1970s >> 1978 >> no-885-may-1978

Letter: Half Way House?

As a newcomer to the Socialist Standard, I am struck by the fact that you appear to make no distinction between various stages of socialism. You talk of socialism as a classless, moneyless, stateless society, based, presumably, upon the principle ‘‘From each according to his ability; to each according to his needs.” I had always thought this principle to apply to a developed stage of socialism, which some would call communism; whereas the socialist principle is “From each according to his ability, to each according to his work,” and relates to a society where money still exists as a medium of exchange and state-power remains, though exercised by the working class. Could you clarify your position on this matter? Do you in fact envisage socialism as having transitional stages?

John Southcote
Coventry

Reply:
The idea of a transitional period between capitalism and socialism (or communism—the words mean the same thing) was concocted to explain away the dismal reality of the Russian revolution after 1917. Capitalism has performed the historical task of clearing the way for socialism; apart from anything else it has reduced the class struggle to one where there are only two classes. When the working class have won the struggle they can set up socialism immediately; there is no need for any half way house.

The proponents of a transitional society never define it in any concrete terms; what sort of class structure will it have; who will own the means of production; will there be a coercive state machine?

The entire concept is a dishonest attempt to cover up the fact that capitalism exists in places like Russia just as it does in England and the USA. When the international working class want socialism they can have it; the socialist revolution is the next step in social evolution and there is nothing in between.