Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Bald and Unconvincing: Also "There are others". (1920)

From the January 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard

That Fine Thing — Opportunity.
Capitalist cant and humbug still manifest themselves at every turn, and the Bolshevist movement still supplies them with some of the finest opportunities for such manifestation. Almost weekly some female member of the class who kept Russian soil soaked with blood (working-class blood, of course) for generations, escapes from the “clutches” of the Bolsheviks, and brings her troubles to these shores. Invariably she has a harrowing tale of the atrocities of “the terror.” She usually has managed to pick up a document of fearful import —Bolshevik army orders relating to the taking of women and girls for sinister purposes are the moat common; we all know how carelessly the “Reds” leave such things lying about the streets! —which is very thoughtful of her, for it enables her perhaps otherwise unconvincing narrative to be published with illustrations.

Unfortunate Lack of Evidence
But also invariably, when the Russian Countess (all the princesses have long since been laid in their nameless graves, with unmentionable accompaniments) has told her tale of horror, she has nothing to show in substantiation thereof except her ropes of pearls and her jewels (which the “Reds” might have found had they taken the trouble to search her) and precious document —which might quite possibly be a forgery. Invariably she has no mangled limbs to display before the public whom she expects to swallow so much. She does not hobble along on one leg as do so many poor fellows of the working class in this country and others. She gets about very well, thank yon; and if she did lose forty pounds of fat owing to the Bolshevik horrors (and not, mark yon, because she had to fare as other people in a land which she herself describes as starving) she soon finds it again among her fellow parasites in the West End. For, happily enough, all these horrors which she relates (even to people of “birth and breeding” being compelled to work) have happened — to other people!

The Latest Witnesses —
Not Russian countesses, but two Irish “girls,” are the latest to escape from that other “distressful country” that is not Ireland. They come with the same wearying tale of atrocities that have been inflicted upon—others. They have (the “Daily Chronicle” of Jan. 3 informs us) “a number of terrible photographs, showing the horrors of the Red regime.” And “It is impossible henceforward to hope that such stories of the Red Terror may prove to have been exaggerated; the credibility of these new witnesses is beyond question.”

And yet—there are some strange features about their narrative. One might start with those “terrible photographs.” It is a strange; thing that they do not publish them. What have they brought them to this country for, if they are not to be seen? Is it in order to talk about them, and to add to the famous Government collection of Russian photographs which are not fit for publication—for fear somebody should identify them as pictures of outrages perpetrated upon Russian workers under the Czarist regime ?

— Have the Old Falling.
It is strange reading also that two ladies, one of whom had “lost 40lb. in weight as a result of her sufferings," and the other of whom looks, from her published photograph, as though her sister’s loss has been her gain, could “run for five miles,” as the “Daily Chronicle” reports that they finally did, to escape the Red Terror. 

It is strange, also, that one of these women could lay (sic) on her “bed with the door barricaded” while “ten Bolsheviks occupied the room next to mine. . . . There night after night they carried on drunken orgies of an unspeakable character,” and yet be able to say (as both she and her sister do) that she was “never subjected to personal violence.” It is strange again how she knew the exact number, when there were so many, of Bolsheviks in that room if she had to hide herself away from them, or that they could be bo very terrible if she did not.

It is strange yet again that if the iron of these dread doings had bitten so deep into her soul --not to speak of her “weight"—the lady had a thought to spare for the observation which is replaced with prints in the above quotation. That observation was: “There was a beautiful drawing-room full of beautiful furniture.” If the fact that Bolsheviks ware holding “drunken orgies” in rooms and among furniture where only the rich had carried on theirs, is a crime of the Bolsheviks or a trouble of the lady, we may judge at once the standard by which she appraises both the villainy of the “Reds” and the depth of her own “sufferings.”

It is strange, farther, that these two ladies “have been in Kieff during each period of Bolshevik rule.” One would have thought that one experience of this “nightmare” was enough, and that they would have seized the first opportunity of clearing out of the danger zone. But they appear to have cleared out only when one of them was detected in hiding Russian officers, in other words taking an active part in the struggle against the Bolsheviks. A similar participation in warfare in any other country has its prescribed penalty. The ladies were wise to scoot.

And now for the particular horrors which the “credibility of these new witnesses” puts beyond question.

When the Reds had departed one of the ladies went to a sort of human slaughter house, where “in the garden 127 nude and mutilated corpses, including those of some women, were flung into a hole.” Obviously, she could not count these 127 bodies all flung into one hole, so it is clear that the unquestionable credibility with which the capitalist editor of our capitalist contemporary so lightly guarantees the unconvincing narrative must be made to cover even second-hand information.

Such, indeed is shown to be the case as the story proceeds, for we are told that “the man who removed the bodies from the shed told a horrible story of what he described as the staircase of death. “It seems [seems, mark you] that the victims first had to strip and then form up in line with arms folded.
“First one line had to lie on their faces, and they were then shot.

“Then the second row filed in and took their places, just behind the first row; and so row after row of corpses was piled up until there was what he describes as a staircase of bleeding bodies reaching almost to the ceiling of the shed,”

So the lady’s credibility is to guarantee the truth of what another party told her, even!

But there is a fly in the ointment, for it is obvious that the proceeding as stated could not result in “a staircase of bleeding bodies reaching almost to the ceiling of the abed.” The geometry of the thing is all wrong.

However, it matters little what the trimmings were. It would be strange indeed if the Bolsheviks, at war and pressed on every hand, did not find occasion to put some backs up against a wall. And stripped of all its embroidery, that is all it amounts to. In the reports of their opponents parallel cases are thus sententiously recorded: "Many Bolsheviks were captured and executed.” Ana it ill becomes those who took part in the filling of ten million graves all over the world, to whine because the process which they set in motion does not cease at their command.

But the seal is placed on the hypocrisy of the ruling class by the facts revealed by the inquiry into certain happenings in India, and the cool and even callous way in which those facts are accepted by our masters’ Press. Nothing that has yet been alleged against the Bolsheviks in any way compares with or rivals for sheer ferocious animal brutality the confessed and even vaunted butchery of 500 natives by a British officer. In a country where that awful specimen of bloody-minded savagery had no other right at all to be save the right of the “mailed fist,” and in their own village, some thousands of people demonstrated in defiance of their conquerors’ orders. How the British apostle of “frightfulness” hurried to the scene eager for the bloodletting; how he deployed his men on a neighbouring hilltop, and in a few brief seconds had them pouring “rapid fire” into the crowd; how he ceased the butchery, not when the crowd dispersed, not when 500 fell dead and 2,000 wounded, but when he ran out of ammunition; and how he then marched his men away from the scene without attempting to give any assistance to his victims (it was not his business, he said): all this is told in the capitalist Press. We have no need to resort to suspect sources for that information. And these revelations come to hand at the opportune moment to form an effective reply to the tales of Bolshevik barbarity. 
A. E. Jacomb

Items of Interest in the Election. (1924)

From the January 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

Though it is a matter of minor importance, I must confess to a feeling of unholy glee at seeing that Winston Churchill failed again.

Ben Tillett, the strike breaker, succeeded in crawling into Parliament along with J. Sexton, a fitting chum.

Frank Hodges, who assisted to defeat the railwaymen in 1921, is still climbing; he is now a Labour M.P.

Col. John Ward, a deserter from the Labour Party, put up as an Independent against a Labour candidate and just managed to squeeze in.

A few who were one time “sturdy Democrats” tried a change of party but were too late—they backed the wrong horse. Among these were G. H. Roberts, Victor Fisher, and J. A. Seddon.

G. H. Roberts, Labour Party representative in the Coalition Government, put up as a Conservative but was ousted.

Victor Fisher, a onetime member of the Social Democratic Party and friend of H. M. Hyndman, put up as a Conservative and failed to get in.

J. A. Seddon was another Labour mislcader who put up as a Conservative and failed to get in.

Fellow workers, take note of the above and refrain from trusting in Leaders. Trust in yourselves in future and changes of policy by Leaders will work you no harm.

Socialism and Law

The following piece, written by the late Pieter Lawrence, is the sixth chapter of his 2006 work, 'Practical Socialism - Its Principles and Methods'.

