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Socialism has never been tried

Socialism is a simple idea but people don't know what it is.

In our present-day selfish society, any talk of a society based on solidarity will usually be met by little more than a dismissive nod. "Don't tell me--yet another collection for a few more poor devils! I'm sick to death of these collections--I'm getting very sceptical about them." So when socialists try to explain that a society based on solidarity (traditionally called socialism) would have nothing in common with the present-day begging bandwagon, all they usually get is an incredulous groan. So what do socialists actually say? That we only have to want it and we can live in a moneyless world in which anyone can simply walk into a warehouse and take what they need, a world in which there are no armies, no police, no banks or stock exchanges, and no national borders. Clearly, anyone presenting such an argument must expect to be regarded as being mixed up or—an idealist. Such a reaction is understandable, as even the simplest of processes, the simplest of solutions must of course seem completely crazy to people like those depicted above, who have only a nebulous or completely distorted image of what a society based on solidarity means.

But socialists, on the strength of their knowledge and conviction, mean exactly what they say. More than that, they can prove not only that such a society is possible, but that it represents the only humane solution to present-day problems. Politics means something completely different to us than to the capitalist parties from far left to far right. We maintain that all current problems, such as wars, environmental pollution, racism, crimes of the worst kind, squandering of raw materials, housing speculation and not least unemployment, are not caused by governments or specific leaders, but are a product of the way in which society is organised worldwide.

Characteristics
The present-day system--we call it the capitalist system--is characterised by the fact that the basic essential resources for the production of goods, in other words the production plants, the entire transport network, the mines and other sources of raw materials, are in the hands of barely 5 percent of the world's population. This minority includes both private companies and those here and there still in charge of state industries. Common to all of these is the fact that they supply goods and services only on condition that they can draw maximum profit from them. This is essentially how they are able force the other 90 to 95 percent of the world's population to live and work under the conditions they do. It is the cause of all the serious problems in society.

Those who understand this basic premise, namely that the whole of society is subordinated to the profit motive, are already qualified to understand our case. They will understand that, notwithstanding the constant drivel spouted by professional politicians, in the present form of society profit is of necessity much more important than human interest. They will understand that any party which recognises the capitalist system can act only in the interests of that system. How often do we hear the old excuse that we are governed by circumstances?

The alternative to this--a society based on solidarity--has never seen the light of day in any country in the world. We socialists stand for the co-operation of all people worldwide on the basis of free decision-making and democratic control. We maintain--and anyone can check this claim--that the technical means have long since reached the stage at which we can use the world's raw materials in the most economical manner so as to guarantee everyone a sufficient supply of the necessities of life, in every sense of the term. A minimum of effort--which is an obligation for all members of a community--will create a maximum of contentment, of joie de vivre.

Capitalism is essentially based on scarcity of resources. Such scarcity is maintained in the interests of profit, among other means by the ruthless squandering of human life and raw materials.

Moderate abundance
A society based on solidarity has as its foundation a system characterised by moderate abundance. Under such circumstances, the whole process of buying and selling clearly becomes superfluous. Poverty, strikes, stock market crashes, economic crises and barbaric wars will only be found in the history books. Striving for the best possible production results with ever improving human conditions will form the basis of activity for all those working in production, science and research.

On this basis, a community can be constructed in which all branches of art and culture will flourish. The upbringing of the young will be flooded with new ideas, as will the education system as a whole. The entire health sector will be freed from the miserable constraints of monetary considerations and be devoted entirely to humanity, to the benefit of all members of the community.

Under such circumstances, men and women will be filled not with hate and envy but with contentment and pride when they look at the products of the human mind.

What we need is great people, not great leaders
Anyone striving for a society based on solidarity does not need leaders. You cannot have leaders without the led, and by that we mean people led up the garden path their whole life long. For us, democracy is not simply a method of swindling people and in the final analysis continually depriving them of the fruits of their labour. We do not seek personal power or power for a small clique. We do not want some minority living a life of luxury at the expense of others.

Our aim is a society based on solidarity, in other words socialism. This means that, with the elimination of the downtrodden status of the working class, class society as a whole will be abolished. And not 10, 20 or 100 years after men and women have freely decided to abolish the exploitation of human beings by other human beings, but immediately afterwards. Anything less would be dishonest.

We are convinced that neither praying to gods, symbols of any kind or dogmas, nor placing one's trust without any justification whatsoever in enlightened leaders is of any benefit to humanity. Nor are we nationalists. Our philosophy can be summed up by the slogan: one world, one people, socialism! This commits us to allegiance to the 90 percent and more of the world's population who, like us, are victims of domination and exploitation.

Socialists cannot deviate from these basic principles. They therefore oppose all groups which support the profit system in its various forms and stages of development.

We are part of the working class. If we wish to live, we must sell our mental and physical efforts like the majority of the world's population. We know capitalism from the bitter experience of those at the bottom. We do not belong to those privileged by this system, those who generally see nothing more in other human beings than inevitable cost factors, to be hired or fired, as appropriate, in order to guarantee profits and thereby privileges.

Many of our fellow citizens regard us as utopians. This is not because our ideas are unsound but because the defenders of the inhumane profit system have at their disposal a massive propaganda machine which day and night clouds people's clear vision of things.

Hear us out. Talk with us. By all means question what we and others are saying, but remember one thing: the decision lies with you and with you alone.

Socialism is the simplest thing in the world. It is based on the voluntary co-operation of all members of society and guarantees free access to the fruits of their labour. Clearly, such a system can function only if it is based on the consciously expressed will of the majority of the members of society. There is no better means of establishing this will than by secret ballot. It is therefore essential to put up as many candidates as possible as quickly as possible, and thereby enable an unambiguous decision to be made between capitalism and socialism.

Help us bring about the simplest thing in the world. It cannot be done without you.

(Translated by M.D. from the March 1997 issue of Internationales Freies Wort, quarterly publication of the Bund Demokratischer Sozialisten, the World Socialist Movement party in Austria)