Socialism – The Goal of the Working Class
July 15, 2013
Every day life itself is more and more forcefully presenting our country with the question: capitalism or socialism? The intensifying exploitation of the working class as well as the entire reactionary agenda which monopoly capital and the capitalist state are imposing on our country are the inevitable product of the unresolvable and intensifying contradictions of capitalism.
What is the way out?
The Workers Party says that socialism is the way out. The necessity for socialism arises, in the first place, from the struggle of the working class for emancipation from capitalist wage-slavery. In addition, it is only through socialism that our country can overcome the anarchy and crises of capitalism and bring the social relations between human beings in harmony with the productive forces and the level of social development. The change from capitalism to socialism is absolutely necessary in order to open the way for the all-around progress of our country.
Only Socialism Can Eliminate the Exploitation of the Working Class
From its very emergence, the working class has been locked in an all-sided struggle against capitalist exploitation and the capitalist class. Just to maintain their physical existence, the workers are forced to fight the capitalists over the issues of wages, hours of work, working conditions and so forth. In addition, the working class wages continual struggles in the political sphere, asserting its rights in opposition to and struggle against the capitalist class and capitalist state. The workers have won many victories in their economic and political battles but still the fundamental problem remains unresolved and the same issues come up again and again. One day the workers are able to establish union organizations and gain higher wages; but the next day, the capitalists are able to smash the union and cut wages. The overwhelming majority of the workers still live in a state of job and economic insecurity. Similarly, these days it is easy to see that such social and political victories as workers gained over decades of struggle are again under attack as the capitalist government keeps stripping away vital social programs, etc. and so forth. The root of the problem is precisely the capitalist system which, at its very foundation, is based on the exploitation of wage-labor. Under capitalism, society's means of production (the tools used to transform nature and satisfy the needs of human beings) are owned privately by a tiny percentage of the population. Thus the working class – the class whose labor produces all new values – is separated from the implements of labor and the workers have no way to secure a livelihood except by selling their labor-power, day in and day out, to the capitalist owners. The capitalists in turn exploit the labor of the workers, returning in wages only a small fraction of the new values created by the workers. Under capitalism, the living human labor of the workers is looked upon solely as a means for enriching the capitalist owners.
Capitalist private ownership of the means of production rivets the workers to the capitalist as firmly as the slave was riveted to the master. Capitalism recognizes the worker only as a seller of labor-power, only as a beast to be exploited. Under capitalism, all the human rights of the worker are denied. He/she lives or dies according to the "free market" system – that is according to the needs of capital.
Thus the working class can only emancipate itself by abolishing the capitalist system based on private ownership of the means of production. Socialism begins with the recognition that the means of production are in fact not private but social property. Not only are the tools of society the accumulated product of generations of labor, they can only be set in motion and used through the co-operative, division of labor amongst the entire working class. Thus, socialism does nothing more than recognize the already-existing social character of the productive forces, stripping them of their class character – that is stripping the tiny minority of capitalist owners of the "right" to monopolize the economic lifeline of society and of the "right" to exploit the labor of the workers. By turning the means of production into the common, social property of the whole society, socialism at once eliminates the exploitation of the workers and creates the foundations for genuine social, economic and political equality.
Socialism Will Eliminate the Anarchy and Crises of Capitalism, Opening the Path for the Progress of Our Country
The contradiction between the social character of the productive forces and capitalist private ownership of the means of production is at the root of the all-sided and unresolvable crises facing our country.
Anyone who thinks even for a minute about the enormous productive capacity of our country cannot but ask: why is a country with such modern means of production unable to guarantee the economic rights and well-being of the masses of people? Why is the curse of unemployment and the plague of falling wages and living standards undermining the lives of tens of millions? Why, in a country with such modern medical facilities, do tens of millions of people go without needed medical care? Why has economic growth been stagnating for years and why is the government – in one of the richest country's of the world – always crying poverty?
