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WHAT IS SOCIALISM
Socialism would be too idealistic or utopian if it depended on people following an ideal that was contrary to their material interest. But that is not the case with socialism. Socialism is grounded in material realities. It is rooted in the reality that it is now objectively and physically possible for society to meet the basic human needs and wants of all the people. It is rooted in the reality that capitalism stands as an obstacle to society realising its full potential to meet the needs and wants of all. It is rooted in the reality that the working class, which are those who do productive work, mental or physical, are denied their material needs and wants under the present system. Thus the modern working class has both a motive and the potential power to replace the present system with socialism.
All that's missing is for workers to recognise their true interests as a class, understand the socialist goal, and begin organising as a class to establish it. Socialism is realistic and a pragmatic alternative. We, the workers, already collectively occupy the industries every day and operate them from top to bottom. The only thing we don't do is own them, control them, and determine the product distribution. Properly organised, we can rectify that, and build an economic system that will truly serve the social interest and it is essential for human survival and continued social progress. To build socialism, workers must organise politically and economically.
Socialism can only be established by a class-conscious, organised majority of the working class. It can only be built by workers who understand the need to prevent any individual or group from gaining the power to control production or distribution. Socialism would be governed by active organisations of workers, educated by the class struggle and determined to keep economic power in the only safe place for it to reside in the collective hands of all. Control of society's economic resources would be in the collective hands of the working class. All persons elected to serve in the factory committees, the workers' councils and the commune assemblies administering social life and the economy as a whole, would be responsible only for performing designated administrative tasks. They would have no bureaucratic power to dictate production or distribution goals toward their own individual enrichment. Voting would determine the general goals of social production, based on their own needs and wants. Socialism's elected and recallable administrators would carry out the task of determining which facilities are to produce how much in order to meet the socially determined production goals. They would have no opportunity to become bureaucratic rulers even if they wanted to. And once a society of security and abundance for all is established, the motivation to even want to be become a bureaucrat is eliminated.
People clearly have the capability of being cooperative as well as competitive, supportive and helpful as well as antagonistic, egalitarian as well as selfish. We can and do choose to employ one quality or the other, depending on how our material circumstances and interests affect us, and how we perceive our own self-interest. It is also part of our human nature to think, to evaluate our circumstances and change our behaviour when we conclude that doing so is in our self-interest. Accordingly, socialism is not contrary to human “nature”. For the vast majority of the people who belong to the working class today, it does no good to be greedy, competitive or power-hungry; capitalism rewards them with hardship. Sooner or later, a majority of workers can and will come to the understanding that their own self-interest demands the creation of a new social system based on social ownership of the industries and cooperative production for the common good. Once a socialist society is established, the material and other rewards of that system will continue to reinforce cooperative behaviour and nullify selfishness, greed and the desire for power over others.
Working people must set their sights on the real goal, liberation from wage slavery. The genuine socialist movement must educate its fellow-workers to the need of reaching this goal if they are to achieve the economic security and well-being they seek. Capitalism has substituted the motive of private profit in place of public duty. Capitalism is a system of social advancement based on individual merit and ability is the message that an army of media and academic errand boys are constantly trying to drill into our heads. That message is everywhere. You can hardly escape from it. There is just one problem with this picture. An examination of how capitalism actually works - who does the work, who gains the wealth and how that wealth is accumulated - reveals a reverse reality. Capitalism as it actually exists functions more like an inverse meritocracy, a system of social advancement based on the exploitation of the members of society who actually perform the work, and who therefore create all value. As they say, if hard work creates millionaires then every African peasant woman would be worth a fortune. The idea that personal wealth is capitalism's reward for producing economic value for society is an imaginative fairy tale. In fact, great personal wealth is either the reward for being born to wealthy parents, or for being the most single-minded and ruthless acquirers of other people's money, diminishing rather than uplifting the social good in the process. By the same logic those with the smallest incomes must be making the least contribution to society. But even a casual look at the facts shows the opposite is true. Food production is one endeavor no society can do without. But the people who do the work of producing food for consumption - farm-workers, slaughterhouse workers, cannery and processing workers, restaurant workers - mostly receive below average wages.
