I claim that only the revolutionary socialists of the 21st century can be the real guardians of unfettered liberty and true democracy. What would a socialist society look like in the 21st century? It would be as far different from Stalinism as Bernie Sanders is from Tsar Nicholas II. Unlike Marx we can take the liberty of guessing what such a society would look like. I claim that orthodox Marxism (the ideas and principles of Marx and Rosa Luxemburg) have more in common with anarchism than with the totalitarian distortions of Stalinism. This is true even of Leninism and Trotskyism. We would undoubtedly base many democratic principles on those of the Paris Commune. Unlike revolutionary Russia or France, advanced capitalist countries do not exist in such a state of material and spiritual poverty. The masses are educated, literate, and have an abundance of material wealth. Unlike these countries, liberal rights have already been won in our society and the people will not stand for any form of tyranny. As such, historical reflections of the ‘totalitarian excesses’ of the French and Russian revolutions would not be able to emerge if such a revolution emerged first in the advanced capitalist countries, as Marx predicted they would.
It would be a revolution not of a small group of intellectuals seizing power for themselves in the name of the workers or the people. This is a dictatorship in the bourgeois sense of the word. In our society, governing institutions could but only consist of elected representatives of the people themselves. Any socialist movement worth its salt would not only defend, but would expand the liberal and human rights won through decades of struggle. Representatives would have extremely short terms of service and would be instantly re-callable by popular petition at any time. This was a fundamental democratic aspect of the Paris Commune.
There would be no need for such governing institutions to suppress a free press or demonstrations of the people. A revolution at its purest is reason in revolt, a revolution IS dissent. If it is to truly be a revolution of the people, the people themselves would decide the course of the revolution and not an ‘enlightened’ central committee of a single monolithic party. This means also, that such a society would not be a one party state as were the Stalinist states of the 20th century.
Such a revolution by design would place a great amount of faith in the masses. In the Stalinist states of the 20th century, those in power tried to censor what information the masses could attain. It coddled the masses out of fear that the masses, if given a choice, would not support the existing social order. We see this today in North Korea, and to a lesser extent in Cuba, China, and Vietnam. Only Laos has taken real steps towards allowing unfettered access of the masses to free information. These restrictions on the rights of the people are an abomination to Marxism and to scientific socialism and must be seen in such a society as grotesque remnants of a much darker past.
In a socialist society of the 21st century there would be, on the contrary, unfettered and free access to information in the country in question and abroad. The internet would be free and democratically controlled with an abolition of intellectual property, proprietary software, and absurd copyright laws (downloading pirated movies would be legal). The established order by design would have no right to use powers of mass surveillance. The architectures of oppression that have been built in our society by shadowy intelligence organizations, and intelligence organizations generally, would be dismantled in full by the will of the people. The state would have no right to this criminally attained information. The only just course of action would be its destruction.
Such a society would have faith that the people would not join protests against the new order, that they would not petition and rally en mass to return to the old order. And if something was fundamentally wrong with the revolution, if something needed to be addressed, those elected would by design be forced either to address it or be instantly removed from office by popular petition. At no point would the approval ratings of those in power drop below the level of majority support of the masses. If it did those in power would be instantly removed from office by popular petition and a new election would take place to put into power a person genuinely supported by, and in support of, the popular masses. Those who did hold office would hold extremely short terms of service.
The purpose of such a revolution would be to bring about a spiritual rebirth in social life, to bring the masses into political life and political affairs directly, to have public debates and discussions, (subjected to reason, fact checks, and an analysis of logical fallacies,) about the necessary courses of action. The masses today cannot be bothered with politics. Even if they had the time, the bourgeois state only changes things just enough that the fundamental base and superstructure of society stay the same. By design the bourgeois state and bourgeois society in general alienate the masses of working people from political life. Such debates and discussions would educate the masses on various political, ethical, and philosophical issues. It would at no point indoctrinate them into an obscure political ideology. It would not convert Marxism into a political religion as did the Stalinist states of the 20th century. Such conversion of Marxism into a political religion is by is very nature, anti-Marxist. It would not dictate Marxism and Marxist philosophy to the masses. Marxism by design recognizes that not even Marxism is infallible. Like everything, it is constantly changing and reevaluating its validity in the dialectical process of world history.
Contrary to popular belief, a genuinely socialist economy would not mean state ownership and control of industry. This is not socialism. Socialism means social (can be state) ownership AND democratic control of industry. Neither state nor private controlled industry can be trusted to truly represent the people and not bring about vast abuses of power. Instead, the working people and public must have democratic control over production. Industrial democracy is socialism at its purest, not the tyrannical control of owners and board members as we see under modern capitalism, nor the despotism of state bureaucrats and unelected officials as we saw in the former Soviet Union.
