In our editorial this week we argue to “get socialists organised”. What do we mean by socialism?
We fight for emergency policies, like taxing the wealth of the super-rich and public ownership of key industries and corporations, to allow action to halt and reverse ever-greater inequality and to slow down climate change. We fight to build a stronger workers’ movement, including trade unions, to win these steps.
But the wealth of the super-rich and their power to increase it are deep-rooted in the fact that they own and control the main systems for producing wealth, giving them control over the labour-power of billions.
The only really sustainable answer is for workers, in every country and worldwide, to take control of the whole system of producing wealth away from the plutocrats, converting it into collective social property and creating a new system run for human needs, not profits. That is what we mean by socialism.
Eliminating the profit-motive through social ownership, democratic planning and workers’ control of resources, a socialist society could take much quicker and more decisive action to suppress carbon emissions; and to mitigate the damage already caused and certain to be caused further in coming years by climate change and destruction of ecosystems. It could re-establish a sustainable relationship between humanity and nature. It could ensure the costs of tackling these problems are decided democratically and spread equally, rather than reducing emissions being done at workers’ expense.
A socialist society run by the workers could use the gigantic wealth it has taken from the capitalists to abolish poverty and continually slash inequality. It could guarantee a good standard of living and rights — including good food, housing, healthcare, all kinds of services and facilities — for everyone, not just in richer countries, but everywhere worldwide. It could repeatedly cut down the working week, to improve people’s lives and allow us to more easily be involved in democratic decision-making and control.
With everyone freed from the pressures of working hard for long hours to make money for bosses, and provided with opportunities and resources to develop their interests, we would surely see a flourishing of education, culture, individuality, diversity, and rights for those who have been marginalised and downgraded in class societies.
A society in which workers have united to overthrow capitalist inequality, and which is getting progressively more equal and liberated, would be the best possible environment for struggles to defeat racism, sexism and other forms of oppression. It would make any large-scale violence inconceivable, let alone the kind of brutal oppression and bloodshed we see in today’s world. It would tend to dissolve barriers and borders between nations, while also ending oppression of some nations by others.
Such a system would have little in common with the kinds of “socialism” which previously existed in Russia and Eastern Europe, and still exist in Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam and China. In those systems, a bureaucratic ruling class controls the state and through it the economy. Workers are still exploited and have no more power than under private capitalism: in many ways less.
That model comes from the bureaucratic counter-revolution which overthrew the workers’ government in post-revolutionary Russia in the 1920s. Despite that huge defeat, the 1917 Russian Revolution shows that workers can take power away from the capitalists.
Even a developed socialist society would still face difficulties and disputes. Differences in people’s natures and capacities would inevitably still have an impact. Not everyone would be happy all the time! But it would be liberation compared to the capitalist system with its combination of vast wealth and sprawling misery, and its squandering of so much human potential.