Chapter 6

Socialism and Law

We may anticipate that the function of law would be different in a socialist society.   This change would reflect the change in social relationships. Throughout history a main function of law has been to uphold and regulate property relationships.  In protecting and enforcing property rights it follows that in all eras of propertied society the various systems of law have favoured the dominant economic class.  In socialism this historic function of law will end.   In a society based on common ownership   and voluntary cooperation the sole object of law would be to serve the needs of individuals and interests of the whole community.  Such law would provide a framework of freedom, enabling individuals to live out their chosen lives. Law in socialism would express the values of equality and democracy.

Even in the age of Pericles, Athenian democracy was practised exclusively by male citizens on a foundation of slavery that was sanctified by law. Similarly throughout Europe, under feudal law, the serf and his family were bound for life to the Lord of the Manor. Runaway serfs were flogged, branded or worse.  In Capitalism, wage slaves are free to change their employers but still remain locked into a life of making company profits. This is the modern form of economic bondage, the routine of dept and wage working to get the money to pay the mortgage, the rates, gas, electricity and the many other bills,   all regulated by law.

The relationship of worker to employer is based on great differences in property ownership which again are upheld and enforced by law.   This is not just in the corporate ownership of the means of life, that is, natural resources, mining, industry, manufacture and transport, it is also in the ownership of land.   For example, if we look up the web site on “Who Owns Britain” we find that in “England and Wales” almost 26 million acres of land is owned by just over 150,000 families or individuals.   This is 0.28%  (a quarter of one per cent) of the population, who own 64% of the land.   If we take land owned by the Dukes of Buccleuch, Westminster and Northumberland we have just three individuals who jointly own 531,500 acres valued at just over £14 ½ bn.

At the bottom end of the scale, according to the Economist (23/02/03) for the years 1999/2000, the number of children in Britain living in poverty 4.1 million. (As stated above, poverty is defined here as children living in families receiving less than 60% of the average wage.   What this means is sub-standard housing, poor conditions of life, poor diets and cultural deprivation).  A study published by the Rowntree Foundation has said that 8.3 million of our population live in these circumstances and this is not improving with time. This 8.3 million living in poverty was 100,000 more than in 1996/97.    If we needed reminding, these figures tell us that we continue to live in a deeply divided class society, which is regulated and kept in place by law.

In viewing these vastly unequal property relationships and the part played by law in their development throughout history, some schools of political thought assert that a society based on equality and cooperation would abolish all law.  In particular this is an argument of put forward by anarchists. It is also true that such 19th Century socialist visionaries as William Morris and even Engels took this view.   However, the idea that all law would be abolished should now be relegated to the irrelevant spheres of anarchist utopianism (as outlined in chapter 3 above).  The reason for this is that the abolition of all law is problematical to the point of being not just wholly impractical, but would be in direct opposition to the principles of socialist organisation.   For example, the abolition of law against paedophilia or rape would ignore the safety and well being of children and others; this would be unacceptable in any circumstances.  To come to a very different example, it would be impossible to run a modern democratic society without constitutional law.

This brings us to the question that the subject of socialism and law is part of the wider question of social democracy.   A basic working tool of democratic practice is the making of majority decisions. However, the very mention of a majority assumes a minority of people who did not agree and probably voted against.  Democracy means that minorities also have their rights, not just the right to vote against but the freedom to persuade and bring a majority over to its view.  In a society based on voluntary cooperation any who disagreed with a decision would be free to abstain from any action that might flow from a decision.

However, it is well to remember that minorities are not a particular human type who are always in the minority.  On other issues they may well be part of the majority and in these circumstances they would not take kindly to dissenters taking action to prevent the wishes of the majority from being carried out.  So, it would be a condition of democratic practice that no individual or group may take action against a majority decision, except within the bounds of democratic conduct.  In socialism, this basic principle of democratic organisation would be applied in practical ways within a framework of democratic law. 

Beyond the article of faith, that in a socialist society, absolute social accord will be absolutely guaranteed, without law and solely as a result of self-regulation, what we would have in practice is the absolute right of the individual to do what he or she wants. This would not only be the opposite of democracy, it would be the negation of freedom itself. This is not to dismiss self regulation. Even now, and certainly in socialism, it will remain a most important way of achieving decent human relations. But we should not take this up as a dogma, saying that self-regulation will be the only way to achieve a safe, stable and democratic society.

It can of course be argued that such cases as crimes against the person, which may be more difficult to relate directly to property relationships, are in fact, at the end of a sequence of causes and affects which begin with the psychologically destructive pressures of life under the capitalist system. There can be little doubt that the emotions of stress, anxiety, insecurity and frustration, which are inherent in the system and which blight the lives of many people, can distort patterns of reasonable social conduct.

However, in proposing to take society forward on a socialist basis we cannot assume an immediate perfect world; we begin with the real world as we find it. To quote just one case from a long list of crimes that have destroyed the lives of many families, it took eight years to catch the serial child killer, Robert Black. Thirty-eight police officers and 24 typists worked on 50 computer terminals linked to the Home Office Large Major Enquiry System. 60,000 statements were taken and 185,000 people were interviewed. Robert Black was a lorry driver and was convicted in 1994 of three child murders.  It is likely that he raped and strangled more.

Abhorrence is a natural response to such crimes but it is regrettable that it is often accompanied by superficial judgements of the kind that blame the crime solely on the evil nature of the perpetrator.  In such cases it is often possible to find a background story that suggests a wider, social responsibility.  In reporting the trial of Robert Black the “Independent” (20/05/94) also gave some details of his life.
“Although Robert Black enters the record books as the worst child killer Britain has seen, little is known about his motives or mental make up.   What is clear is that he had a disturbed, loveless upbringing, seemed unable to make proper friends and appeared unattractive to those who knew him. Black was born in Falkirk Royal Infirmary in April 1947, the illegitimate child of a Grangemouth woman.   After being abandoned he was placed with foster parents in the small highlands town of Kinlochleven.   His foster mother died when he was 13 and Black went to a hostel for the homeless in Musselburgh near Edinburgh, where he is said to have been sexually abused.   He was neglected. Had virtually no friends and often inspired intense dislike.”   “At work he was “Smelly Bob”; at home he kept a vast library of paedophile material.”

It is true that pre-occupation with personal struggles reduces our time and thought for the problems of others, even so, it should be asked, where was care of the community when this lonely and abused child needed the love and affection of a secure upbringing?   Given that, when young, we learn from example, what moral lessons was he able to take from a childhood of rejection, violence and sexual abuse?  We should expect that it taught Robert Black little more than deep feelings of bitterness, resentment and a psychopathic inability to appreciate the feelings of others; attitudes well expressed in Shakespeare where MacBeth interviews two murderers on their credentials for the evil task he had in mind.   One reassures him, “I am one, my liege, whom the vile blows and buffets of the world have so incensed that I am reckless what I do to spite the world.”

Our knowledge of the causes of crime points overwhelmingly to adverse social conditions. For example, according to results of research by the Home Office published in “The Independent” in 1990,  “The study, which will add to the Government’s embarrassment over the economy and the crime rate concludes that ‘economic factors have a major influence on trends in both property and personal crime.   During recessions or periods of economic stagnation, the number of thefts and burglaries tends to grow’”  The paper also reported (9/4/94) “The Association of Chief Officers of Probation released an internal survey of 30 probation areas showing that almost 70% of a sample of 28,000 offenders … were unemployed.”   “Bill Watson, general secretary of the association, said it was ‘absolutely unmistakable’ that unemployment featured in offending patterns.”   On the previous day it reported, “… A recent review of 397 research studies on young offenders, both in Britain and abroad, showed that the single most effective intervention (in the crime rate) was the provision of employment to offenders.”

The well proven link between crime and economics adds great force to the argument that the conditions of life in socialist communities would greatly reduce crime. The welfare of all citizens would be the first objective of social organisation and this would be achieved through cooperation, and would provide a secure standard of living for every person. Its relationships would reduce psychological damage and would be more conducive to a healthier pattern of personal conduct. In place of economic individualism, exploitation, competition and social exclusion, all of which contribute to the conditions in which crime thrives, there would be social integration and equal standing amongst all members of the community.  Seen in this light we may assume that not only would crime be greatly reduced but with it, the machinery and administration of law. 

This is not to wander too far on to the ground of economic determinism.  People will always have choices but under the pressure of psychological compulsion the proper choices ones are not always easy to make. Also, there seems to be no direct evidence for saying that capitalist productive relationships cause people to commit the crimes of child abuse, rape, child murder or domestic violence. There is no evidence for asserting that all people in socialism will at all times be models of democratic virtue. On the contrary, the evidence from this life is that socialists can behave badly and even engage in child abuse.  It is also apparent that some socialists are just as likely to behave in an undemocratic manner as anyone else. So, from crimes of the utmost seriousness, that threaten life and limb, to lesser kinds of anti-social behaviour, the unfair treatment of individuals, democratic accountability or the abuse of positions of civic responsibility, all these matters could only be administered in an orderly, predictable and democratic manner in a socialist society through legal procedures endorsed by the whole community.

