1980s >> 1988 >> no-1012-december-1988

More of the same

Who knows what the next year will bring? Could be better than 1988. It could hardly be much worse. Maybe this will be the year when governments “come to their senses” and say. “That’s enough of war — in future we’ll all get on well together and destroy all the bombs”‘. Multinational companies will stop destroying food because there is no profit in feeding the hungry. “In 1989 we ll see to it that the hungry two-thirds of humanity will be fed” they’ll say. The Pope will sell his vast stores of golden possessions in order to feed the poor, the newspapers will decide they’ve had their fill of telling lies and in future will only report what is true, and the Queen, in her Christmas message, will declare that she will no longer tolerate a condition where whole families are destined to live in slums simply because they are poor, while those like her dwell in palatial mansions. Yes, the future is all looking much rosier. The brewers will lower the price of beer, only to be outbid by the rest of the owning class who will say, “We insist, old chaps, that as you produce all of the wealth you must have free access to it”. And so it shall come to pass that we will no longer need to buy what we need, for it will be there for the taking. Need will be recognised, not profits.

Now, if you believe all that you are either naive to the point of imbecility or one of the increasing numbers of workers whose encounter with the free market has been in the hard drugs trade. The future will not be like that. The people with power will not start behaving like they care about you. They do not care about you in the least. Your social role is to be unthinking, except insofar as your thoughts are in the service of their unearned affluence. The only future the capitalist class seeks is one where they make plenty of profits. Or, to be quite precise about it, one where we, the workers, will make plenty of profits, to be handed directly to those who monopolise the resources of the earth. They can only get richer out of the hard work of suckers who are prepared to produce everything and then be thankful for a wage or salary which enables us to buy the cheapest and shoddiest of goods. The contented wage slave is the basic prerequisite of the contented capitalist. Unless the producers produce the possessors will have nothing to possess.

So 1989, whatever else, will be a year marked by the rich enjoying themselves and the poor sweating hard to ensure that they do just that. It will be a year in which those who appropriate the profits will pursue the traditional pastimes of the idlers and loafers who have gone before them. They will travel first-class and stay in comfortable hotels, unlike the nasty little constructions which wage slaves are sent to for their fortnights in the sun. And when they feel like returning from hols, their lives will be unregulated by the alarm clock, and free of fast-food bargain cuisines, the hassle of waiting for buses and being crowded on trains and working for eight hours a day doing monotonous, useless work, and having to search for a few quid when an unexpected need comes along to disrupt the low-budget plans which govern most workers’ lives. The capitalists will have a good time. Their children will go to special schools where they will learn how to be rude, arrogant and parasitical. And when they are ill — even the slightest scent of illness will be enough — they will move instantly into private clinics where nurses whose families queue up for NHS provision will wipe their noses when they sneeze. The Prime Minister will tell them that the poor are only deprived because they lack enterprise. The capitalists will condemn such lack of initiative on the part of those who produce and distribute all of the world’s wealth, and yet lack the wisdom to buy themselves a Porsche. The Leader of the Opposition will tell them that their future will be safe in his hands. He fully intends to make the market even more profitable than the Tories have, and he will be tough with the unions, should they dare to disrupt the legalised robbery of the workers which is at the root of the profit system.

For plenty of workers 1989 will be a rotten year. Many will have jobs they hate, but must persevere in to survive. Others will have no jobs and waste yet another year looking for something to turn up. Many will have no homes. Thousands will have no indoor toilet and hope for a snow-free winter. Those with indoor toilets and even video machines may also have mortgages which make them feel like serfs who keep a portion of what they earn and give the rest to those who own the Building Societies. There will be plenty of evictions. Failure to pay the rent, failure to keep up the mortgage payments — there will be workers who overdo it on the Christmas shopping and pay for it with a court appearance when the credit companies demand their pound of flesh. Workers will join the army, not because they are psychopaths who want to kill, but because if you are young and unemployed and your family is poor it is easier than shoplifting. Girls who did not go on the game in 1988. will do so in 1989. It is one of Britain’s biggest growth occupations. They will sell their dignity for £20 a time and learn all about the free market in the process. 1989 will see plenty more accidents which could be avoided were it not that more profit is to be made letting them happen. In the building industry the government rogues have favoured a policy deregulation: abolition of safety laws which get in the way of profit. There will be a few thousand more unregulated accidents next year with plenty of corpses created by the enterprise culture. 1989 will supply its share of humans murdered in wars, a natural extension of what is called healthy competition. Why should the capitalists care? They are not the ones who do the fighting. In 1989 millions of children under the age of five will starve to death. Governments will pay farmers not to grow food. There is no profit in selling it.

Looking forward to a capitalist future is a bleak business, then. Unless, of course, you’re a capitalist. In which case you just keep living it up, taking more, giving less and praying to whatever god you have invented that the workers will not rock the boat.

In 1989 the workers should rock the boat. We should not have waited this long to do it, but now is far better than never. Rocking the boat does not mean tipping out Maggie and appointing Captain Kinnock to take her place. It does not mean state capitalism instead of private capitalism, the Russian Empire instead of the American one. Rocking the boat does not mean that the workers, in imitation of Oliver Twist, should go to those who own and control the earth and ask for just a little bit more. It does not mean asking for a lot more. It means not asking for, but taking the lot. All of the factories, the farms, the offices, the media, the means of transportation — the entire means and instruments of producing and distributing wealth will become the property of the workers of the world. It is either that, or more of the same.

More of the same means capitalism with all of its hideous problems. But capitalism’s problems do not stay the same. They become worse. New ones emerge. Mushroom clouds loom on the horizon, threatening to put an end to the whole bloody show. Who is to say with any confidence that 1989 will not be the year when the nuclear button will be pushed? Who can doubt that 1989 will see more needless human misery within this self-constructed prison of world capitalism? And who is to deny, if they face reality that socialism stands as the only practical hope facing working men and women in the year ahead?

Steve Coleman