Building a Socialist Society

Holding state power will enable the working class and its allies to complete the process of removing all economic and political power from the monopoly capitalist class.  As capitalism is dismantled, so the construction of a new type of society – socialism – can proceed.

In Britain and its constituent nations, this will have to take place along the lines determined by the working class and the mass of the population.  No alternative model can be imported from other countries, from different conditions and different times.

But this does not mean we cannot learn from successes and mistakes elsewhere.

For instance, the former Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China have demonstrated how centralised economic planning can play a vital role in promoting scientific education and rapid economic growth.  Cooperative ownership helped secure a thriving agricultural sector in Hungary.  Self-management in Yugoslavia showed how workers can be drawn into democratic decision-making at workplace level.  The German Democratic Republic provided collective, social and workplace facilities on an extensive scale.  In the Soviet Union, people’s courts in large workplaces brought the criminal justice system closer to the people.  In Cuba, Committees for the Defence of the Revolution involve local communities in a wide range of social, environmental and political campaigns.  The former socialist countries demonstrated how different ethnic and national populations could live in harmony on the basis of cultural development, equal status and mutual respect.

All the former socialist countries placed a high priority on achieving full employment, universal healthcare and education, equal status in law for women and men, affordable housing and public transport for all, and on reducing inequalities between people living in urban and rural areas.

However, the conditions in which many countries embarked upon their roads to socialism also gave rise to features that would be unacceptable to people in Britain.

Here, socialism will have to be built with the maximum participation of people in government at every level.  These must be full accountability of state power to the people, with free and wide-ranging debate facilitated by accessible and diverse mass media.  Workers must have real powers in workplace decision-making.  Indeed, in order to defeat attempts at counter-revolution and to involve the mass of the people in socialist development, democratic rights and freedoms would need to become deeply entrenched in every aspect of economic and political life, now free from the restrictions and distortions imposed by monopoly capital.

Moreover, it will be essential that new forms of popular participation and direct democracy arise in the workplace, localities, regions and nations of Britain to counteract any tendencies to over-centralisation, elitism, careerism and bureaucratic control.

All sections of the state apparatus at every level of society should be directed by the elected representatives of the people and monitored by non-state bodies appointed by working class and popular organisations.  Freed from the requirements of maintaining capitalist rule and commercial confidentiality, most activities of the state must be open to public scrutiny and all should be open to scrutiny by the public’s elected representatives.

The constitutional relationship between England, Scotland and Wales should develop according to the sovereign will of their peoples, whether that relationship takes the form of co-existence in a federal state, a confederation or wholly separate from one another.  The first of these arrangements might best maintain working class and progressive unity and solidarity.  But, in any event, it is likely that socialist societies in those three nations will develop specific features of their own, reflecting their different economic, cultural and political conditions.

Socialism in Britain will also be characterised by diversity, tolerance and a healthy resistance to state interference in people’s personal lives and choices.

Freedom of opinion and criticism must not only be guaranteed in law.  It has to be given means of expression previously denied by monopoly ownership and control of the mass media.  Religious freedoms must also be protected, although organised religions and their adherents should have no privileged position from which to undermine or negate the democratic rights and freedoms of others.

On the economic front, social ownership will have to be extended into the major enterprises in every significant sector of the economy including construction, engineering, armaments, land and property, shipping and chemicals, while consolidating the sectors already in public ownership.  These measures would enable economic planning to develop in accordance with society’s needs and objectives, combining local and sectoral consultation with centralised policy-making in strategic sectors, all under democratic control.

At the same time, socialism does not require that all economic enterprise must be confined to the public sector or to a single model of public ownership.  Even as socialism is being constructed, there should be scope for small businesses, self-employment and for cooperative, voluntary and municipal sectors in the economy.  However, these too must be subject to progressive laws relating to taxation, terms and conditions of employment, equal treatment and industrial democracy.

A substantial extension of democracy throughout the economy will have to take place, in cooperation with the trade unions, so that the knowledge, experience, interests and creativity of working people can be drawn fully into the processes of administration, decision-making and planning.  Economic planning will also have to involve a wide range of other groups and forces in society besides government ministries and major enterprises, including local government, non-governmental organisations, consumer groups and community organisations.

In terms of advanced social policies, the overall aim must be to complete the abolition of private, privileged education and healthcare for the wealthy and the development of public services of the highest possible quality for all citizens.

Big landed estates in urban as well as rural areas must be taken into local, central and cooperative public ownership.  Aristocratic titles should cease to receive any official recognition and the hereditary monarchy should be replaced by a democratically elected and accountable head of state.

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