Many revolutionary groups and tendencies are convinced that any overthrow of capitalism will involve war. This is usually based on the premise that the ruling class will violently oppose any attempts to usurp it and therefore must be defeated militarily. Also personal acts of resistance are advocated, up to and including deadly force. “By any means necessary” has become a catchphrase for the advocating of violent revolution. Socialists have a different point of view, based on reason and practicality.
First of all, socialists are no good to the revolution dead. We don’t see the sense in squandering lives in a senseless violent attack on the ruling class, when those people and the skills they possess will be needed for the worldwide implementation of socialism. Quite frankly, the sheer amount of deadly force in the possession of the entire ruling class, and the willingness to use it, will never be matched by any revolutionary movement. This is evident around the world, where misguided, violent rebellions and insurrections are either put down or held at bay with shocking brutality. Nothing would suit the defensive strategy of the world’s armed forces than an easily identifiable enemy engaging them on a battlefield. Furthermore, guerrilla warfare, sabotage, and other non-traditional methods of resistance are not very effective as offensive actions, which is what a supposed violent socialist revolution would boil down to. In the past, so-called socialist armed revolutions have temporarily succeeded in individual countries. Unfortunately, those revolutions, no matter how well intentioned, quickly descended into totalitarian state capitalism. Not one ever succeeded in actually bringing about socialism, since it cannot exist as isolated outposts in the larger context of a capitalist world. The World Socialist Movement is not seduced by the temptation of socialism in this or that country, and seeks to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.
It holds that a successful socialist revolution cannot take place until the majority of the world’s population desires it. Only then will the ruling class be at a true disadvantage and the time to act arrive. We have identified the legal existence of private property (as opposed to personal property), protected by government, as the Achilles Heel of capitalism. Instead of trying to eliminate individual capitalists, the people of the world will vote to abolish property law by legal means – in one definitive democratic action. Deprived of their source of power, the ruling class can no longer resist. They will truly be in the minority, and those that attempt to react will find themselves without a leg to stand on: when money becomes worthless they can no longer buy weapons or pay soldiers, and violent defense of private property now held in common becomes murder. Support structures for the existence and maintenance of police and armies will quickly wither when the people no longer need to make weapons, or use them, for a paycheck. Hopefully, most defenders of private property will see that it is pointless to commit murder in the defense of a dead idea and lay down their arms. Ultimately, the ruling class themselves will see the personal and moral danger of trying to defend property they no longer own and cease resistance quickly.
In sum, the democratic capture of power, and subsequent immediate abolishment of property law along with the government structure that protect it, will be accomplished by a worldwide referendum – but only when the time is right. This is the only means necessary. With adequate prior preparation and education, the entire world will know when and how the revolution will be accomplished; not only should this make the transition to a moneyless, stateless society a lot smoother, it should erode any hope of the ruling class to make a violent, and in the end self-destructive, last stand.
The following texts are part of a series of leaflets written by a member of the World Socialist Party of the United States.
Poverty, starvation, and want do not exist because of scarcity, as the central teachings of capitalist economics would lead you to believe.
It has been shown many times over that present agricultural and manufacturing technology can produce enough food and goods for a human population actually larger than the one that exists right now. Stores in western nations are constantly fully stocked, and food is thrown away because it spoils before it is sold. Houses sit empty and cars fill sales lots. However, the fruits of the planet and human labor are only available to those who have the money to buy them. Since the capitalism tends to deny access to far more people than it allows, it is therefore the restriction of access to the means of survival, such as food, water clothing and shelter that creates poverty!
It would be nice if everyone could obtain or produce the things they need to live a comfortable and healthy life from their nearby environment. However, the wide range of planetary conditions prevent it. Due to property law and the money system, the two most important features of capitalism, people living in areas of the world where the essentials of life cannot be produced as needed are forced to buy it from those who can. Most often, if they cannot buy what they need, they go without it. The existence of national borders and other political divisions also provide barriers to the flow of food and goods to where they are needed, further preventing millions from enjoying a healthy living standard both inside and outside these borders.