Production would be democratically planned by public representatives in collaboration with similar industries and changes to the way business is done would require approval of the workers directly. No factory floor would ever have agreed to fire everyone and send their jobs to Mexico if workers had such power in our society. The same principles of democratic elections and the ability to instantly recall elected officials by popular petition would apply here too. Computers would be utilized to ensure that production was planned in accordance with the material and social resources available. The purpose of production would be to meet human and social needs directly, not to enrich a handful of ‘owners’, board members, and share holders as is the case under capitalism. The surplus value created by an industry would not be ‘profits’ or ‘capital’, it would rightfully be recognized as the unpaid wages of the working class.
Socialism would mean a democratization of the whole of society, industry included. It would expand, not squander the human and liberal rights won through decades of struggle, and those rights enshrined in the documents marking the establishment of the bourgeois era. It would add positive liberty to the negative liberty we enjoy in our bourgeois society. In addition to freedom of speech, religion, press, personal property, organization, etc. the people would for the first time have positive liberties such as the right to education, housing, healthcare, food, internet access, transportation, and the means necessary to truly realize their essential negative liberties. Make no mistake, it would be such an “open” society that the “open” society we have today, that liberals lust over, would look to this socialist society like a “closed” society. This is the goal of socialism in the 21st century.
The purpose of the press would no longer be the generation of capital for the bourgeois owners of the press. It would, after the overthrow of bourgeois ownership and rule, not use sensationalism and mindless entertainment to generate profit as the generation of capital would no longer be the goal. On the contrary, its purpose would be to objectively inform the masses. It would be allowed to maintain its adversarial and skeptical stance to government and the government by design would have no right to suppress a free press. At no point would it be converted into an organ for state or party propaganda as it was in the 20th century Stalinist states. A free press would be a cornerstone of such a socialist society. This includes the freedom of independent journalists and groups of people to form press organizations, even ones adversarial, freely.
Unlike the Stalinist states of the 20th century, the transition period between socialism and communism would be not only inherently democratic and anti-totalitarian, but it would have a visible end in sight. Its purpose would be to directly attain a free communist society. Here the democratic, not totalitarian pursuit of communism, would be the goal. The state would be designed to wither away and the armed people would ensure it attained this aim. I predict the tribal and nationalistic ‘intelligence organizations’ of the old society would be substituted in an an act of parody with WikiLeaks! It would be made clear that the state has no right to exist after the socialization of industry was achieved. The Stalinist “strengthening of the state against the ‘remnants’ of the bourgeoisie”, that gross totalitarian distortion of Marxism, would by design not possible and the armed people, organized into various voluntary militias, would be right to abolish it by force if it did not wither away. Here anarchists would serve a vital function as the protectors and ensurers of the attainment of a stateless society.
The increasing capacity of society to realize its full potential to meet human needs would usher in a new ethical paradigm. Working 40 hours a week would no longer be seen as morally desirable. It would be seen for what it is, a state of being that reduces the potential for individual growth, a state of being which deprives the individual of their humanity. The mass unemployment that will inevitably result from increasing automation would bring would not mean homelessness, hunger, misery and want for the working people as it means in our capitalist society. On the contrary, it would mean their freedom and liberation from ceaseless labor.
Unlike in the 20th century, the call of socialism would never be a call for militant atheism. Such a society by design would protect the peoples right to practice religion freely and publicly, for religious communities to construct new religious buildings and places of worship, to publish their teachings and to preach unfettered. State atheism would be deemed a grotesque remnant of the past. Not even in a communist society would atheism be enforced. The state and ruling apparatus by design would not be allowed to take a stance on religion. It would be a purely secular institution, neither ‘Christian’, ‘Muslim’, or ‘Atheist’. It would protect the rights of the people to follow whatever religious ideal or lack thereof which aligned with their conscience. The right to practice religion is a personal and a family matter, the state would have no right to to interfere with that right. Organized religious institutions would be compelled to either support the cause for human liberation from oppression and exploitation or the lose material and moral support of the masses. In addition to being grossly immoral, for the state to take an adversarial stance against religion in general would mean a loss of support for the cause of liberation from the people. I have written extensively on my views on the question of religion and socialism.
