Socialist Studies Socialist Studies

RECONSTITUTED SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN SUMMER SCHOOL JUNE 2016 - SOCIALISTS, SOCIALIST REVOLUTION AND SOCIALISM .

Part 1 - Introduction

In the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, Marx and Engels remarked with excitement on the speed of transmitting information through new forms of communication such as the canals and the railways. They looked at communication as a revolutionary tool.

Since the mid-19th century there has been the telephone and now the I-pad with its ability to instantaneously transmit real-time images throughout the globe.

However, despite the appearance in recent years of the internet and the use of new means of social media like Twitter and Facebook, the majority of workers still have not heard of the Socialist Party of Great Britain and its unique case for socialism.

Part of the problem is politics itself. Workers currently hold organized politics with contempt, cynicism and suspicion. Politics is associated with corruption and sleaze which is mirrored by the falling membership figures of most political parties. Single issue politics is fashionable to join while becoming a member of a political party is not.

Socialists, we would point out, are not to blame for the current cynicism and disinterestedness in politics held by a sizeable number of the population. Nevertheless socialists suffer, the consequences of the withering contempt many workers have towards politicians– often deservingly so.

However, a socialist political party and socialist political organisation is indispensable for the working class to establish socialism. The means of production and distribution is owned by the capitalist class through the active protection by the machinery of government, including the armed forces. A socialist revolution has to secure the machinery of government so it “…may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic (Clause 6, OBJECT AND DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES, Socialist Party of Great Britain).

As a result of apathy and disinterestedness in revolutionary politics, millions of workers currently have no idea of the practical feasibility of a social system without the labour market, wages and salaries and employment; a world-wide social system based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society.

And by workers, socialists mean the millions of men and women along with their dependents who have to live-off wages and salaries or are self-employed. We mean a world-wide class of workers forced into employment because they do not own the means to life.

Who are the working class?

The working class forms a majority in society and faces a world-wide capitalist class. Furthermore, workers and capitalists are locked together in a class struggle over the intensity and extent of class exploitation and politically over the control of the world’s resources and means of production and distribution.

Unfortunately, workers do not come into daily contact with socialist ideas in the way they do with, what Marx called, “ruling class ideas”; ideas used to justify class exploitation and class privilege. Workers are fed a constant drip-drip feed of propaganda by politicians, academics, religious leaders and the media telling them that capitalism is as natural as the air they breathe. And schools train workers to become pliant and obedient wage slaves and not to question the society they live in or consider alternatives to the profit system.

Workers are often told that they have identical interest with their employers. This false idea is reinforced at staged-managed and uncritical political PR events. Who has not seen images on television of the Prime Minister, David Cameron or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, wearing hi-viz jackets and hard hats used as a symbolic stage props to give them some proletarian credibility? There they are standing self-importantly on a podium surrounded by submissive, pliant and servile workers sitting in silence along with the owner of the factory (usually someone contributing to Tory funds) as through the political message Cameron and Osborne gives to the captive audience is shared equally by everyone present. It is not.

Workers do not have the same class interests as those who employ them. In fact, the interests of capitalists and workers are diametrically opposed to each other, particularly the struggle of workers to resist attacks on their working conditions and their struggle to increase wages and salaries.

Capitalist propaganda has a tendency to drown-out the socialist proposition for production and distribution democratically and directly taking place to meet human need. Unfortunately, our opponents have millions to spend on their lies while we can just about afford the cost of the postage stamp. Today socialists are also confronted by well financed blogs, media hubs, and other on-line outlets for ruling class propaganda.

Socialism and Political Commitment

Another problem workers face in relation to socialist activity is political commitment. The pressure of employment, family life, and lack of time means that for many workers political activity is limited and a dangerous trust is then placed in political leaders to think and make decisions for them.

Workers have to politically think and act for themselves. It is a prerequisite for becoming a socialist. To depend on another person to do your thinking and acting for you prevents a worker joining with other socialists to consciously and politically abolish capitalism and establish socialism.

Added to this, there are so few socialists on the ground with the result that it is hard to counter the false assertion that “there is no alternative to the market” (TINA for short). The dogma that “There is no real alternative”, is a politics first pursued by the late Margaret Thatcher (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 22 May 1980), a doctrine which everywhere sees capitalism triumphant and lasting forever. TINA has been continued by Tony Blair who once told a Labour Party Conference in September 1996: “there are no longer bosses and workers, them and us’. And after the fall of the Berlin Wall, all there was for Mr Blair to offer the working class was “radical and progressive reforms”, whatever that meant, within the capitalist framework of free markets, free trade and globalisation.

Our opponents wish there was no alternative to capitalism, no class struggle and no “them and us” but the reality is all so different. The socialist proposition for production and distribution just taking place democratically to meet human need is a rational and practical proposition not a speculative dream. In any case the working class runs capitalism from top to bottom albeit in the interst of another class. So why are they not capable of running a social system in their own interst? And the class struggle takes place on a daily and weekly basis not out of the spite of employers and their politicians but because the capitalist class has to extract profit from the labour power of the working class.

Is human nature a problem?

Others, unsympathetic to socialism, who do come across the Socialist Party of Great Britain for the first time, write socialists off as starry-eyed utopians. Our error, they claim, is to ignore the reality of “human nature”.

We are accused of failing to take into account what motivates human beings thereby ignoring violence, competition, greed and laziness which are taken by our opponents as innate characteristics of men and women.

Here, for example, is the late Christopher Hitchins commenting on the “dark side” of human nature:

With a part of themselves, humans relish cruelty and war and absolute capricious authority, are bored by civilized and humane pursuits and understand only too well the latent connection between sexual repression and orgiastic vicarious collectivized release (WHY ORWELLMATTERS, Christopher Hitchins, p.191)

Predictably, Christopher Hitchins did not include himself in this crass and misanthropic description of human behaviour. Intellectuals like him are apparently immune, to the baser instincts inflicted upon of the rest of society.

Hitchens’s view of human nature is a false and ugly depiction of men and women and a failure to understand how and why different social systems, with their unique social relationships, effect and determine social behaviour. Under certain social systems; war, carnage, death and destruction are the norms. However, this does not mean there will always be forces causing conflict. Social behaviour and social relations are not static but change over time. And human co-operation is a constant feature of all social system for human beings to survive at all.

For tens of thousands of years human beings lived in hunter-gatherer societies and it is only recently in human history that people have lived together in a capitalist society; some four hundred years or so. The attributes of capitalism which people take for granted like wealth being produced by propertyless wage workers to be sold on a market with a view for profit, has in fact a very short history. When Marx wrote the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO in 1848 most of the world was still Feudal.

