Friday, September 2, 2016

Against capitalism's wars (1980)

Editorial from the June 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard

It does not need a detailed knowledge of modern war to be able to discern, in the present unstable international situation, some ominous parallels with the past.

There is, to begin with, the presence of oil—a vital mineral with its processing points and the trade routes to connect these with the markets. These things have been negotiated over, and fought over, for a very long time. The overriding interests concerned are those of the super powers—in this case America and Russia but with others such as Britain and China taking sides as they see their interests dictate.

Then there are the peripheral elements. As in 1914 and again in 1939 there are leaders on both sides who are represented as bogy-men. These people are used by the propaganda machines to induce a war hysteria among their people. In America, the Ayatollah Khomeini now occupies the role of the ruthless megalomaniac that was previously taken by the Kaiser, then Hitler, then Stalin. To the fanatical students of Iran, Carter is the embodiment of all the world’s possible evils. On both sides, workers are declaring their readiness to die to rid the world of the enemy's villain.

Keeping this hysteria on the boil are the incidents, some of more importance than others, that again are exploited by the propaganda machines in their own, selective way. To the west, the Russian move into Afghanistan was the intolerable rape of a small, peaceful, independent state. To the Russians, it was a necessary succour of a people threatened by the depradations of a counter-revolution. The hostages in the embassies in Tehran and in London have been similarly treated, cynically used to agitate the hysteria to fever pitch. Like the Hitler Youth, like the Kamikaze pilots, many Iranians now openly express their desire to die for their ruling class, comforted by the assurances of their religious leaders that a martyr for Islam goes straight to heaven.

This war fever is ugly, not just for itself but also for what it- springs from. Once again the world is in balance—after all the past assurances that capitalism could solve the problem of war with a little more good intention, a few more patient and skilful diplomats. This has happened many times, since the massive blood-letting of 1939/45 brought what has been described as peace. In 1948, in the dispute over Berlin, the two power blocs seemed likely to take the conflict onto the battlefield. The crisis over Cuba in 1962, when the world seemed to have no tomorrow, is fresh in many memories. Do we now have the elements of a similar conflict—in, say, Yugoslavia, where the death of Tito may be the occasion for the Russians to enforce a military remedy to this longstanding irritant to their East European design? 

The Middle East is a sensitive spot because of the presence there of the great oil fields, on whose produce depend many of the industrial states of modern capitalism. But that is only part of the story; why, we should ask ourselves, should the world fight—even contemplate destroying itself—over a mineral which has so vital a role to play in its efficient working? If oil is essential to modern society, why can’t it be freely available to all?

The answer is to be found in the basis of the society which we live in. Capitalism is a social system which by its nature prohibits co-operation; free access to its wealth goes against its basic principles. It is a system in which the means of production and distribution are monopolised by a minority and used to produce articles for sale on a market with a view to profit. In order to make profit those articles have to be marketed in competition with those of rivals. It is this competition that leads to war in the modern world: in the last resort capitalism’s trade struggles to acquire or defend markets, territories rich in minerals and other resources and exploitable populations—and the trading routes to connect these—lead to armed conflict.

Although these struggles are carried on between rival groups of capitalists, they need to persuade the other class in society the working class actually to prosecute the struggle. It was workers who endured the mud and the slaughter of 1914/18; it was workers who died in the great battles of Europe and the Far East, and in the air raids of 1939/45. If there is a Third World War, it will again be workers who will suffer, who will be maimed and shattered and who—and perhaps in a nuclear war they will be the lucky ones—die in the fireball.

Yet there are no working class interests involved in the struggle. It is of no account to American or Russian workers who controls and exploits the oil of the Middle East, for whichever group of capitalists win the workers lose; their exploitation and poverty continue. Such is the evidence of history, of our own experience, of the millions who have died in the delusion that a better, safer world would emerge. 

For the people who fight them, the wars of capitalism are a futile shedding of much blood. There is a greater task awaiting them: the abolition of capitalism and its replacement by a socialist society, in which the means of life will be the property of all. Socialism will be a co-operative society in which everyone will stand equally and there will be free access to the world’s wealth. It will be the constructive society. It is the only struggle worthy of working class energy—even of their sacrifice.

What is behind the Naval Conference? (1930)

From the February 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

At the moment of writing the stage is being prepared for the Five-Power Naval Conference, whose object is to solve the problem that could not be solved at the 1927 Geneva Conference.

