The functioning of capitalism, its ceaseless quest for ever-greater profit, the engine of the entire global economy, is at the center of every major problem human society faces today: from wars and violence and ecological decay to economic crises and poverty and prejudice. To confront these problems, a complete social transformation of society is necessary, a revolutionary change of the entire foundation of society, to create a new society, democratically run by the majority to serve the interests of all. There is a name for this kind of society, and it is called socialism.
A Workers Democracy
A socialist society would mean a society collectively run by the majority of people to meet the needs of humanity. Decisions would be made democratically by those who do the work and are directly affected by the consequences. Workers would elect their own representatives, from their own class; they would be immediately recallable if people wanted a change in policy; they would not receive any more pay than the average worker, in order to prevent careerism and bureaucracy. A socialist democracy is not only political, it is economic. The working class would take hold of the resources and means of production and collectively decide how much to produce based on democratic planning. The Paris Commune of 1871 and the beginning of the Russian Revolution of 1917 provided examples of what a democratic, socialist workers government would look like before they were ultimately defeated.
A Complete Transformation of Society
A socialist society means a complete end to capitalism, on an international scale. There is no such thing as “socialism in one country”; just as capitalism is an international system, in order for socialism to thrive, it too must be international, stamping out every last vestige of the capitalist order. Problems that seem insurmountable under capitalism could begin to be addressed and ultimately eliminated on a global scale. War – an enormous waste of human life and resources – would be unthinkable in a society that truly represented the interests of the world’s people. The basic necessities of life could be guaranteed to all. The problem today is not a lack of goods and services – in fact there is an abundance of waste. Inequality today stems from class division, and the logic of profit. If the purpose of production was to meet social needs, then production could be planned, and waste could be eliminated. Today many advancements in research and technology sit idle on some shelf because the may not have an obvious profitable outcome, especially if they reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and other valuable resources owned by the capitalists. In a socialist society, innovation could finally be freed from the traps of profit. Not only could waste be eliminated, but life would be transformed.
Limitless Human Potential
Imagine what it would be like if no child was told they weren’t good enough to explore their own talents. Imagine if every child could try any sport, play any instrument, do science experiments and art projects without limitation. Imagine if every child had access to all necessary tools, instruments, pieces of equipment. Imagine if learning was collective and not competitive, where we could learn with experts in their fields: music with musicians, sports with the athletes, biology with biologists, physics with physicists, and so on. There would no longer be any workers and owners – only people working and deciding together how they want to live. Work could be as engaging and meaningful as creating art if it were decided upon collectively, if its unpleasant features were reduced to a minimum, if it expressed the creative input of entire communities, even the whole world. A socialist society would finally provide the basis for humanity to unleash its full potential.
Living in Harmony with the Planet
A socialist society would allow humanity to take conscious control of how it uses the Earth’s resources. Rather than treating the Earth as the sewer for capitalist waste, humanity could make the conscious decision to live in harmony with nature and the planet. This would mean stopping all fossil fuel industries as quickly as possible and introducing truly renewable energy sources on a massive scale. It would mean rapidly phasing out the individualized automobile industry and introducing free mass transit throughout the world. It would mean eliminating industrial agriculture that destroys habitats. It would mean organizing the way food is produced and distributed so that it is sustainable. The social and economic changes necessary to confront the environmental destruction of capitalism requires an end to capitalism and the production for profit.
A Society Without Prejudice
Before a socialist revolution succeeds in establishing a new society, the revolutionary movement of the working class must begin to challenge all of the divisions and prejudices used to maintain the social hierarchy. Racism, the legacy of colonial domination and slavery, would have to be rooted out of every institution and custom. Women, often the backbone of any real social movement, would claim their place as equals in a movement to break every economic and cultural constraint that keeps them shackled to the home and dominated by men. Gender, no longer imposed by marriage and inheritance laws and customs, would not be imposed as it is under capitalism. The fight for socialism places none of these struggles second to the struggle against capitalism. How could it? A culture of revolutionary solidarity opposed to all divisions and prejudices among human beings is necessary if a revolution is truly going to succeed. But so long as capitalism remains, these social divisions will stay in place as the tools of the ruling class to maintain the capitalist order.
Socialism – Not Social Democracy
Socialism has nothing in common with “social democracy”, embodied by parties with a policy of reforming the worst aspects of capitalism. In the U.S., this is often incorrectly referred to as “socialism,” using some various European countries as examples. Social democracy is nothing but capitalism with social welfare programs. Most often, these reforms are made available when massive social movements threaten to take a revolutionary direction. The capitalists will promise anything to save their system. And when the time comes, they will take away every gain these movements have made, as is happening today across Europe.
Socialism – Not Stalinism
Likewise, socialism has nothing in common with the brutal dictatorship imposed on the population of Russia by the bureaucracy led by Joseph Stalin. The exhaustion of the Russian working class and ultimately the failure of revolutions elsewhere in the world led to the rise of the bureaucrats. Stalin and the bureaucrats rose to power by imprisoning and executing revolutionaries who fought to maintain the Russian Revolution’s democratic foundations. Stalin was the grave-digger of the Russian Revolution, and the Soviet Union resembled socialism as much as a graveyard resembles a living city. The revolutions of the 20th century in China, Cuba, and elsewhere heroically fought imperialism, but their model was not the Russian Revolution led by the working class. These revolutions may have flown the red flag, but they don’t have anything to do with real socialism. The liberation of humanity can only be achieved by the majority – by the working class –acting for itself, in its own name, leading its own struggles.
The Future is Ours to Decide
If humanity is to have any future at all – our future is socialism. But it will not happen automatically. We’re living in a social system that is in decay. In the past we’ve seen anger and outrage against this system burst open into massive social movements. But even the deepest social movement will not create a new society without consciously fighting for revolution. A revolution will take conscious revolutionaries to provide that perspective. It will require individuals to swim against the stream, and be active both during times of quiet and also during mass upheavals. During these movements, it will take revolutionary organizations urging people not to leave the levers of society in the hands of the banks and corporations, even under new faces, with new false promises. It will require individuals today to decide to take up the task of building a revolutionary organization.
History is filled with plenty of examples of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. The future is ours to bring about, and it’s up to each of us to decide what role we want to play.