1970s >> 1977 >> no-876-august-1977

The meaning of Socialism

Today’s society operates what is known as the capitalist system, which is based upon the entire productive wealth of society being owned and controlled by a small minority. The rest of society, being thus separated from society’s wealth owns nothing but its ability to work and, in order to live, must sell this ability to the owning, capitalist class, by whom it is applied to reduce commodities and increase capital. It is true that the working class receives wages and salaries in return for its ability, but these represent not the value of work done but only the maintenance of the working class.

As a consequence of this basis an elaborate economic and social structure has developed. Private ownership requires a legal system which defines and protects rights in property. Ownership implies selling and buying, and this requires a means of exchange, money, which today has whole industries devoted to its management, for example, the banking and insurance industries. The vast Civil Service handles the taxation, social security and state industry departments on behalf of the government. While any modern system would require some form of administration, the resources and labour used in administering capitalism are immense in proportion to the productive base. And the expense (or waste) does not end there. A feature of capitalism is economic competition, whether it be between individual nations or international alliances, or between separate companies or groups of companies. Such competition is claimed to be beneficial in that it promotes high efficiency, low costs and therefore low prices. In practice it leads to duplication, high promotion costs and wasted resources. Since the capitalist class, as such, exists only to make profit, production and marketing are geared to this end, regardless of the real needs of society. Witness the burned-out wheat fields and coffee plantations of the Americas, the milk-filled mine shafts of England and the butter-mountains and wine-lakes of Europe.

The great majority of society, the working class, are always on the losing end of capitalism, and as a result of this conflict of interests the two sides are involved in a continuous struggle. The owning class naturally wishes to maintain its supremacy, using its control of the machinery of government, the armed forces, the police and the legal system to do so, while the working class resists the pressure as best it can. What the working class ultimately must do is take this power from them and use it to abolish the divisive system of capitalism.

Whereas the working class has this single interest however, the capitalists are divided amongst themselves, each faction wishing to own and control as much as it can of the available wealth, and to administer capitalism in its own way. It is helped in this by use of its political parties, all of whom claim to represent the whole of society. The British Conservative Party, for example, openly supports the capitalist system, but claims to speak for the entire nation; the Labour Party is thought to support the working class, but in fact maintains the system of private property; the British Communists speak against private property but also advocate that wealth be in the hands of the State. (State capitalism, not common ownership.)

Socialism will present quite a different picture from chaotic, wasteful and inequitable capitalism. Since the means of living will be owned by society as a whole, buying and selling will be unnecessary. The technology already exists to produce more than the world’s material requirements, and has only to be organized. With an abundance of production, goods and services will be freely available to all. In the absence of money, the present complex of industries and administration that it entails, and the inherent waste of labour and resources, will also go. Welfare benefits, pensions, wages and salaries and taxation will become words in history books. Armies to procure and protect land and property will no longer be necessary, nor will the prisons and police forces that are used now against people who offend against property-based laws.

So far no part of the world has established Socialism in spite of the claims of the so-called “Communist” countries. They practise a capitalist dictatorship of the few over the many, but in a more obvious and extreme way than the “free world” uses. The Socialist Party of Great Britain, together with its companion parties elsewhere in the world, exists to bring about Socialism for the first time. This is its sole purpose. The new society having been established democratically, through the ballot box, the Socialist Party will cease to have any function and will disappear as the last trace of capitalist society.

Alan Sears