From the May 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard
This year has been dubbed the "year of elections". This month there are local elections and elections to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly, next month elections to the European Parliament. We're putting up a limited number of candidates, but are you one of those very many people who doesn't see the point in voting, and can't be bothered with politicians? If so, read on, you just might find this interesting.
You may have noticed that whoever gets elected, nothing really changes. This is because politicians normally have no intention of changing anything. They're really doing very nicely out of the system as it is, thank you, slump or no slump. While they enjoy their executive lunches, cars and kickbacks, the rest of us miserable suckers are supposed to toe the line, "yes" the bosses, and work ourselves into early graves to earn wages that wouldn't buy one of their bottles of claret.
If you're still reading this, you'll notice it isn't your ordinary run-of-the-mill election manifesto, with the usual vague promises and smiley conman confidence. Well, that's because we're not politicians, and don't let our name, and the fact that we are standing for election, fool you into thinking we are. The fact is, we represent an idea which is most unpopular and unfashionable these days, an idea which is ignored by the media, dismissed coldly by politicians, and avoided by anyone who prefers the status quo to stay put. This idea is revolution.
What are we proposing? Well, you must admit it would be difficult in one short article to prove any case beyond question, especially a case as big as this. All we can do is give you the bare bones, so don't be surprised if it doesn't convince you straight off. We're revolutionaries, not magicians. If you don't have questions to ask at the end of this then we're not doing our job properly, or you're not giving it any thought. And if you have questions, we can only suggest you contact us to ask them.
OK, you know that in our world, private property is king, and that the rich make the rules. You probably know that only about 5 percent of the world's population is rich, while 95 percent does all the work and lives in varying degrees of poverty, debt and stress. You may have concluded that this situation causes everything from street crime to international warfare, and you have almost certainly suffered yourself from the effects of overwork, deprivation and other people's "anti-social" behaviour. Considering that private property society, or capitalism in its developed form, was built by human beings, it is an amazingly anti-social and unfriendly system, and it brings out the worse in us. We treat each other with suspicion and we treat the planet with contempt.
Undoubtedly this state of affairs is bad news all round, but what can be done? The politicians' response is to ignore the problem and talk about trivia instead, hoping nobody will notice. Look at their manifestos. That's why nothing changes. Our response is direct, and simple: the 95 percent need to sort their act out and abolish the private property principle, that mutual agreement that says one person has the right to own and keep what other people need, even if they should die because of it. And every single day, people are dying because of it. The real enemy of humanity is not a person or a group of rich people, it is simply this agreement.
What comes after capitalism?
Privately-owned property is an anachronism in this day and age. There is enough food in the world to make every individual fat. There are ten empty houses to every homeless person. Technology is producing abundance so fast that commodity prices keep collapsing, yet nobody has yet recognised what this all means. It means that there is a higher level of civilisation, of science, or arts, of culture, of personal fulfilment, waiting to come after capitalism—an advanced society which, because it has abolished scarcity, does not contain all the horrors that have dogged human organisation until now. From the standpoint of such a society, we in capitalism are still living in the Dark Ages, with our wars, famines, pollution and other disasters, and our outlook is suitably bleak. And from our present standpoint, a post-scarcity society seems a dim and distant image, a matter for the 22nd century perhaps, but not now. Lulled by the incessant idiotic chatter of politicians and their meaningless agendas, we do not notice that even now, today, we are standing on the very threshold of that post-scarcity world. All we have to do, as individuals, is take one step.
Revolution is a scary word, but it doesn't have to be a scary thing. If you prefer, think of it as a kind of social "upgrade", like building a better and faster computer. We don't advocate violence, although we can't know of course that the rich will quietly abdicate when they see that the game is up. But there is a personal revolution to face, as well, because a free society requires responsible members, not children who just play "follow-the-leader" and do as they are told. It's true that we get the society we deserve. Revolution consists in learning to deserve better.
Well, you've made it to the end of this strange manifesto. No mention of Europe. No mention whatsoever of local issues. No promises of "I'll do this and I'll do that for my constituents", no flattery, no sweet talk. Maybe now you'll sigh and throw this in the bin. If you vote for us you won't get a wage rise or a tax cut, but then again you probably won't anyway. Just remember, all those other candidates are happy to continue with the private property society you know and don't love, and equally happy to assist it in every possible way. They are selling you out, and your kids, and their kids after them. They are politicians. We are private citizens, democratically organised as a party to advertise revolution but not lead it, to abolish political power not keep it for ourselves, to promote a free society without rulers, and to disband when we have served our purpose. So if you vote for us now, it's not because we've conned you into it with charming lies. It's because you've just taken that all-important small step, the step that begins the journey.