Friday, January 20, 2017

Feed the World: Overthrow Capitalism

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As usual, over the Christmas period, we were bombarded with images of starving children and urged to donate money to stop a few of them dying. These are appeals to try to empty the ocean with a teaspoon, as the following adapted from an article that appeared in Wildcat some thirty years ago explains.

  The problems of hunger and starvation are inescapable consequences of the present world system of food product ion but it is well within the potential power of the world's working class to destroy this system, and replace it with a totally different one, in which such problems could soon be eradicated.

Production for profit

  Under the existing world system - capitalism - food isn't directly produced to be eaten. Like everything else, the production of food is geared towards the realisation of profit through the sale of goods on the market. Considerations of price, profit and the market, rather than the satisfaction of basic human needs, are the factors which determine what is produced.

  When we hear of record "surpluses” of foodstuffs, therefore, it obviously doesn't mean that everyone is so full-up they can't eat another mouthful. It simply means that, in market terms, the supply of food exceeds economic demand for it to the extent that the sellers are in danger of being unable to get a profitable price for their goods.

  Production for profit via the market also means that
- if there is no prospect of a profit to be made by producing something, then it simply won't be produced.

    if goods have already been produced in the expectation of making a profit, and this expectation becomes unfounded for some reason, then these goods will not sold, and might even be destroyed.

These absurdities are inevitable consequences of the market system itself.

Production for use

  Since mountains of “surplus" food and millions of starving people exist side-by-side because under capitalism there is no direct link between the production of food and the satisfaction of basic human needs, it follows allows that the only way to solve the problem of world hunger is to do away with money, prices, profits and all other trappings of the market system, and replace it with a society in which everything, including food, is produced directly for use.

  This will entail wrenching all means of wealth-production out of the hands of the minority which owns and controls them at present, and establishing world communism based on the common ownership and democratic control of the world's resources. If everyone had an equal say in how the world's resources should be used, it would be hard to imagine a majority of the world's population voting to continue to devote resources to the production of harmful or unnecessary crops such as tobacco, for example. The basic requirements of the most needy would be the first and most urgent priority.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

These are undeniable facts

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  The technological means of the modern age make it possible for everyone in the world to live a comfortable, safe, interesting and happy personal and social life, with all our needs provided, and totally free from hardship, misery and the constant frustration, worry and embarrassment of not being able to afford what we require.

    Modern production techniques are entirely capable of providing an abundance of nutritional food for many times the present world population. There is no need for anyone anywhere to starve, to lack nourishment or even to make do with cheap substitutes.

    There is enough raw materials, knowledge and manpower in the world to ensure comfortable hygienic accommodation for everyone everywhere. It is possible for everyone to live in houses which are safe, weather-resistant, fitted with up-to-date appliances and decorated and furnished according to individual taste. There is no need for anyone anywhere to be homeless or to live in poor, dangerous and ill-equipped accommodation.

• There is enough combined energy resources – coal, gas, nuclear, oil, electricity, solar, wind and water – for all necessary power, heating and ventilating requirements to be provided. There is no need for anyone anywhere to die or to suffer illness or discomfort because of the cold in winter.

    It is possible to produce enough machines, resources and equipment for all hospitals to provide the very best medical treatment for everyone. There is no need for anyone anywhere to endure aggravated suffering by being denied, or having to wait a long time for, proper care and attention.

    Today's technology makes it possible to recycle nearly all domestic and industrial refuse. There is no need for excessive wastage and no need for anyone anywhere to live in an unpleasant, polluted, unhealthy environment.

    Modern mechanisation and electronics make it possible to eliminate nearly all unsatisfying, obnoxious and dangerous work. There is no need for anyone to spend their life in monotonous and unfulfilling jobs and no need for anyone to suffer the acute boredom, depression and anxiety of having no work at all.


Advances in science, technology and knowledge have long since made it possible for a completely new form of society to be established worldwide whereby the means (land, factories, energy resources, machines, tools, raw materials) that produce all the goods and services (food, accommodation, clothes, medical facilities, transport, communications) that all people need to live are owned not by private firms or governments but by every one of us in common, regardless of age, race or sex.
A society whereby:
• money, wages, buying and selling will serve no function; they will no longer exist.
• each one of us will be able to take quite freely from whatever is readily available, according to our own self-determined needs.

    each one of us will be able to contribute towards providing society's needs by working quite voluntarily, according to our own willingness and ability.

    each one of us will have unrestricted freedom of the earth; there will be no 'national' boundaries separating various regions of the earth.

    • the general administration of society's affairs will be organised democratically by and in the interests of all the world's population, ensuring that the needs of people everywhere are met; there will be no leaders or governments making decisions for us.


(from a 1982 “World of Free Access” leaflet)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

We don’t need heroes

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 For over a hundred years the cause of socialism has been dominated by the machinations of two statist creeds, Social Democracy and Leninism. These have fed off the discontent and aspirations of the working class to become alternative managers of Capitalism. Their heydays are long past. The Labourites have long abandoned any pretence to 'reforming Capitalism' in favour of simply managing it; after the end of 'Communism' the Leninists have been reduced to mini-sects which replicate within their own structures the regimes of the old Stalinist States in a homage to Marx's dictum, "first as tragedy, now as farce".

 Their aspirations have shrunk with their horizons, whilst they grandly imagine storming the winter palace and fantasise about bloody revolutions, in reality they have little or no belief in the working class ever rallying to their 'proletarian leadership', and even less in the ability of the working class to emancipate itself.