What is this problem? To those who have not given much thought to it, the problem appears to be the question of the peace of the world, and this view is supported by the frequent references in newspapers, pamphlets and books, to the "spirit of peace," the “spirit of humanity," the “spirit of the Kellogg Pact,” and various other spineless spirits. Now one can hardly attribute any of these forms of “ spiritualism" to governments who are prepared to use the latest forms of warfare against striking workers; and who are prepared, as in England, to allow the bulk of the workers in a dying industry, the coal industry, to starve or depend upon individual charity.

In fact, the problem is not the peace of the world but an attempt to set a limit to the ruinous expenditure upon armaments. A writer in the “Sunday Times” for January 19th put the problem in a nutshell when he wrote : “Good will come out of the Conference if only in the Budgets of the nations.”

The naval armament position is similar to the military and aerial. It is a race between attacking and defensive forces.

A hundred years ago the warship was a wooden vessel propelled by the wind and armed with a quantity of small cannon. The projectiles fired by these cannon could have been carried about by the crew. The cost of such men-of-war was so small that they could be built and fitted out by private people. The increase in cost came with the increase in weight and explosive power of the projectile. This brought with it necessary improvements in the construction of ships to withstand the shock of firing and also improvements in defensive armour to resist the enemy’s fire.

Towards the end of the Crimean War the ironclad warship was devised, driven by steam. At first it was slow and clumsy and the iron plates were only a few inches thick, though this was quite sufficient to resist the projectiles of the times. The wealth and science of each nation was then called upon in the headlong race to produce a navy capable of holding the sea against all others. As wealth and scientific knowledge grew, the expenditure upon naval armaments grew even more tremendous and the giant battleship was still supreme.

By the end of the last century the wealthiest nations had succeeded in building floating castles that cost millions of pounds to construct and keep in fighting condition. Steam drove them, steered them, raised and lowered the boats, and accomplished many other feats formerly done by the unaided hands. Their armour plate was several feet thick; their heavy guns weighed over two hundred tons each, and they hurled projectiles over two thousand pounds in weight to tremendous distances. At the outbreak of the war in 1914 one of these heavy guns could fire at and hit a target' over twenty miles away.

But still the building of heavier armed and more expensive ships goes on, with oil as the motive power. Improvement proceeds at such a rate that a battleship is rendered obsolete almost as soon as it leaves the slips. Each capitalist nation, therefore, sees with agony a huge part of its wealth going into the bottomless pit of battleship building, and is looking in every direction for some means to end the increasing drain on profits.

In the meantime a fresh war horror had come into existence at the end of last century—the submarine. Its early growth was a subject for curiosity and schoolboy tales. Then 1914 finally demonstrated the value of the submarine and small fast war craft, and showed that the battleship was little more than a white elephant, the torpedo found the weak spots in everything.

Towards the end of the war, yet another and more efficient arm was added to the Navy as a defence against the submarine, and that was the aircraft carrying torpedoes and bombs. The submarine was slow, but it was invisible, and herein lay its strength. The aeroplane high up can “spot” a submarine at the lowest depth it can safely sail. On top of this, submarine building has become more costly as the submarines have grown larger and more heavily armed. France has just completed a submarine vessel of 3,000 tons—a small battleship, the cost of which was over a million pounds.

The latest improvement in the aeroplane is direction by wireless. By this means an aeroplane carrying gas bombs and torpedoes can cruise over a wide area dealing death in all directions while its operators remain practically immune from damage. So we may now expect a further development to meet and render useless this latest weapon of horror. Where will it all end? The capitalist can see no end but the continued production of ever more terrible means of causing destruction. He is not concerned with the scrapping of implements of war, but only with decreasing their cost.

So, finally, the high ideals of the Naval Conference are really £ s. d., and have as much concern for real warfare of humanity as the capitalist has for the general welfare of his wage slaves. This was made perfectly clear in one of the resolutions of the League of Nations Economic Conference at Geneva in May, 1927, which affirmed :—
The world as a whole still devotes considerable sums to armaments and to preparations for war, which reduce the savings available for the development of industry, commerce, and agriculture, and are a heavy burden upon the finances of the different States, entailing heavy taxation, which reacts upon their whole economic life and lowers their standard of living.
—("The Economist Supplement,” 28/5/1927.)
It will be noticed that in all the official arguments on the question of armament, with the exception of Russia, there has been ho suggestion of the absolute abolition of all armaments—it has only been a question of limitation. And from the English side there has been no hint of limiting its most effective weapon—the bomb and torpedo-carrying aeroplane. This is significant of the ideas behind the talk—although we have a Labour Government!