Different social systems which have existed between hunter gatherer societies and capitalism have come and gone along with the social behaviour peculiar to them. People are no longer sacrificed to Gods in this country, nor witches burnt at the stake nor atheists barred from universities although new forms of coercion now exist placing restrictions and control over what can be said, where and to whom.

There is now no Divine Right of Kings. Opponents of the State no longer have their tongues pieced or forehead branded or put into the pillory and whipped for criticizing the State. No cleric can now say, as the French Catholic theologian Jaques-Benigne Bossuet said in 1691: “I have the right to persecute you because I am right and you are wrong” (Trigger Warning: Is the fear of being offensive killing free speech, Mick Hume 2016). Over time, social systems have changed and so has people’s behaviour. The process of human history is a result of the active interrelationship between the environment and the activity of human beings in trying to survive.

In changing their social circumstance human beings have changed themselves and their social relations. And it is worth repeating again that if there is one constant feature of human behaviour then it is the human ability to co-operate with others for a common end. Without human-cooperation we would have died out as a species a long time ago. Selfishness is a barrier to human development. To constantly want to have rather than to be does have negative environmental and social consequences.

Those who make the charge of utopianism made against socialists forget that the conception of socialism adhered to by today’s socialists was held by some notable 19th century figures like Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels and by other socialist pioneers. There were, too, some people who later became leaders in the Labour Party, who supported our view of socialism.

In the works of Karl Marx, notably the Communist Manifesto, written over 150 years ago, he stated that socialism/communism (both words mean exactly the same thing) would entail the abolition of commodity production and exchange for profit. Marx concluded the Manifesto by stating:

In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.

In VALUE, PRICE AND PROFIT, Marx showed the forces in play against trade union action and went on to say:

Instead of the conservative motto: ‘A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work’ they ought to inscribe on their banners the revolutionary watchwords: ‘Abolition of the wages system

Abolition of the wages” means what it says. In socialism there will be no wages, no labour market and no classes. There will be no capitalism.

Part 2: Socialism Has Never Existed

In the strict use of the word “utopian” or “nowhere” – made famous by Thomas More’s book UTOPIA written in 1516 - is applicable to socialism.

Socialism has never existed; neither in the past nor anywhere in the world today. There has never been a socialist majority in society convinced of the necessity of establishing socialism. And there has never been a socialist majority, who by its own efforts and without the need for leaders has established the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society.

Marx did not have much time for utopian speculation and blue prints of a future society. Like socialists today he began with society as it is. As early as the 1840’s he wrote:

The premises from which we begin are not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but real premises from which abstraction can only be made in the imagination. They are the real individuals, their activity and the material conditions, under which they live, but those which they find existing and those produced by their activity (The German Ideology, ed. C.J. Arthur, p.42, 1970)

The salient feature of capitalism is the class struggle. Marx went on to explain the political reality of the class struggle with the use of his materialist conception of history and the labour theory of value. For Marx the class struggle was “the motor force of history”; in effect a political struggle over the ownership of the means of production and distribution.

Even in the 1840’s the class struggle was obvious to social commentators, socialist or otherwise. Marx, in fact, said he was not the first to notice the class struggle taking place giving that honour to historians like Augustin Thierry. However, Marx went on to explain why the class struggle took place under capitalism showing that workers produce more value than they receive back in wages and salaries. Surplus value, as Marx called it, was the source of the unearned income of rent, interest and profit going to the rentier, financier and industrialist capitalist.

What Marx did notice when he turned his attention to capitalism and the class struggle was the formation by their own efforts of trade unions despite the capitalist state passing anti-combination legislation and imprisoning and deporting trade unionists.

Despite unfavourable political conditions workers still took strike action to get more wages and to improve their working conditions while political groups like the Chartists pushed for the extension of the franchise. Workers took all this action against the capitalists and their state independent of any socialist theory.

Marx often quoted with approval the maxim of the poet Johann Goethe: “In the beginning was the deed”. And from the class struggle between capitalists and workers Marx drew this very important conclusion:

All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The proletariat movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in interest of the immense majority (Communist Manifesto)

Consequently socialists start with society as it confronts worker and then trace out a political programme to abolish capitalism and establish socialism.

The first clause of the SPGB’s DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES, for example, states:

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

Socialists take as our starting point the class relationship between employers and workers where the means of production and distribution are privately owned and with the existence of the “the proletariat movement” described by Marx in the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, not abstract theoretical and utopian speculation.

The socialist conclusion for the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of socialism derives from what is taking place within capitalism, notably the class struggle and the reasons for the class struggle. Utopians we are not.

Constant and unremitting Capitalist Propaganda

So why have most workers not heard the socialist case and those who do dismiss it as utopian?

The answer is simple. Workers are faced with the constant and unremitting capitalist propaganda of the three main political parties; the Tories, the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party as well as the minor parties like the Greens and UKIP. These powerful anti-socialist organisations have vast funds at their disposal, which socialists do not have. They also have access to the newspapers, radio and television. These political organisations come before the workers and say:

Don’t take any notice of the socialists we’ll make capitalism alright for you, you support Mr. Corbyn, or you support Mr. Fallon or you support Mr. Farage, or you support Mr. Cameron, one or the other will make capitalism right for you.

This is what socialists are up against; unremitting and constant pro-capitalist propaganda. We are not conspiracy theorists. The capitalist class has its own interests to pursue and the working class has its own interests. And they are not the same. They are separate interests and diametrically opposed to each other. The mistake most workers make is to confuse their own distinct interests with the interests of employers.

This is not to say that the capitalist class has singular interst. They do not as the recent EU referendum exposed only too well. The capitalist class is divided, particularly over the question of taxation, who has to pay it and how much, but what unites the capitalist class is the defense and maintenance of their privilege, wealth and power. And they have the resources to pay journalists and others for pro-capitalist and anti-socialist propaganda.

The capitalist class spends billions of pounds in the defense of its interests. They can buy people to defend their interests; academics, think tanks, politician and journalists. Socialists are disproportionately underfunded. We have no full time academics producing ruling class ideas to be fed to free market institutes with full-time research assistants who then feed them to full-time journalists to slavishly and uncritically disseminate them to their readership.

Socialists, on the contrary, have, at present, very little resources to mount a sustained criticism of capitalist ideas and beliefs. We cannot buy newspapers like the SUN or the DAILY MAIL or television stations like FOX NEWS.

