1970s >> 1978 >> no-884-april-1978

The Future is Socialism

Throughout history, man has sought to increase his power, that is, his ability to act. The successive stages of social development have corresponded to the development of human powers and, the last four hundred years, the era of capitalism, have seen the greatest and most dynamic expansion yet of those powers. Now, as previously, mankind is progressively extending what it can do, but, with the exception of certain rare instances, man’s past development has been more or less in step with technological possibilities. At present, however, there is generally a vast gulf between what is technologically and humanly possible and what is actually realised and the contrast between the two and the question of how to reconcile them is the most pressing problem that confronts man today.
Concrete examples of this problem can be found daily in newspaper reports. They inform us amongst other things: —
  • that food is not produced in a sufficient quantity to relieve the starvation of millions—despite the fact that it is technologically possible to feed the world;
  • that schools, hospitals, factories, homes, etc., are not built in sufficient numbers to satisfy the need for them—despite the necessary materials and manpower being available;
  • that not enough of the many other items that are necessary for a pleasant human existence are produced—despite the existence of the requisite powers for their production;
  • that artistic and intellectual development, and scientific and medical research is limited—despite the vast human potential for such development;
  • that millions of people in the world (whether officially unemployed, or employed in uncreative jobs) are deprived of creative activity and the opportunity to usefully employ their talents—despite their desire for creativeness.
The news reports, however, are largely superficial—they record the effects of the problem but they do not generally look at its cause. The cause of the problem is not technological or human but social: it is the result of the way people relate to each other.
A society is an association of people for the promotion of a certain common function or purpose. These social functions are conducted within the context of a definite social organisation, that is, certain fundamental relationships between society’s members. Today’s society is organised on the basis of the minority ownership of the means of living (the factories, the land, the railways, etc.) while the majority of society’s members are deprived of such ownership and are therefore dependent for their livelihood upon the minority who own.
Because of their ownership of the means of living, the minority have an advantage over the majority and can generally use this advantage to promote their own interests even when they conflict with the interests of the majority. Thus while it might be in the interests of the majority for more food to be produced, more buildings to be constructed, more medical facilities to be provided, etc., it is not necessarily in the interests of the owning class—and if it isn’t, the development of these things is limited. The main criterion for whether or not something is in the interests of the owning class is whether or not it will create them profits. Today, profits are made in the process of commodity production and are realized in the sale of the commodity (an item of wealth produced for sale) on the market. Thus where there are not the market conditions to make the production of a commodity profitable, that commodity will not be produced. It is for this reason that man’s potential for abundance and development is not fully realized, as progress is restricted by the present social organisation and its market in which the general rule is NO PROFITS, NO PRODUCTION.

It is therefore class division, which is basic to the present form of social organisation, which today causes the great gulf between what is possible and what is actually realized in the field of wealth production. The solution to the problem of how to realize man’s full potential lies therefore in the replacement of the present social organisation with a new social organisation in which everyone owns the means of living in common—that is, Socialism.As the means of living will be owned in common, so too the produce of society will belong to everyone. Each person will have equal rights of access to the social produce, each will determine her/his own needs and take freely from the common stock of wealth produced. This concept of wealth distribution is termed “free access”, and it means precisely that. For in Socialism wealth will not be bought or sold on a market, it will not be exchanged for money, but rather it will be made freely available so that anyone who needs it can take it.

Abundance

Because it will not be restricted by the market and the profit motive, production will be able to realize the abundance that it is technologically capable of. Production in Socialism will be of useful and necessary items, to satisfy society’s needs, not for profit. Further, because there will be no market, the work currently done by millions of people will become unnecessary. Socialism will not need the services performed by those who work in the vast finance departments of governments and businesses, or those who work in banks, insurance companies or building societies (after all, there will be no money!). Nor will it need the many policemen, security guards, ticket collectors and shop assistants whose essential task it is to ensure that wealth is only possessed by those who have “legally” acquired it. Also, Socialism will not require armed forces, legal and judicial systems, nor the vast propaganda organisations (e.g. the church) whose main tasks are the maintenance of the dominant position of the minority owning class in each national territory and the subjugation of the majority. Instead of doing these socially useless jobs, the people presently undertaking them would, in Socialism, together with those who are now unemployed, be enabled to be creative. They would be so enabled because they would own the means and instruments for such creativity which the present social organisation denies them. Thus Socialism will mean the liberation of mankind from such useless and uncreative work and the mobilisation of all human abilities for the extension of human abilities.

Work in Socialism will be on the basis of voluntary co-operation and the democratic administration of society. The production and distribution of wealth will be controlled by the whole of society. Just as at present there exists in Britain a national grid system for electricity, which, under a central board, assesses market demand for the product nationally, and maintains supply in all areas, so too, in Socialism there will be a sort of worldwide grid system for all wealth, which will assess people’s needs, regulate production accordingly, and maintain the requisite supplies to all areas. Socialism will also involve the rational use of resources and areas, using those resources and areas for the activities to which they are best suited.

Organisation

The social organisation of Socialism will be under the complete control of society’s members. There will probably be delegate assemblies and all administrators will have their functions delegated to them by society. However the exact form which democracy in Socialism will take, cannot be stated here, for that very form must itself be the result of a great and serious democratic debate. Further, the development of technology which could aid democracy is progressing; for example, in a relatively short time it might be possible for society to produce powerful computer devices in suitable sizes and in sufficient quantity to make them widely accessible, thus enabling a potentially vast expansion of readily-available information as well as facilitating mechanisms for the frequent registration of opinions. One thing is certain, however, Socialism will be the most democratic form of society possible, and, as the means of living will be owned in common, no minority will be able to enforce its will upon the majority by threatening to withhold their livelihood.

Because no one will be in a position to coerce others, all work in Socialism will be voluntary. Obviously in order to live people will need to produce wealth, but such production will not take place in coercive or exploitative conditions. Instead, each person will contribute to society as much of their talents and abilities as they are willing to give. Due to the fact that the producers will no longer be exploited (robbed of the full fruits of their labour) in the course of production; nor forced to work in conditions which are sometimes detrimental to their health; nor deprived of creativeness in work; nor forced to compete with one another for pay and promotion; nor forced to labour in circumstances which they don’t fully control; nor forced to divide their activity between employment and “leisure” (neither of which are fully satisfying)—work in Socialism will be a pleasure, a definite end and need in itself. Mankind will, for the first time, be in complete control of its circumstances, it will create and recreate its circumstances, it will venture to the very limits of its potentiality, it will continually extend itself to an extent that could never be achieved under the present social organisation. Mankind, in Socialism, will be revealed as the supreme creative artist, we shall constantly beautify and redesign our world, we shall perpetually increase our power, we shall continuously acquire more knowledge. In the future, having liberated itself from the restrictions of the present social organisation, mankind will mobilise all of its abilities for the extension of its abilities.

That future is Socialism, but it is no more inevitable than anything else which requires human action for its achievement. What is needed, is for all those who have an interest in introducing the new society (the vast majority) to realize that interest and to unite and organise with likeminded people for the purpose of taking the requisite action to change society.

Brian Phillips