Saturday, November 2, 2019

Manifesto of the Socialist League (1985)

From the July 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard
  A hundred years ago this month the first Annual Conference of the Socialist League, which had been founded in December 1884 as a breakaway from the Social Democratic Federation, adopted the following Manifesto. 
 Drafted by William Morris, it went through many editions and represents the first clear statement in the English language appealing to workers to undertake an uncompromising struggle to replace "the present system of capital and wages" with a system in which "all means of production and distribution of wealth" would be "treated as the common property of all". Apart from one or two loose phrases (which our regular readers will immediately recognise) it is still an excellent statement of the case for socialism; it is also a fine example of political English. 
   The Socialist League virtually disappeared in 1890. but fourteen years later another organisation, also a breakaway from the SDF, took on the task of advocating "the principles of Revolutionary International Socialism": the Socialist Party of Great Britain.
Fellow Citizens — We come before you as a body advocating the principles of Revolutionary International Socialism; that is, we seek a change in the basis of Society — a change which would destroy the distinctions of classes and nationalities.

As the civilised world is at present constituted, there are two classes of Society — the one possessing wealth and the instruments of its production, the other producing wealth by means of those instruments but only by the leave and for the use of the possessing classes.

These two classes are necessarily in antagonism to one another. The possessing class, or non-producers, can only live as a class on the unpaid labour of the producers — the more unpaid labour they can wring out of them, the richer they will be: therefore the producing class — the workers — are driven, to strive to better themselves at the expense of the possessing class, and the conflict between the two is ceaseless. Sometimes it takes the form of open rebellion, sometimes of strikes, sometimes of mere widespread mendicancy and crime; but it is always going on in one form or other, though it may not always be obvious to the thoughtless looker-on.

We have spoken of unpaid labour: it is necessary to explain what that means. The sole possession of the producing class is the power of labour inherent in their bodies; but since, as we have already said, the rich classes possess all the instruments of labour, that is, the land, capital, and machinery, the producers or workers are forced to sell their sole possession, the power of labour, on such terms as the possessing classes will grant them.

These terms are. that after they have produced enough to keep them in working order, and enable them to beget children to take their places when they are worn out. the surplus of their product shall belong to the possessors of property, which bargain is based on the fact that every man working in a civilised community can produce more than he needs for his own sustenance.

This relation of the possessing class to the working class is the essential basis of the system of producing for a profit, on which our modern Society is founded. The way in which it works is as follows. The manufacturer produces to sell at a profit to the broker or factor, who in his turn makes a profit to the retailer, who must make his profit out of the general public, aided by various degrees of fraud and adulteration and the ignorance of the value and quality of goods to which this system has reduced the consumer.

The profit-grinding system is maintained by competition, or veiled war, not only between the conflicting classes, but also within the classes themselves: there is always war among the workers for bare subsistence, and among their masters, the employers and middle-men for the share of the profit wrung out of the workers; lastly, there is competition always, and sometimes open war, among the nations, of the civilised world for their share of the world-market. For now, indeed, all the rivalries of nations have been reduced to this one a degrading struggle for their share of the spoils of barbarous countries to be used at home for the purpose of increasing the riches of the rich and the poverty of the poor.

For, owing to the fact that goods are made primarily to sell, and only secondarily for use, labour is wasted on all hands; since the pursuit of profit compels the manufacturer competing with his fellows to force his wares on the markets by means of their cheapness, whether there is any real demand for them or not. In the words of the Communist Manifesto of 1847:
  Cheap goods are their artillery for battering down Chinese walls and for overcoming the obstinate hatred entertained against foreigners by semi-civilised nations: under penalty of ruin the Bourgeoisie compel by competition the universal adoption of their system of production: they force all nations to accept what is called civilisation — to become bourgeois and thus the middle-class shapes the world after its own image.
Moreover, the whole method of distribution under this system is full of waste; for it employs whole armies of clerks, travellers, shopmen, advertisers, and what not, merely for the sake of shifting money from one person's pocket to another's; and this waste in production and waste in distribution, added to the maintenance of the useless lives of the possessing and non-producing class, must all be paid for out of the products of the workers, and is a ceaseless burden on their lives.

