Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Have Socialists a Constructive Policy? (1928)

From the October 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialists are accustomed to have the charge levelled at them that their criticism of present-day society is purely destructive.

“What is your constructive programme?" we are plaintively asked when our opponents have tired of carrying on the hopeless defence of their own.

We might answer them very fittingly by the single word, Socialism, and refer them to our definition of the term, which heads our declaration of principles; but this seldom satisfies their insatiable curiosity. They want more details. Strange to say, it rarely occurs to them to press for details when dealing with the champions of the various parties which secure their support.

A few rhetorical flourishes and numerous judicious appeals to sentiments associated with “this glorious Empire," or “the people of this country," as the case may be, are quite sufficient to “bring the house down" at the average Tory, Liberal or “Labour" meeting. It is only the Socialist, apparently, who produces among his audience that state of discomfort which usually accompanies the process of thought; and he frequently piles on the agony by asserting that, apart from Socialism, no programme is worth the support of the working class.

At this point the patience of many workers breaks down altogether and it matters little whether they call themselves Conservatives or Communists, they cannot refrain from contrasting their own “practical" outlook, as they term it, with the “theoretical" vision of the Socialist.

The Socialist, however, does not rely upon his imagination for the evidence against the existing social order. Never in the world's history has any system been so effectively damned by the public utterances of its supporters as has capitalism.

Take, for instance, the following extract from the speech of Mr. Percy Lee, Master Cutler of Sheffield, on the occasion of the opening of the recent Exhibition :—
  You all know that during that period (the War), we became. I suppose, the greatest arsenal in the world. . . . This meant a large increase in our various plants and . . .  it has left us in a much more efficient state so far as manufacture is concerned than we were before. Our only difficulty is to make full use of this increase in plant and obtain fuller employment for the number of men who still remain with us.
   I may say we are at the present time turning out more goods from Sheffield than we ever did before the war . . . during which we lost many of our overseas markets and at the same time we have found since many new competitors who were forced to manufacture for themselves (“Sheffield Telegraph,” 7/7/28).
Here we have it definitely admitted that the world's capacity for production of iron and steel has increased enormously; yet, instead of the producers reaping any benefit thereby, something approaching thirty thousand men are walking the streets of Sheffield looking for a job.

The workers pile up wealth in heaps and then stand and starve while it rots. What do our practical and brainy masters suggest as a solution? Simply that things should remain the same, only more so.

For nearly a generation the Conservative Press has toyed with the notion of Protection under various guises, but has never yet offered any explanation for the mammoth totals of unemployment periodically reported from the U.S.A. The Progressive parties, from the laburnum-hued Liberals to the crimson Communists, pin their faith to some degree of publicly-enforced efficiency; but in whichever direction we turn for evidence that their plans solve their problems it fails to materialise. In Germany, in Australia, in .Russia (despite Liberal, Labour or Communist administrations) the workers are faced with an exactly similar situation so far as wealth production is concerned.

Let the extreme case serve as an example. “In spite of the rapid growth of industry, unemployment has steadily grown," says the Central Council of Trades Unions in Soviet Russia in the pamphlets on the subject published by their Commission for Foreign Relations. The figures given are: January, 1922, 160,000; January, 1924, 1,240,000; January, 1927, 1,310,000.

In that country of “nationalisation without compensation and with workers' control" the worker cannot even control his job and lines up for his “dole" of 16 roubles or 10 roubles a month, according to his category. (Vide above pamphlets.)

The reason is simple. No matter what party administers capitalism the basis of the system remains the same. That basis is the class-ownership of the means of wealth production and distribution. The small class which owns pays to the large class which does not own wages for their services in industry, etc. The large class produces far more than its wages will buy; more, in fact, than even their masters, with all their extravagance, can consume.

This ever-growing surplus chokes the markets, causes plants to lie idle and puts thousands upon the industrial scrap-heap. All kinds of excuses are given to the workers for this state of affairs.

The iron and steel manufacturers tell their employees that the price of coal will not enable them to face foreign competition. It is too high. The coal-owners tell their wage-slaves that they cannot pay a “living wage "; the price of coal is too low! Prior to the strike in 1926 they were told that wages had to come down owing to the bad state of trade. Ever since then they have been told that the bad state of trade is due to the strike. The workers are first overwhelmed by means of the wealth they have produced; then they are told that their plight is due to the fact that they don't like it.

