Letters to the Editors from the August 2020 issue of the Socialist Standard
“Reform of capitalism?”
I think I agree with almost everything you stand for but. I don’t understand how global, neoliberal ‘capitalism’ can be replaced with global socialism in practice.
The capitalists have all the money, time and resources including the technological fire-power to oppress the people.
I don’t see how socialism can be achieved in one fell swoop – surely it would have to involve a ‘reform of capitalism’ period first?
I’d be grateful if you could address this problem – a group of us are just trying to work out how best to aid the socialist cause and your organisation is being considered.
The current world order of capitalism can and will only be replaced by socialism when the overwhelming majority of people throughout the world understand and appreciate what real socialism is likely to mean in practice.
The entrenched capitalist class do indeed control both all resources and ‘technological fire-power’. That’s the basis of the capitalist system and their rule. But we have the advantage of numbers – we are the overwhelming majority – and we operate production from top to bottom and make-up the bulk of the armed forces. When we get our act together they won’t be able to stop us establishing socialism through democratic political action.
As things stand, the term socialism (or communism as it is sometimes called) has been tarnished by all states who declare themselves either socialist or communist, but who are in fact really capitalist.
Piecemeal reforms cannot pave the way to socialism because reforms are limited to only working within the current framework. Nor do we support the notion of a government which tries to run capitalism in the interests of the majority, even if it intends for this to only be in the short-term before socialism.
Reforms only aim at trying to improve the current system rather than changing it, working for reforms distracts and diverts us from challenging the system itself. By way of an analogy, reforms are like ‘treating’ an injury with painkillers – you feel a bit better for a short time, but this wears off and the cause of the pain still remains.
It is up to people like you and us and the working class of this and all other countries of the world to join together and share the kind of ideas being propagated by ourselves and our companion parties.
What about overpopulation?
A reader has asked us about overpopulation, commenting that socialism ‘might be easier with a reduced population’.
It is true that socialism would be a lot easier to implement and operate with less people to provide for. But if wishes were horses, all beggars would ride, as the old saying goes.
The reality is that globally the population is growing and the question is, can it be reduced? The stark answer is no – even if fertility rates were lowered. The number of people in a country continues to rise for years after people stop having children– a phenomenon known as population momentum.
Thus, the projection is that global population will go from approaching 8 billion today to about 11 billion in around year 2100 then plateauing and then finally begin to drop back to about what it is today.
So socialists fully expect and are required to plan for an increased number of people, something that we cannot avoid regardless of any family planning which is already being increasingly adopted without any compulsion by better educated and more empowered women, even in patriarchal dominated cultures.
Our argument is that with rational allocation of resources that should not be a problem and that free access can still be accomplished. We do have the capability of comfortably coping and still create a sustainable steady-state zero-growth economy eventually.
This is not to say that it will not be a critical crisis for capitalism and is in fact another reason why for the sake of humanity it must be done away with.
Along with a population rise we also have the related issues that will arise in the future.
Firstly, the demographic problem of higher numbers of elderly with less adults of working-age to support them. China’s one-child policy resulted in what was called the 1 – 2 – 4 paradox. One active worker supporting retired parents and because of better health prospects his or her grand-parents. Such family support is essential in countries lacking social safety-nets for the old and frail.
We also have the situation of urbanisation and over-crowding in slums and shanty towns of some major cities as the industrialised plantation-type cash-crop farming leads to the end of the small-farmers. (To be exacerbated by climate change in many areas of the world)
And thirdly, we have the nationalist prejudice against the movement and migration of people. We witness this right now. The youth of Africa thwarted by lack of prospects seek opportunities in Europe where there is already a declining work-force that requires an influx of newcomers. But rather than be welcomed, they are being excluded.
Socialists cannot deny these conditions result in suffering and misery for as long as we live under capitalism. But we challenge the view that solutions cannot be achieved with the establishment of a cooperative society. In fact, only socialism can overcome them.