A reader recently asked: “I thought socialists stood for the abolition of all private property. Does that mean you would take away my family home? And what about my phone or my bike, would those things be state owned under socialism?”
This is another myth pushed by opponents of socialism in an attempt to discredit the idea of a world where the wealth we create is shared more equally. Socialists draw a clear distinction between personal possessions and the private ownership of the means of production – the instruments and the materials used to produce things.
When the founder of scientific socialism, Karl Marx, talked about “abolishing private property” he was talking about the private ownership of the factories, the offices, the banks etc, not personal property like a phone, bike or even a home.
Capitalist ideologues pretend that their system protects private property but really its designed to protect the private ownership of the means of production. This is the type of private property that is used to exploit people and create profits.
For example, when many of the world’s banks failed during the global financial crisis, billions of dollars of public money was used to bail them out. But when tens of thousands of people lost their jobs and couldn’t pay their mortgage because of the crash, they were turfed out of their homes. There was no concern for people’s private property then.
In reality, because workers’ wages are often not enough to buy all the personal possessions we need, a lot of the things we consider our own property are bought on credit. Really, they are owned by the banks.
The vast bulk of humanity owns very little and is forced to sell its labour power in order to survive. The minority capitalist class own the means of production and use them to exploit us – i.e. to pay us less wealth than we create.
In the Communist Manifesto Marx wrote: “You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths. You reproach us, therefore, with intending to do away with a form of property, the necessary condition for whose existence is the non-existence of any property for the immense majority of society.”
Marx talked about ‘bourgeois property relations’ and highlighted the hypocrisy of the capitalists. He noted that property relations have regularly changed over time. For example, feudal property was abolished in favour of bourgeois property when capitalism was ushered in after the French revolution. New laws were then invented to formalise this new set up.
There also wasn’t much concern for ‘property rights’ when the British empire invaded Australia and stole an entire continent from the Indigenous people. The capitalist class only defend property rights when it suits their profit interests.
A socialist society would put an end to the private ownership of the means of production by bringing all the big corporations into public ownership, under democratic control. The key parts of the economy would be in state hands but we would have no interest in the state ownership of personal possessions.
On the basis of public ownership, a plan to produce things for need rather than profits could be introduced. The wealth we create could then be shared more equally and our living standards could be lifted. Everyone would be afforded a decent standard of living.
This would include the right to a decent home and all the conveniences of modern life. In fact, ordinary people would actually have access to more personal possessions, and we wouldn’t need to be in debt to the banks.
In other words, your personal property would be much safer under socialism than it is today!
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