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European Capitalism or World Socialism

In June millions of electors in 25 different European countries are being called upon to elect the European Parliament. We will be faced with an apparently wide choice of candidates—conservatives, liberals, social democrats, centre right, centre left, nationalists, racists, fascists, ex-communists, trotskyists and other leftists claiming to be socialists—but in fact all of them stand for keeping, in one form or another, the capitalist system of private or state ownership and production for profit.

Such differences as may exist between them are about how to administer this system. Some want more state intervention, some want less; but none want to go beyond the wages-prices-profits system. All want to retain producing for the market, buying and selling, money and working for wages. None of them—not even those who describe themselves as "socialist"—stand for socialism in its original meaning of a society of common ownership and democratic control with production for use not profit and moneyless distribution in accordance with the principle "from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs".

What's wrong with capitalism

But, you may ask, what's wrong with capitalism? What's wrong with capitalism is that it is based on class privilege and exploitation. The means of wealth production—the means by which society survives—are monopolised by a tiny minority of the population, either directly or indirectly via the state, with the result that the rest of us have to sell our working skills to them for a wage for a salary which can never be equal to the value of what we produce—otherwise there would be no profit, the source of their privileged income and the overriding aim of production under capitalism.

What's wrong with capitalism is that its competitive struggle for profits leads to speed-up, stress and insecurity at work, to damage to the environment, to wars and the waste of preparations for war that arms spending represents.

Capitalism can only work in the way that it does work—as a profit-making system putting profits before everything else—and cannot be reformed to work in any other way. This is why changing governments changes nothing. Governments, whatever their political colour, cannot alter the economic laws of capitalism. Just the opposite in fact. They have to apply these laws, as we have seen many times when governments elected on a promise to reform capitalism to make it work in the interest of all have ended up squeezing wages, state benefits and public services in order to protect profits. No doubt in some cases the members of these governments—like some of the candidates in this election—were perfectly sincere. But that's not the point. It's not a question of what they want to do, but of what they can do—or rather cannot do—within the framework of the profit system.

Capitalism simply cannot be reformed to work in the interest of the majority class of wage and salary workers. Which is why we in the World Socialist Movement say workers should organise to end it, not to try and reform it.

Socialism has not been tried

But hasn't socialism been tried and failed? Certainly not. What was tried and what failed in Russia and Eastern Europe was not socialism, but state capitalism under the dictatorship of a single political party. What happened in these countries proved, not that socialism cannot work, but that not even the most ruthless political dictatorship can make capitalism work in the interest of the majority—since the economic system in Russia was always based on capitalist principles: goods and services were produced for sale and people had to sell their working skills for a wage in order to get money to buy the things they needed to live. True, there was essentially only one big employer, the state, but, as with private employers in the West, the aim was to make a profit, out of which the privileged nomenklatura that controlled the state maintained itself.

Real socialism, we repeat, is something quite different. It is a world without frontiers, without armed states, without privileged classes, where the resources of the Earth have become the common heritage of all the people of the world and are used for the mutual benefit of all. This is the only framework within which the problems facing humanity in general and working people in particular—stress at work, inadequate public services, war and the threat of war, ecological destruction, world hunger, and the rest—can be solved. Which is why working towards this goal is ultimately the only constructive and worthwhile political activity.

How to vote?

It is not up to us to tell you how to vote. If you see no alternative to capitalism no doubt you will vote for one or other of the capitalist politicians on offer. If you want socialism, as there are no socialist candidates in this election —hopefully, there will be on some future occasion—you can indicate this by writing "WORLD SOCIALISM" across your ballot paper. But, more important, we would urge you to get in touch with us at spgb@worldsocialism.org or at 52 Clapham High Street, London, SW4 7UN, Great Britain, with a view to finding out more about the alternative to capitalism. You can also find out more about us at http://www.worldsocialism.org/.