Letter to the Editors from the February 1931 issue of the Socialist Standard
A correspondent writes asking us whether we base our case for Socialism on a supposition that human beings are equal. This is the question :—
On what foundation is your “Declaration of Principles” built, seeing that the only justification for “common ownership and control” can be that of "Equality” and that "Equality” does not exist, since no two human beings are ever born equal and consequently can never live the same life (whatever the conditions), or die equal? Without “Equality” the principle of "common ownership and control” is surely most unjust. Does your "socialism" wish to make the conditions of life similar for those who possess and those who do not possess a number of commendable qualities?
(Here follows a list of such qualities and their opposites.)
Our correspondent is mistaken in thinking that Socialism is based on any such claim. Human beings do not possess the same attributes, combined in the same proportions, and therefore a claim that they are equal would be absurd.
On the other hand, the suggestion that there can be no other justification for "common ownership and democratic control ” itself requires proof, and our correspondent offers none except the statement that it is "surely most unjust" to make the conditions of life similar for the bad character and the good character. Without going into the relevant question of the conditions which produce "bad" and "good" characters, we would point out that capitalism most flagrantly fails to apportion economic rewards according to such merits, and yet it manages to survive. People lucky enough to have been born into the privileged ranks of the propertied class do not have to produce certificates of wisdom, bravery, cleanliness, industry or anything else before being permitted to draw dividends on investments. The possession of property means now the legal right (backed up by the forces of the State) of preventing the working class from using nature-given material and instruments of production (fashioned also by the working class) to produce wealth, except upon the condition that the property owner shall be permitted to live at the expense of the wealth producers.
The capitalist system has now outlived its usefulness, and the capitalist class has become an unnecessary class. The class can be dispensed with and the system replaced with advantage to the working class, who are the great majority and can impose their will when they choose to do so. That is the basis of Socialism. No other basis is needed.