After reading this article you will learn about Socialist Society:- 1. Meaning of Socialist Society 2. Nature of Socialist Society 3. Political Organisation.
Meaning of Socialist Society:
Marx mentions two stages of socialist society or socialism—one is pure socialism and the other is communism. Socialism is the first phase and communism is the second or final phase of socialist society or scientific socialism.
There is a qualitative difference between the two phases. Lenin in his State and Revolution has distinguished between the two phases. Marx was, of course, quite aware of the difference between communism and socialism.
A socialist society comes out of the contradictions engulfing a capitalist society and according to Marx the advent of socialism is inevitable. In every respect, economically, intellectually and morally it is stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges.
A society which comes out of the womb of capitalism is called socialist society. This is not free from the defects or evils of capitalism. Immediately after the abolition of capitalism the proletarians will set up their own type of society. Naturally it will not be possible for them to remove all the evils of capitalist mode of production.
In the Critique of Gotha Programme Marx says, “Between the capitalist and communist society lies the period of revolutionary transition of the one into the other. There corresponds to this also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.”
This dictatorship of the proletariat is the state. Marx emphasizes that the transition from capitalism to communism which is higher form of socialism is not direct.
In the Critique of the Gotha Programme Marx has unambiguously stated that there are number of important differences between socialism and communism. Socialism came through revolution and similarly another revolution will be required for building up of a communist society.
Nature of Socialist Society:
Commenting on the nature of socialist society Marx says that it is an immature or crude form of communism. The ultimate purpose of the proletarians will be to bring about communism. The proletarian revolution has simply abolished the bourgeois state. The great fabric of bourgeois superstructure will not be completely eliminated.
The first phase of socialism, as we have noted earlier, will carry with it all the birthmarks of capitalist society. In the Critique of the Gotha Programme he refused to accept the socialist ideas of Lassalle. What Marx wants to say here is that socialist programme is very much important, no doubt, but “every step to real movement is more important than a dozen programmes.”
Lassalle thought that in socialism worker would get the full reward of his labour. Refuting this contention of Lassalle Marx has argued that it is impossible, because a portion of wage will be kept aside for consolidated fund, for the depreciation of machinery and purchasing of new machines.
Hence, remuneration will never commensurate with labour. The ideals, objectives and other aspects of communism will never be reflected in socialism. That is why he calls socialism an immature form of communism. Until communism emerges socialism will proceed or work with all the imperfections. This is inevitable.
Analysing the basic feature of the first phase of communist society Engels in Anti-Duhring writes, “In making itself the master of all the means of production to use them in accordance with a social plan society puts an end to the former subjection of men to their own means of production. The society cannot free itself unless every individual is freed. The old mode of production must, therefore, be revolutionised from top to bottom, and in particular, the former division of labour must disappear. Its place must be taken by an organisation of production in which no individual can throw on the shoulders of others his share in the productive H. O. P. T.—43 labour.”
In the socialist society individuals will get the full scope for the development of all his faculties, physical and mental, in all directions. This is not an imaginary picture. The socialist society is created to fulfil the promises.
Capitalism divided the society not only into bourgeoisie and proletariat, but also into various other splinter groups. The chief reason of dividing the society into groups was to weaken the unity of society. The capitalists thought that a united society would pose a great challenge to the authority and domination of capitalists.
Socialist society will abolish the manifold divisions. Such a society will assume the character of workers’ cooperative. Lenin has beautifully said, “Socialism is merely the next step forward from state-capitalist monopoly. Or in other words, socialism is merely state-capitalist monopoly which is made to serve the interests of the whole people and has, to that extent, ceased to be a capitalist monopoly.”
Marx has highlighted the basic nature of society in the following way : The individual producer receives back from society—after the deductions have been made—exactly what he gives to it. No one will be deprived of his just share of product. Marx and his followers have called it equality.
Lenin says, “Equality apparently reigns supreme…” Some have called the system equal distribution of product. Others call it equal right of all to an equal product of labour. In the opinion of Marx in the first phase of communist society there shall prevail the principle of equal right, but in its higher phase it shall wither away.
The idea of equal right is a bourgeois concept. Everyone shall have the equal right to exploit and capture means of production. In fact, all will not be able. That is why, he has pronounced that right instead of being equal would have to be unequal.
According to Marx the first phase of communist society will accompany with it some features of capitalism and according to him it was inevitable only one revolution was ineufficient for the obliteration of evils of capitalism. Specifically for that reason the Marxists talked about continuity of revolutions.
