The socialist case is from its beginnings mankind had organized socially for survival and for the satisfaction of its needs. All societies—primitive communism, slavery, feudalism, capitalism—were founded upon the manner in which humanity set about organizing to produce for the satisfaction of its needs: what Marx had termed the mode of production. On the different bases of different modes of production, he had found necessary different institutions, different customs and conventions, different religions, different laws, different attitudes and concepts, and different kinds of government. Always, however, the distinguishing feature between societies was none of these by itself, but the mode of production which gave rise to them all.
Capitalist society is based on the ownership of all of the means of life by a small class. The remainder, the majority - wage-workers, all more or less poorly paid. This basic class-structure had never changed within capitalism; the techniques of production might have altered, but not the basis.
The consequences of capitalism in the form of social troubles were innumerable. War and its horrifying weapons, economic crises, poverty and its results, disease, bad housing, crime: all these and countless other problems were direct results of the system which was concerned only with sale and profit. The only standard by which a society could be judged was whether it satisfied the needs of the people living within it, and by this measure capitalism—for all its spectacular achievements —failed completely.
If it were true that social problems were the outcome of the system itself, and not of mismanagement of it then it followed that all policies of reform were useless, since they aimed to abolish effects while retaining the cause.
The capitalist class do not rule by their own strength. Many of them had never seen, had little knowledge of, the factories, land, workshops and enterprises which they owned. Their ownership was maintained and protected by the State, which had no other function. It was in this coercive agency, with its fighting forces and penal systems, that capitalist power resided.
It followed, therefore, that any body of people wishing to change the ownership basis of society must go to the place where ownership was kept: that is, it could only seek to take hold of the powers of government as the means of taking away capitalist ownership. This is the aim of the Socialist Party. Its policy is to make socialists, for a conscious and politically organized working class to go to the State and make the ownership of the means of life common to everybody.
In the socialist society, thus based on common ownership, the competition which leads to wars, crises and chaos, would have ended. So would poverty; there would be no wages, no money barrier to the satisfaction of needs. The aim of society would be simply for all people to share, according to their needs, in all that the earth produced.
The Socialist Party's case is that the problems of the present-day world originate in the capitalist economic system, and that a co-operative world could only be established on a different ownership basis. While private ownership existed, politicians—delinquent or otherwise —could only when they were in power carry out the requirements of capitalism. The history of the Labour Party, which had once had a strong pacifist strain, but when in office had instituted military conscription and the biggest armaments drive in history. Its members were not drunk with power, but were simply having to prepare for war because they had undertaken running the system which led to war.
The proposition that wars were caused by delinquent politicians was, in fact, capitalist nonsense; people had gone to war precisely because they had been told that the wars were begun by irresponsible and wicked rulers who must be opposed. It was equally silly to say that people were coerced to work by police and armies; they went to work because, having no ownership of the means of life, they could only live by selling their labour-power.
To change society there must be a body of people who knew what was needed and how it was to be done. To the socialist, causes has always to be sought. The whole of history showed that, so far from the nature of government being unimportant, every class which had aspired to change society in its own interests had had to gain control of the powers of government This was the real lesson from countless centuries of political history; this was the aim of socialists, who sought to replace capitalism with socialism and to do so by going to the seat of capitalist power.