From the May 1977 issue of the Socialist Standard
At the present stage of the development of the Socialist movement, the propaganda of the SPGB must necessarily be more one of attack against capitalism than that of stressing the positive aspects of Socialism. Whilst we do not know precisely what Socialism will be like, we do know what is holding us back.
In trying to project our views on what future Socialist society will be like we can only make what we deem to be intelligent guesses. No-one can predict the future accurately and consistently other than in a general way. Critics of the SPGB who ask all sorts of details about Socialist society are asking the impossible, and are really dodging the important question; can anything be done to solve the problems of capitalism apart from the establishment of Socialism? What we can say, in line with our materialist outlook, is that the economic basis of Socialism, i.e. common ownership, will inevitably give rise to democratic control of society. The two go hand in hand, you cannot have one without the other.
All political parties claim to be democratic in one way, or another, but only the SPGB and its companion parties are thoroughly democratic, both in internal affairs and policy decisions. We are not democratic for its own sake, or to catch a few votes, but because we recognize the democratic method as the only way to establish and maintain Socialist society. For us it is a tool, not an end in itself. Democracy in Socialist society will take on a far broader and more meaningful significance than is commonly attached to it today.
Having said that Socialism will be democratic it must also be said that it will be an organized and integrated society. Anarchists often claim that they are striving for the same kind of society, but their views on society soon dispel this. The anarchist sees society as the individual extended definitely, but we would argue that society is far more than this: it is the sum total of all the relations between individuals.
The anarchist principle of the individual “doing his own thing” to the exclusion of everyone else completely negates the concept of organization in production and distribution. No society can depend upon the whims of individuals in the production of the necessities of life. Production in Socialist society will be of a social character and democratically controlled (which is not the same thing as “workers’ control”). Members of society will be social equals regardless of their skills, training or ability. They will have equal rights in social matters, although obviously unequal in all sorts of other ways. There will be no special rewards for special work; each member of society will be able to take what he requires from society and he will be expected to contribute according to his ability.
One thing that must be borne in mind in talking of Socialist production is that the whole ideological climate will have changed from what it is now. Things will be produced because they are needed by people and they will be of the highest feasible standard. Unlike today, things will be built to last and not to pack up after a few years. There will not be the same idiotic fever in production experienced today. The most urgent problem of the newly established society will be to clear up the mess left by capitalism and greatly expand the production of wealth to satisfy human needs. This will obviously have to be highly organized and co-ordinated, and doubtless there will be problems. However they will be slight compared with the quagmire of bureaucracy, financial crises, shortages etc, that beset capitalist production now. Socialist production will be highly organized, yet simple compared with capitalism.
The administration of Socialist society will also be completely democratic. The modern state machine has grown up because of the growth of private property, and it is essentially a coercive body to protect the rights of property-owners. With the introduction of common property this body becomes defunct and only its administrative functions need be kept. The government of persons becomes the administration of things. Delegates elected to the administrative bodies in Socialist society will be mandated to carry out the wishes of those who elected them. In the event that they do not carry out the democratic wishes of society then they will be replaced. How different from today this would be! Between elections MPs are responsible to no-one except the Party Whip; when it cracks they all go running to the sound of the division bells. The recent “deal” between the Labour and Liberal parties in the House of Commons shows just how unscrupulous and unprincipled the capitalist politicians are when it comes to hanging on to power. In Socialist society because there will be no longer private property in the means of production there will be no special power or status in being an administrator; it will just be another necessary function to fulfil society’s needs.
The time for the change to Socialism is long overdue and we urge you to work to that end. It is no longer utopian or unreasonable to expect that society should be able to provide the basic needs of people; it is now eminently possible, depending only on the consciousness of the working class.