|Front cover for the 2001 revised edition.|
Book Review from the January 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard
Two Hundred Pharaohs, Five Billion Slaves . . . Manifesto. Available from Box 100, 178 Whitechapel Road, London. E1 1BJ.
“In short the conditions already exist for us to build a world better than utopia.” This is an inspiring statement for any contribution to revolutionary thought to kick off with, and this manifesto continues in similar style; analysing capitalism’s current trends and the prospects for working class revolution and the achievement of the classless society we call world socialism. This is a thought-provoking publication, and one of scope and detail that a review of this length can’t deal with satisfactorily.
The title refers to the situation we are now faced with: that of the subjection of humanity’s billions to the class interests of a couple of hundred billionaires: the real bourgeoisie. The vast wealth and power of such a numerically tiny class has been accumulated through the process of turning the world population into an exploitable working class, eradicating the peasantry and locking us into the global factory of world capitalism. This class, as this manifesto points out, has waged war to proletarianise the world, making capitalist relations universal. In doing so though it has created its own gravediggers. That’s us: the five billion plus, united by class position and interest, capable of abolishing class society and beginning the beautiful adventure that will be the future human society.
Though we in the Socialist Party would wish some debate on the means by which the working class majority can achieve a transformation of society, there is much here we can agree with. The need, for instance, for revolutionaries to organise openly and democratically, and in complete opposition to the “vanguards” of the Left, who are always on hand to protect and serve the capitalist system. Also, socialists will disagree with the view of “socialism” as some sort of utopian capitalist business strategy rather than a description of a classless society. Nevertheless this is a publication that socialists will find very interesting.
Of great insight, for example, is the analysis of capitalism’s efforts to colonise every second of our lives, fully subsuming our “leisure” time as it has our working time:
“A situation in which every waking moment of a worker’s life is an uninterrupted experience of either factory labour (the regimented labour of the office, factory, retail unit or commercial hotel etc.) or intensified shopping.”
Epitomising this process is the march of the Mega-Malls, which began with Canada’s West Edmonton Mall in 1984, and now includes developments such as the MetroCentre, Bluewater etc. in Britain. The Mega-Mall, an “awesome neon cathedral” of retail and “leisure” is the environment in which we are meant to wander, controlled and spellbound. This it seems is capitalism’s vision of the future in its “advanced” nations: a docile, profit producing working class who will revert to being Consumer Zombies when we are let out to play.
Which is all very reminiscent of George Romero’s film Day of the Dead, where the Living Dead converge on The Mall, as it is the only thing they remember from their human existence. But we are not zombies; we are human beings and we need better than this. We can choose life. We can choose revolution.