From the August 2020 issue of the Socialist Standard
In July, BBC Radio 4 ran a series of programmes on ‘rethinking’ things in the light of the experience of the coronavirus and lockdown. Here are contributions sent by two Socialist Party members.
If we want the world to change for the better, we have to change everything. Otherwise we’re just rearranging the deckchairs. And so far that’s what the ‘Rethink’ programmes have been about – slightly different ways of doing the same thing. By ‘the same thing’ I mean vast economic inequality with a tiny number of people wallowing in most of the wealth we all produce. I mean the market forcing its decisions on governments. I mean the whole buying and selling and working for wages system. What do I offer in its place? I offer using the world’s abundant resources to feed, clothe and house everyone to a decent level through a system of voluntary cooperation and democratic organisation with free access to all goods and services. People contribute their work and skills according to their ability and take according to need.It can be achieved by people in a majority getting together, deciding this is what they want and voting for it democratically on a world scale. What can be simpler? Give this system what name you like, it doesn’t matter – all it needs is an effort of the imagination.
There’s never been a better time to ‘rethink’, but the rethinking has got to be truly radical. It has taken a blip in capitalism for millions of people worldwide to be thrown on the scrapheap and be plunged into despair, for people who never thought it would be possible to have to resort to foodbanks in this country and to face starvation elsewhere. That’s how precarious capitalism is for nearly all of us with its imperative to sell, sell, sell, to consume, consume, consume. Once something happens to prevent that, all hell breaks loose. But, if we don’t do something significant now, the regime we live under will just carry on and all the well–meaning attempts to make things better – for example the green movement, the feminist movement, the BLM movement – will just be co-opted by the system, absorbed into it and there won’t be that fundamental change that’s necessary. By fundamental change I mean looking beyond producing things for profit and instead producing for need via a collective, voluntary effort by humanity as a whole. In that sense the Covid crisis has pointed the way. It’s shown that we can get together collectively and help one another in a constructive organised way. The lesson we need to take from this is that we can and have to organise society in just this way. It’s the need we all have to make money to survive that has caused Covid-19 and that, even without any virus crisis, causes wars and poverty. If we don’t move to a rational, resource-based organisation of society where we are all economically equal, we can ‘rethink’ till we’re blue in the face, but it will be the ‘same old same old’.