What is socialism?



By now, you may be wondering "What is socialism?" Or even, "Ok, I understand why capitalism is flawed on a fundamental level. But what alternative is there?"

The alternative is a socialist society.

What do we mean by socialism? Karl Mark and Frederick Engels spelled it out clearly in the Communist Manifesto: "the dictatorship of the proletariat". What exactly did they mean by that? Did they really want a dictatorship? They meant, "The proletariat organized as the ruling class." In other words, workers running society.

This definition of socialism excludes the USSR and China and co. as well as the "socialist" governments, like the Social Democrats of Germany or the Labour Party of Britain.

For Marxists, the fundamental aim of socialism is the creation of a classless society - a society without class divisions. The abolition of class distinctions, or communism, is not something that can be done overnight. It is a lengthy historical process, made possible by capitalism itself. Capitalism has massively expanded the productive power of society, so much so that enough surplus can be produced to free the world's entire propulation from lives of toil and misery. But instead of doing this, capitalism exploits human labor power and uses technology to create profit, only to reinvest it back into production. The class that produces all this wealth, that operates the machinery, that builds the machinery to be operated, that creates the profit with its own sweat and blood, is the working class, the proletariat.

Capitalism produces its own grave-digger, the working class. Why is the working class central to a socialist, and ultimately a classless, society? Because it and it alone has the capability of transforming the society we live in, due to its relation to the productive process. It alone is the revolutionary class. Since it creates the bosses' profits collectively, it also has the possibility of controlling the wealth it creates collectively.

To take the first step to a socialist society, the working class must seize power by smashing the capitalist state machine (its courts, policemen, standing army, etc). In its place, it must establish its own state so that it can administer society collectively, democratically, in its own class interests, on the basis of human needs.

In doing so, it will liberate the whole of humanity from the "muck of ages": racism, sexism and homophobia, as well as war, (most) crime and not to mention famine and many diseases.

Women will be liberated by the establishment of communal kitchens and laundromats, free day care, free birth control on demand and complete legal equality so that formal equality becomes de facto equality.

Environmental degradation and the danger of work will be eliminated since there will no be profits to preserve at the expense of these simple but necessary things.

Goods and services will slowly but surely become free of charge, due to the abundance for all. Eventually society will work on this motto: "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs."

It seems so simple: if people are hunry, feed them; if people are sick, give them health care; if people need shoes, give them shoes. In a socialist society, all these "common sense" things would be possible because society would be organized to meet people's needs.

While there is no blueprint for a socialist society (a socialist society will have to be built by the workers themselves), it is definitely a society worth fighting for.

Back Next