Civilisation has operated in two ways - To make one part of society more affluent and the other more wretched than would have been the lot of either in a natural state
There are Natural Rights and Civil Rights. Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
Where Our Power to Execute Our Natural Rights is Perfect, Government has No Legitimate Jurisdiction
When the Forces for War are Greater than the Forces for Peace   Then the World is in Danger
Politics is not a Dirty Word. It is a Way of Life. How is Your Way of Life Today ?

Politics-The Case for Socialism

The Case for Socialism


Article Index

The Case for Socialism

Socialism – the lessons so far

Public ownership and planning

Ending exploitation and oppression

Democracy and popular sovereignty

All Pages

The urgency grows to lift people out of hunger, poverty, sickness and ignorance. Our planet’s eco-system must be rescued

before it deteriorates beyond the point of no return. Even under wasteful and destructive capitalism, the productive forces

exist that could, if planned and utilised to meet human need instead of maximising capitalist profit, ensure sufficient food,

nutrition, health care and education for all.

Indeed, never before in history have the rapid advances in science and technology provided such opportunities for the all-

round development of every human being.

But while it has proved possible, from time to time, to curb capitalism’s tendencies to crisis, deprivation and war, those

tendencies have always reasserted themselves because they arise from the nature of the capitalist system itself. The

capitalist economic cycle produces gluts, crises, cut-backs, redundancies and then shortages before beginning all over


The anarchy of the capitalist economy in general militates against society’s need for planned, balanced, equitable and

sustainable development across countries, regions and the whole world.

Nonetheless, the experience of social-democratic policies and the attempts so far to build socialism – albeit in very different

conditions to those in Britain – provide some valuable lessons.

They demonstrate, for instance, that public ownership, economic planning, collective provision and the redistribution of

wealth can provide substantial economic, social and cultural benefits to the mass of the population, even when these are

restricted, distorted, exploited and subverted by monopoly capitalist interests. Experience also indicates that unless such

policies are mobilised as the basis from which to make deeper inroads into capitalist economic and state power, they will

prove to be partial and temporary. Their weaknesses and inadequacies will then be used to discredit any alternative to

private capitalist ownership, the ‘free’ market and social inequality.

After centuries of capitalism, the first attempts to build a socialist society arose fewer than 100 years ago in conditions of

world war, in less developed societies facing the advanced, hostile and powerful forces of imperialism. Both the

achievements and the failures of these pioneering socialist systems have to be considered in this context, and lessons

learnt accordingly.

During its near 70-year existence, the Soviet Union showed how socialist state power, planning and public ownership could

transform society in the interests of the mass of the population.

The Bolsheviks and their allies took state power in Russia in 1917 and used it to withdraw from the imperialist war and

defeat counter-revolutionary forces. Fourteen foreign armies, including those of Britain, the United States (US) and Poland,

invaded Russia in 1918 to ‘strangle Bolshevism in its cradle’, in the words of Winston Churchill. This imperialist ambition to

destroy Soviet power was to continue through most of the 20th century.

Nevertheless, Russia and the other countries of the Soviet Union were transformed from semi-feudal, semi-capitalist

monarchist dictatorships into modern societies with near-full employment, universally free education and healthcare,

affordable housing for all, extensive and cheap public transport, impressive scientific and cultural facilities, rights for

women and degrees of self-government for formerly oppressed nationalities. This was achieved through a world-historic

break with capitalist ownership and social relations, on the basis of social ownership of industry and centralised economic


But the struggle to survive and to build socialism in the face of powerful external as well as internal enemies also led to

distortions in society that might otherwise have been avoided. In particular, a bureaucratic-command system of economic

and political rule became entrenched. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the trade unions became integrated into

the apparatus of the state, eroding working class and popular democracy. Marxism-Leninism was used dogmatically to

justify the status quo rather than make objective assessments of it.

 At times, and in the late 1930s in particular, severe violations of socialist democracy and law occurred. Large numbers of

people innocent of subversion or sabotage were persecuted, imprisoned and executed. This aided the world-wide campaign

of lies and distortions aimed at the Soviet Union, the international communist movement and the concept of socialism.

 Yet central organisation and rapid, massive industrialisation enabled the Soviet Red Army to smash Hitler’s war machine,

halt the Nazi genocide and liberate much of Europe from fascism,

 Following World War Two, the US Marshall Plan financed the rebuilding of capitalist economies in western Europe. The

Soviet Union, with 26 million dead and much of its land and productive capacity destroyed, was left to its own devices.

 The Soviets once again constructed a society of full employment, housing, public transport and high-quality health and

education services for all. This same feat was accomplished in the newly socialist countries of war-ravaged eastern Europe,

where the Soviet model of society was promoted in both its positive and negative aspects.

At the same time, the socialist countries launched programmes of solidarity with progressive and national liberation

movements around the world that operated over three decades.

