There’s a tendency among Marxists to be dismissive of certain sorts of questions: the ones that start, “Under socialism, how would…?” There are good reasons for being dismissive. For one thing, in many cases, the answer is, “We’ll have to figure it out.” For another, these questions have, in the past, most often come from people who aren’t serious; that is, people who see the whole thing as a purely intellectual exercise, a mind game, and there are better uses for a revolutionist’s time than satisfying the idle curiosity of someone who has no intention of becoming involved in the struggle. For a third, some of these questions give one the impression that the questioner is trying to score points, rather than understand what sort of future socialists are trying to build. And for another, really, with the imminent threats of nuclear war and climate change, two problems capitalism is incapable of solving, what choice do we have? When the alternative is destruction of 90% of humanity and a reduction to barbarism, certain details like whether I can own a houseboat or who gets to eat the caviar appear pretty trivial.
Things have changed. The election of Donald Trump has put direct, massive attacks on the American working class on the agenda, and anyone who imagines that the working class can be attacked without responding is living in a dream world. What sort of response will it be, what form will it take, and what will be the result? I clearly remember how, when Wisconsin governor Scott Walker signed his union-busting bill, there came spontaneous calls for a general strike, and the union bureaucrats had to work double- and triple-time to suppress it, to convince everyone to behave and count on the electoral process. My point is, the instinct to fight back is inevitable. This fight is called the class struggle. The class struggle carried to its conclusion is revolution.
The conditions for revolution (I am not, here, talking about whether the revolution is successful, just whether it takes place) are well-known: a massive distrust of and disdain for the government, rage among the oppressed about the conditions they are forced to live under, and a sense among the masses that there is a chance to make things better. When the last is lacking, you may have riots, possibly even an uprising on a limited scale, but not revolution, which is a conscious—I repeat conscious—effort by the masses to take history into their own hands.
So, as I said above, things have changed. The struggle, the conflict, is inevitable, and for there to be a successful outcome, there has to be that awareness that we can make it better, that it can work, that channeling the anger into a disciplined and organized force is worth the effort. This means socialist consciousness, and that means, all of a sudden, the questions about whether socialism can work are much more immediate. One huge question has to do with the Russian Revolution, which I’ve done my best to answer in a series of posts last year.
As for the rest, well, go ahead and ask. I might say, “we’ll have to see.” I might decide some of the answers require their own posts. I may spend a lot of time pointing to some of the things in what I somewhat ironically call my socialism FAQ. I honestly don’t know how this will work, except that I’m pretty sure I’ll learn something.
When I refer to a socialist society, I mean, simply, an economy based on collective ownership of all means of production, and a state that is controlled by the class that produces value.
So, what do you want to know?