October 2014        

Socialism: a historical necessity

Nicola Lawlor

The deepening environmental crisis—described in various articles in Socialist Voice over the years—makes the requirement of a transition to socialism not just desirable but absolutely necessary for the survival of humanity.
      To prevent the destruction of a biological environment necessary for the reproduction of the human species in a meaningful sense, a planned, sustainable system is required. Growth—in capitalism’s meaning of the word, as the re-creation and accumulation of profit—runs contrary to this principle and in fact is driving the very destruction that needs to be reversed.
      Capitalist reproduction has come to the end of its progressive phase, has hit a number of brick walls, and now reproduces itself in the main through destructive and damaging processes, such as the insane drive for natural resources, ever-expanding military production and destruction, and unnecessary and wasteful packaging and advertising, not to mention a highly destructive financialisation process.
      The planned alternative that is necessary and has historically evolved is socialism. By “historically evolved” I mean that it is not the fantasy of someone’s mind but the logical product of human struggle and the existing social nature of production. It is “socialism” because work is collective, and everything that is produced is produced by human labour, which comes into conflict with the private and increasingly monopolised nature of accumulation and the private possession of profit.
      It is this conflict between labour and capital—i.e. between workers and owners—that, if it is pursued on the basis of strengthening labour, is the foundation on which a planned economy can be built, in which the social nature of production and the socialised distribution of wealth are elevated to be the dominant characteristic of society.
      The system that can save humanity, therefore, is not a utopian or idealistic notion of a better or fairer capitalism but a transformation to a system based on the self-interest and the needs of the vast majority of humanity and that ultimately is in the interests of all future generations of humanity.
      A planned socialist economy will not of necessity be environmentally sound, so it is our responsibility as communists to inject the necessary understanding into our socialist politics and to advance our class understanding of how to combine efficient socialised production with care of the environment and the necessary rolling back of irresponsible industrial practices to avoid the destruction of threatened species and other environmental tipping-points.
      Francis Fukuyama notoriously announced the “end of history” with the victory of the counter-revolution in the Soviet Union and the socialist countries of eastern Europe. Well, he may have been celebrating the victory of capitalism, but if capitalism is allowed to continue it will be the end of history as we know it, through the destruction of the environment necessary for human survival.
      To avoid the end of history, the transformation to socialism—rather than the reform of capitalism—is required, for it is the logic of capitalist accumulation and commodification that is driving the destruction of the environment and the dehumanised existence that a majority of people on this planet suffer.

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