But under pressure from the arms race launched by the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the Soviet

bureaucratic-command system was unable to utilise the full fruits of the scientific and technological revolution (STR)

beyond the military, space and medical fields. From the mid-1970s, economic growth in the Soviet Union and eastern

Europe began to fall behind that of the most advanced capitalist countries, notably Japan and West Germany. The ruling

communist parties failed to counter the appeal of capitalist ‘consumerism’ materially and ideologically, as their own citizens

made unfavourable comparisons that took no account of imperialism’s super-exploitation of the Third World.

 While women participated more extensively in politics, science, education and employment than their counterparts in

capitalist society, they encountered limits to their promotion. Some professions lost their status as women came to

predominate in them. National autonomy in party, state and cultural affairs was limited in practice by centralised control.

The increasing failure to mobilise the party, the working class and the people to solve these and other economic, social and

political problems led eventually to stagnation and political collapse in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, from 1989.

Significantly, there were no mass movements to defend the socialist system against counter-revolution.

Yet the weaknesses and failures of the Soviet model of socialism have since been overtaken by the calamities of capitalist

restoration. Public economic property has passed into the hands of Western TNCs, state bureaucrats and home-grown

gangsters. Millions of workers have lost their jobs, pensions and trade union rights. Public and welfare services have

collapsed. The peoples of the former Soviet Union experienced the biggest reductions in life expectancy ever recorded.

National and ethnic differences have exploded into terrorism and war. In some countries, the brutal trafficking and sexual

exploitation of women is widespread.

Determined not to experience counter-revolution and its consequences, China’s communists have placed great emphasis

on economic and social development. State power is being used to combine economic planning and public ownership with

private capital and market mechanisms. The aim is to build a socialist society in its primary stage. Already, state-directed

policies have lifted more than 600 million people – almost half the population – out of extreme poverty since 1981, a feat

unequalled in history.

The foreign policy of the People’s Republic of China has sought to uphold the principles of national sovereignty and

peaceful co-existence, while carrying out foreign investment policies that also benefit host countries substantially.

Yet, as the Communist Party of China (CPC) itself acknowledges, problems in Chinese society of social inequality, the lack

of universal welfare provisions, corruption and underdeveloped trade unionism need to be further addressed and rectified.

Advances have been made in extending democratic rights without the CPC weakening its leading role in political life. The

importance of renewing democracy inside the party and in wider society should not be underestimated.

 The Cuban model of socialism seeks to involve the masses of people in the defence of national sovereignty against US

imperialist subversion, mobilising them also to solve economic, social and environmental problems. The result is a society

with the most advanced health and education services in the Third World, bold policies to expand food production and

minimise carbon emissions and an internationalist foreign policy to assist oppressed and disadvantaged peoples around

the world. Most recently, Cuba has embarked upon policies to develop and diversify industry and services.

The experience of communists and socialists attempting to build socialism indicates the importance of mobilising wide

support for progressive and revolutionary change, making inroads into the economic and political power of the monopoly

capitalists, taking the bold steps necessary from government office to state power, exerting popular sovereignty and

involving the mass of the people at every stage in the revolutionary process, including the exercise of political power.

Each country must find its own path to socialism, applying general principles to specific national conditions in their

international context. Each will develop its own model of socialism in tune with the culture and aspirations of its people. In

Britain and its constituent nations, taking the road to socialism can only be done successfully if those differing national

conditions are taken fully into account.

History also demonstrates that taking state power and beginning to construct a socialist society can occur in one or more

countries at a time, reflecting the reality of uneven economic and political development under capitalism. This explodes the

abstract and defeatist myth that socialist revolution can only be a single-stage and wholly or primarily global process.

For as long as capitalist ownership of the economy exists, whether or not the so-called ‘free market’ is dominated by

monopolies, its operations will produce crisis, destruction, inequality and waste on an enormous scale.

 Capitalism’s drive to maximise profit leads it to turn every area of human need – food, clothing, shelter, healthcare,

education, sex, leisure – into a market for the production and sale of commodities for profit. However, when sufficient profit

cannot be realised, even the products and services to meet society’s most vital needs will not be produced.

 Capitalist competition invariably means unnecessary duplication, takeovers, ‘rationalisation’, closures, asset-stripping,

commercial secrecy, excessive packaging and large-scale contrivances of style and fashion – all of which represent a

waste, limitation or destruction of society’s productive resources. Whole economic sectors have developed – advertising,

property management, business consultancy – that perform little or no useful function in society, except to promote the

interests of monopoly capital and, ultimately, to transfer income to it from the working class and intermediate strata.

 The reality of monopoly power is that it is used to block or take over more efficient but smaller competitors, especially those

that seek to share the benefits of economic activity more equitably with workers or consumers. Anti-trust, anti-cartel and

similar laws have utterly failed to halt the march of the capitalist monopolies towards national and international domination.

Breaking up the monopolies, even if achievable, would merely set the clock back for the process to begin again.

