Our object is the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by, and in the interests of, the whole people. Let us examine this object a little closer.
First of all, what do we mean by common ownership? Do we propose taking over all the means of production, etc., and then dividing them up amongst the whole people? Of course not. Mills and factories, railways and steamships, are all too large and too complicated to admit of piecemeal division. In fact, one of the benefits capitalist production has conferred upon society is just this: that it has organised production on a large scale, though the process has brought misery to millions of workers and small proprietors. If we were to attempt to “divide up” existing wealth, therefore, we would have to take a step backward in development and revert to the primitive productive methods of our forefathers. And even if it were possible to take such a step backward, we would then be faced with two hopeless tasks: (1) To produce enough to satisfy the needs of the present huge population, without the productive, transport and other facilities that exist to-day; and (2) with private property of a primitive kind in existence to prevent the regrowth of huge amalgamations, such as exist to-day.
So for the above reasons, and a host of others, we do not propose a “dividing-up” policy. What we do intend is that all the means of producing and distributing the things we need shall be taken over and administered as the common possession of one huge family—the human family. In other words, that each will be free to eat, drink and clothe himself according to his needs, and that in return each will contribute his services to production according to his capacities and the requirements of the times. This will involve the organisation of production according to plan. That is, it will be necessary to determine roughly : (1) The production required; (2) the raw material and machinery, etc., required; (3) the amount of work required to ensure the necessary production; (4) the allocation of the population to the work required.
Now the early stages of this alteration will obviously not be easy; it will involve an internal readjustment that will be great or small according to the size and mental clearness of the majority in favour of Socialism. Once a real beginning has been made, however, the tremendous surplus of working energy society possesses will soon make itself plain, and the call upon each individual for necessary productive work will be small. As we have often pointed out in these columns, one has only to pause for a moment and reflect upon the appalling waste of labour to-day involved in useless competition, in advertising, in Army, Navy, Police and Air Forces, in pandering to the tastes of a luxurious, bored and debauched ruling class, and finally—apart from myriads of other ways—in the tragic comedy of hundreds of thousands looking for work, while hundreds of thousands are in want.
When the new society has settled down to production on the new plan of organisation there will be ample leisure for each individual to employ himself in ways productive of pleasure. To some leisure time devoted to invention; to others the devotion to the different arts will be the outlet for their superfluous energies. Others again will like to spend some time in travel and it is just here that the new arrangement promises most. Modern industry has so simplified production that it has reduced the part of each to a comparatively simple one, and the tendency in this direction is still rapidly proceeding. Hence, under Socialism, as long as there is sufficient man (or woman) power in a given centre, it will not matter how often or how rapidly people change from one place to another. In the early days of capitalism it was customary for the handicraftsman to spend a part of his training in travelling from town to town, gaining experience before settling down, hence the name “journeyman.” In like manner, in the future, a worker will be able to cover the whole globe, working here and there, and dull, drab routine work will disappear.
This is not an idle dream. Ponder upon it, and you will find it is possible, inevitable and the glorious legacy of ages of suffering.