The method of practical socialism to be applied to this question is in principle the same as the method for selecting any useful feature of present society that would be continued in socialism.  The criteria we apply to useful production, useful decision making bodies and useful means of administration, apply equally to law.  In the case of law it is a question of identifying the existing features of law that could continue to play a useful part in civic organisation together with the useful institutions that administer such law.   Socially useful law should be distinguished from law that is concerned solely to uphold, regulate and enforce the economic relationships of the capitalist system. 

It follows from the retention of useful law that institutions for administering it would also need to be retained.  The administration of law in socialism would continue to respect the right of any person accused of an offence to defend him/herself. This means being able to call witnesses, to question evidence and to put a defence before a body, independent of those bringing the charges. Such a person should also be entitled to a right of appeal. This means that subject to perhaps modification along more democratic lines, the present court system would also be retained. 

It is impossible to run a capitalist system without an accompanying prison system. The problems of crime cannot be solved. In a few cases the administration of law does make some attempts to treat some offenders with sensitivity aimed at helping with personal problems. Mostly the imposition of law is authoritarian, brutal and concerned with punishment and deterrence. The numbers held in prisons continue to increase.  Over the past twenty five years the prison population in the UK has doubled.  In 1994 the number was 52,830.   In 2003 the number was 76,146.

Similarly, in Germany, the prison population increased from 49,658 in 1994 to 62,594 in 2003.  Russia imprisons around 900,000 of its people. The United States has the highest proportionate prison population of any reporting world nation For the most part, the U.S. rate is five to eight times that of the Western European nations with a staggering 2,166,260 of its people in prison in 2003.

In the UK many prisoners are locked up for 23 hours a day in overcrowded cells and are subject to  violent assault by prison officers and other prisoners, male rape, suicide and persistent self harm.
From any civilised viewpoint, the confinement of large numbers of population in prison “hell holes” is itself a legalised crime carried out by the state.

The use of law in socialism will be a means of safeguarding individuals and the community against dangerous or other anti-social behaviour.  It would be humanely administered with the sole object of solving problems without any kind of punishment. The vile prisons as we know them would be abolished.   On the assumption that it would still be necessary to hold some persons in places of secure confinement these would allow occupants to lead dignified lives in pleasant conditions. But the use of law in socialism would not only be concerned to avoid dangerous or anti social behaviour, it would also be practised for the regulation of democratic administration and would provide procedures for accountability.

In making a distinction between socially useful law that would be continued and law that could have no function in a socialist society we begin with the fact that much of present law exists to uphold and enforce property rights, to regulate the wage labour/capital relationship, and to mediate between contesting parties over monetary or other property disputes.   However, over the past two centuries, legal systems have expanded enormously, partly into socially useful areas which are not directly to do with the protection of property rights.                                           

For example, laws regulating foetal experiments, abortion and the age of sexual consent, whatever we may think of them, arise from moral or ethical questions.  This kind of law has changed over time within states and varies enormously between states in ways that have little bearing on economic relationships. Similarly, we have laws on drunk driving, professional qualifications, licences for drivers, air line pilots, ship’s captains; laws on assault, murder, rape, child abuse, public nuisance; laws on planning and constitutional law which defines the boundaries of decision making amongst public bodies. All these examples arise from the organisation of civil society and would continue to be necessary.                                              

Company law and income tax law would be redundant together with civil law for processing disputes over contracts, money transactions and property. Criminal Law deals with theft, fraud and assault etc., and so before the courts there is a sad parade of burglars, muggers, bank and building society robbers, car thieves, credit card fraudsters and drug offenders. But courts also deal with many cases which are less directly connected with present economic relationships.  The law on this side deals with drunk driving, speeding and other traffic offences such as unlicensed or dangerous driving.   When eventually arrested the courts deal with the paedophile who moves from district to district, using different names, posing as that “nice man” who helps out at the youth centre. They deal with the rapist, the violent schizophrenic, the psychopath, domestic violence and occasionally, but with predictable regularity, as we have noted, they deal with the child killer.

Planning law would continue to regulate housing, the use of buildings and industrial/manufacturing development in accordance with social policy.  As at present, neither individuals or nor any public body would be free to develop a site without following the procedures of planning consent.

Family law would be continued.  Just as night follows day it is certain that couples will continue to fall in love and have families.   Sadly, it is equally certain that some will fall out of love.   Family courts would not need to decide matters such as money maintenance, but this still leaves plenty of scope for disputes in which courts would need to arbitrate.  It is unlikely that any society, however conducive to reasonable behaviour will succeed in removing the emotions of jealousy and bitterness that are inherent in family fall outs. This would be where couples cannot agree on questions such as who should leave or stay in the family home, custody of children, hours to be spent with one or the other parent.   There is always a point where a relationship is over, despite this, it is sometimes the case that one of the couple refuses to accept that it is “over” and becomes a persistent nuisance, with a risk of violence.  Here again is a situation in which the community through the use of appropriate law would need to intervene to protect the victim.

Housing is also an important area where new arrangements would require the backing of new law. Without a housing market, and housing mobility made possible by buying, selling and rent, the alternatives in a socialist society could vary, but one possibility is that the housing stock would be commonly owned with security of tenure held by occupants in the form of a lease from the community.  Such leaseholds would have the backing of housing law.

What would be possible is that to begin with occupants would be granted leaseholds to the houses or flats they occupy.  When moving house leaseholds could be swapped, either directly between leaseholders or through a local housing authority.   This would mean that all rents or mortgage payments would cease and freehold ownership would be replaced by legal rights of occupier use in the form of a permanent lease.  Residents taking on new homes in an area or when moving to a different area could be granted leaseholds to empty premises by an appropriate local housing authority.   

This is not to suggest that the afore mentioned Dukes of Buccleuch, Westminster and Northumberland would be granted continued legal rights of exclusive occupation of their present   531,500 acres and the houses thereon.   As fine examples of architecture, fine art and crafts, their great houses would pass to the community with the National Trust a ready made institution for the management of such heritage homes.   Any sentimental attachment by these dukes to their former properties would have to be satisfied with perhaps occupation of a suitable gate house or game keeper’s cottage!

However, this does not remove the unavoidable fact that to begin with there would be considerable inequality in the use of homes.   Under such proposals, leaseholders of terraced houses in the inner suburbs of big cities would have to accept that other leaseholders a few miles away would enjoy the better facilities of perhaps four bed roomed homes in the leafy suburbs.  The plain fact is that in socialism, any policy concerning the relationship of town and country would present many complex problems that would take a considerable time to sort out. 

Constitutional Law
As now, Constitutional Law would regulate procedures for the election and running of public bodies such as Parish, District, County and Metropolitan councils as well as Parliament.   This would define the freedoms and the boundaries of decision making and action both in and between these various spheres of public organisation.   Constitutional Law would also provide rules for the running of public services such as hospitals and schools; the democratic structure and management of units responsible for the production and distribution of goods.  

Violent Reaction
It is prudent to anticipate a possible violent reaction to the capture of political control by a majority of socialists and the enactment of common ownership of all resources and means of production.   This would be action by a recalcitrant minority.   The history of great social change does not bode well for a peaceful transition.  From this record we should assume that at least some sections of society with a great interest in things staying as they are, would be unlikely to respond with calm acceptance, even in the face of a popular and democratically organised movement.

Nor would such a recalcitrant minority have any difficulty in finding a justification for any violent reaction.   In the tradition of contriving moral authority for upholding sectional interests, and perhaps borrowing from some dubious 18th Century philosophy it could be argued that the private ownership of land, natural resources and means of production is a natural human right that is integral with a democratic society. It would follow from this that the dispossession of an owning minority would be an undemocratic action against the natural rights of a social minority by a tyrannical majority.   In these circumstances, it could be argued that violent reaction would be justified. 

There would of course, be not the slightest prospect of reversing a decision by a majority of people to commence the organisation of a socialist system.   The barriers to the establishment of Socialism exist in the minds of most people who do not yet accept the ideas of socialism.  With the growth of the socialist movement to the point where a majority exists the consequence will be the capture of political control and with it, the entire machinery of government.   The conversion to common ownership will be legislated as a legal enactment and from this point on the entire framework of law will be adapted, enabling the formal enactment of common ownership to be applied as action throughout society.

