In Place of Capitalism
Recently the word ‘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’ – has been going through a bad patch. Gordon Brown’s claim to have ended the cycle of boom and bust has proved disastrously wrong. The last boom, during which food, energy, house and stock market prices rose at unsustainably high rates, gave way to bust.
As usual, workers have been the main victims. Many of us 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 scrapped and replaced by something better.
The world could be run on different lines which could get it out of the mess it is in. People could organise their affairs so that everyone has free access to the things they need to lead a decent and satisfying life.
This is the alternative society that socialists advocate. For over a hundred years the cause of socialism has been dominated by the machinations of two statist creeds, Social Democracy and Leninism. These have fed off the discontent and aspirations of the working class to become alternative managers of capitalism. Their heydays are long past. The Labourites have long abandoned any pretence to ‘reforming capitalism’ in favour of simply managing it; after the end of ‘Communism’ the Leninists have been reduced to mini-sects which replicate within their own structures the regimes of the old Stalinist States in a homage to Marx’s dictum, ‘first as tragedy, now as farce’.
Their aspirations have shrunk with their horizons, whilst they grandly imagine storming the winter palace and fantasise about bloody revolutions, in reality they have little or no belief in the working class ever rallying to their ‘proletarian leadership’, and even less in the ability of the working class to emancipate itself.
They hide themselves in front campaigns for partial reforms, and embrace and promote a succession of ‘Saviours from high’ who they are sure will deliver us, until the inevitable betrayal, when they move on to the next.
All previous revolutions have been the overthrow of one minority ruling class and the victory of a new one. Such revolutions have needed abstract slogans and ideals (Liberté, Fraternité, Egalité; Peace, Land, Bread,) in order to enlist the support of the masses. They have needed heroes and demagogues to inspire the majority to give their lives for the victory of new masters.
The socialist revolution can only take place when the majority of the working class not only understand that it is possible, but also desirable. It needs no abstract ideals to mask it’s true purpose, no demagogues to beguile the masses.
It needs no heroes.