Therefore the necessary results of this so-called civilisation are only too obvious in the lives of its slaves, the working-class — in the anxiety and want of leisure amidst which they toil, in the squalor and wretchedness of those parts of our great towns where they dwell; in the degradation of their bodies, their wretched health, and the shortness of their lives; in the terrible brutality so common among them, and which is indeed but the reflection of the cynical selfishness found among the well-to-do classes, a brutality as hideous as the other; and lastly in the crowd of criminals who are as much manufactures of our commercial system as the cheap and nasty wares which are made at once for the consumption and the enslavement of the poor.

What remedy, then, do we propose for this failure of our civilisation, which is now admitted by almost all thoughtful people?

We have already shown that the workers. although they produce all the wealth of society, have no control over its production or distribution: the people, who are the only really organic part of society, are treated as a mere appendage to capital as a part of its machinery. This must be altered from the foundation: the land, the capital, the machinery, factories, workshops, stores, means of transit, mines, banking, all means of production and distribution of wealth, must be declared and treated as the common property of all. Every man will then receive the full value of his labour, without deduction for the profit of a master, and as all will have to work, and the waste now incurred by the pursuit of profit will be at an end, the amount of labour necessary for every individual to perform in order to carry on the essential work of the world will be reduced to something like two or three hours daily; so that every one will have abundant leisure for following intellectual and other pursuits congenial to his nature.

This change in the method of production and distribution would enable every one to live decently and free from the sordid anxieties for daily livelihood which at present weigh so heavily on the greatest part of mankind.

But, moreover, men’s social and moral relations would be seriously modified by this gain of economic freedom, and by the collapse of the superstitions, moral and other, which necessarily accompany a state of economic slavery: the test of duty would now rest on the fulfilment of clear and well-defined obligations to the community rather than on the moulding of the individual character and actions to some preconceived standard outside social responsibilities.

Our modern bourgeois property-marriage, maintained as it is by its necessary complement, universal venal prostitution, would give place to kindly and human relations between the sexes.

Education freed from the trammels of commercialism on the one hand and superstition on the other, would become a reasonable drawing out of men's varied faculties in order to fit them for a life of social intercourse and happiness; for mere work would no longer be proposed as the end of life, but happiness for each and all.

Only by such fundamental changes in the life of man, only by the transformation of Civilisation into Socialism, can those miseries of the world before-mentioned be amended.

As to mere politics, Absolutism, Constitutionalism, Republicanism, have all been tried in our day and under our present social system, and all have alike failed in dealing with the real evils of life.

Nor, on the other hand, will certain incomplete schemes of social reform now before the public solve the question.

Co-operation so-called — that is, competitive co-operation for profit — would merely increase the number of small joint-stock capitalists, under the mask of creating an aristocracy of labour, while it would intensify the severity of labour by its temptations to overwork.

Nationalisation of the land alone, which many earnest and sincere persons are now preaching, would be useless so long as labour was subject to the fleecing of surplus value inevitable under the Capitalist system

No better solution would be that State Socialism, by whatever name it may be called, whose aim it would be to make concessions to the working class while leaving the present system of capital and wages still in operation; no number of merely administrative changes, until the workers are in possession of all political power, would make any real approach to Socialism.

The Socialist League therefore aims at the realisation of complete Revolutionary Socialism, and well knows that this can never happen in any one country without the help of the workers of all civilisation. For us neither geographical boundaries, political history, race, nor creed makes rivals or enemies; for us there are no nations, but only varied masses of workers and friends, whose mutual sympathies are checked or perverted by groups of masters and fleecers whose interest is to stir up rivalries and hatreds between the dwellers in different lands.

It is clear that for all these oppressed and cheated masses of workers and their masters a great change is preparing: the dominant classes are uneasy, anxious, touched in conscience even, as to the condition of those they govern; the markets of the world are being competed for with an eagerness never before known; everything points to the fact that the great commercial system is becoming unmanageable, and is slipping from the grasp of its present rulers.

