After reading this article you will learn about Socialism:- 1. Definition and Origin of Socialism 2. Nature of Socialism 3. Classification 4. Transitional Character.
Definition and Origin of Socialism:
Maurice Cornforth defines socialism in the following words:
“Socialism is the social ownership of means of production and their utilization to satisfy the material and cultural requirements of the whole of society. Socialism is necessary because only by such a radical transformation of economic basis of society can the evils resulting from capitalism be done away with and new powerful techniques be fully utilized”.
This definition provides certain basic features of socialism of which Marx and Engels thought a lot. One is, the forces of production will be placed under the control of society which will ensure their proper utilization.
Socialism envisages a radical change or transformation of the economic basis of society. Third is, this radical transformation will cure the evils created by capitalism. Fourth is, capitalism may have some good effects. But these so-called good effects of capitalism are for the benefit of the capitalist class which is powerful almost in all respects.
Scientific socialism has been viewed as the “science about the proletarian class struggle and the socialist revolution, about the socio-political laws behind the building of socialism and communism and about the world revolutionary process as a whole”.
As a science, socialism has its own laws and categories, reflecting the basic aspects of revolutionary transformation of capitalist into communist society. The laws relate to the socialist revolution, establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the transition from capitalism to socialism and then to communism. How the working class will conduct a class struggle scientific socialism relates that.
So it provides guidance for revolutionary struggle. It contains the principles, laws and techniques of a new society classless society. Scientific socialism is not a conceptual matter; it is an operative aspect of historical transition from capitalism to communism.
Scientific socialism (henceforth S. S.) deals with the various stages of revolutionary struggle and nature of socialist society. The evils of capitalism created large scale discontent in the minds of men and they were in search of a way out.
People well aware to the evil effects of capitalism believed that only a socialist society could save the working class people and common men from all types of exploitation and oppression. How is socialism indebted to capitalism for its emergence that is to be briefly investigated?
Engels has said:
“Modern socialism, in its essence, is the direct product of the recognition of the class antagonisms existing in the society of today between proprietors and non-proprietors, between capitalists, and wage workers, of the anarchy existing in production. But in its theoretical form modern socialism originally appears ostensibly as a more logical extension of the principles laid down by the great French philosophers of the nineteenth century.”
What Engels emphasizes is that socialism is the logical consequence of historical development of society which is materialist interpretation of history. Elaborating Engels’s view Kolakowski writes, Capitalism creates the precondition of the new society not only by revolutionizing technology and evolving new forms of cooperation joint stock companies in which property and management are separate, and likewise cooperative factories are to be regarded as transitional forms or instances of the abandonment of the capitalist mode of production within the system itself.
In this sense socialism is not simply the negation of capitalism but also a continuation of it and of the socializing process based on the technological development of the present age”. Capitalism creates the necessary preconditions of socialism.
The growth of capitalism has always been accompanied by unprecedented increase in wealth the major share of which goes to the hands of few. The toiling masses are plunged into unbound impoverishment. The growth of technology and harnessing of the natural resources have hardly come to the benefit of working people.
All these evil aspects of capitalism have worked as potential source of discontent. People in general have formed the firm conviction that the continuation of capitalism cannot materialize the hope of emancipation.
Capitalists will never direct science and technology to the overall progress of society. The only way to get rid of capitalism is to overthrow it.
Summarizing the evils of capitalism Maurice Cornforth says “The great capitalist monopolies of today subjugate everything to their drive for maximum profits, to secure which they step up the exploitation, annex other countries and plunder their resources, militaries the national economy and prepare for and wage wars.”
Nature of Socialism:
We are now in a position to form the conclusion that its advent is inevitable, specially if we accept the materialist interpretation of history with the help of dialectic. Marx and Engels were sure that nobody desired the advent of capitalism.
In the same way socialism must come. Capitalism calls for a certain versatility in the working class and thus creates conditions for an upheaval.
“The growth of capitalism reaches a stage which the capitalists cannot control. There is too much civilization, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce. The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property, on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions by which they are fettered…….. they bring disorder into the whole bourgeois society, endanger the existence of bourgeois property. The conditions of bourgeois society are too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them” (Manifesto).
The crisis of capitalism in this way appears and it clears the way of socialism. In support of this view we quote few words from Kolakowski “Socialism reaps the harvest of capitalism and without the latter it could only be an empty dream. The new society will arise out of the catastrophe towards which capitalism is swiftly yet unconsciously tending.”
The weapons with which bourgeoisie felled feudalism to the ground are now turned against the bourgeoisie itself. The weapons are not proletarians’ own.
There is a common notion that socialism means the abolition of poverty or luxurious consumption of bourgeoisie. In socialism there exists neither poverty of many nor luxury of few. But it is more than this.
It promises the growth of all and abolition of all inequalities. The characteristic feature of socialism is it abolishes human alienation. In capitalism labourer is alienated from the productive system.
He is also alienated from nature, from himself that is, from his own activity, and also from other men. Socialism does not imply the redistribution of wealth or income, while the old system will continue to exist. The old economic will be overthrown in socialism.
Socialism abolishes the wage labour system of capitalism. That is, there shall be no sale of labour power. The whole material production is devoted to use value. The scale and character of production in all branches will be governed purely by social needs and not by the desire or profit making.
Socialism means that the vast resources of modern technique are developed and utilized to meet the needs of the people. The productive forces being released from private control will be used for the general welfare of the society.
Socialism promises increased productiveness and greater intensity of labour. They both augment the mass of articles produced in a given time. By suppressing the capitalist mode of production the length of the working day could be reduced to the necessary labour time.