There are, however, elements of humour in the situation, and one has been provided by the “New Leader” of January 17th. In its editorial columns we read:—
The memorandum signed by 77 Labour Members of Parliament! urging that the delegates of the Government at the Naval Conference should make the abolition! of battleships and warships over 10,000 tons one of the principal aims of their deliberation, has our heartiest approval.
What imbecility! One might as well urge that each ship should have one gun less. The net result of the adoption of this recommendation would simply be the setting of the problem to naval experts of making the 10,000-ton ship as destructive a weapon as the 20 or 25 thousand ton ship, and America has already demonstrated that it can be done. But apart from that side of the problem, what has become of the alleged peaceful aims of the I.L.P.? They approve a Memorandum which says : "One of the principal aims is to be limitation.” Has it not occurred to the I.L.P. that there is such a thing as total abolition?

But then, of course, the I.L.P., by its support of the Labour Party, anticipates the indefinite continuance of capitalists whose interests are at present being so well served by MacDonald, Thomas, Snowden & Co.

Armaments are the fighting power of the State and the State in the hands of those who resist Socialism is the bulwark of Capitalism. It, and its fighting forces will last as long as Capitalism lasts, because Capitalism signifies the existence of a subject class to be held in bondage.
Gilmac.


Labour Party's Main Plank Gone (1930)

Editorial from the January 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

The principle which above all distinguishes the Socialist Party from the Labour Party is our realisation that there are no short and easy cuts to Socialism.

Only a party whose members understand and want Socialism can work to that end, and the growth of such a party cannot proceed faster than the work of spreading socialist knowledge. It was in protest against the view we hold that the I.L.P. and the Labour Party were formed. They have always proclaimed their belief in the possibility of building up a party on a non-socialist basis, becoming the government of the country and introducing large measures of reform—old-age pensions, minimum wage acts and the like, and so retaining the support of the electors while leading them, almost without their knowledge, on the road to Socialism. The fallacy of that position, briefly stated, is that until we have Socialism, we shall continue to have Capitalism and Capitalism can be run only on Capitalist lines. You cannot retain capitalist private ownership and control, and yet administer the system in a way which will prevent it from producing its normal effects. You cannot have Capitalism without a subject class of wage and salary earners struggling incessantly against the pressure which tends to make them more insecure and badly paid, drives them to harder work and reduces them in greater numbers to unemployment. The success of their theory rests upon the ability of a Labour Government to satisfy the electors; but the electors will want the results which they were led to expect and the Government cannot deliver the goods. For years we have been told by Labour Party supporters (who had never tried to teach or even to understand Socialism) that the working class did not want Socialism, they wanted “something now." We return the jibe and ask when the Labour Government is going to give it to them. We were told that “half-a-loaf is better than no bread” and that the way to get Socialism is to build it up piecemeal, adding one gain to another until some day we shall wake up and find that Capitalism has imperceptibly changed into the co-operative commonwealth. One “ half-loaf " has already been delivered to the cotton workers by the Labour Government—a 6¼ per cent, reduction in pay instead of the 12½ per cent, asked for by the employers. May we ask how many such half-loaves will be required to produce Socialism?