As the journalist Mick Hume, onetime editor of LIVING MARXISM – or, as one wit had it; “dead Leninism” – had to admit in his recent book TRIGGER WARNING: IS THE FEAR OF BEING OFFENSIVE KILLING FREE SPEECH (Chapter 7 2016), billionaire employers like Rupert Murdoch have a freedom to express their ideas and pursue their interests which the majority of society simply just do not enjoy. Employers can also use commercial pressure and contracts to suppress free speech. Quite a lot of trade union time is taken up with bullying employers.

Socialists, even if we wanted to, cannot pay six figure salaries to journalists any more than we could set-up and run a “think-tank” – Karl Marx Institute to counter the propaganda coming out of, say, the Adam Smith Institute. But we do our best under the political circumstances in which we find ourselves.

And socialists also have one important factor in our favour.

Capitalism can never be able to be run or be reformed to work by politicians and governments in the interest of all society. The capitalist class and its politicians, although they divide and rule, still have to attack sections of the working class. Capitalists cannot leave workers alone; they are forever trying to increase the intensity and extent of class exploitation. Capitalists are always trying to extract more profit out of workers. They have to under pain of competition.

Look at the recent legislation of the French “Socialist” government against workers which was rushed through the legislature in May of this year. The French government - misleadingly calling itself “socialist” – has made it easier for employers to sack workers. Labour market liberalization they called it. Workers throughout France fought back. They united together in a series of strikes but it was always going to be difficult with high unemployment running at 10.7 per cent, only 8% of the work force in unions, mostly in the public sector, and a determined government ready to use force to break the strikes.

Yet the French government, no matter what political complexion it happens to be, has to attack the workers, it has to take sides with the employers and it has to enact anti-working class legislation. The same applies to the economic situation in Greece where Syriza, once praised by the capitalist left and feared by the Troika made-up of the EU Commission, the ESB and the IMF, has carried out greater and deeper austerity measures than those of its conservative predecessors.

The fact that employers and their state cannot and will not leave workers alone does create within the working class questioning, dissent and the making of socialists; although not enough currently to make a trickle into a fast flowing movement for revolutionary change. Capitalism though makes socialists; that is a revolutionary process the capitalist class and its political agents cannot stop. They cannot make capitalism run in the interest of all society and thereby stop workers becoming socialists and to act in their own class interest to replace capitalism with socialism.

Part 3: NATIONALISATION IS NOT SOCIALISM

Socialists have to face a political problem not of our own making. Workers are told that there are socialist and communist countries in the world like China, Cuba and Vietnam. This is not the case and it takes time to argue why this is not so.

However, the essential characteristic of capitalism is that it is an integrated world-wide system of class exploitation which produces goods for sale and profit. China, Cuba and Vietnam all produce commodities for profit and the working class in all three countries do not own the means of production and distribution and remain, like workers elsewhere in the world, an exploited class producing more social wealth than they receive in wages and salaries.

Capitalism is a social system where the means of production and distribution is owned by a minority capitalist class to the exclusion of the working class majority. Not only is “surplus value” extracted from the working class in these countries but workers are also engaged in a constant class struggle over the extent and intensity of exploitation.

There is no fundamental difference between a worker employed in Vietnam or China and a worker employed in Britain or the US. Although there is the absence in the former countries of free trade unions and the freedoms of political association and dissemination of socialist information, workers in Vietnam and China do not own the means of production and distribution and are, as a consequence, forced onto the labour market to sell their labour-power, or ability to work, for a wage or a salary..

The problem is compounded further by many workers believing that former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries were once “communist” countries, fundamentally different to Western countries like the US and the UK. Workers are told and believe that “communism” failed in these countries because it was an economically inefficient social system compared with the efficiency of Western capitalism so that eventually the whole system collapsed.

Again this is an error. The Soviet Union may have collapsed for economic reasons such as the inability to compete with other capitalist countries on the world market but they were not socialist/communist ones.

From a socialist perspective, pre-1991 Russia was no more communist than China or Vietnam is today. Russian state capitalism was, in effect, large scale nationalisation. Russia traded on the world market, the working class in Russia was exploited and unable to form free trade unions. Furthermore the Russian economy was not immune from the economic laws acting upon commodity production and exchange for profit.

Nevertheless, a day does not go by without a political commentator in the media stating that Marx’s ideas have been refuted by experience, that Communism/Socialism is dead and buried and Western capitalism is everywhere triumphant. They wish!

For those workers still unconvinced that countries like China are not capitalist we suggest a little test. Visit China and go to one of the shops in Beijing and say to the sales manager: “I don’t intend to pay for the goods displayed in the shop”. The manager will say: “Say that again, you aren’t going to pay for them”. And you will say: “Yes”. He will ring up the police and say: “I’ve got an eccentric tourist here who thinks we’ve got communism or socialism and doesn’t think he has to pay for things”. And if you try to leave the shop without paying for the goods you will be arrested. And it will be no good at the trial to offer in your defense that you thought you were in a “communist” country.

Abolition of Money

Once the bogus argument that Russia was once communist has been dealt with, the next question put to socialists surrounds the absence of money and exchange in a socialist society. Some workers find it incredulous that you can have a society without money and exchange. The economic textbooks might tell you about the marvels that the monetary system is supposed to give society but the reality is altogether different. Money and finance are in constant disarray within capitalism.

There appears always to be a monetary or financial crisis going on somewhere in the world. Finance ministers and leading bankers are dragged at a minute’s notice to a hastily convened conference to tackle turbulence on the currency markets.

Governments are forced to enact banking regulations, impose stress tests for banks, engage in quantitative easing, and to seriously consider bizarre economic ideas like the use of “helicopter money” to be handed out by central banks to stimulate demand. And economic institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have been formed to try to resolve the problems of the world’s monetary system albeit without success.

It is only Marx who gave a useful account of money as a unit of account, a medium of exchange and a store of value, although Marx, unlike today’s economists identified money with gold. Marx was also able to explain inflation which is caused by governments going on year after year printing and putting into circulation hundreds of millions of pounds of additional paper money not needed for trade.

Marx also placed money and exchange in the context of class power and social alienation. In the ECONOMIC AND PHILOSOPHICAL MANUSCRIPTS of 1844 he wrote:

The extent of the power of money is the extent of my power. Money’s properties are my – the possessor’s – properties and essential powers. Thus, what I am and am capable of is by no means determined by my individuality.

And he continued

I am ugly, but I can buy for myself the most beautiful of women. Therefore I am not ugly, for the effect of ugliness – its deterrent power – is nullified by money. I, according to my individual characteristics, am lame, but money furnishes me with twenty-four feet. Therefore I am not lame. I am bad, dishonest, unscrupulous, stupid; but money is honoured, and hence its possessor. Money is the supreme good, therefore its possessor is good. Money, besides, saves me the trouble of being dishonest: I am therefore presumed honest. I am brainless, but money is the real brain of all things and how then should its possessor be brainless? Besides, he can buy clever people for himself, and is he who has power over the clever not more clever than the clever?

