In a socialist society the means of production are owned by the workers rather than by a rich minority of capitalists or functionaries. Such a system of ownership is both collective and individual in nature. It is collective because society can control production unlike the economic anarchy of capitalism and because production is for the common good rather than for individual profit. At the same time it is individual because workers are no longer a ‘collective’ mob of alienated non-owners employed by a minority of owners.
Work becomes a free and elf-affirming activity for each worker and they receive the full fruits of their labor. The capitalists and their servants no longer control production nor grow rich from other’s toil. Everybody is an owner. Socialism is genuine free enterprise. The personally empowering and cooperative nature of socialist ownership underpins similar changes in other aspects of life. Socialism means far healthier individuals and human relationships. It means full participation by each individual in the intellectual, cultural and political life of society.
Socialism requires a revolution with hree main stages: firstly the emergence of a workers’ movement committed to socialist revolution, secondly the achievement of political power and the expropriation of the capitalists and thirdly a period during which workers learn how to be owners and rulers and cast off the psychological and ideological dross of the past. Socialism will not be an utopia simply created in people’s minds. It will be the product of economic and social development.
In developed countries it is now possible for everyone to live a reasonably affluent life and be free of long hours of routine toil. This creates a better basis for cooperation and mutual regard. Historically, where equality would have meant shared poverty, it was inevitable that a minority would plunder, enslave and exploit the majority. At the same time rank and file workers are progressively acquiring through their experiences, the abilities to do without an elite. Their general level of education and training has advanced significantly over the last couple of generations.
The work they do, while still totally oppressive, has an increasingly mental and conceptual content. And they now have extensive access to ultural and intellectual resources and the diverse experiences of living in a modern society. So while socialism was impossible in the past, these emerging conditions make it inevitable in the future. One will recall from the “Aquinas” document that Aquinas added some new dimensions to such ideas as wealth, trade, and the taking of interest. Wealth was no longer “unjust” if that wealth was used to maintain one’s station in life.
Interest could be taken if the lender could prove that he had suffered some loss, or if it could be shown that the borrower was a higher then normal risk. This amendment to the idea of usury is how many of us think of interest, it is a payment to a lender because there is a chance that the borrower will not be pay off the loan. Trade was looked down upon by Aristotle and Plato, but Aquinas recognized that trade was not “bad”, although he did say that it would be easy for a trader to abuse the system to gain great amounts of wealth.
One other point about Aquinas that I would like to comment on is the way in which his thinking about the complimentarily of faith and reason is evidenced in his idea about usury. Aquinas believed that faith informed people that the taking of interest was “wrong”. The Bible claims that it is “wrong” to take interest, hence one should not take interest. But Aquinas believed that faith claims could be further justified by reason. Aquinas then takes up the Aristotlelian argument that the taking of interest is “wrong” because money is only a store of value, that it is “unnatural” for money to be able to create more money.
So here we can see that Aquinas was able to justify faith by the use of reason. One last point about Aquinas interests me very much. Marco Polo and his father eft Venice to go to the Orient in 1271. (Boorstin 139) Aquinas died in 1274. How much of what Aquinas wrote was an influence upon his times, or how much was it a statement of what men were beginning to accomplish? In other words, did Aquinas state what was occurring, or did his writting influence the times to such a degree that men would start to act upon it even before his death?
The Polo’s returned to Venice in 1295 bringing with them a small portion of the many things that they had seen on their travels. Another important point that would help to bring about the developments of apitalism was the slow, but steady death of the power of the Catholic church. This had two impacts. First, it reinforced the nationalistic sentiments that were beginning to emerge at this time, and second it broke the Catholic church’s stronghold on religion in Europe. As early as 1380 John Wycliffe had translated the Latin Vulgate into English.
Why do we see this desire to have the Bible presented in such a way as to allow “regular” people to be able to read it, realizing that “regular people” would refer to those rich enough to be able to afford the translation and those who would have the ability to ead? One possible explanation as to why we see the advance of nationalism is that during the Crusades, which brought together a large number of different Europeans, those people who spoke the same language, or came from the same regions would naturally bing together.
One cannot follow someone into battle if one has no idea what they are saying. Hence, Englishmen became just that–Englishmen. When they returned back to England it may have been harder for them to think of themselves as being tied to a lord of the manor. Wycliffe’s translatation then would help to further the idea of ationalism, it would help to further solidify a movement that had already began. When men like Wycliffe began to translate the Bible into the language of the people we see a beginning to the end of the Catholic church’s power over religion.
Men began to read the Bible and interpret what the read, and often times what they thought the Bible said was often very different from the official Church position. Hence someone like Luther reads the Bible and sees that salvation is accomplished by faith and not through penance or other good works. The Church, it seems, realized that reading the Bible could have important consequences. They told Luther to “…let the Bible alone; read the old teachers…”.
This new reading of the Bible was supported by rulers who either believed that Luther was right, or who saw an opportunity to advance their own goals. The birth of nationalism and the decline of the power of the Catholic Church help to bring about the advent of monarchs. This is not to say that kings and queens did not exist before this time, but it is to say that the “old” monarchs would do the biding of the Church, while the “new” monarchs were not bound to do as the Pope said. This helps to bring about a new economic system–Mercantilism.