1990s >> 1997 >> no-1116-august-1997

Have Labour Power, Will Travel

Inside a feudal, pre-industrial society it could be said of the majority of those who worked that they would live, work, marry, procreate and die within walking distance of the place in which they were born. Modern capitalism has changed all that.

The needs of the market have torn asunder all the old social ties of community. Families are spread all over the world as workers desperate for employment seek to sell their labour power wherever possible. They enter into competition with resident workers and thus the seeds of suspicion and hatred are sewn.

The driving force of capitalism is competition. Capitalist against capitalist for a bigger share of the product of labour. Worker against worker in the search for a job. It is into this desperate struggle for a job that various politicians spread the poison of nationalism and racism.

This poison is world-wide. In France at the recent election, one-in-ten voted for the openly racist, anti-immigration National Front. Every European country has its adherents of the same political poison. In the United States of America various America-first groups scream abuse at Mexican and Central American immigrants.

In Africa tens of thousands of refugees cross borders escaping the growing tribalism that mirrors the ethnic cleansing of eastern Europe. Everywhere you look modern capitalism presents the same awful tragedy of lives ruined by the obnoxious hatreds of xenophobia.

Inhuman nature

So widespread is this nationalistic nonsense that many defenders of capitalism can claim that it is an innate human trait. These people talk glibly about “human nature” when dealing with such horrors as Zaire or Serbia.

Socialists do not share that view. Far from being innately murderous and competitive human existence itself was only possible because of a history of co-operation and tolerance. In order to survive in a hostile environment human beings had to be the uniquely social animal.

We do not deny the existence of such horrors as Hiroshima or Buchenwald, but we know that these are the products of a property-based society that alienates and destroys all decency in its drive for more and more profit.

The product of a Glasgow slum does not travel to a remote island in the South Atlantic to maim the slum product of Buenos Aires because of some genetic urge. Behind all these atrocities lies the capitalist imperatives of markets and sources of raw materials.

A world to win

It is but one of the many paradoxes of capitalism that it has shrunk the world only to divide society into smaller and smaller fragments. That it has progressed at breakneck speed in the fields of travel and communication yet it has divided and alienated us from our true humanity.

Technically we can travel half-way round the world in a day, communicate instantly with almost anyone on the planet; and yet find ourselves artificially divided on the basis of differences of custom, language, diet, culture and skin colour. Capitalism is a frightening, hate-filled system that turns everyone’s hand against everyone else.

Inside socialism, where the whole Earth is the common property of the whole world’s population, we will all be able to travel our planet to work wherever we desire, safe in the knowledge that our brothers and sisters will welcome us on whichever shore we land.

That is the aim of the World Socialist Movement. Shouldn’t it be yours?

Richard Donnelly

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