1990s >> 1992 >> no-1058-october-1992

What is capitalism?

Just as some “experts” once justified the relations of feudal society as “God-given” and eternal, so today others seek to justify capitalism as an eternal state of affairs, holding good for all time. Why a small section of humankind should exclusively own, control and dispose of the means of life holding the rest of us to ransom, is a question we are encouraged not to ask. History, however, shows us that existing social relations are far from reflecting “eternal truths”; that society is dynamic, and that the society of today is just as much a result of socio-historical evolution as were previous social systems. A social and economic system comes into being through its ability to fulfil a useful social function. When it ceases to be of social use, it decays, and a new social system rises out of that decay.

In our present social system (which exists in all countries) the means of production and distribution (land, factories, offices, transport, media, communication, etc) are monopolized by a minority, the capitalist class. All wealth is produced by us, the majority working class, who sell our mental and physical energies to the capitalists in return for a price called a wage or salary. The object of wealth production is to create goods and services which can be sold on the market at a profit, not to satisfy human needs. Not only do the capitalists live off the profits they obtain from exploiting the working class, they go on accumulating wealth extracted from each generation of workers.

The influence of the capitalist class over the minds of the working class is also powerful. From the early stages of our life, they try to shape our way of thinking through the institutional brain-washing machine. In the society we live in vast impersonal forces are making for the centralization of power and a regimented society. The role of the workers in this regimented society today is unacceptable. They experience themselves as a commodity, as an investment, their aim is to become a success, that is to sell themselves as profitably as possible on the market. Our value as people lies in our saleability
not in our human qualities of love, reason or in our artistic capacities.

How did the capitalist system of society evolve? This system came out of the decay of feudalism. In spite of the horrors of the transition from feudalism to capitalism, capitalism was a great progressive force, which reorganized and linked up the world, developed the means of production to their present day level where they can provide plenty for all. Capitalism has now fulfilled its usefulness. Now the time is ripe for the working class to move on, into a different system of society— socialism—prior to that they must understand it, want it and accept it.

Michael Ghebre