The equal right will be one of its feature. Since the economic structure of the socialist society is not perfect, one cannot expect a perfect form of equality or right. People will have to be satisfied with imperfect forms. Marx writes (MESW 1-24), “Right can never be higher than the economic structure of society and its culture development conditioned thereby”
Marx has categorically stated that even after the seizure of state power and establishment of socialism there would exist bourgeois laws and other things relevant to socialism. The proletarians will apply some parts or portions or aspects of bourgeois laws only to hasten the revolution and suppress the remnants of bourgeois counter-revolutionary forces.
If necessary the bourgeois laws shall be made consistent with the socialist goals. Sometimes they may be amended. Here Marx wants to emphasize that the proletarians shall not be guided by any orthodox and impractical mentality.
It is unnecessary to jettison all the elements of bourgeois state. To do it is sheer utopianism. The proletarians shall have to build up a new society out of the ruins of an old one. They, therefore, must proceed cautiously.
Lenin has reiterated two great principles propounded by Marx. These are to be applied in socialist society. One is—He who does not work shall be not eat. The other is—An equal amount of products for an equal amount of labour. The proletarians must materialise these two principles or objectives.
Planning is the core of socialism. Nothing would be done without any planning and naturally socialism rules out anarchy. It is the firm belief of socialism that the ownership of the means of production by private persons is the source of people’s poverty and other evils.
So it plans to dislodge the private individuals from the ownership of the means of production and place them under the management of society. The entire economy is to be managed in accordance with the principles laid down by central planning. Hence planning occupies a strategic position in socialist system.
Huberman and May have remarked, “Just as public ownership of the means of production is an essential feature of socialism, so too is centralised planning.” The adherents of socialism are of opinion that without central planning the success is never to be achieved. In capitalism there is no place of planning.
Production of commodities in socialist society is to be done according to planning. Socialist economy is basically a planned economy. Only planning can ensure the proper management of an economy.
It is to be remembered here that the utilities of planning was first realised by the Fabian socialists and for deciding the principles and programmes of planning they set up a cell of Fabian Society under the leadership of Arthur Lewis. Perhaps the Marxists borrowed the idea of planning from Fabians.
Political Organisation of Socialist Society:
After capturing political power the first objective of the proletarians would be to build up a new political organisation essential for building socialism and communism. They very foundation of the new political organisation is the state of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
In the Critique of the Gotha Programme Marx says that between capitalism and communism lies a new political organisation which may aptly be called the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.
This is the state. Both the nature and function of this revolutionary state are quite different from those of the bourgeois state. It is so longer an instrument of exploitation. We also call it a socialist state.
Such a state is an instrument for uniting the masses and educating them in the spirit of communism, an instrument of building the new society. Here the term “dictatorship” creates a lot of confusion. The term is not used in ordinary sense. The functions of the socialist state are directed against the bourgeoisie. Socialist state democratizes the entire society.
The bourgeois state is the instrument of exploitation of the workers whereas the socialist state is an instrument of power exclusively at the disposal of the working class. But this power is not for exploitation, it is for management of socialist state.
It may be noted that the socialist state retains its suppressive function. The socialist political organization suppresses the exploitation and counter-revolution.
It also checks all the disruptive forces. The extent and forms of suppression depend on the nature and intensity of counter-revolution and exploitation. The socialist state will never be used for the furtherance of the interests of any particular class.
It releases all efforts for the overall progress of society. In a socialist state uniform importance will be given to all the social and cultural activities. In a capitalist state these were treated perfunctorily. A socialist state will reorganize itself from top to bottom.
The external functions or aspects will also be reorganized. A socialist state never aspires to be an aggressor, rather it disdains aggression. But one socialist state is desirous of setting up cordial relations with another socialist state.
At the same time a socialist state helps materially, intellectually and morally the socialist movement of other countries. It is the purpose of any socialist state to build up socialism in all countries of the world, because it is the only way of emancipation of the working class.
The capture of the state by the proletarians brings about an end of the predominance of bureaucracy. The socialist state will not destroy the bureaucracy but it will cut it to size. But as socialism becomes more and more perfect the importance of bureaucracy will tend to decline and with the arrival of communism the bureaucracy of the state will wither away.
The socialist political organization will bring into being a new type of law. The bourgeoisie used the law to exploit the proletarians and further their own interests.
The new state system promises to use laws to safeguard the socialist property and to frustrate the counter-revolution. The new legal superstructure of a socialist state will correspond the new base.
The bourgeois state was the state of a minority section of society, whereas the socialist state is the state of the whole people. The essential nature of the socialist state, born of the revolution, does not change.
It is wrong to oppose the dictatorship of the proletariat to the socialist state of the whole people. The new stage of statehood corresponding to the victory of socialism does not alter the leading role of the working class in the life of society.