workers councils and democracy?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sat Aug 19 06:57:00 MDT 2000

I want to remind Norman and other subscribers that the question of human
nature is dealt with on the faq. I encourage him and others to
review it.

What about human nature?

The people who argue that "you can’t change human nature" make the mistake
of assuming that because man behaves in a certain way in capitalist
society, therefore that’s the nature of human beings, and no other behavior
is possible. They see that in capitalist society man is acquisitive, his
motive is one of selfish greed and of getting ahead by any means, fair or
foul. They conclude therefrom, that this is "natural" behavior for all
human beings and that it is impossible to establish a society based on
anything except a competitive struggle for private profit.

The anthropologists say, however, that this is nonsense—and prove it by
citing this, that, and the other society now in existence where man’s
behavior isn’t anything like what it is under capitalism. And they are
joined by the historians who say also that the argument is nonsense—and
prove it by citing slave society and feudalism where man’s behavior wasn’t
anything like what it is under capitalism.

It is probably true that all human beings are born with the instinct of
self-preservation and reproduction. Their need for food, clothing, shelter,
and sexual love is basic. That much, it may be admitted, is "human nature."
But the way they go about satisfying these desires is not necessarily the
way that is common in capitalist society—it depends, rather, on the way
suited to the particular culture they are born into. If the basic needs of
man can be satisfied only by knocking the other fellow down, then we can
assume that human beings will knock each other down; but if the basic needs
of man can be better satisfied by cooperation, then it is also safe to
assume that human beings will cooperate.

Man’s self-interest is expressed in his desire for more and better food,
clothing, and shelter, in his passion for security. When he learns that
these needs cannot be satisfied for all under capitalism as well as they
can under socialism, he will make the change.

Huberman and Sweezy, "Introduction to Socialism," Monthly Review

Louis Proyect
Marxism mailing list:

More information about the Marxism mailing list