From the March 1981 issue of the Socialist Standard
The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.
This is a clear definition of socialism. Nothing to do with rationing everything out so that we all get exactly the same. Nothing to do with sharing a coat, eating off the same plate, living in a commune or going back to primitive times. What will be commonly owned will be the means and instruments that produce the things all human beings need to live: land, factories, mines, energy resources, transport, machines, tools, raw materials. Social ownership is the only proposition entirely in line with the technological age: everything else is hopelessly inadequate and antiquated.
Socialism is a society where everyone will stand in equal relation to everything that is produced; where everyone will be able to contribute to running life according to their own willingness and aptitude and take freely from the available wealth. It has long been possible for this next stage in human evolution. A society with no leaders, no governments, just a totally democratic and harmonious administration for the good of all. No buying and selling, no exchange, no money. A society where goods are produced solely for use and not for sale and profit as today.
1. That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (i.e. land, factories, railways, etc.) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class, by whose labour alone wealth is produced.
This is a straight definition of the world system we live under: capitalism. There are basically only two classes. If you are dependent on an employer for a wage or salary in order to maintain your standard of Living, then you are working class (whether you wear a tie, overalls, uniform or whatever). The capitalist class, the owners of the means of production and distribution, have no need to work because they live off the profits they obtain from the wealth produced by workers. There is in reality no such thing as the middle class: it is a myth.
2. That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle, between those who possess but do not produce, and those who produce but do not possess.
One section of society, the vast majority, always have to struggle to maintain or improve their standard of living; the other small owning section, the capitalist class, is always doing its utmost to keep wages down so as to keep profits up. And there can be no doubt whatsoever that this difference of interests exists. Trade unions prove the point. Strikes, lock-outs, go slows, works to rule, overtime bans. All workers—brain labour-power and manual labour-power—are forced at some time or other to consider taking some kind of action to back up wage claims, claims which are always resisted by the employers. It is perpetual antagonism the world over.
3. That this antagonism can be abolished only by the emancipation of the working class from the domination of the master class, by the conversion into the common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and their democratic control by the whole people.
All efforts to try and make the capitalist system work in the interests of all people have failed. A glance at the history of the last 150 years bears this out. In fact, these principles—unaltered since their introduction in 1904—prove that nothing in the structure of society has fundamentally changed. Many varieties of the capitalist system have been tried and all have failed to serve the needs of the majority. Absolutely none of them works; not one of them provides a fulfilling and rewarding existence for even a sustained period of time. Labour, Liberal, Conservative, Communist . . . every single one is a disaster because very single one is trying to run an inhumane system. The only logical thing to do is to reject the whole useless and out-dated system, a system where most people in a world of potential abundance have to constantly worry about money, have to do without one necessity so as to afford another; where old people die of cold because they can’t afford fuel; where desperately ill patients suffer because they can’t afford treatment. A system where millions are malnourished and even starve to death because they can’t afford food, which is often deliberately burned or dumped as unprofitable; where thousands go homeless because they can’t afford the rent or can’t obtain a deposit and yet there are bricks, sand, cement, tools, machines and manpower in superabundance. A system where millions are bored sick unemployed and bored sick in employment. How can there honestly be anything said in the system’s favour?
4. That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex.
Once the majority of the working class—which, remember, means everyone who works for a living—realises its own position and acts accordingly, then it will mean the freedom of everyone whether black, white, yellow, man, woman and child. Simply because it is the wage-slave class — the class you and we belong to — who make up the vast majority of the world’s population.
5. That this emancipation must be the work of the working class itself.
The capitalist class doesn’t need another system—it’s doing alright with this one. So it’s clear that the employers are not going to bring it about. And neither can some kind of enlightened elite or arrogant intellectual working-class-hero types masquerading as leaders bring it about for the rest of us either. It’s just not possible. That’s why socialists totally reject all concepts of leadership and why we are one hundred per cent a democratic organisation, where each has an equal right to contribute opinions. Only knowledge and understanding coupled with conscious, democratic political commitment by the large majority can possibly bring world socialism about. To believe otherwise is to delude yourself.
6. That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of a nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic.
Once the majority understand and want socialism, have deliberately organised within the socialist movement, and have placed in Parliament—and its equivalent in other countries—democratically elected delegates, then there will be absolutely no problem. It will be as simple and straightforward as that. For how could a minority capitalist force stand the remotest chance against the socialist majority? Who would do their fighting for them? This is why we reject political violence, not on pacifist grounds but because it is completely unnecessary, damaging and futile. The act of voting is the only way, since this is how affairs in the new society will be conducted. Forget all about ends justifying means; power obtained by violence can only be maintained by violence and force. The truth is that the means condition the end.
7. That as all political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working class emancipation must be hostile to every other party.
You cannot be on two sides at once. You either want, work and vote for socialism alone, or you want capitalism one form or another. Vote Labour, Liberal, Tory, Communist or any of the left-wing groups and you will get capitalism. So instead of wasting your time and energy tampering about with the system, go straight to the root cause of nearly every problem you can think of capitalism itself and concentrate solely on its global abolition and replacement with socialism.
8. The Socialist Party of Great Britain therefore enters the field of political action, determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist, and calls upon the members of the working class of this country to muster under its banner to the end that a speedy termination may be wrought to the system which deprives them of the fruits of their labour, that poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality and slavery to freedom.
It is war—a class war—and we are the only socialist party in this country (there can only be one socialist party in any country), no matter what others may call themselves. We are in total opposition to all other parties because not a single one of them can ever abolish this system, no matter what they claim. Ours is not a war of bombs, bullets, street-fighting or any form of mindless violence, but a war in which our weapons are irrefutable facts. We expose all who deal in myth, illusion, ignorance and deceit. No problem is fully solved under capitalism by the time one is half-solved another presents itself, and by the time this one is half dealt with the original is festering again. Poverty, war, hunger, homelessness, hardship, monotony. So long as capitalism lasts so will these.
So there you have it—clear, straight and uncompromising. You agree that socialism is a highly desirable proposition. You agree that it is a straight choice. You agree that this new world can only come about when a majority understand and want it. Now make your choice. Join us and help to bring a sane and harmonious society all the closer. Don’t wait for others to do it—they may be waiting for you.