The fact of the matter is that no section of the master-class and no political party which administers or aspires to administer the present system has any solution or can have any solution to the class conflict. The workers suffer poverty because they do not own the means of wealth production.

The only logical remedy for such a state of affairs is that they shall become the owners; but that involves the destruction of existing property rights, the taking away from the master-class of their economic privileges. The Socialist Party is the only party which bases its policy on this objective, which arises by necessity from the class struggle.

We plead guilty, therefore, to being destructive—of capitalism.

As for constructive programmes, society is not an artificial structure like a house or any other building, the details of which have to be planned beforehand. The details of its structure are adjusted in the course of its development.

It is not our task to anticipate the decisions of the men and women of the future upon problems which we can only imagine and cannot definitely foresee. The forerunners of the present capitalist class overthrew feudalism, but they did not and could not map out the development of capitalism in advance. They could only remove the political and economic obstacles to that development. Our position is somewhat similar.

The productive forces of society are held back by an outworn form of property. The human element is divorced from the mechanical element by the fact of the capitalist ownership and control of the latter. Our task is to bring the workers and their tools together again, not merely industrially but legally; not merely for production, but for the enjoyment of their products.

This will provide a new incentive to production, not the profit of the few, but the provision of the means of life for all. That, fellow-workers, is our constructive programme.
Eric Boden

Letter: Was Capitalism A Mistake? (1928)

Letter to the Editors from the November 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

Forest Gate, London.

To the Editor, Socialist Standard.

Sir,—As a working-class mother and a student of sociology, I certainly think that "for thousands of years the human race has been straying from the correct path of development, and that the whole of human history, since the breakdown of the earliest tribal communism and equality has been a ghastly and avoidable mistake." Thank you for putting the case against the Coercive State in such a small literary compass. The development of the "castes” you mention—"military,” "priestly,” etc., was a "mistake” and a "crime” and an "act of tyranny.” Thank you again for the phrasing.

Whoever would have thought that the Socialist Standard could constitute itself an apologist for the "class” or professional governments kept in power by a combination of cruelty and a gross misinterpretation of the facts of human existence in particular and the cosmos in general, the fatal opiate of "post-mortem happiness” stifling the spirit in its struggle for happy existence. Well, well, all this agony of human existence (over and over again described by the Socialists) for what? In order that “ Industry” might develop along certain lines, and—what lines?

Mass production and yet more mass production of what is for the most part rubbish. "Production” that disintegrates the human mind, devitalises the human body, degrades the primary human relationships and eliminates the primary joys. Industry must be made to fit man, not man to fit Industry. The truth of this era of perverted industry is that human kind has been temporarily diseased through the disorder caused by the loss of social balance. In short, by this outrage of class or parasitic Government. For, unless every unit of a body is "doing its bit” in the matter of government, it becomes unbalanced, disordered and diseased.

No, the soldier with his Church, and later the moneylender with his more numerous institutions—factories, hospitals, press and schools—have been neither inevitable nor necessary to the development of Life. The state of life itself during this historical aberration of industry is sufficient condemnation. The natural driving force has been, and must be, the production of life. Life for Life’s sake is the religion of the universe, and industry, one of its activities, unless directed to this major end, no longer produces wealth—a state of well-being—but merely property. It is too late to preach the doctrine of inevitability in the matter of suffering, and necessity in relation to coercion and governmental usurpation.

The conviction that life should be enjoyed and not merely endured, has now too strong a hold on the modern mind for the politician to succeed where the priest has failed in deceiving the people with a doctrine that is the veritable prostitution of philosophy. Government and Industry could, and should have been, on quite different lines. Determinism in these activities is as false to eventual reality as it is in others.
“LIFE.”


Our Reply.
Our correspondent says that the whole of social development "since the breakdown of the earliest tribal communism ” has been an "avoidable mistake.”

It is therefore for her to explain why human society made the mistake and how it could have been avoided. She explains the original “mistake” by saying that “human kind has been temporarily diseased through the disorder caused by the loss of balance.” This "explanation” in fact explains nothing.