To reverse the process, the majority of people would have to be reconverted to support for the capitalist system by means of propaganda. The ruling groups would already have lost the battle of ideas, their social influence will have gone, together with their monopoly of the means of life.   To suggest that at some point individuals will be able to take over socially owned property and force members of the community to work for wages and the profits of companies is a complete abandonment of logical reasoning.  To argue that the same result could be obtained by violent minority action is equally absurd.   This is not to suggest that a recalcitrant violent minority could not fight a desperate rearguard action whilst blindly unaware of the futility of their actions.   The irrationality of such actions is possible but this could not be described as a serious attempt to destroy socialism and restore the capitalist system.   Socialism could not be forcibly overthrown.  

Acts of violence, sabotage or any other form of anti-social activity could only be carried out by renegade groups acting outside the law.   This would not be tolerated at any stage.  If the hypothesis includes a residue of people "at war with society" who make mindless attacks endangering the well-being and lives of other people then the means to deal with them would exist and would be used as necessary.  Such situations already exist under capitalism, but with this difference, that while capitalism has no solution because capitalist conditions create the problem, for socialist society the problem would be a passing phase of short duration.

On the assumption that we are speculating about acts of violence mainly during the post change over period, obviously, force would be used if argument and reason failed. With the capture of political control the machinery of government, including every section of the armed forces would come under the control of the new democratic administration.   Implicit in this is the recognition that, in the period of changeover, control of the armed forces would be continued for as long as necessary in the light of conditions then existing. In view of the possibility of violent reaction by a minority it could not be guaranteed that that simultaneously with gaining control the armed forces would at once be wholly dismantled. 

This does not mean that armed forces would have to be used.   Control of armed forces by Parliament would prevent their use by any renegade group and would act as an effective deterrent without these forces necessarily having to be used.   The conditions for the success of the change over from capitalism to socialism will have already been completed before the winning of a majority in Parliament through the ballot box.

The achievement of a socialist majority will mean that socialists will be in the majority throughout every section of production, distribution, services, administration and government departments.  From this basis, cooperation to run society directly for needs would be commenced.   It is inconceivable that the police or armed forces would remain outside these developments or would act against the tide of democratic events.  It is against this background that the hypothesis of possible violent obstruction by an undemocratic minority has to be considered.

Not all of the hypothetical minority working to restore capitalism would be prepared to take violent action for that purpose.  This will present no problem to socialism.  It is likely that diverse political groups will be active in trying to influence social policy.   In line with democratic practice, a group wishing to return to the capitalist system will be free to propagate their views and to organise democratically to win over the majority.  They will of course, operate against the tremendous disadvantage of advocating a return to an outdated system of exploitation, economic chaos, waste, destruction and war. 

Administration of Law in Socialism
The practical ways in which the structure of law and its administration could be adapted to serve the needs of communities in socialism is far beyond the competence and scope of this book.   Indeed, the subject is so extensive it could not be attempted in any single book.  As well as its complexity, law has also evolved with great local and regional variations and no doubt this would continue.   A single unified system would be neither possible nor desirable.

However, we have been able to suggest the general methods that we should apply to the question.   In principle, the reasons for the adaptation of law in socialism would be no different to the way in which law, throughout history, has had to adapt to new situations in line with developing society.   As in all societies, law in socialism would have the job of upholding the general aims of the new society and of setting out the procedures through which it could achieve those aims.

We define a socialist system as one based on common ownership, voluntary cooperation, production solely for needs and democratic organisation.   Having been enacted as legislation, the relations of common ownership would have the force of law and this would be the legal basis on which all means of production and all resources would pass into the common property of the whole community.  From this point on, people doing socially useful jobs would carry on doing them as voluntary cooperation in production units under democratic management by workers themselves.   

It is in these important fields of production and distribution where many of the existing functions of law would become redundant, for example company law and law regulating the wage labour/capital relationship.  It is also here where new law would be required to coordinate working relationships between public decision making bodies and the actions of production units in implementing policy decisions.   Together with new law a great deal of existing law would be continued.  The test to be applied is whether or not any existing law can continue to serve the needs of individuals or the wider community.

The administration law would be humanised. The present hierarchical, authoritarian procedures which govern the structure of the legal system would need to be democratised.  The present use of juries and lay magistrates, drawn from a wide social background, and acting under legal advice from qualified legal officers offers an acceptable basis which could be extended.  However, such anachronistic procedures whereby judges are appointed by a Lord Chancellor, and in some cases by the Monarch on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, would hardly be compatible with the principles of democratic organisation.  Perhaps, after nomination, persons making judgements could be elected by a ballot of all barristers and solicitors.  Rotation of office would also be a healthy practice.  For the same general reasons that apply at present, including the practice of democratic accountability, it would be important that the entire practice of law, though not beyond public criticism, should continue to remain independent of all other public bodies. 

Finally, it should be emphasised that a fully democratic society, in which all citizens would be able to cooperate on equal terms around a common interest, would achieve a vast reduction in crime.   This would be both a moral and material basis for decent human conduct.  We also have every reason to trust that all public bodies would work conscientiously within their terms of reference according to the rules set by Constitutional Law.   This being the case we may anticipate that overwhelmingly, in every sphere of life, conduct of people will be self regulating, without a need for society to intervene with the use of law.
 Pieter Lawrence

Democratic Organisation

The following piece, written by the late Pieter Lawrence, is the fifth chapter of his 2006 work, 'Practical Socialism - Its Principles and Methods'. 

Chapter 5

Democratic Organisation

Democracy can be discussed in many ways but as with the question of “needs” we are seeking neither a comprehensive definition nor democratic procedures that will be valid in all circumstances for all time.  In approaching the subject of democracy our method remains one of proposing arrangements that could work best in the light of the principles of socialism and the practical need to solve existing problems.  We may assume that any useful means of social decision making, already in place, would be adapted and developed.  Any practice that is incompatible with the principles of democracy would be abolished. This sets out a working framework within which we can propose what could be a system of democratic administration in socialism.  

Again, we may anticipate that in due course, as communities in socialism succeed in solving problems, and as this pressure of necessity is lifted, the need for decision making will be reduced.  The outcome would be that arrangements for democratic organisation will alter in ways corresponding with the different circumstances. But that is far beyond the existing state of things and we cannot therefore take this into account. The only reason for mentioning it is to emphasise that at any point in time the question of democracy should be considered not so much in pursuit of absolute truths but what would be practical within a given social context.

However, some constant principles should apply.  Democracy should enable every person to participate on equal terms with others in deciding the policies that may affect that individual. A fully democratic society is only possible where there is social equality about the means of life.  Great differences in social privilege or economic power inevitably corrupt the practice of democracy.  

The principle of voluntary co-operation must also apply.  Whilst majority decisions may shape the direction of social policy every person should retain control over his or her involvement in any activity arising from those decisions. Activity must be self determined activity. Whilst no person, except in a democratic manner, may act against the decisions of a majority, participation in programmes of action must rest on voluntary association.

Democracy also means that we should live in a completely open society with unrestricted access to all information relevant to public issues. The records of all decision making bodies both in production and administration should be posted publicly and in socialism this would be aided by electronic means of storing and accessing information.

Continuity means that development is an adaptation of existing institutions to new conditions. The same principle that applies to production where all useful features would be retained also applies to administration. This would mean the conversion of the useful machinery of Government into a system of democratic civil society. Unlike the capitalist state, democracy in socialism must avoid an hierarchical, authoritarian system with its concentrations of centralised power.

It would be straight forward enough to draw up a list of decision making procedures that would in practice be more democratic than those in the present state system but in themselves procedures for making decisions are useless unless accompanied by powers of action.  This reveals one reason, and there are many, why the capitalist state can never be fully democratic. Even governments do not have powers to act on policies except within the narrow options determined mainly by economic circumstances. A key reason why political principle has been drained from political practice is that Governments are compelled, and indeed spend most of their time, reacting to economic pressures over which they have no control. Mostly, their actions are limited by a lack of money resources. Politics in developed capitalist states has now narrowed to arguments about different ways of raising government funds through various taxes and the distribution of government money. Mainstream political debate is mostly about which party would be most efficient in doing this.  In this way, politics has now yielded to domination by market forces and because economic constraints have no respect for the alleged differences of principle or philosophy of parties, these economic forces tend to cast all governments in the same mould. For this reason there is some truth in the popular view that all politics is the same.

