Time for capitalism to go
Up until the time when capitalism had created the potential for the establishment of a truly socially democratic society it had, despite its awful costs in terms of human misery, been a progressive system. Inevitably, like earlier social systems, class interest, and the power and influence to enforce that interests, makes it resistant to change and inevitably it became a reactionary, anti-social system.
But its rules and its values predominate in our world establishing their own social morality and we cannot judge capitalists by the social morality of an equitable system predicated on human need when such a system does not yet exist. Indeed the nature of capitalism, its response to competition, its compulsion for expansion and its imperative for profit, gives it a dynamic beyond the control of either those who profit from it or those who suffer under it.
The capitalist class does not seek to create things like unemployment as a punishment on the working class – after all its profits ensue from the wealth created by employed workers. The capitalist class does not want wars and the colossal costs which are a burden on taxation which, in turn, is a charge on the surplus value accruing to the capitalist class. The capitalist class does not want crime (other than the ‘legal’ variety it itself perpetrates!) which, like armaments and wars, are a charge on capital. Capitalism would be a more secure and socially restful system without the multiplicity of evils it creates but its nature precludes human control even by the capitalists or their political agents and within itself it is a system of fiercely conflicting interests.
Political unanimity within the capitalist class is limited to the need to protect its class interests. Individual capitalists might feel constrained towards some charity or amelioration of some facet of a situation the system creates but such a response to social ‘conscience’ does not question the values and the priorities of the system itself and certainly the capitalist class, like their historical predecessors, are hostile to the idea of revolutionary change. That change – again, like previous socially revolutionary changes – must be the work, and, thus, the politics, of those on whom capitalist exploitation is based: the working class.
Even if they wanted to – which of course they don’t – the capitalists could not institute the next phase in the social evolution of human society. That job is the task of the working class, not because of its ‘moral’ superiority but because of its overwhelming numerical superiority and its historic imperative.
Previous social revolutions have occurred when the political and economic basis of a new phase of social evolution have matured in the womb of the old society and the means used has been the physical overthrow of the dominant class by the class representing the new phase for which history has prepared it.
The situation that determines the means of social revolution in modern capitalism is, however, markedly different in several respects to that of earlier societies and earlier revolutions. The purpose of these latter was to overthrow an existing minority class and replace it with another minority class in order that the new class could establish political conditions that would facilitate a new mode of production. The chattel slave and the feudal slave may each in turn have been the foot soldiers of revolution but only the conditions of their slavery was changed.
There is now no further minority class interests pressing the norms and social structures of capitalism for new relations in the mode of production and the working class can not turn the system on its head and carry through a revolution that would allow it to exploit the relatively small capitalist class!
At this stage we should define in general terms – because it is only thus it can be defined – what we mean by the working class. We mean all those who in order to live are obliged to sell their physical or mental abilities to an employer for a wage, salary or commission. Within that context there is a great variety of income but the common denominator is the compulsion to be and to remain a hired hand. Conversely, a capitalist can be defined as someone who can live by profit, rent or interest and who works only if he or she wishes to do so. Again, as with the working class, there is a great variety of income within the capitalist class and there are occasional situations that do not lend themselves to this form of categorisation but it is the only form of general classification that fits the situation as it is.
Capitalism made production social; now history imposes on the working class the task of making distribution social which is the sole means by which the myriad problems of society can be resolved. It is this change to social distribution that establishes socialism and the politics governing the revolutionary role of the working class in bringing about this change is not only conditioned by the nature of the change itself but distinct from all previous revolutionary changes in the social organisation of society.
End of buying and selling
This can best be appreciated by an understanding of what socialism involves. Briefly, socialism will be a system of society in which the means of life, the entire productive and distributive resources, will be owned and democratically controlled by society as a whole on the principle of “from each according to their ability and to each in accordance with their self-determined need” The establishment of that principle will mean that the wages system will be ended as will buying and selling and, hence the need for money as a means of exchange.
It needs little thought to appreciate all the wasteful functions that capitalism’s buying and selling world makes necessary. Hundreds of millions of people are currently occupied in jobs and in entire industries that would disappear with the ending of the marketing system. Similarly, with the ending of competition for markets, resources and areas of strategic interest, the cause of wars would no longer exist; armed forces and the vast and wasteful array of weaponry these employ would be redundant. Equally, in a world of free access to needs most crimes would disappear along with the personnel on both sides of that industry.
Whereas in capitalist society the ending of hundreds of millions of jobs would be ruinous, in socialism the freed workers could be absorbed into the workforce ensuring firstly that the social infrastructure needed to end the appalling poverty that currently afflicts the lives of billions of people throughout the world could be speedily ended. Thereafter, they would augment the workforce to lighten the burden of producing the goods and services needed in their communities and elsewhere.
It will be obvious that the society here envisaged could only be established and maintained on the broadest voluntary human co-operation. Once established it will create, like all other forms of social organisation its own social conventions affecting human behaviour. Initially, the ‘politics’ of its revolutionary establishment
will require the endorsement of the overwhelming majority organised consciously within the general ambience of a political movement.