marxism 2011 program notes: what would a socialist society look like?

These are my notes from the 2011 Marxism conference in Toronto. The series starts here.

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These notes are sketchier and rougher than the previous posts, as the talk was very informal.

What Would a Socialist Society Look Like?
Kim Kerridge
May 28, 2011

This question is both broad and deep. The International Socialists take a global view of life - all life is interrelated - so revolution must be achieved globally to happen at all.

Capitalism is the rush for profit above all else. It leads to much of world starving or having barely enough to eat.

Under capitalism, men are producers and women as reproducers. What used to be feudalism is now capitalism + imperialism, but for much of the world, the outcome is the same.

When we say “a better world is possible,” we mean that literally: these issues are not local, they are global.

The question "What would a socialist society look like" is especially important since there have been many bad regimes claiming the name of socialism (Stalinist, Maoist, etc.).

Right now, various countries are discussing how to end the use of nuclear energy. Socialism means green energy, green jobs.

Ridicule is used as a weapon against socialism - discouraging thought and discussion. The ruling class says vote every 4 years, that’s enough. We need to counter that with our own vision of what is possible.

Socialism asks for: social control over the wealth of a society, production for need, not for profit, the ability to take care of ourselves without fear, either of not having enough money or enough time.

There are elements of socialism in our society right now. Capitalism already in decline. (Is Wisconsin an example of that?) Public health care, public transit, public education.

Socialism's most important task is the transformation of work. We would see the nationalisation of industry under workers’ control. The division of labour we now know would be progressively overcome: mental vs physical, controller vs controlled. Automation plus the nationalisation of work would mean reduced compulsory working time, which would mean more time for leisure and enjoyment. More people could work in jobs they found meaningful.

Is human nature a barrier to socialism? People say humans are naturally greedy, selfish, and lazy. Yet happy children do not seem to be so. Is it "natural" to be greedy, competitive, and selfish? Or is it taught?

A socialist society would be organized under elected workers’ councils, workers organizing their work according to the needs of society.

People would be free to pursue education, because fees would not be a barrier.

“The world has enough food for everyone, but too many people lack access to it.”

Socialism is a historical process, not something that happens magically one day. There were many moments that prefigured socialism: Spain in 1936, Portugal in the 1970s – Venezuela and Bolivia today.

The actions in Wisconsin and in Tahrir Square demonstrate the potential for transformation, of discovering that we have more in common with each other, together, opposing the ruling class.

A democratically-controlled economy; our potential of power as controlling wealth.

The Paris Commune seized a moment with an absence of power to discover they could control the economy themselves.

Through the revolutionary process, we discover that divisions are unimportant.

People debate over whether or not a revolution would be violent. (Does anyone believe capitalism will go away without bloodshed?? Apparently people do. I think they need to study history a bit more.)

How do you prevent violence from becoming self-serving and self-perpetuating? What mechanisms can you build into the system so that there are always checks on power, always democratic oversight, always accountability?

Is socialism-in-waiting a helpful idea? Reforms help capital stay afloat. (Eg, FDR co-opting socialist mechanisms to save capitalism.) See future talk on Keynes/Reform vs Marx/Revolution.

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