If society was then on the correct path, how did it come to lose its balance? At different periods different human communities have decided to have military caste, in preference to having every man a jack-of-all- trades, including that of soldier. Our correspondent denounces this, but gives no evidence that this division of labour was in fact a disadvantage. She goes on to say that society is unbalanced "unless every unit of a body is doing its bit.” On what ground does she dispute the claim of the soldier to be doing his bit when the tribe needed military protection? Similarly with other such divisions of labour.

She denies that factories, hospitals, press and schools have been necessary to the development of life, and goes on to use a slogan, “ Life for Life’s sake.” She avoids, however, explaining what she means by "life” in this connection. If she means merely the quantity of human beings alive, it is certainly to the point to observe that the pressure of population on the means of subsistence under primitive conditions was a cause of war and of the development of a military caste.

If she means what is, for want of a better term, called the "quality of life,” she appears to be committing herself to the view that life without any of the inventions and discoveries of machines, processes and methods of industrial organisation, is better than the life of the savage without the aid of this accumulated power over natural forces.

In conclusion, our correspondent should notice that the original article did not in the least propound the view that everything that has existed and does exist is inevitable and must be endured. On the contrary, the Socialist Party continually insists that the abolition of Capitalism in industrially developed countries, and its replacement by Socialism requires the conscious and deliberate action of the organised workers and can come in no other way.
Edgar Hardcastle

The Great Pre-War Prosperity! (1928)

From the December 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

One of the inevitable drawbacks of broadcasting is that you cannot answer back. It is inevitable, or rather unavoidable, for the reason that heckling or questioning from an audience, possibly of millions, presents obvious difficulties. Of course, the absence of this possibility should make no difference to a lecturer with any conscience or honesty, but to politicians, and on certain occasions —such as the General Strike—this feature is a god-send. Here is a theme for a valuable digression on why broadcasting is a Government monopoly. But not to labour a separate point and to get to the matter in hand, I was listening to Miss Sackville-West the other evening lecturing on “Modern English Poetry.” Very charming, very entertaining, but marred at the very outset by a slight inaccuracy. It is a pity when one sits down to be charmed, that one should get a half-brick in the ear for a start, but so it was. Miss Sackville-West asked us to commence what she called the Georgian period with 1900. She gave as her reasons for choosing that year as a starting point, “ the South African War is over, the world is at peace, we are surrounded by the large air of material prosperity.   .   .   .” Now that is where one gets the nasty jar. I happen to have been alive, and taking keen notice of my surroundings in the year 1900.

“ The large air of material prosperity." I like that! One remembers it so well. Only twenty-eight years ago, and it comes back like a beautiful dream. Speaking from memory, according to a tract issued about that time, the average wage of the working class was about 25s. per week, and one worker in every three died either in the workhouse, hospital, or lunatic asylum. The twelve-hour day was normal in scores of industries. And the unemployed! There is a touchstone for the large air of material prosperity. Who that is old enough does not remember the shabby processions of half-desperate men chanting their grubby war-cry, “We want work”? For how many years were not all efforts to get what was called a living wage fobbed off with the plea that “things were always like this after a war"? According to the official figures for December, 1902, before the Insurance Acts had made greater accuracy possible, there were half a million men out of work. Among other disturbances, the Town Council of Croydon was stormed by the unemployed.

So that you see how a charming lecture on poetry can become the vehicle of a patent inaccuracy. Probably the hundreds of thousands of other listeners will have allowed the phrase to pass uninterruptedly in at one ear and out at the other, and little harm done, but it is worth retrieving from oblivion for several reasons. For one thing, it is interesting to note and dwell upon the fact that one has lived during a period to which the term "prosperity” is applied. Up till now, during my short lifetime, no one has ever discovered prosperity in the present tense. Years ago, or years ahead, yes ! To-day, never ! A case of jam yesterday, and jam to-morrow, but never jam to-day. At the moment, politicians call upon the unreflecting to consider the happy state of things "before the War,” and propose, if you favour them with your votes, to lead you "back to prosperity.” This happy phenomenon has the objectionable habit of disappearing as soon as you look at it. It is afflicted with a kind of polarity, which makes the people of England gaze longingly at the prosperity of America and the Colonies. And the colonists doubtless speak of the prosperity of the Old Country, whilst America is big enough to let the population on one side envy the prosperity they read about on the other.