 They hide themselves in front campaigns for partial reforms, and embrace and promote a succession of 'Saviours from high' who they are sure will deliver us, until the inevitable betrayal, when they move on to the next.

 All previous revolutions have been the overthrow of one minority ruling class and the victory of a new one. Such revolutions have needed abstract slogans and ideals (Libert√©, Fraternit√©, Egalit√©; Peace, Land, Bread,) in order to enlist the support of the masses. They have needed heroes and demagogues to inspire the majority to give their lives for the victory of new masters.

 The socialist revolution can only take place when the majority of the working class not only understand that it is possible, but also desirable. It needs no abstract ideals to mask it's true purpose, no demagogues to beguile the masses.

It needs no heroes.






Tuesday, January 17, 2017

CRISIS? WHAT CRISIS?

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Despite overwhelming evidence from all quarters, Mrs
May still continues to deny that the NHS is in crisis.

Beds stacked up in the corridors,
And ambulances stalled
Outside the hospital front door;
With decent folk appalled. (1)

A twelve hour wait for treatment as,
It’s all ground to a halt;
The government is innocent,
It’s other peoples fault.

“The Doctors dilly-dally and,
The Sisters slack all day;
The Physios just faff about”,
Dissembles Mrs May.

If only they worked half as hard,
As her pietistic squad; 
Like her, all Christians through and through, (2)
And working hard for God.

There’s ‘Berkeley’ Hunt upon his bike,
(We can but only pray)
And ‘Failing’ Grayling spouting his,
Warped take on life each day.

Where did they dredge these cretins up,
These liars through and through;
Who all adopt a party line,
They know is quite untrue? (3)

(1) Because of the funding crisis, the NHS has had to
cancel Cancer ops and withdraw the cancer drug Kadcyla.

(2) May is a member of the C. of E. and regularly worships
on Sunday. The daughter of an Anglican priest, she says
her Christian faith, "is part of me. It is part of who I am”.

(3) In July 2016, a cross-party committee of MP’s stated
that Hunt had ‘broken his pledges on NHS funding and is
misleading the public about health service reforms’.

© Richard Layton

Monday, January 16, 2017

5 How To Achieve Socialism - No Minorities

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This series taken from one of our pamphlets,From Capitalism to Socialism. . . how we live and how we could live., is intended to be an introduction to the socialist view of how modern society operates and why we think socialism is necessary as a means of organising the world more effectively.
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5 How To Achieve Socialism - No Minorities

 Socialism can only be established when a great majority of workers understand and want it. It would be absurd for a minority of conscious socialists today to try to take over power and impose the new system on an unwilling majority. Such a strategy would certainly fail, with the armed forces, controlled by the majority-backed government, being used to defeat the rebels. The idea is heroic fantasy at best and would lead to a bloody tragedy at worst. And even if such a method of 'revolution' were successful – if a determined minority should seize political power in an attempt to introduce socialism on behalf of the working class – there would be no prospect of it resulting in a socialist society.

  It would not be possible to run a society in which everybody contributed co- operatively according their abilities and took freely according to their needs unless the great majority of people understood the arrangement and wanted it. It would not be possible to establish and maintain a society based upon conscious democratic control unless the great majority were prepared to exert that democratic control. If the population did not want to participate in social decision-making and were prepared to leave it to a particular minority, that minority would be forced to become the exclusive decision makers themselves and would eventually become a new ruling class. But in the final analysis, the very fact that a minority wanted it would show that they did not understand the full implications of socialism themselves, and so were not really socialists.

  A look at the various theories of minority, or minority-led, action to establish 'socialism' – essentially Lenin's Bolshevism and its various offshoots, Stalinism, Trotskyism, Maoism, Castroism, etc confirms that in practice these have been the ideologies of would-be national ruling classes aiming to industrialise economically backward parts of the world through a policy of state capitalism misleadingly called 'socialism'. Their tactics –  a vanguard party of professional revolutionaries, violent insurrection, ruthless measures against the old rulers and all opponents – are thus quite irrelevant for a genuine socialist movement, though superficially attractive to those who want radical social change, yet despair of ever winning over a currently indifferent or conservative-minded working class. In the unlikely event of them being successful in some highly industrialised country the outcome would be some form of state capitalism, certainly not socialism.

The Power of the State

  The establishment of socialism must be the work of a socialist-minded, democratically organised working-class majority. The socialist revolution, in other words, must be a majority revolution. This is because of the power of the state in capitalism. Throughout history, the state has been the machinery that exists for the defence of minority ownership by a ruling class, and also that class's instrument for administering the entire system that allows them their minority ownership in the first place – this being in today’s society, the system of capitalism. It follows therefore that before capitalism can be abolished and socialism established the state must be taken over, firstly to prevent it being used to forcibly resist the change, and secondly so as to utilise its administrative facilities within the new system. Any attempt to establish socialism while leaving coercive power in the hands of the capitalist state would meet with brutal resistance. The idea entertained by some that capitalism can be 'brought to its knees' by workers organising a general strike through their trade unions but not taking over the state is quite untenable. Trade unions, which are sectional organisations, are no substitute for a political party which has as its clear aim the conquest of state power.

  Socialism will not come therefore from minority action aimed at disrupting society and then taking advantage of the resulting social and political instability to seize government power in an armed uprising. Nor will it come from ignoring or trying to bypass the state. Socialism will come from a majority revolution which undertakes the task of gaining control of state power.

