The first series of Star Trek reached the end of its journey 40 years ago today. Socialists have for generations been urging fellow workers to cross the final class frontier. Let's make it so.
"Space, the final frontier ... To boldly go where no man has gone before ..."
Many science fiction fans will be familiar with those words through the television series Star Trek, in which the phrase "the final frontier" was used to describe the conquest of space. The mysteries of space for most of us however, though a fascinating area of exploration and study, are a long way away, both physically and intellectually. Before humans are able to make a serious attempt at grappling with the mammoth technological task of crossing the vast expanses of the cosmos to other stars and worlds, they must first make an even greater and more profound joumey through the real final frontier, the barrier between the last class-divided world system capitalism, and the new world-wide stateless, moneyless community of common ownership of wealth -- Socialism. Are you ready to cross the final frontier and make that long-deferred journey to the undiscovered country?
Socialists face a similar frustration to would-be space travellers: we can see our objective, distant and enigmatic though it may be, and we can wonder at the opportunities for extending our knowledge, as well as self-awareness, that presently can only begin to be imagined, but the method of reaching our respective destinations remains a difficult nut to crack, and the solution will require a huge leap in human understanding. Socialists however can take heart in the knowledge that, unlike the space cowboys, we do not need to make an unprecedented breakthrough in overcoming the constraints of physics to allow our journey to become viable - the means already exist.
The key to making possible the journey to that single global society to which no one has ever been but which nevertheless could exist is sirnply the harnessing of the power of consciousness. Socialists seek to prornote the exploration of the universe of the human mind, the great constellations of imagination, co-operation, humour, affection and compassion. At the moment the human consciousness is grounded in a class-divided ghetto, confined to the tiny solar system of capitalism.
Getting to Socialism is not merely a question of physical effort, it requires a change in thinking, in the way of perceiving society as it is presently organised, and recognising that there is an alternative.
Socialists know that a new world of unity and co-operation can exist in the future by observing certain features in society now, such as widespread cooperation despite tremendous pressures to divide and compete, and examples of generosity and self-sacrifice that are always evident in times of crisis.
There is no short cut. The only way to get there is for all the dispossessed and oppressed members of the human race (the vast majority) to make a conscious decision to embark on this momentous journey together. We won't be led there by politicians. Their only concern is governing their own particular countries in the interests of profit and those who benefit forn that profit. Nor will anachronistic religious beliefs pave the way to a better world, with their notions of life after death and the serenity of heaven; religions only serve to mystify. Likewise, single-issue campaigns and charities, though well-meaning, are constantly running to stand still and fighting a losing battle against all manner of horrors which capitalism throws up with predictable regularity; they can only hope to desperately juggle with the inevitable probierns of a society in which property takes precedence over people.
When one becomes class-conscious however, one is able to take a step back from the petty-mindedness and the prejudice and see the world as it really is: a planet inhabited by one race but artificially divided into nations vying for markets and access to raw materials and resources, with a breathtakingly unfair distribution of wealth. Suddenly one begins to realise that one has been conned by political leaders and their economic priorities, when the real priorities are human beings and the preservation of our one and only home: Earth. Of course, it isn't easy to admit to having been conned, but the cathartic effect of cleansing the mind and replacing all the political garbage and those dangerously sharp and uneven bits of bigotry with socialist consciousness more than compensates for any embarrassment.
Clearly, the first sign that people have boarded the consciousness vehicle is when they decide to stop giving others the responsibility for governing their lives, when faith in leaders has finally dissipated. There is a powerful incentive which must surely lead the oppressed to taking this first step, and that is the undeniable conclusion that the responsibility for the plight of the working class today lies at the door of the working class itself. It is we who not only allow a few ambitious self-serving leaders to make all crucial decisions for us, but we also allow such decisions to be made not in our class interest, but in the interest of big business and its few wealthy owners.
When a majority becomes conscious of this, we will have embarked on the first leg of our historic journey. And when the realisation dawns that it is we who are ultimately responsible for the perpetuation of the divisive economic system that persecutes us, there is only a short distance to be travelled before arriving at the conclusion that only we, democratically and collectively, can transform capitalism into a society of common ownership and production for use.
So to return to the original question: are you able to open your mind as well as your eyes and really perceive what is going on around you, everywhere, every day? Are you ready to climb aboard the imaginary ship we may call the Spirit of Free Thinking? Some are, but there are many who are yet to become convinced, which means that we won't be making that journey for some time. But we don't have forever to make the move, which is why socialists will urgently continue to expose the injustices of the desparate and volatile world we now inhabit, as well as insisting that there is a better world yet to be enjoyed when there is the will to go there. The event will be so sensational that it will make Neil Armstrong's "giant leap" look like a mere "small step". The ship is fuelled and ready to go as soon as humanity is; the undiscovered country awaits discovery.
(Socialist Standard, January 1995)