Is Socialism freedom?

The question of whether or not Socialism would mean the destruction of individual freedom of action and choice is usually asked by opponents who believe that Socialism is something to do with nationalisation or that it exists in countries such as Russia, China and Cuba. We deny that Socialism exists, or ever has existed, in any part of the world and we state that nationalisation and state control of industry are nothing more than a way of running capitalism—the social system which dominates the entire world. Further, we declare that far from being the negation of freedom, Socialism will in fact be a new age of the fullest possible freedom in which the free development of each will be the condition for the free development of all.

By Socialism, we mean world-wide common ownership of the earth and all that is in it and on it (including farms, factories, and transport). The implication of this is that Socialism must be completely democratic—how else will the people control what they own? The fact that Russia, China, Cuba and so on are not democratic (and even in its most restricted form democracy means, at least, free elections, press, speech and association) underlines the fact that those countries are not Socialist.

In Socialism, assembly halls, theatres, cinemas, printing presses and all other media will be commonly owned and thus everyone will be free to use them as they require and, unlike today, use of them will not be restricted by proprietors (private or state) who demand profitability and often orthodoxy, before allowing anyone access to these means of communication which are vital to effective democracy. Instead of the narrow expression of views that normally occurs under capitalism, resulting from its minority ownership and production for profit basis, in Socialism, there will be the fullest expression of views without any censorship, copyright or restricted access to information whatsoever. The freedoms of association, assembly, and expression together with all the other aspects of individual liberty will exist in Socialism not because there will be any paper constitution which guarantees them, but rather because the organisation of Socialism will make their prevention impossible.

How will the organisation of Socialism ensure freedom of action and choice? The answer to this can best be illustrated by comparing Socialism with the society it will replace—capitalism. Capitalism is based upon wage-slavery—that is, because the vast majority of the population do not own the means of production and distribution they must sell their only commodity, their ability to work (labour-power) to an employer in return for a wage or salary. The working class are paid wages which are of less value than the product of their labour, the remaining (surplus) value being realised as rent, interest, and profit, the property incomes of the ruling class; thus the working class are exploited. Because they do not receive the full value of the product of their labour the working class have unsatisfied needs—they are restricted in their freedom of choice to what they can afford on their inadequate wages. In Socialism, there will be no wage-slavery, no employment and therefore no unemployment. Each will give voluntarily according to their abilities and each will take what they need — food, clothing, housing, travel, health-care — freely. Under wage-slavery, you are not free to do as you wish with your time nor free to go where you want, because you are contracted to an employer for a large chunk of the week and frequently your job becomes monotonous and meaningless. In Socialism, you will not be tied down to a particular job but rather, you will be free to do a wide variety of work which you will choose and control yourself.

Further, under capitalism, the choice and variety of goods and services is limited to what can be sold profitably on the market. Millions die for want of food, not because agriculture hasn’t the capacity to produce the food, but because the starving haven’t the money to make such production profitable. In the moneyless society of Socialism, because we shall all own and control social production, all the necessaries of life will be produced in abundance (which is technologically possible now). We shall produce the greatest variety of clothes, housing, entertainment. We shall all democratically control, and decide policies for, housing, education and transport services—which at present are controlled by ‘experts’ and politicians.

Because Socialism will mean world-wide common ownership, there will be no state. The state—police, military, prisons, and judiciary—exists to protect the rights of private property owners. Where private property doesn’t exist neither will the state. Thus all those whom the law discriminates against—in the main, the working class—will be liberated by the abolition of private property and thus of its state. Those who argue that all that needs to be done to ensure freedom is to liberalise the authoritarian nature of the state by having a ‘Bill of Rights’ or a written constitution, ignore the fact that the state, far from being impartial and above the struggles in society, is in fact in the thick of them. The USA which has had a Bill of Rights for 200 years, has in recent decades witnessed vast Civil Rights Movements by people (Blacks, Women, Gays) claiming to be discriminated against by the state. As long as the state is in the hands of a minority, the majority remaining non-socialists, then the state can only be used to repress the working class, the vast majority.

The only way to ensure the fullest possible freedom for all humanity without distinction of race, sex or sexuality is to set up a social system based upon common ownership and, therefore, democracy. It is only common ownership which guarantees free access to the means of communication, to information and to all wealth. It is only socialism which, being free of any state machine, can ensure true democracy and freedom. Socialism is the only effective liberation.


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