  Where does the state's power come from? The power to form a government is invested in the votes of the electorate, where there is an electoral system. In countries like Britain the vast majority of the electorate are members of the working class. It would be impossible for the capitalist minority to appoint a government of its choice within the electoral system unless they persuade a significant number of workers to vote for such a government. It is true that different sections of the capitalist class favour different styles of government and therefore huge funds are invested by them to influence workers into voting for one party rather than another. But many capitalists are aware that the only real differences between the parties are their marginally different policies for running the system. The whole of the capitalist class, however, has an interest in ensuring that working-class support for capitalism continues, as it is through this support – in the tangible form of votes – that the capitalist class maintains its position of power.

The Learning Process

  Many workers clearly see the vast gulf between the pampered minority who own the world and the rest of us, the propertyless producers, but what can be done about it? Most think the way out is merely through their own individual advancement, not a social revolution. There is nothing particularly wrong with a person wishing to move up within capitalism: it is inevitable that workers will want to do so. But rags to riches stories are rare; that is why they make headlines. Under feudalism the ambition of the early capitalists was to become feudal lords themselves, and some did. But eventually the interests of the capitalists became so much opposed to feudalism that they had to destroy it.

  In the same way the modem working class will learn – and is learning – that any progress they may make within the confines of capitalism leaves the roots of their problems untouched, and often creates new problems.

  Capitalism itself causes workers to learn. It increasingly demands healthy, well educated wage-slaves, trained to think clearly and critically to cope with the technical nature of modern industry and the ever more complex nature of modern society. In many countries, including Britain, it has suited the ruling class to yield to working class pressure for the vote. This means that the democratic machinery for putting an end to capitalism is available to us when we, as a united working class, decide to use it. At present the working class in this country, as in other countries, votes repeatedly for capitalism run by one party or another. Most workers have not yet realised how deeply entrenched are the causes of their problems, and how futile are the patches and tinkerings and minor adjustments to capitalism. As more of them do so the number becoming socialists will increase at a faster rate. This in turn will increase the ability to propagate socialist ideas and information, and more socialist parties will be formed in other countries.

 During this period there is bound to be a growing amount of discussion about the working of the future socialist society. Not only will there be private conversations and public meetings, but newspapers, radio and television will find the topic impossible to ignore. More and more people will become clear about what is at stake and what are the steps necessary to make the change from capitalism. Socialists may well be organising planning conferences so that all the problems of expanding production and distribution to cater for everybody can be foreseen and dealt with as soon as society is free to do it.

  This is probably also the period when governments will make strenuous efforts to maintain support for the existing social structure. Large numbers of workers will have become able to resist appeals to illusions such as 'the national interest' or 'our traditional way of life' because they will have seen through them. Governments will think twice about using repressive measures because these can arouse stronger and more determined opposition. It is more likely that they will begin to offer reforms which would be thought impossible today, in an attempt to fob off the working class. The capitalist parties may at this point decide to sink their differences and work closely together, much as religions are doing today in the face of the growing number of unbelievers. They will perhaps try to manipulate capitalism to provide a batch of free services (gas, electricity, transport, etc.) with the claim that this heralds the 'beginning' of the free society. But socialists will not be so easily deceived.

The Socialist Majority

  With a majority of socialists and large socialist parties in all the main countries, we shall be in a position to establish socialism. In the unlikely event of there being a country without some form of political democracy at this time, socialists could apply pressure from all over the world to insist upon its introduction. The parties formed by socialists will be thoroughly democratic: their policy and all their activities will be under the active control of their members; they will have no leaders. In this they will be completely different from existing parliamentary parties or Leninist 'vanguard' parties. Being the actual movement of the working class to establish socialism they will reflect, as far as is possible under capitalism, the organisational forms of socialism, namely democratic control and popular participation.

  And far from being parties which seek to lead workers with attractive slogans, they will merely be the instrument workers can use to win political power once a majority of them have become socialists. Such parties will of course have to elect candidates to contest the elections for public offices. But those appointed will simply be mandated delegates from the working-class socialist majority. The position will be the exact reverse of that in existing parliamentary parties. Instead of the party outside parliament being essentially vote-catchers for the parliamentary leadership, socialist MPs and councillors will merely be the messengers of the socialist working class outside parliament, democratically organised in their socialist political parties and economic organisations. And, naturally, the aim of sending socialist delegates to parliament will not be to form a 'socialist government' (a contradiction in terms) but to abolish capitalism as smoothly and peacefully as possible.

  The task of socialist delegates, when elected in every country, will be: firstly, to take over the state machine in the name of the great majority of the population, the working class; secondly, to enact legislation making the means of production and distribution the common property of the whole community under the democratic control of all the people; and thirdly, and as a consequence, to abolish the state itself along with those coercive powers and agencies necessary to the maintenance of class society but superfluous in socialism. The remaining administrative institutions (such as health services, education, communications and state-run industries) may be temporarily maintained in their existing form, but fully democratised, as will be the case with the entire organisation of production and distribution. All useful regulations will also be maintained and adapted to the requirements of socialist society.

  Some political theorists think it possible that the police and armed forces would be used to resist such a democratic socialist revolution. In practice it is extremely unlikely, since those who make up these forces of repression are workers, not capitalists. When socialist understanding is widespread among the working class they cannot fail to be influenced by it. Once they see which way the social wind is blowing, not very many of them are likely to want to risk their lives for their masters' wealth, power and privileges. And, in the final analysis, the police and armed forces are supported, supplied, housed and fed by society as a whole. They cannot continue as organised bodies if society decides they shall not.

