From TML (Canada): http://cpcml.ca/Tmld2009/D39073.htm
People Are Born to Society
When discussing rights and responsibilities the historical context is important. The productive forces in modern society have become socialized. These forces are not bound by family, guilds or other economic units associated with petty production. Mass production using science and technology has created a reality that the needs of all members of society can be met. Mass socialized production has gained the capacity to guarantee the rights of all members of society. The realization of this capacity is blocked not by nature or any inadequacies of the socialized economy but by the authority governing the prevailing conditions. The socialized economy is still under the authority of property relations that arose over several thousand of years of petty production, where the economy was mostly divided into small units such as an extended family, clan, village, guild, manor etc. depending on the level of the productive forces. These small units were controlled by ruling elites, traditions and strict rules that governed how production took place, all individuals’ positions within each unit and their relationship to the whole or society.
A revolution took place to replace petty production with mass industrial production that has gradually grown to socialized production encompassing the entire globe. This revolution from petty to mass industrial production not only destroyed petty production but also the social forms on which it rested such as the extended family, manor, guild, village, aristocracy etc. The problem left unresolved was the development of new methods of authority, governance and social forms, which reflect and are in harmony with socialized mass industrial production.
The authority in place is in antagonistic contradiction with mass industrial production and the socialized economy. This authority has not shed the habits, thinking and unequal property relations of the former traditional aristocratic ruling elite of petty production. The authority divides the new socialized economy into privately-owned competing parts and seizes the social product from the actual producers, both the means of consumption and socialized means of production, and transforms it into an unequal social relation called capital.
This authority blocks the condition of a socialized economy from fulfilling its capacity to meet and guarantee the needs of all members of society. This authority puts its narrow private interests in command of the socialized conditions creating disharmony and constant economic crises. This authority generates conflict and even war within the society and with other societies. To change the situation, the authority must be changed and a new one created that is in harmony with the socialized conditions.
People are no longer born to extended families, communal clans, castes, guilds, manors, villages etc. but to society. Society has a responsibility to care for its members and members have a responsibility to care for society. But this modern relationship cannot be realized without bringing the authority into harmony with the socialized conditions.
The guiding principle for modern society is that people have rights by virtue of being human. The current authority in power, which retains the broad outlook of those in authority under conditions of petty production, blocks the guiding principle of modern society from being realized. The working class is the main and leading force struggling for the realization of the guiding principle of modern society and to change and revolutionize the present authority and bring it into harmony with the socialized conditions.
The socialized conditions are not being allowed to fulfil their duties to the individuals and collectives in society. The authority is blocking the conditions from playing their complete role. Those who stress duties or responsibilities of workers should think about the authority in society, an authority that determines whether responsibilities can be upheld consciously and freely. How can the subjective viewpoint “responsibility to work” be upheld if the authority prevents the development of conditions to allow an individual worker to do so? The human factor/social consciousness cannot flower and extend itself and be taken up by individuals and collectives when it is suppressed by the current authority of enslavement to the capitalist labour market, and the monopoly right of those who control the economy not to provide livelihoods for all. Unemployment is deemed an economic necessity by owners of capital, otherwise they argue, the labour market would collapse in disarray and the working class would acquire too much power over their conditions of employment. Social irresponsibility on the part of those who own and control the socialized economy forms part of their creed. They are not responsible to provide work for all, as that goes against their narrow interest as owners of capital. Not only do they not want to provide work for all, they block the socialized conditions from doing so. After blocking the socialized conditions from fulfilling their role, the owners of capital argue that responsibility to find work falls to the individual worker through the capitalist labour market even though the owners of capital control the economy and the conditions in which workers can or cannot find work. A labour market, they insist, is a necessary instrument to exercise restraint over working class claims for wages, benefits, pensions and working conditions.
Owners of capital plead innocence and declare that they only control their privately-owned competing parts of the socialized economy so why should they be held socially responsible to provide work for all. Besides they add, the marketplace including the market for chattel labour controls everything and nothing should be done to interfere with the market’s fanciful “invisible hand” and its capacity to set prices.