There is a further reason why Miss Sackville-West’s gem of polished piffle should not sink unhonoured and unnoted into the pool of forgotten things. It indicates a certain definite attitude of mind the working class in general, and the unemployed in particular, would do well to note. To that view, the problem of worklessness is nearly related to worthlessness, and is a problem quite minor and marginal. The unemployed exist as a sort of untidy fringe on the outside edge of the working class, and are best fobbed off with doles and forgotten. In a word, they are normal. That is the view, and it is a dangerous one. The Daily News (July 24th) has already told the world "there are 200,000 mine workers definitely and irrecoverably surplus to the industry.” A writer in the Evening Standard of November 13th, A. A. B., speaking of present unemployment, made the following pregnant observations: "There were nearly a million unemployed in 1908, and the other two or three hundred thousand are accounted for by the women imported into the labour market since the War, and the miners. Allowing for the increase of population and the surplus colliers, the aggregate amount of unemployment is normal.”

There it is in a nut-shell. Unemployment. whether half a million in 1903, one million in 1908, or one and a half million in 1928, is normal, under Capitalism. In a few months’ time you will have an opportunity of voting for the continuance of Capitalism. Some of those who will appear before you will call themselves Tories or Unionists, others Liberals, and others again Labour men. Rest assured, all, if elected, will carry on Capitalism, with colossal unemployment as its normal condition. If you do not desire to continue to live under Capitalism you have but one single, simple alternative. You must read our pamphlet on Socialism, the cheapest piece of literature in existence, 48 pages for twopence. If you agree with it, you must join with us in the only party that is aiming at the abolition of Capitalism and the substitution of Socialism. In politics there are but two parties, and two only. The Capitalist Party, with Tory, Liberal or Labour labels, and the Socialist. Party, which needs no label.
W. T. Hopley

Letter to Jimmy (1977)

From the January 1977 issue of the Socialist Standard

President-elect James Earle Carter                                                                      A Fellow American
Plains, Georgia,                                                                                                                       Boston,
U.S.A.                                                                                                                                        Mass.


Dear Jimmy:

Inasmuch as you-all are about to take over the chores in the Oval Office of the White House, ah hope you don’t think it presumptuous of me to make this little offering toward your announced goal of he’ping the working people of this great country. We sure can use a mess of he’p and since ah believe ah knows what’s wrong with the nation and the world ah believe it would be a downright crime to withhold the information. Since you-all has been running what you tell us is a lucrative bidness, yo’se’f — a peanut bidness — maybe we-all can tackle the problem from that angle. Condense it, so to speak, to a peanut.

Now it goes without saying, Jimmy, that if one is to produce anything and hope to make profits one has to concentrate on items that are saleable. It wouldn’t make sense, even in Plains, Ga., to produce outhouses because there just ain’t enough people today without in-door plumbing. Chances are you still have a few of those chic sales around with the Sears-Roebuck catalogues hanging from the doors but, mostly, they just have antique value. A fellow might do all right for awhile, manufacturing phoney antique out-houses but the market would soon be flooded! So you’ve got a gold mine in those peanut plantations of yours because most folk still have the kind of teeth you need to eat them. And I can’t he’p but think how all those toothpaste bidnesses he’p the peanut bidness because they encourage everybody to grow strong, healthy teeth like the successful politicians. And, anyway, peanuts make right good eating and are packed with all them useful vitamins. In fact, ah believe that peanuts are all we really need and if we could get everybody to eat practically nothing but peanuts we wouldn’t need all those high wages. Peanuts could be produced in such a mass quantity that the price would come away down and we could all afford to work for peanuts, literally. But ah’m wandering from the subject and I must get back to it, dreckly.

Now having made the point that you have to produce something that people want, I have to make another point. And, Jimmy, you ain’t going to believe this. Not straight off, anyway. Your profits don’t come from peanuts and you’re really not producing peanuts. You are growing and marketing a commodity and it wouldn’t make any difference to your well-being if peanuts were used to fill up the Grand Canyon instead of to eat. And your profits actually come, not from the peanuts, but from the unpaid labour time your wage-slaves and all other wage-slaves put in.

