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 because its material basis is the worldwide and interdependent means of production that capitalism has built up. The bulk of the wealth produced in the world today is produced by the cooperative labour of the millions employed to operate these means of production. What is needed now, to establish socialism, is a conscious political decision on the part of these millions across the world to run society in their own interests.
Ecological problems makes 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 the 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. Ecological problems require the sort of long-term planning and development of which competitive, international capitalism is incapable. Converting the armaments industry (capitalism’s biggest industry) from producing weapons of destruction to producing useful things to satisfy human needs will take time. Ending world hunger and poverty, above all, makes the worldwide cooperation of socialism an urgent necessity.
This does not rule out local democracy. In fact, a participatory 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. Corresponding to this, of course, there would be a need for a democratic world administration, controlled by delegates from the regional and local levels of organisation throughout the world.
The World Socialist Movement expresses the common class interest of the producers. 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. If 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, then the decision about the action to be taken would be one for the whole of the socialist movement in the 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 owing to the pressures exerted by the world market on that country’s means of production. Recent experience in China and elsewhere shows conclusively that even capitalist states cannot detach themselves from the requirements of an integrated system of production operated through the world market.
A “socialist Britain” is an impossibility. Capitalism is a world system into which all countries are locked and from which none can escape on their own.
Various countries, beginning with Russia in 1917 but also others like Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, have tried to escape from the laws of the world market economy but only at the price of establishing a state capitalism which in the end has had to take into account world market pressures anyway.
In fact, it could be said that an isolated “capitalist Britain” is just as impossible as an isolated “socialist Britain” as those who advocated Brexit are increasingly finding out.
Ever since capitalism first began to develop about 500 years ago it has involved multi-lateral trade between different countries so making them mutually interdependent; in fact, one definition of capitalism is that it is the world market, the world trading system.
As capitalism has developed countries have become more and more interdependent. International trade on which all parts of the world now depend for the daily lives of their inhabitants reflects the underlying fact that production itself involves working on materials that have in part come from different parts of the world.
At one time the typical pattern was that raw materials would come from one part, be worked up into a finished product in another, and then sold there or in some other part. Nowadays, not just raw materials but also parts and semi-finished products are exported and imported. The best-known example is perhaps the car, as most now are, whose various components are produced in a number of different countries and which are only assembled in one particular country.
So “interdependence” is the key fact of economic life today. Because capitalism is a world system so must be socialism, the system which will replace it. In fact, socialism recognises that all parts of the world are interdependent today and seeks to bring social and institutional arrangements into line with this underlying productive fact by establishing a worldwide democratic community with, besides local and regional (“national” in today’s parlance) administrations, a world administration. Frontiers become obsolete, as does adherence to a particular nation-state. We all become citizens of one planet, Earth-people, “world citizens” and not “British” or “American” or “Russian” or “South African” or whatever.
As Eugene Debs put it, “I have no country to fight for; my country is the Earth, and I am a citizen of the World.”
Trade, as the buying and selling of goods, ceases to exist but not of course the transfer of goods from one part of the world to another. This will still take place, even if the people of a socialist society might decide to produce everyday items of individual consumption more locally than at present. This won’t be “trade” because it won’t be an exchange of equivalents measured in monetary terms. It will just be the transfer of materials and products from one part of the world to other parts where they are needed, without anything needing to be transferred “in exchange”
Faced with this explanation of how the world could be organised, many would reject it in favour of something more “realistic”, including some who call themselves socialist. They seek to solve social problems within the framework of government policies, the state machine, national frontiers, money, wages, buying and selling. But if our analysis of capitalism as a world system is correct—and we’ve yet to be shown how it’s wrong—then state politics are irrelevant as a way of solving social problems. Viewed globally, state politics only make sense when seen as a means for capturing political power in order to introduce a world of free access.
A world without borders brings freedom of movement to a world society. With no rich elites competing over land and resources, the armed workers of the world who presently kill each other in the interests of the rich can put their skills and intelligence to more constructive purposes. Our planet’s health is extremely important to a socialist society. Whatever our collective resource requirements, whatever manufacturing facilities are required, sustainability of our environment is always going to be a prime consideration. Best practice can be applied in all areas because there are no demands to cut corners for profit.
The awakening of billions of people from all across the globe, recognising their similarities and celebrating their differences, realising their long-suppressed potential, their goal of living in harmony and cooperation, of doing no harm, living in a state-free, class-free world, organising their own communities and participating fully in determining policy and the implementation of the decision-making, you can call it what you like, but we call it world socialism.