And he concluded:

Do not I, who thanks to money am capable of all that the human heart longs for, possess all human capacities? Does not my money, therefore, transform all my incapacities into their contrary? (Marxist.org)

Marx also highlighted money’s anti-social and destructive attributes with a pertinent Shakespearean quotation:

This yellow slave
Will knit and break religions; bless the accursed;
Make the hoar leprosy adored; place thieves.
And give them title, knee and approbation,
With senators on the bench; this is it,
That makes the wappen’d widow wed again;
…Come damned earth,
Thou common whore of mankind

(TIMON OF ATHENS Act 4, Scene 3 quoted in CAPITAL VOLUME 1, chapter 2, Money, or the Circulation of Commodities, p. 230))

It is a full-time job for politicians and economists to try to get to grips with the world’s financial and monetary markets. Capitalism is continually throwing up monetary and financial problems and there is no solution to them. Money is important to capitalism because it is a social system based on exchange. Socialism on the other hand will just produce and distribute goods and services directly to meet human need. In such a social system money is irrelevant.

In Socialism there will be no need for monetary transactions or for barter. The working class possesses all the technical know-how, physical ability and intelligence to establish socialism. Once the socialist framework of common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society is in place, workers will not have to exchange anything in order to have direct access to what they and their families need to live worthwhile lives. Workers will just produce what is needed and workers and their families will take what they need to live well, flourish and take part in the affairs of society.

Critics of the socialist argument that production and distribution in socialism will not need money just cannot get out of their capitalist skins. They cannot free their minds from buying and selling and markets just as defender of Feudalism could not think outside the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings and the servitude of peasants to Kings, Bishops and Lords.

Use your imagination and think for yourself

Marx once said that workers should question everything. We would also add that workers should use their imagination and think for themselves.

For those of you who enjoy reading science fiction then it is instructive to take a look at Star Trek. Star Trek shows a post-scarcity society - the combination of practically unlimited energy (from anti-matter/matter reactions focused through dilithium crystals) and replication technology where almost every want of humans can be produced without the need for capital or labour (Https://www.quora.com/How-can-the-world-function-without-money-in-Star-Trek).

Science fiction authors ask the reader to use their imagination; to boldly go where no one has gone before, so to speak.

Two notable science fiction writers who describe future post-scarcity societies where there is no money are Ken Macleod (THE CASSINI DIVISION) and the late Ian Banks (THE DIAMOND AGE AND THE CULTURE). Incidentally Ken Macleod has our web site SOCIALIST STUDIES as a link to his own web site and he has been quoted as having been influenced by the SPGB’s conception of a future moneyless, wageless and stateless society of free and co-operative human beings.

And it should be remembered that in human evolution, capitalism is not a very old social system; historically, a mere blink of the eye.

In a Neolithic cave at Lascaux in France there are two sets of images of animals about a few meters away from each other; the first painting was produced some thousands of years prior to the second. Capitalism, as an integrated world-wide system of class exploitation is only about 150 years old.

How capitalism operates has a history as Marx showed in part eight of CAPITAL, VOLUME 1, in the section So-called Primitive Accumulation. In this section he commented on the arrival of capitalism on the stage of history with these words:

…capital comes dripping from head to toe, from every pore, with blood and dirt: (So-called Primitive Accumulation Ch. 30 p. 926)

There is nothing natural about a market economy which exchanges commodities for a profit and monetary gain. And our critics forget that although the working class majority think and act in terms of an exchange-based social system this will not be the case in socialism. The premise of a socialist society is the existence of a socialist majority throughout the world.

Unlike capitalism, there will be equilibrium in socialism between what society produces and distributes and what people want through the process of democratic planning, the use of computing and information technology, stock control and other technical means useful to monitoring the production and distribution of goods and services. There will also be practical assessments of production and distribution on environmental and health and safety grounds. Monetary exchange will not come into the equation. The central consideration for socialist society will be production and distribution directly for use to enable men and women to take a full and democratic role in society where, to quote Marx:

The free development of each is the condition for the free development of all (COMMUNIST MANIFESTO)

PART 4: CAPITALIST POLITICS: DIVIDE AND RULE BUT FOR HOW LONG?

The skill of capitalist politicians lies in dividing the working class. They are extremely successful partly because workers are already bitterly divided among themselves over competition for jobs, housing, health care and other necessities of life constrained and limited by the exploitive wages system.

Some workers refuse to accept they are in the working class believing they have superior social status. They refer to themselves as “middle-class” because of where they live, where they went to school and what they consume. Academics make the situation worse. Recently a group of academics claimed there were 7 gradations of social class in British Society; from the “elite” to the “precariat” (BBC NEWS, 7th December 2015).

This political ignorance is exploited by capitalist’s politicians and the media. The MAIL ON SUNDAY, for example, crowed, some years back, at the failure of a public sector workers strike involving teachers and council workers, writing the strikers off as “middle-class failures” (3rd July 2010).

From a socialist perspective, the “middle-class” is a myth. Office workers and so-called “professional” workers like university lecturers and architects are all forced onto the labour market for exactly the same reason as car-workers, miners and dock-workers; workers do not own the means of production and distribution.

When the Junior Doctors recently went on strike against their employers they did so as workers not as “middle-class professionals. And it was other workers who supported them in their struggle against the lengthening of the working day, the imposition of new labour contracts and the interests of a spiteful and vindictive state employer.

Recently THE TIMES informed us that a third of “professional” workers are too short of cash to pay a £500 bill. We were told that:

…since the financial crisis wages have fallen by up to 10 per cent on some calculations when adjusted for inflation, with companies reluctant to offer staff generous pay-rises while the recovery is fragile. According to the office for national statistics ONS) average disposable income recovered slightly last year to £30, 900 but is still below the pre down-turn 2007 level of £31,600.

The article went on to say:

In the same period the cost of living has risen steadily, with bills for food and gas and transport fares all higher. Households with children have faced an average rise in the cost of living of 2.4 per cent each year over the past decade, according to the ONS

Does this not show one class experiencing one major economic problem thereby having the same interests in resolving it?

The capitalist left, like the SWP and Counterfire, also undermine a clear understanding of class and class relations. These organisations deny university professors, scientists, engineers and architects are members of the working class. They locate these workers within the “middle-class” not the working class. This is wrong.