Yes, Jimmy, ah said slaves and ah meant slaves. Sure, you don’t own them “body and soul” like in those old times “that are not forgotten”. And, sure, you are said to be one of those “Good Ol’ Boys” rather than those traditionalists who hate to see the old ways disappear. But you have to admit, Jimmy, that this new way of doing things ain’t bad at all for bidness. In fact, it’s a heap better because you don’t have to do much else than pay the market price for human energy except throw in some extras to take care of extra hardships that happen because the competition makes you pay as little as you can get away with. But it all adds up and it ain’t so bad, is it, to sing along with some of them in church and in Sunday School? It all smells a heap better than it used to in those old chattel-slave times or even in those pre-Civil Rights days. Brotherly love with wage-slaves pays off!

But let’s get down to brass tacks on this bidness of you-uns he’ping we-uns. You seem to think that the main problem is unemployment, and that ain’t the case at all. In fact, unemployment could be down right enjoyable if Welfare checks were high enough to live decently. The main trouble, Jimmy, is employment, at wages. Because that’s what makes slaves of most of us, dependent for our very lives on the chance to make profits for employers. And our masters can’t pay us enough to make life worthwhile, even if they wanted to, because their competition on the labor market (the wage-slave market) won’t allow it. Then, too, doesn’t a sizeable army of unemployed he’p to keep the wage rates down!

So, Jimmy, if you-uns really want to he’p we-uns, you gotta remember that the trouble is the production- for-profit motive for peanuts and everything else. Why not study this problem and how to solve it with common ownership of all the peanut plantations and everything else that is designed to produce wealth? You could use it as a text for your Sunday School class at the Plains Baptist Church — that is, if your fellow worshippers will let you get away with it.

Yours for World Socialism, and that ain’t peanuts!
Harry Morrison
World Socialist Party of the United States

Ireland: The World Socialist Party Carries On! (1977)

Party News from the February 1977 issue of the Socialist Standard

Whether we operate as a party is, in the circumstances in which we do actually function, difficult to state. How does a party such as ours operate in circumstances in which overt activity could bring dire retribution at the hands of any of the three factions of thugs — IRA, Loyalists, or British Army/Police (the latter functioning under the euphemism "security forces")? All we can do is use personal contact: explain ceaselessly, tirelessly, frustratingly — sometimes even dangerously — that capitalism creates the material conditions in which all this can happen. Ironically, people as individuals are prepared now, more than heretofore, to listen, and (perhaps good for the future) the struggle here often highlights the correctness of our attitudes. But bitterness, hate and blind emotions combine against reason and, as I say, they have the guns and the bombs and they make telephone calls.

As you will know, our premises at Pim Street, Belfast, were severely damaged in an arson attack — directed solely against our shabby little office. It was a victory for something; but we counter-attacked with hardboard and asphalt and continued to hold meetings there every Tuesday evening — you can imagine our mixed emotions when we thought we heard a foot on the stairs! Next we had a visit — fortunately, perhaps, in our absence — from the “security forces”. Lacking a key, they smashed in the door and made a military-medal-deserving attack on our few pathetic chairs and our display of back numbers. A group of the same worthies later met three of us leaving the place and, resisting our efforts at conversion, attacked the weakest of us — my eighteen-year-old daughter. The Provo heroes gave our room the coup-de-grace and ended our heroics with a bomb on an adjoining property.

Left without an address, we are still looking for a suitable place here. The job is rendered more difficult than usual by the fact that on top of the previous considerations like rent and accessibility and willingness to lease to Socialists, we now have as our primary concern the question of security in an area in which contacts from either side of our infamous “divide” will not feel threatened. That, here, is a tall order indeed . . .
M.

(The above is extracted from a letter to the General Secretary of the SPGB by the Secretary of the WSP of Ireland. All comrades here send their warmest fraternal greetings to those who are keeping the struggle for Socialism alive in such conditions.)

Dispatch from America (1977)

From the March 1977 issue of the Socialist Standard

It has become pretty much of a cliché among Socialists in America — as is the case wherever there are members of the World Socialist movement — to declare that there is little, if any, difference among the parties of capitalism. When you get right down to bedrock, how can there be any difference? Capitalism is, essentially, the wages, prices, profits system and whatever designation the candidates in the 1976 Presidential Elections ran under — Republican, Democratic, Independent . . . yes, even Socialist Workers (Trotskyist) and the US Labor Party (“Marcus”-ists) — none advocated the immediate, or even the future, abandonment of the relationships of wage labor and capital. All argued for a better operation of the present social structure.