The one change possible out of all this is Socialism. As chattel-slavery passed into serfdom, and serfdom into the so-called free-labour system, so most surely will this latter pass into social order.

To the realisation of this change the Socialist League addresses itself with all earnestness. As a means thereto it will do all in its power towards the education of the people in the principles of this great cause, and will strive to organise those who will accept this education, so that when the crisis comes, which the march of events is preparing there may be a body of men ready to step into their due places and deal with and direct the irresistable movement.

Close fellowship with each other, and steady purpose for the advancement of the Cause, will naturally bring about the organisation and discipline amongst ourselves absolutely necessary to success; but we shall look to it that there shall be no distinctions of rank or dignity amongst us to give opportunities for the selfish ambition of leadership which has so often injured the cause of the workers. We are working for equality and brotherhood for all the world, and it is only through equality and brotherhood that we can make our work effective.

Let us all strive, then, towards this end of realising the change towards social order, the only cause worthy of the attention of the workers of all that are proffered to them: let us work in that cause patiently, yet hopefully, and not shrink from making sacrifices to it. Industry in learning its principles, industry in teaching them, are most necessary to our progress; but to these we must add, if we wish to avoid speedy failure, frankness and fraternal trust in each other, and single-hearted devotion to the religion of Socialism, the only religion which the Socialist League professes.

Fear and hope (1985)

From the July 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

Workers are frightened. Scared of being put on the dole, scared of not being able to afford the rent or mortgage, scared of being beaten up for cash, scared of the terrorists’ bomb, scared of the poverty of existence on a pension, scared of the devastation which could so easily be caused by one powerful leader pressing a nuclear button. Workers would be daft not to live in fear, for we are living in fearful times under an inherently frightening social system.

Why are millions of workers taking tranquillisers? Why are there longer queues than ever for the psychiatric hospitals, where those who cannot handle their fear-caused depression go to collapse? Why is the suicide rate in Britain so high? Why is our society facing a heroin epidemic, with whole areas of deprived inner cities becoming known as "smack alley ”? Because people are happy with what capitalism is doing to them — or because we are living in a social atmosphere of overwhelming fear?

There are no soothing words capable of calming workers who are afraid. Women who cannot afford taxis are in danger every time they walk at night through streets filled with adverts exhibiting the female form as a consumable object. Capitalism, with its lying promise that workers can have access to what they want, creates the rapists just as it creates the muggers. People walking the unlit streets and estate walkways of Poverty City are in danger of being stabbed for pennies and pounds and are in danger of going home to find that someone else in poverty has broken in. We are right to fear the bomb which may be planted on the train or in the street and the store where we shop. It is not only in Belfast, but in the big stores of Oxford Street and the pubs of Birmingham or Guildford that workers understandably live in a constant state of tension. Old workers are dying in their thousands every winter and no amount of reformist talk will ease the fear of those who dread the forecast which tells them that death for the poor is once again on the weather chart. There are so many reasons to be worried that it is painfully clear why many thousands try to escape into the unreality induced by drugs and drink.

In November of last year the Sunday Times published the following report:
  Large numbers of children feel anxious and helpless about the possibility of nuclear war, according to a survey (carried out by the Avon Peace Education Project, an independent organisation funded by the Joseph Rowntree Trust). Of the 561 comprehensive schoolchildren questioned, 91 per cent think they would not survive the holocaust, 30 per cent think a nuclear war is likely to happen in their lifetime and 21 per cent think one could happen at any moment. Just under half (45 per cent) say that thoughts of nuclear war actually affect how they feel about making career and marriage plans . . . One 11-year-old said: "To survive a nuclear war would be horrible. Nearly all your friends and relations would be dead. You would probably end up killing yourself".
Adult readers skilled in self-deception may have smiled at such infantile fears. But these are not kiddies having nightmares about invented ghosts and dragons. Their fears reflect a reality which only the blinkered cannot see, and if we care for our children we will not pat them on the head and tell them to go away and play soldiers.

