From the April 1984 issue of the World Socialist
The Parties within the World Socialist Movement stand uniquely against capitalism. We reject that system utterly and completely in whatever guise it appears: State capitalism, run by “communists”, “mixed-economy” capitalism, run by “socialists”, social-democrats or centrists; or the more openly vicious variety of unfettered “free” capitalism run by the less pretentious political gangsters.
We reject capitalism utterly precisely because there are no solutions to its abundant miseries, like war and unemployment. War, like poverty, slums, unemployment, crime and the rest are not really problems of capitalism; they are integral parts of that system; they exist everywhere the system exists and for as long as the system has existed. They will continue to last as long as capitalism itself lasts.
Capitalism divides the human family into two parts: one, a small minority, monopolises all the resources of the earth and that monopoly is effectively written into the laws and protected by the armed forces of the various states into which the world is divided including state capitalist Russia and China. The other class in our society, the working class, form the overwhelming majority of the population in the developed states of capitalism. By and large, the members of the latter class own nothing but their ability to work, their mental or physical labour-power and this they are obliged to offer on the labour market for a wage or salary in order to buy the necessities of life.
All wealth is produced by the labour-power of the working class applied to the materials provided by nature. The capitalists own and control not only these materials but, also, the accumulated wealth that constitutes the machinery of production and distribution.
When workers sell their labour power to an employer—an individual capitalist, a limited company or the state—they are concerned with the price they get for the commodity they sell and the conditions attending the sale. The capitalists, on the other hand, or their agents, who employ workers are interested solely in the maximum amount of profit that can be extracted out of the commodity they buy, the worker’s labour-power.
So the motive force behind the production of wealth in capitalist society is, and must be, profit and the priorities of that motive must take precedence over human considerations.
SCRAMBLE FOR PROFITS
In order to realise profit, those commodities produced by the workers have to be sold on the market. They have to find buyers who are not only in need of the commodities but who have, as well, the money to buy them. As long as market conditions can absorb commodities, production expands and manufacturers actively compete with each other to produce and sell still more products and improve their market share.
Given the nature of capitalism and its insatiable need for more and more profit, there is a compulsion for ever greater levels of production; new investment is attracted into areas of the market that promise a good return; new factories are built, new jobs created. Capitalism is in an expansive phase and its possessors are in a mad, unplanned and unplannable, scramble to reap maximum profits.
Even if the capitalists, as a national group within a given nation, tried to plan their system of commodity production to conform with the economic demands of the market, they could not succeed. Capitalism is a world system with an intricate and complex means of marketing and competition involving the importation and exporting of commodities, the transfer of capital and the multi-national interests of the capitalist class.
Within the national economy, capitalist enterprises compete vigorously and, sometimes, viciously, against one another. The rules of the game—wholly unconnected with the social needs of the community—are to achieve the most dominant position in the market. The drill is to knock out the competition and, especially as market conditions become more difficult in face of an increasing volume of commodities, there is no lamenting the casualties. The factory that closes because its owners cannot achieve sufficient return on investment, the workers who are dumped into misery, even, it must be said, the shareholders who may lose their unearned incomes, are a source of triumph for the competitor or competitors whose activities have contributed to the shut-down.
It is this inevitable competition for markets, this necessary built-in compulsion of each capitalist enterprise to improve its profitability by enlarging its market share, that creates the material conditions for friction between the nations of capitalism.
Within the nation state conflict is resolved by legal process and, while the friction created by competitive interests are frequently vicious, it would not, for obvious reasons, suit the national capitalist interest if naked force became the arbiter in disputes between individual capitalist enterprises.
On the international scene the situation is different. Some attempts are made to create institutions, like the old League of Nations and the present United Nations, to resolve conflicts of interest between nations. But such institutions themselves necessarily reflect the conflicting economic interests of their members and, anyway, it is impossible to resolve amicably conflicts between national interests when the sense of “justice” of the parties involved are conditioned by the requirements of economic gain and, sometimes, even economic survival.
So each nation state must maintain its own armed forces to protect the wealth of its national capitalist class from the predatory aspirations of its trade rivals. Sources of raw materials, markets, trade routes and strategic areas for their protection or acquisition have got to be defended by force of arms if necessary or to be gained by force of arms. They represent the vital life’s blood of capitalism and no price in human lives or materials can be too high to achieve them or to keep them.
