2000s >> 2009 >> no-1253-january-2009

In place of capitalism

Recently the word ‘In place of capitalism’ seems to be on everyone’s lips. The main reason for this is probably that capitalism – also known as ‘the economy’ or ‘the market system’ is going through a bad patch. The Labour government’s claim to have ended the cycle of boom and bust has been proved disastrously wrong. The last boom, during which food, energy, house and stock market prices rose at unsustainably high rates, has given way to bust.

As usual, workers are the main victims. Many of us have lost our jobs, can’t get new ones or can’t enter the labour force for the first time. We have seen our outgoings soar, our incomes squeezed, even our homes repossessed. Even if we have so far personally avoided the worst of these fates, the worry that we may not continue to do so can be very stressful.

Who or what is to blame for this sorry state of affairs? More constructively, how can it be put right? Only the pitifully small socialist media insist that we need to replace capitalism with socialism. All the other media, which shout so much louder than we can, say things like “We’ve got the wrong kind of capitalism” or “Some people (bankers) have been too greedy.”

There is a widespread and heavily promoted belief that ‘capitalism is the only game in town.’ Anyone who disputes this, for example by advocating that all goods and services should be available on the basis of need, not ability to pay, is dismissed as idealistic or utopian. It is a classic case of self-fulfilling prophecy: support (or at least acquiesce in) the way things are organised today and tomorrow will be more or less the same. But it doesn’t have to be.

Socialists urge that it is futile to try to reform capitalism – the whole system needs to be scraped and replaced by something better. As we explain in our pamphlet Socialism as a Practical Alternative, this means being as constructive as possible, not destructive. For example, such bodies as the World Health Organisation and the Universal Postal Union can be adapted for socialist purposes.

We have as our object the establishment of socialism. In a sense this is true, but we also talk about a socialist movement in the here and now. Every month we say in this journal ‘we are solely concerned with building a movement of socialists for socialism.’  We distribute paper and electronic publications, give talks, take part in debates, run educational events, make films, and much more.

With more members – and particularly active members – we could do things and on a scale we are prevented from doing for lack of human and other resources. For example, we could set up socialist publishing houses producing, promoting and distributing paper and electronic literature. We could organise socialist educational networks at different levels: schools, colleges, universities, distance learning – for potential socialist citizenship, not capitalist employment. Other activities will no doubt be suggested, tried out and perhaps become widespread – who knows?

The point is that more of us will come to realise that we all live in the real world, not with submission to endure it but with imagination to revolutionise it.


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