But the real chasm of inequality isn't between food-industry workers and higher-paid workers of other industries. It's between the productive workers of each industry and the major owners of each industry, the big stockholders who contribute no useful labor to production or distribution. Nor is it a matter of lower-wage workers being more or less important than higher-paid workers. All the necessary jobs have to be done in order for the workplace, the industry, the economy to function. For example, if the doctors in a hospital don't have the combined support of nurses, nursing assistants, various specialized technicians, clerical staff and custodial workers, they can't practice their advanced skills in healing patients. Take any group out of the mix and the hospital couldn't function. On the other hand, remove the hospital managers and medical insurance CEOs from the mix and the healthcare system would function much better! Administered instead as a democratic workplace community, with decisions made in an associated manner by all the workers of the workplace, what should be the top priority of a healthcare institution - patient care - would be the top priority.
Under capitalism those who do all the work are only allowed access to the workplaces and the chance to earn a living on condition that they fork over most of the value they add during the production process to the people who own the workplace. Thus, a person who adds $30 each hour to the product or service he or she works on may only be paid $10 for each hour she works. The rest goes to capital: the owner of the workplace, his banker, insurance company, marketing consultant, etc. To maintain this state of affairs the capitalist class uses its great wealth to control the electoral process and screens out any political candidates who might interfere too much with the very undemocratic running of the nation's workplaces. Whatever the political government does, it is forbidden to really interfere in the economic relationship between workers and owners, or to do anything, however sorely needed by the vast majority of the population, against the basic interests of the owning capitalists.
Defenders of capitalism are left to their fallback position: "Any other system just wouldn't work because people are different and you can't make them equal."
First, this confuses two separate concepts: difference and equality.
Equality in its social sense does not mean sameness. Obviously, people are not the same. Whether by nature or nurture, or probably a combination of both, people have different potentials for different areas of physical and intellectual activity. Changing the economic system won't change that. What it will do is insure that every individual has the opportunity to develop whatever potential talents and capabilities they do have. As it is today, despite all the blather about "you can be whatever you choose to be," most people fall into a career out of economic necessity rather than choice, and then get stuck there out of continuing economic necessity. Capitalism in reality blunts individuality rather than promotes it. Workers have to mold themselves to the needs of the system, which are determined by what is profitable in the marketplace, rather than themselves determining what their own needs are and how best to satisfy them. Equality means having the equal opportunity to develop your own abilities, without having the "right" to advance at the expense of others. It means having the equal opportunity to influence the decisions and outcomes of the economy and society, the equality in government that can come about only in a democratically-controlled economic system.
But today, as a result of economic inequality, government is controlled by an elite of big wealth-holders. Their corruption of politics is now so blatant that hardly anyone else believes their voice counts anymore. And they're right - it doesn't. The liberals and reformers who think they can change this with campaign-finance reform or new voting systems are on a fool's errand. One way or the other big money always finds a way to control government. Those who seek real democracy must attack the economic inequality that blocks its realisation. The idea of economic equality may seem unrealistic to many people today. The aspirations of the majority for security and well-being, a clean environment and a peaceful world are blocked by the profit interests of a small minority. The only way out of the impasse is to create a new system of production and social administration, one that can direct our resources to meeting human needs and solving human problems.
In socialism, the community collectively are the co-owners of all the workplaces in the economy. All the goods and services created by the people who work belong to those same working people. Socialism cannot be 'given' to the workers by a political or intellectual elite, however sincere it may be. Socialist self-administration can only be built by the informed and united action of the workers themselves.
The $70 million spent by Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne to set up the Ontario Pension Plan has caused a bit of a stink. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is upset because the set-up cost was higher than expected. The group which represents 42,000 small businesses said it was a payroll tax, meaning they would have to pay it, and that Wynne should wait a year to see if the Federal Government increases the C.P.P. Boy ain't these guys all heart?
The plan is now being shut down, following a deal in June between the Provinces and the new Federal Government to improve the C.P.P.
The P.C.'s were upset because the plan included $12.1 million for a 5 year lease of two furnished floors of an office building, $17.6 million for consultants, and $3.5 million in legal fees.
Finance Minister, Charles Sousa, defended the planned O.R.R.P. on the grounds that two-thirds of Ontario workers, who don't have company pensions, will need more than C.P.P. at retirement.
