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Why You Should Be a Socialist (1977)
- Marx argued that all human history was dominated by a tussle for the wealth between classes, one of which took the wealth, and used it to exploit the others. As science and technology developed, so one exploiting class was replaced by another that used the resources of society more efficiently. The necessity for exploitation, he observed, had ended with capitalism. If the working class, the masses who cooperate to produce the wealth, could seize the means of production from the capitalist class, they could put an end to exploitation forever and run society on the lines of the famous slogan: ‘From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.’
Socialist society can only come about by a revolution; if the masses, through general strikes and mass agitation, seize the means of production from their present owners.
‘But doesn’t that involve violence? Surely you’re not prepared to use violence to achieve your political ends?’
This cry is always flung in the face of revolutionaries, usually by people who are only too prepared to accept without complaint the recurring and brutalising violence of the class society in which we live. It comes from people who ignored or supported the orgy of destruction which the government of America launched for more than a full decade against the people of Vietnam; from people who offer sympathy and succour to the regime of the Shah of Persia, which is founded on the torture of dissenters; of from people who hardly raise a word of protest about the deep violence of tyrannical governments all over the world – from Thailand, to South Africa to South Korea; or from people who never turn a hair at the institutionalised violence of everyday life – of people being maimed and battered in factories and building sites through negligence and greed of employers; of old people tormented by hunger and cold.
- Only the working masses can change society; but they will not do that spontaneously, on their own. They can rock capitalism back onto its heels but they will only knock it out if they have the organisation, the socialist party, which can show the way to a new, socialist order of society. Such a party does not just emerge. It can only be built out of the day-to-day struggles of working people.