This admission by the owners of capital of their failure or unwillingness to bring the spontaneous marketplace under conscious control or to provide work for all is an invitation to the working class to seize control and authority over the direction of the socialized economy.
The destruction of the socialized economy and its capacity to provide work for all by those in authority because of the narrow perspective of owners of capital to defend their privately-owned competing parts of the economy is a signal to the working class to organize to overthrow this obsolete authority. The responsibility of workers in this era is first and foremost to organize themselves to bring into being an authority based on the modern conception that people have rights by virtue of being human and that people are born to society and must nurture and develop an harmonious relationship with society based on the human factor/social consciousness.
In modern society, the “responsibility to work” can only be upheld freely or consciously within a free association of the working class that has authority and control over the direction of the economy including the creation of livelihoods and work for all without chronic unemployment and the capitalist labour market. Under such an authority and within conditions of mass industrial production, the “responsibility to work” would be upheld or not according to the level or development of the individual worker’s social consciousness and commitment to society. When the authority and conditions are in harmony, it would then be appropriate to create mechanisms, programs and culture that guide all individuals to uphold their duty and responsibility to work to the best of their ability. One such guideline is the socialist slogan: From each according to ability, to each according to work. This guideline is subordinate to the principle of modern society that people have rights by virtue of being human.
The comment that society does not “owe anyone a job” denies the modern reality that people are born to society and have rights by virtue of being human. Denying the modern relationship of individuals to society arises from the ideological sway over society that comes from an authority that originated in conditions of petty production. To safeguard its position of private wealth and privilege, the obsolete authority is desperate to block the development of the human factor/social consciousness. The comment that society does not “owe anyone a job” exposes various realities including:
– an obsolete authority that denies people are born to society and have rights by virtue of being human, an authority in contradiction with the socialized conditions that should leave the scene of history immediately;
– the preparation of the subjective, theoretical and ideological conditions for the empowerment of the working class and its victory in the struggle to gain control over the direction of the socialized economy and bring into being a new authority is a project that workers must take up themselves;
– workers are their own liberators;
– the existence of a labour market, unemployment, economic insecurity under conditions of mass industrial production and a socialized economy, and a theoretical prejudice that denies people have rights by virtue of being human prove that the capitalist system is a transient one bridging the gap between petty and mass industrial production and further proves that it is incapable of solving the economic, social and natural problems plaguing the world and no longer serves any useful purpose.
The relation of individuals to the socialized economy and society with regard to work must be based on social consciousness and not on involuntary or voluntary servitude or forms of direct or indirect coercion. This requires revolutionizing the unequal property relations to bring them into conformity with their socialized character.
Modern society based on a socialized economy means that individuals depend on society for work and their well-being. They are born to society. This compares with a petty subsistence economy centred on the village, extended family, clan, guild, manor or some other form. Under conditions of petty production, individuals were born to a basic economic unit and depended on that unit for work and their existence. Society had not yet created the conditions to guarantee the rights of all. Even though production was barely more than subsistence in most cases, it could be said that the extended family, clan, guild etc. did “owe the member a job” just as the member held the responsibility to work for the extended family, clan, manor etc. The objective reality was that in many instances, the petty production unit could not provide a job or livelihood to all its members or the level of subsistence was inhuman. In addition, the ruling elite often exercised intolerable demands on those under its authority. Both the objective condition of petty production and an authority that was unrelenting in its demands were a source of great antagonism, class conflict and struggle to develop the productive forces.
Under the current authority in the 21st century, individual workers born to society do not have a direct relationship with the socialized economy. The capitalist labour market and private ownership interfere with that relationship. This alienates workers from their economy, leaves them insecure, marginalized and without any power over the situation causing hardship, antagonism and class conflict. Their social consciousness is blocked from developing. This situation means workers themselves must take up organizing, politics and actions to unblock the development of the human factor/social consciousness.