Useful Production

  Once socialism is established, there will be a rapid growth in the amount and quality of useful goods produced. As there will no longer be any patents or industrial secrets, all productive units will have access to the most advanced technical processes. There will no longer be any banks, stock exchanges, wages offices, advertising agencies, and although some of the workers previously in these fields may continue to be concerned with statistics relating to production and distribution, many millions of them will be released to involve themselves in socially useful activities such as house building, food production, telecommunications and other rapidly expanding sectors.

  It is reasonable to suppose that, since the revolution will not take anyone by surprise, many workers will have been, within capitalism, preparing themselves for new occupations in socialism. Trade unions and other workers' organisations will probably have been adapting themselves to help the growing socialist movement to prepare for the future running society on the basis of production for use. Resources and manpower invested in armaments production will be switched to the satisfying of human needs. Onslaughts will be made on any centres of backwardness and destitution. These will not be given the kind of Cinderella treatment now awarded to 'community development' but instead the top priority now enjoyed by 'defence'. In fact, since socialism will grow directly out of capitalism, the present organisational machinery of the armed forces could be used for this end, since they are the most efficient means capitalism has developed for moving men and materials fast. Think of the implications for famine victims in, say, Ethiopia, or the Sudan, if the full system of communications, transport and services available for military purposes were available for the distribution of relief supplies.

  The socialist revolution will be unlike all previous revolutions because, instead of one minority seizing power from another, it will be the majority taking power to establish a classless, stateless, moneyless, democratic society. And it will be a society consciously organised directly for human need, in which planning will play an important part – but in a completely different way from the so-called 'planned' economies of the formerly state capitalist countries – Russia, Poland, Albania, etc. Production and distribution will be planned because the vast majority of men and women will be actively and democratically co-operating to provide themselves with what they want, where and when they want it. This will put an end to the anarchy of production and haphazard distribution – 'domination of the product over the producer' – which exists in capitalism.

The World Socialist Movement

  The revolutionary task of the movement for world socialism is therefore twofold: it is firstly to persuade our fellow members of the working class to reject capitalism and to aim for nothing less than socialism; and secondly to engage in political action for the purpose of measuring the growth of the socialist movement and, when the majority join us, of achieving our objective of bringing into being a new, exciting stage of human existence.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Must There be a Ruling Class?

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Is the social philosophy of Marxism a ‘pernicious illusion’, a variant of a ‘utopian dream’ which must cost humanity dear whenever an attempt is made to realise it? In other words is the realisation of socialism impossible?
They say ‘Yes’

 A powerful argument against its possibility has been advanced in the political sociology of Mosca, Michels and Pareto. Their arguments are impressive, especially when we remember that, writing before the First World War, they were writing prior to the establishment of modern totalitarianism, and at a time when optimism was as general as pessimism is today. The fact that their predictions have been partially confirmed by events gives them added weight. (You can read the whole article here >; )

 We say ‘No’

 We should distinguish between the descriptive analyses and the theoretical explanations these writers offer. After differences in political rule have been taken into account most of their conclusions are valid. Ruling parties are controlled by minorities, they do rely on lies, chicanery and naked force. These are the props of political rule. We couldn’t agree more. But in explaining these phenomena Mosca falls back upon a psychological theory of human nature as something given and fixed independently of its social and historical context.

 Almost every one of his major explanations and predictions involves an appeal to an original nature, seen as essentially unalterable despite its varying expressions. Political laws are derived from the unchangeable elements in the nature of humans. Mosca referred to them as 'wicked instincts'. It is from this conception of original sin that his direct prophecies flow. Pareto’s doctrine of the constancy of the residues – instincts, needs and interests – is summed up in the sentence: 'The centuries roll by and human nature remains the same.'

 Michels weakens the force of his arguments which are drawn from the technical indispensability of the division of labour in all political organisations by deducing that 'the majority is permanently incapable of democratic self-government.' An argument from human nature is invoked to support a sociological law. The analysis, although historical in form and content, is based upon a non-historical theoretical explanation.

  The sociological explanation is empty because it is devoid of history, that is, it is not based on theoretical activities of man but upon presupposed psychological qualities which give rise to these activities. For the sake of argument we can grant their claims except when they speak in the future tense. Social problems are always specific, are always rooted in the concrete needs of a particular people at a determinate time. How they will solve these depends upon the conditions at hand – the knowledge they possess, for example, the knowledge of political and economic laws, the predominant social values and a number of other factors.

 The way people will act in the future will depend upon the problems they will have to solve and upon their state of knowledge, and not upon any unchanging nature. The problems themselves change with changing understanding. The problems facing the socialist are difference from those facing the non-socialist.

 Different problems require different solutions, thus different behaviour, different ways of acting, a different human nature. It seems, then, that any attempt to find an invariant core of properties which constitute human nature will not stand up to sociological or historical analysis. We can only observe how people behave and act under certain conditions. What we are interested in is what people actually do and how they do it, and since human activity and behaviour is continually changing, the study of human nature must be a historical study.

