A different kind of politics
Politics has become a dirty word, but that’s because we leave it to professional politicians.
Most political groups today use the word “socialism” to refer to a brand of Leftist politics advocating things such as nationalization of industries, higher taxes for the rich, greater participation of trade unions in government, more spending on social programmes, and greater control of the economy by the state. These so-called socialists of the Left, in common with all the other political parties of the Right and the Centre, look at all the world’s problems – hunger and malnutrition, poverty, unemployment, epidemics, war, genocide – and they tell us none of them can’t be solved by putting them in charge of the system. If only they could change the laws, set the budgets, and liaise with the other world leaders, they say, things would be better. And so we vote these politicians into power – again and again and again – and still, over the decades and centuries, the problems are still with us.
However, the Socialist Party is not a party of the Left, and doesn’t advocate any of their political reforms. When we talk about socialism, we mean one thing and one thing only: a world-wide, democratically organized system of society without states, leaders, markets, and money. We believe that society at large, not governments or a small minority of private owners, should own and control the means of producing and distributing wealth. We believe that production of goods and provision of services should take place not for profit but rather directly to satisfy human needs. We believe that labour should be voluntary, not coerced, and that people should have free access to the goods produced by society. This isn’t the mere tinkering with taxation and budgets and laws which is all the other political groups want to do—what we want is a fundamental, revolutionary change in the way society is organized.
What exactly do we mean when we talk about the means of producing and distributing wealth being owned in common? By “the means of producing and distributing wealth”, we’re not talking about personal possessions like your house or your clothes or your toothbrush. Rather, we’re talking about the forests, farms, mines, and oceans from which natural wealth is extracted; the factories in which it’s processed; the transportation networks, such as roads and railways, that carry these goods across the Earth; and the distribution centres, such as warehouses and department stores from which we collect these goods for our own use. Currently, all these things are owned and controlled by a tiny minority of the world’s population. If these owners can’t find out a way of turning a profit out of the sale of the goods, then they don’t get produced or distributed, no matter how much people need them. This is why millions of people all over the world have little or no access to the food, water, medicine, and shelter they need to stay alive. It’s not because we lack the resources or the capacity to produce these things, but because it’s not profitable to do so.
On the other hand, capitalism seems to be very good at churning out loads of goods that nobody needs at all. Instead of finding out what it is that people need and then producing the goods to meet that need, a large part of energy in our present society is focussed on coming up with all manner of new gadgets, gimmicks, and other shoddy merchandise, and then convincing people that they need them. The entire system is back-to-front! You just can’t walk down the street today, or turn on the television or radio, or open a newspaper or web page, without being constantly bombarded with billboards, commercials, banner ads, inserts, leaflets, coupons, sandwich boards, posters, stickers, infomercials, and spam, all trying to convince you that you need to buy whatever hyped-up product du jour they’re flogging. A lot of the time these products are of such inferior quality that they don’t work as advertised, or end up breaking after a few months or years.
In a socialist society, though, all the means of producing and distributing wealth would be democratically owned and controlled by society at large. That means that every one of us would have the right to participate in decisions about how to organize the production of goods and services. And in any sane technologically advanced society, there is no reason why the sole object of production would not be simply to meet people’s self-determined needs with the very best goods we know how to make. This would entail an end to buying, selling and money. We already have the resources and the technology to supply every single human being on this planet with all the material goods that they need for a comfortable, pleasant, enjoyable life. All we lack is the system of society that would permit this to happen.
So how do we establish this new system of society? The Socialist Party does not believe in achieving socialism through coercion or through violent seizure of power by a revolutionary vanguard. That’s no basis upon which to build a fair and democratic society. No, the only way that socialism as we understand it could be set up and run is through the consent and cooperation of an overwhelming majority of the world’s population. And the only way we will know once there is such a majority is when it says so via the ballot. It is then, and only then, that we will know that the time is ripe for socialist revolution. It is then that we can start dismantling the coercive machinery of government and start taking control of the things we need to make society function in our own interests.
Capitalism cannot meet the needs of the majority of the people in the world. It does not today, and it never can, no matter how much well-meaning politicians might try to make it. Rather, we are asking you to understand and agree with our analysis of why the world is the way it is today, and why the entire world-wide system of capitalism needs to be replaced with socialism.