Just as capitalism is a world system of society, so too must socialism be. There never has been, and never can be, socialism in just one country. Socialism will be one worldwide community without national boundaries, united humanity, sharing a world of common interests, would also share world administration. This is the socialist alternative to the way that capitalism divides the planet into rival states and sets people against each other.
But this does not rule out local democracy. It is sometimes said that world administration would mean the power of central control over local democracy. In fact, a democratic system of decision-making would require that the basic unit of social organisation would be the local community. However, the nature of some of the problems we face and the many goods and services presently produced, such as raw materials, energy sources, agricultural products, world transport and communications, need production and distribution to be organised at a world level. One of the great technical developments under capitalism has been communications and the rapid processing and distribution of information.
This will alter our awareness of being in the world and the boundaries between what is local and distant are shifted or become blurred. So, as well as the face-to-face contacts of our daily lives at home and at work with friends, neighbours and relatives, and as well as our part in local affairs, at the same time we would be involved with all other people in world issues and events of every kind.
The motivation for this new world comes from the common class interest of those who produce but do not possess. An important part of this motivation comes from the global problems thrown up by capitalism. There are no national solutions to world problems like world poverty, hunger and disease. Ecological problems make a nonsense of the efforts of governments. War and the continuing threat of nuclear war affect us all. The problem of uneven development means that many producers in underdeveloped countries suffer starvation, disease and absolute poverty. All of these problems of capitalism can only be solved within the framework of a socialist world.
One of the great developments under capitalism has been communications and the rapid processing and dissemination of information. This alters our awareness of being in the world and the boundaries between what is local and remote shifts become blurred. We are able to absorb local news, issues and events and also take in those on a regional or global scale. Socialism will be a cooperative worldwide system where nations, frontiers and governments and armed forces will disappear.
Groups of people can preserve their languages and customs but this will have nothing to do with claiming territorial sovereignty over pieces of the world surface. To move forward, the dispossessed majority across the world must now look beyond the artificial barriers of nation-states and regional blocs, to perceive a common identity and purpose.
Because political power in capitalism is organised on a territorial basis each socialist party has the task of seeking democratically to gain political power in the country where it operates. This however is merely an organisational convenience as there is only one socialist movement, of which the separate socialist organisations are constituent parts. When the socialist movement grows larger its activities will be fully coordinated through its worldwide organisation. It is suggested that socialist ideas might develop unevenly across the world and that socialists of only a part of the world were in a position to get political control. This relates to the possibility that the socialist movement could be larger in one country than in another and at the stage of being able to gain control of the machinery of government before the socialist movements elsewhere were as far advanced.
The decision about the action to be taken would be one for the whole of the socialist movement in light of all the circumstances at the time. It would certainly be folly, however, to base a programme of political action on the assumption that socialist ideas will develop unevenly and that we must therefore be prepared to establish “socialism” in one country or even a group of countries like the European Union. For a start, it is an unreasonable assumption that socialist ideas will develop unevenly. Given the worldwide nature of capitalism and its social relationships, the vast majority of people live under basically similar conditions, and because of the worldwide system of communications and media, there is no reason for socialist ideas to be restricted to one part of the world.
Any attempt to establish “socialism” in one country would be bound to fail due to the pressures exerted by the world market on that country’s means of production. Those who become socialists will realise this and also the importance of uniting with workers in all countries. The socialist idea is not one that could spread unevenly. Thus the socialist parties will be in a position to gain political control in the industrially advanced countries within a short period of each other. (It is conceivable that in some less developed countries, where the working class is weak in numbers, the privileged rulers may be able to retain their class position for a little longer. But as soon as the workers had won in the advanced countries they would give all the help needed elsewhere. The less developed countries might present socialism with problems, but they do not constitute a barrier to the immediate establishment of socialism as a world system.)
There is but one world and we exist as one people in need of each other and with the same basic needs. There is far more that unites us than can ever divide us along cultural, nationalistic or religious lines. Together we can create a civilisation worth living in, but before that happens we need the conscious cooperation of ordinary people across the world, united in one common cause—to create a world in which each person has free access to the benefits of civilisation, a world without borders or frontiers, social classes or leaders and a world in which production is at last freed from the artificial constraints of profit and used for the good of humanity—socialism. There is in reality only one world. It is high time we reclaimed it.
“…By creating the world market, big industry has already brought all the peoples of the Earth, and especially the civilised peoples, into such close relation with one another that none is independent of what happens to the others…It follows that the communist revolution will not merely be a national phenomenon but must take place simultaneously in all civilised countries – that is to say, at least in England, America, France, and Germany…It is a universal revolution and will, accordingly, have a universal range…The nationalities of the peoples associating themselves in accordance with the principle of community will be compelled to mingle with each other as a result of this association and thereby to dissolve themselves, just as the various estate and class distinctions must disappear through the abolition of their basis, private property.” – Engels