Editorial from the forthcoming April 2008 issue of the Socialist Standard
We don’t have to accept the self-fulfilling prophecy that “capitalism is the only game in town”.
Imagine that all the people in the world made a set of informed, collective and democratic decisions about what kind of system would best meet their needs and solve global problems. Would they choose a money and property system that forced nearly half their total number to try to survive on a dollar a day? Or would they prefer to organise production and distribution of goods and services on the basis of what they need, without the profit system?
Would they, if and when given the chance to vote, do so overwhelmingly for candidates who—whatever labels they attached to themselves or their parties—stood for the continuation of some form of capitalism? Or would they elect delegates, from among their own number, to initiate the process of setting up and running a fundamentally new form of world society, a system based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of wealth production and distribution?
Would they embrace nationalism, involving armed forces paid to kill and injure other groups (“the enemy”) with whom they have no quarrel? Or would they regard themselves and behave as citizens of the world, regardless of any geographical, cultural or philosophical attachments they may feel?
Would they divide themselves into classes, rich and poor, leaders and led, privileged and unprivileged, dominant and submissive, superordinate and subordinate, master and servant, powerful and powerless? Or would they, despite individual differences in abilities, personalities, interests, tastes, likes and dislikes, think and behave as members of the one human race, not perfect, sometimes fallible or irrational, but never deliberately cruel or anti-social?
Whatever words they use to explain or sloganise their ideologies, all parties except the Socialist Party stand for the continuation of some form of capitalism. From their point of view, a vote for their own candidate is best; a vote for one of their competitors is second best. Not voting could be a worrying sign of alienation from the system. Worst of all, a vote for the Socialist Party candidate – or, where none stands, writing “Socialism” across the ballot paper – would indicate the beginning of a resolution to replace capitalism with socialism.
Before the first Labour government came into power, and when some members and supporters used to profess socialism as their eventual goal, there was some justification for the argument that: “The Labour hell is one degree cooler than the Tory hell.” So “Choose the lesser of two evils.”
Today, after successive administrations of the same system, the difference in temperature is too small to get excited about. The same applies to others lining up to be our government—the Lib Dems, etc. We don’t want them and we don’t need them.
Support for socialism isn’t a matter of campaigning to make the poor rich in today’s terms of material consumption. That wouldn’t be environmentally sustainable. The socialist aim isn’t even equality in the sense of sameness, like amounts of work contributed or goods and services consumed. Socialism is essentially about social equality, encouraging and enabling every human being to realise their full potential as giver and taker, not buyer and seller, in the context of society itself moving towards reaching its full potential.