The following applies only to Marx’s version of socialism/communism, not the aberration that took over the former Soviet Union after Lenin died and the Stalinists seized power, which later spread into China, E Europe, N Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Cuba:
[In addition, it would require a fully socialised society (the left-wing version of nationalisation), and one that has spread to most or all of the ‘advanced’ economies (why that is so will also be explained).]
The primary aim of such a society will be the reduction of the working week with no loss of pay. Here is how that will be achieved:
If, say, factory, F, can make n Widgets per 8 hour day, and worker/engineer, W, comes up with a technological or work-method improvement that will enable factory F to make n Widgets per 6 hour day, then (unlike at present) this will reduce the working week by 10 hours (with no loss of pay), as opposed to making k workers redundant (in that factory, or in other factories).
Economic advance, in every area, will therefore be aimed at reducing the working week as opposed to cutting wages, making workers redundant, or undercutting competitors in order to secure higher profits — but, there won't be any competitors since every economic unit will share this common goal, reducing the working week.
This will in turn mean that technological and other innovations will be freely shared, not regarded as 'industrial secrets', as they are at present. Such developments won't be resisted, as is often the case under capitalism, they will be welcomed, and those introducing them will be regarded as heroes, not villains, as happens now.
So, the pressure in society won't be to hoard knowledge and
keep it secret, but to open it up, and make it freely available. The only
competition in society will be to see who can come up with the next big idea,
the next big technological advance, the next refinement in the work process,
that will shorten the working week. Every other economic unit will no longer be
viewed as a threat but as an ally. The same will be true of every other country,
so there will be no international rivalry, and hence no wars.
Shortening the working week will, plainly, free up time so that vastly more individuals will be able to educate themselves to whatever level they want, and in whatever subject they desire, thus filling the ranks with countless individuals committed to the above innovations — technologists, designers, computer scientists. Others will be able to devote time to the arts, science, exploration, tourism, photography, medicine, etc., etc., most of which areas are now largely confined to, or monopolised by, the rich or those patronised by the wealthy. This will create a truly massive pool of creativity, not just in technology, but in ‘pure research’, design and the arts, music, communication, and entertainment, easily the greatest increase in all of human history.
Furthermore, human potential won’t be squandered or wasted as it is now (for example, at present 29,000 children under the age of five die each day from preventable causes; quite apart from its immorality and the untold misery and suffering it causes, what a massive waste of human potential this is alone! — that won’t happen under socialism), so the pool of human creativity will grow exponentially.
Goal: Reduce child mortality
Nor will trillions of dollars be wasted each year on useless weapons of death:
$1,570,000,000,000: how much the world spent on arms this year
Or on marketing and advertising, etc., areas of employment that only make sense in a capitalist world founded on competition, and hence on massive waste.
As production becomes more efficient, and the working week has been shortened dramatically, workers can be transferred to other sectors of industry, or to other jobs, so that the whole economy benefits from reductions in the working week elsewhere. This will mean that, say, 'less pleasant' jobs will also see a significant reduction in the working week as more workers are co-opted to work there (this will be done under local democratic control, by agreement, not coercion), which in turn will mean that if worker, NN, works in, say, waste disposal, he/she will find that job much less onerous and unpleasant if they only have to spend half a day a week, or less, doing it, without loss of pay.
So, under socialism, full employment will in the end mean a couple of hours a week, or less, for everybody (except in very specialised areas, like surgery, much of which will be largely under computer control, anyway), and the implementation of a truly self-developmental and leisure society for the first time in human history.
Contrary to what some think (mostly anti-communists ignorant of Marxism), this won’t be a Utopia. That is because, even though those who do the work will be in control of society, humanity will face many problems, some of which they won’t be able to solve or solve fully, So, this won’t be a perfect society (a “workers’ paradise”), but it will be one in which ordinary people democratically make the decisions, and they will do so in their favour — not the elite who currently make such decisions in their favour.
Having said that, it is important to distinguish two basic forms of socialism:
1) 'Socialism from above',
2) 'Socialism from below'.
The first form seeks to bring ‘socialism’ to the mass of the population, whether they want it or not. It is imposed from above by politicians, bureaucrats, and technocrats, as its name suggests. This approach has been adopted by various political movements, including Stalinism, Maoism, Castroism, Chavezism (as we have seen in Venezuela) —in other words, all forms of communism since the late 1920s — Social Democracy [SD], and conspiratorial Blanquism. Often, the population acquiesce to this form of socialism (voluntarily or forcibly), and they might even elect and welcome it at first, until they find it doesn't work. However, this form of socialism leaves the mass of the population passive and unchanged — except where they are allowed, in some cases, to vote every now and then, or they are required to provide cannon fodder in defence of this new form of the state —, and, as such, they remain a constant threat to the new ruling class that has been formed as a result (as indeed we saw in Russia, E Europe, China, N Korea, and Cuba).