Individual workers depend on society and the smooth functioning of the modern economy for their existence and ability to acquire a living. They do not depend on an extended family, guild, manor or lord to acquire their living and survive. The basic relationship with work is not to an extended family, guild or manor but to society and its socialized economy. The division of the socialized economy into privately-owned competing parts alienates workers from what should be theirs to direct, control and nurture as a most important social responsibility. Workers are further alienated by having their relationship with the socialized economy mediated by a labour market, which considers them chattel labour to be purchased by owners of capital or government. This denies the decisive role played by workers in transforming raw material into social product and services, turning them into costs of production creating a contradiction with the authority that commands the socialized economy and society.
The objective conditions for an harmonious relationship between individuals and the socialized economy and society are in place but the obsolete authority of private ownership of competing parts of the economy interferes with the development of that harmonious relationship and the human factor/social consciousness.
In a petty scattered economy, individuals were born into an extended family, clan, guild, manor, aristocracy or other grouping. Blood relations determined the individuals’ position within the economy as a member of an extended family, clan, aristocracy etc. The basic unit of petty production was the objective condition within which members participated in the economy. That basic unit fell under the broad authority of the ruling elite, which varied according to historical and geographical conditions. Petty producers in most cases were in direct control of their means of production and responsible for the day to day operations. The idle ruling elite demanded and received a portion of production. In much of Europe and Japan for example, the arrangement with the ruling authority under conditions of petty production was seen to be an exchange for protection against external forces, which necessitated full-time soldiers called knights and samurai.
The petty and scattered nature of production itself was cause for insecurity of existence. Disease, erratic weather, marauding bands, war and extreme demands of the ruling elite often disrupted life for the petty producers causing hardship, misery and the breakup of their production units. There was no labour market or unemployment to speak of, as petty production cannot support such institutions.
During the era of petty production, the political and social forms were extremely varied throughout the world. When a social form or economic unit could not recreate conditions to provide work for all members or meet minimal requirements of subsistence because of an increase in population within a constricted space, destruction from war, bad weather, disease or intolerable demands put on them by an idle ruling class run amuck, the producing unit would be forced to take action. In certain cases, individuals would have to leave or groups would divide and try to find new possibilities through colonization, not because of any lack of desire to contribute to the original economic unit but because the objective conditions demanded they leave or perish. This phenomenon became more and more common as petty production and its basic organizations began to disintegrate under pressure from the development of competing productive forces of mass production controlled by a rising mostly urban bourgeoisie. As forces of mass production developed this put pressure on the existing units of petty production. This phenomenon is still going on before our eyes in China and elsewhere. The development of mass production opens the possibilities of guaranteeing the rights of all but also destroys the stability and social forms of petty production such as the extended family, guild, manor and aristocracy. Blood lines lose their importance and meaning as the reality emerges and takes hold that in a modern socialized integrated economy of mass industrial production, people are born to society and have rights by virtue of being human and the socialized economy has acquired the capacity to guarantee those rights in practice.
The arrangements and authority governing the relations of production within the various systems of petty production have come into contradiction with the new conditions of mass industrial production across the globe causing upheaval and a movement for change. Petty subsistence production under the authority of an idle ruling class could not provide for all. Constant pressure to develop the forces of production and renovate the relations of production propelled society forward. No social force was strong enough to challenge the ruling elite under conditions of petty production until the forces of production within certain urban centres gave rise to a new bourgeois class that began to employ manufacturing and workers on an intensive and scientific scale outside the rules and traditions governing petty production. This phenomenon has occurred throughout the globe in extremely varied ways, and has been accelerated by imperialism.
Prior to the division of humans into social classes a contradiction between rights and responsibilities of the group and rights and responsibilities of the individual played out within conditions where the greatest arbiter was nature itself. The struggle to create conditions for the well-being of all was with nature herself and her capacity to provide mostly in a natural way. Traditional human culture from all over the world often presents Mother Earth and all her creatures, objects and events in the most reverent and defied way. Under class society, this tradition was transformed into reverence for a ruling elite and status quo by deifying a human or humans. Today this deification has reached grotesque levels of cults of personalities and celebrities using the mass media. Society and its capacity to deliver security for all its members became personified in a ruling elite that was all important and could both create conditions for the well-being of all or destroy and deny those conditions. The decisive struggle for survival no longer revolved around what Mother Earth could provide directly but with the authority and arrangements governing society. Rights and duties of individuals and their collectives and their relationships with one another within ever larger groups of humans began to revolve around the arrangements that have developed binding those individuals and groups together, arrangements that are determined ultimately by humans themselves and the level of the productive forces they have developed within society.