Workers are only employed if it profitable for capitalists to employ them. Architects and surveyors lose their jobs because of a trade depression in the building industry while scientists are sacked because research and development is cut from a company’s budget to save money. Under capitalism, unemployment is a great leveller.

Another division within the working class, which undermines common interest and solidarity, is the pitting of public sector workers against private sector workers. Public sector workers are depicted in the media as lazy, too well paid and with gold-plated pensions. The reality is totally different; carers and hospital staff, for example, work long hours, are often paid a pittance and will receive pensions cast in lead.

Workers are also divided over immigration which is exploited by politicians for votes. This was seen during the recent EU referendum. Immigrants were blamed by Brexit politicians for causing low pay, for taking jobs, for displacing workers on housing lists and so on. This misinformation was believed by many workers and split the working class.

Workers saw immigrants as the cause of their social and economic problems rather than capitalism. Workers did not challenge capitalism which creates the problems the working class face on a daily basis. It is easier, but just as stupid, for workers to blame members of their own class rather than the endemic inadequacies of the profit system.

Nor did workers see immigrants as part of their own class with identical interests distinct and opposed to the interests of employers and their politicians. Class solidarity was trampled underfoot as workers rushed to petty lance corporals, blonde mop-head rabble-rousers and the racism of the various authoritarian and fascist groups which made up the Brexit camp.

Then there is the division of workers along national lines during war where one set of workers fight another. Workers, as Marx noted in the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, have no country. Workers have no flag to die for and workers have no interest in the nation state. And workers have no interest in war. They do not own raw resources; they have no trade routes to protect or strategic spheres of influence to defend. More importantly workers do not own the means of production and distribution.

Recently the unemployed have been a target by politicians as a means to divide the working class against itself. George Osborne’s made a typically condescending remark at the last election about hard working families. He painted a picture of people on their way to work walking past the closed curtains of the “skivers” still in bed and living off state-handouts. Predictably, the media then directed their Orwellian two minutes of hate towards the unemployed.

And when it comes to trashing socialism anything goes. Obama and the Pope are denounced as “socialists”. So ridiculous has the accusations by free-market fundamentalists in the Republican Party and the mad hatters of the Tea Party that Obama is a “Marxist” that an episode of the satirical cartoon series, The Simpsons, showed Obama in the White House standing in front of a photograph of himself and Marx together as though they shared the same ideas and beliefs.

Even the economist Lord Keynes is regarded by some conservatives, as a dangerous socialist and any form of state interference in the economy is misleadingly described as “socialism”. As it has been said of conservatism as a political doctrine; it is the highest form of ignorance and the lowest form of thought.

Anyone who criticises, threatens or censures the profit system is fair game and is also denounced as an evil socialist. According to one DAILY MAIL journalist, James Delingpole, there is even supposed to be a world-wide conspiracy of hundreds of well-placed “cultural Marxists” taking over institutions like the BBC (How the BBC fell for a Marxist Plot to destroy civilisation from within, 27th September 2011).

This fantasy of a world-wide Marxist conspiracy often found in the DAILY MAIL has its dark side. The convicted terrorist Anders Brevik quoted former DAILY MAIL journalist Melanie Philips and Jeremy Clarkson, one of the leading thinkers in David Cameron’s Chipping Norton set, in his 1500 page Manifesto where he inveighed against “Cultural Marxist traitors” who have forced “multiculturalism” onto Western society (http://www.theweek.co.uk/politics/breivik-massacre/3613/what-made-anders-breivik-quote-daily-mail).

For six figure salaries journalists will say anything or write anything derogatory about socialism. The meaning of socialism is distorted and attributed to every act of genocide throughout the 20rth century. They just do not care. No counter argument will dissuade them from writing their poison. They exist just to produce ruling class ideas and an apologetics for their employers.

There is another problem associated with politicians. There are those who describe themselves as “socialists” like Bernie Sanders in the US and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK. What are the alleged credentials of those politicians like the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn who claim to be a socialist? Corbyn is supposed to be a socialist but whose policies, on inspection, have nothing to do with the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution but everything to do with a “managed capitalism” informed by the writings of Maynard Keynes not Karl Marx.

In fact the Labour Party’s recent policy announcement of a “New Economics” is not new at all. It is very old; dating back to the post- Second World War policy of the Labour Government whose popular capitalism of a mixed economy, Keynesianism and public spending ended catastrophically 34 years later in the so-called “Winter of Discontent”.

PART 5: We really do need Socialism

Capitalist politicians say to the working class: “you really don’t need socialism”. They tell workers that socialism is not a viable alternative to the profit system. “There is no alternative” is the dogma of the ruling class. Instead they offer workers “popular capitalism”, “regulated capitalism” or a “fairer capitalism” in the belief that things will get better and better if they were elected.

However things have not and will not get better and better under capitalism, even if real wages rise from one generation to the next. As Marx noted, it does not matter if workers are tied to capital by chains of iron or by chains of gold they will still remain an exploited class. The working class will still experience all the negative consequences of the profit system; war, poverty, social alienation and unemployment that their grandparents did.

And we do not have to dig far to get some evidence for this. At sports direct workers have become appendages to the machine; dehumanized and reduced to disposable units of production. And in her article Brutal and Inhumane way to treat staff, and Sports Direct is not alone (GUARDIAN 8th June 2016), the journalist Felicity Lawrence noted that workers, in another retailer similar to Sports Direct:

…wear computerized wristbands that measure how many arm movements they make while picking goods for dispatch…

While in the US:

…assembly lines run so fast that even a short toilet break disrupts production. Staff are meant to signal to a “Floater” or relief worker to take their place before having to go to the toilet, but…they are often denied a break, so that some have taken to wearing Pampers in case they need to urinate or defecate while on the line.

Even the TIMES newspaper, in an editorial commenting on the plundering of BHS and the way in which Sports Direct treated its workers, was forced to attack what it called “crass capitalism” (9th June 2016). Can capitalism be “crass” any more than it can become “unacceptable” or “crony” or “Anglo-Saxon”? Forced to defend capitalism its supporters are continually forced to place adjectives in front of the word to make it more palatable. Ironically, THE ECONOMIST now refers to Russia and China as “state capitalism”. Capitalism, though, is just capitalism; an exploitive class system with a revolutionary beginning in human history through class struggle and, one day, a revolutionary end through class struggle.

In comparison to the life-style enjoyed by the capitalist class who live off the unearned income of rent, interest and profit, the workers only get second best and sometimes not even second best but none at all. There used to be an old slogan of the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.) which stated: “Only the best is good enough for the working class”. The slogan was adopted specifically for architecture in the 1930’s by the émigré Russian architect, Berthold Lubetkin; he designed the Penguin Pool at London Zoo and the Finsbury Health Centre in Islington, and it was he who stated that “nothing is too good for ordinary people”. Quite so.

