lørdag den 20. september 2008

Socialism (part 5)


It is not for us to build up in detail the social system that will arise from the common ownership and democratic control of the instruments of labour. Our knowledge of the conditions which will prevail at the time of the change, and of the outlook upon life of people who are free to arrange matters pretty much as they wish, is not extensive enough to warrant us seriously attempting to foretell the details of the future social system. How can we, for instance, fettered as we are by the customs and prejudices of a social system in which sexual relations are based on private property conditions, understand the views upon such matters that will obtain among women who no longer need sell their bodies for a home, and men who do not need to fear the financial consequences of their marital acts?

We can only state the broad changes that we know must arise from the revolution in the social base.

The most obvious result of the establishment of common ownership of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth is that the wages system would be abolished.

It is quite plain that there is no other course open than this. With all the means of production and distribution socially owned no one would be in a position to exploit labour-power, therefore no one would buy it. On the other hand, with the socially owned instruments of labour open to every worker, none would wish to sell his labour-power for another's profit, even if he could find a buyer.

Thus the very conditions of wage-labour — the divorce of a portion of the community from every opportunity of gaining a livelihood save by selling their labour-power — having ceased to exist, the whole wages system must, perforce, tumble to the ground.

As, when the worker owned the tools he used, he produced in general only the things he required to satisfy his own needs, so society, when as a whole it owns and controls the means of production, will produce the things society needs. Necessity alone will demand industrial activity. If warehouses then become overstocked productive efforts will slacken; on the other hand, production will be pushed forward until all those material wants have been satisfied for which society is willing to sacrifice leisure and energy.

Another feature of the new society will be the abolition of class distinctions and privileges. To-day it is the privilege of the owners of the world's wealth that they need not perform any labour. This privilege, of course, is based on their possessions. Strip them of these and they would at once be on an equality with the other members of society. Society would have nothing to sell them, even if it left them the means to buy. For the social products would not be produced for sale, therefore money would be useless; there would then be nothing left for them but to work for their living.

So society would be made one. Social distinctions as we understand them to-day would no longer exist. All would be workers because all would equally need the products of labour.

Now as to appropriation and distribution. The wealth produced by social labour through socially owned instruments could only be socially owned. The individual could not own what he produced for the simple reason that no man would individually produce anything. The man who digs in a garden works with tools made by others, and approaches his ground and leaves it over roads which are the results of others' labours.

The distribution of wealth which had been produced for no other purporse than to be used (toward the production of which all those who were physically able had contributed their fair share of labour), would present no difficulty. Each would freely satisfy his (or her) needs. The greedy scramble predicted by our opponents, who are blind enough to the greedy scramble for bread (at the dock gates and elsewhere) into which they force us under their system, is a bogey that need frighten no one. It would only be a sign that insufficient was being produced, and the remedy would obviously be to produce more. Even the pig will turn away from the trough when it can eat no more.

These, then, are the essential features that must necessarily distinguish a social system based upon common ownership from one founded upon private property : equal opportunities for all to make the most and the best of life; social equality of all persons; production of wealth for use instead of for profit; free access for all members of the community to all the necessaries of life.

On these basic conditions, of course, men and women would shape their lives anew. Much ink has been wasted in vain forecasts of the details of that life. Some have pictured it as a " glorified barrack life," with meals taken in great dining halls, and so on. Others have drawn fanciful Arcadian pictures, all the men supermen, all the women angels, all the children chirping cherubs with nothing to do but to look pretty and to peck here and there at hanging fruits.

Such speculations are futile, and the details in themselves are not matters of importance to us. The wishes of the majority will prevail in all matters of collective interest, and the only consideration will be the greatest happiness and welfare of the community.

We know that when the abolition of classes has placed every social unit on the same footing, and therefore made their interests one, the customs, manners, ethics, and ideals of humanity at large will be lifted to a higher plane.

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