 Historical traditions, habits and social institutions play a much more important role in political behaviour, and are more reliable in predicting the future than any set of innate impulses, residues, instincts or urges. By isolating the latter from their objective cultural setting, selecting from among them an alleged impulse to dominate, to be selfish, to fight, love or flee, the pattern of human nature can be cut to suit any political myth. This is precisely what the elitist theorists have done.

 They have rendered a service in so far as they make us realise the need for devising institutional safeguards for the attainment and preservation of democracy. The most import safeguard being the replacement of the institution of private property by that of social property. These theories are pernicious in that they amount to a counsel of despair.

  If human nature is something unchanging and static then any social change is futile, since domination, oppression and exploitation will remain although masquerading in different forms and under different ideologies. Indeed Mosca and Pareto (Michels is in a different category, although a pessimist, he advocates struggle and social revolution) maintain that social revolution is meaningless.

 We cannot agree. We find the status quo impossible.

L.H.

(Abridged from an article in  January 2017 Socialist Standard which can be viewed here > )

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Let's Talk (3): Work

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 Nature has not provided ready-made all the things necessary for the life and happiness of mankind. In order to obtain those things we have to work. Apart from those with a (strange-affliction) people don't mind working. A work-free world is neither desirable or possible. A world where people work for the common good is possible. A world where all the people own the machinery and the land and the means of production and distribution in all there forms is possible. A system of society that works in the best interest of the workers is possible. The workers of the world must unite.

 Most people, if they ever really thought about it, would prefer their pay to take the form of “free access to useful things” instead of a “wage”. Free access to the best medical know-how. Free access to the best of all things available that the workers labour produce.

 I don't know how we organise the way we work to best benefit everyone. I do know that capitalism makes it impossible for mankind to work to the best of their ability.

 The advocates of capitalism would have the workers of the world believe a system of competition in the production and distribution of commodities is best for Earth and all her people. Because the advocates of capitalism own the media they have been able to persuade, con, trick, fool, many of the workers into believing the reason for their low wages or poor working conditions or poor living conditions or being at risk of becoming an unemployed worker is the fault of other workers. Capitalism pits worker against worker. Keeping them divided and distracted, stressed and scared.

 A system of cooperation in the production and distribution of useful things by and for the workers is what is best for Earth and all her people. If this comes to be people will no longer produce sub-standard goods. There would be no point. Workers will be working for each other only producing the best they can. If it comes to pass workers will stop suffering from “ time poverty”. The reason why so many people today are over-working is because the way the production and distribution of commodities is being organised is crap.

 For the people of the future all necessary work will be seen as equally important. Without the truck driver to take the equipment to the hospitals the doctors couldn't save the patients life. The truck drivers and the doctors and all the workers are equally important. Some people are good at and enjoy intricate work. Others like ordinary plain work. Some people have a natural leaning towards or talent for one thing and other people have a natural leaning towards or talent for something else.

 If a world without money comes to exist people will no longer do jobs they are not fit to do. They will no longer do work they hate. The 99 percent, the non-owning class, the workers of the world, want maximum leisure time for everyone to enjoy life. And for life to be for all of the highest standard.

 The advocates of capitalism tell the workers, “what is in their best interest is the same thing as what is in the best interest of the one percent”. But it's not. The advocates of capitalism sell the workers the idea that, “we are all in it together”. But we're not.

 The 99 percent of people are what I think of as workers. Anyone who enjoys all the benefits of civilization; the best goods; a first class life, without working, belongs to the owning class, or one percent. Any one who doesn't have access to all the benefits of civilization belongs to the non-owning class. There are a number of classifications within the none owning class. Not all the non-owning class work. Some are unemployed workers. Many are worker dependants. I think the 99 percent are better of keeping things simple. Instead of dividing the non-owning class into a number of sub-divisions the 99 percent should see themselves as all belonging to the “worker” class. All workers of the world.

 One of the favourite words of politicians when addressing the public is the word, complicated. They purposefully make the affairs of humankind seem complicated, because that makes it easier to bamboozle the public into thinking that common sense is not enough to govern the production and distribution of wealth.

 If a world without money is implemented work will be for the benefit of all not just a few. No longer working for an employer; someone who makes a profit from my labour; who gives me a wage. The employer gets the profit, I get the wage.

 Work should be bringing me joy. Work should be divorced from capitalism. I should be working for a world that works for all. A job badly done by the human race sees the 99 percent suffer the misery of a job badly done in the form of poverty, war and crime. A job well done by the human race is one that sees everyone with the means to a good life.

Lee





4. Socialism As We See It

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This series taken from one of our pamphlets,From Capitalism to Socialism. . . how we live and how we could live., is intended to be an introduction to the socialist view of how modern society operates and why we think socialism is necessary as a means of organising the world more effectively.
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4. Socialism As We See It

 The comic cartoon idea of the cave man with his club displaying aggression towards everyone is a typical fiction of modem capitalism. It has no foundation in fact. Such an individual would not have lasted a week in the world of prehistory. Human beings have survived and prospered on this planet because they are adaptable and because they have co-operated with one another. Long before there were private property societies with their class divisions and exploitation, small hunter-gatherer communities relied for their existence upon all members of the clan playing their part. This co-operation lasted for many tens of thousands of years, and the remnants of it can still be seen in surviving primitive communities such as the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert, the pygmies of the Congo rain forests, Australian aborigines, and South American Indians. The patterns of behaviour and thought associated with such social living are therefore deeply embedded in our languages and culture.