Under capitalism there is no escape from fear. Take bombs: let us imagine that all nuclear bombs are abolished tomorrow — about as believable as any proposed by the reformist "realists". Would we be free from fear? No. Still there would be the constant worry that some government would recreate the nuclear bomb, for there is no security in the vicious competition of capitalism. And everyone knows that the military technology exists to create a non-nuclear holocaust just as horrific as anything predicted now. Or, on a personal level, you may be a supposedly secure worker one of the so-called middle class — with your own house, as secure a job as you can hope for, and a few thousand pounds in the bank maybe even a few shares. What happens if tomorrow morning your doctor tells you that one of your family has a disease which can only be treated if you pay for it and the cost is several thousand pounds more than your bank account contains or your few shares are worth? You could sell your house, but how long would the money of even the best-off worker last when it really comes to the crunch? How many workers can live without fearing the next problem? And even those who imagine they can — how is their supposed affluence going to save them from being blown to pieces in a war, killed as a result of environmental pollution or allowed to die of a disease which the government has not put the money into researching a cure for?

Capitalism provides no hope for the working class. But that does not mean that there is no hope. In a lecture in 1884 William Morris declared that:
  Fear and Hope those are the names of the two great passions which rule the race of man. and with which revolutionists have to deal; to give hope to the many oppressed and fear to the few oppressors, that is our business; if we do the first and give hope to the many, the few must be frightened by their hope; otherwise we do not want to frighten them; it is not revenge we want for poor people, but happiness; indeed, what revenge can be taken for all the thousands of years of the sufferings of the poor?
(How We Live And How We Might Live)
Perhaps it sounds a little sweeping — even reminiscent of those miserable Christians who have come to save us all and make us happy — but the simple fact is that only socialism offers hope for the working class. For, once we have re-organised society on the basis of common ownership and democratic control of the means of living and production solely for use, the cause of our present fears will disappear. This is not to say that there will be no other problems and that nobody will have anything to fear in a socialist society; natural diseases and personal tragedies will always be around and no political revolution will eradicate all of them. But we can say with certainty that in a socialist society no man or woman need fear the enforced idleness of unemployment — or the enforced drudgery of wage slavery. Fear of war will not exist, for the property-based cause of war will be gone. Nobody will need to fear for lack of money, for in a moneyless world of free access such anxieties will be unimaginable. Instead of fear we can at last be motivated by the enormously creative power of conscious control over the social environment, out of which will come unfettered hope. We are living in cynical times and it is fashionable to expect doom. Socialists are hopeful, and we intend to turn our hope into reality.
Steve Coleman

Getting it made (1985)

From the July 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

Thump. The morning post drops on the doormat. Over breakfast I begin my inspection. A glossy mail order catalogue. Another invitation to play bingo in "your super Sun". A second reminder about the electricity bill. And then — a brochure glowingly advertising a book that could revolutionise my whole way of life. Intrigued. I read on, a spoonful of cornflakes posed in mid-air.

The book is called The Science of Getting Rich, modestly described as the "single best source book ever written on the subject", but curiously "not available in bookstores". It is intended for those "whose most pressing need is for money — who wish to get rich first and philosophise afterwards" — presumably the sort of person not prone to frequenting bookstores.

How to get rich, the brochure tells me. is the "noblest and most necessary of all studies":
 Whatever may be said in praise of poverty, the fact remains that it is not possible to live a really complete or successful life unless one is rich. We develop in mind, soul and body by making use of things and society is so organised that we must have money in order to possess things.
At last, good news for those of us accustomed to fretting over electricity bills — we need not philosophically resign ourselves to poverty much longer:
  There is a Science of Getting Rich and it is an exact science like algebra or arithmetic. There are certain laws which govern the process of acquiring riches. Once these laws are learned and obeyed by anyone, he will get rich with mathematical certainty.
  Many people will scoff at the idea that there is an exact Science at Getting Rich. Holding the impression that the supply of wealth is limited. they will insist that social and governmental institutions must be changed before considerable numbers of people can acquire wealth. This is not true. Existing governments keep the masses in poverty only because the average person does not act in a Certain Way.
In 1980. according to the Inland Revenue. the richest one per cent of the population owned 23 per cent of the total marketable wealth in Britain, which amounted to £566,000 million. The poorest 50 per cent, on the other hand, owned less than six per cent of this wealth. Translating these figures into pounds and pence, the average person among the richest one per cent of the population held £315,000 in private wealth while the average for the poorest half of the population works out at roughly £1,600 each. In fact, this probably understates the degree of wealth concentration because of the greater ease with which the wealthy can withhold information about their assets for taxation purposes.

