Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The way we live today (1981)

From the May 1981 issue of the Socialist Standard

The name of the present worldwide social system we all live under is capitalism. It operates in every country all over the globe without exception, including USA, Russia, Britain. Egypt, China. Everywhere. It has many glaring contradictions: rich alongside poor, desperate poverty alongside immense luxury, starvation alongside good food being deliberately destroyed; suffering and painful illness alongside advanced medical treatment which is ready and available but which people have not the money to pay for. And many more examples that can quickly come to mind after a little thought.

It is the capitalist system itself that is the basic cause of nearly all the problems human beings face all over the world: homelessness, misery, mental illness, violence, greed, envy, general dissatisfaction and war. No one person or group of persons is at fault for this however. No blame can he attached to individuals personally. It is neither the rich man’s fault nor the poor man's fault. It is the fault of the system itself.

Capitalism has evolved out of past systems over thousands of years. But now we have reached a point in history' where the vast majority of the human race, as as whole, must consciously organise itself to alter the whole basic structure or things will continue as they are, and quite possibly get even worse, so bad in fact that whole sections of the human race could be wiped out.

The crux of the problem revolves around ownership. But not just personal ownership on a small scale, like one person owning a coat or a washing machine or a car. These are relatively unimportant. The problem is larger, yet quite simple to see. In other words we are talking about the ownership of factories, transport, offices, mines, machines, tools, energy resources, raw materials. And we all depend on these means for food, clothes, warmth, shelter, travel and entertainment. in short, we depend on them for life itself.

The problem at present lies in the fact that these means —which we all need to live — are owned and controlled by a small minority of the world’s population, which means that the rest the vast majority are dependent for their livelihood on this minority. Yet it is the vast majority — those who have no alternative but to work for a living — who actually produce, organise, build, administer, provide services and distribute all the wealth but who can only obtain limited access to whatever is produced; while the small minority — who do not hare to work for a living — have access to virtually anything and are able as a result to live in comfort and often in great luxury, simply because they own the means that produce the wealth.

The world is split, basically, into two sections. The vast majority, who are the working class, and the small minority, who are the capitalist class. This is not to say that one class are good people and the other class are bad. Being good or had does not come into it. We are talking about a factual economic situation, not an attitude. And the working class includes not only those engaged in actual production or manual labour but all those indirectly concerned as well. Therefore the working class includes, without exception, teachers, farm workers, factory workers, doctors, policemen, nurses, steel workers, firemen, dockers, managers, miners, salesmen, the armed forces, shop assistants, foremen, office staff. In fact, anyone who of necessity is in the position of having to work for a wage or salary, or who has to present themselves as available for work.

And no matter how high or low the wages are the situation is the same: the vast majority are forced to sell their only real possession, their physical and mental energies, their labour-power, in order to get the money to buy food, to pay rent or mortgages, for warmth, clothes, entertainment. and to care for their families. And they generally receive just sufficient to provide these needs they are constantly struggling to make ends meet, which in turn causes insecurity, anxiety, depression, envy, mental illness, greed and in many eases causes people to steal from and even to kill one another. It is the very fact that there is a money and wages system at all that is the problem.

And it is because of this wages and money system that there is a continuous conflict between the two economic classes, the small owning class and the large non-owning class: between, on the one hand, the owners, whose aim must always be to create more profits so as to continue to live in comfort and security, and on the other hand, the working people, who in turn are always struggling to improve, and in most cases simply to maintain their own standard of living. Trade unions, strikes, lock-outs, go slows, works to rule, overtime bans — all these are clear indications of this struggle. Even those in “professional", administrative and office occupations are also clearly involved in this struggle. And do not fall into the trap — as some falsely do — of thinking that these people, belong in some separate section called the “middle class”. There is in real terms no such thing as the “middle class”. Anyone who has to work for a living, whatever their job, is a member of the working class and cannot escape this continuous struggle, unless of course they are lucky enough to win a tremendous amount of money on a lottery or the football pools, which is about as likely as being struck by lightning.

But this struggle is not essentially about the division of wealth. It is not about sharing out wealth and money more evenly. It concerns instead the very ownership and control of the means that produce the wealth. And for so long as one section owns and the other does not, then there will always be this conflict. And all governments in all countries have  no option, whatever they try to do to even things out, but to act on behalf of the small owning section. Profits and wages are exactly the opposite of each other. An increase in one is exactly a decrease in the other: hence the never-ending antagonism between the working class and the capitalist class. Therefore all governments have no option but to continue — whatever they claim to the contrary — the unequal and divisive capitalist system of production, which also leads to conflict and wars between other countries.

But there is a way out of this predicament. It is this:

The only way of resolving this difference of interests is to do away with this out-dated capitalist system under which this perpetual antagonism is bound to exist. This is not a naive, unrealistic utopian dream. It is entirely practical and is the only realistic alternative. Only the global abolition of capitalism will suffice. All attempts to tamper with individual effects of this system have always failed and always will rail. Capitalism's economic laws make it impossible for it to work in the mutual interests of all. It has to be completely abolished and completely replaced with a better system whereby all human needs will be catered for, whereby food is produced to be eaten, houses to be lived in, where everyone will stand equal in relation to the wealth human beings produce, whereby goods are produced solely for social use. a system of society which is based on the total common ownership of the means of living, and whereby everything in society is controlled democratically by and in the interests of the whole worldwide population.

This will mean the freedom of all people, regardless of colour, sex or place- of-birth. There will be no need for money, wages, buying and selling, since everyone will be able to take quite freely of anything that is readily available. The best will be available to all, since only the best possible will be produced. There will be no wars since all wars are economic wars No boundaries or rival countries to overthrow or dispossess. No poverty, no economic stress, no homeless, no exploitation. no drudgery at boring, useless, profit-making jobs. Each will have the opportunity to do whatever is suitable to their own personal satisfaction and for the good of society as a whole — all quite voluntarily. Jobs such as banking, accounting, selling, insurance, ticket-collecting, will disappear There will be no leaders, no governments over people, simply an efficient and humane administration of things in general, whereby society as a whole democratically makes its own decisions and controls its own at affairs for the good of one and for the good of all. The public power of force and the protection of private property and the government which operate it will have no place when all that is in and on the earth is owned in common.
Paul Breeze

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