Perhaps the best kind of democracy that can be achieved within a capitalist state is a system of “liberal democracy.” This grants legal rights of expression, organisation and action to the various lobbies and interest groups and individuals which make up a class divided society. Even so, we should not hesitate to say that liberal democracy, compared with dictatorship, a bureaucratic elite or theocracy, is to be greatly preferred.  Anyone who is not sure of this should test their doubts by living for a year in Iran or North Korea. However, even in the best systems of liberal democracy, administration cannot escape being a battleground for competing economic interests groups with winners and losers.  It can never be a democracy of common interests.  This is not to say that in socialism public life will be of perfect accord.  It is likely for example that a green lobby would be active in curbing excessive production made possible by increased powers of production but such disputes would not arise from conflicting economic interests.  

Central to democratic practice are powers of action.  Parties may issue a manifesto, setting out a policy; voters may support that party only to find in practice that the policy was unrealistic.  There is no doubt that parties exploit the false expectations they create but this tends to make democratic practice a charade. This marks a great difference between capitalism and socialism where as a result of the change, the removal of all economic constraints from social action will give to communities expanded powers of democratic control.  This will be direct control over all available material resources of production. Thus, people will be able to make their decisions about priorities of action, and having done so, will then be free to  organise all the resources of labour, materials, land, means of production and distribution for the work of achieving their goals. It is these powers of direct control that communities in socialism will have over their own powers of production, that will provide the basis of democratic organisation in socialism.

Local, Regional and World Scales
Because the subject is extensive and because we should anticipate that in socialism arrangements will vary from country to country according to geography, tradition and for other reasons, any proposals suggested here will be based on structures in Britain. Having said this, we may assume that the principles behind the proposals will generally apply. In origin, the means of administration which operate in Britain pre-date the capitalist state, beginning in feudal times and perhaps going back even earlier to anglo-saxon village society. As a structure, it could be readily adapted for the needs of socialist society.

As it has evolved, it gives us a parish, district, county, urban, regional and national structure. This could be continued in Socialism not because it is ancient but because it has grown                                                             
organically, providing for various scales of social organisation. These different scales are simply a means of organising dispersed populations as a single whole through successive levels of organisation. In combination a number of parishes make up a district, whilst a number of districts make up a county which then add up to the national structure. Though they are not administrative units, over 600 constituency areas provide for representation in Parliament. Moving up in scale we   have the countries of the European Union represented at the European Parliament. Finally, there is world organisation through the United Nations Organisation and its specialist bodies.

Even now, there are many thousands of men and women throughout the country who work voluntarily on these various councils doing the best job they can for the benefit of their communities. The re-organisation brought in by the Local Government Act 1972 created in England 7,200 Parish Councils with 70,000 Councillors; 333 non Metropolitan District Councils with 13,510 District Councillors; And 39 County Councils. A persistent frustration of these public spirited men and women is caused by having to work with scarce money resources and the amount of time taken up by arguments about the allocation of money. In socialism they would be free of these constraints. 

But overriding this entire structure is National Government. Despite many developments that have taken place, the basic means of administering the capitalist state have not significantly changed over the past two hundred years. Whilst there has been economic development, growth of towns and cities, institutions, local government, means of communication, extension of voting rights and more rights of expression and political organisation, control remains concentrated in the hands of central government.  As the centre of the state machine, government enacts law and imposes this on the entire structure. In Britain it devolves limited powers down to County, Borough, District and Parish levels and also to regional Parliaments.  It is also represented upwards at the European Parliament and the United Nations Organisation.  But in all these cases the ultimate centre of control remains the national government. Even within a government there is a further concentration of power in the office of Prime Minister.  In this office resides powers of arbitrary patronage and appointment to a cabinet that meets in secret and with no right of public access to its agenda, the discussions that take place nor any decisions made.  This centralised, hierarchical, authoritarian system, imprisoned by tight economic constraints, is incompatible with a truly democratic system. 

On major issues, procedures in socialism should allow decisions to flow from the broadest possible social base to represent the views of the whole community. There need be no single point of power.  We can envisage an integrated system that would be adaptable and could be used for decision making and action on any local, national, regional or world scale. 

Some recent discussions on democratic practice have compared the merits of representative democracy with direct, participatory democracy. It would appear that participation by the maximum number of people in decision making is the most democratic way.  This has been partly prompted by electronic communications which could enable many thousands of people to instantly record their votes. Certainly this is technically possible. If populations can record by telephone their votes on which song should go forward to represent Britain in the European Song Contest, then surely they could vote on social policies. Yes, but even so, the idea that all people 

affected by a decision should be included in making that decision is both impractical and unnecessary.  When we consider the wide range of useful functions administered by elected bodies with their civil service staffs and at the local level their technical officers, it is inconceivable that communities could dispense with the practice of delegated decision making; this being the practice of electing members to the various decision making bodies and allowing them to get on with their work.

Even at the local level of district councils this work ranges across protective services such as fire, health care, disease of animals and police: environmental services such as highways, transport, environmental health and planning: personal services such as education, career development, housing and social care: recreational services such as sports facilities, museums, galleries, libraries and theatres, distribution services such as shops and department stores. Many of the decisions that arise from the provision and development of these services are connected with related matters, can therefore be complex and are often made against a background of on-going disputes. In total, the sheer number of decisions is daunting and no one should doubt that they are best made through consideration of all relevant factors. In view of this, the idea that every person within a parish, district or county should vote on every proposal for change or development would place a burden of every day decision making on citizens that would be impossible to carry. People would want to get on with their personal lives, and with great chunks of time allocated to decision making, even with the benefit of electronic voting, what may appear to be a democratic ideal would  in practice be a democratic nightmare.

This is not to say that on all issues representatives on councils or Parliament would be free to act on their personal views.   Where policy is decided by the majority votes of communities, representatives would be bound to set personal views aside and act on those decisions. What is necessary is that procedures should provide for accountability and an appropriate system of checks and balances. Where there might be dissatisfaction with decisions of an elected body there would be no difficulty in conducting a poll or referendum. Rules could be made for conducting a poll of all voters where this might be requested perhaps by a given number of voters in a parish, district or county or where it was requested by any council within a given area of administration.

In addition, with a comprehensive framework of constitutional law, citizens, interest groups or public bodies would be enabled to complain or appeal to the courts where they might feel that  a body has transgressed the rules and procedures of democratic practice. An independent constitutional court could then arbitrate and this judgement would be binding on all parties.

 Whatever the case, the point is well made that the basic structure of social organisation and administration, as it operates in Britain, suitably adapted and fully democratised, would be adequate for democratic practice in socialism.

Democracy and Necessity.
We envisage that democratic practice in socialism will involve a count of votes for determining social policy and this would initiate action. But in the first instance, the major policy decisions of a socialist society could not be arbitrary because  action would be a response by the community to definite social needs.  This question does not await future democratic decisions. Policy, in the early days of socialism, is given now by the nature of social problems.  As we have emphasised, these problems are self evident.

To feed the millions of hungry people throughout the world should not be a contentious issue requiring a democratic decision. Nor need the housing of the desperately poor living in the squalor of shanty towns and other sub-standard conditions be put to any vote. Equally, the urgent need to stop polluting the atmosphere should be a self evident priority of action for any sane society in control of its energy production methods. Seen in this light, the policies that will determine world action in socialism can be taken as already given. The question then arises, how could the existing means of organisation and administration be adapted as an integrated democratic system able to carry out these great projects?

The development of global capitalism means that it operates through a world wide structure of production. Even a simple commodity with few components is produced by labour that is dispersed throughout a world wide network of productive links. This is the modern division of labour which, in the way it is dispersed, corresponds closely with social administration at local, regional and national levels. World action to solve some problems would require agencies operating on a world scale.   Already, there is one outstanding example of a world body that could be immediately brought into an active role as part of the work to increase world food production. This is the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations. Chapter 6 will examine more closely the possible ways that world bodies such as the FAO could be integrated with regional and local production. This indicates that such problems as constructing a safe, ecologically benign system of energy production, and the problems of providing decent housing for all people would require the creation of similar world bodies.

Socialism and the State
Discussion on Socialism and the State tends to be circular or can quickly become lost in a fog of semantic confusion.  From this point on sensible dialogue is usually replaced by the repetition of slogans. It appears that few people at the radical end of politics can agree on what is meant by the “State.” 