Mr. J. H. Thomas, addressing the annual general meeting of the National Union of Railwaymen at Southampton, on July 5th of this year, threw overboard the main plank of his party's policy when he said:—
We ask you not to expect too much, nor attempt to force from us, because we are a Labour Government, what you would not force from a Capitalist Government.—(Daily Herald, 6th July, 1929.)
A few months before the Labour Government took office, Mr. Philip Snowden, now Chancellor of the Exchequer, wrote a pamphlet, “Wealth or Commonwealth," in which he stated his party's intentions. He wrote that
The taxation of the rich for the purposes of national reconstruction and for social reforms is a means of re-distributing the national income so as to lessen social evils and inequalities.—
(Quoted in the New Leader, 20th December.)
Qn October 24th Mr. Snowden returned to the subject in a speech at Sheffield, reported in the Manchester Guardian on October 25th. It will be noticed that Mr. Snowden administering Capitalism does not see eye, to eye with Mr. Snowden seeking non-Socialist votes. He stated on this occasion that he had no wish to extract from the Capitalist class concessions to improve the position of the workers.
The last thing a Chancellor of the Exchequer wants to do is to add to the burden of taxation, and this assurance at least I can give you, that, if I should be in the painful circumstances of having to do that it will be from sheer necessity and not with any desire to inflict new taxation upon what I have sometimes described as “the idle rich."—(Manchester Guardian, 25th October.)
Then Mr. J. H. Hudson, M.P., the Parliamentary Secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, writing in a Sunday newspaper, supplemented his chief’s remarks and explained why it is impossible for the Labour Party to carry out its programme within the Capitalist system. If heavier taxation were imposed on the rich, they would, according to Mr. Hudson, invest abroad, let their factories fall into disrepair, and find devious ways of nullifying the intentions of the Government.
International complexities are driving us to see that our expectations of deriving from Capitalists and financiers the means to support our schemes of social improvement must give place to the better Socialist plan. When we really control our own industrial machine, we can then decide how the surplus shall be spent on the communal welfare without reference to the evasions of those who now add so greatly to our difficulties.— (Quoted in The New Leader, December 20th.)
It will be noticed that the three spokesmen of the Government do not use exactly the same form of words for their declarations. Mr. Thomas says that the workers must not ask for their "something now"; Mr. Snowden says that he won’t try to get it for them; and Mr. Hudson says that it can’t be got—three different ways of saying that there isn’t going to be any half-loaf. But if the Labour Government cannot save the working class from the effects of Capitalism why are they in office? And if, as Mr. Hudson says, the "Socialist plan” is the only practicable one, what is the Labour Party’s justification for going into Parliament without obtaining from the electors a mandate for Socialism? In short, what becomes of the case against the Socialist Party?

Taking the tube (1980)

From the November 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard

Public debate concerning the ills of London’s transport network has been aroused by the recent publication of a PA Management Consultant’s report condemning as inefficient the eleven-man London Transport Executive, appointed by the Greater London Council. Discontent with the service has been heightened by the Holborn train crash of July 9, in which twenty people were hurt. But what is the real nature of the underground train service on which 594 million journeys were made during 1979?

In the areas of concentrated industry which the present economic system creates, it is necessary to have a similarly concentrated, fast and cheap method of transporting workers to and from the offices, factories, plants and warehouses with a minimum of fuss.

In 1863 the Metropolitan Line was opened, running from Paddington to Farringdon Street. The District Line opened five years later. Both lines at first had steam trains and, despite occasional surface sections and ventilation gratings, the smoke made travelling very uncomfortable indeed. Electrification of both of these lines, later considerably extended and interconnected, was completed in 1905. Underground railways, which extend the process of concentration of work in specific areas below the ground itself, swiftly followed in Glasgow, New York, Paris and Moscow, and are now to be found in most of the world’s centres of capital accumulation.

The London Underground now consists of some ten lines. Under an Act of 1933 the entire network, together with the trams, buses and trolley-buses, was transferred to the ownership of the London Passenger Transport Board. In 1948 this became known as the London Transport Executive, a group of the nationalised British Railways. In 1979, the GLC invested £110.7 million in London Transport, over which it now has full control. Although fares have increased by 58 per cent over the last four years, London Transport has been running at a loss of several million each year.

But any profit made by such a concern would be less significant than the service it does capitalism in general, for London Transport is held responsible by London’s employers for transporting the bulk of their workers to and from work each day. This is the case for transport services of this kind to be nationalised; the state which runs them is the collective expression of the interests of the employing class. This transportation must be carried out under conditions suited to those who are on their way to donate their daily dose of surplus, unpaid labour to the capitalist class. Neither comfort nor dignity is important.

On entering the tube you are overwhelmed by the choking, stuffy atmosphere created by many people hurrying in all directions in a confined, subterranean space. Every morning between 7 and 10, 458,000 people enter central London on the Underground and at Piccadilly Circus one line is as far as 102 feet below ground level. Bleary-eyed, dazed and tense, the working class jostle each other as they file down the escalators, sweating before the working day has even begun. The advertising process begins as blinking beings suck up the images of corseted crotches; blazoned, buxom breasts and bubbling beverages. Futile feminist stickers proclaim that “This Degrades Women”. Certainly, sticking up reformist slogans on the walls does degrade the women who do it, but as for the adverts, capitalism will inevitably degrade anything and plunder all human dignity in the quest for profit.

