1970s >> 1979 >> no-896-april-1979

Editorial: Socialism means co-operation

The propagandists of capitalism represent it as a social system which is basically logical and which operates with a consistent humanity. If that were true there would be none of the problems with which we are so familiar — and there would be no need for a socialist party to argue that capitalism must be abolished because it is a mass of contradictions.

Capitalism has unlocked a vast potential for the production and distribution of wealth—nothing less, in fact than the capacity to satisfy the needs of every person on the earth. Yet at the same time capitalism fails to achieve that potential, or anywhere near it.

We often witness the destruction of food when there is what the economists like to call a “surplus” of it. This “surplus” is not something related to needs—while food is being destroyed there are plenty of people who need it. Indeed the destruction is carried out in one part of the world while millions are starving to death in another. Starvation is a chronic problem of capitalism. and this in a world which can also produce a “surplus”.

Capitalism has developed our technical accomplishments to a high degree, enabling complex tasks to be performed to precision and ending the need for much monotonous repetitive work. But these accomplishments are not reflected in the quality of what is produced. Much of the wealth turned out is of a low standard—jerry built houses, devitalised food, cars destined for an early end on the scrap-heap.

There are other examples of waste. Capitalism finds it necessary to devote a lot—probably the majority — of its effort to things which can only be called wasteful and unproductive. The enormous material and social effort poured into the armed forces, the police, the judiciary, the prisons—and all the hardware of weapons and equipment which they need—is one example of this. Another is the ubiquitous financial and commercial machinery of capitalism — insurance companies, banks, building societies, merchant houses, salesmen and so on. None of these produce any wealth : they only consume and destroy it.

These inconsistencies exist alongside a massive social contradiction. This social system has united the working class, in the sense that it has focussed all former class divisions into the one divide between capitalist and worker. But capitalism does not promote class unity. It splits the working class on grounds of nationality and, at times on grounds of “race”. It sets one worker against another, in competition for a job, for promotion, for scarce goods, for any advantage no matter how slight.

All these contradictions spring from the basic one. which is peculiar to capitalism—the production of wealth as commodities. Capitalism turns out its wealth not for people to consume; that is secondary to the function of its being sold on the market. So people starve, or go without, or accept something below the best, because they cannot afford anything better. They become conditioned to accept their position as an inferior, exploited class who produce everything but own virtually nothing. Wealth is poured into the state machine, into armaments and the like to protect the privileged position of the ruling class, in whose interests this society of commodity wealth operates.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain has something to offer which will end these contradictions. Socialism will be a society of common ownership of the means of production and distribution, in which all wealth will be a use-value. The social relationships of commodity wealth will cease to exist; everything will be made to satisfy human needs, whether these be actual material needs or other, less tangible, fancies.

Removing the restrictions of commodity production will be the setting free of human abilities. Wealth will be turned out in abundance; the amount of it, and the quality will be limited only by the material problems of the time. Socialism will have no social relationships of the sort to hamper production; its relationships will be those of liberation and plenty.

In socialism human beings will be able for the first time to realise their potential—and the world will witness a veritable flowering of talents and productive capacity such as dreams are now made of. In this will be expressed a new unity of people. Socialism will bring human beings together, in the common task of producing the best and the most humane society of which we are capable.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain, alone among political parties in this country, stands for this new. basically different society. We argue that the working class does not need to waste their abilities in the continual production of the sub-standard. They do not need to suffer the indignities and the suppressions of poverty. They do not need to stand and watch a world which could be beautiful, abundant and satisfying stagnate into an ugly, impoverished nightmare.

Socialism is ours for the taking; materially the world is ready for it. All it needs now is people.