And yet there are superficial differences that bear examination if only that they indicate the bankruptcy of capitalist and pseudo-socialist ideologists. For example, there was that different approach between President Ford and Jimmy Carter on the question of jobs for the unemployed. Carter took the stand that American working people want work, not welfare checks, and promised a huge Government program — or implied it, at any rate — to create jobs. Ford, on the other hand, argued that such jobs are dead-end affairs without a future, that meaningful jobs must come from the “private sector” and that, if elected, he would concentrate upon stimulating the private sector.

Interestingly: Camejo, SWP, took a stand similar to that of Carter only with even more emphasis on Government-created jobs, a sort of revived Works Project Administration (WPA) while LaRouche (US Labor Party) spent his time (and a lot more than the $90,000 his party raised to purchase a half-hour of prime time on the NBC Network the night before the election) arguing that a vote for Ford would save us from a major depression by Christmas 1976, and an all-out nuclear war by June of 1977. The election of Carter, he contended, would surely bring these twin catastrophes to the world. Such were the positions of America’s two major self-styled Marxist parties.

Now, what was the difference between the Ford and Carter approach in the campaign? Ford, of course, was being more pragmatic than Carter because it has long since become obvious in America that it is cheaper to keep unemployed on welfare than to create unproductive Government jobs. The wages from such work must come from tax money and it costs more to keep workers on jobs than it does to mail them a check. (One needs more food, better clothing, transportation, etc., on a job). A program such as Carter implied would bring a huge increase in taxes (if not sharply increased inflation) and it remains to be seen how much of such a program will be instituted by the new régime.
But the problem with the Ford philosophy is that, basically productive industry does not exist for the purpose of providing jobs. The motive is production for profit not the provision of “dignity” for unemployed workers.

As Socialists, we must look at the question from a different angle. Why, in the face of the stupendous achievements of capitalism (in whatever form) must jobs be considered a be-all and end-all? It is more than just a case of needing a job to exist. Today that is a sad fact. The depressing aspect of the matter is that liberals and radicals, generally, ascribe a therapeutic value to spending 8-hours per day, plus travel time, at a machine or whatever, in return for the money needed to function properly and raise families to carry on! And despite industrial disease, accidents and even deaths that are part of the warp and woof of capitalism!

Come off it, you self-styled progressive-minded humanists, or whatever. Is it so difficult to picture a society in which the work needed to produce enough for all will be minimized and the end result a maximum of freedom to live one’s life according to one’s natural desires? Not that mere picturing is enough! It will take organization and action to bring about such a society. But visualizing it would be a beginning. There has not been a solitary instance, in American politics, of a candidate entering the arena to advocate such a society — world socialism. It is truly time for a change!
Harry Morrison (Boston)
World Socialist Party of the United States

Why we are in the GLC Elections (1977)

From the April 1977 issue of the Socialist Standard

In next month’s Greater London Council elections there will be Socialist candidates standing for the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of a society based on the common ownership of the means of living.

We are aware that many people think the Socialist issue does not belong in local elections. The big questions of society — economic policies, international disputes, legislation which affects standards of living — are in the hands of central government. Local government is about things which must go on regardless of the state of society: drains and dustbins, road surfaces, running schools, providing dwellings. There is a widely held belief that “politics” is irrelevant to local government and should be kept out of it.

Unfortunately this picture is a mistaken one. Councils large and small are the branches of central government and exist to put its policies into practice. Their powers are laid down by Acts of Parliament and they are controlled legally and financially by the Government. The number of houses a council may build: its liberality in granting planning applications and welfare services; its expenditure on education — these are all dictates from the policies of central government. Councils help to run capitalism and operate its reforms.

Socialists are not concerned with reforms, but we are very much concerned with the conditions they attempt to remedy or palliate. Throughout this century, working men and women have been deluded that a change at an election — another party and another policy — will solve the problems for them. The truth is that these problems arise from the capitalist system we live under. People need housing, state-run schooling for their children and “welfare” because they are wage-workers, producing wealth but denied access to it. While the unending awfulness of the housing problem is discussed, there is a surplus of housing. It is not a housing problem at all; it is an aspect of the working-class situation.

In every field of local (as well as central) government administration the position is the same. Education, hospitals, roads, industrial planning: every one is a shambles. Other parties and their supporters say: “But what is your practical programme?” Ask them what theirs is! To carry on muddling? To apply inadequate measures derived from policies made futile by a system which cannot be controlled? Ask them how they propose to solve the problems of London, or any other city, when those problems are rooted in the capitalist organization of society.