Again, in socialism the distinction between necessary and surplus labour will lose its importance and meaning. The surplus value derived from surplus labour will be abolished in socialism. Worker will get enough time for their own recreation. They will devote time to the cultural activities and finer pursuits.
Socialism not only assertively talks about the full satisfaction of material needs, but all-round development of human personality. Socialism promises to liberate human power from bondage.
Capitalist system of production imposes manifold barriers through division of labour and many other ways. Marx, that is why, wanted to bring an end of the division of labour which was crippling workers both physically and spiritually.
Socialism does not mean that human development and creativity cease to exist, but that there are no longer any social restrictions upon them. In socialism the realm of freedom will be considerably expanded. Being released from physical necessity human beings will invest energy for greater and nobler purposes.
Classification of Socialism:
Manifesto contains a precise but useful classification of socialism. According to this classification socialism is of three type’s Feudalistic socialism; Bourgeois socialism and Utopian socialism. Before the Industrial Revolution the feudal lords and the aristocrats were combined together and formed a class which was the basic class.
After industrialization the emergence of bourgeoisie cornered the aristocracy and it became the basic class whereas the aristocrats were relegated to the non-basic class. This was not possible for the aristocracy to swallow.
The aristocrats and landlords revolted against the bourgeois domination and in order to arouse the sympathy of the workers and peasants they indicated the bourgeoisie. The aristocrats were able to relieve their feelings by penning lampoons against their new masters and by uttering sinister prophesy of impending doom. Such was the origin of feudalistic socialism.
The feudalists pointed out that the capitalists were exploiters, but they forgot that they were also exploiters. The aristocrats inspired educated people to write pamphlets exposing the nature and extent of bourgeois exploitation.
The second type of socialism is petty-bourgeois socialism. Petty-bourgeoisie is a class that stands between proletariat and bourgeoisie and is perpetually constituted as a supplementary component of bourgeois society.
The members of the petty-bourgeois class have made a shrewd analysis of capitalist system and have exposed the contradiction; it blames capitalism for all evils. Petty-bourgeoisie further condemns the capitalism for introduction of machinery and division of labour.
It emphasizes the wretchedness of proletariat, anarchy of production, gross inequalities in the distribution of wealth, the industrial wars the nations wage for mutual extermination, and the breakup of the old family ties. But in practice the petty-bourgeois socialism wants to re-establish the old methods of production and these with old property relations.
Let us deal with German socialism. In France there developed a system of socialist thought. The German philosophers borrowed the basic principles of French philosophical thought and adopted it to the soil of Germany. But the socio-political conditions of two countries were not identical and as a result of it the key concepts of French socialism were considerably distorted.
The German socialists demanded political movement for realization of socialist goals, such as abolition of repressive measures of government and bourgeois law, establishment of liberty and equality, protection of the freedom of press. But unfortunately the German socialists failed to champion the interests of proletarians.
The capitalist class is very clever. Sometimes this class takes measures to remove some grievances of people. But one should not think that this class does this out of benevolence, but simply to safeguard the interests.
Economists, philanthropists, humanitarians and welfare workers fall within the category of bourgeois or conservative socialism. They want prevention of cruelty to animals and various types of reforms.
They tacitly admit the evils of bourgeois society. But they think that class struggle is not the solution of grievances. Compromises, adjustments and reforms are the best ways of alleviating the miseries.
They want the extant society without its revolutionary and disintegrating elements. They want the bourgeoisie without the proletariat. Of Utopian socialists the prominent figures were Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier and Robert Owen.
They felt the miserable conditions of the working class and were also aware of the reasons of pathetic conditions. But unfortunately they failed to suggest any way out. Marx and Engels agreed with some of the views of the Utopian socialists but disagreed with their suggestions.
Transitional Character of Socialism:
There is a confusion even among the serious students of Marxism that socialism and communism are one and same thing. It can be used interchangeably. But a deep study of Marxian literature reveals that two are separate concepts and separate stages of social development. Maurice Cornforth in his illuminating work points out certain transitional features of socialism.
An analysis of these features is necessary in order to grasp the transition from socialism to communism. One such feature is, socialism abolishes all classes and class exploitation and also exploitation by man. Cornforth’s interpretation is that abolition of classes and class antagonisms does not mean that classes will be completely abolished. The remnants of reactionary or bourgeois classes will remain in a socialist society.
Even there may not be classes; there may be agents of classes. Holders of big private property will be forcibly expropriated, but the same method cannot be applied to small property holders.
The small and middle peasants very often act as agents of capitalists and their extermination takes time.
“In effecting transition from private enterprise and private possession to cooperative ones, not forcibly but by dint of example and the proffer of social assistance for this purpose”.
The second transitional feature is socialism institutes a social ownership of the means of production and makes man the master of machine. But this ambitious objective cannot be achieved overnight. This is a long process.
“It involves a thoroughgoing re-training of labour to educate and train all-around people”. The process of removal of subordination of labourer to the division of labour begins in socialism and the process continues until communism arrives. To remove the sub-ordination is the goal of socialism but it is not fully achieved in socialism. Because of this there is the question of transition.
Socialism aims that every requirement of man shall be satisfied. This objective cannot be realized immediately because of certain constraints from which socialism suffers. Particularly the satisfaction of the requirement wants immense advance of production and all-round development of the economy. Socialism coming out of the womb of capitalism cannot perform miracles.
In socialism individuals receive a share of social product not according to the need of each, but according to the quantity and quality of work each has contributed. When all sorts of commodities are produced abundantly there will be a flood of commodities and people will get what they require. There may be difference in quality and quantity of labour, but needs will never remain unfulfilled.