Down below, the advertising hoardings are full size,, and the bodies are moving even more quickly. The uniform tunnels serve to accentuate the drab existence of those who tread, with symbolic import, along them. Having handed some money to a uniformed fellow worker who passes it to his or her state capitalist employer, you wait as the train approaches, fuller than a cattle-truck on market day. The workers, anxious to go and offer their energies to the enterprises which employ them, try to squeeze into the carriages, cheek to check with one another. Station guards throw along the platforms the authority invested in a grimy grey, shapeless suit with a little metal badge, as they order the passengers to “Get right down into the car”. The electric doors close and by breathing in and standing on tiptoes the human commodities manage to fit into the compartment. At each stop, London Transport’s pampered passengers fight through the sweaty crush to get to the doors; missing their stop means being late for work and risking trouble from the boss. Finally the passengers are spewed on to the streets. Blinking at the daylight we march to clock in for our day’s service to our Users.

Every aspect of these journeys is humiliating. The frenzied hurry of the poorly constructed train along the poorly constructed and maintained lines sometimes produces a violent jolting effect, reminding the passengers which social class they were born into as they are thrown together in the carriages. Harshly glaring white neon strips illuminate grotesquely grimacing advertisements advising what can be done with everything from unwanted hair to unwanted pregnancies. Unwanted social systems can only be removed by political action, though, and if these travellers paid half as much attention to the way in which they live and die as they do to the toupees and brassieres, such action would not be much delayed. In the “Smokers” carriages, surrounded by fag-ends, people peer out from behind the protection of newspapers, staring into space as they suck on cigarettes. In “No-smoking” carriages, the air is clearer but not the minds.

Underground railways typify the needs of capitalism. They crystallise the requirements of a system of concentrated industry run by men and women who do not own it and are therefore not able to determine the conditions in which they work or travel to work. They also amply demonstrate the stupidity of proposing nationalisation as a solution to the problems produced by the profit system. Try to pass a barrier without a ticket and the LT worker will soon show you in whose interests the transport system is run. By contrast, common ownership of the means of transportation will allow free and unlimited access to it, as with all other goods and services produced by society. In socialism, transport systems will for the first time be designed according to the wishes and needs of people using the transport, not of the people using the passengers.
Clifford Slapper

International money chaos (1980)

The Briefing Column from the November 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard

A currency unit is always in the end the name for a specific amount of gold (or silver). At one time—when paper currency was convertible on demand into a fixed amount of gold—this was obvious but has now become obscured in the system of “managed currencies’’ which grew up between the wars. In nearly all countries today the currency—the actual medium of circulation—is not gold nor even a paper currency convertible into gold but inconvertible paper notes and coins. Such a currency is said to be “managed” because the amount of it in circulation depends entirely on political decisions.

Before the era of managed currencies the link between a currency and gold was always clear. A law defined the meaning of the name of the currency (pound, mark, franc) in terms of a certain amount of gold (or silver, or both). This is no longer the case but the pound and other currencies continue to represent in economic reality a certain amount of gold. Gold is still today the money-commodity, the only real money, even though it has been replaced as the medium of circulation by paper and metallic tokens.

With a managed currency a government institution (Ministry of Finance, Central Bank) has to decide how much is put into circulation. The amount of currency needed to maintain a stable price level, however, is fixed by economic factors outside of government control, such as the total amount of buying and selling transactions, debts to be settled, velocity of circulation of the currency. The government is of course free to issue more (or less) than this amount, but if it issues more then the currency will depreciate.

The effect will be the same as if, under the old system, the government had passed a law re-defining the meaning of the word pound in terms of a lesser amount of gold—which is equivalent to increasing the prices of all goods expressed in the currency unit. This—overissuing an inconvertible paper currency—is what has caused the inflationary price rises which have gone on continuously in Britain since the beginning of the last world war. Inflation (properly understood as inflating, or overissuing, the currency) means that the currency has come to be defined in terms of lesser and lesser amounts of gold.

A managed currency only has a circulation within the borders of the state which manages it. No state can enforce the use of its paper currency outside its borders, though people there may choose to accept it. Paper currencies, however, can still be exchanged with each other. What determines their rate of exchange?

What we have said about the paper pound being the name for a certain amount of gold applies equally to the other paper currencies. The paper mark and the paper franc are also names for amounts of gold, though different amounts of course. In fact up until the end of 1971 the currencies of the member states of the International Monetary Fund were declared to the Fund in terms of weights of gold. Thus if the French franc was defined as 3gm of gold and the English pound as 39gm, then the rate of exchange between francs and pounds was £1 = 13 francs. The Member states of the IMF were supposed to maintain a more or less fixed rate of exchange between their currencies and those of the other members.

