Capitalism’s Contradictions

We see the major problems of today stemming primarily from the basic contradictions of capitalism. By this we mean that the social relationships of production conflict with the technical relationships.

In modern society where wealth takes the form of “a vast accumulation of commodities”, production is “socialised”. This means that no commodity is the result of one person’s work, but that it takes the productive apparatus of the world to produce the commodity.

For example, take the simple match. Someone has to know which trees to cut, how to cut them, how to make the saws to saw them, how to make the right steel to make the saws, how to make the lorries that convey the logs, how to obtain and process the rubber to make the tyres for the lorries, how to extract and process the petroleum to provide the power for them, to indicate only some of the basic processes involved. And of course all these materials and people have to be transported from place to place by air, land and sea with the assistance and support of administrative and agricultural workers. Modern capitalism (including Russia, China, etc.), which is the dominant economic mode, has brought into being a world based on the socialised production of wealth. But (and this is the biggest “but” in history) the wealth when produced is not the property of the producers, i.e. the working population of the world. It is appropriated by a relatively tiny section of society which monopolises the means of production, for reasons of his­tory either in private or in state forms of possession. Furthermore this minority section or class is divided up, generally on a national basis, into particular ruling classes. These can only maintain them­selves as the ruling classes in their own sector (given the acquiescence of the working population) and realise the wealth which the commodities represent by selling them, profitably, on the world market.

The ensuing conflict entails bitter struggles over markets, energy-yielding products, sources of cheap materials and labour, and the strategically important areas, bases and trade routes associated with them. The minor and major wars, together with the criminal stupidities, social and environmental, with which we are confronted are primarily caused by or are traceable to this contradiction.

Our social and political systems derive from this basic mode of organisation and it is absolutely impossible to eliminate these problems, which are specific to capitalism, unless the social relationships of production are brought into harmony with the technical ones. That is, as well as having socialised produc­tion, the means of production and the wealth produced must be the property of the whole of society and simply used by society in a rational democratic manner in line with the precept: “from each according to his ability. to each according to his need”. This does not require governments, armed forces and so on. It does require knowledge and a common understanding of aim, purpose and method. It does entail organisation and administration but not permanent organisers and administrators (as individuals).

Education for this kind of world is important but it is not simply a matter of formal education (which is socially derivative anyway), but of social educa­tion, i.e. experience, as well. Men learn and modify their behaviour. Our environment is dominated by capitalist competition and this forces the ruling groups to revolutionise continually me techniques of production, including those of communication.

This means that whole sections of the community are confronted by changes in their lives and the need to question the existing situation. This does not mean that their tentative attempts to grasp the meaning of events are always constructive but it does open the way for the valid analysis, presented appropriately. The important point, however, is that, time being money for the ruling classes and communications being im­portant militarily, the means of com­munication are improved so rapidly that it is harder and harder for rising gener­ations to see themselves as other than “Earthmen”, “world citizens” and so on. This is not simply for reasons of political or moral theory but as something related to experience in a world of short-wave radio, international tele­vision, satellites and space shots. No doubt governments attempt to use these techniques for pernicious ends but the inherent universality of some of these media subverts their efforts.

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