Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Educating The Guardian about Socialism


The Guardian, 29 May, posits the question, is Keir Starmer really a socialist?

The newspaper then gives an explanation, for readers who might not know. What socialism is. Cough.

Like many political philosophies, it means different things to different people. But broadly socialists believe all human beings are of equal worth and that society should be organised to reflect that. Fairness, equality, justice and the common good are the foundations of socialism. The wealth created by humans should be used to benefit everyone. Some socialists believe that key industries and sectors, such as utilities, transport and housing, should be owned by the state and run in the public interest rather than for private profit. Other socialists believe that all industries and sectors should be run this way.’

How did Socialism originate The Guardian asks?

It began as a reaction to capitalism, which really took off in the Industrial Revolution. People were concentrated into towns and cities to work long hours for low wages, often in dangerous conditions, in factories, mills, mines and other workplaces. The factory owners grew rich on the backs of the working class. Some people began to argue that the workers themselves should collectively own the factories and so on, either through workers’ co-operatives or through public/government ownership. Karl Marx was the most high-profile advocate of this.’

There are three phases of socialism. They are interrelated and interdependent and part of an unfolding process.

(1) Socialism first appears on the scene ideologically. It arose out of the material conditions of the earlier portion of the 19th Century. This is the birth of socialist science. It is materialistic. It recognizes that everything in existence is interrelated and in a constant process of change. (In a very real sense, it might even be said that socialism is the science that integrates all branches of science into a correlated whole.) Specifically, it indicates the general outlines and the process of social evolution and, more particularly, the nature of capitalism. It explains how the seed of the forthcoming society is fertilized within the womb of an old society.
(2) Then, socialism arises as a movement. It is not alone sufficient to understand the world. the task is to change it. Its very raison d'etre is to exert all its efforts to arouse the working class and all others to become socialists so that the vast majority becomes conscious of its interests, and proceeds to institute socialism. The socialist revolution cannot be rammed down the throats of "followers." The socialist revolution is majority, conscious and political. It is and can only be democratic by its very inherent nature. It is not a new ruling class come to power with a subject class having to submit.
(3) Finally, in the course of its evolution, capitalism has laid the groundwork for socialism, a classless, money-less, wage-less society. Socialism is "a society from which exploitation has been banished and in which the unfolding of each individual would be the condition for the freedom of all."

The Socialist Standard, August 1954

Has Socialism been tried the newspaper asks? Put down your coffee before you read this. Wouldn’t want you to spit it out due to your uncontrollable laughter.

Yes. The Russian Revolution of 1917 heralded a communist regime that grew into the Soviet Union. Under Joseph Stalin it turned into a dictatorship that inflicted misery, hardship and death on millions of people. As well as in eastern Europe, socialism or communism has been tried in China, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam and countries in Latin America and Africa. Few would say they have been a roaring success.’




We begin with these three points because they are vital to any kind of an understanding of what we mean by socialism.

We reject the idea that socialism has been tried in countries sometimes referred to as socialist. These countries were based upon state capitalism. Look below at our definition of socialism and ask yourself if this in any way describes the police states of modern China and Cuba or the old regimes in Russia and eastern Europe.

We reject the idea of socialism in one country. National socialism equals non-socialism. The capitalist system is global and so must the system which will replace it.

We reject the idea that people can be led into socialism. Socialism will not be established by good leaders or battling armies, but by thinking men, women and children. There can be no socialism without socialists.

So what does Socialism mean then?

That’s a straight question, so here’s a straight answer.

Socialism means a global system of social organisation based on

  • COMMON OWNERSHIP: All the productive wealth of the world will belong to all the people of the world. No more transnational corporations or small businesses and therefore nobody will own the world. It will be possessed by all of its inhabitants.

  • DEMOCRATIC CONTROL BY ALL: Who will run socialist society? We all will. There will be no more government and governed. People will make decisions freely in their communities, in regions and globally. With the existing means of information technology and mass communication this is all possible.

  • PRODUCTION FOR USE: Instead of producing goods and services for sale and profit, the sole reason for production will be to satisfy needs and desires.

  • FREE ACCESS: A society in which everyone owns everything, decides everything and only produces anything because it is useful will be one in which all will have free access to what is produced. Money will cease to have any function. People will not work for wages or salaries, but to give what they can and take what they need.

It’s a great idea, but ... But, what?

From the Socialist Standard, May 1995

Following a history of the Labour Party the Guardian asks,

Is it still a socialist organisation?

That rather depends. Its famous clause IV – “To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry … [on] the basis of the common ownership of the means of production” – was ditched by Tony Blair in 1995. But socialism came roaring back under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership – which was welcomed by some but also blamed for putting off potential Labour voters. After Corbyn was dumped as leader, the national anthem was sung at Labour’s 2022 conference along with The Red Flag. But now Starmer, considered by many to have shifted the party back to the centre ground of UK politics, has said he is a socialist, a progressive and a leader who puts the country first.’

The Labour Party has no answers to basic working class problems because it is ignorant of their cause. Socialists are concerned with causation, with how capitalism works, what socialism means and how to create a new order of society. This requires a reasoned, analytical approach based upon the method of materialism. The SPGB urges our fellow workers to seriously consider this alternative approach to politics...In a few years Labour will be back in office repeating the anti-working class crimes that all Labour governments have committed to ensure the smooth running of capitalism. Come the next Labour government, whoever is Prime Minister, there will be Labour Lefties whining that principles have been betrayed; they will not have been, for Labour has no principles to betray.

From the Socialist Standard, November 1983

The piece ends with the question,

So could we be heading for a socialist UK after the next election?

No. The Labour leadership shows little inclination to introduce radical policies, renationalise on any scale or boot the bosses out. Its hallmarks are political caution, economic stability and reassuring business leaders – not exactly a rerun of 1917. The expectations of many who describe themselves as socialists are low, and they may get even lower as the election campaign goes on.’

Got that one right at least. One out of seven correct ‘explanations’ Educate yourself Guardian.

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