What is socialism? According to Marx and Engels, socialism means a society of associated producers that is characterised by collective ownership of the means of production, and the planning of production to satisfy needs (production of use-values and not commodities). It means a class-free society without a state, without, that is, special organs or apparatuses for administrative, managerial or joint decision-making purposes that are divorced from the decision-making of citizens and community. Such a society can exist only if it is managed by the working people themselves and only if it takes its destiny into their own hands, freed from the tyranny of the “laws of the market”. Socialism must NOT be based upon a one-party state or a single “ central command economy apparatus. Socialism is necessary because private property and the market economy, the quest for private wealth and, above all, commercial competition are feeding makeand leading us to disaster.
The Socialist Party remains convinced that existing resources makes no reason to suppose that poverty is inevitable or that there are not sufficient goods and services to cover basic needs in terms of food, health, reasonably comfortable housing, culture, leisure, and public transport. It is not utopian to speak of the abolition of commodity production. lt is certainly possible to feed all the men and women who live on our planet without destroying the ecological balance, provided that population growth is controlled on a worldwide basis, and the indications are that it is starting to be controlled. The currently available scientific data show no ground for fears that energy or mineral resources will inevitably be exhausted. Global redistribution of the resources required to eliminate famine and poverty does not necessarily imply a fall in the standard of living enjoyed by the average person in the developed world. Redistribution could to a large extent be achieved using resources which are now wasted or make no contribution to living standards, such as armament manufacture.
Socialism means cooperation and solidarity between producer-consumer to replace the selfish urge to acquire private wealth. Cooperation and solidarity were the prevailing features in primitive society and must again eventually become universal traits of humanity. It is not utopian to speak of altruism replacing selfishness.
Socialism is based upon a class-free society and it will result from education and “rationalist” propaganda, “science,” and a “desire for emancipation” No socialist society can emerge without socialist theory or without a deep desire for emancipation.
Whoever travels around the countries of the world must be struck by its beauty. But, in addition to great natural beauty — our planet is rich in natural resources, the matchless skill of its people and in its potential to produce everything necessary for a good life for all. The world’s greatest single asset is the ingenuity of its diverse peoples. Our planet could be a paradise for people. But the world is not a paradise for the people. On the contrary.
What is wrong with the world is the way society is organised, the “system of society” which prevails. Some of the main features of this society are:
1. It is divided into rich and poor
2. Wars — involving incalculable suffering to the people — are a regular occurrence.
3. It is a system of exploitation. Capitalism is a system in which the means for producing the wealth (the land, the mines, factories, the machines etc.) are in private hands.
By exploitation, we mean living off the labour of other people. There have been previous forms of exploitation. In slave society, the slave-owners lived off the labour of the slaves who were their property. In feudal society, the feudal lords lived off the forced labour of the serfs. In capitalist society the worker is neither a slave nor yet a serf, i.e. forced to do free, unpaid labour for a master. But he is exploited just the same, even though the form of this exploitation is not so open and clear as was the case with the slaves and the serfs.
The essence of exploitation under capitalism consists in this — that the workers, when set to work with raw materials and machinery, produce far more in value than what is paid out by the capitalists in wages, for raw materials etc. In short, they produce a surplus which belongs to the capitalists and for which they are not paid. Thus they are robbed of the values they produce. This is the source of capitalist profit. It is on this surplus, produced by the workers, that the capitalist lives in riches and luxury. Capitalism is a system in which the means for producing wealth are owned by a few who live by exploiting the workers, i.e. by robbing them of the values they produce over and above the value of their wages.
It is a system of booms and slumps. From the earliest days, capitalism has been marked by periodic slumps, or “economic crises” or recession as they are called, which cause mass unemployment and untold misery for the working people. Capitalism is a system based on competition. There are many capitalists each producing the same kind of commodity. Each hopes to sell all that he has produced and thereby realise a profit. He has to compete with his rivals in an attempt to sell his goods. The number of goods produced therefore bears no relation to the real demand. Capitalism is thus by its nature an unplanned, anarchic system. Each capitalist tries to produce as much and as cheaply as possible in order to grab as much of the market — and as much profit — as possible. To do so more effectively, to defeat their rivals, the capitalists constantly seek to cheapen production by introducing new machinery, speeding up the workers etc. Thus more and more goods are being produced. At the same time, they seek to drive down the wages of the workers in order to increase their share of the wealth produced.
So long as capitalism continues to exist crises are inevitable.