Wednesday, May 19, 2021

A World Socialist Commonwealth

"There shall be no buying and selling of the earth, nor of the fruits thereof...The earth is to be planted, and the fruits reaped and carried into barns and store-houses, by the assistance of every family. And if any man or family want corn or-other provision they may go to the store-houses and fetch without money. If they want a horse to ride, go into the fields in summer, or to the common stables in winter, and receive one from the keepers; and when your journey is performed, bring him where you had him, without money. If any want food or victuals, they may either go to the butchers' shops, and receive what they want without money; or else go to the flocks of sheep or herds of cattle, and take and kill what meat is needful for their families, without buying and selling. And the reason why all the riches of the earth are a common stock is this, because the earth, and the labours thereupon, are managed by common assistance of every family, without buying and selling; as is shewn how more largely in the office of overseers for trades and the law for store-houses...Store-houses shall be built and appointed in all places, and be the common stock.

There shall be store-houses in all places, both in the country and in cities, to which all the fruits of the earth, and other works made by tradesmen, shall be brought, and from thence delivered out again to particular families, and to everyone as they want for their use; or else to be transported by ship to other lands, to exchange for those things which our land will not or does not afford.
For all the labours of husbandmen and tradesmen within the land, or by navigation to or from other lands, shall be all upon the common stock. And as every one works to advance the common stock, so every one shall have a free use of any commodity in the store-house, for his pleasure and comfortable livelihood without buying and selling or restraint from any...The store-houses shall be every man's substance, and not any one's."
 - Gerrard Winstanley

The World Socialist Movement re-affirms that all peoples should seek their emancipation, not as members of nations or religions or ethnic groups, but as human beings, as members of the human race. They should unite to abolish the division of the world into so-called nation-states and to establish a World Co-operative Commonwealth in which we will all be free and equal members - citizens of the world, not subjects of nation-states.

As an organisation which campaigns exclusively for socialism (as we understand it of course) we are in a unique position to know how people react to the word. Many more people think that Russia was socialist than agree with our definition of socialism.

Many think that we should therefore give up the word and find some other term to describe our aim.

Don't think that this hasn't occurred to us.

 Various other terms have been suggested—"world co-operative commonwealth", "world of free access". Others, outside our ranks, have come up with "economic democracy", "self-managed society", "free society".

Our experience is that when people first hear us saying we stand for socialism, most do indeed take us to be standing for "state ownership and rule by a socialist party" (a far broader concept than what existed in Russia)

However, when we explain what we do stand for, quite a number say "oh, you mean true socialism" or "pure communism". Significantly, those who have experimented with other terms are often met with the same reaction.

This reflects the fact that, despite the former regime in Russia dragging the name of socialism through the mud by associating it with dictatorship, secret police, gulags and the rest, to many people the word "socialism" still retains an association with maybe vague ideas of social justice, equality, democracy, community and production for use not profit. In other words, despite Russia, socialism still has an underlying positive image for many people.

Besides, we are part of an unbroken tradition going back to those who first used the word and which has retained the original meaning they gave to it despite and in face of Russia and Labour and similar governments. Why should we surrender the word, especially as Russia has failed and Labour-type parties are now openly pro-capitalist?

The field is now free for us to assert the word's original meaning. A society where the means of production belong to everybody and run by democratic councils, that's socialism. With common ownership, nobody or no institution exercises exclusive ownership rights over resources; it is, in effect a condition of "no ownership". Further, with common ownership, what is produced, as well as the means to produce it, is commonly owned, so that it does not need to be sold. It, too, is simply there, to be distributed to where it is needed, whether this be another workplace for further transformation into a finished product or a distribution centre to which people can come and take what they need. Common ownership means the disappearance of buying and selling and so also money, markets, banks, wages, profits and the rest.

To make decisions—i.e., to exercise democratic control—the members of society need to set in place procedures which allow every member of society the chance to have an equal say in the way things are run. Although this can be envisaged as involving "direct democracy" in neighbourhoods and workplaces, for wider decisions it would also have to involve "indirect" democracy via elected delegates. If such procedures for exercising "democratic control" did not exist, then it would not be possible to talk about "common ownership" either, since, in that case, ownership of the means of production would be in the hands of those who did have the power to make the decisions about how to use productive resources. So, for us "common ownership" and "democratic control" of the means of production by all the people are one and the same thing; they are in the end just two ways of describing the same situation.

Having said this, we don't make a fetish of the word, "socialism". On occasions we are prepared to use some other term to express what we stand for since what is important is what we stand for and not what it is called. So we have and do use alternative terms such as "world co-operative commonwealth".

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