Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Contradictions of Capitalism (1996)

Editorial from the December 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

Through a complex combination of coercion and ideological control, a tiny minority are able to live off the backs of the immense useful majority in society. From their ownership of the means of production (factories, offices, transport systems, etc.) they are able to gain political and legislative control, not to mention their power over education and the mass media. This tiny minority are the capitalist class—the ruling élite in society.

Nominally, this group of parasites rules by consent. They are legitimised in the eyes of the useful majority they exploit who not only vote to continue their own exploitation but, at times, are the most passionate defenders of it. For the socialist this apparent contradiction is no surprise as the capitalist class have almost complete control over the dissemination of ideas. They have political, moral and cultural legitimacy—most people cannot conceive of a world where production takes place solely to satisfy human needs and where money, war and poverty are things of the past.

You may be saying to yourself as you read this that such a world will never come into existence—why bother when the capitalists have got it all sewn up?

The answer is that the capitalists have not got it all sewn up, nor can they. The daily experience of class exploitation means that the indoctrination process is contradicted by the reality of living under capitalism. The existence of the Socialist Party is testimony to the fact that workers can see capitalism for what it is and organise for its replacement. Put simply, capitalism has within itself the seeds of its own destruction.

As we approach the new millennium we can evaluate the twentieth century for what it was: the century of reform and failure to solve the problems of capitalism. We have seen state capitalism in Russia, nationalisation in Western Europe, Keynesian economics, and Nazism in Germany.

There is a ray of hope. That hope is the triumph of socialism. Free from the shackles of the market we could start to end so many of the problems which we take for granted, such as starvation and mass hunger in the midst of food stockpiles and environmental devastation.

If you know of some other solution to the problems of capitalism please tell us, if not . . .

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