Modern political parties can be assessed on their policy concerning the ownership, control and use of capital, i.e. on how they view the relationship between the consumer-producers (the workers) and the owner-controllers (the capitalists). This analysis can be expressed in the form of a political axis, socialist – capitalist, where ‘socialist’ refers to the use of capital solely for social purposes and ‘capitalist’ refers to the use of capital solely for economic ends (profit).
The main political positions can be thus ascribed to one or other of the following categories:
It is possible to identify a further category, the New Socialists, emerging from the two latter categories. These accept the Marxist analysis of capitalism, but reassess its prognosis. Thus with the experience of Marxist-Leninism, the advance of global capitalism, the influence of postmodernism, and the dramatic technological, social and cultural changes of the past century, together with the failure of revolutionary socialists to attract working-class support, some groups are prepared to rethink their socialism. Marx himself lived long enough to be able to say ‘I am not a Marxist’, and the debate continues as to what modern socialism and modern Marxism are.
Today socialists of all hues still address the future of capitalism as the central issue, and with increasing world population and limited global resources their deliberations assume increased urgency and significance. With a universally accepted capitalist ethos, it is of increasing importance for socialists to show how socialist ideals connect with the interests of the masses – a challenge upon which the socialist philosophy of democratic consent is itself contingent.
Some socialists believe that emerging global institutions, arising from the interests of global capital, and currently serving capital’s interests, have the potential for transformation into agents of international social intervention and reform. They are divided on whether this transformation must be by a revolutionary singularity or by democratic evolutionary action.
None of the positions held by the political parties identified above can be said to be one of scientific/logical calculation – in spite of the protestations of the warring revolutionary comrades. The claim by some to be ‘logical’ or ‘scientific’ is self-evidently not the case in a divided Left. The adhesion to one or other view can only be logical within one’s own paradigm, constructed in accord with one’s own experience and judgment – in the end an existential choice.
Political choice is one of the most difficult, but also one of the most meaningful, choices open to us. But this choice cannot be simply an intellectual exercise, for it is only what we do that makes us what we are. It is not possible to be a theoretical socialist any more than it is to be a theoretical vegetarian. In the end human nature and human history will be what men and women did. We must judge the intellectual arguments the best we can in the light of our experience and then we must choose to act. As Sartre says:
‘…for the existentialist, there is no love other than that which is manifest in loving; there is no genius other than that which is expressed in works of art…In life a man commits himself to draw his own portrait and there is nothing else but that portrait…You are nothing else but what you live.’
© Lusion 2005