So, there you have it, folks, a crowd of various politicians and businessmen who are upholders of Capitalism, squabbling about the implementation of another reform.
So why not scrap reforms, including pension plans, and while we're about it, why not scrap Capitalism? John Ayers
People feel trapped on a treadmill from which there is no escape. Yet, at the same time, workers are working longer and harder for less, the amount they are able to produce in an hour's labor is greater than ever before, and this productivity of labor continues to climb. Probably everyone except workaholics, for whom work is an obsession or a way to escape other problems of life -- would choose to work less. But most would say they can't afford to, or that their jobs don't allow them to slow down. In other words, our way of living and working isn't something we can, as individuals, choose for ourselves. We have to live and work pretty much the way the system forces us to. In the system as it exists today, working less does mean sacrificing things that are part of the standard of living we expect- and it doesn't only apply to luxuries or frills. People are working long hours just to hold onto their homes, keep their cars running and send their kids - or themselves - to college. Most workers desperately want more leisure time, but giving up the income means giving up the means with which to enjoy the extra time. In addition, being willing to do without things doesn't necessarily mean ending up with more time. For example, because the economic system favors private transportation over efficient mass transit, not having a car means spending a lot more time getting around to do everyday chores.
But under the profit system, the workers do not get the benefit of their effort; the owners of businesses do. Corporations introduce technology to reduce the time needed to produce the product or service. But rather than spread the saving to all their employees by having everyone work less for the same pay, they lay off a number of workers in order to pay less in total wages and thereby increase profits. By lessening the amount of labor needed to make a commodity, the owners can sell it for less and hold onto market share against their competitors, who are also driving down costs by displacing labor. To survive in the competitive market each company must keep cutting its costs of production, which means the workers must be sacrificed to keep the company afloat. But in addition to layoffs, labor costs can be cut by having the remaining workers work harder and longer. This is done through speedup, or through overtime, which at time-and-a-half is still cheaper than hiring additional workers. Or costs can be slashed through outright wage cuts, the cuts that force people to get second and third jobs to pay the bills.
This is the "secret" behind the irrational situation of having millions of people who are not allowed to work at all or only a few hours a week, at the same time millions of others have to work more hours than they want. Both groups lose. But it's better to have a shrinking income than none at all, which is why so many workers accept ever-more unreasonable work-loads to hold onto their jobs.
Currently, it takes only a small portion of the work-force to produce all the manufactured goods consumed, an indication of the great productivity of industry. Other workers produce useful and needed services, such as education, transportation, health-care, etc. But there is still a large percentage of the work-force that is "surplus" relative to the number of productive jobs in the economy. These workers are absorbed in non-productive activity, jobs which are necessary for the functioning of the profit system, but which don't add to the real wealth of society. They work in the financial and insurance industries, in sales and marketing, in government bureaucracies. Besides this great waste of labor -- and all the skills and creativity these workers have -- much of the productive labor expended in industry is being wasted. Planned obsolescence to ensure a renewing market and profit flow means more labor and resources are used than would be necessary if goods were built to last. To keep the auto and oil companies in business, more cars have to be built and sold each year, which means more efficient systems of transportation have to be kept out. So, besides the unused and underused labor of the unemployed and partially employed, there is the mis-used labor of tens of millions of full-time workers.
If all the wasted labor were devoted to productive and socially-beneficial tasks, we could produce enough to provide everyone with a decent standard of living working only a fraction of the time we do today. By dividing the labor time needed in all industries equally among all who can, should and want to work, the workday for everyone could be drastically reduced. This is not a utopian dream. It is a simple recognition of the facts of industrial production, of the level of productivity technological development has achieved. But it is a hopeless dream to imagine that an equal distribution of work can be achieved within the capitalist economic system. As long as the technology is owned and controlled by a few, and as long as their profit remains the motive of production, labor will remain a mere "cost of production"-a cost to be lowered by throwing some workers out of jobs while pushing the remaining ones to exhaustion.
If workers want a secure and comfortable livelihood, if they want productive and rewarding jobs, if they want enough leisure time to develop their individual talents and satisfying relationships -- if this is what workers want, they need to organise a new social system to take democratic control of the industry and technology that makes it all possible.