What World Socialism Will Be Like
Over the years the word socialism has been used to describe the aims and principles of many different organisations and the policies of numerous governments and regimes. Nowadays, in most people’s minds, socialism is associated with the Labour Party and the small organisations on its left-wing or with countries like the former USSR and presently China and Cuba. The World Socialist Movement (WSM)has always been completely opposed to all the above forms of ‘socialism’ and, alone of all political organisations, has always clearly stated what it means by socialism and how it can be achieved. Throughout its existence it has defined socialism as a world-wide democratic money-free society based on the common ownership of the means of wealth production and distribution in which everyone will have free access to all goods and services according to their self-determined needs. It has maintained that socialism can only be established by people consciously casting their vote in favour of candidates mandated to abolish the present social arrangements and replace them with new, fundamentally different ones. However, before our definition of socialism and the way it is to be achieved can be meaningfully understood, we must explain the views of the WSM on the present system of society and state why we consider that this system has to be abolished.
Under capitalism the aim is to make a profit out of what is produced and to reduce costs accordingly. With socialism no effort would be spared that would make work as comfortable and as enjoyable as possible. Socialism will present quite a different picture from chaotic, wasteful and inequitable capitalism. Since the means of living will be owned by society as a whole, buying and selling will be unnecessary. The technology already exists to produce more than the world’s material requirements, and has only to be organized. With an abundance of production, goods and services will be freely available to all. In the absence of money, the present complex of industries and administration that it entails, and the inherent waste of labour and resources, will also go. Welfare benefits, pensions, wages and salaries and taxation will become words in history books. Armies to procure and protect land and property will no longer be necessary, nor will the prisons and police forces that are used now against people who offend against property-based laws.
The only alternative to capitalism is the establishment of socialism where society as a whole will own and control in common the wealth and means of transporting it. Common Ownership means that individual members of society will have free access to what they want and require without regard to any form of exchange system. As socialism can only be brought into being by the political act of the majority of people wanting and working for it, we assume that the majority of people would want to cooperate with each other in running and maintaining a socialist society. Democratic control means that decisions affecting society would be taken by the majority and based upon the best available information. Society will make decisions in its own best interests. This is not the case today. We do not claim that socialism will be trouble-free but compared with the madhouse of capitalism it will be a sane society indeed.
The World Socialist Movement stands for a system of society where the necessities and luxuries of life are not commodities to be bought, but are there for the use of all. on the basis of free access. The wealth of a socialist society will belong to everyone, not because they are “owners”, but because they are members of a free and equal community where property relationships have ceased to exist. The non-socialist worries at this point, scared that without money as an obstacle between humans and the satisfaction of our needs we will be greedy: we will over-consume. But the desire to over-consume is only a fetish adopted by workers who are compelled to under-consume: if we are used to paying for every steak we eat, we dream of eating more steaks than we would ever choose to eat in a society where food is free. The myth of “the greedy person” is a product of a system where money does not allow workers to have enough and calls us greedy when we demand nothing but the best.
So, a socialist society will have no money and no wages. It will be a system of conscious human co-operation. Indeed, socialists are very confident about the possibility of human beings behaving as intelligent co-operators. We do not share the miserable assessment of human potential advanced by the proponents of the theory of human nature. Human behaviour is not genetically determined, but governed largely by the social environment. In the absence of a jungle society we are certain that men and women will cease to act like beasts. Competition will give way to mutual aid, war to fraternity.
What will socialism be like once established? Well we obviously cannot provide a blueprint as the precise details of its organisation will be democratically decided by the majority who in the future will establish that society and live in it. But we can make certain general statements about its nature.
We can say that it will mean the end of buying and selling, the end of money and the wages system.
We can say that, with the disappearance of such factors as cost and competition, it will mean people planning production democratically according to their wants and taking what they need to consume from the abundance of resources made available by modern technology.
We can say that it will mean voluntary cooperation, work as pleasure not toil, and all men and women as social equals.
We can say that it will mean complete democracy in all departments of life with freedom to choose one’s activities and occupations without being pushed around by decisions from above or by any kind of arbitrary authority.
The World Socialist Movement does not think nationally. We can say that socialism will be world-wide—it cannot be anything else; ‘Socialism in one country’ is a contradiction in terms and anyway the world is now so closely united in terms of communications, fashions and the rapid flow of ideas that if people in one place were ready for socialism the rest of the world could not be far behind. Socialism entails worldwide action by the working class.