Within the national state this means the creation of conditions that make capitalism acceptable to the great majority of the people it exploits. This requires a system of education that underpins the “reasonableness” and inevitability of capitalism and the promotion of “moral” concepts by benign propaganda; it requires a press, radio and television that may be allowed the “democratic right” of criticism but ultimately promotes the notion that, while things might be done better, the capitalist way-of-life is as natural as the seasons. The needs of the capitalist class are nurtured and protected and the fiction created that there is a common “national interest” which is, above all, good and which must be preserved and protected—if necessary by the public power of coercion.
Outside the state, the competing interests of the various national groups of capitalists are promoted by diplomacy and, ultimately, by the capacity of their armed forces to inflict death and destruction on the peoples of any other national state that threatens their economic interest.
The whole, obscene set-up, with its appalling waste, is even more dangerous because it not only threatens devastating wars and arms buildups over the marketing needs of capitalism, but creates hatreds and divisions which acquire and independent propensity for violence and war.
Only in socialism is a lasting solution to war to be found. Socialism is a form of social organisation wherein the sole criterion governing the production of all wealth will be the satisfaction of human needs.
All the resources of the earth, including the tools of production and the means of distribution, will be the property of humanity as a whole and people will apply their skills and energies to these resources in order to produce the things needed by the whole of society.
Under such circumstances, an abundance of all the things we need could be produced and it will not be necessary to find markets in which goods can be sold. As all will have freely cooperated in the work of production, so all will be free to take from the abundant wealth available.
Money, a measurement of wealth and means of exchanging commodities within capitalism, will, thus, be rendered superfluous in a socialist society; hence, the humiliation of the wages system will disappear with all the other ugly features of class slavery and the simple principle of “From each in accordance with ability; to each in accordance with need” will universally obtain.
It will be readily seen that in such a society there could be no problem of unemployment. The human-family will produce more than sufficient to satisfy the needs of its every member and the fact that too much of a particular thing was being produced would simply mean that we would re-direct our activities or enjoy more leisure.
Is such a society economically possible? Of course it is! When you consider the organised waste that the ending of the money system alone will bring you begin to appreciate the great possibilities that lie before us.
Think of all the useless functions and functionaries connected with capitalism and essential to that system: there are the capitalists themselves, and their lackeys and flunkeys . . . armies of salesmen, advertising touts, tickmen and agents of all descriptions . . . brokers, bankers, clerks . . . policemen, jailers, judges and criminals and all the rest who are connected with giving point to the observance of capitalism’s commandments . . . soldiers, sailors and airmen to fight capitalism’s wars—and, of course, the vast array of civilian brains and brawn required to sustain and equip these forces. The list of those required purely to keep capitalism operating is endless.
With socialism, all these utterly useless functions will come to an end. Think of the material equivalent for humanity of the £500,000,000,000 spent this year alone on armaments. All the people connected with these useless functions can, in socialism, begin to make a real contribution to the happiness of themselves and all humankind.
HOW WILL IT BE ACHIEVED?
There can be no doubt that, freed from the restrictions and organised waste of capitalism, the people of the world have it within their power to produce their needs, thus opening the door to a full and happy life for everyone. The question remains, how can the change to socialism be accomplished?
Capitalism could not exist without the willingness and co-operation of the great majority of people—people whose role in capitalism is that of wage-slaves. Even more so will socialism require the willing participation of its people but, the very nature of socialism requires that support and participation must be conscious. Only the unqualified and conscious support and participation of the majority of the world’s workers can bring about socialism.
The achievement of socialism will mean freedom, freedom of the sort that human beings have never before experienced; hence, it demands of those who achieve it a full knowledge of what it is and how it will function. Accordingly, the political task of each and all the Parties within the World Socialist Movement is to use all the means at our disposal to bring about a general understanding of the nature of socialism, what it means for humanity and how it will be achieved.
Simply stated, socialism will come about when the majority of the workers of the world realise that they are the people who run capitalism from top to bottom for the capitalists and that, by the exercise of their democratic right, they can carry out the revolutionary act of changing the economic foundations of society.
They can establish a classless, wageless, moneyless society where everyone will be free to avail themselves of the material basis of a full and happy life. A world where definitions of “unemployment” and “war” will have to be sought for in history books.