes ever more apparent the possibility of an abundance of wealth without being able to make it a reality. Sooner or later this must be understood.
The idea of socialism arises from the material conditions of capitalism and would continue to exist even if the Socialist Party were formally suppressed. Suppression means difficulties, expense and unpopularity for governments supplying it. Other people than socialists advocate free speech and would oppose any such move. For our part, we recognise that freedom of discussion is necessary for the growth of Socialist ideas and we, therefore, argue with our opponents rather than trying to silence them. Finally, policemen and soldiers are themselves workers who will not remain immune to socialist propaganda. But after the capture of political power through the ballot box they will in any case be controlled by the working class through Parliament so that there can be no question of effective resistance to the setting-up of the new society. And when that has been done the coercive forces will cease to exist.
Genuine freedom we san all enjoy is life without price!
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