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More about a socialist scenario

Last month we discussed four scenarios outlined in a report by Foresight, a government thinktank, on transport over the next 50 years. We briefly described a fifth missing scenario - a socialist one, concentrating on transport. This month we add some more to a socialist scenario.

First politics. The Foresight report lists 60 “key drivers for change”. The only one that is overtly political is “Decline in power of national governments”, although “Culture of control” and “New decision-making frameworks” have political implications. Any socialist scenario has a central place for democracy, but not democracy as it is usually defined in capitalism. Socialist democracy is based on sharing in planning and decision-making, not having plans and decisions imposed on oneself or imposing them on others.

In socialism there will be no professional politicians - no one having an income from being elected. Access to goods and services will be free (made possible by the free work given to society by its members) for everybody, including individuals elected or appointed as delegates or representatives at various levels. In capitalism these levels are generally something like local, regional or global. There may well be some continuity in these levels, but as the socialist movement grows there will probably also be changes, reflecting different circumstances in different parts of the world.

Then education. The Foresight report says very little about this. Schools are mentioned as an economic resource and “the growing crisis in higher education” is noted - and that’s about it. A socialist scenario must have a great deal to say about education. Its aim will be to prepare people - participants, not consumers - to live in socialist society. There is education required to help bring about socialism as well as education as a feature of socialist society. The effort now put into socialist education is severely limited by lack of active socialists and money. Imagine what could be achieved if socialist schools, colleges, universities and distance learning projects were set up which treated capitalism critically and socialism sympathetically.

Socialists have long speculated about how education will differ in socialism as compared with capitalism. William Morris sought to narrow the differences between learning manual skills and book-learning. His pre-electronic predictions need updating, but there is also a case that education in socialism will not be as dominated by electronic gadgetry as capitalist education now is.

The way people work gets some mention in the Foresight report - “Movement away from office-based working” is one of the 60 Drivers for change. A socialist scenario has much more to say about work as a necessary, creative and satisfying activity. In socialism all the work required only to run capitalism will no longer be needed - no banking, insurance, financial services, sales and all money-related jobs will go. Harmful occupations connected with the “defence” (war) industry will be a thing of the past.

The elimination of work that keeps capitalism going will mean a vast expansion in the potential for useful work in socialism. Employment, and its flip-side unemployment, will be consigned to history. People like to do work that is useful to themselves, others and the society in which they live. Once financial coercion is removed there is no reason to suppose that there will be a shortage of volunteers. Obviously, men and women will prefer work that suits their abilities and interests, as well as the chance for change. Joy in work - in the past a privilege afforded only to the minority - will be available to all.

Lastly the media. The Foresight report does have something to say on this, but only the technical side. “Satellite location devices”, “Smart antenna” and “Increasing use of ‘telepresence’ technology” are included in the Drivers for change. A socialist scenario may well have a view on such changes. But it will also be concerned with the content of the media, how that content is decided, and the circumstances in which it is used as a means of communication, information and education.

In contemporary capitalism, as Chomsky and others have pointed out, the ideal is that each person should be alone in front of a screen, subject to what they see and hear, deprived of opportunities to discover what they really think through communication and interaction with others. In socialism the media will be democratically organised and controlled, not manipulated by political and commercial interests. No need to write programs for future media output and input. But you can be sure that it will reflect and be part of a happier and less problem-ridden world than capitalism.

STAN PARKER