Humans Being Human
We live in a terrifying time. This is truly the most cliff-edge, make-or-break moment in the history of the world, in the human story.
Since we first emerged as a species, many thousands of years ago, humans have done two things. We have invented and built more and more powerful tools with which to supply our needs. Technology is now developing exponentially, so that even in a matter of months, huge advances occur. Secondly, we have formed different social systems, each giving way to its successor every few hundred years or less.
From early ‘hunter gatherer’ societies, through ancient slavery, medieval feudalism, early mercantile capitalism, industrial capitalism and today’s global, digital capitalism, the structure of society has changed dramatically. New technologies have made it necessary to revolutionise the way work (and every other aspect of society) is organised. Power struggles between different classes have been the mechanism of revolutionary change. Each new social system has had its own social relations, its norms, its priorities… and always at the heart of each system is the key working relationship which defines its way of providing for humanity’s survival.
Throughout the world today this defining feature is employment. Wage slavery. Salaried staff. Ninety-nine per cent of the population having to work in return for payment only meeting their most basic needs for the most part, whilst we devote our energies to creating far greater wealth for the shareholders and/or state plutocrats who own and control major capital resources.
Human behaviour is more diverse than that of other animals. As a species we are extremely adaptable, versatile, changeable – and able to co-operate with one another in highly complex and sophisticated ways – if we feel the need and if we so choose. Each of these successive social systems we see evolving through human history has made humans act in certain ways, has shaped our incredibly changeable human behaviour anew.
The reason we live in terrifying times is that the social system we live under now has reached breaking point. The tension is more than palpable. The way that society has been structured for the past few hundred years is no longer tenable. We have the technology and resources to feed, clothe, house and meet all the needs of several times the world’s population. But the social priority is still to generate financial profit for a tiny minority, and if production is not profitable, it gets closed down. Repeatedly. Even whilst people starve.
And that’s just the start of it. The world-wide social system we live within also causes, as inevitable consequences of its in-built priorities: war, crime, poverty, climate crisis, homelessness, corruption, competition, global disharmony and conflict, failure to plan, failure to provide for emergencies…
There is a glaringly obvious solution to all of this, which we set out and explore in the pages of this magazine, and in all of our work as a democratic political movement for genuine socialism: a new, co-operative commonwealth in which we each contribute according to our abilities, and take according to our needs.
Some will object that this solution ‘goes against human nature’. They are wrong. It is human nature to solve problems through co-operation, intelligence, hard work and determination. What such opponents of social progress mean by ‘human nature’ is that positive solutions may challenge much of the human behaviour which has been fostered by the current, cut-throat, competitive system we struggle and suffer under. But even within this sick, rotten, outdated system there are constant, incessant reminders of the reality of human co-operation, intelligence, rationality, compassion and solidarity. It is today’s world capitalism which is the true enemy of our nature as humans, as it pits us against one another and causes endless unnecessary misery.