1950s >> 1950 >> no-549-may-1950
Are We Utopian? Reply To A Correspondent
The Editorial Committee.
I have been a regular reader of the Socialist Standard for 10 years, and often subscribe to your funds.
Since you welcome correspondence I write to criticise Gilmac’s article “What Socialism Is” in the March S.S.
He says that under Socialism no one will want those things which can only be produced at the cost of injury to the producer. Few care about the producer, or such things could not be sold, and without a market they would not—even to-day—be made. Assuming that under Socialism industry still depends chiefly on coal for power, will most people be willing to dispense with coal because of the frequent danger and discomfort to the miner? I doubt it.
Without State power, and without armed forces there could not be war; but certainly discord. In the past so-called religious wars men fought for their beliefs, whatever the economic motives of the governments commanding them; and I understand that even to-day the religious difference between Northern Ireland and Eire is strong enough to survive the political frontier between them.
Gilmac continues, “there will be no prisons, police, warders, etc.” Not all offences against the present law are offences against private property. For instance, murder has often been done entirely to make way for a second marriage. Will Socialism relieve us of unsocial behaviour by individuals here and there so serious that the community must impose violent restraint?
I infer that the man will always consider society before himself. If so he will have advanced in social consciousness as well as in the knowledge and intelligence which make him a Socialist. If this is inevitable I should like to be convinced of it. One reason why I desire Socialism is because it would be a better life for me. and it is not moral superiority which makes me a sympathiser with the S.P.G.B.
Gilmac pictures the Socialist world as very Utopian, and it seems a pity to sound so unrealistic. Nor is this necessary, for whatever evils may survive under Socialism will be the merest fraction of those it will remove.
I shall be grateful for your reply, and I think it will answer the unexpressed thoughts of other readers of the Socialist Standard.
G. K. Strachan.
Under Capitalism the aim is to make a profit out of what is produced and to reduce costs accordingly. Under Socialism no effort would be spared that would make work as comfortable and as enjoyable as possible. Taking our correspondent’s assumption that industry would still depend chiefly upon coal for power (an assumption with which we do not agree, as power can be got from many other sources) coal would be mined where it was easiest, with tools that deprived it of labouriousness and danger and with spells and rotation of work that deprived it of its harmfulness. Neither speed of production nor location would concern society in the way it does to-day.
All wars have sprung from economic motives. Speaking accurately there have been no religious wars; they have only been, as our correspondent rightly puts it. “so-called religious wars.” The economic motives have been cloaked by religion just as the last war was cloaked by such things as a fight for democracy. The motives are there even though the participants may not be conscious of them. If our correspondent knew a little more of the history of Ireland he would realise the part economic motives had played. What, on the surface, appears to him to be a conflict between Protestants and Catholics commenced as land grabbing by groups from outside.
Our correspondent sees the effects but not the cause. All offences against the present law, as well as the present marriage system, spring from private-property society. Conditions in a free society, where everyone has social security, will eliminate unsocial behaviour that might have serious consequences. What our correspondent possibly has in mind is people who may suffer mental injury or mental disease which would lead them to commit violent actions. Assuming that such things occurred they would affect such a trifling number of people that society could deal with them without the need for prisons, police, warders, etc.
In thinking about what Socialism will be like our correspondent should realise what will be the outlook of those who establish Socialism and what Socialism itself will involve. Conditions determine the behaviour of people. When the mass of people have decided to abolish the conditions that cramp their minds and bodies they will already have recognised the evil of unsocial behaviour and the value to themselves of social behaviour. When the new society has got upon its feet the conditions that breed unsocial behaviour will have disappeared. Some inkling of this can be gained by the behaviour of people in tribal societies although tribal society is far short of the conditions that will obtain under Socialism.
What the present writer was doing in the article criticised was simply painting a realistic picture of the future based upon an understanding of the present and what was emerging from the present, in spite of “whatever evils may survive under Socialism will be the merest fraction of those it will remove.”
If our correspondent will examine the article again, in the light of what has been set down here, he will see that it simply points to the evils that will be removed, why they will be removed—because they only arise out of private-property society—and what will be left after their removal. He has mistaken a statement of facts and logical inferences for a beautiful dream!