The significance of the socialist revolution consists in this; that the workday for the average person will gradually shrink, and they will thus be free in the real sense of the word to turn their attention to all of the various activities that round out the human as a species. They would become more involved in art and craft, science, and government, socializing and recreation. Governmental bureaucrats, as a specialized segment of the population occupying a privileged position vis-à-vis the people, will no longer exist. A division of labor on that model will be a hindrance to society since, if a small minority alone governs, they will eventually rule in their own interest. Everyone will rotate through the government so no one will be a bureaucrat. The institution will lose its current odious flavor. Human inventive genius will be given the actual opportunity to work to its full creative potential.
We live in a capitalist system, the last form of a class divided society with an exploitive system of social relations the earth will ever see. The reason we work so hard is that the capitalists lash us to produce more and more, but our meager paychecks can hardly purchase all the things we need. In other words, we live in a society of “relative abundance.” This is opposed to earlier epochs in society such as the hunter-gatherer stage where people lived in a situation of “absolute scarcity.” Famine was a threat. This is why such people, when they could, began to develop the productive forces. They began to plant their crops, and domesticate their animals so as to have a reliable source of food instead of relying on the uncertainty of nature’s bounty. Scientists have given a name to this period and it is called the Neolithic revolution. This happened all over the world with peoples that had no contact with one another, from China to the Middle East, and Latin America. The Neolithic Revolution is the most important revolution in human history. With this buffer against raw nature thus created, humans entered into a situation known as “relative scarcity.” Absolute scarcity was the way of life by far during most of history. Only recently did we crawl out of complete poverty to a semi-civilized economic base.
The other economic systems that preceded the capitalist system, including slave societies and feudalism, forced the majority to work extremely hard for the minority, but they did it in special ways.
The reason that there is a ruling class, a special privileged elite that directs society, is rooted in production itself. The peoples that had begun to produce their goods, plants and animals, versus simply foraging for them, began to produce more than they immediately needed. This surplus was then centralized by the venerated people of the time, such as priests or other religious figures. The priests were everywhere with the free time and education necessary to begin centralizing this surplus and overseeing further production. This was not a wholly a bad thing. As always, this was a contradictory process. They developed an ideology that allowed them to use and abuse their position, as frequently happens when some have a monopoly on culture. On the other hand, they developed science and philosophy that were able to elevate society’s productive capacity as well as people’s intellectual abilities. We would be nowhere intellectually without their pioneering work!
In order to get to the relatively free and prosperous society that we currently have we had to evolve through other, nastier forms of class society. The first of them was slave society. Slaves are owned, body and soul, by a master who collects the products of their labor. Slavery can either be mild, if it’s for a simple master, or it can be harsh if the slaves are producing goods to be sold on the market, like the southern United States before the Civil War.
Out of the decline of the slave society based in Greece and the Roman Empire, Western Europe advanced to feudalism. Rising up through the various economic stages of society is never exactly a straightforward linear process. There is forward movement, stagnation, backward lapses, with forward leaps going on all the time. Feudalism was characterized by serfs who were not owned in body, but they were tied to the land and had to give a fixed amount of their goods to a feudal lord, who in turn provided protection, somewhat like the mafia. And it’s out of the feudal system that the germs of capitalism were created which then grew to be so powerful that the capitalists overthrew the feudalists and created a world in their own image.
It is important to really understand the anatomy of the economic foundation of society, because it’s the development of production that is the key to the development of society. On a certain level of production with certain relations of production there evolves ideology and governments that are constantly changing. The ruling class is the ruling class because they are in a sense “trustees” of that mode of production and are thus indispensable as long as their mode of production results in economic growth. Slave owners manage slave production, and capitalists manage capitalist production.
This is a key point because many people believed that the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union was an exploiting class. But exploiting classes have a scientifically defined mission, which is indispensable for a period of time. The Stalinist bureaucracy was a parasitic brake on the Soviet workers’ state. They had no mission other than promoting their own self-interests. The real success of the planned economy was that it was so powerful that it worked in spite of the gangsters who held society in their grasp through the regime of repression. This was not socialism since the productive forces were still primitive compared to those of western capitalism and it lacked democracy; rather it was a mockery of the notion of socialism. But the dramatic growth produced by a planned economy does show the potential that could be achieved in a society democratically controlled by workers. And the downfall of the Soviet Union shows irrefutably that an uncontrolled bureaucracy is not compatible with the planned economy. The communist society will not have classes. And that is the significance of the socialist revolution.