From the November 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard
We, the working class, have no choice but to sell our acquired skills, knowledge and abilities to whoever is offering the highest wages as an employer, whether a private capitalist firm or some public body, in order to survive. All well and good, you might think, when times are productive and the capitalists are investing in their quest for a profit, and wages might be regarded as fairly good. You may even feel like you’re getting by reasonably well. This however is fairly rare in the grand scheme of things. Speaking for myself, I recall a period way back in the 1980s when working in the printing industry and before the onset of digital technology. I had a half-decent income. Housing was affordable, package holidays were all the rage, a car was quite cheap to run and heating your home was never much of an issue. Even putting decent, healthy food on the table was also relatively cheap.
Then came the 90s and things soon changed with the advance of media and other technologies. In the dog-eat-dog competitive world of the free market economy, companies started to go bust left, right and centre as they tried to keep up with each other for their share of the market. It was however a classic case of survival of the fittest, or more accurately survival of the cheapest. Workers were made redundant, incomes dried up as capitalist investment stalled and the harsh reality of many debt-ridden workers began to kick in as homes were repossessed; homelessness hit record highs.
John Major had taken over from the Wicked Witch of Westminster who had proclaimed that there was no such thing as society and who had thought nothing of ordering the boys in blue in to beat the shit out of striking miners who were trying in vain to protect their jobs under the misguided leadership of Arthur Scargill. Major tried every dirty trick in the book in an attempt to convince the voting public that he would be the great saviour of the country, trying to convince us that black was white and white was black. Only then to take on a peculiarly grey shade of skin tone of his own, which was satirised at the time by the television series Spitting Image.
Following his downfall, the next great hope of the people was Tory Blair and his New Labour bandwagon that rolled into town with his team of slippery, slimy city slickers kissing their way around just about every capitalist arse in town. Indeed, one of his head honchos Peter Mandelson – now Lord Mandelson – introduced us to the great new political technique known as ‘spin’, a particularly fine art of saying one thing while meaning another. This being still used by many politicians to this day.
Of course, what has been described is not something peculiar or exclusive to the periods of the 1980s or 90s. The boom and bust cycle has been a feature of modern history since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution around 1790 right through until around the end of the nineteenth century. By then the modern-day capitalist system we currently recognise became dominant. It has to be acknowledged that it has brought some positive benefits. But also many, many more negative results to humanity, the animal kingdom and the environment in general. One only has to turn on the TV, listen to the radio or read a newspaper in order to see at first hand the impact of capitalism’s destructive forces on nature as well as on people to begin to understand that something drastic needs to be done to fix the problems and challenges that the majority of people on this planet have to face on a daily basis.
Under capitalism, we are exposed to seeing a never-ending series of wars, conflict and a whole host of other atrocities that are an inevitable consequence of the ruthless nature of the beast that can only survive on a diet of profits for capitalists, whose only concern is for themselves and their search for ever more profits – no chance or likelihood of a profit, no chance or likelihood of investment or production. In other words, whether or not there happens to be a need for a particular product, if that product or commodity is unlikely to yield a profit, there ain’t no sensible capitalist ever going to put their hand in their wallet. And that rule applies to all manner of goods and items. From the basic essentials in life, including the food and water that we need to survive, to the clothes that we wear and the homes that we live in. From the cars that we drive or the leisure activities that we might pursue, or the potentially life-saving medication that we might need in order to keep us healthy, it’s the same old story – no profit, no production.
It simply isn’t possible to try to somehow tweak or reform capitalism so that it might somehow work for everyone. That’s been tried before in the likes of Russia, China and South America and we all know what a shambles that turned out to be. In short, the basic rules of capitalism dictate that for it to be successful for the capitalist, profit has to take priority over people.
The way out can only be what we in the Socialist Party understand by socialism. A new world order that will see everyone fulfil their potential, contributing to society what they can, and taking from society what they need to lead a fulfilling and satisfying quality of life. Worldwide cooperation will replace worldwide competition as the overarching source of production, with smaller pockets of local productive forces taking place in local communities in order to meet local needs.
Life within socialism will be a whole new ball game, very different to that under capitalism. The transition or revolution from capitalism to socialism can and will only happen when the majority of the working class throughout the world has developed a clear understanding and consciousness of the need for it.