'ANOTHER world is possible' is the ringing declaration of the anti-capitalist movement. For us this other world can only be socialism, a society based on production for need not profit. But what will this socialism look like?
It is, of course, tempting to answer with a series of negatives. It won't be a society where 358 billionaires have more wealth than half the world's population or a world where children starve while trillions are spent on arms. It won't be a Stalinist dictatorship. But to go beyond these necessary negatives to a positive account we must begin with one basic principle. The foundation and starting point of socialism is workers' power, the seizure of political and economic power by the working class.
So Russia in 1917 started on the road to socialism where the workers took power. Russia in the 1920s was moving away from socialism-the workers were losing power. Russia in 1930 was the complete opposite of socialism-the workers had lost power completely.
Workers' power means working class people (all those who are selling their labour power) joining together to control and run the state and the economy. The state machine is made up of the armed forces, police, judiciary and parliament, with top-down structures and ties to big business. It cannot be taken over by working people.
It must be broken up and replaced by a new state apparatus built from below. This will consist essentially of delegates from workplaces and other collectives of working people forming workers' councils at local and national levels. These delegates will be accountable to, recallable by, and paid the same wages as the people who elect them.
Government ministries and the new workers' militia (in place of the army and police) will be responsible to the national workers' council. This will also have charge of overall economic management. The working class will run production through systematic extension of public ownership and workers' control of enterprises.
Every workplace will be run by an elected workers' committee. Scientific and technical experts will continue to be necessary, but they will be responsible to the workers' committee instead of the board of shareholders. This foundation of workers' power will be consolidated and spread internationally (real socialism must be international). This will break the power of profit and capital, and open the way to a truly classless society of equality and freedom.
Workers' power will bring a huge increase in productivity, but productivity serving useful purposes-affordable homes, not luxury hotels, food, schools and hospitals for the world's poor, not Star Wars and global warming. It will mean an immediate end to all inherited privilege and a drastic reduction in income inequality. And the beginning of a move towards the ultimate equality: 'From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.' It will mean an assault on racism, sexism and homophobia and all other forms of discrimination. At the same time it will mean tearing up the roots of all those divisions.
It will liberate people emotionally and sexually by loosening the legal and economic bonds of the family. People will love and live with each other on the basis of free choice. The transition to socialism will also bring about a profound liberation of humanity. We can glimpse this but its detailed consequences can't be foreseen. For thousands of years most people have been passive objects of society and history.
Their lives have been dominated by long hours of toil-at best monotonous, at worst degrading and health damaging. This labour has created all the glories of 'civilisation' but has left the mass of people too ground down to cope with more than personal survival. Socialism will reverse this.
Working hours will be cut, leaving much more time for other activities. Even more importantly, work itself will be transformed into life enhancing, creative labour. People will become collective, conscious makers and designers of their environment-they will be active citizens directly involved in shaping their society. In the process people will change themselves utterly. It is because people will change that many questions about how things will be under socialism cannot be answered in advance. The whole point of socialism is to make us all free controllers of our collective lives.
Faced with such a vision, a standard reaction is to declare it unrealistic and utopian. But the simplest change, for example a world where children don't starve, is dependent on solving the fundamental problem-breaking the rule of capital and placing people in control of their own labour. And solving the basic problem through workers' power is precisely what will free humanity to reach new heights.