PHILOSOPHY - PUTTING THE SOCIAL INTO SOCIALISM
the social into socialism
deal of cheek is required to call oneself a socialist in 2,010. A
hundred years ago, aristocrats announced: ‘We are all socialists
now’. Most meant no more than support for municipal services. Yet,
even that had been an advance. Bertrand Russell grew up believing that
poor relief was a sin. The battle was not easily won. During the 1930s,
local tories condemned the aged pension for sapping the national fibre.
By 1960, such views were not to be heard. We were all mixed-economy
so, socialism had suffered a loss of moral authority. Among the sources
for this decline were:
1989, real existing socialism has dissolved.
that anyone could say that capitalism has become a touchstone for the
good, the true and the beautiful. Nonetheless, the current crisis
generated more attacks on ‘extreme capitalism’ than calls for a
socialist society. Mike Moore’s Capitalism
– a love story dared to breathe the word in the belly of the
beast. He intends no more than European-style social democracy.
‘Socialism’ still has next-to-no appeal to working people here.
is to be done? Nothing? Become a parasite on sufferings, struggles and
successes elsewhere? I try to contribute in two domains: first, to our
understanding of Marxian analysis; secondly, to our appreciation of socialist values.
These efforts have to be combined through their engagement with the
class struggle in the only place where we can weaken monopolising
capitals, namely, in Australia.
critique of political economy remains the essential starting point for
the analysis of capitalism. Two of its pillars underpin any effective
truths will not unravel the intricacies of capital expansion. But they
do stop us going too far astray when we deal with FairWork Australia as
WorkChoices Lite. Here is not the place to explore what Marx provides. I
have launched missiles from www.surplusvalue.org.au
utopians dreamed up road maps for how to get to socialism. They also had
blueprints of what that society would be like. It is far from my
intention to come up with a twenty-first century version of either.
Instead, I shall recall the three interlocking principles that secured
the appeal of socialism for working people.
tripod supplies an ethical critique of the Rudd-Gillard
‘productivity’ (that is, profitability).
‘More or less likely’.
Fiona Stanley has provided what John Howard might have labeled
‘practical socialism’, as distinct from the symbolic kind. What is
‘practical’ for the worker is not what the parliamentary cretin
promotes as ‘pragmatic’.
team in Perth has developed programs to improve the physical condition
of parents before they conceive, the health of the mother during
pregnancy, and the socialising of the child during pre-school years when
so many brain connections are formed.
every new born had the pre- and post-natal conditions available to the
well-to-do, much of what is presented as genetic inferiority would
Jay Gould criticised people who lament how many J. S. Bachs we miss out
on because schools do not devote resources to gifted children. Gould
observed that we lose far more geniuses to infant morality. Stanley
calls this the ‘real brain drain’. Most of what schools provide for
‘gifted’ should be the experience of all. A ‘rich’ learning
environment must not be confined to the wealthy.
totalitarianism of ‘buy, buy, buy’ has given rise to the plea of
‘leave me alone so that I can express my true self’. The antidote to
that anxiety is not to retreat from social engagement. Rather, the path
forward is to alter the quality of our connections away from a culture
dominated by market signals.
individualism sagged in stages. In its glory days, individualism was
what a genius achieved in the arts, exploration or politics. The cliché
about ‘Renaissance Man’ was of a many-sided personality, exemplified
by Leonardo. Of course, that outcome was never a prospect for the serfs
and slaves who provided the wealth that paid for his art. But the notion
that one’s individuality was what one achieved became widespread. The
divisions of labour needed for capital to expand cut back on that
promise. Individuality was reduced to a talent for a single task.
Similarly, capital’s drive into oligopoly and the corporation
marginalised the entrepreneur into the organisation man. Harry Braveman
detailed the degradation of work under monopolising capitals.
protest against its iron-cage persists, but in negative forms about
bullying, casualisation and the time-life balance. Workers cannot erase
the penalties of wage-slavery without a vision of human labour as a
social good. We have to regain our understanding of human labour as
affirmative. Collective labour made us human. Through it, we remake
ourselves as individuals, as classes and as a species. Discovery by
doing is the foundation of science. The
Communist Manifesto made this point by calling for the integration
of work with schooling.
usefulness of these precepts is twofold. First, they offer a gauge for
evaluating proposals from any quarter. Secondly, they give us a
foundation on which to develop policies that match the hour-by-hour
needs of working people. Doing so will show socialism as the majority
these tasks, we shall need Marxism to spotlight what we are up against. Capital
is a tool-kit for alerting us to the ways in which capital will twist
every reform to serve its expansion.