Monday, February 29, 2016

Sickness in society (1966)

Editorial from the March 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

Capitalism is a sick society, and within its framework, man suffers. Capitalism is alien to man’s interests. It denies him all that is potentially best in humanity. It is a disease from which there is no recovery short of the reorganisation of society.

Socialists generalise about the way in which society is class divided about private properly. This is not a remote economic abstraction; it is the day to day reality which bestows existence on most people as an ungratifying burden of personal struggle. To the individual worker, life is an endless battle for fragmented survival. There is the electricity bill, the food bill, the clothes bill, the rent or the mortgage, the holiday fund, the minor crisis brought about by some unexpected item of expense. To establish a home, to have children, the worker tightens the knots of a personal economic straight-jacket. He consolidates the conditions of his own exploitation and his dependence on wages or salary.

Behind this, there is the year in and year out commitment to the job which he probably hates and which probably does nothing for the real needs of the community. This is an aspect of the insecurity which pervades capitalism. A man is oppressed by his own life but can see no alternative. It is this insecurity that forces a man to clutch on for a lifetime to what is devoid of satisfaction.

The separation of the individual is completed by the divisive attitudes of propertied society. Where the individual is considered not by what he is but by the properly he owns, there is a sense of shame, a special stigma attaching to the man with meagre possessions. With poverty goes guilt. It is the guilt of the individual in failing to measure up to the swinging commercial ideal associated under capitalism with success. These attitudes preclude social unity, where people might communicate in honest terms. Instead there is failure to communicate. There is pretentiousness; a discreet conspiracy to cloak the realities of the struggle.

Life under capitalism is not an opportunity for creative living; the individual in association with his fellow human beings. It is an acceptance of the dreary disciplines of wage employment couched in competition, pride, insecurity, guilt, frustration, hate and all the attitudes that divide the community and isolate its members.

Capitalism is not so much individualist as atomized, individuals moving in separate orbits, either suspicious or indifferent. It is not that under all circumstances he is uncaring. The preoccupation with the private struggle renders impotent his identity with humanity as a whole. Under capitalism, we are all on our own.

Moreover, the existence of social privilege under capitalism eats away at the mutual sympathy that man is capable of. The side by side existence of the well fed and the starving; the leisured and the overtime working; the cultured and the illiterate; is a corrupting assault which leads to cynicism, despair, a poor evaluation by man of himself.

For Socialists, the concept of community means that the existence of one under privileged person is an affront to the dignity of all members of society.

The problems of workers are common problems. The establishment of Socialism is collective action in the interests of the whole community. The disintegration of community under capitalism can only be healed by the social equality, the collective responsibility, the unity of Socialist society.

Through common ownership, a Socialist community would undoubtedly replace competition with co-operation, indifference with love, isolation with integration. It would replace mere economic functions with men.

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