Letters: Who are the culprits?
In an article in the February, 1982 Socialist Standard (“A Better World To Die In”) our society is depicted as “wasteful” and “destructive” and at the centre of this dirty world is a brutal capitalist. You forget that many of these capitalists are responsible for establishing charities and research centres aimed at improving the quality of life. Furthermore, it is the surplus value created by capitalism that allows these institutions to flourish. The proletariat are made to appear the victims of this vile society. However, they are not forced to commit slow suicide by smoking cigarettes, nor are they forced down mines like cattle to a slaughter-house. Yet the writer urges us to follow him into a fantasy world which he imagines will eradicate problems manifested by capitalism. What makes him so certain that this society with no blueprint will be any better? It is further puzzling that some socialists, ready to put the world to rights, also invest in government stocks and hold debentures. These people are probably laughing all the way to the bank. Perhaps the crocodile tears shed on behalf of the proletariat are wasted on a group who demand not a different world, but more of the existing one, i.e. more booze, more fags and more entertainment. Thus, one question still remains in my mind: who are the victims and who are the culprits?
Ours is not a moral case; we are not in the business of blaming people for capitalism. This system is part of a long, historical process; the socialist argument is that it is now time to move on to a new social system which will be in line with the productive potentialities of our modern world.
It is quite true that some capitalists indulge in gestures of benevolence towards the class which they legally rob. So what? The essential point is that the capitalist’s power and affluence are based on exploiting the working class. Within capitalism the capitalist cannot act as anything but an exploiter and the worker cannot act as anything but a wage slave.
It is rather naive to say that workers want things the way they are. Workers are constantly campaigning and protesting against the evils of capitalism. How many workers want to be blown up in a war? Although capitalist propaganda tries to persuade workers that their problems can be solved under capitalism, their experience under capitalism is on the side of socialists.
Socialism is not a fantasy world any more than any other untried idea is a fantasy. Socialists cannot draw up detailed blueprints for a society which will have to be democratically organised by the men and women who establish it. However we can—and do—examine the possibilities which a socialist world will allow humanity to bring about and we are certain that a society where production is for need will be far better than one where production is for profit.
We have not encountered many socialists who are “laughing all the way to the bank”; most of those we know keep well away from the bank in case the manager catches them. Socialism has to be brought about by workers. If any capitalists want to join us they may. but socialism does not rely on the aid of such people for its establishment.
Instead of looking for mythical culprits on whom the the problems of capitalism can be blamed. Miss Katan is urged to examine the objective laws of capitalism and to discover that the system—and not individuals within it is responsible for what is happening.
In the article “Marxism, Materialism and Morality” (December, 1981), we are given a Marxist materialist explanation of man’s whole natural and historical existence from the dawn of human consciousness to the present time without once mentioning the word “freedom”. The writer is a determinist, determined to fit Man into his Marxist philosophical straightjacket. telling us that humans have a capacity to think in three ways, none of which includes freedom. Yet without some kind of thoughts about freedom there would be no desire for the moral development of Man in society. A socialist consciousness presupposes a consciousness of freedom in Man, for without this consciousness of freedom Man cannot be regarded as a human, responsible being with a personality which distinguishes us from robots.
It was Engels who wrote that historical freedom is simply “an insight into necessity”. To be historically free is not to be in a position to do anything, but to recognise what can be done. R. Smith’s fancy idealistic talk about humans being free is reminiscent of the early capitalists who were philosophically obsessed by the belief that capitalism equals freedom. In one sense it does: workers are free to be exploited. Socialists do not accept the vulgar economic determinism which is sometimes presented as Marxism. Of course, humans have the capacity to make history; human thought is extremely important. But thought is never free. We are bound by our historical conditions, our language and our experience. Socialism is not about “moral development”, but about developing society by ourselves for ourselves.