This did not mean workers deserved to drink top quality champagne or live in the best housing but the establishment of socialism to create the social framework in which all the needs of people can be met. Workers should get the best the means of production, technology and science can provide. Why let a class of parasites – the so-called “1 per cent” of the population – enjoy the best? Surely the remaining 99% should expect a life better than second best?

Socialists say to workers that they have got to get rid of the system of commodity production and exchange for profit. Workers have to act in their own interest and organize consciously and politically into a principled socialist party to capture political power including the armed forces. Workers have to use the revolutionary vote to elect socialist delegates to Parliament. No one else is going to do it for them.

Pursuing class interests requires struggle and effort. Workers, for example, will not solve the problems they face by voting in the referendum to stay in or out of the European Community. And nor do workers act in their class interest by voting for capitalist political parties at elections. It is a waste of a vote. It solves nothing.

The trouble about capitalism is that the means of production are not used to their full capacity. Marx was quite clear on this in the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO. He wrote:

The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered, and so soon as they overcome these fetters, they bring disorder into the whole of bourgeois property. The conditions of bourgeois society are too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them.

The restraint imposed upon the forces of production by the social relations of production within capitalism is the cause of periodic economic crises and trade depressions. And this contradiction also generates the class struggle between the capitalist class and working class because where human need conflicts with profit-making then human needs come second despite the potential for production to meet those needs.

Take the example of periodic economic crises which have taken place for over the last two hundred years. Marx, more than anyone else, gave a sound explanation. He said:

…capitalist production moves through certain periodic cycles. It moves through a state of quiescence, growing animation, prosperity, overtrade, crisis and stagnation (WAGES, PRICE AND PROFIT in SELECTED WORKS vol. 1, p. 440)

Capitalists are usually wrong in their forecast about production because capitalism is anarchic and unpredictable. This can be illustrated in the following way. Employers do not just say to the workers: “get on with the job, produce as much as you can”. Employers look at production and the market, and they say to themselves: “Now, how many of the commodities will we be able to sell before our competitors step in and undercut us. And how much of this can we sell at a profit”,

And when the employers have formed an opinion on how much they think they can sell their commodities for they then produces as much as they thinks they can sell. And if they cannot sell all their commodities at a profit and they make a loss, they sack the unprofitable workers and they cut back on production. The capitalists don’t want to produce things that they cannot sell at a profit even if it means high levels of unemployment, stock-piling of unsold commodities, unmet human need and the destruction of capital itself.

Look at what is happening today to world raw material commodity prices. The slow-down in the Chinese economy has meant mining forms unable to sell their materials with a fall in prices and profits. International mining giant Anglo American was forced to make a reduction in its workforce from 135,000 to just 50,000 and scrapping its dividend until the end of 2016 (DAILY TELEGRAPH 9 December 2015). The crisis has come as shock out of the blue. Chinese capitalism was going to continue to grow from one year to the next – or so we were told by the experts - but it didn’t.

Here is a report of the problems now facing the Australian economy:

… Australia was uniquely vulnerable to China's slowdown and its move away from heavy investment. Australia produces a third of the world's iron ore, and China's slump has sent the price of iron ore from a peak of $185 per metric ton in 2011 to below $60. …Australia's unemployment rate, at 6.2 percent, far exceeds the U.S. rate of 5 percent. And the Australian dollar has fallen 14 percent against the dollar this year.

Four years ago, Port Hedland was enjoying a roaring business loading iron ore onto ships bound for China. Its homes commanded boomtown prices. It couldn't last, and it didn't. As China's super-charged growth slowed, Port Hedland's good times ended. John Briggs of Port Hedland's Pilbara Heart Real Estate says he's never seen a bust like this: "It's been dramatic, mate. Absolutely dramatic

http://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2015/11/12/from-australia-to-zambia-slowing-china-economy-causes-pain

When commodities cannot be sold over a period of time in one or several sectors of the economy, capitalists are faced with an economic crisis. There are no buyers, there are unsold commodities, there is idle plant and unprofitable workers, there are creditors to pay and there is no money.

Marx wrote extensively on economic crises and trade depressions. For Marx they were a consequence of laws and contractions acting on commodity production and exchange for profit. And it was Marx who gave a general but valid and sound explanation for the “ultimate reason” for all real crises. He said:

The ultimate reason for all real crises always remains the poverty and restricted consumption of the masses as opposed to the drive of capitalist production to develop the productive forces as though only the absolute consuming power of society constituted their limit (Capital vol., III Ch. XV, p. 484)

And economic crises have unseen consequences; both economic and political. The 2008 economic crisis was no different. It experienced two unexpected consequences actually beneficial to socialism.

First, Marx and his writings became fashionable again. At the height of the economic crisis, the former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was photographed reading volume 1 of Marx’s CAPITAL. What he made of reading Marx we were never told (EVENING STANDARD 30th March 2009). Marx was even read by mainstream economists in the vain attempt to find an explanation of what went wrong in the economy and how it could be put together again. The FINANCIAL TIMES even ran a Face Book Page with accompanying video of some very serious looking intellectuals asking the question “Can Marx Save Capitalism” (20th February 2012).

Of course, economists and politicians will not find in CAPITAL instructions on how to get out of an economic crisis any more than they will find instructions on how to run capitalism.

The question of Marx also highlighted the fear of the dogmatists who are petrified by any criticism of capitalism. And there certainly is an underlying fear held by those who dogmatically deny any alternative to capitalism. They all carry a secret fear shared by all dogmatists; a fear of being wrong. So any criticism of capitalism rings alarm bells. There are suddenly imagined Marxists everywhere; a global conspiracy plot.

Step forward, as an example of this political paranoia, the DAILY TELEGRAPH; a newspaper that proudly supports “business interests”. According to the DAILY TELEGRAPH (19th May, 2016) the new political correspondent of ITV news is an “expert on Marxism”. Apparently she was also taught “Marxist economics” at University College London.

Assuming its readership had never come across Marxism, the DAILY TELEGRAPH then went on to kindly explain that Communism was characterized by: “a classless society and common ownership of the means of production”. Socialists could not have put this better ourselves. A million or so readers being told what Communism meant over their morning toast and marmalade.

And it gets better.

