The Battle of Ideas in Class War

Times are rough and are bound to become rougher. Capitalism is not an abstraction, it is a concrete force. The capitalist class live off the labour of the working class, and use all the powers of government, nationally and locally, in their own interest. The political parties, in spite of all their proclaimed differences (and they are more pretend than real), have one fundamental, common aim – the maintenance of a social system founded on the private ownership of the means of production (factories, fields, raw materials) and the profitable exploitation of the working people.

Their main aim is to promote the accumulation and concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a privileged minority, and they use the authority of the state to exercise political control over the common people for the specific purpose of furthering their plans in this respect. The means of production are concentrated in the hands of a few, workers and our class enemy stand face to face. Through parliamentary action, the working class meets the capitalists in a general political struggle. The working class constitutes the majority of the population and they are the grave-diggers of capitalism. The emancipation of the working class is the revolutionary act of self-emancipation. The Revolution is no longer an aspiration of the future, it is a fact of immediate reality. 

The World Socialist Movement believes that working people deserve better. At the moment we are swimming against the flow. Our aim, above all, is to popularise our viewpoint, draw working people into the fight for socialism and call upon workers to muster under our banner. As socialists, we promote a belief in science as opposed to religion and idealism. We see humanity as its own liberator.

The first and most important battle is to continue to undermine capitalism’s legitimacy that is held by our fellow class members. That is, to drive the development of our class as a class-for-itself, mindful of the fact that capitalism is a thing that can be ended and a thing that should be eliminated.

The second is to ensure that the right ideas for the working class win out, and constitute the basis for the overall class struggle. Historically this battle of ideas has been waged both in the mind – in debates, lectures and social events – and on the streets. We of course favour the first approach and do all we can to keep activity there.

The Diggers’ ideas from the past can serve as an inspiration to those of us today who detest and reject the iniquities of the commercial system.

The Diggers stood not for state ownership but common ownership:

 “The earth with all her fruits of Corn, Cattle and such like was made to be a common Store-House of Livelihood, to all mankinde, friend and foe, without exception” (A Declaration From the Poor Oppressed People of England).

Where all wealth is commonly owned there will be no need for money. In the above-quoted Declaration, the Diggers proclaimed that:

 “we must neither buy nor sell. Money must not any longer . . . be the great god that hedges in some and hedges out others . . .” 

Production must be solely for use and all people able to take from the common store on the basis of free access.

As Gerrard Winstanley explained in his Law of Freedom: 

“As everyone works to advance the Common Stock so everyone shall have a free use of any commodity in the Storehouse for his pleasure and comfortable livelihood, without buying and selling or restraint from any”. 

This is a wonderful compelling socialist vision of a society where all things in and on the Earth are the common property of all; where all people give according to their abilities and take freely according to their needs; where money and other time-wasting features of property relationship are done away with. It is a practical alternative to capitalism’s property mania.

The defenders of property assert that owning things makes us free. This false equation between liberty and property was spread by the 17th-century defenders of property power just as it has been by subsequent leftists who have feared to break with the ideas of the money system.  In truth, property and money make us un-free. As Winstanley stated: 

“True freedom lies where a man receives his nourishment and preservation, and that is in the use of the Earth”. 

The billions living in poverty and the millions in the world dying from hunger and disease should see the sense of that.

Socialists must learn from the wisdom of our Digger predecessors and have the boldness to state the case for a money-free world society – a case now more materially feasible and globally urgent than ever.

The Diggers promoted a social transformation based on the abolition of private property and money and their replacement with common ownership and working in common. They wanted a community without money, buying and selling, wage working, without army and law.

 Winstanley stood for common ownership of the earth by locally self-supporting communities. Nor were his views utopian. Winstanley had practical views on the organisation of production; which may not have resulted in the abundance that is now possible, but which might have led to the majority being immeasurably better fed, housed, and clothed. Winstanley and his Digger comrades clearly stood for a society in which all goods would be held in common, with free access for all to the common store. Winstanley explicitly rejected money, the rule of government and (despite his use of religious metaphors) belief in churches or omnipotent gods.

“There shall be no buying and selling of the earth, nor of the fruits thereof…The earth is to be planted, and the fruits reaped and carried into barns and store-houses, by the assistance of every family. And if any man or family want corn or-other provision they may go to the store-houses and fetch without money. If they want a horse to ride, go into the fields in summer, or to the common stables in winter, and receive one from the keepers; and when your journey is performed, bring him where you had him, without money. If any want food or victuals, they may either go to the butchers’ shops, and receive what they want without money; or else go to the flocks of sheep or herds of cattle, and take and kill what meat is needful for their families, without buying and selling. And the reason why all the riches of the earth are a common stock is this, because the earth, and the labours thereupon, are managed by common assistance of every family, without buying and selling; as is shewn how more largely in the office of overseers for trades and the law for store-houses…Store-houses shall be built and appointed in all places, and be the common stock.

There shall be store-houses in all places, both in the country and in cities, to which all the fruits of the earth, and other works made by tradesmen, shall be brought, and from thence delivered out again to particular families, and to everyone as they want for their use; or else to be transported by ship to other lands, to exchange for those things which our land will not or does not afford.

For all the labours of husbandmen and tradesmen within the land, or by navigation to or from other lands, shall be all upon the common stock. And as every one works to advance the common stock, so every one shall have a free use of any commodity in the store-house, for his pleasure and comfortable livelihood without buying and selling or restraint from any…The store-houses shall be every man’s substance, and not any one’s.”
  Gerrard Winstanley