From the Summer 1986 issue of the World Socialist
The world we inhabit is split up into many competing units called nations. The nation is a product of property society; it is an area in which one group of property-owners is dominant and has borders and tariff regulations and armies keep its rivals out. The capitalist class — the small minority of the world’s population who own and control the means of wealth production and distribution — is disunited and in a constant state of fierce competition and potential war as each section of the capitalists seeks to possess what belongs to its national rivals.
The rivalries and wars between capitalist nations have nothing to do with the working class — the majority of us do not possess the means of living, but survive by selling our labour power for a wage or salary. Workers have no country, even though the national capitalists wherever we happen to live will try to indoctrinate us into the belief that their national ambitions will benefit us. When Britain had its Empire the industrial workers in London and Manchester were living in squalid slums: they had no share in the profits plundered by their exploiters…In the US the capitalists possess great national prestige and the President’s word is seen as a command by many smaller national governments, but that has done nothing to improve the conditions endured by the slum-dwellers of New York or the millions of American children who live beneath the government’s official poverty line. Workers are persuaded to wave flags and salute leaders and hate enemies whom they have never met and kill in wars, all because of the pernicious ideology of nationalism. The conscious worker understands that he or she has no country — that they are not Americans or Russians or Austrians or Australians or English or Irish, but workers who have more in common with other workers across the world than they will ever have with their national rulers.
Capitalist politics is national politics. The world is full of manifestoes proposing to bring prosperity to this or that nation. None of them is worth the paper it is written on, for there can be no solutions to social problems on a national basis. Trade is international, banking and the money market cross the world, war policies involve multi-national gangs of murderers, such as … NATO, communication technology has turned the world into a global village, the entire process of wealth production and distribution depends upon a complicated, worldwide division of labour. Anyone who proposes to examine the problems of society by concentrating upon just one nation is like a Professor of Anatomy whose study of the human body does not extend beyond the little finger on the left hand. That is why all parties except for the Socialist Parties of the world are wasting time in the futile pursuit of policies for national solutions: only the World Socialist Movement has recognised that capitalism is a world system requiring a worldwide solution.
Although the politics of capitalism is stuck in the rut of national fragmentation, many workers today have a worldwide outlook which far surpasses that of previous generations. Only in recent times have workers started to travel from nation to nation, and as they do it may occur to them that beyond the superficial differences there is a remarkable similarity in the lives of workers wherever you go. Workers across the world increasingly watch the same films, listen to the same records — and now, with the internet we can communicate with one another without having to travel long distances. As we share experiences we find it easier to identify with those who are supposedly aliens. For all of its limitations, the worldwide consciousness made evident by the Live Aid concert — which was televised across the globe and had as its best-selling theme song a record called We Are The World —was an indication of the pent-up feeling within many people that they are citizens of the world and, left to ourselves, we do have far more in common than drives us apart. Again, whenever international disasters are shown on our television screens the vast majority of workers feel sympathy towards their fellow human beings whose lives have been shattered by earthquakes or floods or violence caused by the system. Socialists seek to cultivate such world-consciousncss, for until workers realise their common position as inhabitants of the planet earth the capitalists will continue to divide and rule.
Socialism is not a policy for running a nation. There has never been, and nor could there ever be, socialism in one country. Socialism has yet to be established, and when workers do decide to bring it about we shall do so as a worldwide transformation of society. For that reason, although the various socialist parties operate within different national units, we him are part of one World Socialist Movement, all sharing the same clearly-defined Object, the same Principles and the same democratic political tactics. In short, the struggle for world socialism requires a movement with a worldwide perspective.
In a socialist society all the resources of the earth, including the factories, mines, offices, land and the means of communication and transportation, will belong to everyone, regardless of colour, sex, age, or where one happens to live. All people will have free access to the goods and services which the world is able to produce.
A socialist world will not be one in which there will he no problems left to solve. But, free from the fetters of production for profit, the sole basis of creating goods and services will be the satisfaction of human needs. Without several nations competing to make the same product, without rival research institutes in different nations each trying to make a discovery without others knowing what they know, the world will be able to unite its energies for the first time ever. The waste, duplication and tension of a society cut up into nations will give way to one world, one people and one common aim of mutual survival and comfort.
The abolition of nations will not mean that cultural variety will be destroyed. Indeed, it is nationalism which all to often suppresses minority cultures. In a socialist society the richness of cultural customs will make the world a better place, just as the absence of armies and bombs and passports — all features of a world divided — will make the world secure.
Fellow workers, we have a world to win. Not a new government or higher wages or longer holidays or a new reform to keep us quiet — nothing less than common possession of the world and all that is in it and on it is worthy of our political effort as a class. To that end, we urge you to take your place as class-conscious workers within the World Socialist Movement.