The DAILY TELEGRAPH then went on to describe what Marxism meant. It turned to the pages of Oxford English Dictionary’s for a definition of Marxism. And this is what the OED said:

Central to Marxist theory is an explanation of social change in terms of economic factors, according to which the means of production provide the economic base which determines or influences the political and ideological superstructure…The history of society can be viewed as showing progressive stages in the ownership of the means of production and, hence the control of political power…Marx and Engels predicted the final revolutionary overthrow of capitalism by the proletariat and the eventual attainment of a classless society

Actually, it is not a bad definition of Marxism as dictionary definitions go. So Dr. Hertz need not bothered to have gone to University College London to learn all about “Marxism” or even purchase a copy of SOCIALIST STUDIES for her enlightenment. She could have easily just read the DAILY TELEGRAPH.

This brings us on to the second unintended consequence of the economic crisis we have been through. The crises has not only meant Marx’s works being read again but also that the word “capitalism” has become to be widely used in the media in a way that it had not been prior to 2008.

This is very dangerous political own goal for those charged with politically and economically defending the interests of the capitalist class.

The last thing employers want is their social system to be named and known. If workers start to become aware that we live in capitalism with its attendant exploitation and set of hostile anti-working class ideas and beliefs that is a good place to start a journey to becoming socialists.

True, workers’ current understanding of capitalism might be confused; nonetheless they will at least have begun to recognize that capitalism is a historically located social system with a beginning somewhere in the past, and more importantly, a revolutionary termination point somewhere in the future.

The wide-spread use of the word “capitalism” by the media and politicians, ironically, is not down to the success or otherwise of socialists getting their ideas across to the working class but is instead the result of the contradictions, crises and conflicts within capitalism itself. Economically, politically and socially capitalism’s politicians, academics and media have serious problems which become more and more entrenched the older capitalism gets.

These severe and intractable problems – the environment and the econopmy to name but two – will not be going away and, of course, requires the establishment of socialism by a working class majority to do so.

As we look with some disappointment at the trickle that currently constitutes the “socialist movement” we can at least take comfort from the fact that the unsolvable social and economic problems caused by capitalism really does create its own class of “gravediggers”.

PART 6: PROFIT VERSES HUMAN NEED

Capitalism is governed by the market and the law of value where the value of a commodity is determined by the socially necessary labour time that goes into its production. Marx showed at great length in his three volumes, CAPITAL, how capitalism worked, the contradictions it created as it passed from one crisis to the next, and how and why the profit system could never be made to work in the interest of all society. Marx explained class exploitation through his theory of surplus value and he showed that the capitalist class lived off the unearned income of rent, interest and profit.

Marx showed that capitalist production and exchange takes place through a trade cycle of boom and bust and he went on to explain why capitalists introduce technology to displace labour and why they require, what he called, “the industrial reserve army of the unemployed”. He also explained the role of money and the cause of inflation, productivity and the role of banking, credit and finance.

Marx studied capitalism at great length and showed that the economic laws acting on commodity production and exchange for profit cannot be prevented from operating by the passing of economic reforms. Marx’s understanding of capitalism was vindicated by the failure of both Keynesianism and monetarism. Both theories could not prevent economic crises and subsequent high levels of unemployment.

Marx said that economic crises and depressions occur and that there is nothing the capitalists and their politicians can do about it. And experience has shown that no government has ever been able to control the periodic rise and fall of unemployment. Unemployment takes its own course and there is nothing the governments and their economists can do about it.

Having made this point about the useful contribution to an understanding of capitalism by Marx, we just want to add something else. Socialists would suggest to workers to take as an analogy of capitalism, a motor car. It is a useful analogy to illustrate the differences between the capitalist parties and the failure of politicians to be able to run capitalism in the interest of all society.

All the different parties; the Liberal Democrats, Tories, Labour and the rest, all say that socialism is unnecessary. They oppose us, but they differ among themselves as to what has to be done and what they say about capitalism also differs.

Mr. Cameron says capitalism’s fine if you have free markets, free trade, little or no regulation and unbridled competition. Mr. Corbyn wants a regulated and fairer capitalism with a sprinkling of nationalisation. The Liberal Democrats want to see the introduction of “John Lewis” capitalism where there is a harmonious “partnership” between workers and employers.

However when in office they all run capitalism to suit the interest of the capitalist class which includes trying to keep wages down so that profit can be made. And of course they are also faced with the capitalist dilemma of trying to put pressure on other governments to allow British goods into their markets as well as having to contend with the other day to day problems that capitalism throws up.

Let us take a motor car analogy for this sort of disagreement. All the political parties of capitalism agree that the car is not at all road-worthy and the windscreen is filthy so that the driver cannot see the road ahead.

Now the Labour Party says that the car needs a different driver to the Tories, it needs a compassionate and principled man like Mr. Corbyn at the wheel instead of the hard hearted and evil Mr. Cameron. Both the Tories and the Social Democrats attack the Labour party over this. They say that Corbyn does not know where he’s driving because he is a trouble-making extremist who turns the wheel further and further to the left. The Liberal Democrats say it would be better if they had two drivers both sitting there together with their hands on the wheel at the same time. The Liberal Democrats like “partnership”. Or so they thought until they were hammered by the electorate at the last election.

Now among the car’s defects is the gauge. Every now and then the car stalls and temporality stops. This is what capitalism is like; it periodically goes into an economic crisis and trade depression. Each capitalist party has its own group of mechanics with their own pet solution of why the car has stalled. In capitalism, these are the economists who make a living showing why either crises will never happen again or what central bankers or politicians have to do to do if an economic crisis occurs. They are as useful as astrologists.

As an example of the failure of academic economists to understand and predict the movement of capitalism from one economic crisis to the next there is the assertion on the trade cycle made by Professor Robert Lucas, the President of the American Economic Association, the body representing all pro-capitalist economists in the US. He told his audience in 2003, that “the central problem of depression-prevention has been resolved” (quoted in THE GREAT RECESSION: PROFIT CYCLES, ECONOMIC CRISIS: A MARXIST VIEW, M. Roberts, ch. 49, p. 281).

Lucas was certainly wrong in his economic forecast. Does he care, though? He was not stripped of his professorship, forced to return his Nobel Prize in economics and drummed out of the University of Harvard. By all accounts he is academically thriving in his comfortable professorial chair and its attendant stipend. The same would not be the case for a surgeon who messed-up an operation or a structural engineer whose bridge collapsed. Economists hide their false assumptions and dodgy doctrines behind mathematical equations, but, the truth is, although some failed mathematicians have become economists no economist has yet become a mathematician.

The Labour Party believes that the car should be overhauled with a mixture of state regulation and selective nationalisation, both of which are opposed by the Socialist Party of Great Britain as having nothing to do with Socialism. Mr. Cameron wants the car streamlined and its new parts procured solely from the private sector so it can be made faster and can outpace all the foreign competitors.