Had it not been for the inflationary policies pursued by all states this would have proved a relatively easy task. But in fact all states inflated their currencies, though not to an equal extent, so that the parities declared to the IMF came to no longer correspond to the economic reality. Those countries which had inflated their currencies more than average were sooner or later compelled to declare to the IMF that their currency should now be officially regarded as representing a lesser amount of gold. This devaluation meant that the exchange rate with other currencies had altered: their currency would now exchange for a lesser amount of all other currencies. On the other hand those countries which had a below average inflation were compelled to up-value their currency, known as revaluation, as happened a number of times to the D-mark and the Swiss Franc.

A devaluation then was a recognition on the international level of a currency depreciation that had already occurred internally. This was why Wilson was in a sense right when he declared in his famous 1967 statement that devaluation left unchanged the value of the pounds in our pockets. It did, because the depreciation had already taken place before! (As the Wilson government continued the policy of currency inflation, the pounds in our pockets did in fact continue to shrink, but because of the continuing inflation of the currency rather than because of the devaluation).

At the end of 1971 the IMF system of fixed parities, with periodic devaluations and revaluations as necessary, broke down. Instead countries just let their currencies float. What this means is that an internal depreciation of a currency resulting from its inflation is now immediately reflected in its rate of exchange with other currencies instead of building up towards an eventual devaluation.

Some countries link their currencies to others, agreeing that they will not let their currencies fall or rise above or below a certain margin compared with the other currencies in the system. One such system was the famous “snake” of European currencies, of which Britain was a member for a short while. The European Monetary System (EMS) is another such system.

For such systems to work each of the states involved has to have more or less the same rate of inflation. For if one state had a greater rate of inflation than the others, then its currency would tend to fall below the lower limit and in order to maintain itself in the system it would have to use up its reserves to buy its own currency so as to maintain its price (exchange rate with the others). The EMS does provide for the establishment of a special fund to help states in difficulty but its clear aim is to try to keep inflation rates down to the German level.

The last Labour government, presumably anxious to have a free hand to continue inflating the pound as it wished, refused to give an undertaking to keep inflation down that much and so Britain didn’t join. The present Conservative government has announced its intention to join, but is waiting for the time when (if!) the rate of inflation in Britain is at a more internationally acceptable level.

All these “systems” in the end are just makeshifts since none of them openly recognise that the only real money in the world today remains gold. Capitalists are more realistic—which explains the rise in the price of gold, and why it likely to keep on rising: nobody wants to be left holding worthless paper money as the international monetary system staggers from crisis to crisis.
Adam Buick

Are They Job-Creators? (2016)

From the September 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard

The employing class create jobs, people sometimes say, so we cannot do without them. Opening a new office or factory or supermarket leads to jobs being created, it might seem.

Is this really an argument for capitalism, and for the existence of a class of capitalists who own companies and the land, factories, and so on? Emphatically not, but to see this we need to step back a bit and look at how society and production are organised.

In order to work, people need to have access to raw materials, a workplace, equipment, machines and other tools. This applies not just to digging your garden or doing a spot of DIY, but also when someone is working in a factory, building site, office, call centre, hospital, school, restaurant, shop, etc. In the case of someone working for an employer, the real question to ask is: what stops them from having access to the means of production, to use the formal term for the various kinds of machines and so on, in the first place? Why can people not get together and co-operate to make phones or serve coffee or build homes?

This is where the whole way that society and production are set up enters the picture. People cannot just work together without the materials they need, precisely because the employing class own and monopolise, and so control access to, the means of production. They say in effect, ‘You can’t work here and produce that without our say-so.’ This is not a matter of what individual capitalists state but of what the collective power of the capitalist class implies. They can sack workers or reduce their working hours or alter their working conditions or simply refuse to employ people who are willing to work, all because they cannot make a profit (or enough of a profit) from employing them. They are in a position, then, to stop people working, so at the very least ‘creating jobs’ means they don’t prevent people from working and producing useful goods and services.

What about the claim that the capitalists produce the ideas and inventions that people make use of? This is hardly ever the case, as most technological developments are the results of the combined efforts of many workers (scientists, engineers, technicians, and so on), not of the capitalists. And nobody could seriously argue that it is the owners who produce the machines that workers use: it is the working class who produce the lathes and tractors and computers and software that are used in the production process.

So the capitalists do not create jobs, and workers do not need a class of employers. Rather, they need us in order to produce their profits. A classless society will have no place for a separate set of employers to make production possible: people will just get together, organise things by and for themselves, and perform useful and satisfying work.
Paul Bennett