1980s >> 1986 >> no-980-april-1986

Socialism explained

Our latest publication is a basic introduction to the case for socialism which contrasts our present way of life with what a world society of common ownership would bring. All the main arguments for socialism are covered in seven chapters, beginning with a discussion of the lifestyle of the average worker and the restrictions imposed by capitalist society on our choice of work. What we do, where and when is essentially decided by our employer.
The second chapter deals with humans as they are, biologically and physiologically. Basically we have developed very little as a species; socially, however, we have lived through many changes. Not only can we adapt to many different surroundings, but we also have the ability to change our conditions to suit our purposes. Instead of altering ourselves to suit a new environment we have often altered our environment to suit our needs. Society moulds people, but people can equally as well mould society.
The pamphlet goes on to discuss earlier social systems and then examines capitalism in some depth. A society of common ownership how we could live — is then presented as a practical alternative. The dominating feature is the change that would take place in work, where freedom from compulsion would mean an environment suited to human needs rather than maximum profit. This section also includes two interesting lists of products and occupations that would cease to exist in socialism because they are concerned with money.
One objection to a society of common ownership is that there is just not enough wealth in the world to sustain a system of free access. But this idea is nurtured today by the artificial scarcity created by the profit system: goods and services are only produced if there is a market for them. On the face of it. goods are scarce; potentially, however, there is no shortage at all. Sometimes it may be too costly to, say, extract a mineral from the ground or irrigate barren land. Socialism would do away with all the restrictions of a private property society.
Socialists are confronted daily by those who believe that the answer to social ills is to reform society a little at a time, and a section in the pamphlet is therefore devoted to the issue of reformism. What emerges clearly is that there is no common ground between reformism and revolutionary action: if you seek reforms you openly accept the political and economic structure of society and limit your activity to effecting superficial changes. By opting for revolutionary action, on the other hand, socialists are aiming solely at a fundamental alteration in social relationships. The pamphlet shows that reforms are only accepted by governments if they do not clash with the needs of capitalism — a “successful” reform can easily be withdrawn if it becomes a hindrance to profit.
The pamphlet ends with a call to action. A conscious majority, using delegates and not leaders, must take control of the state and abolish its coercive functions and the profit system in all its forms.