The Liberal Democrats can’t make up their mind which of these two methods they favour perhaps neither of them. What they would like is the two passengers sitting in the back to stop fighting each other. This reflects the belief– held by the Liberal Democrats of the need for a “fair” capitalism. In this they are joined by the Labour Party and the Tories, although “fairness” is a politically vague and contested word and in a highly competitive society of “dog-eat-dog” nothing is fair.

You cannot, for example, have socialist distribution taking place on the basis of the minority class ownership of the means of production. You cannot have fairness when the playing field is tilted in favour of the capitalist class. And you cannot have “fairness” when the class power of the 1% rides rough-shod over the class powerlessness of the remaining 99%. The dilapidated car with its filthy windscreen and litany of mechanical faults is all the politicians can offer the working class. It fails the MOT. The scrapyard of history is the future for this un- roadworthy car.

By getting the working class to support them at elections; to deny a socialist alternative, capitalism’s politicians have perpetuated a failed social system that during the full one hundred years of the Twentieth Century has led to the death of approximately 231 million people in wars and conflicts (DEATH IN WARS AND CONFLICT, Milton Leitenberg, Cornell 2006).

This is something capitalist politicians should be reminded of when they are crowing at the current failure of socialists to persuade a majority of workers to make history and establish a moneyless, wageless and classless social system without political leaders. And by no stretch of the imagination can the “success” of capitalist political parties in preventing the establishment of Socialism be called “civilized”, “decent” or an act of “progress”.

Socialists would just emphasise that from the socialist point of view, the only thing workers should do is to scrap the old capitalist car altogether and get rid of all the drivers and establish socialism. That is, for workers to establish a society which will reach its own democratic decisions without leaders and the led, without being burdened by a parasitical capitalist class, a society in which there would be no production for profit, conflict and war.

PART 7: HUMAN BEHAVIOUR IS NOT A BARRIER TO SOCIALISM

Workers, when confronted with socialists ideas for the first time are sceptical. They say:

How will socialism work when nature determines that human beings are lazy, selfish and violent?

Socialists would remind them that capitalism carries an enormous numbers of social parasites and it doesn’t affect capitalism in the slightest. Look at all the people, the so-called “1%” who are so wealthy that they don’t need to work and live quite happily off the unearned income of rent, interest and profit? And then there is all the waste of resources, though necessary for capitalism, of the armed forces and armament makers who are all part of the destructive society in which we live. And are people so selfish, lazy and violent as it is claimed or is it the competitive, violent and destructive social system we live in which causes people to behave the way they do?

Those who often ask this question about human behaviour do not relate it to their own families. Are all parents selfish and violent? And do they impose a competitive regime on their children wanting them to turn out to become lazy killers with anti-social tendencies? There might be some parents who act in this way but they are in a minority. When people paint such a misanthropic picture of human behaviour it has long been recognized by socialists that they do not generally extend such a view of human beings to themselves or their family.

Even if Socialism did have to carry some free-loaders, what would it matter? We would remind our critics of something which they are not aware of. Marx took the view, something that socialists agree with, that in socialist society people will change their outlook on life’ people in a socialist will realise that doing creative work is a necessary task of human existence just like securing food, clothing and shelter. They will not look upon labour as something that’s got to be avoided at all costs.

What of individuals within socialism. We are often told that socialism will be uniform, grey and regimental. This was not the belief of Marx or of socialists after Marx. In the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, Marx wrote that communism/Socialism would entail:

…an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all

One of the most striking discussions of the flowering of individuality and creativity in a socialist society was made by Oscar Wilde in his book THE SOUL OF MAN UNDER SOCIALISM. He said that authority and compulsion are out of the question in a socialist society. He then went on to say:

All association must be quite voluntary. It is in voluntary association that man is fine p. 10

While on individuality in socialism, Wilde wrote:

With the abolition of private property,…, we shall have true, beautiful, healthy Individualism. Nobody will waste his life in accumulating things, and the symbols for things. One will live. To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all (p. 13-14)

One last comment should be made about the question of incentive. It is a necessity that human beings have to work. Even in socialism, where there will be no wages and salaries, work will still be required.

Work, though, is not the problem. But the incentive to work is. However, if we do not work we starve. That surely is the incentive to work. And it is an incentive that is understood by socialists today and will be understood by socialists in a future socialist society. What is human nature but merely the need to survive and reproduce? Work is part and parcel of human survival.

How we do survive, reproduce and live our lives depends on the level of the forces of production at the disposal of society including co-operative social labour. It depends on the ownership of the means of production and distribution and who “owns” them and for what purpose.

It was in fact Oscar Wilde who said that under capitalism machinery competes against man but in socialism “machinery will serve man” (THE SOUL OF MAN UNDEDR SOCIALISM p. 27 Journeyman Press 1988). A socialist society will be able to reduce the necessity to work by using technology and it will also be able to reduce unpleasant and dangerous work to a minimum through the use of robotics and mechanization but work we must. So why not accept work, make it a creative experience and enjoy it?

However there will be a qualitative difference to the way we work now under capitalism to the way in which we will work within socialism. Work under capitalism is enforced work; “wage slavery” socialists call it. The buying and selling of labour power is an act of class coercion. Work under socialism will be voluntary. Work under capitalism is for the production of profit. Work within socialism, will not only be for the social good of all society but also for the realization of creativity for individuals as a social need in itself.

One of the more trivial question asked of socialists is what will socialism do about theft? Those who ask this question have not taken into account the full dimension of a socialist society where there will be free access for everybody, not just for the people working. Our questioner is so misguided, so unable to have the imagination to see the practicality of a socialist society that some have claimed the working class is not cut out for socialism. We disagree.

Socialists believe that workers are more intelligent than the questions they sometimes put to us. To become a socialist is not difficult it only requires an open and unprejudiced mind free from religion and nationalism as well as one free from seeing capitalism as a social system lasting forever. Workers just have to think through the situation in which they find themselves and to come to understand that their own class interest lay in replacing capitalism with socialism. Workers need to think about the society in which they live and the society they could create with a like-minded socialist majority.

Finally, socialists want to make a few very serious points about capitalism and socialism to the working class. Only the working class can establish socialism. Socialism has to be established consciously, democratically and politically. And there is no way to make capitalism behave in any other way than in a capitalist way in which the capitalist class exploits the working class. It is no use blaming the capitalists for the problems workers face. Marx didn’t. Marx said that the capitalist and the workers behave like they do because of capitalism. Capitalism brings with it a class divided society and class conflict. There is no alternative for the working class except to get rid of capitalism.

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