The Socialist Vision

This page revised November 17, 2010

Source: Michael Lebowitz, The Socialist Alternative: Real Human Development (Monthly Review Press, 2010)

Chapter 6, p. 130: Capitalism…has its own triangle:

1. Capital owns the means of production, our social heritage, and benefits from this ownership.

2. Under the direction and control of capital, that is, the despotism of the capitalist workplace, workers are exploited, crippled as human beings and alienated from the products of their activity; and

3. Given that the goal that drives production is surplus value, to this end capital destroys human beings and nature, puts workers into competition with each other, and disintegrates families and communities. . . .

Chapter 6, p. 131: A Partial Charter for Human Development

[A] "Charter for Human Development" can be recognized as self-evident requirements for human development:

1. Everyone has the right to share in the social heritage of human beings-an equal right to the use and benefits of the products of the social brain and the social hand-in order to be able to develop his or her own potential.

2. Everyone has the right to be able to develop their full potential and capacities through democracy, participation, and protagonism in the workplace and society-a process in which these subjects of activity have the precondition of the health and education that permit them to make full use of this opportunity.

3. Everyone has the right to live in a society in which human beings and nature can be nurtured-a society in which we can develop our full potential in communities based upon cooperation and solidarity.

Chapter 4, pp. 86-87. These points are known as "the Socialist Triangle."
1. Social ownership of the means of production is critical within this structure because it is the only way to ensure that our communal, social productivity is directed to the free development of all rather than used to satisfy the private goals of capitalists, groups of producers, or state bureaucrats. But this concerns more than our current activity. Social ownership of our social heritage, the results of past social labor, is an assertion that all living human beings have the right to the full development of their potential-to real wealth, the development of human capacity. In particular, we need to recognize that "the worker's own need for development" is not limited to particular categories of producers or regions of the world. "The free development of each is the condition for the free development of all."

2. Social production organized by workers builds new relations among producers-relations of cooperation and solidarity. It allows workers to end "the crippling of body and mind" and the loss of "every atom of freedom, both in body and in intellectual activity," that comes from the separation of head and hand. As long as workers are prevented from developing their capacities by combining thinking and doing in the workplace, they remain alienated and fragmented human beings whose enjoyment consists in possessing and consuming things. Organization of production by workers is thus a condition for the full development of the producers, for the development of their capacities-a condition for the production of rich human beings.

3. Satisfaction of communal needs and purposes as the goal of productive activity means that, instead of interacting as separate and indifferent individuals, we function as members of a community. Rather than looking upon our own capacity as our property and as a means of securing as much as possible in an exchange, we start from the recognition of our common humanity and, thus, we understand the importance of conditions in which everyone is able to develop her full potential. When our productive activity is oriented to the needs of others, it both builds solidarity among human beings and produces socialist human beings.

Chapter 5, pp. 123-124: "The Concept of a Socialist Transition"
1. Socialism, the cooperative society based upon common ownership of the means of production, has as its premise that the associated producers possess the process of production (that is, socialist relations of production).

2. The new system inevitably emerges with defects it inherits from capitalism. Its development into an organic system "consists precisely in subordinating all elements of society to itself, or in creating out of it the organs which it still lacks."

3. The emergence of socialism as an organic system that produces its own premises and thereby develops on its own foundations depends upon the creation of a specifically socialist mode of production; until that is in place, the reproduction of socialist relations of production requires the existence of a socialist mode of regulation.

4. An essential part of the development of this socialist mode of regulation is the substitution for the self-orientation characteristic of owners of labor power (with its insistence upon equivalents), the principle in which people are not regarded "only as workers" (with "everything else being ignored," but rather as members of society. The new principle socialism introduces, "the socialist principle," expands "that which is intended for the common satisfaction of needs . . . in proportion as the new society develops." It thus fosters a new relation, a communal society in which productive activity is undertaken not out of self-interest but where communal needs and purposes are understood as the basis of our activity.