We are not Utopians. We make no such claim that such a revolution would solve all the problems of society. On the contrary, we openly admit that such a revolution is bound to cause even more problems. But the problems of homelessness, hunger, poverty, excesses of crime, overwork, and alienation- the problems of state and capitalist oppression and exploitation, the exploitation of man by man, those we aim to abolish. The abolition of every possibility of oppression and exploitation- this is our slogan!
These are not a series of ‘plans’ that an enlightened people should apply dogmatically to society. A revolution is a dialectical action. One learns from it and decides what principles to apply as it happens. There is no ‘guidebook’ to attaining a socialist or communist society to be found in small party of enlightened intellectuals that will liberate mankind ‘if only it is followed enthusiastically by the masses’. We can only make predictions and suggestions of what can and should emerge in our society. We libertarian Marxists, Luxemburgists, Trotskyists, and other revolutionary socialists wish to bring to the world a viable left wing alternative to the existing order. One thing is for sure, the totalitarian pursuit of a communist society is grossly immoral and should never be repeated. We accept only a truly democratic socialistic and communistic society. We accept only the rights respecting, democratic attainment of such a system.
We believe revolution will likely be necessary to end the capitalist system and destroy the bourgeois state, but we believe that this revolution can be achieved largely with only the threat of popular violence. It can be a largely bloodless revolution. Also, it can only be done with and by the will of the masses themselves. With the increasingly authoritarian right wing shift in geopolitics today, the world socialist revolution appears even more and more likely.
Should the overthrown ruling classes of bourgeois society rise up to seize power once again, any bloodshed would be on their hands alone. Should they start a civil war in one of these countries, the people would strive to re-implement democracy and liberal rights as soon as possible. For it is rule by terror that demoralizes, it is rule by terror that poses a greater threat to the revolution than anything else. We sincerely doubt the potential for victory of a dying social order in such a scenario.
Capitalism in the 21st century can only survive if it takes up the Chinese state capitalist model. The neoliberal model of capitalism is dead, the social democratic model is dead, even the Latin American model is dead. Even today neoliberalism has lost all faith in itself, first economically and now politically. Global capitalism can only survive if it further and further divorces itself from democracy, from even bourgeois democracy. The capitalism of the future, if it is to survive, is the capitalism of China increasingly turning to a sort of neo-fascism. It can only be a right wing surveillance state. This is late capitalism in decay. It is for this reason that the revolutionary socialists of the 21st century are the only real guardians of liberty and democracy. With the increasing rudeness and lack of respect of the conservative right, the socialist left must also become the guardians of decency, kindness, and respect for humanity. We must take a stand against the political correctness of the liberal left while at the same time reiterating the necessity of the rights for people of color, LGBT+ persons, women, Muslims, and other oppressed groups.
All of this relies on the principle that the first revolutions marking the end of capitalism, as Marx predicted, will happen in the most advanced capitalist countries first and not in the ‘weakest links in the chain of world imperialism’ as seemed to be the case in 1917. If a communist revolution succeeded in India or Africa today, it would likely be marked by a resurgence of Stalinist politics. It would be a deformed workers state from the beginning, and it would become a massive propaganda machine. Both the US and this Stalinist country would agree that the system these Stalinists have implemented is ‘socialism’, even if it is objectively not so. And it would be impossible for real revolutionary socialists to convince the masses that the one thing the two biggest propaganda machines in the world agree on is not actually true. The people of the western imperialist nations would never in principle support such a revolution. It would end up being confined to that country alone or to similarly impoverished countries. It would in principle stand against liberal rights and real workers democracy. In short, it would be another cold war with both sides being morally indefensible yet again.
If such a revolution happened in the advanced countries first, it would quickly spread to the rest of the world. The lackeys who work in the service of world imperialism, who hold power in the oppressed nations of Africa, Asia, and Latin America would quickly be overthrown by the popular masses. It would be abundantly clear that this revolution was substantially different and infinitely more desirable and respectful of popular democracy and liberal rights than the Stalinist countries of the 20th century. As the wealthier countries met the human needs of the people in their own countries, there would be a decline in the exponential expansion of technological innovation and growth that we see in the present era of the later stages of the information and telecommunications revolution. This is not because socialism ‘squanders innovation’ as some bourgeois lackeys suggest. On the contrary, socialism has the potential to increase innovation to an extent far surpassing its ability under capitalism. This decline in innovation would be intentional and design. To advocate the slowing down of the information and telecommunications revolution, as I am aware, is political heresy. The wealthier countries would have a responsibility to provide aid for the newly socialist countries of Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. Those nations formerly oppressed by imperialism would be brought up to the standards of living and modernity we consider acceptable in the west with the aid of western countries. This would not mean a decline of the standards of living for people in western countries, but an increased standard of living as society was restructured to primarily meet human needs. It would however, mean a decrease in innovation temporarily.
