A socialist is of necessity social. We seek to be social, that is, to live in a society formed of social beings like ourselves. Socialism means a reconstruction of society. It is a product of social evolution. We have had slavery, feudalism, capitalism and – socialism will be the next stage. Our triumph is not inevitable. As the Communist Manifesto speculates the conflict between the capitalist and working classes could be “the common ruin of the contending classes.” Socialism in the view of the World Socialist Movement may not be inevitable but definitely very possible.
Humanity is a gregarious and social species. We’re communicative having developed intricate languages to express our thoughts and feelings to each other. We’re compassionate; our capacity to empathise with others is nothing short of amazing and is surely the key to our unity and society. Across cultures, people follow what is called the “golden rule”, that we don’t wish to do things to others that we wouldn’t want to be done to us. Whenever politicians are asked “why don’t we just ship our food surpluses to hungry people who need it?”, they always seem to reply “it’s not that simple”? It is that simple—people are dying.
It is no exaggeration to say that most objections to the case of the WSM are various forms of asserting “it’s against human nature.” We are confidently informed that with human nature being what it is, a truly socialist society is quite impossible. Even at school, such beliefs are reinforced with William Goldings “Lord of the Flies” and George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” being on the standard curriculum.
These objections merely beg the following question: What is human nature?
A glance at history will show that the activities of man have changed with every alteration in the form of society, for, just as there have been evolution changes within the domain of the biological world, so there has been social changes in the forms of society.
Many cultures in the world throughout history have a very strong welfare ethos and based their daily lives on working together for the benefit of all. Most of these people although they have little they share what they have (even with strangers).
Currently, subsistence farmers and small rural communities already cooperate in family and neighbourhood groups to provide basic needs, not buying and selling but simply producing for their needs.
Most people express generosity, compassion and charity, willingly donating their money and time on a regular basis in the hope of easing other people’s difficulties. Unpaid volunteers work to help and improve the lives of those less fortunate such as the elderly, the infirm. Adults offer themselves as role models and mentors in youth in clubs and sports associations. Parents participate in school forums for better education and facilities and rarely a day passes by when a charity event doesn’t take place.
When in the event of a disaster or a natural catastrophe rarely are volunteers are lacking to offer assistance. Altruism appears to be the order of the day.
Dr Tim Rogers, a co-author of a paper about the new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, said:
“If you have two groups of people, one of whom was very altruistic and another group that was more selfish, it’s the altruistic, more social guys, who are better able to survive the bad winter or the drought…”
Socialism does not require us all to become altruists, putting the interests of others above our own. In fact, socialism doesn’t require people to be any more altruistic than they are today. We will still be concerned primarily with ourselves, with satisfying our needs such as our requirement for the respect of others as well as our desire for companionship and sexual intimacy. No doubt too, we will want to keep personal possessions and to have the security and comfort of a place to live in, but this will be just that – home and not a financial asset. Such “selfish” behaviour will most likely still exist in socialism. The coming of socialism will not require great changes in the way we behave, essentially only the accentuation of some of the behaviours which people exhibit today (friendliness, helpfulness, co-operation) at the expense of others which capitalism encourages (competition, bigotry, greed.)
Socialism is a society where would all be considered of equal worth and be able to have an equal say in the way things are run and in which we recognise ourselves as members of an interdependent community where different people perform different functions and where everybody, irrespective of their function, has access to what they need to live and enjoy life just because they are members of the human race. And this doesn’t require us to be any less selfish or more altruistic than we are today – it’s not about changing human nature but about changing the basis of society.
We don’t need to change human nature; it is only human behaviour that needs to change. In a voluntary society such as socialism, there would be no group that will possess the political leverage of the control over the necessities of life by which to dominate others, which has been the feature of all private-property, class-based societies, because there will exist free access to goods and services which denies that power of exclusion over others. Much of what we falsely consider to be essential to our well-being – the pursuit of status via conspicuous consumption – will be rendered totally meaningless. In socialism, the only way to gain the respect of your fellows is through your contribution to society and not what you take out of it.
Much may be said of genetics and DNA but they only matter to our behaviours in an indirect way. So, human nature should be viewed as not a barrier to socialism. On the contrary, our biologically evolved and inherent human capacity to adapt to conditions facilitate us to live in a socialist society. The WSM takes the position, like a magnet attracting iron filings, slowly attempts to draw the majority in our direction. It refuses to outline exactly just how the revolutionary transformation will happen or what the new society would be like because it will be they who will create the socialist society themselves.