1980s >> 1987 >> no-993-may-1987

Economics Exposed: Nation or class?

1. Nation or class?

If there is one thing British politicians love to talk a
bout it is “the British economy”. They all gleefully compete to outbid each other with the wonderful things they are going to do with it. They will control it, stimulate it, revitalise it and build it up for us. And yet the first thing we need to realise for a clear understanding of economics is that there is really no such thing as “the British economy” or, for that matter, any other national economic system. There are not any, and there cannot be any, truly independent or self-sufficient countries in the world today. The economic system we live under today is a global system.

The other main myth spread by politicians and economists is that within each nation there is some shared interest between all the people who live there, regardless of their role (or lack of one) in the “economy”. This myth relates to the first, because their suggestion is that the key division in the world is that between various competing nations, with the entire population of each nation forming a “team” in competition with the entire populations of all other nations. The reality is very different from this. In real life, as opposed to the noisy but pointless speeches of politicians, the real division which counts is not that between nations. It is the division of class.

Consider for a moment the way in which you survive from day to day. Employers try to persuade us that the interests of the majority are best served by the growth of their enterprises, as this “provides jobs”. But experience shows that whether we are in or out of work, the employing class will stop at virtually nothing in their efforts to increase their profits at the expense of the wage-earning class. Every strike, every demonstration, is a reminder of the constant and inevitable conflict going on between the two classes of present-day society. How can we sum up these classes?

The capitalist class consists of people who own or control substantial capital, or wealth used to generate more wealth. As individuals they are able to live comfortably and securely on unearned incomes. They do not need to seek employment. The great wealth of this minority — five to ten per cent of the population — is produced for them, from generation to generation, by those who do need to seek employment in order to survive. On the other hand, there is the working class. The great majority of people either work for a wage or salary, depend directly on the wage of a close relative, or rely on social security if they are unable to find a capitalist to invest in them.

In future months this column will explore in more detail the economics of capitalism, together with the alternative, socialist system of society which must replace it if the needs of the majority are to be met. To recap, however. on the points introduced this month: the present economic and social system, called capitalism, exists throughout the world. The key division is not between nations but between classes. Within each competing nation there are two classes. The minority class own, control and profit from the resources of each nation. We, the working class, do not possess “Britain”: the British owning class “possess” us, as a vital part of their assets. And the competition between “nations” is a competition between national groupings of capitalist investors.

Clifford Slapper