Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Five Minutes on Socialism

Here's the opening statement by Mike Foster, our candidate in Oxford West & Abingdon, at a hustings in central Oxford hosted by the Council of Faiths on Monday. Our other local candidate standing for Oxford East, Kevin Parkin , was also in attendance.

I’ll start by explaining our definition of the word ‘socialism’. Although the Socialist Party has been using the word for over 110 years, throughout that time, it has been used by many different groups with opposing aims, so there are as many definitions being used.

In a way, it’s easier to define what we mean by ‘socialism’ by saying what we don’t mean by it. We don’t mean having a state which controls a greater proportion of society’s institutions, whether through legislation or nationalising industries. So, we don’t use the word ‘socialism’ in the same way as left-wing parties do, nor as it was applied to the system in the Soviet Union. Instead, we’re aiming for a society where there isn’t a state at all.

The state is there to administer a system where resources, industry, distribution and services are owned and controlled by a minority. This tiny minority aims to defend and build on its own wealth, so society runs to make them a profit or protect their place in the market. The interests of the majority are less important. Socialism, for us, means changing to common ownership of society’s institutions. Common ownership doesn’t mean so-called public ownership, as with nationalised industries. It means resources, farms, factories, services and shops being owned by everyone and no-one. This would mean that the economy itself would no longer be there to ration and restrict goods from those who want them. There would be no need to buy and sell anything, and therefore no need of money.

This also means that there would be no employers and no employees. Instead, all work would be voluntary and co-operative, which should make it more fulfilling to do. Producing goods and running services would be done directly for those who want and need them.

In this kind of society, the environment could be managed in a more sustainable way. The current squandering of resources happens because corporations are driven by the need to make money, with environmental concerns being way down the list of considerations. A society where production is directly for use would be more inclined to use resources responsibly, and there wouldn’t be the waste which comes with the bureaucracy of pushing money around.

Just in case anyone thinks that all this sounds a bit far-fetched, I would say that some of the most important aspects of a socialist society are already here. The technology, logistics and resources exist to produce enough food, housing and goods for everyone. The internet allows us to share and respond to information almost instantly. The work that we do which feels most fulfilling is work to directly help someone out. It is the current system which is holding us back from reaching our potential.

The only way a socialist society could be run is democratically, and not the extremely limited kind of democracy which only extends to voting in some of our leaders every few years. The form that democracy takes would depend on the scale and circumstances of the decision to be made. Some decisions about how to use resources or organise services could be made by elected, accountable representatives. Other decisions could be made by anyone interested voting directly for an outcome.

And democracy only works when there is full equality between everyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity or circumstances. Inequality is built in to our current society, where our range of opportunities depends largely on how much money we have, and where deprivation and inequality breed prejudice and discrimination.

The only way that such a fundamental change in society could occur is through democracy. The restricted type of democracy we have at the moment isn’t enough, but it’s a start. A socialist society can’t be achieved unless the vast majority want it and work towards it. A vote for the Socialist Party means a vote in favour of this society.

Mike Foster

Meanwhile, in the North East our candidate for the Easington constituency, Steve Colburn, received this message.

Dear Mr. Colborn
We are an organisation crowdfunded by members of the British public with the goal of collecting information about every candidate running in the General Election 2015. We hope to do this by asking a set of standardised questions and posting the responses on our site, which is now nearing completion…. we have the following set of questions for you to answer in 150 words or less (per question) so as to appeal to as many people as possible, without creating too vast an amount of required reading:
1. Obviously our goal is to strengthen the relationship between voters and candidates, but what do you plan to do in order to make sure you remain 'in touch' with the electorate?
2. What makes you the best candidate for this constituency?
3. What has the current Member achieved that you believe has been successful?  (The incumbent will be asked: "What would you have liked to have done differently during your time in Parliament?")
4.  In your opinion, is austerity working? What should we take from the state of the economy during this Government's tenure?
5. Does (legal) immigration need more limitations or is it vital for the UK?
6. Many people are concerned about the cost of living in the UK, with wages having failed to rise in line with the price of food, energy and rent in recent years. How can this be corrected?
7. How would you like to see the NHS change in the future in order to become more successful?
8. What measures do you think need to be taken to decrease unemployment, particularly youth unemployment and those who have never been employed?
9. Does the lack of diversity in Parliament equate to a lack of representation?
10. If an EU Referendum were to take place, how would you encourage your constituents to vote and why?...
Yours faithfully, Jack Govier

Rather than answer each individual question, Steve replied

Hi Jack, The questions you ask are, to myself and The Socialist Party valid, only if what one offers is more of the same, Capitalism. From the Health Service to youth unemployment. From Immigration to Diversity in Parliament, to the cost of living and wages, the Socialist Party stands for a complete change in social relations. From a society based on "production for profit", that benefits only a tiny minority of the world’s population, the owners, to a society based on "collective ownership of the means to produce and distribute what we, as human beings need to live". Where this process will take place for the simple end result, of "production for direct human use". Where this process will be carried out by voluntary cooperation. The world and everything in and on it, will belong to mankind collectively and be used for the fulfilment of the needs of everyone. Without regards to race, sex, age or any other of the "false" divisions" that capitalism throws up. When a majority understand and want this change and most importantly, cooperate to bring it about, then and "only then", will societal change take place. No rich and poor. No have's and have not's. No classes. I hope the above makes my and the Socialist Party case clear.

Steve Colborn.