1990s >> 1991 >> no-1047-november-1991

Socialist Definitions

CAPITALISM is the sort of society you live in now. It is a system of wage-slavery in which a small minority owns most of the world and (sometimes) employ the rest of us. In capitalism, most things are sold for a price — production is for profit rather than for use. The world is divided by frontiers into warring factions known as “nations”. Symptoms of capitalism include war, hunger, boom-slump cycles, strikes, widespread loneliness and despair. Countries like Russia or China, whose governments claim to be “socialist” are, of course, capitalist like their western rivals.

COMMUNES (kibbutzim, and similar communities) are attempts by a few to get some shelter from the capitalist rat race. Whilst they may benefit their members, from the standpoint of abolishing capitalism they are a waste of time. Socialism in one country is not possible, let alone socialism in one farm. Socialism could, however, be described as a world-wide commune.

HUMAN NATURE is a most frequent objection to the idea of a socialist society. It is supposed that human beings have some fixed patterns of social behaviour which are especially conducive to capitalism. In fact, what is normally termed “human nature” is the result of social conditioning. Private property, leadership, aggressiveness and monogamy are no more congenial to human beings than alternative forms. A knowledge of different societies, historically and geographically, is sufficient to knock the human nature myth on the head.

LABOUR PARTY is often called “socialist” (less now than in the past, it’s true) but in fact never has been. The Labour Party was formed to improve the conditions of workers by reforms within capitalism. It sought gradually to change capitalism; instead capitalism has gradually changed it. The Labour Party is now no more than an alternative team for the management of British capitalism.

PATRIOTISM is irrational from the point of view of humanity as a whole and runs counter to the interests of the working people. It is therefore opposed by socialists, who do not offer “policies for Britain” or for any other of the artificial political entities into which the world is now divided but demand a world community without frontiers.

POPULATION EXPLOSION is certainly a reality, but it is a myth that it is responsible for hunger, pollution or overcrowded living. The world can easily support many times its present population in comfort and plenty of room. Hysterical Malthusianism diverts attention from the real problem: production is geared to the market, rather than to the satisfaction of human needs.

REFORMS are basically attempts to solve problems within capitalism rather than by doing away with it. Capitalism never runs out of reforms. Socialists are not opposed to all reforms, but we don’t think it is our job to propose them or campaign for them. Reforms are usually of negligible value to the working class, and often create new problems which require further reforms. Fundamental social problems are always untouched because these are rooted in capitalism.

RELIGION is opposed by all rational people, but especially by socialists who see it as compensation for social misery, and a diversion from the urgent problems of the real world. Happily, religion is steadily ebbing away in the most advanced areas of capitalism.

REVOLUTION is the process of changing from one social system to another. It is not necessarily a matter of barricades and bloodbaths, and not at all in the case of the socialist revolution, which requires mainly mass understanding and democratic organisation. It is part of the job of socialists to hasten this revolution by spreading socialist understanding.

SOCIALISM is the next stage in human social evolution — unless capitalism destroys us first by means of nuclear/chemical/ biological war, or ecological collapse. Socialism will mean the abolition of private property, money and the wages system; the introduction of voluntary work and free access to necessary goods and services. Socialism is a world-wide society of voluntary co-operation. It will put an end to wars, poverty and unemployment, enabling our species to concentrate on the less serious problems of everyday living.

*    *    *    *

If you have any other questions about socialism you are welcome to write to us at:
The Socialist Party
52 Clapham High Street
We will be delighted to hear from you and can assure you of a prompt reply.