Only public ownership of the economy’s major sectors and enterprises – the economic essence of socialism – can put an

end to monopoly power and fundamentally change the basis on which economic decisions are taken. Pointless and

wasteful competition and duplication would be eliminated. The development and deployment of society’s productive forces

would be planned in order to meet people’s real needs and aspirations. Jobs, houses and vital or useful goods and services

would be created as the primary purpose of planning and production, not as the incidental consequence of maximising

profits for shareholders.

In particular, public ownership is the only viable basis on which energy and public transport can be planned and developed

in an integrated way, to combat global warming and climate change while ensuring renewable power supplies.

But fundamental distinctions must be drawn between the different types of public ownership as operated in different stages

and conditions.

Democratic or progressive public ownership would be conducted on a fundamentally different basis from capitalist public

ownership – in the interests of the working class and the people, not of monopoly capital. A left government would seek to

extend it to viable enterprises and sectors, with compensation paid primarily to pension funds and small investors and on

the basis of proven need. Its pricing, contracting and investment policies would be consistent with the priorities, needs and

interests of society as a whole. Its administration would be democratically accountable to the elected representatives of the

people at every level, with workers and local communities fully involved in decision-making.

Socialist public ownership would be based on the same approach, but after the achievement of state power. It would be

carried out in all major sectors of industry and commerce in the drive to end monopoly capitalist wealth and power and

build a socialist society based on democratic and, where necessary, centralised economic planning.

Social ownership of economic property puts an end to the exploitation of the working class, whereby surplus labour is

performed for the benefit of the capitalist class.

 When there is social ownership, surplus labour takes place to meet the needs and aspirations of the working class and

society as a whole. This will have to mean that workers and their representatives are fully represented in the economic and

political spheres of decision-making, ensuring that surplus labour is not exploited for the benefit of a privileged class or


Since society first became divided into classes, the ruling class of the time has used the oppression of sections of the

exploited classes to maximise exploitation and reinforce its rule. Under capitalism, the oppression of women, black workers

and other groups has reaped super-profits and helped ensure the reproduction of existing class relations economically,

ideologically and politically – not least by fomenting or perpetuating divisions within the working class itself.

 Such oppression is sustained by sets of prejudicial ideas and assumptions, for example those of sexism and racism. These

ideologies apply across class boundaries, affecting members of the oppressed group in every class, although their impact

is felt most severely by those in the exploited classes.

Putting an end to capitalist property relations and the exploitation of labour would remove the material basis for social

oppression. No class in society would gain from the super-exploitation of any section of the working class, or have the

means by which to secure it. The reorientation of priorities in production to meet the needs of the people would further

reduce the scope for conflict over scarce provision, whether of jobs, housing, public services or essential goods.

The experience of socialism confirms that prejudice and discrimination on grounds of gender, nationality, sexual

orientation, age etc., can survive the abolition of capitalism, at least for a period, weakened but not altogether eliminated.

But socialism furnishes the material basis, and therefore the potential, to bring all forms of social oppression to an end.

With the abolition of capitalism, the most powerful forces for the perpetuation of racist, sexist, homophobic and other

reactionary attitudes are disarmed, leaving the forces of socialism with the responsibility to consign them to the rubbish

heap of history, promoting a culture of equal rights and liberation instead.

In capitalist society, it is the interests of capital that predominate, regardless of proclamations about the sovereignty of the

people or of parliament.

The electoral franchise and other democratic rights are subverted by huge inequalities in wealth and power between

different classes and sections of the population. Politicians and political parties are bought or intimidated, issues and

debate are distorted by the mass media, the electoral system is often rigged against small, new or left-wing parties, and

elected parliaments can be marginalised or dissolved.

The European Union (EU) represents a new model whereby monopoly capital can circumvent democratic representation and

accountability. The EU parliament is elected by constituencies so large as to break any meaningful organic link between

electors and representatives. It has few powers that it would dare exercise. The fundamental capitalist economic and

political character of the EU is set in constitutional concrete. Any real sovereignty is shared between unelected and

unaccountable bodies – the Council of Ministers, the EU Commission and the European Central Bank.

The essence of popular sovereignty, on the other hand, is that the democratic will of the people should prevail over the

vested interests of a powerful minority and their state apparatus. This revolutionary concept originates in the English

Revolution, with the Levellers and the soldiers’ parliament, and in the French Revolution with its constituent assembly and

constitution. It was also seen in the Paris Commune of 1871, in the workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ soviets (councils) of

the 1905 and 1917 Russian revolutions, and in all mass movements against exploitation and oppression.

In Britain today, for example, the struggle to exert popular sovereignty can be seen in the mass movement against

imperialist war, in progressive campaigns against EU power and in local broad-based campaigns to defend jobs and public

services. But popular sovereignty will only prevail when state power is taken out of the hands of the capitalist class by the

working class and its allies, whose interests represent those of the people and society as a whole.

This lays the basis for the active involvement of the people in all aspects of decision-making. Such mass participation is the

surest guarantee that democratic rights will be enormously more extensive and more real in a socialist society, free from the

distortions of monopoly capital’s wealth and power.

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