Socialism: What it means

Without a doubt the most misused word in politics today is the word Socialism. To some it means Harold Wilson and his gang; to others it means state-capitalist Russia . . . or China . . . or Cuba . . . or, the current local ‘hit’ ‘the workers’ republic’.

Various political movements pay lip-service to Socialism. In the past the British Labour Party used it to describe their fraudulent schemes of nationalisation— just as now they use it to cover their plans for making British capitalism more competitive. When it suits them, the “Communists”, too, use the term: once (1923) to describe what they then termed ‘the highest form of social organisation Man can achieve’ and now as a definition of an illusionary condition which they claim exists between capitalism and Communism. Nearer home is the latest movement prostituting the word Socialism — the Peoples’ Democracy.

All these movements have one thing in common: they will speak of Socialism. ask your support on the basis of their adherence to ‘socialist principles’ but they never attempt to define what they mean by ‘Socialism’!

Socialism will be a wageless, classless, moneyless society wherein production and distribution of wealth will be carried out for the sole purpose of satisfying people’s needs. Socialism will be an international system, of necessity knowing no national frontiers. In Socialism all mankind will have free and equal access to the fruits of social production upon the principle of: from each in accordance with his mental or physical abilities; to each in accordance with his needs.

This is what Socialism means. It has nothing to do with dictatorships, nationalisation, “workers’ republics” or schemes for reforming this or that feature of capitalism. Socialism will be brought about only by the democratic action of a majority of Socialists — members of the working class who have learned that the problems that confront them in our present society arise inevitably out of the nature of capitalism and that Socialism is the only alternative to capitalism.

The task of the Socialist movement, then, is not to parade, prattle and protest against this or that evil of capitalism — evils we know to be an inevitable consequence of our present system — but to propagate Socialism — not just the word, but the meaning.

(Reprinted from the W.S.P. Bulletin, journal of the World Socialist Party of Ireland. Belfast Branch)

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