The answer comes almost as soon as the questions are posed. It is the capitalist system which is holding back the vast productive forces at the disposal of our country; it is the capitalist system which is denying the economic rights of the people and imposing an ever-growing burden of exploitation and poverty on them. The monopoly capitalist system in the U.S. has brought to the bursting point the basic contradiction between the socialized productive forces and private capitalist ownership. Through generations of labor the American working class has created modern means of production with an enormous productive capacity. Thousands of hands work as one within a single factory while in the economy as a whole a social division of labor amongst 120 million workers supplies our country with everything from computers, to x-ray machines to food. Yet these modern means of production – which can only be set in motion and utilized through the cooperative socialized labor of the whole working class – are owned by a tiny class of monopoly capitalists. Today, in our country, the concentration and centralization of the ownership has reached unprecedented proportions. Five hundred corporations account for more than 2/3rds of the country's gross domestic product; a dozen big bankers control 3 trillion dollars in capital, dominating the economic lifeline of the entire country. In short, a few thousands capitalist billionaires monopolize the economy, constituting a real financial oligarchy which commands the economic life of 250 million people.
The backwardness of the capitalist social relations is sharply reflected in the fact that these days the monopoly capitalist class is actively engaged in destroying the productive capacity of our country.
Monopoly capitalism has entered a period of general and permanent crisis. For example, during the 1980's and 90's even during the periods of economic expansion, the standard of living of the people continued to fall. Wages have dropped by 20% while the plagues of unemployment and underemployment keep growing. Corporate downsizing and restructuring continue in every sector of the economy, destroying millions of jobs. While these jobs are destroyed, the vast majority of new jobs which are created are part-time or temporary jobs which do not even come close to paying a living wage. In addition, capitalist restructuring is literally destroying the productive forces of our country. For example since 1980 30% of our country's steel capacity has been wiped out and along with it the jobs of hundreds of thousands of steelworkers; in oil refining, capacity was also reduced by 30%, while 60,000 jobs were wiped out; and so on and so on.
The necessity for socialism is arising from every pore and cell of our society. The most fundamental fact about our country is that everywhere the social character of our society is forcing itself to the surface, demanding recognition but the capitalist system is blocking the way forward. It is the capitalist system which is denying tens of millions the right to secure a livelihood. It is the system of private property in the means of production which exploits human labor and creativity and turns society into an arena in which the rich live off the labor of the poor. It is the system of private property in the means of production which refuses to plan for the health of the population and instead produces health care as a commodity available on the basis of who has the most money. It is the capitalist system which is poisoning the air we breathe and the water we drink. Even though modern science is able to know the effect of human action on nature, capitalism – based on the anarchy of production – willfully destroys the natural environment in the pursuit of maximum profit.
Socialism, at once, resolves the basic contradiction of capitalism, liberating the working class from capitalist wage-slavery and opening the way for the unfettered, continuous development of the productive forces on the basis of constantly improving the well-being of the people.
Socialism recognizes the real social character of the means of production. It eliminates capitalist private ownership of the factories, mines, and other means of production, and recognizes these as the common property of the entire society. Under socialism the livelihoods of the workers will no longer be dependent on the capitalists or the ups and downs of the business cycle. Economic insecurity will become a thing of the past as a socialist America will guarantee everyone a job or an income commensurate with our country's high level of development. No longer will the workers be exploited and their surplus labor appropriated by the capitalists as profit. Rather, in a socialist America, the entire surplus over and above what is returned to workers directly in the form of wages, will be at the disposal of society as a whole and used, on the basis of a democratically worked out plan, to guarantee both the further development of the economy as well as such inalienable rights of the people as the right to universal and free medical care, to the best possible education, to secure pensions and so forth. It is obvious that our country has at its disposal all the means necessary to insure the unprecedented economic development and the well-being of the people.
All that is required is for the social relations of society to be brought into harmony with the existing level of development of productive forces, for the people to recognize the social character of economic and social life and carry through the re-reorganization of society on that basis.
Socialism will insure uninterrupted economic development. Socialism will eliminate the anarchy of capitalism and insure planned economic development with the aim of constantly increasing the material and cultural well-being of the people. By placing the people, with the working class in the forefront, in control of the productive forces, socialism will truly humanize society, putting people at the center, not only as producers but as decision-makers and conscious creators of society. Socialism will create the basis for realizing the age-old aspirations of the masses to create a society without class privilege or class oppression, a society which genuinely guarantees equal economic, political and social rights for all human beings. At the same time, socialism will enable human society to harmonize its relationship with nature and protect and enhance the natural environment which is necessary for the continued development of human society.
(This article originally appeared in an earlier issue of The Worker.)