The Socialist standing on the brink of 1966 must survey the social scene with mixed feelings. It is depressing that the landscape should still be dominated by the ugly facts of Capitalist society, with its inequalities, exploitation, poverty, violence and neuroses. From another point of view, there is relief that the scarred body of humanity has at least survived. By itself, survival creates a fresh opportunity to do better in the future, but it is only an opportunity. The bitter experience of the past guards against undue optimism.
It is a time of ferment. There is a general will towards a better life. Social consciousness is on the move. Controversy, frustration and discontent abound. There is one thing that cannot be done with Capitalism. Capitalism cannot be made to work in the interests of the whole community. In the context of history, Capitalism is a condemned society.
In spite of everything, there is encouragement. With modification of the crude assumptions of religion a dent is being made in the barrier of superstition. Organised religion is on the defensive. Recent discussions about homosexuality, abortion and contraception indicate that sexual attitudes are freer from taboo.
To embark on a full-scale war this year, the Government could not rely on crowds outside Buckingham Palace chanting "we want war". The propaganda machine would be required to work hard in producing convincing pseudo reasons for the fight. The politicians' watchword in his relations with the voter is caution. The technical gains of the sixties have extended man's control of his environment and emphasised the contradiction between the potential abundance and actual poverty of production. These are peripheral gains that help to create a more receptive atmosphere for Socialist ideas.
On the other hand frustrations still tend to be diverted into attitudes of hate. The incidence of racism is ominous. Above all, that steady statistic 10% of the population owns 90% of the wealth, still forms the background of class ownership that dominates life. To the modern commercial animal, profit still remains the yardstick of virtue and success. Property is his God. The lingo of advertising and the subtle mechanics of the hard sell is his new theology.
Even during the past weeks, drillers struck a reservoir of natural gas beneath the North Sea, and this is firmly in the control of private interests. The legal right of profiteers to monopolise the earth, its energy, its raw materials and the products of labour is still being extended. Man is still denied free access to the assets of his own planet by the barrier of class ownership.
Socialist ideas incorporates a theory of history. It is this historical understanding that links the past with the present and gives the possibilities for the courses of action open to man in the future. Poverty, war and frustration can be ended but only by welding the whole human family together about the common ownership of the earth's resources and the means of production. This is the prospect of the future that Socialists urge is the only one worth working for.
The other prospect is the continuance of Capitalism. Unfortunately, a knowledge of society, does not give us a precise prediction of the way Capitalism will go in the near future. By its very nature, Capitalism is unplanned that the prospects are as numerous as they are frightening. At their worst, prospects under Capitalism could include world war or world industrial depression.
Other prospects can be quite certain. In the coming year, the continuance of Capitalism will inevitably involve death by war, death by starvation, exploitation, misery and neurosis. In the absence of a majority demand for Socialism, the prospect is that Capitalism will go on, business as usual, and to hell with humanity.