For some groups on the “left” the state is something to be “smashed”.  If they were to succeed they would no doubt replace it with their own state system. These are groups who act under the illusion that smashing the windows of McDonalds’ restaurants has got something to do with socialism.  In fact the only result is broken glass which is immediately replaced. No doubt, in the unlikely event of them smashing the state they would replace it with something a lot nastier than the liberal democracy we have got. 

As a product of its alienated relationships, nihilistic protest has long been an institutionalised feature of the capitalist system.  In this sense it tends to perpetuate the system and is part of the status quo.  What is generally known as “the far left” diverts discontent into futile activities and through its ideas provides a common identity for individuals who are dissociated from, and who live in negative defiance of society at large.  In this way association in these groups provides therapy for a social neurosis. From time to time the capitalist state has to pick up the bill for their destructive activities (I do not include here the more justifiable outbursts of anger), but these costs are easily absorbed within the general costs of running the system. In no way do such groups, who base their activities on violence, represent any progressive tendency.

The word “state” is frequently used by anarchists and for them it is defined narrowly as the operation of “public powers of coercion”.   For anarchists the abolition of the state means the abolition of all law, police, judiciary, prisons etc.  This subject will be covered in the chapter “Socialism and Law.”   Suffice it to say here that this anarchist view of the state is useless for the purpose of either understanding the state or proposing a system of democratic administration.   It is inconceivable that a society organised for the needs of the community would allow licence for any person or group to act in a dangerous or anti social manner.  It is therefore a requirement of a democratic society that it should maintain a system of law supported by public powers of restraint.  However, in socialism, the administration of such law would be humanised and aimed at the solution of problems in the interests of all people, this would include the interests of the transgressors themselves.

To define the state merely as “public powers of coercion” tells us nothing about the state.  Much more useful is the Marxian view which understands the state as part of a theory of history. This view explains how state systems developed as successive phases of propertied society from early neolithic society to modern capitalism.  An example is the classic work by Engels, “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.”  Some may have reservations about Engels’ method of extrapolating from present day undeveloped communities and attributing their relationships to history for the purpose of describing social organisation before state systems appeared. Nevertheless, the point is well made that state systems emerged with propertied, class based society.

From this Marxian point of view we may define the state as “the regulation, administration and enforcement of class based society.”   The logic of this definition is that with the establishment of socialism, the state would be abolished.  As a classless society socialism would replace the state with a system of democratically organised civil society.

The language of socialism is rooted in economic and historical theory and this raises some problems.  For popular communication it carries the disadvantage of using specialised terms such as the “state” which have to be learned.  As against this the “state” is more commonly thought of as a system of government over a given national area or even more loosely as the administration of public affairs.  Moreover, what is meant by these terms has changed.   For example "feudal autocracy" and "liberal democracy" refer to very different state systems.  Anticipating continued change in the common use of these terms we should adopt a meaning of “government” or “the state” which sets out how these could operate in a more democratic manner.   With this approach we can propose how the operation of “the state” or “government” can be altered in ways that satisfy the requirements of what we mean by a fully democratic system. I make no apology for there being a strong element of pragmatism in a method that uses the test of social usefulness in proposing how the state system could be converted into a fully democratic system. What is meant by social usefulness is clear; it is those means which can contribute to the organisation of a society based on common ownership, voluntary co-operation and production solely for need.  In using this test of usefulness for the purpose of setting out our proposals, we rely less on the higher abstractions of theory and more on practical description.

Democratising the State.
Assuming in Britain an unlikely continuation of the Monarchy up to the eve of socialism, a first step in democratising the state system would be to liberate the royal family from the anti-democratic constraints imposed upon its members.  In socialism it would be unacceptable that any person should be denied the vote or the freedom to express a political view in public. There may be some with a sentimental attachment to history who feel that some tradition should be continued and that in socialism the monarchy could continue as a constitutional ornament without compromising the integrity of democratic practice. 

Against that we now see the indignity of a family, who, having long since been stripped of any political powers, functions as a company of overpaid actors in the theatre of state ceremony, now running its own soap opera.  Its role as a symbol of elitism when this has lost most of its mystique becomes more and more anachronistic. Its main use is as print fodder for gossip and scandal, either true or invented, in the press.  Democracy in socialism means that the royal family would be integrated with the whole community, enabling its members to participate in public affairs on equal terms with other citizens. 

It hardly needs saying that the work of the House of Lords is incompatible with the principles of democracy.   Setting aside the fact that it is a bastion of privilege or perhaps just as bad, members placed there by Prime Ministerial appointment, some arguments attempt justify its existence by claiming that it has a practical use.   It is said to provide a review chamber for legislation or a restraint on House of Commons excess.

Scrutiny of the actions of the House of Commons does not need a House of Lords.  As has been emphasised, in a socialist system, Members of Parliament would do their jobs under the terms of delegated function.  The House of Commons could be a centre of national debate reflecting opinion throughout the country.  No doubt there would be latitude for personal views on many issues, but major policy would be decided by the wider community and this would be binding on MPs.  In any circumstances in which the trust placed in representatives may be betrayed, a rigorous system of accountability, including the work of independent constitutional courts, could call the offenders to account.

The Prime Minister
A further affront to the concept of democracy is the office of Prime Minister. It may be said that an incumbent has been elected as leader by his or her party but this does not alter the case.   Firstly, the practice of leadership, which by definition is authoritarian, cannot be reconciled with fully democratic practice. Finally, in any case, in a fully democratic system the job of Prime Minister would be simply unnecessary; it would be redundant.

It could be argued that a Prime Minister works within a framework of consent, which is ultimately the electorate and more immediately, colleagues in government and party. It is true that politics is littered with cases of Prime Ministers having been booted out of office or forced to resign.  Nevertheless, as a key part of the state system a Prime Minister wields great powers of patronage and appointment.  These include appointment of Ministers as heads of departments.  Through this power of  selection, which is also a  power over the careers of politicians,  the Prime Minister creates a cabinet which meets in secret; he or she dominates its decisions with the public having no access either to the minutes of meetings nor even to the subjects under discussion. A Prime Minister may create a cabal or what has come to be known as a “kitchen cabinet”, an inner circle of favoured colleagues who reduce the work of making policy to three or four individuals.  Not withstanding open debates in Parliament, the Prime Minister is the powerful head of secret government, exerting disproportionate influence over the lives of citizens.  
We could well take a lesson from the Athenian system.   Referring to the influence of Pericles, A. R. Burn, in his book, “A Travellers History of Greece”, says, “But it is important to remember that he was not a Prime Minister or the head of a government. The Assembly was its own government.  The Council, chosen by lot and changing annually, prepared its business and looked after routine matters;  the Generals, in war and foreign affairs, carried out its policy, but did not make it.  Pericles was often one of them; but in policy making he had no special power, only influence;  he had the right, which he was proud to say was shared by the obscurest citizen, to address that formidable assembly, and to persuade it if he could.”

We should expect that public affairs in socialism will include the influence of some prominent personalities with a talent for speech or organisation, but in decision making they will have no more powers than any other citizen.

The Cabinet
Given the problems that communities in socialism would face and the organisation required to solve them, in Britain, the work of a cabinet would be most useful. In socialism a cabinet, together with its associated departments or ministries, could function as a centre of national co-ordination.   This could link the policy decisions of communities with the administrative organisation (civil service), necessary for carrying out those decisions as programmes of action.  In socialism this network of organisational links within a country would extend to world organisation.

Useful departments that would continue in socialism include those of Agriculture, Housing, Energy, Transport, Education, Health, Aviation, Technology, Planning and the Environment. Instead of a single minister acting as a  head of such a national department, perhaps a more democratic arrangement could be taken up from the committee system as it at present operates in 

Conversion of the State into an integrated system of democratic 

Local Government.   For example, at the level of District Council the elected members of a council appoint district committees.  These committees oversee the work of various departments, for example, housing, highways, recreation and planning.   A committee may also form sub committees to oversee particular parts of a department’s work.   For example a housing committee may appoint sub committees to oversee repairs and maintenance and development of sites and buildings.   Part of the job of a committee chair person is one of liaison between a committee, the permanent officers of a department and the Council.   The Committee system of Local Government is a more democratic system of administration than Central Government and could be adopted as a model for use at the national level.