Indeed a practical programme is needed. Clearly it must be quite different from the chronically unsuccessful policies of the Labour and Conservative parties and the ragtag sections who want to replace them. Clearly, too, the matter is urgent. The Socialist Party of Great Britain has a policy which will end for ever the state of affairs these parties cannot overcome. It is a simple cause-and-effect proposition: if, as we have shown again and again, capitalism itself produces the problems, the only solution is to abolish capitalism and put Socialism in its place.

The Socialist Party candidates are not saying “Elect us, trust us, that is what we will try to do”. Far from it: our case is that Socialism cannot be presented to or imposed on people by leaders, even well-meaning ones. The condition for it is the working class understanding and wanting it, and giving the mandate to Socialist candidates to take possession of the powers of government and establish it. Those are the only kind of votes we want, and one of the reasons for standing in this election is to show our position in contrast with the sham appeals of the pro-capitalist parties.

There must be many who approve (or think they approve) the Socialist case but say: “There is only a small number of candidates. If they were all elected to the Greater London Council they would not be able to establish Socialism.” We know that. The number of candidates reflects our resources: as more people join and support us, it will grow. Nevertheless, every vote now cast consciously for Socialism is a step towards political control and a fresh notification that the future is ours. And if you have begun to understand what capitalism is and does, you have no alternative — the days of voting for the continuation of capitalism are over, and only Socialism will do.
Robert Barltrop

What Socialism Means (1977)

From the May 1977 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialist society will differ fundamentally from today’s society by producing enough to provide all people with the amenities of modern life. Basically these amenities are: housing, food, clothing, education, health care and entertainment. These amenities will be the best that society can produce and will be freely available to all.

Society does not provide for all now simply because its economy (the way it produces things) is geared not to producing what people need but to producing profitably what they can afford. This presents no problem for some, since they can afford to pay for the best of all they need. But there is only a small number of people in this position. The overwhelming majority are limited in what they can afford by what they earn in wages or salaries, despite the fact that it is they who do the producing. This is because the minority who have access to the best are those who own and control the means of production, i.e. farms, factories, offices, machinery.

In Socialist society, however, ownership and control of the means of production will be by society as a whole. This will enable production to be directed in the interests of the community on the basis of what they need. Since today’s science and technology give us the potential to provide enough for all, there will be no need for money (or barter); people will simply take what they need. With modern methods of market research, stock control, statistics and electronic computing, the means by which the needs of society can be determined are already available.

To ensure that society will provide enough, people will, as now, need to co-operate to help produce it. But with the disappearance of money at least half of today’s work becomes unnecessary, e.g. accountants, cashiers, ticket collectors; and with the elimination of commercial competition, this could be reduced further.

Consider, for example, the wasted effort today in producing a simple household article. Whilst there are basically only two types of washing powder — soap and detergent — there are more than a dozen “brands” produced. By eliminating the profit motive production need only concentrate on producing the best of both. This would save the wasted effort now spent in producing numerous similar brands with proliferation of packaging, delivery vans, drivers, etc.

Thus, with the removal of unnecessary work coupled with full use of automation, necessary work if “shared out” on a shift basis, need occupy much less of the individual’s time than it does today. Now that the findings of biological and anthropological research back up our contention that human beings would readily and harmoniously co-operate together, given the favourable conditions that would exist in a Socialist society, people will work according to their ability on a purely voluntary basis, and so replace the existing wage and salary system.

As with science and technology, capitalism has, out of necessity, developed methods of organization and administration which Socialism can use and further refine. At the moment there are local councils, national and international organizations such as the World Health Organization, much of whose administrative work would be essential to Socialist society. The difference will be in their use solely for administering things rather than governing people. It is to these organizations that people will elect their delegates ensuring democratic control of society.

As production and its organization already take place on a world-wide scale, with each country dependent on others for resources and skills. Socialism will need to be a world society. But Socialism will differ by replacing the existing conflicts and confrontations between nations, caused by economic rivalries, with a single harmonious society uniting people of the world in cooperating for the mutual benefit of all.

Realizing this new society democratically requires the majority of people to express their desire for it with the vote. What stands before us at the moment is the immense task of telling the majority of people about it. This is where YOU can help us!
Paul Moody