  In comparison with this enormous length of time, the last six or seven thousand years of private property are only a small fraction of human existence. Based upon conflict and the exploitation of the majority by ruling elites, they have worked in opposition to long-standing human values and behaviour, causing a growth and spread of mental distress and deep antagonisms within society.  Nevertheless, even class-divided societies such as our present system of capitalism rely upon the human tendency to co-operate. Although all sorts of persuasion, pressure, and even coercion are used to direct the activities of the working class into profit-making forms of work and unprotesting forms of leisure, coercion alone is quite inadequate. A working class which unanimously decided not to co-operate would bring the running of society to a halt. No force would be effective. It is just because of the certainty of daily co-operation by human beings, however badly they may be treated, that exploitative, repressive social regimes like our own have managed – and are managing – to survive.

  In modern society workers operate the production and distribution of wealth and the administration of the capitalist system largely against their own interests. The ideology of capitalism insists that individualism and ruthless competition are the only worthwhile guides to behaviour, and money the only worthwhile prize. Indeed, its ideology is as cheap and shoddy as so many of its products. Many workers believe in it, but it is so alien and artificial, especially in personal relationships, that many suffer great stress and insecurity.

A Truly Human Society

  The next stage of society, socialism, will come as a welcome relief. It will bring comparative harmony to human relationships. Far from needing a special sort of behaviour from people, socialism will run on the patterns of action, thought and feeling that have been the norms throughout most of human existence. Human beings will not become any more "good" or "kind" or "helpful" or "gentle"; but the pressures which now prevent them being all of these things at different times will have gone – shortage of money, fear of unemployment, fear of lawbreakers, fear of the law itself, fear of war, fear of the boss, even fear of the trade union, and so on. All of these pressures arise directly out of the capitalist organisation of society. When we finish with capitalism, we shall have removed these influences upon the thoughts and actions of every member of the working class.

  The pressures which remain – those of social living, of coping with the environment, of wrestling with all the problems of production and distribution, these pressures will still be considerable. The difference is that these are practical problems, not economic ones forced upon us by a useless ruling class and their repressive state machine, and an uncontrollable society that pits people against one another as a matter of course. Real pressures and problems can be seen for what they are. They do not provoke neurotic responses and frustrated violence. Practical problems are what calls human co-operation into action. The land will be ours, the factories and offices and roads and railways and offices and ships and aircraft will be everybody's, and so we shall have a personal interest in keeping them working, keeping them up to standard and improving them. The whole of society will benefit from every constructive act or useful piece of work we do – not just some company's profit and loss account, some multi-millionaire's annual dividend.

Technology in Capitalism and Socialism

  Socialist society will function quite differently from capitalist society, although initially at least it will have to use mainly the same equipment. The difference that will be most noticeable will be the simplicity once the cumbersome paraphernalia of capitalism has been removed. Many people today, especially the so-called expert economists and political theorists, are completely engrossed in the ramifications of present capitalist society. They are so conditioned by the impossible job of trying to make capitalism work effectively that they find it difficult to imagine how a real alternative to it could function.

  Also, complication and mystification form a smokescreen behind which the real workings of capitalism can remain obscure or hidden. And so the ordinary worker feels that he or she cannot possibly understand, let alone influence, the running of society. Another difficulty is that modern science and technology have developed with capitalism. This makes it seem at times that there are good scientific and technical reasons for the complexity of life and work in the modern capitalist state. Capitalist propaganda takes advantage of this and often tries to turn the frustration and anger that workers feel on to scientific and technical workers, as though they were the ones who decided to make the obscene weapons of modern war, thalidomide, battery farms or polluted rivers. Of course, it is capitalist business and the capitalist state that decide what workers shall produce or what experiments and research they will fund.

  The demands of profitability, competition and international rivalry determines the lines along which scientific and technological development shall generally take place. Computers are a good example of this. Their main uses at present are in handling and storing the vast quantities of financial transactions and data that are essential to the money system (wages and deductions, income tax returns, bank statements, mail order accounts, files of bad debtors, etc), and in recording the increasing amount of information on individuals that has become necessary for the state to keep control of. They are also, however, used to perform complex scientific calculations such as the prodigious mathematics of space flights and the ballistics of intercontinental missiles. Therefore they could be used to help organise large production processes, to forecast trends and developments of many kinds, to designing engineering components and systems, to search out and assemble information, and to carry out many other tasks which are almost impossible for human beings because of the immense length of time they would take. Such socially useful applications of computers have been much slower in development and employment because of their marginal profitability. When people complain, as they often do, that computers are "taking over", what they are complaining about is the fact that instead of simplifying life and work as they should do, computers in capitalism have been used to complicate it.
 In socialism, linked by communication satellites across the world, they could monitor people's wants, assist in the organisation of production to keep pace with them, and help dispatch the goods to go where they were needed.

How Socialism Will Solve Problems

When we are young, we often see problems that need solving, and we think, "why don’t they do so and so?" As we get older, we gradually learn the reasons: because it would not be profitable; because no-one will invest the capital; because there is too much competition from other sources; because some firm has a virtual monopoly in that field and will buy up or force out new ideas; because there are patents protecting the device; because it would cause political problems; and so on. At our place of work, in the area where we live, even with world-wide problems, we can often see better ways of doing things, and yet they rarely get done. If we take the trouble to find out how capitalism works we realise that many of these commonsense things, like using "surplus" food to prevent people starving in the world, simply cannot be done within the current system on any regular basis.