Within class society the greatest struggle to create conditions for the well-being of all is with the arrangements governing relations of humans to each other especially how they relate to each other in the production of goods and services. The struggle for production and scientific experiment play a decisive role but are ultimately subordinate to class struggle. For example, under classical slave society what impetus could there be for the application to production of mechanical engineering when this would reduce the value of slaves? Classical slave society gradually exhausted itself with internal class conflict and war and broke up into varying forms of scattered petty production.
Petty production was governed by strict rules and tradition that guaranteed the continuing rule of the aristocracy, landlords and guild masters etc. Besides, peasants existed mostly in isolation from one another and improvements in production even if they survived the local rules would eventually wither from isolation. Development of the productive forces mostly took place outside the economic units of petty production within city states that had become centres of trade, commerce, manufacturing and science such as Edo (Tokyo), Beijing, Amsterdam and Venice.
The Necessity for a New Authority
The journey of humans has brought us to mass production within a socialized economy. The journey continues with the necessity to build the new, where arrangements are developed that can bring harmony between the conditions and authority and overcome the contradictions that are readily apparent between the socialized economy and its division into privately-owned competing parts. But even after new arrangements have been brought into being, which has come to be known as socialism, the contradiction between rights and duties does not disappear. The contradiction persists by the force of tradition of class society for thousands of years and the immediate prejudice of bourgeois right. For example, a feature of bourgeois right is the demand that an individual with more ability receive a larger claim to what is produced collectively. This is expressed in the socialist saying: From each according to ability; to each according to work. This contrasts with the communist slogan upon the defeat of bourgeois right: From each according to ability; to each according to need.
The crucial aspect for the working class at this time is to develop the subjective conditions for society to advance. This requires a development of the human factor/social consciousness to the level demanded by the objective conditions. For this to be accomplished, individual workers and their collectives cannot accept one-sidedness in thinking or in arguing out difficult issues. The dialectic within the subjective and objective conditions must be exposed and fully discussed and acted upon. Every situation, every struggle has its particularities and generalities, its subjective and objective aspects. Workers have to become accustomed to using science and their grasp of dialectics to analyze every situation and action that they undertake in the course of producing, engaging in scientific experimentation and defending themselves and moving society forward through class struggle. The Party sums this up in the slogan — action with analysis.
The maturing of the objective conditions for revolution and the necessity to move society forward to new arrangements have made it incumbent upon all workers and their collectives to prepare the subjective conditions through organizing, discussing and action with analysis. The working class will make no headway unless it develops its capacity to engage in class struggle with analysis upholding the human factor/social consciousness. Conscious organizing and action with analysis requires building Groups of Writers and Disseminators as the core of the independent politics of the working class and it requires Committees for Democratic Renewal that forge the working class and its allies into an effective political force.
The working class is a socialized class. Contrary to the image given to workers by the owners of capital, workers are not chattel labour and random individuals captured in a labour market. They are socialized humans who demand conscious control over their lives, their work and economy. When a peasant had a good idea or action, more often than not that good idea or action became lost in isolation. Peasants in essence are not socialized humans. When workers or their collectives have a good idea or action, as socialized beings, they have the social responsibility, capacity and the means, if they build it, to spread that good idea or action throughout the country and world. The good ideas and actions that workers need at this time revolve around organizing for change to bring in new arrangements and new authority. Not spreading the good ideas and actions with analysis of workers’ organizing for change, destroys the very essence or being of socialized workers and their present and future well-being; such inaction condemns workers as chattel labour and random individuals of the capitalist labour market fending for themselves. Workers’ greatest responsibility at this time in human history is to become worker politicians and organized tribunes for their good ideas and actions with analysis on how to change the world bringing into play their great strength of numbers and modern culture and social form, the human factor/social consciousness.