Similarly, in socialism, in place of a Prime Minister appointing ministers, MPs could elect committees to oversee the work of national departments. For example, instead of a single Minister of Agriculture, in line with the committee system of local government, there could be an Agricultural Committee, which could be represented in cabinet by its chairperson. In this way a cabinet would comprise representatives from all Ministries. This could be part of an integrated structure providing for both policy making and action to carry out policy.  This would be in a sequence from public decisions to delegated members of Parliament, then to a cabinet representing the various department committees and on to the civil service, technical officers and department staffs. It would include a two way flow of information with lines of communication keeping the public fully informed of a department’s activities. 
At every stage of the sequence democracy must mean that all public business would be fully open to the public, (except perhaps where intrusion into personal lives may require confidentiality).  This would present no difficulties.   All business proceedings together with their discussions could be recorded and published.  The capitalist state cannot function without secrecy; in a democratic administration secrecy could have no place. 

It should again be emphasised that the conduct of all meetings would be entirely free of the  limitations on action imposed by economic constraints.   Especially in the early days of socialism, with so much to do, material resources would no doubt have to be allocated in an order of priorities.   

This could impose some practical constraints but the great advantage would be that in the cabinet that has been proposed, the Treasury would not just be absent, it would not exist.    The “spending round” would be a thing of the past and would be replaced by the “administration of things”.

It is also important to emphasise that such a national structure would not be hierarchical.  The different levels of organisation would be parts of an integrated system, adaptable for any purpose in any scale of life from the local to the national, regional and world scales. Neither are the proposals set out here in any way prescriptive.  It is clear that with the growth of the socialist movement the practical ways in which the state system could be converted into a system of democratic administration will be subject to continuing debate.  That the socialist movement must prepare its plans in advance of the capture of political control is unavoidable. However, the   main point here is to demonstrate how the methods of practical socialism can be applied to the question of how a socialist society could be organised.

World Organisation – The United Nations.
A united humanity, sharing a common world will require world organisation. Despite the fine rhetoric that accompanied the founding of UNO in 1945, since that time it has been little more than an extension of the various state machines that it represents. The work of its delegations is to serve national interests which are often in violent conflict with other member states.  It is now widely accepted that judged against the aims of its Charter, UNO is ineffective. In practice it is a forum for the intrigues, alliances, manoeuvres and power politics of rival capitalist governments. However, even though the rhetoric of the Charter of the United Nations may seem hollow or hypocritical, seen in its best light, it does represent a list of worthy aspirations. 

The preamble to the Charter states, “To save humanity from the scourge of war. and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.” Article 1 states, “ …  to co-operate in solving international economic, social, cultural and humanitarian problems: and in promoting respect for human rights: and to be a centre for harmonising the actions of nations to-wards these common goals.”

The fact that these aims cannot be realised within the present world capitalist system is not a reason for dismissing the entire organisation as useless. The United Nations Organisation could have a great future. As well as being critical we should set out some practical ways in which, on a different social basis, UNO could play an important part in serving all people. In 1992 UNO had 178 member countries. As there can be no doubt that socialism would require democratic organisation at a world level, UNO is a ready made organisation that could be adapted for that purpose. The General Assembly could become part of an integrated world system of democratic administration.

In their book, “The United Nations in the 1990s”, Peter Baehr and Leon Gordenker say, “As the most representative of the UN Organs, the General Assembly takes up an agenda that covers almost every international issue brought by the members or emerging from the work of the Secretariat and associated organisations.”  But they also say, “This always includes a lengthy general debate that in fact is neither a genuine debate nor a discussion, but rather a series of speeches by senior governmental representative who set out national positions.” These positions represent the conflicting interests of rival capitalist nations. At present it cannot be otherwise.

But in socialism the work of the General Assembly would be based on a common world wide interest.  With delegations from every country it could be a forum for debate and decision making with participation throughout the world, especially through electronic media. It could decide on allocation of resources in an order of priority. Its decisions could be implemented through its secretariat, technical officers and specialised bodies.  Examples of these potentially useful organisations are as follows - 

FAO - Food and Agricultural Organisation.
WFP – World Food Programme.
-      To raise levels of nutrition and standards of living; to improve the efficiency of the production and distribution of all food and agricultural products; and to improve the conditions of rural populations.

WHO – World Health Organisation.
-     The attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health (complete physical, mental and social well being); to stimulate the fight against epidemics and other infectious diseases; to disseminate information on the effect on human health of environmental pollutants; and set global standards for antibiotics, vaccines, etc.
 UNIDO – United Nations Industrial Development Organisation.
 - To promote and accelerate the industrialisation of the developing countries and to co-ordinate world industrial development activities.
 UNEP – United Nations Environment Programme.
 - To promote world co-operation in the field of the environment and to recommend policies to this end; to keep under review the world environment situation in order to ensure that emerging environmental problems of world wide significance receive appropriate and adequate consideration by all communities.
UNU – United Nations University.
UNICEF – United Nations Children’s Fund. 
 - Originally founded to provide aid to children after the 2nd World War, this organisation now specialises in research and the development of programmes for health improvement and social welfare for children, pregnant women and nursing mothers.
 UNESCO – UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.
- To promote collaboration among all people through education, science, culture and communications.

Further examples of organisations that could be important as parts of the organisation of socialism,  (which have been given before) are – 

ICAO – International Civil Aviation Organisation.
UPU – Universal Postal Union.
ITU – International Telecommunications Union.
WMO – World Meteorological Organisation.
IMO – International Maritime Organisation.

It is likely that other problems would require an increase in such world organisations. For example – 

WEO – World Energy Organisation.
To co-ordinate the construction of a safe world energy system; to provide advice and assistance for local energy projects; and to conduct research and develop appropriate technologies to that end.

WHCO - World Housing and Construction Organisation.
To co-ordinate a world construction programme to provide housing for all people together with appropriate services.

The conversion of UNO into a World Council would complete a structure of democratic organisation and administration operating from local through to regional and then on to world levels. Again it should be emphasised that this would not copy state structures with their concentration of centralised power in national government. It would be an integrated and flexible system that could be adapted for use in any local, regional or world scales. Local action to solve problems would be taken democratically by people  in the parish or in a District Council. Examples of these are local housing, farming, roads, transport, distribution through shops and services such as education and health care.  But facilities such as shipping and airports, road networks, large scale industrial and manufacturing units and specialised hospitals would serve regional populations and would thus be organised through regional organisation and administration. But regional activities would also be carried on in the context of world organisation through the specialised departments of a World Council.          
Relative Powers of Decision Making.
Whilst avoiding an hierarchical, authoritarian system there are some difficulties that a democratic constitution in socialism would have to overcome.  For example, these could arise from conflict between the interests of local communities and regional populations. One ongoing problem is the siting and expansion of airports. Whilst  regional populations like to enjoy convenient access to  airports for holidays and other purposes, understandably, as we have know  from the many protests and demonstrations in the past, local communities resist the expansion of airports in their own back yards.    There can be no doubt that with the absence of economic constraints on public works a socialist system would be better able to reduce the local nuisance of airports.  However, the question remains as to how the matter would be decided? 

At present, ultimately, after perhaps lengthy consultation and public enquiries, a decision is made centrally by a government minister.  This decision is then imposed on all parties.  It is difficult to accept that such an authoritarian practice would be compatible with democracy in socialism. At the same time, even with the use of a poll of all people in a region, it would not seem right for regional populations to impose their wishes on local communities. But then again it would be surely unacceptable that local communities would be free to obstruct the needs of regional populations.   One method of resolving such conflicts could be to work out a solution which takes into account the various needs of all the parties concerned.  As has been emphasised, communities in socialism would be in a much stronger position to do this but we should also accept that there can be no guarantee that such a solution will always be possible. In socialism, it would be a challenge for constitutional law to provide fully democratic means for settling disputes that may arise between different populations.  Whilst I put the problem I can only confess to having no immediate solution.

World Administration through United Nations Organisation.
Decision making by General Assembly in the context of policy decisions made in member countries.
United Nations secretariat co-ordinating with UN specialist bodies.
Specialist world bodies such as FAO working in association with National Ministries (in Britain, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.)

Democracy at Work
One of the proud boasts of the more advanced capitalist states is that they are “democratic.”  In fact, governments hardly ever stop going on about it. They sometimes go to war, allegedly to defend democracy or to bring its benefits to oppressed peoples.  We can certainly accept that in the more liberal countries, legal rights provide for some important freedoms such as rights of free expression and political organisation.  These were won after long, bitter struggles mostly against predecessors of some of the present main parties who resisted the growth of liberal democracy often with ruthless violence. But they will be the last to let the facts of history stain their present dedication to the democratic ideal. It appears that we are all democrats now - or are we?