In a socialist world, the claims of any one proposal will have to be balanced against the claims of many others. And it will not be "they" who make the decisions and carry out the work; it will be "we". There will be a great deal of discussion, small-scale and large-scale, and the process of decision-making will be democratic. Television, which is at present taken up for the greater part of its time with what currently passes for "entertainment", could become a forum for much of the large-scale discussion and decision-making, providing us with vivid, well researched information and covering many points of view. Telephone conferencing, the internet and other growing means of telecommunication could unite groups scattered round the world so that they could discuss projects, share information and reach decisions on a democratic basis. Such means could also be used for ascertaining the level of demand for many goods and services.

The primary task of socialism will be to produce enough of all the things that people need and to get them to the right places at the right times. This will require a large part of the administrative organisation already built up within capitalism; but it will require more. Firstly, in the world as a whole, not enough of the most useful things is ever produced. It is a system of artificial scarcity. In socialism we shall need to produce much more, so that everyone can have enough. And it will be quite possible to do this.

One example of how this can happen compared to what happens now relates to the way in which periodically, world-wide capitalism enters into severe slumps because too much has been produced for available markets. Goods pile up, unable to be sold, and enterprises shut down. When this occurs the production of goods and services falls hugely below its potential. The number of unemployed workers runs into tens of millions. Factories, machines and offices, ships and lorries, buildings and land stand idle because they cannot be used profitably. The productive potential of all these is enormous; but it is by no means the whole story. Many of the factories and farms, mines and ships that remain working are typically on short time and a large proportion of the production that is still being carried on will be in weapons, equipment or services for making war, rather than production of things that are genuinely useful.

More noticeable than any of this in capitalism, however – whether in slump or boom – is the number of workers and the plant and equipment devoted to running and protecting the system of capitalism itself. Apart from all the forces of law and order, much of whose work we rarely see, the financial system itself is a coercive apparatus that we tend to take for granted. It is totally useless to a free society, but in capitalism a large number of the working population spend their lives in its service. Although the following lists are far from complete they give some idea of the social costs of running the capitalist system:


PRODUCTS CONCERNED WITH MONEY
account books and computer files
armoured vehicles
bank books
bank notes
bank statements
bills
billfolds
books on finance
cash cards
cash points
cash registers
change machines
cheques
cheque cards
coin boxes
deposit and withdrawal slips
excise and duty stamps
football coupons
gambling machines
guarantees
insurance certificates
insurance policies
invoices
licences for:
export & import
marriage
motor vehicles
selling alcohol firearms
tobacco
television sets
meters for:
electricity
gas
parking
telephones
water
money orders and postal orders
mortgage agreements
night safes
overdrafts
overtime payments
parking tickets
pension books
postage stamps
raffle tickets
rates demands
receipts
rents and rent books
safes
saving certificates
share certificates
slot machines
stock markets
strong rooms
tax returns: income tax corporation
tax VAT
tickets for: cinemas, theatres, buses,  trains, etc
ticket offices
ticket machines
travellers' cheques
turnstiles
TV give-away shows
wages slips
wallets
Wills

MONEY OCCUPATIONS AND ORGANISATIONS
accountants
advertising agencies
auctioneers
auditors
banking
bailiffs
bookkeepers
bookmakers
building societies
buyers
capitalists
cashiers
casinos
charities
christmas clubs
consumer protection
credit card agencies
credit worthiness investigators
debt collectors
economists
estate agents
excise officers
financial advisers
finance houses
friendly societies
football pools
fundraisers
grant awarding trusts
health finance schemes
hire purchase firms
holding companies
income tax officers
inspectors of weights and measures
insurance brokers
insurance companies
investment consultants
licensing officers
loan companies
luncheon voucher schemes
management consultants
market analysts
mints
money lenders
mortgage brokers
national health insurance
patents offices and copyright
enforcement
pension funds
post offices
public relations officers
raffles
rate-fixers for piecework
rates offices receivers
rent collectors
salesmen and saleswomen
security firms
social security offices
stock brokers and jobbers
stock exchanges
superannuation schemes
tax consultants
ticket sellers, collectors and inspectors
totes
trade unions treasurers
underwriters
unemployment benefit offices
unit trusts
valuers
wages clerks
work study engineers


In the moneyless world of socialism, where private property will not exist, the people currently involved in such occupations will be able to choose more rewarding and useful kinds of work. But this is only the beginning: restrictive practices and regulations that exist in capitalism, whether initiated by employers, governments, or trading-blocs such as the European Union, or even the defensive practices of trade unions, deliberately curtail a great deal of production. And the possibilities of automation, which the capitalist system can only introduce in bits and pieces, are, as yet, largely unrealised. Tedious, dirty or dangerous jobs that at present constitute a miserable working life for so many millions of workers across the world could be automated in socialist society. We have developed a technology so sophisticated that it can send machines to the surface of the planet Mars, scrape up soil samples and analyse them. This suggests that there is no existing social problem that we cannot solve. The science and technology are already established to create a world of abundance for everyone; but only socialism can turn it into a reality.

To support the whole process of production and distribution, socialist society will need a highly sophisticated system of information: about what people want, in what quantities; and about what is being produced all over the world. Capitalism has already developed technology and techniques which could make such a world-wide system extremely fast, comprehensive and accurate. But because of competition and the secrecy that goes with it; because of the market and its fluctuations; above all because the main aim of capitalism is to produce profit, not goods, capitalism cannot develop a really sensible and workable information system. For a socialist world it will be vital.

