Thursday, April 21, 2016

What is socialism? (1985)

From the December 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialism, as envisaged by the World Socialist Movement, will be a global society without governments, states, money or wages. All human beings will own in common, and democratically control, all the means for producing and distributing wealth. As goods and services will be produced solely for use, money will be non-existent. As we will all be the common owners of the means of production and distribution we will all automatically have the social right of free access to satisfy our needs without the restriction of a wages system or vouchers of any kind.

Marx's reference to labour vouchers in the Critique of the Gotha Programme is completely irrelevant when we consider the potential for producing and distributing wealth that exists today. His approach might possibly have had some justification in the nineteenth century — it has none now. In socialism each of us will work to the best of our ability and satisfy our needs as they arise. The ability to produce the quantities of wealth to satisfy the reasonable demands of the world's population has already been developed by capitalism.

This does not mean that the productive capacity of the world is unlimited. One can assume, however, that a world population endowed with sufficient social consciousness to have established socialism, equipped with the productive know-how previously acquired under capitalism, will generate practical demands which can be satisfied with comparative ease. This obviously can only be achieved when the world is operated as a single unit — the establishment of socialism in one country, or even a group of countries, is both inconceivable and impractical.

In socialism, government will be non-existent. You cannot have governments without the "governors" and the "governed" and this automatically entails the paraphernalia of the state machine in one form or another. We draw a clear distinction between the democratic administrative structures of socialism and capitalist government.

When socialism is introduced the workers of the world will not have forgotten overnight the ability to produce cars, houses, food, clothing, and so on. We should therefore logically assume that socialist men and women will also have the capability of establishing and organising their own socialist administrative structures. The "administration of things" would be a social organisation quite distinct from "government”, which must of necessity coerce people in a class society. The democratic structures of socialism will reflect the relationships of the new society of common ownership, production for use, and free access
Samuel Leight
(World Socialist Party of the United States)

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