2000s >> 2003 >> no-1192-december-2003

World Socialism

There are two main reasons why socialism has now to be thought of, and in the future will be organised, on a world scale. First, capitalism is a world system, so the system that will replace it will have to be on a similar scale. Second, any attempt to set up socialism in one country only is doomed to failure.

To elaborate a bit on those reasons, it is clear that capitalism is increasingly a world society. Although it began some five or six centuries ago in a few west European countries, it had already spread in Marx’s time around a large part of the globe. Today there is hardly anywhere in the world that is untouched by the profit system. There are vestiges of feudalism, slavery and even tribal society in some places – these may survive (at least in their touristic aspects) for a while. But they are insignificant in terms of power relationships and dominant ideas.

The idea of socialism in one country has been put forward as a more achievable aim than the admittedly more ambitious project of socialism on a world scale. With such a small number of socialists up against the dominant structures and ideas of capitalism, why not concentrate them in one area and give them a better chance of success in at least that area? If capitalism were not such a well-integrated world system, with its ruling-class beneficiaries determined to defend it and its working-class supporters as yet unwilling to consider any alternative, then something could be said for “socialism in one country”. But that slogan is really no more than a call for reform – attack the tiger one claw at a time and perhaps it will succumb.

Given this, socialists around the world need to communicate with each other and exchange information and ideas about how best to develop the socialist project.
Since the first Socialist Party was established in Britain a hundred years ago, the development of communications technology has proceeded apace. This development has been primarily in the interests of capital – for war and business purposes. But it also enables socialists around the world to be in better touch with each other. A century ago airmail was unknown and international telephones a primitive and expensive luxury. Today socialists are starting to use new communications technology for exchanging ideas.

But the kind of world socialist movement that is needed in the short term is very different from what will be evolved in the longer term. In the longer term it will no longer be just a question of communicating ideas but of an international political organisation linking large-scale socialist parties from all parts of the world, a revival, on a socialist basis (and with a more suitable title), of the International Working Men’s Association of Marx’s day.

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