Blanquism - Wikipedia
That is because 'Socialism from above' either (i) leaves the class structure of society unchanged (as is the case with SD), or (ii) it introduces a new ruling elite (as was the case with Communism) -- but, in both cases, the mass of the population remains exploited and/or oppressed for their pains.
[Many confuse this statist or ‘corporatist’ form of
‘socialism’ — whereby the state owns all, most or some of the means of
production (factories, mines, transport systems, services, etc.) — with Marxism.
They will struggle long and hard and to no avail to find anything in Marx’s
writings (published or unpublished) that confirms such a gross distortion of his
Every time this form of socialism has been tried it has failed, or is now failing, and that because (iii) in the case of SD, the rich and powerful will always fight it, try to strangle it to death, manoeuvre or force it to compromise what few principles it has left so that it gradually becomes a pale reflection of those parties and social forces that genuinely, and openly, represent the interests of the ruling elite — that is, until they resemble to some extent Conservative and Right-wing parties — as we have repeatedly seen in the USA, much of Europe, S America, etc., etc. So, SD doesn't change society in any fundamental way, and leaves class division (and hence the rich and powerful) securely in place. More often then not it puts the interests of the top 10% ahead of the 90%, throwing the latter a few crumbs from time to time.
[This is one of the reasons for the rise of populism in the US and across Europe, of late, as the mass of the population becomes disillusioned with the various forms of SD and ‘liberal democracy’ on offer.]
(iv) On the other hand, Communist regimes leave the capitalist world largely intact, isolating themselves from the international division of labour, which in the long run renders their economies inefficient and totally incapable of competing with the rest of the world. In which case, they are doomed to fail.
As Engels, Lenin and Trotsky argued, socialism can't be
created in a sea of capitalism, and any attempt to do so will always flounder.
The second form of socialism, 'Socialism from below', represents Marx, Lenin and Trotsky’s view. It involves the great mass of the population creating a socialist society for themselves, not waiting for anyone, or any party, to do it for them. In such a society the means of production will be collectively owned, not by the state, but by the workers themselves.
This form of socialism has to spread (to see how that happens follow the above link) — taking over the core economies of capitalism so that it can't be strangled in the above manner — as the proletariat of each country rebel. We aren't talking about invasion here; an invasion by an external socialist country won't change the working class of the country invaded in the required manner -- they have to change themselves in their own way, by their own revolution. They have to learn to take charge of their own lives and their own society, not leave it to someone else to do it for them. Each strike, for example, is a mini-rehearsal for this (whether those taking part realise it or not), where workers have to organise in their own communities and share money, clothing, food, shelter, etc., etc. In effect they have to run a mini-socialist society for a few weeks or months.
Capitalism is now so integrated, that a crisis anywhere will spread internationally, as we saw in the 1930s, and ten years ago in the financial near meltdown. In that case, a revolution prompted by such a crisis will be international, too.
As Marx argued, the system has created its own ‘grave-diggers’. For the first time in human history, the proletariat (the working class under capitalism) is the largest class on the planet, with over 1.5 billion members — much more if we include family members.
Some might claim this is a pipe dream, but we have already seen dozens of such revolutions in the last hundred years (again, follow the above link for more details).
This is a basic fact SD, Stalin, Mao, Castro and all the rest who advocate socialism from above, have failed to grasp, so determined were they to impose ‘socialism’ on other countries, or, indeed, on their own people.
As noted earlier, because the mass of the population has to refashion society in their own interests and by their own efforts, they transform themselves as a result, learning to run society by and for themselves, thus ending class division, and hence the class war. That is because, for the first time in human history, those who do the work will make the decisions. If they succeed, humanity can advance; if they don't, humanity faces barbarism. [Again, follow the above link for the reason why.]
This form of socialism hasn't been tried anywhere yet, and no one knows if it will work. But, there are good reasons to suppose it will (as the above indicates).
More details here:
How Marxism Works
Whenever I post anything about Marx, Marxism, communism, or socialism, right-wing Quorans pile into me about the ‘evils of communism’, as if I haven’t heard this a thousand times already, or as if they were the very first to make that point. In order to forestall the seemingly inevitable, and to save me having to make the same points over and over again in response, such irate individuals are encouraged to follow the above links for my pre-emptive answer.
Abusive Quorans and time-wasters will have their posts deleted and will be blocked. I am tired of being patient with such individuals and with having to be all sweetness and light in return.
Some complain that this is censorship; it isn't. It is to remind such individuals that if they can't be bothered to read and then reply to my actual arguments (follow the links above), they can't expect me to listen to them in return.
Those who want to be civil and argue like grown-ups will, of course, be listened to.
I don't issue second warnings.