Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Questions about socialism

The Socialist Party declares that the workers have it in their power to build a society wherein the wealth produced shall be freely available to everyone without the need to buy, sell or exchange everything that is required. To imagine themselves having access to the goods that they have worked to produce without having to ask “How much?” or "Can I afford it?” makes many workers shake their heads in disbelief. They recognise everything as the property of some person or persons. They accept without question the fact that goods are only available to them when they can afford to buy. The proposal that there can be a condition of things where the institution of buying and selling does not exist, makes them look for a flaw.

 At socialist meetings they will ask in a surprised tone, “Do you mean that we can just walk into a place and eat without paying?”, “Do you mean that we don’t have to pay rent?”, “Are you suggesting that we can go into a shop and get a suit of clothes and walk out without paying?”, "How will the boot repairer or the bus driver or the canteen waitress live if we do not pay for the goods that we have?”

It should not be difficult to visualise a society where such procedure prevailed. Goods and services would be produced as they are today. The difference being that many who now are engaged in socially useless tasks and those who are not engaged in production in any shape or form, would then contribute their share of effort, thus making the task lighter for all. All the things produced, food, clothing, houses, transport facilities, entertainment, furniture, etc., all the things necessary to make life comfortable, would then be at the disposal of everyone, according to their requirements.

 We cannot attempt to map out in advance the detailed plans of organisation of a future society. Society is not a piece of architecture, it grows like an organism, and organs develop as the need for them arises. The prevailing conditions will determine such details in a socialist community.

The Socialist Party does not advocate such a system of society just because it would be nice to live that way. We recognise that the present system of producing things in order that they may be sold, and that someone may make a profit out of the process, is the cause of all working class problems. From this root cause arises the poverty of the workers with its attendant problems of housing, malnutrition, overwork and unemployment, economic insecurity, crime, etc. Also from the same source comes the greatest of all catastrophes, War. To eliminate these evils it is necessary to remove the cause. 

So what must we do? If the cause is private ownership with its production for sale, what stands in the way of abolishing this condition? Private ownership. Only things that are owned by someone can be sold or exchanged. When goods are produced they are not made available to the producers. They remain in the hands of those who own the tools and machinery which are used to make them. By virtue of their ownership these people have the right to say what shall be produced, how much shall be produced and how the goods and services shall be distributed. The whole of the structure of present day society is directed towards maintaining this order of things. The majority of the workers accept this system, governments administer it, police, judges and jailers enforce it, soldiers, sailors and airmen fight for it, and the owners of the land, mines, factories, transport systems, workshops, etc., thrive on it. Only the socialist challenges it.

Many workers try to find ways and means of remedying the evil effects of this system without even realising the fundamental cause of these evils. To them it seems a very complicated affair, requiring complicated plans. To them the simple socialist proposition of converting the means of production from private or state ownership to common ownership, and thus making all the wealth produced freely available to everyone according to their needs, is difficult of comprehension. But there is no problem thrown up by society that does not have its solution portrayed in that society. If we seek an example, a lesson or an illustration of a future social development we can always find it in our present circumstances.

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