Is there any indication that this marked inequality is becoming less so in the long run? In his famous work, Equality, first published in 1931, the historian R.H. Tawney wrote trenchantly of the tremendous inequalities that existed then in Britain. But by the time the fourth edition of his book appeared in 1952, Tawney had come to the view that under the post-war Labour government there had been a discernible move "towards the conversion of a class-ridden society into a community in fact as well as name". The subsequent three decades were cruelly to expose this for the wishful thinking it was.

While the share of the marketable wealth held by the richest one per cent has indeed plunged dramatically from 60 per cent in 1923 to 47 per cent in 1950 to its present level of 23 per cent, this has not been reflected in any significant increase in the proportion of wealth held by the great majority. Instead, as A. B. Atkinson has pointed out in his Unequal Shares, "what distribution there has been is not between the rich and the poor but between the rich and the rich", with the lesser rich gaining in relative terms. The bottom 80 per cent of the population still own less of the total wealth than the richest one per cent.

As for Denis Healey's boast that he would "squeeze the rich until the pips squeaked", that richest one per cent actually increased its share of the wealth in the first few years of the last Labour government. In contrast, the share of the wealth held by the poorest 50 per cent marginally declined between 1974 and 1980 (Guardian, 18 March 1984). Apparently, "it happens quite regularly that the rich get richer under Labour governments and poorer under Tory governments because of the strong influence of house and share prices" (Guardian, 18 October 1983). Clearly, in the politics of the market-place, egalitarian sentiments count for little.

But what about the claim made in the brochure? Is it realistic still to hope, in the face of this chronic inequality, that "considerable numbers of people can acquire wealth"? Before examining why this is simply not possible, we need to dispose of one or two false arguments.

The first is that however unequal our society is today we are all of us, better off than our grandparents were. We eat better, live longer, travel far more widely and even the poorest have access to the sort of technology undreamed of by our forebears. Broadly speaking this is quite true, although there is a danger here in confining our observations along too parochial lines. Taking a wider perspective this argument is by no means as clear cut and convincing as it may seem. Certainly in some parts of the world, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, it is highly questionable whether in absolute terms the majority are better off than they were, say, two or three decades ago. Per capita food production in sub-Saharan Africa has fallen continuously and, irrespective of drought, by no less than 20 per cent in as many years as subsistence farmers have found themselves increasingly squeezed by commercial pressures.

