Socialism: the democratic alternative to capitalism

Submitted by AWL on 6 January, 2014 - 3:26

The ideas of socialism are under attack from various sides. The Republican Party's main charge against the Fair Deal is that the Democrats are leading America "down the road to socialism." Austerity in Britain and all the economic difficulties of the British Labor Party government are blamed on "socialism." And finally, the totalitarian slave state in Russia and all its evils are pointed to as the fruits "of socialism."

In the face of this concentrated political and ideological attack, the Independent Socialist League proudly states that its chief aim is to spread the ideas of socialism among the workers and people generally. But because this word is being abused to describe and damn such completely different ideologies, programs and policies as are presided over by Truman, Attlee and Stalin, it is now more necessary than ever for those who call themselves socialists to state clearly what they mean by "socialism."

All organizations which have called themselves "socialist" for the past hundred years have shared one idea. This was that capitalism cannot by its very nature provide plenty, security and peace to the peoples of the world, and that if must be replaced by a system of society in which the basic industries are owned and controlled by the workers and the common people through their government. It was this idea that Karl Marx expressed in the "Communist Manifesto" of 1848 when he wrote that the Manifesto's program could be summed up in a single sentence: "Abolition of private property."

The experience of the degeneration of the Russian Revolution and of the social-democratic movements of Europe has taught Independent Socialists that another side of the socialist idea must be stressed equally with that of the abolition of private property in the means of production. This is the idea of workers’ control of production, of complete economic, political and social democracy as necessary characteristics of any socialist society.

Role of Labor

The Marxian socialists always stressed the role of the workers in establishing socialism. To them socialism was not just a fine ideal that was to come about because many enlightened people wanted it. They knew that the workers, organized and trained by modern industry, were the only social class capable of leading the fight to abolish capitalism and usher in the new socialist society.

This idea is more important today than ever. The failure of the workers in the past thirty years to come to power in any country and to reorganize it along socialist lines is due primarily to the subversion and demoralization of the working-class movements by the social-democrats and the Stalinists.

Two Lion Tamers

These two movements operated in different ways and for different ends. The rightist social-democrats demoralized the workers movements by leading them to subordinate their own interests to those of the "liberal" capitalists. To them "socialism" was something to be talked about in peaceful May Day rallies. But in every decisive situation they blunted the struggles of the workers. And through their bureaucratic control of the labor movements of Europe, they turned them into docile movements of social reform.

The Stalinists, far more bureaucratic than the social-democrats in their organizational methods, taught the workers to rely on the Russian government for their liberation rather than on their own organized strength and everywhere subordinated the struggles of the workers to the interests of the totalitarian Russian state.

The Independent Socialists insist that socialism can only be a product of a working-class movement which relies on its own strength. A democratic society can only be established by a working class which is itself democratically organized. It can only be established by a working class which, in the course of its own economic and political struggles, comes to UNDERSTAND its historic mission to reorganize society along socialist lines.

Side by side with the private ownership of the means of production, the capitalist class has established a political state which is organized for the main purpose of safeguarding and maintaining the rule of capital over the economic and social life of the nation. This state power, whether it be organized in the form of parliamentary government (as in the United States and Western Europe) or of fascist dictatorship, is the chief prop of the capitalist order.

Reform Won't Do

The workers cannot, therefore, hope to establish socialism by gradually reforming capitalism through the election of "friends of labor" to office. For socialism to be established the workers must understand that only a new form of government, organized along new principles, can serve their purposes.

The experience of the Russian Revolution and of the temporary and half-completed workers' revolutions in other countries teaches that the political form best adapted to a workers’ government is that of local, regional and national councils elected democratically on an occupational basis. Through such councils the productive members of society can effectively and democratically organize all sides of social life. They can plan for production and distribution, for public health, schooling and such military forces as they may require to protect themselves from attack by capitalist or Stalinist classes inside or outside their own borders.


The Independent Socialists do not attempt to prescribe to the workers the exact institutions and methods through which they should organize a socialist society. They insist only on two cardinal principles and seek to educate and fight for them within the labor movement and in society generally. They are for complete democracy and they believe that the emancipation of society from the rule of capitalist owners and Stalinist bureaucrats can only be achieved by a working class which is conscious of its goal and organized independently of all other classes in society to achieve it. In addition to this insistence on the need for democracy and consciousness in the working class as a necessary precondition for socialism, the Independent Socialists stress the international character of the socialist idea.

We are internationalists because we believe in the brotherhood of the common people of all lands.That is, we believe that whatever differences of language and historical tradition and culture may separate them, all human beings have similar basic needs and hence similar desires.

But over and beyond this DESIRE for world brotherhood, the Independent Socialists insist that modern society cannot solve its economic and social problems until the whole world is reorganized and united under socialism.

Join Hands!

The most striking contemporary demonstration of the impossibility of restricting socialism to a single country is the condition of society in Great Britain today. It is true that Great Britain has not been organized on socialist lines. But the attempt to establish a form of nationalization of some of the major industries in Britain has by itself brought no real long-term solution to the economic plight of the British people. Their economy is dependent on world economy, and the same would be true even if the workers had taken power and expropriated the capitalists completely. The same would be true of any working class which attempted to build socialism in one country.

Thus, for the Independent Socialists, internationalism is both an ideal and a necessity. They support the struggles of all workers everywhere against their capitalist and Stalinist masters, and the struggles for national liberation of all colonial and oppressed peoples. They urge the workers of all lands to join hands in their fight against their masters, and insist that a socialist society in which the exploitation and oppression of man by man has been abolished once and for all can only be achieved on an international basis.

To Independent Socialists, then, the following are prerequisites for the establishment of a socialist society: Abolition of the private ownership of the basic means ofproduction; collective ownership under complete democracy in both the economy and in government; leadership of society by a conscious working class; internationalism.

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