Under the most liberal systems we can certainly promote free discussion, put up political candidates and vote whilst being reasonably sure that the results will not be rigged. But what about the many other   activities on which our lives vitally depend? These are decisions on what is to be produced and distributed for consumption; decisions on who gets what from what is produced; decisions that allocate resources to education and life or death services like health? If there is no democracy in any of these decisions can we really think of ourselves as a truly democratic society?

And then again, most of us spend most of our waking hours either at work, getting ready for work, or recovering from work. But how many of us have any say in how our jobs and the places where we work are organised?  Should the battle for democracy be content with a right to elect governments to rule over us? A truly democratic society would involve all people in the decisions about how we conduct our lives and what we do for the community.

In the past, radical activists and trade unionists looked to nationalisation as a means of creating democracy at work. This, as we have discussed has been a diversion that led nowhere.  Though the idea of nationalisation is now discredited it is worth noting that for example, coal miners once believed that under nationalisation, they would run the mines democratically in the interests of the community. In fact, in the post World War II period under a Labour Government, a National Coal Board did replace the mine owners but this was only a change of bosses under the same kind of authoritarian management. 

Many radical activists argue  that the world is now largely under the  anti-democratic control of  multi-national corporations who are able to move production to areas of cheaper labour, plunder natural resources and corrupt local politicians and officials. All this is true but the strength of such protests is mostly negated by a lack of practical ideas for bringing this corporate iniquity to an end. In fact, not just multi-national but the entire organisation of production and administrative is under the authoritarian control of either or boards of directors and their managers or state functionaries. These are the hierarchical structures from which the great mass of people who spend their lives working in them are excluded.

It is likely that with a significant growth of the socialist movement, people in their places of work would begin to prepare plans in anticipation of the enactment of common ownership. Such plans would become more detailed, possible problems would be anticipated and this would enable the change over to take place in as speedy, stable and safe a manner as possible.

With the enactment of common ownership, every part of production, distribution and administration would be brought under the democratic control of the whole community. The profit motivated operations of companies would stop and control by boards of directors through their corporate managers would cease. At this point control of all units engaged in production and distribution, the running of useful services such as schools and hospitals and all useful sections of the civil service and local administration would switch to management committees or councils elected by the workers running them. The people working throughout production, distribution and administration would already be in operating possession and their collective control would then b e authorised in law as a result of the enactment of common ownership. From this point they would carry on doing their jobs through their own democratic organisation.

Unlike corporate managers, in socialism, self regulating management committees would not be responding to the economic signals of the markets. As discussed earlier, these economic signals cannot, by their nature, be under the control of even capitalist companies let alone the democratic control of communities. In socialism, production units would be responding directly to the needs of the community. In this way the links connecting production units would be far more extensive than the economic signals that facilitate buying and selling and which connect capitalist units with their suppliers and market outlets. One immediate difference would be that with a common social interest between all parts of production access to information throughout world production would be unlimited. 

With a completely open society and there could be no industrial secrecy, copyright or patent protection. Discussion about design, materials or technique will be open with the results of research universally available. As well as having access to world information systems, production units will operate as a response to social policy decisions and in the first phase of socialism this would be about priorities of action. This could indicate how industrial and manufacturing units, etc., would need to expand or adapt their operations. This could require some units to take on more staff and this again could be administered through elected management committees in the usual way of advertising of jobs and interview etc. The main point is that all the socially useful functions of corporations in the organisation of production units would be taken over and would pass immediately under the control of management committees elected by the people running them.

Democratic Authority. 
Because we are proposing how real social problems could be solved by real people rather than inhabitants of a perfect world we should anticipate that in the running of any kind of work place, some individuals will cause problems of bad or unreliable behaviour that cause difficulties for fellow workers.  Very often, workers in capitalist units have to put up with this, especially where the perpetrator enjoys a position of power. Democratic organisation in the work place does not mean that such persons will enjoy unlimited licence to persist with destructive behaviour. It means that procedures for complaint, fair hearing and appeal would exist for solving any such problems.  Ultimately no doubt, this could mean expulsion from a work place, or what is normally meant by “the sack”.

Generally in the vocabulary of socialists the word “authority” has a bad name and is usually thought of only in its pejorative sense. But for the practicalities of democratic organisation it is useful to make distinctions between different kinds of authority. What we reject is authority that upholds economic power and authoritarian management.  These powers are property based and are used to enforce the disciplines of wage working and exploitation. This is the kind of power based structure that rules in capitalist production units.

Different to this is democratic authority. This arises from the majority decisions of people and will be appropriate for the general running of production units, services and institutions. Such decisions carry authority because they are binding on all the people in the organisation. It follows that no individual, except in a democratic manner, will be able to act against the decisions of the majority. But in socialism, different bodies and institutions of all kinds will work within a general framework of democratic administration. For example, a factory or workshop would be self regulating and would conduct its internal arrangements democratically; not in any arbitrary way but in the context of the rules and regulations of the wider community. 

Also, technical authority would apply in situations in which democracy in the work place would be inappropriate. For example, it would be unwise to accept treatment in any hospital surgery run on democratic lines. Much better to be treated by a surgeon with the authority to make decisions and instruct staff accordingly. The reason is obvious. The authority of a surgeon is not “authoritarian,” it is integral with the object of the work which is care; it is part of safe practice; it expresses his or her technical competence. So where institutions such as hospitals provide a service based on technical skill it follows that a large part of the way they are run must also be based on technical authority, as for example with recruitment of staff and promotion. This presents no difficulties for socialist organisation. Any authority based on technical competence would remain accountable to the wider community. The requirements of technical authority in such places as hospitals would still leave wide scope for democratic practice in the general running of the institution. In fact, with the removal of such constraints as lack of money, Hospital Management Committees in socialism would be better able to co-operate with medical staffs in providing the best possible care.

Trades Unions
For some years now the Trades Union Movement has seemed to have lost any radical zeal it may once have had. It now appears to languish in a role which provides little scope for action beyond the next wage claim. Unions have long since been on a treadmill going nowhere. They fight the same battles over and over again with each struggle setting the scene for the next same battle. They tend to be bogged down in bureaucracy, with a tendency to be run by careerists and time serving officials for whom the future means little more than their pensions. This does present itself as a sterile accommodation with the capitalist system. The Trades Union Movement has lost sight of an alternative society and has yet to realise it could progress to a more creative role.
Unions could play an important part in a growing socialist movement and would bring much experience to the question of how a new society could be democratically organised. In the developed countries they are present in the most important parts of production and administration; they run their affairs in a generally democratic manner and enjoy fraternal links across the world. Elected works committees already exist. This suggests a most useful part for trade union organisation in the formation of what could become management committees or councils in socialism. For this, they need to set their sights beyond the next wage claim which, whether they succeed or not, can only guarantee that corporate bosses will continue to rule their lives.  It would be sad indeed if the work of the trade unions was to end as being just another institutionalised part of the capitalist system. Surely, this would be a victory for the bosses that the founders of this great movement never intended.

The practical question of how production and administration could be democratically organised in socialism need not be made obscure by lofty abstraction or futuristic speculation. There is nothing new in voluntary co-operation; it has been a feature of life in all societies throughout history.  Indeed, we could never have arrived as a species without co-operation and development would have been impossible without it.  In the early days of pre-history, because it conferred vital survival advantages on the group, co-operation can be said to be our natural inheritance. 

Even the capitalist system depends upon voluntary co-operation. Especially in the caring services countless numbers of work hours are carried out voluntarily.   Many thousands of voluntary organisations, adding great richness to life, now run their affairs in a democratic manner. These include football, cricket, athletic and many other kinds of sports clubs; they include professional associations, residents committees, parish councils, trades unions and even political parties; they include choirs, amateur orchestras and dramatic societies.   Family life would be impossible if every job to be done had an economic value to be paid for with money; it is a huge part of our lives and depends mostly on co-operation. Therefore, to say that organisation in socialism would be the work of voluntary co-operation is argued essentially from experience. The point is to get democratic organisation and voluntary co-operation into where it matters most, that is, into the work of production and administration.  This is the prospect of a fully democratic society in which all people would be empowered in the self determination of their lives.
Pieter Lawrence

Link to Chapter 6.