The Future Socialist Society
If people are to take up the struggle for socialism, they want to know what they are fighting for. This is especially true when the matter has been so clouded by the phenomenon of Stalinism in Russia and Eastern Europe, and by the numerous other regimes around the world which claimed the title ‘socialist’ such as Pol Pot in Cambodia who butchered five million or Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe who butchered up to fifty-thousand in the 1980s.
- The conquest of political power
The first and most immediate task confronting a successful workers’ revolution is that of consolidating its own rule and defending itself against capitalist counter-revolution. This is crucial-indeed a matter of life or death for the experience of every revolution from the Paris Commune onwards shows that the bourgeoisie is prepared to resort to the most ruthless violence to retain its power or to regain power it has lost.
- Repression and freedom under workers’ power
Some use of direct force will be necessary not only to overthrow the capitalist state but also after the revolution to maintain workers’ power. The class struggle does not come to an end with the victory of the revolution, especially when we are as yet talking only about victory in one country.
- The conquest of economic power
The foundation of socialism, like that of every other form of society, lies in the economy. Consequently, the working class will immediately set about using its political power to achieve the conquest of economic power-that is to take into its hands all the major means of production in society. Unless this is done fairly rapidly (almost simultaneously), the workers will be unable to maintain their political rule.
- Spreading the revolution: the international dimension
It would be enormously to the advantage of socialism and the working class for the socialist revolution to occur more or less simultaneously in a number of countries. But we can only assume a revolution occurring first of all only in one country. The experience of revolutions are such that the revolutionary breakthrough will probably at first be confined to a single country. But socialism cannot be built in one country. Indeed a workers’ state cannot survive indefinitely in one country. Unless the revolution spreads, it will go down to defeat. Either world capitalism will crush the revolution by military intervention or the threat of such intervention along with intense economic pressure will eventually oblige the revolutionary state to compete with capitalism on capitalism’s terms.
- Producing for need: towards abundance
The establishment of a planned socialist economy on an international scale will put an end to the recurring crises of capitalism which result in the destruction and waste of productive resources through bankruptcies, under-investment, over-production and mass unemployment. It will mean the truly immense scientific, technological, economic and human resources currently devoted to the preparation and waging of war and police weapons will be redirected to socially useful purposes. Socialism will also remove the enormous waste inherent in capitalist production with its duplication of effort-the manufacture of numerous but essentially similar washing powders, cars, radios and so on. It will put an end to the massive sums spent on advertising and production of superfluous luxuries for the rich.
- The transformation of work
Work is central to human life. But under capitalism work is overwhelmingly a negative experience for the vast majority of people-that is for the working class. It is destructive of health and destructive of spirit, exhausting, humiliating and, above all, boring. The transformation of work is therefore a central task of the socialist revolution.’
In the long run it is the most important task of all. It will put a stop to the daily humiliations that workers suffer at the hands of bosses, managers and supervisors of all kinds. It will make safety at work the first, rather than last, priority, and add enormously to the interest of the job.
The working week will be systematically reduced so that it reduces physical hardship and also completely eliminates unemployment. Automation (machines) will be used to eliminate the most unpleasant and menial jobs. The division of labour will be progressively overcome. Everyone will become both a producer and a planner of production. In these conditions work will become-in Marx’s words-`not only a means of life, but life’s prime want’. It will cease to be a wearisome necessity and become a positive pleasure-a means of individual and collective human expression.
- Women’s and LGBTI liberation
Nevertheless the socialist revolution will initiate the process of ending the age old oppression of women and the transition to socialism will complete it. The reason for this is simple. Socialism is before all else the self-emancipation of the working class and the majority of the working class are women. Thus without the complete emancipation of women it is impossible to speak of the complete emancipation of the working class, and therefore impossible to speak of socialism. This doesn’t make the liberation of women automatic. But it makes the fight for women’s liberation a central task in the transition to socialism. Women will at last be free from the subordination they have suffered since the beginning of class society 6,000 to 7,000 years ago. Socialism will also end the oppression of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people.
- The end of racism
Racism is one of the most ugly and pernicious features of capitalist society. Future generations who live under socialism will need to make a considerable leap of imagination to be able to understand the great crimes of racism – like the Nazi Holocaust or apartheid in South Africa. Undoubtedly they will regard such episodes as clear evidence that the society which produced them was fundamentally rotten. For socialism will eradicate racism. Racism is the quite specific product of the rise and development of the capitalist economic system. It was not a feature of pre-capitalist societies, not even of the ancient slave societies of Greece and Rome. The origin of racism lies in the slave trade, in the practice of forcibly seizing and shipping millions of black Africans to the Americas to work as slaves on the plantations. Racism is not just a legacy of imperialism, however. It is also continually regenerated by contemporary capitalism. For capitalism rests not only on competition between capitalists but also on competition between workers.
- Learning for the future
The socialist revolution will awaken in the working class and in all the oppressed an enormous thirst for knowledge and education. We know this from past experience: from the Russian Revolution where workers crowded into great stadiums to hear lectures on Greek drama, from the Portuguese Revolution of 1974 when, for a period, Lenin’s book The State and Revolution topped the bestsellers list, and from many other examples. The task of the workers’ state will be to create an education system that will foster and develop this desire to learn. That system will be the opposite of the present capitalist education system which absorbs eager and curious five year olds and spews them out 11 years later, bitter and cynical. What really devastates and distorts education at present is not just the lack of funding, serious though that is, but the state of war ‘now hidden, now open’ that exists between teachers and pupils. This in turn derives from the role of schools under capitalism which is to reproduce the class structure of society. Schools progressively sift out those destined for middle class and ruling class positions (this is the real function of examinations) and prepare the rest for exploitation and alienated labour.
A system whose structure inevitably condemns the majority to failure cannot possibly retain the enthusiasm and cooperation of its victims-no matter how well-meaning individual teachers may be. The only way it can operate is by authoritarian imposition. In contrast socialist education will be equipping everyone, not just the select few, to take an active, planning and administrative role. Its goal will be the all-round development of the human personality.
- From necessity to freedom
The ultimate goal of Marxism, of socialism, and of the struggle of the working class is freedom. The bourgeoisie are, of course, keen to proclaim their commitment to freedom: freedom of speech, of the press, of the individual to do what they please with their money and so on. They know full well that as long as they control the means of production and therefore the wealth, the media, and the state, these freedoms remain enormously restricted and almost meaningless for the vast majority. They know also that they have the power to limit or indeed trample on such freedoms whenever they find it necessary.
In contrast Marxists recognise that in a society divided into antagonistic classes, founded on exploitation and ruled by capital, there are and can be no `absolute’ freedoms. We expose the sham abstract freedom offered by the bourgeoisie because what we want is real concrete freedom. Freedom from hunger and poverty, freedom from war, from endless toil, from exploitation, from racial and sexual oppressions these are the real freedoms we fight for. They can be made a reality only by establishing the positive freedom of the working class to run society.
Thus in the socialist society of the future the state will wither away and this will mark the disappearance of the last vestige of the terrible legacy of class society, and the final completion of humanity’s leap from the realm of necessity into the realm of freedom – which is the essence of socialism.
Submitted by DLF activists in Western Cape to United Front discussion meeting