This revolution would place the interests of humanity above those of capital. As such, the long term survival of the human species would be prioritized over the ‘profits’ of the fossil fuel industry and big corporations. The crisis of climate change would immediately be addressed by the transformation of the world energy system into one that runs on 100% renewable green energy. New cities would be built in preparation for the already inevitable drastic rise in sea levels. Plastics would be done away with and plans initiated to clean the oceans and rivers of plastic and other forms of waste. Fishing would be cut substantially to allow the fish populations to return to normal. The industrialization of the poorer countries would be done exclusively on ecological grounds and mass reforestation programs would be initiated globally.
Social democratic countries like Norway today claim that they have figured out how to be truly ecological under capitalism. “Norway has 100% renewable green energy!” says our petty-bourgeois democrat. Indeed it does, but even Norway, bastion of green social democracy, has fossil fuels overwhelmingly as its largest exports. Norway has created a fortress of ecology within its own national borders, it has merely ‘exported’ the crisis of climate change to other countries! A world socialist system would allow a country (Norway, for instance) to stop fossil fuel exports and resource exploitation entirely without a serious hit to that nations economy as other nations would provide it with aid.
I have taken the time also to make a series of points that would be generally applicable to nearly all the advanced countries, and could reasonably emerge in a socialist 21st century. Some of them have already been stated above and I hope the reader can forgive my repetition. Note that as I have said before, this is mostly speculation, I do not have a crystal ball. This is merely what one would hope to, and expect to see:
-Direct democracy on the local level, representative democracy on the higher levels. High officials occupying offices in specialized fields are to be elected by the people on the basis of their expertise in said specialized fields. Scientists only would be allowed to run for office and hold positions in fields dictating policy for scientific affairs (environmental regulations, etc.) The same applies to all other fields of government. The goal here would be to ensure that society ran smoothly and without constant “meetings of the masses” to discuss “how our community will get water this week”. We would want an engineer with experience with water systems to be responsible for the public water service, not merely a ‘comedic’ populist. We would want a scientist in control of a socialist EPA, not someone like Jeff Sessions.
-A spiritual rebirth and reemergence of the popular masses and workers into political life with the emergence of a system where the people are truly in power. An absence of Marxism as a political religion or mandated political dogma enforced by those in power.
-All political and industrial officials are to be elected, have an extremely short term of service, and be instantly recallable at any time by popular petition of the people.
-The abolition of private property, its substitution not with state ownership and control but with social ownership and democratic control by the workers themselves and representatives of the public at large. The state, we believe, can and should aid in this transformation. These representatives too would be democratically elected and instantly recallable by popular petition at any time. Such a change would not be implemented overnight and therefore necessitates the existence of a state to aid in this social transformation. The state should, upon seizing power, take the largest 500 or so corporations into social ownership and democratic control after a very brief transitional period of state ownership and control. Everyone would have to “go back to work” the day after a revolution. A revolution is an economic trauma as much as it is a political one. Effort would have to be made to return the (likely falling apart) economy to a stable state of being before serious reforms were implemented.
-An abolition of all rights to inheritance. Small businesses also would no longer be passed down from generation to generation. We have no intention of robbing small business owners of their businesses that they have legitimately worked hard to create without reason. Means of production would likely be seized by the state and transferred to the workers upon death of the respective owners. Small businesses as they exist today are a fundamental aspect of the economy. Simply seizing ALL the means of production instantly would be disastrous for the economy and for society at large, as would be a ‘too rapid’ transformation of society. It would be the biggest economic disaster in all of human history, far more so than the state of Eastern Europe and Russia in the 1990’s. The workers could still elect members of that persons family if they truly represent the interests of the workers and the public at large. It could in effect, still be a ‘family business’.
-The right of working people to form their own workers self directed enterprises. This necessarily entails an abolition of wage labor. All workers would be paid in proportion to their quality and quantity of work, and in proportion to their needs.
-An abolition of individual taxation for the overwhelming majority of society. Capitalists, millionaires, and billionaires possessing over 10 million dollars would have all funds seized except for 10 million dollars or its equivalent. 10 million dollars would be the maximum allowed net worth of an individual. Emigrants who fled the country and capitalists who took arms against the revolution would be deprived of all funds and property by default, both personal and private. The vast amounts of hoarded wealth would be distributed to the working people and be made to fund social welfare programs. It would also be reinvested back into production.