Unfortunately, the lure of capitalism has always been the supposed ability for any given person to gain wealth beyond the value of their individual labor. We see rags-to-riches stories on television and are constantly updated on the lives and activities of the rich and powerful, many of whom got that way through hard work and sacrifice. What is never glorified, however, is the ability of capitalism to create poverty for billions of people.
Think about it, poor people did not invent capitalism. For every millionaire, dozens must necessarily be doomed to squalor and destitution. So why should anyone expect anything different than the continued existence of poverty when that was exactly what the capitalism is supposed to accomplish?
Strangely, many well-meaning individuals believe they can make governments force capitalism to take care of the poor, or that vast networks of charities can help to eliminate poverty. These folks engage in reform politics or join “humanitarian” organizations, hoping to somehow force the system to work exactly opposite of the way it is designed to work. Attempts to reform the present system (no matter how well intentioned) to eliminate poverty are doomed to fail because the core structure of capitalism creates the problem. Capitalism can never be reformed to work against it’s own operating principles!
The World Socialist Movement thinks that providing for a world of billions requires a revolutionary change from the way things are done right now. That is why we demand nothing short of the complete replacement of the property and money systems – the “heart and soul” of capitalism. Socialism, a system based on free access and administered by the democratic action of the entire world’s population, can accomplish the elimination of poverty, because that is what it is designed to do! Socialism does not exist to create rich or poor people, but to make available a sustainable and healthy standard of living for every human being. Future advances in technology and agriculture should be enjoyed by the entire world, not just a privileged minority. Given that, the ability of socialism to succeed in providing for every human being will lie in creating fair and efficient distribution and accounting methods to ensure that both the resources of the earth and human labor are applied when and where it is needed most.
Is it possible to imagine a world without resistance, oppression and poverty? What would this world be like?
Can we imagine a world in which resistance would be unnecessary since there’d be nothing to resist – a world without oppression or poverty? Why not? The Earth already possesses enough resources to properly feed, clothe and house every single man, woman and child on the planet. There’s no need for anybody anywhere to go without adequate food, drinking water, health care, housing or education. What, then, might be the features of this new and different world?
First, it would have to be a world in the literal sense. The answer to “global” warming and “world” poverty and the other problems caused by “global” capitalism can only be found within a world framework. So we are talking about a united world without frontiers, no longer divided into separate and competing states. This will save the enormous amount of resources currently wasted on armed forces and arms, that could be redirected into satisfying the basic human needs that are now so scandalously neglected.
Second, all the productive resources of the world should become the common heritage of all the people of the world. They must no longer be owned by corporations, rich private individuals or states. There are already treaties saying that Antarctica and the Moon cannot be appropriated by individuals or states. The same principle should apply to the whole planet, not just to its natural resources but also to the industrial plants and means of transport and communication that humans have built up by their collective labour over the centuries.
Third, appropriate democratic institutions will need to be set up to control the use of this common heritage. World bodies to deal with inherently global questions such as the state of the biosphere and energy supply (as well as, initially, the urgent temporary problems such as world hunger, disease and lack of education that will be inherited from global capitalism). Regional bodies (replacing existing states and respecting cultural and linguistic differences) to organise industrial production. Local bodies to arrange access for people to the things they need for everyday living. Starting with democracy at local level, people will be able to create and maintain a genuinely people-based society.
Fourth, goods will have to be produced, whether globally, regionally or locally, solely and directly to satisfy people’s needs, not as at present to make a profit or for sale on a market. In fact, the whole market system of buying and selling, and the whole wasteful structure of financial and commercial institutions that arise on its basis, must go. As long as the market exists we will be dominated by its uncontrollable economic laws. As long as money exists financial and commercial, not human, values will prevail. So, we’re talking about a moneyless society in which, instead, people would contribute according to their abilities and take, freely as their right, from the common store what they need to live and enjoy life.
A world without frontiers or separate states, a world based on its resources being the common heritage of all humanity, a democratic world governed by what people decide they want and need not by money, profit and market forces, that’s the alternative to global capitalism that would render resistance unnecessary.