The Case for Socialism
The Case for Socialism
Socialism would extend democracy
A genuine socialist government would not be dictatorial. On the contrary, it would extend and deepen democracy enormously. This would be much more far-reaching than the parliamentary democracies of capitalism where we simply get to vote every few years for MPs who do whatever they like once elected. Instead, everyone would get to take part in deciding how society and the economy would be run. Nationally, regionally and locally - at every level - elected representatives would be accountable and subject to instant recall. If the people who had elected them did not like what their representative did, they could make them stand for immediate re-election and, if they wished, replace them with someone else.
Elected representatives would also only receive the average wage. Today MPs are a privileged section of society. Their lives are remote from those of ordinary people. This is no accident. From the earliest days of the Labour Party, the ruling class tried to buy off socialist MPs. Its method is usually subtler than brown envelopes of cash: it is a high salary, a very comfortable lifestyle and the drip, drip of ceaseless flattery about how 'sensible' and 'wise' it is to be 'moderate' and 'realistic'. The result has been that countless numbers of MPs have decided that the best way to emancipate the working class is one by one - starting with themselves!
That is why members of the Socialist Party who become MPs only take the average wage of a skilled worker. We believe that this policy can play an important role in making sure workers' representatives remain in touch with ordinary working people. In the past, when we had three socialist MPs, they took only the average wage of a skilled worker. Even the BBC recently recognised this, declaring: "As many MPs rush to condemn proposals to give them an 11% pay rise, few have taken the lead of the former member for Coventry South...From his election in 1983 to his deselection by Labour in 1992, Dave Nellist kept less than half his salary. Along with two other Labour politicians - Terry Fields, MP for Liverpool Broadgreen, and Pat Wall, MP for Bradford North - Mr Nellist chose to 'get by' on a wage closer to that of the people he represented". A socialist government would ensure that no elected representatives received financial privileges as a result of their position but, instead, lived the same lifestyle as those they represent.
In a capitalist society the mass media is either run by billionaires, or by the state in the form of the BBC. As a result we face an endless barrage of right-wing propaganda. A socialist government would nationalise the printing presses, TV, radio and internet facilities in order to open them up to society; with the right of access to all political viewpoints according to their support in the population as a whole as shown in elections.
There is another crucial sense in which democracy would be far fuller in a socialist society. Under capitalism most of the important decisions are not taken in Westminster or local council chambers, they are taken in the boardrooms of the big corporations. By contrast, a socialist government would bring major industry into democratic public ownership. It would be necessary to draw up a plan, involving the whole of society, on what industry needed to produce. At every level, in communities and workplaces, committees would be set up and would elect representatives to regional and national government - again on the basis of recall at any time. Everybody would be able to participate in real decision making about how best to run society.
Many people will argue that this is utopian, that people would not be bothered to participate in such bodies. Yet in every mass struggle - from the Paris Commune of 1871 onwards - the embryos of this type of structure have come into existence. In Britain during the struggle to defeat the poll tax, when 18 million refused to pay Thatcher's iniquitous tax, hundreds of thousands of people took part in meetings to plan the campaign. While the anti-poll tax unions were only temporary bodies, organised to fight against a single Tory attack, they nonetheless give a glimpse of working people's capacity to organise. More recently the mass assemblies of the 'movement of the squares' in Greece or Indiginados in Spain are a step in this direction.
Through struggle to change society, workers come to recognise that their own interests are bound up with the common interests of the working class as a whole. Individual needs and ambitions are best met through cooperation and solidarity, not the narrow pursuit of self-interest. Even today, thousands of working-class people attend their tenants' associations and other community meetings. To give another example, thousands also participate in anti-bedroom tax campaigns, meetings and demonstrations, even though most are not directly affected themselves. And organisations in a workers' state would be completely different to the bodies that working-class people currently take part in - the committees would actually have the power to say how the economy and society is organised.
In addition, for a planned economy to work, it would be vital that the working class had the time to take part in the running of society. Therefore, measures such as a shorter working week and decent, affordable childcare would be a prerequisite for society to develop towards socialism.