Socialism, like capitalism, is bigger than just the economy. It dictates how we live and what sort of society we want. Socialism is not just capitalism turned upside down; it’s about changing society.
Capitalism works from the top down, and socialism must work from the bottom up. Socialism must reach into the heart of society to help tap into humanity’s potential and reveal its better qualities. We must replace society’s capitalist ills with a constructive and empathetic human society. We can do this by working with people in the real world to bring about change, whether big or small.
We need to include everyone in this vision – whatever their class, gender, race or nationality. We need to change the state’s structure so that it is fair and equal for all, not only for those with resources or money. We must modernise and democratise our institutions and reform the government to work for the people not the market. Governments should fear the people that vote for them; that is the purpose of democracy. We should govern the state – not be governed by it.
As well as the state, socialism will also have to reform society. This can be done by fighting for causes that are close to you, either in your heart or geographically. Solidarity is the first and most vital step. By joining a party – or group – and talking to people about voting, you are making a small change to a system that runs on people’s need to work and consume.
If we don’t change this system, then it will kill the planet and take us with it. We cannot allow this to happen. The far right claim to be against the system, but they support it and have no solutions.
Socialism offers a message of hope. Equality is one of most common ideals that socialists share. Whereas socialists disagree on how the economy should be run or what services the government should provide, we do want to transform society to ensure that social inequality and the exploitation of workers is minimal, and eventually non-existent.
A brilliant example of this comes from Bill Bryson’s book Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe, in which Bryson, arriving in Denmark, sees a teenager on the floor who is obviously intoxicated. Bryson wonders what will happen as the crowds gather round and the police turn up. He sees the police helping the boy up and putting him in the back of their car. He enquires what will happen to him. To our author’s surprise, he’s told they are taking the boy home to his parents. They are not arresting him.
Bryson’s reaction is vivid and warm. This really gives you an idea of the level of harmony in more socialist societies. Obviously, they are not perfect. People get treated badly by their boss, and women still get wolf-whistled in the street, but it is a more humane society. So much so that, in 2013, 19 Danish prisons were closed and five more were due to be shut down in 2017, due to the decline in inmates. There has been a steady decline in crime since 2004. This wasn’t because everyone was nice, but due to the approach that society had taken: rehabilitation over punishment and relaxed laws in relation to drugs.
There are also lower fewer health and social care problems in Denmark, as well as higher levels of empathy and happiness. Denmark is often ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world.
Socialism means a society of solidarity, that shows empathy towards other humans.
Edward Lawrence is the author of Basic Socialism: Why Socialism is Sexy Now in paperback and ebook from here