But in any case the argument itself is not relevant to the central issue at stake. This is how Marx saw it:
  A house may be large or small; as long as the surrounding houses are equally small it satisfies all demands for a dwelling. But let a palace arise beside the little house, and it shrinks from a little house to a hut. The little house shows now that its owner has only very slight or no demands to make; and however high it may shoot up in the course of civilisation, if the neighbouring palace grows an equal or even greater extent, the occupant of the relatively small house will feel more and more uncomfortable. dissatisfied and cramped within its four walls.
  A noticeable increase in wages presupposes a rapid growth of productive capital. The rapid growth of productive capital brings about an equally rapid growth of wealth, luxury, social wants, social enjoyments. Thus, although the enjoyments of the worker have risen the social satisfaction that they give has fallen in comparison with the increased enjoyments of the capitalist, which are inaccessible to the worker, in comparison with the state of development of society in general. Our desires and pleasures spring from society; we measure them by society and not by the objects which serve for their satisfaction. Because they are of a social nature, they are of a relative nature. (Wage Labour and Capital)
A second is the myth of the "self-made man". The presumption is that if one person has been able to rise from rags to riches, then so too can others. All they lack is the necessary drive and initiative. It must be said firstly that the so-called self made man is something of a rarity, an exception to the rule that wealth, by and large, gravitates to those who already have it;
  Research by historians does show that the rich are not, on the whole, self-made men like, say, the publishers. Robert Maxwell, or the computer tycoon. Sir Clive Sinclair.
  This has been demonstrated by Professor C D Harbury. who compared the wills of men leaving large sums in selected years from the 1950s to the 1970s with those of their fathers, traced through probate and birth registration records at Somerset House. Harbury found that 60 per cent of men leaving £100,000 or more since the 1950s had rich fathers. And some three quarters of these had fathers whose fortunes were ten times the amount that would have included them amongst the richest 10 per cent of the population.
(New Society, 6 October 1983)
The millionaire Malcolm Forbes, when asked how he came to be so rich replied that it was all due to "sheer industry and ability — you spell those words i-n-h-e-r-i-t- a-n-c-e". The case of one Gerald Grosvenor illustrates this particularly well. Otherwise known as the sixth Duke of Westminster. Grosvenor is reputedly the richest man in Britain with a personal fortune estimated as "somewhere between £1,000 and £2,000 million" (Sunday Mirror, 9 January 1983). This stupendous wealth derives chiefly from extensive landholdings both in this country and abroad. Contrary to what the more politically crass defenders of the status quo would suggest, it is not "superior intellect" or some other such personal attribute that has enabled the duke to amass this wealth. If anything, by the standards which these defenders would judge "intellect", Grosvenor rates as a nondescript — he has two O levels to his name. Where he differs from his intellectual peers is in having had the right ancestors:
  Unwitting founder of the fortune was Mary Davies, who in 1677 married Sir Thomas Grosvenor and brought with her as dowry some damp and sub standard farmland. It is unlikely that the recipients thought much of this until the expansion of London made that land valuable. Mary Davies' marsh land is now 300 acres of swishest London covering Mayfair and Belgravia.
(New Internationalist, July 1984)
But whether the fortunes of the rich are inherited, or acquired within their lifetime, is really beside the point. What matters is the source of that wealth. To understand why the rich are rich is to understand why the poor are poor. The plain fact of the matter, as the American social scientist Michael Parenti points out. is that "Hard work seldom makes anyone rich . . .  the secret to wealth is to have others work hard for you". He might have added that the secret to getting others to work hard for you is to ensure that they have no alternative. In short, to ensure that they remain in a state of relative poverty.

In the more forthright language of marxism. present-day society is fundamentally split into classes. The division between rich and poor does not simply reflect a disparity in the amount of wealth at a person's disposal. In a more important sense it reflects a difference in their economic relationship to the means of wealth production. The rich are rich because they possess capital — that is, wealth that is used to produce more wealth. The small minority of the population who provide the bulk of the capital invested in industry (the richest 3.2 per cent of the population in Britain account for 84 per cent of all listed shares) — in other words, effectively own and control the means of wealth production — are called the capitalist class. If rich individuals did not utilise some of their wealth as capital they would sooner or later sink into a state of poverty depending on the size of their fortune and the rate at which it was consumed.

The poor, on the other hand, possess little or no capital to speak of. As a result they are effectively divorced from ownership and control of the means of wealth production and are compelled to sell their working abilities to the capitalist class in return for a wage or salary — the cost of maintaining themselves in reasonable working order. This great majority of the population — called the working class — produces all the wealth in society. The value of this wealth, however, far exceeds the value of the wages and salaries the working class receives — the difference between these two values being known as surplus value.

Here in fact is the source of the wealth of the capitalists. Some of this wealth is consumed in a conspicuously affluent lifestyle; some of it is reinvested as capital, perpetuating the economic stranglehold of the capitalist class over the lives of the great majority. At any point in time it is in the interests of the capitalists that the amount of profit accruing to them should be as large as possible, while competition between capitalists makes doubly certain that they pursue their interests by bankrupting those who do not. The drive to maximise profits is expressed as a constant tendency to depress wages and salaries, for the relationship between them, as Marx pointed out, is antagonistic:
 What, then, is the general law which determines the rise and fall of wages and profit in their reciprocal relation? They stand in inverse ratio to each other. Capital's share, profit, rises in the same proportion as labour's share, wages, falls, and vice versa. Profit rises to the extent that wages fall: it falls to the extent that wages rise.
(Wage Labour and Capital)
At the very heart of capitalism is a self-regulating process that works to ensure that the way is firmly blocked for "considerable numbers of people" becoming rich in a relative sense. This is why Thatcher was, for once, quite correct to assert in a famous speech she made in 1975 that "the pursuit of equality is a mirage" In her opinion, "what is more desirable and practicable than the pursuit of equality is the pursuit of equality of opportunity". Just how the pursuit of equality of opportunity is at all "practicable" in an unequal society in which the opportunities expand in proportion to the wealth at one's disposal, she did not explain. But if the pursuit of equality is a mirage in capitalism it is because it simply focusses on the pattern of wealth distribution. It overlooks the underlying economic relationships that inevitably generate that pattern.

