Friday, April 11, 2014

Editorial: Caring is Not Enough (2012)

Editorial from the May 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard

A system is not a thing which is capable of caring for anything or anyone, it simply performs the functions it was set up or adapted to perform. Capitalism is set up to enable the pursuit of profit for private gain, regardless of other ‘external’ outcomes. The chief beneficiaries of this system do care but only about protecting their interests. Their main concern is for the wellbeing of their own future, and short term gains always take priority over less profitable long term considerations. Such questions as the health and wellbeing of workers are treated as externalities, as is the state of the planet, now being plundered and abused to irredeemable levels through reckless use of its resources and pollution of land, water and air.

Governments don't care; corporations and shareholders don't care, except for upholding the status quo to protect the bottom line. Endless promises are made pre-election and endlessly broken afterwards. Elected politicians, unelected paid advisors and supposed experts working together deliver one failure or crisis after another, following policies and goals that usually fly in the face of public opinion. Meanwhile the electorate, who have no meaningful part to play in the decision-making process, are expected to meekly acquiesce.  

Nevertheless, capitalist governments to some extent have to buy this acquiescence. Modern societies do not consider it acceptable to turn out the old, the sick or the poor to die in the gutter, even if they are no practical use as workers, so state administrations have to invest in looking busy by funding a ‘support’ industry which is forever the subject of new approaches, paradigms and target-led initiatives. In this issue we have personal accounts by three socialists of their experiences in the caring and support services which show just how big a gulf there is between what governments say in their speeches and what they really care about.

None of this will come as any surprise to most Standard readers. But it is encouraging that the almost universal acceptance of the status quo by politicians, economists and the media is being challenged by growing numbers of people around the world who do care and who do believe there are alternatives. Many people are starting to realize that, if the whole world has to live with and bear the consequences of decisions made about it, then it follows that this decision-making process needs to belong to all the people of the world. And that means getting involved, and giving proactive support to the struggle for revolutionary change. A system embodying genuine participative democracy as a fundamental principle is in the best interests of everyone, but it won’t come about if people don’t work for it, however much they care.