Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The Way to Go

Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’” asks Alice.
That depends a good deal on where you want to get to, says the Cheshire Cat.

In capitalist society there are only two decisive class forces: the capitalists and the workers. The historic mission of one is to maintain the capitalist system, that of the other is to overthrow it. The working class are the ’grave-diggers of capitalism’ and the emancipation of the working class is the act of the working class itself. The working class is not the gravedigger of capitalism by virtue of any intrinsic merit it possesses as a class qualifying it for that role, but because of the objective role it plays in the production process of capitalism. Thus it can be, and indeed has always been, that the very class which alone is capable of destroying capitalism and with it all class society, is itself deeply imbued with the ideology of the ruling class it is historically destined to overthrow. The contradiction between the objective role of the working class as an agent of social revolution, and its own lack of consciousness of that role, makes necessary the education of the workers to be class conscious and aware of their role as the agent of social revolution. The revolution must be a process of mass self-emancipation. This guiding principle underlies all socialist principles. For sure, socialism from ‘above’ always has an appeal as long as we live under a system of domination, hierarchy and exploitation. When struggles are defeated or when workers are beaten back, the loss of confidence that ensues allows for organisations or individuals step in claiming to liberate the masses ‘from above’. Ideologies that tell people that they are unqualified, that others are best equipped and hold the right way, the best way — the only way — can keep people from trying to change things. If self-emancipation is the goal, it must be the means as well. To paraphrase Eugene Debs, if a saviour can lead you into the promised land, he can lead you back out again too. 

Despite all the obvious failures of capitalism, workers still hold doubt that socialism offers them anything better. Can we blame them. Movements purporting to be socialist have brought authoritarian state-capitalism or liberal welfare statism. Building another socialist movement now requires once more re-envisaging a future that articulates and incorporates those once held socialist ideals which were distorted. The Socialist Party’s mission is the the extension of democracy to the whole of society, the socialisation of private productive property and replacement of the anarchy of the market by a rational planning.

Well-supported arguments for these conclusions exist, other than these measures will lead to bureaucratic domination, general poverty and ecological disaster.

Socialism signifies a “society of free and associated producers” based on the “associated mode of production” as Marx said. He also explained that this “union of free individuals” was the crowning point of the producers’ act of self-emancipation where individuals are subject neither to personal dependence – as in pre-capitalism – nor to material dependence – as in commodity (capitalist) society – excludes, by definition, private property in the means of production, commodity form of the product of labour, wage labour and state. Here the freely associated “social individuals” are the masters of their own social movement, subjecting their social relations to their own control. Human society, when we get it, will be a free association of social individuals. It will not be a one-party workers’ state.

Socialism’s basic conceptions of universal human emancipation and of the free association of individuals are not complex. A world without private property or money is not complicated to comprehend. But it is the socialists’ unfinished task.

The wage system, in spite of all the refinements of sophistication, is the same in all ages, in all lands, and in all climes. Its victims work, propagate their species, bear all the burdens, and perish. The shackles of the slave and the scourge of the master symbolise the reign of King Capital. Not until slave and master have both disappeared forever, and the equal freedom of all has been established, can we lay any proper claim to civilisation.

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