Some have argued that the answer lies in the nationalisation of industry because "public ownership" must pave the way for greater equality. Practical experience tells a very different story. The following excerpt from a statement (reproduced in the Observer, 16 August 1981) by Mykola Pohyba, who was imprisoned for campaigning for workers' rights in a country in which industry is largely in the hands of the state, needs no elaboration:
  As a worker relegated to the lowest rung of the Soviet social ladder, I personally have experienced economic, socio-political and national oppression. Understandably, I could not help but give thought to and consider the real reasons for this oppression With time I realised that my fellow workers were also victims of exploitation and that this exploitation was greater the lower one found oneself on the social ladder.
  I came to the conclusion that ultimately it is the state which is the exploiter along with the State-party bourgeoisie which is in its service and which is the one wielding the real power in the country. The socialism and internationalism of which one so often speaks in the Soviet Union is nothing more than a smokescreen for a means of production and distribution of material goods which is not in the least socialist.
  In short, I have come to the conclusion that our country is actually a State capitalist society with a totalitarian form of government.
  In informal conversations with fellow workers, I expressed some of my views regarding Soviet reality. I saw nothing wrong in doing so. Specifically, I noted that the real causes for our impoverished condition are to be found not in mistakes committed by the administrative apparatus but in the very system of production which, in actual fact, is capitalist. 
There are those who say that socialism is about the "politics of envy". The views of an Australian multi-millionaire, Lang Hancock, say all that needs to be said about that:
  Riches to more riches is the story: wealthy pastoralist finds mountains of ore. Hancock may not be free with his money but he showers the nation with advice and his own brand of "philosophy". He was the original owner of Whitenoom asbestos mine which has been linked to more than 200 asbestos disease cases, including 45 deaths: "Some people have to suffer so that the majority can benefit from asbestos". He declines to contribute to a trust set up to help victims: "I believe I have saved millions of lives by producing asbestos".
  He is aware, however, of the problems facing "half-caste" aborigines and suggests a solution: ". . . dope the water up so they were sterile and breed themselves out" thus "curing people who are in a miserable situation to stop them bringing more unfortunate people into their misery".
  He is for . . . a White Australia policy and for the Ludwigs and Henry Fords: they create jobs for millions "but from the point of view of contributing something to the general welfare of the human race, well the average run-of- the-mill bloke would not make much difference if he were on the earth or not, would he?
(New Internationalist, July 1984) 
Socialism is about the politics of indignation. Were it not, it would be hardly worth the name. The disgusting conceit of a parasite like Hancock who owes all his wealth to the very class of people he contemptuously maligns, is not important in itself. Its significance lies in the fact that it consciously reflects the very nature of a social system that adds insult to injury as it legally robs the useful majority of the fruits of its labour. To describe socialism as the politics of envy is cynically to obscure this reality. It is to overlook what socialism is actually about.

Socialism is not about the ceaseless pursuit of more commodities on a treadmill of keeping-up-with-Joneses. It is not about levelling down the rich so that the living standards of the poor might rise. It is about a fundamental change in social relationships that will make the very concept of the "standard of living" superfluous. It is about a new type of society in which the "politics of envy" will be a meaningless term from a bygone age; an age which judged a person's worth by the amount of wealth they could command yet hypocritically condemned as "envious" those who wished for a world that would conform to their material self interest.
Robin Cox