-The immediate release of all non-violent criminals and those arrested for crimes whose origins emerge from poverty. The total reconstitution of the criminal justice system on a reform, not a punishment basis. An abolition of the current criminal injustice system. Such a system should aim to spiritually enrich those imprisoned and give them the means to have a stable and meaningful life upon release. It should not dehumanize them, use cruel and unusual punishments like solitary confinement, etc. This also entails an abolition of the death penalty and the establishment of a “maximum” sentence for prisoners (perhaps ~30 years).
-An immediate abolition of homelessness via the seizure of all empty homes from their respective landowners and landlords. Systems should be put in place to help those with mental disorders and addiction. The formerly homeless should be guaranteed either employment or a guaranteed means of subsistence. (Even in America today there are 5 empty homes for every homeless person). All land and property rents would be abolished and the sacred and inviolable right of the home would be preserved.
-The abolition of all existing government institutions and their immediate replacement by grassroots workers councils representing the true will of the people. Such councils then would elect representatives of their local communities to the nation as a whole, who would naturally be instantly recallable by popular petition at any time.
-The organization and armament of the masses and their organization into various voluntary militias to replace the traditional military. An immediate recall of all troops stationed overseas and closure of foreign military bases. An immediate end to all wars and the abolition of all treaties and trade agreements made with all other countries. A backup reserve could still be maintained and recruited exclusively for the defense of country from foreign invasion. To go to war with another country would require a popular vote of the people themselves (not merely their federal representatives) and such a decision would have to be done on a purely rational and calm basis. This makes the likelihood of an aggressive war against another nation almost non-existent. No people in all of human history have ever willingly and in reason made the decision to start an act of aggression against the people of another nation without the indoctrination of the ruling class and profiteers of warfare. No nation at war has ever objectively informed the masses about the aims and views of the other side. Such a system would aim to do just that.
-The transformation of the police into a truly public service, not a weapon of the state. The police would be instantly recallable at all time by members of the community, and its head would be democratically elected and instantly recallable at any time. It would exist solely to stop violent crime, as an organization responsible exclusively to the public. If a community felt alienated by the police, it would have the right to bar the police from entering said community and to recall elected officials of the community and/or the policing institutions.
-Potentially a rotating office in the highest seats of leadership in both cities and in the country at large
-An established and expanded version of the Bill of Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with the removal of all rights to private property (the exploitation of labor) and the inclusion of positive liberty.
-The withering away of the state as soon as the economy is sufficiently socialized. State power to be replaced with peoples self-government. This would mark the beginning of stateless communism.
-The transfer to 100% green energy globally, massive reforestation programs
-Large amounts of foreign aid to formerly oppressed countries to industrialize and modernize on an ecological basis
-An increase in public funds for arts and sciences, including the creation of a new space program
-Increased funds into organizations specializing in robotics and automation with the goal being the eventual full automation of production and the liberation of humanity from physical labor.
-Strict regulations put in place in regards to potentially dangerous new technologies and scientific discoveries such as genetic engineering, disease research, and artificial intelligence. (We don’t want to give an AI unfettered internet access without understanding it first)
-The reconstituion of the production of agriculture and foodstuffs for the purpose of ending world hunger entirely (We alredy produce enough food to feed 10 billion a year)
-The abolition of extreme poverty globally with an emphasis on the abolition of poverty generally. (In 2017 the profit of billionaires alone was enough to abolish extreme poverty globally over 7 times over)
-State secularism as opposed to state atheism
-An abolition of mass surveillance and the re-stressing of the importance of liberty over the elusive idea of ‘security’. Technology would be made to increase privacy by design and not to track users. The internet would be decentralized, proprietary software and current privacy laws would be abolished. (You could read the source code and the community could make edits to OS X, Microsoft Windows, Adobe Photoshop, etc.)
These are some of the general predictions of what a world socialist revolution in the 21st century would look like. Its purpose would be to bring ordinary working people into power, to overthrow capitalist and corporate domination of the state and to establish a system that truly represents the people. With this, it would end once and for all every form of private and state oppression and exploitation. It would aim to liberate humanity and all the oppressed peoples of the world. These are merely my own speculations.
In this era of increasing right-wing authoritarianism, the erosion of privacy (the only real prerequisite to individual liberty), and the further divorce of even bourgeois democracy from capitalism, we can definitively say once again, as Rosa Luxemburg correctly did in 1920’s Germany, that in this era, at this time in human history, it is either socialism or barbarism! Our slogan today is the same as it was then, Workers of All Countries, Unite! Unite under the banner of liberty and socialist democracy! You have a world to win, you have nothing to lose but your chains!