1980s >> 1989 >> no-1019-july-1989

Editorial: Socialist revolution

What is needed is a complete change in the way society is organised. Not one of the major social problems facing the majority today has a practical chance of being solved within the present social framework. As long as a minority own or control the productive resources of the world, the bulk of humanity will suffer relative poverty. As long as food, clothing, housing and all other goods and services are produced to be sold for a profit in the market, those needs which cannot be paid for will remain invisible. Until these productive resources are owned in common, and controlled democratically by all, the millionaires will continue to hold the rest of society to ransom. And until production is geared purely to satisfying human needs without the obstacle of finance, the scale and quality of production will be compressed into what is profitable only.

How can this change come about? From production for profit to production for use, from private or state ownership to common ownership, and from the dictatorship of the boardroom to real democratic control across the world? Most people today go to work for wages or salaries, or are dependent on the dole or other meagre “benefits”. All but a small minority of capital-owners suffer lives of insecurity and economic frustration. And yet this same majority gives support, actively or passively, to the system which robs us of our dignity as well as of the wealth we create. That is the key to the change we seek. No system could stagger on forever without getting some acceptance from the millions of human beings involved in it. When a majority of workers withdraw their support for the present system, and organise themselves to introduce and run the alternative to this, then and only then can real change come.

This is what revolution must mean. As the twentieth century draws to an end. the time has long passed for the kind of violent insurrection which the barricade romantics of the Left dream of in their old-fashioned way. The battles fought by Thatcher, Kinnock and the whole of the boss class they represent, are battles of ideas. They talk of the need for the market, they favour “labour discipline”, they hate to see us workers taking our destiny into our own hands. They set the political agenda to leave no room for the end of the market system, the end of the profit system. They want to educate us into servility.

Their revolution, the birth of capitalism, was marked by events such as the French Revolution of 1789. the English ‘Glorious Revolution” and Constitutional Settlement of 1688-89 and the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917. The introduction of the market or profit system, with its division between wage-workers and capitalist employers, was spread over centuries of time in different parts of the world. It was, to a large extent, introduced in parts. This, in contrast, could not be the case with socialism. The capitalist revolution meant the transfer of economic and political power from one (aristocratic) group of owners to another (money-based) minority group— with the dispossessed majority playing the part of cannon fodder, pawns in the battles of these owners. But socialism means a complete breakaway from all systems of property. It means, for the first time in human history, a consciously organised and planned end to all property relations. It must be carried out by and in the interests of the overwhelming majority across the world.

So, at this point, there would be a real leap in the development of world history, a point in time when a common control of the Earth would truly begin for the first time. And the way in which such an inspiring step can happen is by the democratic acceptance of this by a majority—the force of numbers. This would, of course, express itself in different ways in different parts of the world. One common thread in the World Socialist Movement, however, will be its understanding that means must harmonise with ends. A democratic society can only be established democratically. The socialist movement, therefore, has no leaders. It is a movement of equals. Neither does it court popularity by adopting or patronising the latest fashionable cause, seeking in vain to ease capitalism’s problems one by one. We pose a clear choice for the working class throughout the world. Either continue to give your political support to the present, capitalist system, with all of its obscene contradictions. Or build a strong and conscious political movement for the socialist alternative of common ownership, democratic control and production for use, not profit.

Once this socialist majority exists, it will be necessary for us to do two things before socialism can operate as a social system. First, it is necessary to establish beyond all doubt that this is the will of the majority at that time. Second, the ruling class of today must be stripped of the political power which they have so far been allowed to hold. The state machine, with its coercive forces, must be taken over openly and democratically by that majority and dismantled; the owning class must be disarmed, by removing their control over the forces of the state. It is for these two reasons that the Socialist Party contests elections.

That, then, is what socialist revolution means. And the transformation of society, from serving the profit of the minority to meeting the needs of all, has never been more urgent than it is today. The choice is yours.