A Simple Statement
Socialism is a system of human society, based on the common ownership of the means of production and the carrying on of the work of production by all for the benefit of all. In other words, Socialism means that the railways, the shipping, the mines, the factories and all such things as are necessary for the production of the necessaries and comforts of life should be social property, so that all these things should be used by the whole people to produce the goods that the whole of the people require.
That is no Utopian dream, but the necessary outcome of the development of society. It used to be supposed that anything like the collective carrying on of an enterprise was impossible because the personal supervision and control of the owner was necessary to the success of any such enterprise. But we see to-day that the greatest undertakings are those which are owned by joint-stock companies, in which the personal supervision of the proprietors is quite impossible, and in which the business is managed and carried on by paid officials, who might just as well be paid by the community to carry on the enterprise in the interest of the general body of the people as be paid by a few wealthy men to carry it on for their profit.
To-day goods are not produced to satisfy human needs ; they are simply produced to provide profit for the class which owns the means of production. It is only for the sake of this profit that the property owning class owns these means of production. As a consequence, we have shoddy and adulterated goods produced. Also, as this profit is simply the difference between the value of the work which the working people do and the amount they receive in wages, the actual producers never receive the equivalent of what they produce, and therefore are never able to buy it back again. It happens, therefore, that, as the machinery of production increases and workmen are able to turn out more goods, they are thrown out of work, and they, with their wives and children, are in want and misery, not because there is any scarcity of things they need, but because there is more of them than those who produced them can buy.
Under the present system, therefore, the very increase of wealth is too often a curse to the wealth producers, simply because those who produce have no ownership in the means of production, andno control over the wealth produced.
Under Socialism, as the means of production would belong to the whole people, the whole people would have control of the things produced. Every increase of wealth then would benefit the whole community. Under the present system increased wealth means increased penury and suffering for the many. Under Socialism increased production would mean more leisure, more wealth, more means of enjoying life, more opportunities for recreation for everybody.
By the discoveries of science, the inventions of genius, the application of industry, man has acquired such power over nature that he can now produce wealth of all kinds as plentifully as water. There is no sound reason why poverty and want should exist anywhere on this earth. All that is needed is to establish a more equitable method of distributing the wealth already produced in such profusion. That is what Socialists propose to do. The work of production is organised, socialised; it is necessary to socialise distribution as well.
What is to be done to supplant the present system by Socialism; to substitute fraternal co-operation for the cut-throat competition of to-day ? The first thing necessary is to organise the workers into a class conscious party; that is, a party recognising that as a class the workers are enslaved through the possession of the means of production by another class; recognising, too, that between these two classes there is an antagonism of interest, a perpetual struggle, a constant class war, which must go on until the workers become possessed of political power, and use that power to become masters of the whole material means of production. When that has been achieved, the war of classes will be at an end, because the division of mankind into classes will have disappeared, the emancipation of the working class will have been accomplished and Socialism will be here.
(Socialist Standard, May 1908)