Democratic Choice

A socialist world will, of course, be what we all make it. Everyone's ideas and efforts will contribute. Everyone will, if they choose to, have an equal voice in the democratic decisions that are taken. Perhaps this is one thing about socialist society that most of us today would find strikingly different – the amount of discussion that will take place about what things are to be made and built. There will be no market forces offering a quick profit in plastic handbags or causing a shutdown in shipping. There will be no governments imposing taxes, preparing for germ warfare, tapping telephones or closing hospitals. Road-building, shipping, agriculture, manufacturing, distribution, services, entertainment – these things will be everybody's concern. And these things – not crimes or wars – will be news. The whole pattern of production and distribution will become a conscious social process.

  It is this that will be in such marked contrast with capitalism, where the process as a whole is outside the control, not only of individuals, but of governments and even international agencies. This is because everything is dominated by the movements of money capital, the operation of the price system and the unpredictable fluctuations of the market. This capitalist system can be tampered with but it can never be brought under social control. The step forward into socialism will dispense with the anarchy of this market mechanism completely.

 From then onwards society will have to decide whether or not to irrigate a desert, or how great the demand is for galvanised roofing nails. The only way in which such decisions can be made is by increased information and discussion-by making open and conscious all those fluctuations and individual decisions which in capitalism are hidden and unconscious. But, of course, socialism will be much less complicated than capitalism; and the information needed will be simpler, consisting of straightforward material factors without the complexities of market economics. There will be no capitalist class, competing amongst themselves with secrecy and skulduggery, and exploiting the majority of the population, the working class, for the maximum possible growth in capital. Needs will be the spur to production in the socialist world, not profit.

  Socialism is only possible because capitalism has preceded it. Capitalism has developed techniques of production potentially capable of producing an abundance; it has developed a world-wide working class which runs every aspect of modern society; and it is rapidly developing information technology making world-wide communication simpler and more direct. But at the same time capitalism frustrates all of the developments because of the workings of capital itself and the interests of the capitalist class. The same sort of pattern can be seen in details. Supermarkets, for example, are a highly efficient method of putting a wide range of consumer goods within the reach of a large number of people. The trouble with supermarkets is the bottleneck at the cash desk. Because money will be useless in a socialist world, so will the cash desks. "Supermarkets" will then be able to function at full efficiency. Their shelves will be kept full by the removal of all the financial and trading restrictions that now cause butter mountains, wine lakes, and often ruin for farmers.

Work in Socialism

  Work will also undergo a complete change as socialist society develops. We have noted the fact that capitalist society is extremely wasteful of human labour in many ways and only introduces labour-saving automation when profitable. At present levels of production, therefore, the actual amount of work needed of one person could be much less than it is now. Even with the increased output needed for a developed socialist world it will probably not be necessary for most people to work as long or as hard as they do today. But this is not the most important of the changes that will take place. The really noticeable change, right from the beginning, will be in the status and the conditions of work.

  In capitalism, because the places where we work are owned by another class, we have no say in what we produce, how it is produced, or where it goes to; and we have very little control over where we work, the conditions we work in, the tools and machines we work with, or the raw materials we handle. Moreover, the existing system of education and training, with its ladder of examinations and certificates, means that we get channelled into certain types of jobs, and it becomes harder and harder to change as we grow older, so become "a teacher", "a machine operator", "a nurse" for the rest of our working lives. With the establishment of socialism, we shall cease to be a working class. The labour market will have gone.

  Living in a society of equality we shall have a direct influence upon whatever work we do. The workplace, the tools, the organisation, the quality and quantity of the goods or services we provide will be our concern and under our democratic control; and we shall no doubt be interested in who uses our products and for what. Those working in factories, warehouses, transport, and so on will be able to review the machines, the tools, the buildings, and decide that certain improvements are necessary. Although they will co-ordinate their proposals with other related groups in the network of production and distribution, the final control over their conditions of work will be theirs. Society will be unable to compel anyone to work in conditions they find unacceptable. This means that only those jobs which people are prepared to do will be done. If no-one will go down coal mines, even for the sake of the admiration and gratitude of the community, we shall either have to manage without coal or develop other forms of technology.

  This freedom from compulsion will eventually give rise to a completely different pattern of work for the individual, and a completely different attitude towards it. Only a few dedicated enthusiasts will want to do the same job every day throughout their lives. Most of us will want variety. We shall want to develop whatever skills we have and use all of them at one time or another. So some people may settle down to doing two or three different jobs on different days of the week or times of the year. Others may devote themselves exclusively to one interest for four or five years until they have satisfied themselves, and then move on to something else. It may even become necessary to "book" a job, as we now book a holiday or an hour on a tennis court. And we may well see traditions develop where certain types of work are done by young people because they require a lot of energy and physical fitness. Patterns will probably vary in different parts of the world.

  The essentials of a socialist world are that society's means of producing and distributing what it needs will be owned by everyone and democratically controlled by everyone. It is from this change that all the other changes will follow. What society and the individuals within it will do with the freedom and co-operation that it makes possible we can guess at, but we cannot lay down in advance.

  Nevertheless there is no reason why we should not discuss the possibilities now, if only to keep clear in our minds the important fact that socialism will not be capitalism with minor reforms, but a totally different social system. We may begin with the equipment taken over from capitalism, but we shall adapt it for quite a new way of life that will develop further and further away from the pattern imposed upon us by capitalism.